Over the past few weeks I’ve been starting my days in a new way: reading Katy Bowman’s Movement Matters. (And that’s not happening just because I’m managing social media for Propriometrics Press).
The thing is, I love big ideas. And even more than that, I love big ideas that I can bring to bear on my life in tangible ways. I still find it astonishing that a book can deliver a person up to all that. But then again, I believe in the power that books have to open minds and seed meaningful change in our world.
I’m a pretty active person. I also work at jobs that have me staring at screens and tapping lightly on keyboards a lot of the day, so getting to use my body to experience the world became, and remains, vitally important.
The place I currently call home, Halifax, Nova Scotia, affords me some of the lifestyle that balances out my screen time. It also happens to be a port visited by numerous cruise ships, mostly during the gorgeous fall we often get. And it was on one of those autumn mornings that I took the long way to work, through one of our city’s most expansive public parks, which leads down to the North Atlantic Ocean.
I walked through some forest, down to the water and along the coastline for a bit, then past some shipping yards as I worked my way back to our mid-size city streets. En route, I passed a kind of ocean parking lot: where cruise ships from around the world anchor and where tourists disembark to see what they can see.
Chalk it up to the fact that I had been reading #MovementMatters, chalk it up to how everything was sparkling in some very beautiful morning light, but I was noticing things I hadn’t noticed before: like the road signs for pedestrians, the signs for cars, the parking lot full of cars, and the fact that I was the only pedestrian around at that time. And in the background? A cruise ship that had—what was that?—a giant plastic giraffe on its upper deck, wearing a bright pink life preserver. And looking down to the other end of the upper deck, a huge, and I do mean huge, screen. Think Jumbotron you can see from miles away. At sea.
It occurred to me that we may not have intended this in our dogged contemporary pursuit for more “leisure” time, but from my vantage point that day, it sure looked like we’ve reached a level of confusion about it all.
How did we get here? I blame the giraffe in the pink life preserver.
OK, blame might be too harsh. I love giraffes. But I’d argue that our cruise-ship friend, and even the cruise ship itself, is a fantastic symbol of where we all find ourselves. If I hadn’t read Katy’s book, I’m not sure I would have found the language for this, but I think I have some now: we’re getting it backwards. We’ve traded our natural tendency toward movement for epic bouts of sedentarism. And hey, I love relaxing as much as the next person. But I’ve noticed (you, too?) how relaxation doesn’t really do the trick after a long day of doing nothing, physically, already…
I always wondered if I was a bit odd (affirmative!): not really loving the gym, opting to walk to and from grocery stores carrying heavy bags, eagerly volunteering to help friends move or paint rooms in their houses. (Katy calls this “stacking your life.”) I’ve always loved using my body in the service of human living, and I realize I love the communal effort, too. And now, as I do even less sitting in chairs, add more movement throughout my day as often as I can, turn away from screens to look more at the sea and sky, and talk with our organic farmers who feed us so well, the more I don’t crave “leisure” as much as I crave connection with the world we all live in and with the people in it.
I used to dance tango a lot (and when I get back to it, I’ll be trying it without the high heels. Thanks, #WholeBodyBarefoot). It was my first profound lesson in the power of connecting with my own body, attending to the cues of another body, and witnessing the ability of the human machine to pick up on a great deal of non-verbal information—from music and rhythm to microscopic moves emanating from my dance partner’s lead to listening to my own intuition. While embroiled in a tango that sometimes would work really smoothly for a few seconds, a beautiful thing got created that was much, much bigger than the two of us.
So, I’m a believer in the sheer awesomeness of the human body and what that means as we move about planet Earth. I’ve got my own batch of gathered evidence. But it’s Katy’s #MovementMatters that has offered me not just a new vocabulary, but a new, dot-connected way of understanding the world.
What we do with our bodies matters. And that extends way, way beyond my immediate space. I feel the responsibility and the thrill of that. And I also feel tapped into a source of clarity about what being a human connected to the world means. Based on my own experience, it’s the moving of my body that delivers me back to that clarity when a lot of the signs and signals around me are saying something different. I’m happier, yes, but I’m also trying to be a better citizen. And it starts with a simple calf stretch in the morning. Amazing.
I love this line from Katy in #MovementMatters: “When striving for an evidence-based life, consider that your most relevant evidence is your body.”
To that I’ll add, without putting too fine a point on it: Vive la révolution!
By: Tracy Picha