The mind evolved to move. We don’t often think about this, preferring instead to look at the duality of mind and body in a very compartmentalized way (i.e. the mind is for thinking and the body is for moving.) But the mind is, first and foremost, for movement.
Imagine the primordial soup from which life began.
Some of these early amoebic organisms developed a certain spark that helped them to move. If it helped them to move towards environments that had more light, more energy, or more safety, that spark evolved, and developed into the brain and nervous system that we have today.
With the development of the brain, we developed more and more advanced movement patterns and increasingly complex mental capacities to help us analyze and predict the best ways to move through our world.
I was thinking about this recently, when I had the opportunity to meet up with Forrest Mahop, a parkour instructor in East London who teaches at a fantastic facility (like a playground for adults) called Chainstore.
Parkour is a movement practice that involves moving through space as quickly and efficiently as possible (usually by going under, over or around whatever obstacles get in your way in creative and sometimes spectacularly acrobatic ways.) Most people that have heard of Parkour associate it with high-flying daredevils that leap from building to building in a series of death-defying stunts.
“Most people have certain preconceived notions about what Parkour is,” explained Forrest. “They have seen it on YouTube and assume it is about physicality, danger and risk.” But according to Forrest, Parkour is not only about developing physical prowess. It is about developing a psychological mindset that helps you move through life more effectively.
Parkour is about navigating obstacles, confronting fear, managing risk, and above all, about self-improvement. When we see the daredevil stuntmen leaping from building to building, we don’t realize the steps they have taken to get to that point. They have learned how to analyze situations, control their emotions, make good decisions, mitigate risk, etc. etc. etc. Perhaps most importantly, they have learned how to fuse the mind and body seamlessly, achieving a flow state that allows them to operate at peak levels.
“Parkour gives you freedom,” said Forrest. “Freedom to know that whatever obstacles come your way, you have the skills to navigate them.”
Spending some time with Forrest learning how to climb, jump, crawl and land, I was physically challenged. My muscles were stretched and pushed to new limits. My heart pounded out of my chest. And I had a smile on my face the entire time.
I couldn’t help but feel like this is the way life is supposed to be. We’re not meant to compartmentalize our mind and body into different domains. We spend our days sitting in chairs with our minds plugged in to computers, trying to be as mentally productive as possible. And then to make up for our sedentary lifestyle, we head to the gym to unplug the mind and cram in an hour of physical movement.
But when we feel most alive is when we are fully engaged, with our mind and body both engaged and working as one, and when our minds are being used for what it was designed for . . . movement.
(my first parkour lesson!)