movement for the soul

wednesday sermon. april 17 2013

                                 movement for the soul

movement, properly understood as a philosophical entity, has to be felt inside us, not put on like a garment.  there is that in us which has moved from the very beginning; our breath, our blood, our thoughts as unformed as they may have been.  it can liberate us to new heights of freedom and accomplishment.  as intellectuals living in our heads we can sometimes forget how integral movement and action is to cognition, perhaps to consciousness itself.

scientific facts:  the cerebellum takes up just one-tenth of the brain by volume, yet it contains over half of all its neurons.  it contains forty million nerve fibers, almost fifty times more than the complex optical tract.  it is not where movement originates from, planning and initiation are done in the cortex, but the “little brain” is the site of fine motor control and nuanced spatial relationships.  this control centre receives and feeds information to the cortex constantly.  observing this one finds the part of the brain that processes movement is the same part of the brain processing abstract thought, understanding, self-awareness, communication, reasoning, learning, emotional knowledge, retaining, planning, and problem solving.  if the cerebellum is fine tuning our motor skills, is it not also fine tuning everything else?

a field of very finely tuned motor skill, athletics, requires sophistication and intellectual rigor.  the ancient philosophers, and those that admired and emulated them believed in a mind/body balance and regularly attended social exercise regimens.  one example of modern application was students with poor academic scores were given an extra half hour of physical activity in lieu of the same time studying and the scores improved.  a clear indicator of movement facilitating cognition, some philosophers talk about a walking practice or an outdoor practice of some kind.

rhythmic and choreographed movement is not the only kinds of therapeutic methods.  working in the garden involves many nuanced movements, and physical exertions of varying degrees.  there is detailed planning and committed execution.  for an alternative activity to going to a gym, running, cycling, consider working with your hands in the soil.  the benefits are greater than just to your body and brain, they affect the community and planet as a whole.  whatever movement you choose to engage in, try doing it on a regular basis for an extended period of time and take note of how your mood, cognition and health improve.

we can not survive alone, interdependence, not independence is key.  we can not help others or give to others if we are not safe and healthy and happy ourselves.  in order to maintain and strengthen our selves we must stretch and use our bodies and minds and this will feed and enliven our souls.  we contain all the raw materials for improving ourselves and the world around us, all we need are the catalysts that others and external stimuli provide.  our movement may carry us closer to others, physically, mentally and spiritually.

everything about us moves, from the electrical impulses at the basic cellular level, to the graceful and gross motor movements of our bodies.  our minds are not absent in this movement.  even if we are transcending thoughts with our ecstatic releases of the body, there is a recorder going in the brain, collecting images and ideas for later perusal.  our thoughts move about in our heads.  with all this moving around how can one ever expect things to remain the same?  change is just another kind of movement to participate in.  be mindful and aware how we are a balanced machine.  the movement of our bodies feeds our minds and the wholeness of this is soul.  strong healthy souls make beautiful worlds.

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