“Dynamic Mindfulness” isn’t a phrase we hear very often, yet it represents the more prevalent mindful practices in our culture. Many think of mindfulness as just meditation. Though practices like Tai Chi, Qigong, and Yoga, are also ways of practicing mindfulness. In fact, more people practice these forms of dynamic mindfulness than traditional forms of sitting meditation alone.
Whether you approach dynamic mindfulness through the traditional spiritual or martial lenses, or through the more modern wellness lens, the focus of these practices is the same. Such practices cultivate a very specific state of being that bring us into harmony with ourselves and the world around us. Their core value is that they help humanity thrive.
Entering the landscape of these traditions, the first thing a practitioner must accept is that mindfulness is a lifestyle choice. Much like being an athlete, the amount of potential you can release from yourself is equal to your commitment to your practice. Having a practice takes you out of the mundane notions you have accepted about yourself and your potential, and creates an experience that exposes you to your actual potential. This is why many mindfulness traditions use the word “cultivation” to discuss personal growth.
With so many traditions available to the modern practitioner, cultivation has become a very personal choice. We are free to practice traditions that are thousands of years old, or others that have been developed in the last hundred years. With so many avenues to consider, many create very personalized daily rituals, borrowing the best practices from a variety of traditions.
No matter how you approach your personal practice, or what traditions you consider, there are many insights that are common among all practices. Below are the nine I most often share with students, the ones that seem to speak to them equally.
- Training: –Training is, above all else, a process of self discovery. Don’t mimic your teacher. Instead, look for your own authenticity in your movements. See yourself through each movement. If you train to be like your teacher, you will miss the luminous uniqueness of your own nature.
- Foundation: –In order to develop your somatic proficiency (ability to move properly) you need to develop a strong foundation. Develop your practice progressively. Learning to move from the “principle of the movement” stops you from mindlessly mimicking your teacher.
- Discipline: –Discipline, cannot be manifest by outside authorities. Far too often teachers try to make this part of the school environment. Yet, it is not found in the respect one has for a teacher. Discipline emerges naturally from an interest and passion for cultivating your life. If you become truly passionate about your entire life, you will have the discipline to achieve your goals.
- Patterns: –To the careful observer, the world is made of patterns: patterns of movement, patterns of behavior, patterns of thought. When patterns become habitual, they lack awareness, and cease to be conscious choices. In practice we use repetitive mindful movements to strengthen ourselves. These repetitive movements condition our body; and conditioning our body purifies its functions. The progressive development of your skills involves learning forms and styles of movement. The repetition of these strengthens your focus, and improves your ‘Fluid Intelligence’. Take care not to be habitual . . . be present . . . always! This is a desperate balancing act: the value of repetitive movement is lost the second it become habitual.
- Potential: –Through your experience of practice, develop an instinct for your own potential. Do not look at the limits of your ability as borders, or boundaries. They are your horizon, look past them. If you seek what is beyond the person you have learned to be, you will approach your true capabilities.
- Clear Mindedness: –Daily exposure to a clear, unfettered, state of mind allows us to better mitigate the world. Daily practice allows one to cultivate and carry their highest attainable levels of peace and clarity into the world. To be what you imagine is possible, is a matter of progressive practice.
- Heart & Mind Lead the Hand: –If you are mindful of yourself, each action has an awareness, an intent, and an expression to it. Always remember to let your heart and mind lead your hands. You can also look at this as expressing your intent through your movements. We’ve all heard stories of people performing what seem like superhuman tasks. When your true, immediate, intent is expressed through your actions the results will be surprising.
- The Felt Presence of Immediate Experience: –Yes, I co-opted this phrase from Terrence McKenna. We often think of the present moment to be finite, while the past and future go trailing off in either direction. But each moment is so much richer than that. Don’t allow your practice to become comatose. Feel your actions; feel the changes they elicit, feel the potential underlying each movement. It is only when we are completely present in each moment, aware of the potential in each movement, that we feel the ‘presence of immediate experience’, and what it holds for us.
- Freedom: –While practicing try to develop a sense of naturalness and spontaneity. Look for the path that allows your actions to flow, that allows your movements to be uninhibited. Try to sense in what directions you can easily move. Your highest goal is to experience yourself as authentically as possible. While others may try to discover their true selves, you are free to construct yourself from your experiences and the wisdom they provide.
In the preface to Walt Whitman’s “Leave of Grass” the poet promises his reader “Re-examine all you have been told / in school or church or in any book, / Dismiss whatever insults your own soul; / And your very flesh shall be a great poem…” This is very sound advise for mindfulness practitioners as well. Consider what has been said here in the same way. These are not absolutes that must be adhered to. They are notions I hope will inspire a new depth in your practice.