While taking a walk in the forest near my home, I recently got to thinking about the five movement sensations–Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength, and Stability. As a Nia Practitioner, I cultivate my awareness of these sensations and use them to help me live and move with ease. I love lengthening my bones to increase my flexibility and stopping and starting movements to work on my agility so that as I age I can be ready for life’s curveballs. And then I got to thinking how these movement sensations equally describe and summarize the five states of living. By paying attention to these states, I bring my mind, body, emotions, and spirit into alignment.
I want to explore the concept of the five states of living further in this blog. I’m sure others have riffed on the same theme, but my reflections here are . . . my reflections!
First up is flexibility. In movement terms, flexibility means to elongate the bones, to stretch arms and legs and torsos, to grow longer and taller. The first thing many people do when they wake up is to stretch and by so doing, align their bones and increase the elasticity of their muscles and ligaments. But what about flexibility in terms of living? I think we need to cultivate the willingness to zig and zag through life with the same fluidity we apply to our joints when we stretch them. The old saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” applies here.
Rigid thought patterns and routines build toxicity in the spirit in the same way that muscles held with rigidity eventually cramp. How can I be more flexible in how I live my life? I think the answer is that I need to cultivate the ability to see other alternatives to a current path. A few weeks ago, I was stuck in a traffic jam on my way to a dinner event that I very much wanted to attend. Over the course of an hour, my car and I moved a meter every three minutes. Just as I was nearing the on ramp to the Lion’s Gate Bridge in West Vancouver, I had a flexible moment. I realized that if I stayed the course, I would be over an hour late to the event. On the other hand, if I turned off the traffic-choked street, I could go to a restaurant and enjoy a solitary dinner and the chance to catch up on some writing. I had looked forward to the dinner event but an attitude of flexibility allowed me to see equal enjoyment in the alternative. The saying “The only thing you can change is your attitude” applies to the flexibility principle. You always have a choice. By cultivating an attitude of flexibility, of embracing alternatives and letting go of rigidity, you elongate your mental and emotional muscles. You stretch these muscles to make them fluid and ultimately, at peace.
Next up is the sensation of Agility. In physical terms, agility means the ability to stop and start, to anticipate and react with clarity and precision. I want and need to be able to jump out of the way of a speeding car. But what about agility as one of the five states of living? I see agility as the counterbalance to stagnation. I need to look ahead to each day and anticipate where I can search out and embrace variety. Recently, I spent a week in Toronto commuting for 45 minutes every day on the subway. As a self-employed writer, I am accustomed to a commute of three feet from my bedroom to my study. Instead of dreading the unaccustomed commute in an over-heated subway with hundreds of bundled up people, I took the opportunity to cultivate an agile mind. I people-watched, imagined interesting scenarios, practiced good posture, worked on my breathing, meditated, and day-dreamed. The time flew by, leaving me refreshed and eager for what adventures awaited me when I returned to the surface.
Mobility refers to the moving of joints and limbs in fluid, circular motions, to lubricating connective tissue and maintaining a feeling of moving effortlessly through life. The image of circularity applies equally to living a healthy, balanced life. I want to navigate the twists and turns of a typical day with grace and ease. Instead of pushing through my day like a bull in a china shop as my grandma used to say, I set my attention to flow through it much like a sailboat tacking to and fro across a windy bay. Cultivating mental mobility helps me to solve problems and see other points of view. I particularly value mobility when I’m writing. Several weeks ago, I was struggling with a plot line that featured a character who refused to act the way I needed him to. No matter how many words I wrote or how desperately I wanted this character to do as he was told, I was not able to move the story forward with grace. I was stuck in a morass of implausibility and emotional deceit. The solution? I circled back through the novel to find another character to take the place of my doomed love interest with the result that the novel surged forward with new energy.
I love the physical sensation of Strength. In my Nia classes, I often ask students to pack energy into their limbs to move with strength and power. Flexing muscles feels good! In life, the need for strength is obvious and ongoing. Not every day goes smoothly. People say and do negative things, bad things happen, plans go off the rails. I need to develop a strong inner core that lets me stay focused and comfortable in my own skin. I think strength in life equates to strength of purpose. If my purpose is clear, then I can navigate occasional detours and setbacks. A year ago, I decided that my first career priority was to write novels. Every so often, I am seduced by other paths such as giving workshops, developing marketing strategies, helping others on their publishing journeys. I enjoy all these activities, but each one of them is a distraction from my main purpose–to write novels. I call upon that inner core of strength to minimize distractions and alternate paths–no matter how enticing.
The fifth and final movement sensation is Stability which refers to balance, to rooting into the earth while allowing the body to be light and pliable. In life, stability is essential. Without it, I’m in danger of floating aimlessly without purpose, security, and ease. Stability comes from obvious things such as home and family, which I am fortunate to have, but stability also rises from sense of self. Feeling safe and whole in my own skin requires daily practice. I think of all the five states of living sensationally, stability is the state that requires the most vigilant attention. Self-judgement–usually negative–creeps in to eat away at stability. To maintain and expand stability, I need to remember that people like people who are comfortable in their own skins. Quiet confidence always attracts and holds attention.
I think of the five states of living sensationally–Flexibility, Agility, Mobility, Strength, and Stability–as allies that bundle around me to keep me safe and whole. I imagine myself in the center of these five states– rubbing against them, taking from them, learning from them, and using them to keep me balanced and on track.
You might want to take the five sensations for a spin through your day. Seek out opportunities to be flexible, to accept alternatives with grace and ease. Dodge and weave your way through difficult situations, using agility as your ally. When a problem gets in your way, allow your mind the freedom of mobility. Look around the problem to find new solutions. Cultivate your strength of purpose–stay true to what you really want and avoid unnecessary distractions. And finally, root into your life with unwavering stability and accept yourself with love and understanding.
For more information about Nia, check out nianow.com or join me for a Nia class on Bowen Island!
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