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  • Writer's picturePatty McDuffey

The Art of Movement

Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, Oregon

Earlier this week, I went hiking in the Salmon Huckleberry Wilderness, in the Mt. Hood National Forest. I met a friend for coffee in the morning before driving out for a walk in nature. I've been increasingly feeling a need for more movement. One of the challenges of living in the city, and working part-time from home, is that if I’m not intentional about my level of movement, I may not move enough. Movement is at the core of who we are. It’s not just about getting exercise so that we have a healthy heart and physical body, or about relieving stress.

What if movement is less about acquisition and more about an opportunity to return to who we are - a collection of parts and processes that work together in perfect harmony in the creation of who we see when we look in the mirror?

When we don’t move enough, we can become stagnant, stiff, retracted. Our lung capacity diminishes, our hearts weaken and blood circulation slows. Our brains don’t get as much oxygen, making us tired, perhaps even impacting our ability to think clearly or make use of our imaginative, our creative side. As our bodies harmonize with nature and the world around us, however, our minds and hearts also expand to match the frequency of the natural world.

So what is enough movement? I think this can vary. We’re all different. I think an important question is from where, within us, does the desire to move come and why. If the point of movement is more of a returning to who we are, as opposed to an acquisition of some sort, does what we do and how we move change? Does our mental and emotional health change as a result? I’ve always enjoyed routine. But too much of anything can tip the scales. Sometimes we need to break the routine, move in a different way, see something new, hear something different, or perhaps nothing at all, in order to shift our perspective, to down-regulate our nervous systems, to find a sense of calm.

What if we slowed down and allowed movement to not be another class we run off to, or a quick run or ride we squeeze in because “exercise is good for us,” but to be an expression of who we are?

Everything around us is moving. How do we harmonize with that movement, rather than exert our will through movement or exercise? Birds don’t fly because it’s good exercise. They fly because they’re birds! They don’t fly any more or any less than they need to. After they’ve flown, you might see them perched on a branch, resting, or communing with other birds or perhaps engaging in tiny movements such as digging for a worm in the ground. And when it's time to move again, they move.

My day on Mt. Hood was delightful. My legs were tired by the time I got back to the car, but the movement in nature felt just as much of an expression of who I am as my days treating patients, preparing meals, or even doing the dishes. My spirit thanked me for the bigger movements of walking a number of miles, just as it does when I allow myself to rest and be still.

I hope to get out hiking again soon, but more importantly, I hope to harmonize with whatever movement feels natural and nourishing for my body, mind, and heart.

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