I had to share this amazing fox video.
First, as a Rolfer™ who works with bodies everyday – from the ordinary to the super athletic – I'm always blown away by what the human body can do (and how it can change!), and in this case what an animal body can do. Such amazing grace as this beautiful creatures dives into the snow for field mice underneath.
Then, as a meditator and student of mind-body-spirit integration, I marvel at animals' instinctual intelligence. The narrator says that the fox is most successful at catching the mice – about 75% of the time – when it is oriented to true north as it dives. Yet, clearly an animal doesn't do this as a mental, head-based process of "plotting a trajectory." Rather, this is going to be a deeply instinctual, embodied action, and that is part of what causes the grace.
Have you ever noticed how clunky your movements can be when you are self-conscious? – like when you first try to learn to windsurf or dance? It is only when our movements are deeply entrained into body intelligence (the belly center – which the Japanese martial artists call the hara and the Chinese the dantian) that we find that fluidity. Not surprisingly, the belly center is considered the "center of being" and many meditative traditions teach practices of concentration on this area as a way to develop presence. When the belly center is integrated, we move from "fitness" to "art" in our movements. This is the difference between an ordinary person mindlessly pumping away on an exercise machine while watching the TV screen at the gym and the grace of a dancer or martial artist whose mind is focused but relaxed and deeply present with his or her movement. (You don't see martial artists and dancers watching CNN on video screens as they work out!)
The belly center truly does have a function of intelligence, as is recognized in the common expressions of having a "gut feeling" or "I knew it in my gut." Yet we so often tend to focus our minds and knowing in our heads, and become disembodied as a result. Optimal intelligence, function, and grace comes when the whole body is integrated so that mind-body-spirit function as one.
In my Rolfing® Structural Integration practice in Seattle, I work with clients' bodies to free up tensions and restrictions, to enhance range of motion, to create natural alignment, and – critically – to enhance body awareness so that there is more possibility of integrated function and mind-body-spirit integration. Let us all aspire to the grace of foxes!