What exactly does it mean to move while in mediation? Learn how you can use this concept to turn everyday actions into a meditative process.
When most people hear the term meditation, they think of someone sitting with the eyes closed. When you add the term moving along with meditation, people get confused. This is because many people don’t understand that meditation includes both seated and moving forms. The seated forms are the most common types in the West. So, let’s see if we can clarify exactly what it means to move while also being in a state of meditation.
We define moving meditation as action along with a conscious awareness of the mind, body, and surroundings. It is a movement that fully engages our awareness. So, we are not dividing our attention; we are expanding it. Therefore, it is a change in perception accompanied by action.
When we engage in this kind of active meditation, it comes with some health benefits. It helps improve mind-body coordination. It reduces internal chatter and so we can become fully present, alert and calm. This reduces stress. And, it generates positive energy. We can create our own forms of meditation while engaging in an activity once we learn how these elements work. We’ll discuss how to do this later.
What Can Moving Meditation Do for Me?
Above all, the regular use of this process helps us move beyond the default settings of our personality. Our Ego, the home of personality is a necessary tool of consciousness. When we are born we need a default structure on which to build our understanding of the world. Our personality becomes part of this default programming. Through it, we learn to understand language and develop social connections.
Unfortunately, many people never move beyond this default setting. They live under the false idea that they are their personality. This is a state of fixation that creates tunnel vision. As a result, we are not fully present. We lose our sense of self. So, we only see the task at hand. This is another reason moving meditation is so beneficial. It gives us back a true sense of self. It helps restore us to our original state, which is a state of innocence. This is the state before we are subject to programming by the cultural narrative. In the West, this is programming comes from organized religion. This worldview is one that promotes bias and prejudice of many kinds from religious sectarianism to gender and ethnic prejudice.
An Element of Spiritual Exploration
As you might guess, moving meditation is one of the main elements of spiritual exploration. This is a common strategy for many spiritual paths. It’s a practical way to expand awareness and develop the potential of our spiritual gifts.
Researching consciousness is the focus of many ancient cultures. They are many pioneers around the globe from which we gather the techniques we use today. This suite of methods includes a vast range from simple mindfulness through an array of different forms of the eightfold path of Yoga. So, there’s probably some kind of moving meditation that’s right for you. If you can’t find one, you can likely create one to fit your needs. Now that you know how to combine movement with expanding awareness, it’s possible to create your own form.
For example, George Gurdjieff is the creator of a system for awakening based primarily on meditative movement. The core of this system is a series of “Gurdjieff movements” which require a high level of focus and coordination. Other Eastern and indigenous cultures incorporate moving meditation in their practice. In fact, there are many forms of the Shamanic Journey that use dance as a way to enter an altered state of awareness. You can find these forms all over the world. They make their way into Western organized in the form of “spirit dancing”. You’ll see people dancing in circles while chanting.
Why Expand Awareness?
The goal of practices that expand awareness is to facilitate growth and development. Our awareness naturally expands when we use moving meditation. The more you use it, the more aware you become. It moves along the continuum of consciousness. So, eventually, it is possible to merge active mindfulness with bliss or transcendental consciousness (TC). Some refer to TC as the fourth state of awareness. You reach this state using a seated meditation technique like Japa.
When we combine TC with active mindfulness, we have a separate higher state of consciousness. This is the sixth state some refer to as Witnessing. This is the natural growth of awareness.
This modality of spiritual practice raises several interesting questions. We’ll give answers to the most common questions.
Tai Chi is an excellent type of moving meditation that benefits your health and wellness. It’s a way of aligning the mind and the body. Because of this, it has become a popular element of health and wellness. However, all forms of this practice originate from Eastern martial arts. So, depending on the form or style there could be martial art applications. Many of the commercial forms of this art are devoid of their combat applications. And, some forms have progressions that incorporate acrobatic movements. So, Tai Chi has many options to choose from.
In general, the slower tempo of Tai Chi makes it easy to learn and protect you from injury. However, some forms have quicker bursts of movement. The Indonesian form of Tai Ke for instance. People can learn the movements without understanding the full capability of the art. This is a common tactic among the most experienced teachers. The master teaches the form or principles of movement. However, they hold back the martial art applications for only those who will not abuse the art.
It’s possible to learn the basics the art via video. However, the best results come from face to face instruction. A qualified instructor can help you move and align properly. Practicing in front of a mirror is beneficial. That’s because the way we “think” we are moving often differs from how we are moving. This is a common error of beginners. Consequently, there are many other forms of active meditation that are easier to learn and produce immediate results.
Qigong is another Eastern form of moving meditation. It is similar to Tai Chi. And, it is common to practice Qigong with Tai Chi either together or in a sequence. Usually, Qigong is used first to generate energy. Then, Tai Chi follows to project this energy. Some Indonesian forms blend both concepts into one package.
The basic focus of Qigong is to generate energy. It is common to combine specific kinds of breathing with isometric muscle movement. In turn, this causes glands to release various hormones. To the untrained observer, Qigong is more static and less fluid and graceful than typical Tai Chi.
Practicing Qigong creates both spiritual and physical energy. So, Qigong is the engine for both healing and martial arts applications. Not surprisingly, the best martial artists are often the best healers. They need to be, that way they can help heal those they train with.
Using active mindfulness with martial arts is an advanced application. Those who train for combat train for hours using several exercises to cultivate mindfulness under duress. Remaining mindful during an ever-changing physical confrontation is not for the beginner.
Mindfulness in Motion
Mindfulness is a term that can have different meanings. So, here’s how we define it. Mindfulness is a mental quality of awareness. When we are being mindful, our complete attention is in the present. When we are present, our internal dialogue slows or stops. Therefore, mindfulness in motion is an active form of meditation.
Tai Chi and Qigong can do this if done correctly. The Japanese Tea Ceremony is another type of formalized method for achieving mindfulness. But, it takes dedicated time and study. However, there are other ways to do this.
There are two types of techniques for mindfulness meditation. One is for seated meditation and the other is for moving meditation. You learn the process in seated meditation and then bring it into motion. This is perhaps the easiest method. That’s because you do not have to follow any set pattern of movement. Your mind isn’t occupied trying to remember the form or sequence. You are free to observe your body and surroundings.
Hence, the key to creating your own form of active meditation is to keep a heightened level of presence while in motion. Those who study martial arts use several exercises to keep fully present. You must be able to resist powerful emotions like fear and anger.
Most Common Methods of Moving Meditation
First, walking is the easiest of all movements to make into a form of active meditation. In fact, the basic process for this is where you should start. The basic progressions for mindfulness start with seated meditation. This is where you bring awareness fully into your body. Then, you take this awareness into walking mindfulness. Follow the above links to learn these progressions.
The next obvious progression from walking is running. Unfortunately, many people miss the opportunity to engage in this level of mindfulness. That’s because they listen to music or social media while engaging in running. This creates the exact opposite effect of mindfulness. Listening can distract your attention and create “tunnel vision”. This will shift the focus on entertaining the Ego or analytical tasks. So, when we use external input it is harder to focus on our bodies and surroundings.
Tai Chi & Qigong
After learning the basic form of moving meditation, then it’s time for more adventurous methods. Tai Chi and Qigong are good progressions.
Dance can be but music can interrupt your state of mindfulness. So, dancing with music is something to try once you have some experience with easier movements. Or, just dance without music.
Shamanic Dance with Drum is a powerful level of mindfulness. There are typically several people dancing. This is distracting. So, again, it’s not for the beginner. However, you can attend a session and work your way up. Start by sitting with your eyes closed using the seated mindfulness technique. Then the next step is opening the eyes. If you can maintain your mindfulness, then stand and walk. This takes you into the beginning mindful moving meditation. Once you mastered this you can start dancing.
Many of healing arts are both an outlet for your mindfulness and a way of helping others. And of course, if your work involves non-injurious repetitive, this might be a candidate.
Create Your Own
First, It’s important to have a solid basis with mindfulness meditation before you try to create your own. This will give you a solid basis for creating your own practice. The more physically challenging the activity, the more difficult it will be to attain and maintain mindfulness.
Next, select a fluid movement. Be sure it’s something where you can move and still keep a heightened level of awareness. The best things are the activities you know by heart. These are things where you develop muscle memory. Skiing and swimming are examples of this type of fluid action.
Be sure to keep track of your experience in your spiritual journal. Track your progress. People find things that could not do in the past are now things they have mastered. Sometimes it takes is time to learn how to hold the state of mindfulness while engaging in an activity. Then you can take it with you into other parts of your life. Last, experiment with it. See what works and what does not.
Our mind is an incredible instrument of perception. It is capable much more than we’ve been led to believe. Our bodies are home to deep wisdom and intelligence. It’s within our DNA which comes to us from our ancestors. When we use our mind and body together we can accomplish many things. All it takes is practice.
Interested in spiritual exploration? Check out the blended learning process at the core of our teaching process. It reflects what Joseph Campbell called the Hero’s Journey. Our learning options include both face-to-face and virtual learning sessions. Please consider donating and supporting our mission. This helps others learn the knowledge for developing their own path.
Joseph Campbell & Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero’s Journey, Wikipedia
George Gurdjieff, Wikipedia