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Moving Meditation

By Nina Thompson and Shihan Dara Masi

Introduction

I struggle with meditation. It is a daily struggle. It is the one thing in my life that no matter how much I do, it doesn't seem to get easier, and yet I know it is an important part of staying centered. 

At PAWMA's last camp I broke through a wall, which was appropriate as it was the camp's theme. Shihan Masi's Jo class was fun, inspiring, and a great lesson in a new weapon. Also, she introduced me to a completely new idea. I had not heard of using a kata as a moving meditation: to do a kata not for perfection of form, but for the joy of moving and the centering nature of ritual. I found the Sensei Masi after. These are some of the things we talked about:


Q: How did you come to moving meditation?

I am not sure I "came to it", but rather it was a progression of my needs as a martial artist and a teacher.  Most of my life as a martial artist today is in front of a class and giving of myself, my knowledge, and my energy to a group of people.  I find that the fulfillment during these times is great, however it comes from a place of seeing others grow, and sharing my passion.  As a martial artist, I also need a place that is just for me.  A time that is not about teaching, not even about practice.  A place that is just about the joy I find in the movement and the comfort found in the repetition of practice that brings me to my center.

Q: What do you think moving meditation can offer us?

I don't know that meditation works for everyone.  I know for me, I struggle to sit still, to focus on breath, or the many other modes of meditation I have tried over the years.  I have found that taking a movement and moving with it with presence and mindfulness leads to an inner peace and joy.  I don't focus on improving it, or have any goal in mind other than the joy in the moment.  The movement helps me to focus.  Often while I practice, I become aware of the sounds of nature around me. The soft sound of the wind high in the pine trees, the birds chirping, the beauty of the sky, and the warmth of the sun on my skin.  The centered place the movement brings me to opens me to my world in that moment, not in a distracted way, but in a connected way.  I am not sure if this would work for others, but for me, I have found this meditation with movement opens me in a way and connects me in a way that I was not able to feel with other forms of meditation.

Q: Why is moving meditation a part of your life?

Life happens and it happens to all of us.  Right now for example, our world is faced with tremendous challenges due to Covid-19.  We are in the midst of a health crisis, a financial crisis, a challenge to the way as a culture we socialize and be with each other as humans.  The stress of this is felt in a very loud and real way on the surface, but it also resides deeply in each of us.  For me, picking up a weapon or repeating an empty hand kata over and over brings a few moments of stillness to my life.  It re-centers me spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  It connects me to my world around me and brings my in touch with the joy I find in martial arts training.

Q: How is it meditation if you are moving?

There are many forms of moving meditation that exist.  This is not something I have invented!  One can consider Yoga, Tai Chi, Qigong, breathing exercises, stretching, walking, or even daily tasks as moving meditation practice.  Meditation is more about the how, than the what.  It is a focus in taking a break from our autopilot multi-tasking world and giving our mind, body, and soul a joyful time-out with mindfulness.

Q: How is doing a kata repeatedly  for moving meditation different than doing a kata for perfection of form?

Intent matters!  Try practicing your form JUST to practice your form.  Empty your mind from thoughts like "was that good enough", "am I ready for the next rank", "I just made a mistake", "I could do that faster, better, more accurate, etc" and just DO the form.  As you repeat the form, listen to the sounds around you, feel your body, experience your environment in a mindful open way.  Replace your goal oriented thoughts with connection to this one moment in your practice.  By doing so, you will see - it will be different.

None of this is new!  I am no meditation expert or meditation teacher for that matter.  For me, it is just a practice of enjoyment and a connection to what centers me.  I hope that by sharing my thoughts, others may benefit from this practice.

Dara Masi, Shihan
Menkyo Kaiden San Dai Kichi, Hakko Densho Ryu Jujutsu

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