The Art of Grace

SHAMANIC MEDICINE & SOUL ALCHEMY WITH MISHA HOOMy canine friend Misty was stretched out on the floor so gracefully the other day that I just had to take a photo and post it on Facebook.  Only seven months old and still growing in several different directions at once, her long body was stretched out elegantly, her slender legs were crossed over with her front paw perfectly lined up with her nose – she was a picture of grace. Ok, so maybe I am a little biased…

When we think of things that are graceful though, we tend to think of natural things, like the elegant shape of butterfly wings or the curve of a flower’s slender stem.  We find these shapes and lines harmonious or soothing, and so they are copied in art and architecture as we strive to surround ourselves with beauty. However, whilst it is true that static objects can be graceful by the nature of their shape and proportion, gracefulness is usually revealed to us through movement. The way the water in a pond ripples, the way a swan glides or a person dances all reflect a certain degree of gracefulness. So what is it exactly, that makes a movement graceful?

I trained for many years as an aerial acrobat, performing choreographed dance on a long silk drape (actually it was polyester, but that is a technicality). I spent long hours building strength, developing technique and pursuing the mysterious art of grace. Amidst all the gruelling physical training and toe pointing exercises, what I learned is that we are graceful whenever we are doing something well, with ease, without force. For the possum walking on the power line, the eagle soaring high in the sky or even my friend Misty stretched out on the floor, this is easy enough – they are simply being true to their nature, without undue effort or self-consciousness.  However, for the person who wishes to master a certain skill, there is work to be done and that work is as much about unlearning as it is about learning.

The things which prevent us from being naturally graceful are held in the internal places where we resist, where we are unbalanced, lacking in strength, focus or acceptance. When we resist a certain movement, for example maybe we don’t like going upside down, or we feel uncomfortable stretching our belly or we have a stiff neck, we reveal the places in ourselves where we are holding tension. Discovering the cause of that tension will allow us to relax into the movement and return to our natural grace. Our centre, or core, is our position of greatest strength and it takes a certain amount of core strength to be balanced in our lives as well as our bodies. There are many distractions and temptations that pull us away from our centre, and if we stray too far, we are likely to fall over, both literally and figuratively. Focus means putting your attention on whatever it is that you are doing right now.  If our bodies are doing one thing and our minds another, we rarely display much grace or cohesion in any of our endeavours. Finally, without acceptance we are not fully present, and whatever we resist will usually persist, until we find a way to make our peace with it. That includes our limitations, our failures and our hurts. Since we cannot learn to walk without falling down a few times first, we need to find acceptance so that we are able to learn from these experiences.

Whatever you are passionate about, whether it is dancing, creating, cooking, writing or sport, if you repeat and refine it enough, it will eventually become effortless and in that moment, you are graceful. What is perhaps more important than the attainment of technical skill however, is what you have learned from the process of revealing the natural grace you have within. In removing the obstacles which prevent us from experiencing this natural grace, we bring ourselves closer to the fullest expression of our essential self.  If we consider an alternative definition of the word ‘grace’, we find that it means ‘Divine gifts and power’, and it seems to me, that would be something worth revealing…

This article was published in Connect Magazine, June 2013

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