“The fastest way to still the mind is to move the body” — Gabrielle Roth
Have you ever had the feeling of being stuck in your head? Like nothing you do can keep the thoughts from spinning around in endless circles, going nowhere, only intensifying your confusion?
I definitely know that feeling. Far too well.
I’ll be laying in bed, trying to find sleep, or be sitting on my couch, attempting to meditate, when the thoughts start and I’m just stuck in a traffic jam of mental chaos. Shut the fuck up, I shout at myself, but for some reason it never works. The thoughts just keep on coming and coming and coming.
So what do you do? How do you quiet your monkey mind?
For many the answer may be meditation, but for me it’s moving my awareness as far away from my head as possible. And what’s the furthest away you can go from that silly ball on top of your shoulders? Correct, the feet — and more broadly speaking, the body.
I’ve already shortly discussed my love for walking as a means of thinking better, and part of why that works so well for me probably owes to the fact that it brings my attention downward away from my head through the means of movement thereby giving my thoughts more space and freedom and inviting in new perspectives.
Walking is definitely one way to quiet your mind, but in my experience, the more movement you add, the quieter your mind becomes. Of course, it may be that I simply haven’t yet mastered the art of walking yet, but for me adding movement, adding body parts, adding intensity, brings a whole new level of clarity to my mind.
So when my thoughts get stuck and I’m desperate to find peace of mind, I dance. And not some sort of choreographed sequence of movements, but a completely freestyle sort of bodily exploration where everything is allowed and nothing has to look pretty. Choreography brings me back into my head, while exploration invites another level of awareness to my movements and their sensations.
How can I worry about the future when my feet are flowing around my living room in ever faster circles?
How can I regret the past when my hips, knees and elbows are cutting the air into thin slices in sync with the beat?
How can I philosophise when my head is being shaken loose by a snakelike spine eager to find creative expression?
I don’t know. Some people might be able to, but I don’t. And I’m insanely grateful for that.
Whatever happens, I can put on some music, find the beat in my feet and get movin’. Regardless of whether thoughts, emotions or simply pure mind-chaos are stuck in my brain, I can release it all to the dance and find peace on the other side of it. I might not always find the answer to the question that is occupying my mind during the dance, but I do find a sense of calm and clarity that eases my search for it.
Things get stuck when they don’t move. That much is obvious. That’s why we get a massage when we feel tension in the body, why we go travelling when we need new inspiration, and why we pace up and down when we feel restless. Movement creates space, creates release, creates possibility for change. Inertia creates rigidity, closes us down and freezes us in our patterns.
Think of the difference between water in motion and water frozen: One is fluid, flexible, constantly changing, cleansing and in a state of flow. The other is massive, hard, unchanging and stationary. What would you rather be?
I know of no top performer who doesn’t have some kind of regular movement practice, be it jogging, weight lifting, yoga or whatever, which helps them through their days. Using only our minds might work for a while, but at some point we get stuck. We need movement to think and act freely, to create space for the new and to find clarity in the midst of the chaos of our restless monkey minds. Simply put: You are not going anywhere if you don’t move, and you are not going to find clarity if you are surrounded by noise all the time.
Move the body, still the mind and let the rest happen by itself.