January 31, 2014

The Religion of Movement. ~ Ben Markhart

Science is usually quick to dismiss ideas regarding spiritual mumbo jumbo of gods, energy and spirit.

So are most empirically minded people.

“What do you mean there is an energy that flows throughout the body? We can’t see it, we can’t measure it. We are so precise, we can watch electrons collide and yet we can’t see of what you speak—it doesn’t really exist.”

It would be equally hard to understand a modern computer after opening it up and looking at the hardware. It’s in the software. Just as an engineer can’t understand the programing of a computer with a screwdriver, we cannot understand the phenomenon within the human body with a scalpel.

This is not to say modern science isn’t becoming useful, instruments used to examine the brain with utmost precision are becoming increasingly helpful in understanding the phenomenon some call energy or spirit. But, they are only catching up to the postulations of philosophies that are thousands of years old—and are usually in agreement.

If we want to deal in the depths of human potential we must look inward.

Into the systems of the body and mind, so subtle, they are unobservable in our hardware. They exist in the humanity of our animal form, in our overly developed neuro-network and beyond.

When Yogis speak of chakras or energy winds, or any other “mumbo jumbo,” consider what they truly speak of: phenomenon in the subtle programing of our minds and bodies. Something we are unable to observe externally, but, by no means, do we have reason to call it erroneous or pass it off as mystic.

Or when the prophets of the less-hip western traditions speak of their own realizations, don’t be so hasty to pass them off as erroneous. Of course Jesus didn’t mean an actual garden hidden away somewhere on earth, just as the dismemberment of Krishna does not mean the actual hacking apart of a divine titan.

Perhaps Jesus spoke of the birth of the Self, not of humanity. When we cut from the formless void not only the concepts of the animals, waters and heavens but of our very being. When innocence succumbs to knowledge and the seamless gives way to distinction, and we fall from the eternal bliss of Eden into duality.

When our ancestors delved into the depths of their psyche and experienced “the divine”, they had no other reference. They used the language of their time. But language must evolve again.

Over the centuries human understanding of the world has evolved a thousand times over. Truth itself has evolved a thousand times over. Even within the age of empiricism truth has been proven dynamic, sometimes even on a daily basis. When it comes to matters of religion or spirituality it’s not about truth, it’s never been about truth.

It’s not about what the words of the prophets say; it’s about what they do.

For most, true religiosity, true spirituality is not about finding truth, the meaning of life or some greater purpose. It’s simply about finding a little peace of mind and a little contentment. It’s just about a small respite from the trials and tribulations of our competitive confrontational society.

Of course, this respite can be a brief escape or a final departure. It just depends on how committed we are.

So why do we move? We move for the same reason the humans of past centuries prayed so devotedly. Because it is a connection to the spiritual in a language we understand and a chance to take rest from the material world.

Yogis realized something spiritual in movement long ago, but today, it seems many have forgotten it’s not Yoga itself that’s spiritual. It’s not the asana or vinyasa which reunites body and mind, they’re just tools. It is the simple act of moving; of becoming one with the body in that moment of absolute concentration.  It is so much more than Yoga.

It could be the cyclist digging into their pedals and becoming one with the machine. The twisting of handles and frame, to the rhythm of legs and breath, lifting them outside their usual self, as they become one with the experience.

Or in the words of one surfer:

“When you are waiting for a wave your mind can think a thousand different things. When you paddle for a wave your mind thinks of only a few things. When you catch a wave your mind thinks of only one thing, that one thing is joy. This is why I surf.”

Or the climber, the runner, the kayaker, the skateboarder. Perhaps the musician, or the Muslim at prayer.

We needn’t lose what religion gave to humanity for so many centuries. We must simply consider it differently.  We must simply find it in the movement of our bodies and as a language we understand.

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Assistant Editor: Melissa Petty/Editor: Rachel Nussbaum

Photo: Flickr

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