I recently took a trip to Bali, Indonesia where I made a decision to “unplug” from technology for an extensive period of time and be fully present just with my surroundings and with myself. It is something that I’ve never allowed myself to do. Ever. I’m not quite sure why. I do know that I am not alone in this pattern of an over worked lifestyle with poor work-life balance. America has been called the most overworked country in the developed world. According to a 2008 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and Life Project, 50% of employed email users check their work email on the weekends, 46% check work email on sick days, and 34% check work email while on vacation. This is all too familiar to me.
What was revealed to me during my time of conscious “unplugging” were the possibilities that can grow out of being with stillness. As a dance/movement therapist, I often focus on the value of dance, movement, and the physical relationship we have with the world and ourselves. However, when we are in constant motion, not allowing for reflective and resting periods, capacity to be fully present and conscious is inhibited. When we allow for both movement and stillness in our life—in a creative combination—our nervous system can integrate our experiences. Then, when integration occurs, there is space for inspiration. Sabatini Fraone, who implements health and wellness initiatives in Fortune 100-level companies, says companies that place a priority on work-life balance see a direct correlation to their employees’ ability to innovate, think creatively, and produce results.
Deepak Chopra describes the balance of the two in his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, “Stillness alone is the potentiality for creativity; movement alone is creativity restricted to a certain aspect of its expression. But the combination of movement and stillness enables you to unleash your creativity in all directions—wherever the power of your attention takes you.”
The principles of rest, pause, and release of tension, are all embedded in the art form of dance. Modern dance pioneers Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey, were all interested in the fundamental importance of tension and relaxation in the body. Each of them used this concept as the foundation of their own system of movement principles where their choreography grew. Doris Humphrey called her version of the contraction and release of muscles and of the breath cycle "fall and recovery." Unlike Graham, who stressed the tension in the cycle, Humphrey focused on movement characteristics of accent, sustained flow, and rest.
Dance/movement therapy pioneer, Mary Whitehouse utilized “movement in depth” now referred to as Authentic Movement, to invite inward attention, allowing the unconscious to find its own expression through physical movement in part in order to encourage a healthy and balanced personality. Starting from a place of stillness, the mover listens to an inner impulse to inspire movement. Alma Hawkins, another dance/movement therapy pioneer, believed that relaxation can help form body image, increase awareness of inner feelings, and create a new connection with experiences. She considered that when relaxing, movement would become full of meaning and insight.
According to Christine Caldwell a focus in dance/movement therapy “is not so much to get people moving as it is to help people to move more consciously, and then to stop moving, and listen to the song of the cellular self.” Something that all of us, in this overworked society, can be reminded of.
This information, of course, is not new, and numerous studies are showing that quieting the body and mind can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health. However, even more important, it changes our brain. The cells and neurons in the brain are constantly making new connections and disrupting old ones based on response to stimuli, a quality that researchers call experience-based neuroplasticity. Therefore, rest always has to happen in order for our mind and body to integrate.
The point is this: Taking a pause isn’t wasting time. Instead, it is actually offering space for something new to emerge.
Chopra asserts, “Wherever you go in the midst of movement and activity, carry your stillness within you. Then the chaotic movement around you will never overshadow your access to the reservoir of creativity, the field of pure potentiality.”
Therefore, I invite you to rest. Recuperate. Integrate. Imagine the inspiration and the movement possibilities that will emerge when you give space for them to breathe.
Caldwell, C. (2004). The power of stillness, the glory of motion. American Journal of Dance Therapy, 26(1), 9-15.
Chopra, D. (1994). The seven spiritual laws of success: A practical guide to fulfillment of your dreams. New World: Novato, CA.
Humphrey, D. (1958). The art of making dances. Princeton: Hightstown, NJ.
Levy, F. (2005). Dance movement therapy: A healing art. Reston, VA: AAHPERD.