Ah, meditation. The magical tool of ancient guru’s and modern day CEO’s alike. Meditation has been practiced since the dawn of man. Though we may most easily associate it with Buddhism, meditation has been a part of all the world’s cultures and the benefits have been scientifically studied for decades. It can be practiced in many ways- we often see it as contemplations, breathing techniques, prayers, songs, and mindful movements such as Tai Chi, Yoga, and Qi Gong. Some of the proven and common effects of meditation are reductions in inflammation, stress, anxiety, pain, and blood pressure. It increases our self-awareness, boosts our memory, lengthens our attention span, generates emotional wellbeing and improves our sleep. Sounds pretty awesome, right?! A daily or at least somewhat consistent practice will garner the greatest impact and many of these effects can be measured and noticed after only one meditation session. One of the perceived drawbacks of meditation is committing time to slowing down. It’s common to imagine meditation as sitting in a quiet, dark space just, well, sitting there! That can seem boring or pointless, and straight up daunting to some; especially these days with so many obligations, distractions and our society’s notion of being busy as a sign of success. Those with trauma or difficult mental/physical/emotional issues may find it overwhelming or scary to begin a stereotypical seated meditation practice. The super, extra awesome thing about meditation is that you can really do it anytime, anywhere, doing anything. The central concept of meditation is bringing our minds back to the present and observing our thoughts, feelings and sensory input. For me, I interpret it as conditioning my brain to understand that I am not my thoughts, feelings, sensations or experiences. I am the observer of these things. It’s incredible to realize how much is going on my in mind all at once without my prompting or often even my awareness. There’s just an endless stream of thoughts flowing, flowing, flowing.
Through meditation I’ve discovered that some of these thoughts were coming from sources or beliefs I didn’t truly feel aligned with. Some were self-sabotaging in nature and some I simply did not like. A very distilled explanation of how/why we begin to experience our thoughts and memories through the veil of a programmed belief system is that until around age 21 our brain’s Frontal Lobe’s are non or minimally functional. The Frontal Lobe is the logical, conscious mind. Until then the Neo-Cortex (recording/storing, the subconscious mind), Limbic System (emotional mind) and Amygdala (fight, flight, freeze) are our primary operators. This is a natural functional part of how the brain works, it constantly receives, sorts and stores information. With meditation we begin to witness our thoughts and gain deeper insight, better clarity, and ultimately control over our own minds. It’s impossible to go through our entire lives without having some negative experiences and being to some degree impacted by the beliefs that are commonly accepted by those in our immediate surroundings and society at large. In my experience I’ve had plenty of trials and errors in my attempts to diligently do the work necessary to rewire the preset belief systems and negative thought patterns I’ve developed. It can be terribly difficult to face this onslaught of thoughts and to be willing and able to sit quietly in that discomfort. Utilizing movement, particularly dancing, as a way of meditation has been an essential and effective tool for me.
Human beings have been using dance as a healing, connecting, awareness enhancing, and spiritual ritual for literally ever. Every cultures traditions incorporates music and dancing, they are the universal languages we all intuitively know. Through movement we can release the bindings of our monkey mind and be present in the moment as we allow the natural rhythms of life to flow through our bodies. If you’ve ever been to a wedding, you’ve undoubtedly had the experience of watching children run to and dominate the dancefloor, while most of the grown-ups hover off to the side—at least until a little liquid courage kicks in! Most young kids aren’t concerned with how they look or how their dancing is received. They just do it with absolute joy and purity. They are playful because that is their natural instinct. As adults we have had SO much conditioning training us to be self-conscious, to be afraid and inhibited. To feel less than and restricted. To be ashamed of our bodies, our abilities, and our sexuality. We experience our personal life and the environment around us, absorbing and integrating these often rigid views and constructs into our subconscious. Embodying the playfulness of a child can be a great way to get into a headspace to practice movement meditation
When I do a movement meditation I’m (usually) able to disengage from the incessant mental chatter. As I listen to the music I’ve chosen (or silence, depending on the circumstance) and start to gently move around I begin to enter a flow state. (The gist of flow state is being completely immersed in an activity. Our ego/default mode network is no longer running the show and we are operating from a space of timeless, skillful joy. One moment blends seamlessly into the next. It’s a highly inspired, innate state of being where we allow whatever task is at hand to effortlessly create itself. Our sense of self dissipates yet we feel fully engaged and satisfied. Purposeful and free. In a movement meditation flow state I’m connected to and a part of that moment only and it’s the most blissful sensation I know. Through this repeated experience I’ve been able to begin incorporating that disengagement with my wandering mind and develop a kinder view of my own thought processes during my day to day routine and in my developing seated meditation practice. I notice when I’m combing through negative old files or holding a view that’s coming from a place of fear, pain, or simply from a source that I don’t choose to align with. I acknowledge these things, make note of what I may find to be useful from this awareness, and let it go. There’s less and less of a need to analyze the why or burden myself with the guilt of owning these thoughts and feelings. Because I do not own them. And I am not them. I am the observer.
So if you’re struggling with developing a meditation practice, I encourage you to broaden your view of what meditation is and experiment with movement meditation and dancing. I think it’s worth noting that we don’t need to be “good” at dancing to benefit from this practice. We don’t even need to try to be good at it. Dance is inextricably woven into the fabric of our being. All we need to do is be willing to listen to the music or the energy that is vibrating all around us and tune into that. Let the silence speak, let the noise become music, let the weight of the world descend down from our shoulders and become a weightless vessel to ride the waves of creative life force. It’s ok to not know exactly what to do. Just begin and see how it goes. There is a peace in not knowing ‘cause when nothing is certain, anything is possible. Allow yourself the liberation to fully embrace your own freedom to exist with complete sovereignty. It’s the greatest good we can do for ourselves, for anything or anyone. We have one singular body to inhabit; one sole shot as this thing called life. I think it’s worth it to dig a little deeper and see what’s underneath the layers of social conditioning and embrace the essence of our most raw and authentic humanness.
“Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we’re here, we might as well dance.”