Mindfulness of Movement and the Now

The boys on the line and Chelsea at the top of the snatch.

While training with the Russian master George Balanchine, probably the most significant figure in 20th century ballet, Jennifer Homans learned to be always here, now.

“Balanchine had this uncompromising emphasis on now, not holding back, giving it your all now. As a dancer, it was really a kind of concentration. It’s much harder than it sounds, to focus your energy now, and not be thinking about what I am going to do in five minutes, or in five hours… To just put everything aside, focus on this movement here now. And really…throw your whole self into it…is quite a discipline.”

There is a common saying in athletic endeavor and sports about “playing up” or “rising to the occasion”.  This means that one plays at a higher level than they usually would, or can. Certainly this is possible and it definitely happens, but it is not nearly as common as playing down to your training.  This last part means that you will revert back to your training in times of exhaustion or stress.

If you fight, compete, whatever, at the level of your training, then it can’t be too big of a jump to realize that you want to make your training as good as possible. Movement becomes ingrained as habits starting with the simplest of movements. If you only attempt to do a perfect squat when you are going for a PR, then that squat will fail the moment you stop actively thinking about it. As you train your squat for efficiency, safety, and efficacy, starting with the most basic air squat, those mechanics will become effortless and, most importantly, thoughtless. Proper tension in the legs, alignment of the feet and knees on every little movement, for example, will serve you well on the playing field or in the ring and any other place where action outpaces thought.

However, there is another, perhaps greater reason for perfect practice. Awareness of the little things, the little movements, your own body and its position in space, in the world, leads to the kind of now-ness that Homans writes about above. She writes,“When you work very hard and you achieve a kind of coordination and skill in the body, there is a way in which it sets you free.”

This idea on now-ness, of immediatecy, is endemic to so many disciplines, in so many cultures.  Japanese martial arts abound with this concept, expressed usually as mushin. It is one of the cornerstones behind the Western and Eastern institute of the religious monastery.

Constant awareness is the beginnings of excellence, of virtuosity. Constant mindfulness of movement is the first step to constant mindfulness of action, which in turn leads to constant mindfulness of thought. And therein lies the path to mastery.

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7 ROunds on a 3 minute interval

5 Clean and Jerks 155/100#

7 Burpees

10 Pullups