Using Conscious Movement to Train Awareness

August 16, 2009

We begin our meditation sessions with gentle stretching and conscious movement. What is “conscious movement”? It is not something separate from our meditation; it can actually be a form of meditation.

Conscious movement acts as a preparation and aid to meditation, and also is a bridge between meditative stillness and the movement of everyday life. Conscious movement helps us experiment with how to integrate meditative awareness into everyday life.

What makes movement “conscious”? Here are some everyday examples: Think about how you touch your lover, your child, your pet. Now think about how you touch the cereal box, the doorknob, the lightswitch.

The way we touch inanimate objects is usually fairly mechanical — we automatically gauge the weight of the object, applying the right amount of grip strength, but otherwise it is fairly automatic. But when we touch a living being, particularly one we love, there is often a “being present” and communication that occurs.

When we touch a living being to express affection, there is an aliveness and a presence is our hand. Our hand is no longer merely a mechanical grasping object, but rather a living extension of our heart-feelings.

When we are touching consciously, we feel as though there is a communication that is transmitted and received at the skin surfaces.

In conscious movement, our view of our body is similar to that of conscious touching. As we are moving our hands and arms in space, we are viewing our body as an extension of and expression of our inner feeling. When we stretch our arms up, we are not merely mechanically stretching muscles and tensions. We are opening from the center of our being and expressing that through the movement of our outstretched arms. We are projecting our intention from inside us, through our arms, out past our finger tips.

In conscious movement we are aware of our “subtle body” — the subjective experience of our body — and not just our visible physical body.
Our visible physical body stops at the skin, but our inner experience of our body can expand and shrink. Our subtle body, our sense of ourselves, can expand or contract, depending upon how open and connected we are.

The opening up of the body helps us maintain openness of awareness. The open mind and open heart find expression and embodiment in a certain attitude and carriage of the physical body. And vice-versa, the embodiment of openness and spaciousness in the physical body helps support an attitude of openness of heart and mind.

Physical contraction is generally associated with fear, replusion, cold. Expansion is associated with attraction, love, confidence, warmth. Excessive contraction leads to restrictions in the flow of breath and energy in the body. Conscious movement helps us become aware of contraction, expand, and soften restrictions.


Stare without blinking at something brightly lit — an exterior window, an electric light, a candle flame — now close your eyes and see the afterimage. Quickly the afterimage fades. Try to watch it until it totally fades. Even after you think it has faded see if you can maintain a trace of the image for a few seconds

Ring a bell. Stop. Listen to the vibrations slowly die down and subside. Listen to the sound get fainter and fainter, until it seems you cannot hear it anymore. Even after you think the sound has totally faded, see if you can maintain a trace of the sound in your mental ear for a few seconds.

Shake or vibrate some part of your body — your hand, your trunk, your head. Now gradually make that moment finer and finer, as fine as you can, until it is a slight tremor. Finer still until it is invisible from the outside. Finer still until it is just the memory of a movement inside. Maintain that sense of subtle inner movement for a few seconds.

Application of this exercise: When we are sitting in meditation we are training ourselves to become aware of very subtle sensations and experiences, as well as very gross and obvious ones. These exercises will help us tune into subtle sensations in our body, and subtle movements of our breath, emotions, mind.


6 Responses to “Using Conscious Movement to Train Awareness”

  1. When I meditate deeply, I fall into this habit of rocking either back and forth, or side to side.

    I can easily stop the rocking motion, which always creates an even deeper state of consciousness, but the urge is always there to rock back and forth. Its hard to explain but the moments of movement paired with moments of stillness creates a meditative duality that i find to be almost trance-like.

    sometimes, if i let the urge to move flow all-out, I really get rocking, and I can only image how strange if not frightening that must look!

    does anyone else get the urge to groove while meditating??

    either way, I find this to relate somewhat to the article at hand…

  2. leominstermeditation said

    I’ll give you my interpretation, which may or may not apply.

    Internal energy begins to move, particularly in the spine. As it moves it encounters subtle blocks. The “friction” can produce internal sensations, such as heat, or can be expressed in external movements, like rocking.

    When you begin rocking it helps to move the energy, so that when you stop it leads to “an even deeper state of consciousness” as you describe.

    My personal opinion is that it is good to have the freedom to rock or sway, and to not feel confined by a habit of having to sit as still as a statue. At the same time, I would not fall into making a habit of always swaying and rocking, because this could just become another confining habit.

    If it were me, I would play with swaying when my intuition guides me to. I would experiment with very, very subtle swaying, as well as more obvious swaying. And then I would experiment with stopping and feeling the energy move internally.

    What you are experiencing may be what in yoga is called (internal) “kriyas.”

    Incidentally, if you go to a synagogue you may see old-timers swaying while they pray — this is referred to as “davening” or “shuckeling.” See

    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. leominstermeditation said

    Additional Comment:

    You are experiencing a gentle impulse to sway. Other people sometimes experience a kind of internal “hiccup” of energy as energy moves upward in the body, and some tension in the body is released.

    Awareness of energy moving in the body is also part of Chinese medicine and related systems. In Chinese medicine it important to get the internal energy to flow easily. This is the purpose of such medical techniques as acupuncture and acupressure.

    Hatha yoga postures — the stretches and breathing techniques — are also designed to help release blockages to the free flow of energy, and thus are a preparation for the the higher brances of yoga (that is, meditation).

  4. This is all very interesting.

    thanks for the reply.

  5. YogaMusings said

    I’ve been going golfing every free day I have. It’s one of the few things that give my mother joy, so I’ve committed myself to excelling and playing it as much as possible with her.

    Yesterday I found myself nearly unable to move, my back and body ached so. Every time I hit the ball, it scooted a couple of feet and stopped. I just stopped caring at all, I was so fatigued.

    Last night, I did my yoga session. The focus of the session was backbends and I tried to do each pose gently. After the session I did a sitting meditation. I had not meditated for a couple of weeks, and when that happens I find myself almost unable to cope with life, everything seeming to turn the thumbscrews on my sense of peace and well-being.

    I started off by trying to do a lovingkindness meditation, extending myself to others, and just really found myself not wanting to give, but wanting myself to be nurtured and cared for. I turned my lovingkindness to myself and from deep within, I found the nurturing that I needed. And from deep within I found the message that we are really driven to be happy and at peace in life. It’s there and ready to be received. What stands in the way of our finding that path is our mind. All of the stresses, problems, pressures, and worries are just completely fabricated from within our minds.

    As that came to me, the energies from my backbends enveloped my being, and I could feel the flow going up and down my body and wrapping me in a sense of “this is what reality really is”. That sense that I could be able to find “reality” brought me great comfort, and I sat there deep in that sense for a long long time. It was quite wonderful.

  6. leominstermeditation said

    Are you saying your mother is more athletic than you are 😀

    Really, though, that’s wonderful that you and she are able to relate in this way, and that you are willing to meet her on her ground.

    Thank you for sharing these interesting experiences.
    My feeling is, whether one is doing loving-kindness meditation for oneself or for others, one is doing it from that space that is beyond personal.

    Whether one is inspired to generate loving-kindness toward yourself or another, one still makes contact with the source and ground of loving-kindness.

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