Movement and Stillness have consistently been a theme for me. At first I considered them as separate entities… trying to balance my busy work days moving physically and mentally from meetings and patients, with time to be still meditating and just going for a walk during lunch. I love to practice calligraphy and to do watercolor scenes in nature to embody the art of stillness.
Here are the symbols for “Motion” and “Stillness” that I painted while in Japan last year:
I then began to realize that it was possible to combine the two, staying still, mindful and present in my busy daily movement. Mastering this is at the heart of practice of tai chi and yoga. Last week I was skyping with a good friend and colleague Jeremy McCarthy the Group Director of Spa at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group who I met in 2014, at the Global Wellness Summit in Marrakesh, Morocco. We discovered how we both love contemplating this idea.
Jeremy is our guest in this blog on Movement and Stillness:
The greatest irony of modern life is that the two things we need more of are movement and stillness. Our bodies and minds evolved to live a life of balance between activity and rest, but modern lifestyle seems to prevent us from doing either very well.
Modern conveniences and technology, for example, have stifled our movement patterns. We use cars, elevators and escalators to move us from point A to point B. When we do walk, we do so on paved paths that have been cleared so we don’t have to be concerned with uneven surfaces or obstacles to move over, under or around.
And we spend much of our time sitting in chairs, a modern (relatively speaking) invention designed to keep us comfortable. But we are becoming all too aware of the toll we are paying (“sitting is the new smoking” as the recent headlines tell us) with weak core muscles, shortened hip flexors, and poor posture.
The chair, along with the toilet, has made the “squat” inaccessible to the modern adult. This was a primal movement pattern that our ancestors could comfortably settle into for hours. I realize some will shrug, appreciating the modern contraptions that allow us to forego these more primitive means of movement. But again, we pay a price with tight calves and weak backs.
Luckily, the awareness of the need for movement is high, and so we try incorporating more of it into our lives. But participating in sports or following a specific fitness regime still locks us into limited movement patterns that cause imbalances and injuries in the body. We need a return to a diversity of movement that helped us evolve to the magnificent creatures we are today.
Only recently are we starting to recognize that, in addition to movement, we need stillness. Our bodies and minds need time to recover. Being “sedentary,” which many of us are, is not the same as being “rested,” a state that seems to elude us. We spend plenty of time with our bodies not engaged, but we try to squeeze productivity into every waking second by plugging our minds into technology.
Our ancestors did not have the option of constant productivity. They were forced into downtime during long walks in search of food and water, lengthy meal preparation times, and simply having more time at leisure (something we lost during the industrial revolution.)
Today, our new devices and technologies allow us to be connected every waking minute. But just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. We need to find time for disconnection, time for silence, and time for reflection. Not only does the body need time to rest, but the mind also needs time to recover and to process the vast amounts of data that come through in the age of information.
So we find ourselves in a strange contradiction, needing simultaneously to practice more movement and more stillness.
Some strategies you can try for increasing movement are:
- Bring more variety to your movement. Change your workout every week. Don’t play one sport, dabble in several. (See The Price of Specialization by Ido Portal.)
- Practice moving through nature in varied and unpredictable ways. (See MovNat and Parkour for inspiration.)
- Work on new movement patterns that have become lost to you: a squat, a handstand,or a cartwheel, for example. Always push the boundaries of your physical capabilities.
Some strategies for incorporating more stillness into your life are:
- Start a meditation practice.
- Create a stillness ritual that starts an hour before bedtime.
- Spend time with your family where you do nothing but be present for them.
- Practice a technology-free night in your home.
What do you need more of in your life? Movement, stillness… or both?