As I walking into my neighborhood coffee shop on Sunday morning I summon writing stamina. The vegan barista massages her repetitive strain injury while describing the gluten-free options. A heavy-set, disheveled woman limps in with a cane, interrupts, and rants about the injustice of $3.00 coffee. The commotion distracts everyone from the sleep-deprived mom attempting to maneuver a stroller through the door.
The croissants sing their buttery siren song as I read the elaborate coffee menu. I opt for the El Salvadorian, shade grown, medium roast with notes of citrus and hints of vanilla.
Outside “my office” window, two bleary-eyed hipsters smoke, sucked on caffeine, and check their social media status. I notice the asymmetrical gate of a runner with the knee brace.
Suddenly a thug snatches the hipster’s iPhone, leaps over the dog with the gay pride collar, darts past a Prius, and sprints by the marijuana dispensary. After a delayed response, hipster #1 attempts to chase him down. Hipster #2 screams with indignation.
I was impressed! Yes, stealing from the hung over is wrong. But that thief has remarkable fast twitch muscle activation! I wish I moved that gracefully.
At the confluence of privilege and pastries I consider training priorities. How do we prepare for inevitable conflict? Should we focus on healing our injuries? How do we take care of our family and ourselves? To be ready for an heroic sprint should I always wear a sports bra? How do I refocus on writing a book about movement with all these compelling stories unfolding?
Beyond cycles of attack and recovery, modern life requires more than rehab and readiness. Our unconscious patterns may threaten us more than an assault. A practice provides a chance to perceive ourselves: hunching over a laptop, torquing a wrist on the espresso machine, or letting the blood pressure soar during stressful situations.
A movement practice frees us from constant reactivity. We discern the physical difference between reacting and responding. We can take responsibility by improving our ability to respond.
To cultivate a nimble consciousness and an agile body we can:
- Set our default to relaxation.
- Meet adversity with clarity.
- Notice how our tissues respond to the foreign or unfamiliar.
- Develop awareness of our surroundings, cultural conditioning, and ingrained movements.
- Marry physical adaptability with social agreeability.
- Keep practicing to infuse our cells with intelligence.
We can’t become bullet proof and haven’t yet eradicated inequality (despite all the symbolic “Coexist” bumper stickers.) Yet our personal practice contributes to a more harmonious urban narrative. Sure beats movin’ to the ‘burbs.