The Art of Subtlety

Subtlety in movement, awareness, micromovements, etc… VS force.

I’ve been pondering this a lot lately. And when I ponder, articles sometimes take on a life of their own. This one is a bit heady. Don’t let it throw you. I encourage you to take some time and contemplate how you might incorporate it into even one part of your day.

Let us take a look at the aspect of force.

According to the dictionary, force means:

strength or energy as an attribute of physical action or movement.

coercion or compulsion, especially with the use or threat of violence.

make a way through or into by physical strength; break open by force

make (someone) do something against their will.

I find that people have a tendency to believe that an innate use of force is a necessary component of fitness and movement. It’s perceived that we have to make our body do something. That if it’s not hard it’s not working. No pain, no gain. You get it.

But let’s take Star Wars and the Force (letting my inner geek out for y’all). When Jedi’s use the force. They do not make giant forceful gestures with their arms and legs. They might use a tiny flick of the hand, but often there is no body movement at all.- By just using their mind they make a huge impact.

If you were watching a video of Bruce Lee and saw him in a fight scene, most people would say he was using a great amount of force. Arms are flying, legs are kicking, and everything happens so fast it’s hard to see clearly.

Masters of the martial arts know and understand that it is not about force, but instead is the combination of external subtleties of movement coupled with internal awareness that makes one a powerhouse. A simple weight shift, a side step, a breath. These are keys to greatness.

Because these keys are small, internal, and gentle it’s hard for people to see on the outside. It’s a thought process and subtle awareness that we build slowly and gain through much practice.

It’s my strong belief that we use too much force not only in our fitness but also in our emotions. We are bulls in a china shop (as the saying goes), breaking beautiful china all around us. Pushing and pulling to get what we want. Anger, frustration, fear, anxiety… It’s all too much.

Instead, what if we moved slowly through the shop and allowed our eyes to feast on the intricacy of the painted bowls and plates. Took our time and breathed into every step we took towards the exit. We would certainly cause less devastation for the shop keeper. But we would also have enjoyed our time more as well.

Excessive force in both our movement and in our emotions drains us. We use more energy, are less efficient, and exhaust ourselves completely.
I see many people forcing their way through life. Fighting with themselves about the way they look, berating themselves for poor habits and choices, exhausting themselves to be better at everything; work, parenting, the gym, life! We push and push until we can’t keep pushing. We collapse and age because we are so freakin’ exhausted from the fight!

While you may think that movement and emotion, are completely different. I’d like you to open yourself to the possibility that they are entirely the same puzzle piece. Your emotions are you and your body reacts to those emotions by coming out in your body. Your pain, your stiffness, your tension.

Our movement (or lack thereof) is completely affected by the force we choose to use.

I believe that more force equals less movement.

To take a daily life example. Imagine you are having a heated conversation with someone. You push for something. Perhaps for your child to do his homework. They push back (verbally, lol). You feel you have no other option but to push harder. Maybe you take away their phone. Now they feel isolated from their peers and angry. Yelling ensues. Nervous systems ramp up, brain ability decreases, and you know as well as I there is no way that homework will get done. Or if it does, it won’t be done well. 
More force=less movement.

(This would ideally be the place where I tell you how to handle the issue above with less force, but this article isn’t about that. That would take me on a whole other tangent. Believe me, as a homeschool mom of 20 years, I’ve been there. I feel you.) 😉

Let’s look at a movement example:
-Stand with your back at a wall.
-Take your arm and hold it along the wall at shoulder level.
-Now, bend your elbow (like the strong man pose).
-Lock your elbow so you don’t change the angle and allow your shoulder/arm to rotate downward and check your range of motion.

Most people don’t have a lot of range here. And I’ve seen people use weights and pressure trying to get more range here. But let’s see if we can change it quickly with a lot less effort.

Go to the video where I show you how and do it with me. 🙂

VIDEO LINK

I work with people every single day to make better movement gains from quiet subtle movements and breath than they ever would through force. I’ve been experimenting in my own body/mind and with others for years now. I am a firm believer.

When we offer our body/brain/nervous system less force, less pushing. We gift ourselves with the ability to become more centered and aware inside. We are able to pull ourselves out of the spinning vortex and find the inner quiet. That quiet is where the magic happens.

As our awareness grows, we gain skill and depth we did not know we had. We can then move in both our bodies and in our brains with ease. We become more efficient, waste less energy, and accomplish more.

It’s your turn to ponder on it now. And hopefully, to decide to develop for yourself a deep appreciation of movement subtlety and the art of inner awareness.

And may the force be with you (I just couldn’t resist).

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