31 Days of Movement: Wild Geese

Exercise is a physical thing, for sure, and it does a lot for our bodies. We know it benefits our minds, too, making us smarter and more stress-resilient. Exercise positively affects our moods as well so it’s good for our emotions. We were born to move, and we are rewarded on many levels when we do so.

Exercise is really too bland a word for what I want to say here. I’m talking about movement, focused and intentional, that springs from joy and produces bliss. This is beyond emotional. This is the spiritual element of movement.

When I walk outside, I am with nature, and it’s different than sitting and looking at the trees. I’m moving with nature, and this is a spiritual connection.

When I’m dancing, I’m dancing with the music. Often I’m dancing with others. This moving-with is a spiritual connection. It’s a celebration. 

But anything, even push ups, even slogging away on the exercise bike inside a stuffy gym, any movement can be celebration, gratitude, exploration, and play. When it’s transformed with one of those intentions, exercise becomes a spiritual activity. 

Tonight at Nia we danced together for the solstice. It was a powerful coming together of movers. We wanted to be dancing this day. We wanted to dance in the dark together. We wanted to transform through moving together to the music.

Before class, and then again after, I read the beautiful “Wild Geese” by poet Mary Oliver. This is a poem about so many things, so many aspects of the human condition, and also about our animal selves. 

It is when I think of myself as animal that I most connect movement to spirit. It’s me-as-animal and me-moving that is my deepest spiritual connection to nature and the world. 

“Wild Geese” Mary Oliver 

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting --
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.