Meditation & Improvisation

Improvisation and movement are a complete world that encompass many areas in life such as – art, therapy and the ability to meditate in motion. In this article I chose to focus on improvisation as a form of meditation.

First I will try to define what Meditation is for me – Meditation is a certain quality of higher state of awareness which can be reached, or more precisely the process of raising your consciousness to higher levels of awareness. it is not sitting in a lotus position, or slow walking back and forth, it is also not looking at the breathing process – all of the above are ways to reach that special quality, all these roads are leading to meditation but they are still actions, and meditation is not an action.

Meditation is the ability to be here and now. To be in the moment and to respond to everything that happens in the correct way. In most types of meditations, or rather in ways which leads to the state of meditation, the entrance to that specific mode is through quieting the body and the mind. Turning the focus within and looking at those clouds and thoughts as they go and disappear.

“Quiet the mind”
In the field of movement Improvisation, or meditation in motion, the entrance to that specific state is through the body itself, with the same ultimate goal – to quiet the “busy-mind” and raise awareness to a higher level. In the beginning of the practice the body brings out the same thoughts and associations that come up naturally, and the body gives expression to the internal noise. At later stages of one practice the motion within and outside gets a different quality – the thoughts are disappearing, the spaces between them are becoming longer and longer, and quiet is maintained within the body and mind. The motion and movement can stay in the same intensity or rhythm as before, but the outer and inner quality is totally different and so is the feeling that the mover/meditator feels.

We can compare meditation and movement improvisation to the Japanese Zen meditation, where the only difference is, which is only an external difference, is that in Zen meditation the meditator sits and looks inward, while in movement improvisation the physical limitation does not exist – the body moves but the mind is quiet.

The highest state of awareness

The main tool in movement improvisation is the body, and just as each of us has a different body and different ways of expression, there are countless physical doors to the same goal – moving to a higher state of awareness physically and mentally. The door that is most accessible for the majority of people is through frequency, rhythm and music. The Practitioner/improviser willingly gives away his control of thoughts and movement and allows the body to “surf” the music. In this case the music is the “first violin” and the body is a second fiddle that accompanies it.  The music meets the body which becomes an amplifier to the emotional qualities of the rhythm. This tool can lead to a certain level of awareness, and can change dramatically the mood of the practitioner. Music is a key that search for the right door in the body and open it to movement.

“The movement chooses the dancer”

Later on, when you can dance without music or without much movement, you can notice the special quality of silence in motion improvisation. Improvisers at a high level, are not examined by the movements they perform, but rather the movements they are not doing. An improviser chooses from countless movements, which he knows and is aware of, he chooses the specific gesture that needs be expressed at that specific moment. On the highest level the dancer does not choose the movement, but rather the movement chooses to express itself through him or her.

The definition of dance, for me, is Movement with Awareness. When a person is entirely emerged in his movements, in the physical gestures of his body and he is fully aware of them, then that person is dancing. When one is in the same special quality of “consciousness movement” He becomes the dance. Improvisation for me is a way to get to an aware state of movement/being, the way to transform “regular” moves into dance.

Another unique component that exist in movement and dance improvisation is the ability to “Meditate together” – whether in pairs or a group of people. This special situation where some people meet, and their bodies speak and share awareness, almost does not exist in any other ways of meditation, in which the observer is asked to look inside, by himself for the quiet within. In movement improvisation this quiet and peaceful feeling can take place even during a dance between several people. The awareness in this situation transform  into a “higher awareness”, a kind of “higher-consciousness” that is being shared by everyone who participate. At that point all of the participants effectively become one body and are totally aware of each other.

As I am aware of the location and movement of my left hand in relation to my right hand, so is the group aware of the movement of all its members. In order to reach this situation it is necessary that everyone will enter first a higher personal awareness and only then the group can be created. This is not a common situation, and it is harder to reach as the number of people in the group increases.

This unique ingredient in movement improvisation makes this kind of meditation so special.  In most methods of Meditation as the “Meditation” ends – when the body comes out the lotus position or the mantra stops being recited and you come back to social life, the meditative quality stops as well. When meeting with other people the mind comes back, and with it returns the interpersonal issues.

In movement improvisation the awareness is maintained also between a number of people who interact, and it is easier to take that meditative quality to normal life outside the studio. Sometimes it does happen that this special awareness disappears, repetitive thoughts and personal issues arise back up, when this occurs it is a rare opportunity to see what took you out of the meditative state and to investigate why it happened.

“Dance your higher self”

Dance has always been a spiritual tool in cultures around the world – from Rain Dances in Africa,  through initiation ceremonies and sacred dances in the Far East. In the western modern world the spiritual and meditative aspect of dance and movement has relatively disappeared and Dance, movement and improvisation has become more of an artistic tool. In the recent years, dance, movement and improvisation returns and take their proper place as a therapeutic tool, as a spiritual and meditative tool.

The body is the main instrument that we have in this world, never will we own a more sophisticated machine, and we can not invent anything more perfect. The body is the tool that communicates with the outside world and expresses most clearly our inner world, it can never lie, and the sub cognitive messages that it is transmitting to the outside world are loud and clear to those who are willing to listen and knows to read them.

In my early years as a Dancer and Improviser, I did not understand why I was so attracted to dance, movement and the special feeling I had while improvising in the studio or on stage. I could not explain it just by the fact that endorphins were released in my brain, or that this feeling emerged from the liberation that comes from physical exertion (although these factors do have a significant impact on the body and mind.)

After years of practice I found out that this special feeling of inner peace remained and grew as the dance became even more refined and less physical, when the movements have become seldom yet more aware, and not a mess of moving body parts. It was a door to a world of peace – a world of meditation in motion, a world in which the head and mind gives way to the body that speaks, expresses and moves in a totally different way.

As I continued my research into this field, I looked, and still does, at ordinary life in the prism of Improvisation. My greatest ambition is to transform my everyday life into the feeling that I have during improvisation session in the studio or on stage. To make life more aware, with much more movement, to see all as a movement that comes and goes by itself.

Written on 2011. all rights reserved to Tom Goldhand