Category Archives: Made to Move

Does stillness feel like a straight jacket to you, too?

When people find out I’ve published a faith-based title, they often ask, Do you meditate? “I pray,” I tell them. This is usually met with an uncomfortable silence or, “Oh.” Then crickets.

People, it seems, aren’t quite sure what to do with prayer. Meditation is the in thing. It’s so much more … accepted, inoffensive, non-denominational. It’s something people do who are giving responsible attention to their “inner quieting” when the world feels so loud.

I get that. So much shouts at us to hurry up! keep up! get ahead! don’t fall behind! Be better! Be faster! Do more! All while the backlog from our to-do lists piles up and our best intentions get shoved aside. Who in her right mind would turn down the opportunity to embrace stillness and quietly channel her inner self in calm moments of meditation?

I would, actually. Do, in fact. Oh, it’s not the calm or quiet I object to, it’s the “stillness” that gives me trouble. Whenever I am required to be completely immobile, no matter where I rest my hands, how I cross my legs or where I direct my gaze, I feel like I am confined by a straight jacket. Almost instantly, I want to fight to free myself, open my eyes and give in to a good belly laugh at the silliness of the whole situation.

Now, some who would meld prayer and meditation have suggested that meditation is simply the listening part of prayer. For instance, begin with “be still and know that I am God” and then meditate on the response you hear, sense or receive.

While this feels like a powerful practice and can be for me on my good days, on most days that “be still” part catches me up. The key is getting to the listening part in a condition that actually inclines me to listen; I have to loose the straight jacket without losing my focus.

I’ve found (and described in my book, Made to Move) that the best way for me to do this is via natural movement like rocking, swaying, nodding or through rhythmic activity like walking, running, riding, rowing or swimming. Movement that “happens” without intentional ignition is best, especially when it can continue without drawing attention to itself. It’s as if I have engaged my body to attend to my soul.

Best of all, I can tap into this any time! By piping down the panicked voices that shout “faster, better, more” — and for me this requires I call on that Higher Power who can silence what doesn’t belong — I can actively and healthfully engage my work in the world. Whether it’s writing a novel, working difficult mathematical calculations, tending to a distraught co-worker or family member, creating strategic market analysis or any other work worth doing, I can engage it fully, contemplatively.

While meditation teaches me to subtract myself from my doings, to take a break in order to re-engage the fight, real-time bodily prayer actually adds to my effectiveness in the “fight.” By it, I gain confidence, courage and insight to do what’s before me, again and again.

Yes, I pray. And actually I am okay with the silence that may follow. Because in it, I am on the move, taking the awkward and tossing it back and forth with my prayer partner as if we are having a catch in the back yard. Throw/catch. Throw/catch. Listening to it snap into the pocket of my mitt, and then into His.

Words are easy there. So is silence.

Advertisements

The Art of the Jump Shot: what’s God got to do with it?

We kinesthetics do a lot by feel.

We move in the space to “see” how big it is. We step outside to test whether we need a jacket today. When asked how long the table is, we spread our arms to demonstrate the size. How heavy is it? Oh, about like picking up _______ (something we have lifted before). No quantities for us. Our measure of a quality is its physical comparison with a previous interaction. We have this knowledge stored as a physical sensation. It is a memory retrieved from the body we bring.

So it just makes sense then that when it comes to deciding whether to put our faith in something or someone, we scan our physical recollection concerning this one or this thing. How does it “feel” to us? What do our “Spidey senses” tell us? Trust or distrust? Like or dislike? Engage or disengage?

Yep, Spidey senses aren’t just for comic book characters; they are for our character. We begin developing an internal sense of our outer world from the day we’re born. The more we interact with it — touch it, try it, and test it — the better sense of it we have. Not just by sampling, mind you, but by diligently applying ourselves to experience how things work and how we work with them. Not just with our minds but with our whole bodies.

Since it’s Final Four season and we’re feeling inspired, let’s work on our jump shot. Here is our process:

  1. Aim at the basket
  2. set the ball in our hands
  3. gauge distance and force required
  4. jump and shoot
  5. miss to the right.
  6. (retrieve the ball)
  7. Re-aim at the basket (with direction correction)
  8. Re-set the ball in our hands
  9. Re-gauge distance and force, if necessary
  10. jump and shoot again. (repeat)

Each time we shoot, the ball’s path provides feedback about our efforts, and the basket tells us whether they have been successful. Each miss gives us opportunity for correction. Each make gives us positive reinforcement. Our objective with practice is to bring our shot closer to our target until we make every shot. A natural by-product of our practice is a closer connection to our body’s physical sensation. We develop better feel. We become a better shooter.

But only if we have a target. Simply tossing a ball any which way against a backboard may provide ample exercise but it won’t improve our technique or our shooting percentage. To develop a “feel” we need an object of our effort and a measured intention. We need a goal and a reason to strive toward it.

No wonder the apostle Paul declared, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil 3:14) 

If this is a random running, we have little hope of success. We may put in a valiant effort, sweating hard with heaving chest and gasping breath, but effort for effort’s sake doesn’t win us the prize. We need to be focused on our target, the specific goal set before us. It is in the shooting, missing, correcting our aim and shooting again that we draw closer.

We kinesthetics do this, like we do most things, by feel. It’s how we’re made. But the process is part of all of us. Thank goodness, God is patient.

The curious thing is, if I really want to be my very best, solo practice won’t do it: I need an opponent. The one who wants to deny me actually makes me into the best player I can be — the one who can take it confidently to the hoop, no matter the score, the shot clock or the game situation.

What if we considered everyone and everything that stands between us and our goal God’s gift of perfecting us?

Why tone?

Muscle tone: the resting tension in a muscle. It’s not just about buff, cut, or 6-pack abs. Tone comes from effort, preparing muscles so we are ready to respond without delay.

%d bloggers like this: