What does the body need in order to move?
A seemingly simple question that can be difficult to answer simply. I broached this to my dance classes last week and got a handful of great but complex answers which can all ultimately be categorized into two fundamentals: Space and Energy. Without Space, movement is blocked. Without Energy, we remain stagnant. Both of these needs can be met either internally or externally. The Energy of someone else’s push can send us into movement, but only if there is Space around us. Likewise, movement generated by our own body requires us to both exert Energy as well as access Space within our joints. I like to use the mechanics of a door as imagery for this, as a door hinge functions similarly to the hinges of our joints. So, if we look at the hinge side of a door, for example, and we were to fill cement into the Space that exists between the door and the door frame, the door would be unable to move. No matter how much Energy we push into that door, it would remain still until the cement or door cracked to create Space. Likewise, without the Energy of our push, no matter how much Space we allow, the door goes nowhere (exceptions made for magic Alice in Wonderland-type doors with talking handles).
The same concept applies for our body. If I want to move my coffee cup from my hand to my mouth, I must both initiate Energy in my arm as well as have Space in my elbow to allow my forearm to travel. The thing I find most interesting about this relationship is, counterintuitively, the location in my body that requires Space must not be the location where I send Energy. If I were to engage the muscles in and around my elbow joint, my arm would lock and I would remain regrettably uncaffeinated. With our door example, it’s the difference between pushing Energy into the handle side of the door versus the hinge side of the door. A gentle push on the handle side swings the door into the frame. Inversely, a push at the hinge side will at best keep leave the door unmoved, and at worst leave us with broken or bloody fingers as I force Energy where it doesn’t belong.
In reflecting on this simple lesson on body mechanics, I realized it’s not just our physical movement that works on this principle, but also our emotional movement. Let’s take a common Los Angeles occurrence: someone just cut us off on the freeway. This is likely to illicit an unpleasant emotional response which we would want to move past. If movement is the combination of Energy and Space, we have a few options to work through this moment. We could change our external Space, sending our Energy toward changing lanes or exiting the freeway. Or, we could Energetically create an internal Space for a new emotional response like compassion (who knows what this driver is going through today) or gratitude (thankfully no one got hurt). However, if our Energy goes toward the Space that feels angered or frightened by the near collision, the displeasing emotion is likely to remain, or worse, amplify. In other words, like the body, if Space and Energy access the same point of origin, movement is either suspended or damaging.
This idea lead me to another musing: If we accept that movement is the result of Space and Energy working together but apart, could we then apply this to the movement of our life’s trajectory? For example, if an individual wants a promotion at work, they would need the Space in their life and mind to grow into the new position along with the Energy that goes into making themselves qualified, noticed, and deserving. If both Energy and Space go into his or her personal life or stay trapped in his or her own mind, the work won’t get done. If both Energy and Space go into the work, the movement into the new position will be stalled or uncomfortable. Another example could be someone who wants to see movement in their love life. If our Space and Energy coincide in the establishing of a life in which a lover could exist, the lover remains hypothetical. If our Space and Energy coincide in the revolving around a new lover, well, I think most of us have witnessed (or experienced) this result before. But if we have Space in our life and give Energy to our love, or a Space for love and Energy toward meeting people, now we’ve found balance.
When I run into challenge in a dance class or choreography, I pause to ask myself Where do I want to send Energy? Where do I need Space? Two separate questions with two separate answers. What if we were to apply this approach to our lives? Maybe, the next time we notice an opening of Space in our life, rather than rushing to fill that Space, we can ask ourselves where else our Energy might be best utilized. Maybe, the next time we’re feeling stuck, rather than sending Energy into this blockage, we could ask ourselves where our life seeks more Space.