Earlier in the week, I made my way to Richmond Park for the first instalment of a friend’s new venture; Made to Move. This is an experimental series of movement related events designed for people seeking mindfulness; allowing anyone to harness their creativity and use their mind as an energising tool through movement. I had no idea what to expect but was intrigued to say the least.
After reading one of my latest articles on the mental health benefits of chasing endorphins, the creators of this innovative concept, Bart and Rowan, invited me along to join in with their workshops. Funnily enough, Bart and I actually met at around 05:30, running along a beach in Sierra Leone, when I was out there in May for the Street Child Marathon. Both testing whether our legs still worked after the race we decided to run together and got chatting. I learnt that Bart is an ardent believer in meditation, movement, and mindfulness; three things which I use on a daily basis to ground myself. So naturally I was delighted to get involved with the Made to Move project.
At the start of the workshop our HRV (Heart Rate Variability) was tested using an ingenious piece of software. Breathing deeply in time with a wave on the screen, the software measured the variation in time intervals between each heartbeat. This was then linked to our level of stress. A low score on the test indicated higher stress levels associated with the primitive fight or flight response and the presence of adrenaline. A higher score indicated a more relaxed, mindful attitude, both during the test and in daily life. I was not surprised, yet still relieved, to find out that my HRV was relatively high. See people, all this yoga, running, and self-love must be doing me some good!
For the next part of the workshop we split up into pairs. I was matched with a lovely women named Helen. We were asked to present our partner with a dilemma that has been bothering us recently. Something meaningful; a question which once we discover the answer, will help us progress in our own lives. We then had to coach each other, offering an open mind, remaining present and curious to each other’s questions. We walked and talked and the time flew by as we discovered so much about each other in such a short space of time. It was so refreshing and slightly terrifying to lay our fears bare, becoming so open and honest with a total stranger.
After the walk and talk we stopped in a beautiful open field surrounded by deer. I’m still blown away every time I discover a new oasis in the city of London, there’s just something magical about it. Stood in a circle, Rowan handed us each a long wooden pole, a broom handle to be exact. Contrary to what you may be thinking, it actually felt rather empowering to be stood in the middle of the park, with an awesome tribe of people, holding broom handles like warriors. We kept an open mind.
Now this is where the mindful movement comes in. Rowan then gave us a series of riddles to solve. But these were not your ordinary riddles. Shown two different positions, A and B, we were asked to find a way to move seamlessly from one to the other without taking our hands from the broom handle. At first this may seem like a cognitive challenge but once you start to move your body in patterns it would not usually experience, the energy starts to flow from and within minutes you can crack the movement riddle. Our minds released control, working in harmony with the body, and the unusual movement patterns became second nature after a few attempts. It was also incredibly interesting to see how different people found a variety of solutions to these riddles, each breaking down different mental pathways.
After the fun and games of the movement riddles we returned to our walk and talk, heading back towards where we started. Helen and I discussed our questions once more, and I can’t help but feel like this second conversation absolutely flew by. Had we developed a stronger sense of mental clarity? Had the movement enhanced our ability to become fluid in the mind as well as in the body?
I’m not sure whether it was the gorgeous sunshine, the open space of Richmond Park, meeting new, inspirational people, or the movement itself that gave me such a burst of energy. And I certainly believe that the body, mind, and soul are linked via an infinite number of unbreakable pathways. But I cannot wait to attend more sessions throughout the coming weeks to explore the connection between movement and mindfulness some more.
How will you test your boundaries this week?
Lots of love,