Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Seeing this artist, I felt new hope for the world regaining some focus!
We live in a highly distracted world.

My proof is that recently I saw two businessmen in their forties, walking together on a downtown street.  Were they engaged in witty banter? Were they discussing the vagaries of their employment?  Were they even simply lost in amicable silence as they enjoyed the local scene?  Not at all.  They were texting other people on their smart phones.

Now, I don’t have a problem with texting.  I think it’s a great way to communicate with someone when what you have to say is not important enough to warrant taking up a significant amount of time.  A friendly hello, a wish for luck, a reminder to pick up the pizza – what could be better for these than an instantaneous message?  The same rule of convenience applies to almost any form of modern communication. 

However, there is a drawback.  When everyone is trained to keep half their mind on their phone or tablet or computer, to see whether they’ve been called or texted or emailed, or to check the stock market, the latest celebrity gossip and the likelihood of rain in Tokyo tomorrow, a certain lack of focus develops.  The result – at least, as I see it – is that intelligent businessmen end up more interested in their phones than in each other’s company. 

You’ll have a hard time convincing me this is a good trend.  A phone will never be more interesting than another person

Everyone acts like it is, however, with the result that we seldom seem to have anyone’s full attention.  An atmosphere of distraction envelops everyone and everything. 

This is not very healthy for art and writing – or any serious undertaking, really.  On the other hand, we can’t be expected to throw up our hands and revert to the 1800’s, simply to avoid the danger of technological distraction.  Living in our modern world, as (hopefully) constructive citizens within it, we have to learn to counteract the temptation to dissipate ourselves.  We may have 1000 interests – I certainly do – but somehow we have to achieve some focus in the midst of them.

Dancers can concentrate!
Currently, therefore, I’m experimenting with exercise as a way to ground and center myself, to step away from all my pursuits  for a little while each day. 

When I was little (four to be precise), my mother started me in ballet lessons.  I loved it, so I continued to dance for five years.  Then we moved to an area not exactly rich in culture – though I’m happy to report it has improved – and I had to switch to Irish dancing.  So I pursued that for another five years.  Then my sophomore year in high school went into overdrive.  I was obliged to sacrifice dance on the altar of good grades. 

That doesn’t mean my love of dance has died, though.  I don’t have the ballerina body-type (uber-skinny, that is), and Irish dance wasn’t really my true passion, and I don’t have the spare cash to take ballroom lessons – so I decided to sidestep slightly into something which, in my mind, seems connected to dance, due to its use of the whole body and its rhythm and grace. 

In short, I took up Pilates.  I bought a set of DVD’s, and I’ve been following the first routine for a month now. 

I find two things exciting about this.  First, while performing the routine, I have to concentrate quite hard to perform each move correctly.  This means that for at least forty minutes per day I can cultivate a quiet mind, with no distraction from work or phones or even writing.  I’ve always thought an artist needs interior silence.  When I do Pilates, I learn to listen for even the tiny ideas and inspirations.

I appreciate her focus and grace!
Secondly, I have been happily surprised to find that while performing the movements and stretches, I find the tension flowing out of my shoulders and back and neck, where it collects over the course of the day.  In the past four weeks, I’ve begun to see why athletes have almost an addiction to exercise.  It really does give you a form of release and recreation which is hard to find anywhere else.  In order to write, you certainly have to be easy and relaxed, so Pilates is actually preparing me to be more creative. 

(Also, as a girl, I’m doing it partly because I’m vain and would love to be awesomely toned all over!)

Anyway, while I don’t intend to stand on the rooftops and preach the power of Pilates, I do want to recommend and endorse daily – or at least regular – physical activity.  I can promise that a little bit of exercise definitely focuses the mind and relaxes the body

As preparation for writing and creative endeavors of any kind, what could be better? 


  1. an Elfje pair:

    they do
    side stepping letters
    promenading on my paper

    in motion
    words sentenced; partnered
    within lines and spaces



    1. Your elfje pair makes a beautiful analogy out of my thoughts on exercise and dance. I had never thought of poetry as a dance of words, but it truly is!