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Moving, But Not Only Moving

Drawing Alberto Giacometti man and sun

(4 minutes read)

The space between thought and movement is as mysterious as it is familiar. It is the space that is visited both by the mover, the philosopher and the scientist. An ironic meeting of perspectives. It is common to think about movement without even lifting a finger. Or, on the other side of the spectrum, to move impulsively and largely without a single conscious thought crossing the mind. Even though both examples have different relevance, my intention is to highlight their synergy. Movement doesn't happen only in the physical realm and awareness without physicality is merely theoretical.

I think that this theme is important in our times because we are constantly facing the separation between realms of action: the virtual, the emotional, the political, the financial, etc. It is seducing to believe that each of these modes is the most 'real'. However, the separation is already redefining 'real' and placing it in a compartmented box, making it almost impossible to escape from this process in our era. I propose movement and its accompanying thought process as a balancing alternative. The impact of this practice is rooted in the unique quality of presence that is being created in the transition between life and the practice and vice versa. When movement and awareness are being combined, separation and independent choice appear somewhat illusionary. 

Drawing Alberto Giacometti man walking

In advanced stages of practice, the practitioner realizes that the processes that influence the physicality are not found exclusively in the capacities of the joints, the physical attributes, or the coordination. They are also found in more 'perceptual' aspects. The constant conversation about sports psychology in high level athletes is an example for this anecdote. It is difficult to imagine that Leo Messi has a bad game because he didn't work enough on his kicking mechanics in the last week. However, a turbulent life situation can certainly impact his performance. 

On a deeper level, the metaphorical universe in which athletes see themselves serves as an impactful and meaningful drive to their ways of practicing and performing. When the activity carries an imaginary 'meaning' the result is what we call 'talent'. The idea that purpose is the best motivator is not a cliché but a statement about the primal perception of action. Before we move there is an image, and working on the image before moving is an incredible challenge. It is like discovering our internal mess and gradually organizing it through our physical dedication to the practice. 

An internal step towards the order in this chaos can be to understand HOW we do the movements that we do habitually and often. What resources we use and why. Technique is never a straight line and knowing that we choose one way of doing among other possible ways can give us interesting insights about our perception. Let's say I like to perform 10 push ups every day before my breakfast. Which part of my body am I pushing from? Where do I experience my effort? How do I distribute my weight? Am I also using the grip of my toes despite majority of the volume being generated by my upper body? 

Drawing Alberto Giacometti

Why don't you try it now? Go on the floor space you have in front of you and without too much thinking, perform 10 push ups, intuitively and thoughtlessly. 

Finished? Take a minute of rest and then try another round.

This time, observe the image that rises in your mind before beginning. As you are moving observe the questions and thoughts that come up during the action. Allow them to go as deep and wild as they naturally go… 

Scientifically, it is becoming more and more seductive to believe that free will is not such a sure concept as we've grown to believe. If I follow this thread, the reason for the image and the answers to some of the questions that appear during my push ups are not even 'chosen'. Therefore, my only option of progressing in this realm is through increased awareness (rather than change). I am not free to discover the answers, but I am free enough to observe the strategies and intentions that awaken when I move. I am not free to change my movement (ouch…), but I am free to understand deeper why I move. Playing with the idea that skill development is inherited and my choice to continue the progress is an attribute rather than grit opens up a space for observation. It changes the concept of effort and reveals a completely new side of my 'practice experience'. To clarify, my intention here is not to answer the heavy discussion if free will exists or not. Much smarter people failed since the beginning of time to articulate a resolution. My proposition is to see how questioning a fundamental cognitive aspect about moving can lead to finding hidden aspects of my own experience. Ones that I didn't even know were hidden.

Drawing Alberto Giacometti Face

Realizing we 'automatically' follow a physical path with every life challenge, many times without consciously engaging, can reveal many deficits and powers we have inside. The physical practice is the ritual of seeing these things, giving them the eye-level gaze that they deserve. They are not 'work' just as much as they are not a 'creation'. They are our natural perceptive mechanisms that consequentially become our actions, identities and destinies. I've found that moving with them daily is a fair compromise for living with them in peace.

A couple of years ago (In the first edition of this newsletter!) I've shared an exercise that in retro was one of my first attempts at tackling my perception of movement through physical practice. It looks a bit low-tech today (both in terms of camera work and the articulation of the movement and thoughts) but I encourage you to give it a shot and see where it takes you. 

Also, last night I heard a wonderful conversation about the notion of Free Will. It is an argument between Dr. Rober Sapolsky and philosopher Daniel Dennet.

Lastly, the images in this article are by the late artist Alberto Giacometti. If you are a fan of Sculptures and Drawings and haven't yet discovered his art you are in for a treat. In my eyes, his work wonders about human movement, thought and existence.

Drawing Alberto Giacometti several people


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