I’m watching my cat lounging in the sun. So still that I’m looking for the movement of his breathing to be sure that he’s still alive. I notice one barely opened eye fixed on the little bird asleep in the bird feeder. There is a streak of movement, the bird has flown and Moose the cat is plastered to the window calling after her.
Of the three of us, I was the one who seemed to be most awake and attentive to what was happening in the room and yet the whole thing was over before I even understood what was going on.
Utter stillness and intense movement, states that seem to be in opposition, are part of each other.
Cats and birds really get something that I want to understand.
Stillness/stillness and motion
In her book Engaging the Movement of Life, Bonnie Gintis D.O. distinguishes between the mechanical stillness of the body and the philosophical, non-material perspective of Stillness as a state of being. ‘the state from which all other states arise (Gintis, 2007).’
Attending to the physical, mechanical stillness can open the doorway to the dynamic, mysterious, non-material state of Stillness.
From the perspective of the mechanical we can think about stillness as the fulcrum while movement is happening in the levers. Merriam-Webster (nd) defines fulcrum as;
1a : : the support about which a lever turns
b : one that supplies capability for action
2: a part of an animal that serves as a hinge or support
A simple example of a fulcrum/lever relationship is a teeter totter. The lever or the part that we sit on is supported by the fulcrum in the center. The fulcrum is the still point on which the lever rests, balances and derives it’s power.
Similarly in your body, your arm for example, could be considered a lever. As you move your arm you may notice that it is attached to your torso at your glenohumeral joint, the fulcrum, which is relatively still compared to the movement of the lever of your arm.
There are many fulcrums in the body around which our physical structure organizes. In movement, we can have our attention on the larger motion of our extremities (levers) or we can attend to the fulcrums, the still points in our bodies. Both perspectives are interesting to explore.
‘Stillness and motion exist simultaneously. Their relationship is dynamic, vibrant, and life affirming (Gintis, 2007).’
Stillness and motion are in perpetual relationship. Practicing this relationship and then forgetting about it, letting it become automatic may be the key to what the cat knows. In my years of movement exploration I have seen myself and others fall into a collapsed inertia and mistake that for stillness. Although it is true that moving into stillness will often bring us to place of quietude and restoration it is absolutely not a collapsed state. It is extraordinarily alive and vital.
The cultivation and refinement of attentiveness, flow and presence can arise out of this balanced relationship between stillness and motion.
Stillness in motion is our power, our acuity, our health.
Watch cats, they totally get it!
If you’re interested in experimenting with the relationship between stillness and motion please join us Sunday July 3rd at Dovercourt house for Stillness and Motion: a contact improvisation lab.
10:45-11:45 followed by the sunday contact jam
Drop- in $10
Gintis, B. (2007). Engaging the Movement of Life. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
“Fulcrum.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 27 June 2016