Gravity & Breath
Earth—what we are on. Sky—what we are in.
Earth is gravity. It is constant.
Sky is breath. It is cyclical.
During winter months in NYC, I teach a stellar Tuesday morning group. We’ve been working together for a number of years so I can go wherever the flow takes us. One morning last March, midway through the session after a long period of moving, they lay resting, all eyes closed, while I was watching the room, feeling my way through it. Were they sleeping? Reflecting, or struggling quietly? This was good, this internal chewing inside their beings. Now what? Soon we could do another push of concentration and movement. In time, the following exploration came to me. I put on a soft drumming music (‘Being In Rhythm’ by Layne Redmond) and said:
Practice: Gravity & Breath
Let your body move how it wishes. Keep your attention on gravity and your breathing.
Awareness of gravity and breath are excellent foci—large, serious, gratifying. The mind is smart and needs something important to gnaw on. Good topics occupy her and restrain her micromanaging while internal body rhythms—blood, lymph, brain fluid—synchronize with the music’s pulse and begin to feedback their intelligence.
Sinking into gravity relaxed me. I let go. Dropped. On the ground, supported by the Earth, I am not falling into nowhere; I melt farther and farther into an embrace. The ground cups around me like a bird’s nest. I don’t disperse. I cohere. Gravity might weigh me down into stillness, but breathing comes and goes, cyclical, elastic. The inhale lifts me. Exhale gently settles me back. A sail. Filling. Emptying. Lifting. Settling.
Because I wasn’t holding myself away from the earth, I felt my weight. I was heavier. To move I had to find efficient ways to transfer this weight. Sleeping muscles woke up. The counter-levering and mechanical advantage of agonists and antagonists, kicked in. Using my full array of available muscles rather than a few overworked ones, rising up to my knees, or rolling over, or standing were all far easier. I could have stayed with this for more hours than we had, and judging form the absorbed look of everyone else, the feeling was shared. Delicious.
Afterward, as I lay resting, I ruminated on early modern dance pioneers Martha Graham and Jose Limon. They prided themselves of discovering, then honing, a basic movement principal to characterize and inspire their choreographic explorations. Graham built her technique around the idea of Contraction and Release. Like a heart muscle, she said. Limon adopted Fall and Rebound: all objects topple off center then rebound back upright. If such self-imposed philosophical limitations were, at times, too self-conscious, they also rooted and identified each artist’s vocabulary and their respective bodies of work. In contrast to our current period of eclecticism and multiplicity, this attitude seemed, just then, refreshingly singular. I mentally thumbed through the movement principals I explore in Dancemeditation. No one thing describes my pursuit. But then, I do not need to describe what I do. I’m just finding good places to tether discursive thinking.
Gravity and breathing are fundamental to every waking and sleeping moment—a great place to tie up that restless horse so you can walk into the saloon and take a long drink of the mystic state.
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