Can you move the body and still the mind freely in nature? Aren’t you curious?
When we were originally discussing the ideas that would later become Earth Strength we talked about the importance of “releasing human beings back in to the wild”.
This is the heart of all that we do here at Earth Strength. The idea that we can prepare ourselves to move with ease and imagination to the demands of the environment.
Earth Strength explores all manner of movement, from the basics of pushing, pulling and squatting to barefoot walking and running, then climbing, lifting and crawling in order to explore and navigate our terrain.
We make no distinction between mind and body, we see cognition as embodied and movement as expression. One informs the other.
Whilst there is plenty of time to simply sit and still the mind, we find that our deepest connections comes with moving with awareness in nature.
Shinrin Shintai (moving in nature) is Earth Strength’s approach, bringing the physical and the meditative together in the naturally restorative setting of the natural world.
On a typical course day we will set off after an early morning session of gentle flowing movements and breath work, for an exploration of the forests and mountains that surround our lodge. During this session we will encourage you to become curious about how you move based on the simple skills that my colleague Rannoch will share with you.
Arriving at our destination for the day, which can be a waterfall or a glade in the sub-tropical forest, we will take the time to pause and tune in fully to our environment. This is where we start to use the skills of our ancestors and to reset the powerful senses with which we were born.
In this beautiful setting we each find a secluded and peaceful spot to sit and observe.
Humans are a sight dominant species, but before begin here with this sense, we will connect with the earth below us, feeling the ground that supports us, using that platform to safely explore and re-invigorate our senses.
As we start to observe a surprise for many people is just how restricted our vision is. We have become accustomed to seeing what is right in front of our eyes and in the last five years this increasingly means looking at some hand held electronic device.
In our hunter gatherer past our incredible vision evolved to enable us to seek out and discover potential prey and avoid the predator using a combination of shape, shine and movement. These visual cues are detected using our peripheral vision, something that nowadays is perhaps more vestigial than functional.
To fully reactivate this sense we start by focusing on a point directly in front of us. Then, without moving the eyes, observing how far we can see to the right and then to the left and how far above our heads and below our feet. Using this simple but powerful technique our immediate environment expands in one long slow reveal as detail enters into our awareness; movement, colour, shapes and reflections in glorious pin sharp definition.
Now to our hearing, we start to reach out and really listen. At first we will tune into the sounds that are loudest and most apparent. In fact the background noise of nature is so loud that it takes many people by surprise – how is it possible to block out the wonderful sounds of the natural world many people will observe.
As we deepen our listening, we notice how our breathing slows, stopping completely on occasion when we are intently focusing in on specific sounds. Gradually we move to the fainter and fainter sounds until we start to hear those animals that are on the very periphery of our auditory abilities.
These are the rustles of voles in the bramble patch, possibly the hungry call of the newly born dormice in the tree above us, or even the fox stealthily moving along the hedgerow behind you. Finally we start to tune into the silence between these faintest of sounds and we are taken further into the sensory world as yet more subtle sounds are revealed to us.Bringing sound and sight together we start to have an almost hyper awareness of our environment. This is a kind of super natural situational awareness and the profound stillness of the mind that accompanies this was referred to by the Native Americans as the ‘sacred silence.’
Moving on we start to engage our senses of touch, smell and taste. More and more of the place where we are sitting becomes revealed to us in incredible detail. We start to read the landscape in the same way we would peruse a guide book as nature gradually unveils her secrets.
We even start to understand the language of the birds and other animals, we feel the subtle changes of the wind and temperature and what that may presage for the weather. We begin to feel whether a plant is edible or poisonous and where we might discover potable water.
In effect we start to become fully human, engaging all of the senses.
This is the way of the Aboriginal and the Bushman and the usage of skills that we are told are supernatural. In fact they are not mystical or otherworldly they are our contingent states as humans.
Not only that, but there is a richness, vitality and joy at beginning to observe the natural world in this way. We see so much of what is easy to overlook, the beauty, smells, tastes and the full colour palette of the forest.
So setting off once more on the return to our mountain lodge we do so in this more connected and aware state. We are still moving in that curious and playful way but now with a full body engagement with the environment in which we find ourselves.
This is what we mean when we say that we will teach you to move with ease and imagination to the demands of your environment.
This is Move the Body – Still the Mind in action.