Matt Perryman

A simple step to move with cat-like grace

By Matt Perryman

Watch a cat’s slinking and sauntering next time you have the chance.

There’s a total lack of doubt in their movements.

You can confuse them, surprise them, and make them hesitate, sure. Watching a house-cat’s bewilderment when faced with a strange new contraption is one of life’s small joys.

What animals don’t do is spend large portions of their day second-guessing, angsting over, and having full-on anxiety attacks about the quality of their movement.

Imagine a flock of sparrows out foraging for the day and one of the birds saying to the rest, “You shouldn’t flap your wings so hard!”

“You should actually bring your wings down to a 30 degree angle.”

“Actually, the way you’re moving your wings will cause you to overtrain and you’ll blow out your knees.”

Those birds would be dead before the end of the day if they listened to that nerd.

Lucky for them that the persistent, nagging know-it-all voice of criticism is unique to us chattering primates calling ourselves homo sapiens.

We’ve built ourselves a whole artificial reality around that voice of criticism. You’d never get science or advanced technology without it.

This way of living has advantages, I won’t argue. But living with a non-stop critical voice in our heads also disconnects us, in ways large and small, from our living bodies and biological feelings.

I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a purely “natural” human existence. We are blessed and cursed with language and thought and civilization to such a degree that human nature cannot be separated from human manufacture.

What few instincts we have are atrophied nubs compared to the robust behavior patterns in the other animals. We’re the only creatures that worry whether we’re moving right, or enough, or for the right reasons. All thanks to the voice of criticism and the fears it creates.

There’s a fluid grace in animal movements that, without practice and dedication, you don’t easily find in the human world. You’ll find it in athletes, dancers, martial artists and others who live in deep acquaintance with their bodies.

Children haven’t yet had it taken from them. In the adult world, what comes automatically in animals takes training, practice, and committed effort for us.

That’s key.

Animals don’t ask for a “form check”. They don’t need it, without a hostile nerd whining in their head for 16 hours a day.

The form check is what happens when the critical ego gets in the way and short-circuits that deep intuitive experience of your body.

We humans do still have the ability for an animal-like acquaintance with our bodies.

The main factor in achieving powerful, graceful, cat-like movement is not knowing more. The thirst for knowledge comes from the conscious mind puffing its chest, pretending it’s more important than it is.

You’ll get further by learning how to silence that voice, and how to resourcefully confront the fears and anxiety that it causes.

This is why I say:

Silence the mind. Breathe deeply. Relax yourself.

Moving with an animal-like flow requires paying attention, perceiving clearly and honestly, and feeling the quality of the movement as you do it.

You can’t do that with a hostile pessimist — real or imagined — screeching in your ear. The voice of criticism prevents the bare honesty that is necessary for contact with your unthinking animal side.

Your body knows how to move, if you’ll let it. You simply aren’t letting it.

Matt Perryman

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