Another way to meditate: How to meditate on the move (and go into a trance)

Attention allows you to live with greater awareness and movement can help train that ability. We can all find in physical movement the mental stillness necessary to face life with serenity.

I can raise and lower my arms from horizontal to vertical thirty times while thinking about how to get fitter and about the obligations of the day. Or I can close my eyes and pay attention to my breathing and body sensations as I slowly raise my arms vertically and lower them again two or three times.

It may take the same time, but the difference between the two experiences, apart from the fact that the second is much more pleasant and effective, lies in the quality of care.

“If you remain conscious, all you do will be meditation,” said the mystic Osho. It is common to imagine that, to meditate, you have to sit and remain motionless observing your breath, thought, some object or your own consciousness. But it doesn”t necessarily have to be that way. You can meditate on the move.

Meditating is not a technique, it is a state in which you simply are, without judging, and in which you do not identify with what you do, what you feel or what you think. It is a state of greater awareness that encourages the feeling of being in contact with what is essential.

Buddhism teaches that part of life”s dissatisfaction arises from becoming so used to the world that we no longer perceive its beauty and variety. The tool that counteracts this process is mindfulness.


Bringing awareness to one”s body movements, physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts allows the mind to distance itself. It helps to place oneself in the present moment and not to live absorb in thoughts about the past or the future that generate anguish or dissatisfaction.

  • One of the techniques used in Zen to free the mind from its cage is the kinhin: the meditative gait. It is traditionally practiced interspersing it with sitting meditation to loosen the body and work attention in an act as daily as walking.
  • In Taoism, equanimity and inner stillness are worked on both in the chained, slow and harmonic movements of chikung and in the fluids of tai chi.
  • The sequences of yoga asanas, when they are not performed as mere physical exercise but with the attention and dedication that a more spiritual work calls for, constitute another meditative practice. “Yoga” derives from the Sanskrit root yuj, which on the one hand means directing attention and, on the other, union or communion.
  • Also the dance can become a powerful meditation. “In communion with the cosmic rhythm, the soul sings, full of light, and the free man gets to dance his life”, wrote the Czech choreographer and dancer François Malkovsky, who, inspired by the laws of motion of nature, systematized the choreographies of the so-called free dance. Other very different meditative dances are those proposed by Osho in his dynamic meditations, the trance dance or the dance of the five rhythms, in which stillness is reached after a catharsis.
  • The beautiful and hypnotic revolving dance of the Sufis or the sacred circular dances compiled by Bernhard Wosien in the seventies are examples of very different meditative dances, but that ultimately seek that feeling of union with something that goes beyond oneself.
  • Other forms of dynamic meditation would be those in which we bring our attention to our day-to-day actions, such as when we bring our attention to the act of eating.


Movement and stillness are not mutually exclusive poles, but what Taoists would call complementary opposites. Neither can exist without the other. All movement is born from stillness and stillness is reached from movement. A balance between the two is necessary to face any circumstance with serenity, since it is a matter of flowing without losing one”s center.

Meditating while standing still allows you to feel the impulse of vital energy, the air of the breath that enters and leaves, in the same way that meditating while the body moves opens the door to experience a greater inner stillness. In both cases, a space of living silence is created, a space of stillness from which one can act freely.

Movement is natural to the human being. This not only cannot live without movement – without the beating of the heart, the circulation of the blood or the swaying of the breath – but through it strengthens and expresses itself. Movement is part of the human essence and therefore can bring us closer to it. At the same time, it helps to train attention.

It allows you to focus on what is happening and mitigates difficulties that arise, especially at the beginning, in sitting meditation, such as boredom or drowsiness. This is perhaps why it has been used for centuries as a tool to meditate and quiet the chatter of the mind.


One of the meditations that can best illustrate how stillness is achieved through movement is the sema or whirling dance of the dervishes. Sufi students practice this dance for years, which they consider a very complex part of their training. In it the dervishes revolve around themselves and around the divinity personified in the master.

The dance tries to reflect the cyclical nature of all things and constitutes a mystical journey of union with God. The right arm is extended upwards with the palm of the hand facing upwards, and the left arm and hand facing downwards. The dancer thus becomes a mediator between the infinite and the finite, symbolically taking the energy from heaven, letting it pass through his heart and pouring it out onto the earth. By emptying itself and becoming a channel it lightens your ego. In all this movement there is something that remains unchanged and the sense of union is produced.

Trying to turn on oneself for a long time with appropriate music, one realizes that, to do so without losing balance, it is as important to work the roots of the body as its verticality, that is, to feel the support of the feet and the once be able to rise upwards as if a thread were pulling the crown of the head. It connects with the earth through the rhythm that guides the steps, and the elevation towards the sky allows it to turn and turn on its own axis as a piece of ceramic would do on a potter”s wheel.


The first day I tried the dervish dance, everything around me was a continuous coming and going. A lamp, a column, another person turning, a curtain. Again the lamp, the column, the other person turning, the curtain. Fixing my gaze on any of these elements, clinging to them longer than the passage of my eyes lasted, unbalanced me and unleashed dizziness.

Clinging to sensations also made me lose my balance. If he paid too much attention to the dizziness, it got worse. On the other hand, if he slowed down without giving it more importance, it would subside. The same thing happened with the discomfort of shoulders and back. It is easy for that feeling to make you lose concentration, but you can rest your arms by crossing them over your chest.

See, let go, and stay on the axis as the dizziness and discomfort come and go. Little by little one merges with the music until the drums and beats seem one. There are moments when you are the music that vibrates and expands. Everything changes, everything moves, even oneself, except the center itself.

It is a very didactic meditation experience embodied in the body itself. Sitting, wandering thoughts can lengthen and detract from meditation. Turning, it is necessary to let them go instantly.


Dances of the animal kingdom – such as the circles drawn by bees to warn each other when they have found nectar or the courtship of cranes – indicate that the human desire to move rhythmically is rooted in the limbic system or “reptilian brain”, the part of the brain more primitive and instinctive.

Dance, especially if it is repetitive, could connect us with our most animal part and calm the mental chatter that other parts of the brain control. This would explain why dance has had a transcendent meaning for the human being from its origins.

It is evident that not always when you dance you enter a meditative state, but music and the performance of movements natural to the human being paying attention to the breath and how that music resonates inside the body can help focus attention and favor moments of connection.

“In this state you can live and express emotions without being carried away by them. You connect with that presence that defines you and that goes beyond what you think and feel”, comments Nuria Banal, teacher of free dance at the Marable School in Barcelona.

Free dance is based on precise and structured movements that are natural to the human being and connect him with his essence. With Beethoven”s Moonlight, a simple choreography is practiced that can be useful to those who wish to meditate and in which the vertical and horizontal planes are symbolically united.

You walk in circles marking the four beats of the compass with your breath, your steps and the movement of your arms: first you raise your arms to the vertical, as if collecting energy; then the hands are brought to the solar plexus; then the hands are slightly separated from the body; and finally the arms are opened to the horizontal, as if the energy were released. At the end, it begins again. This creates a continuous circle in which each movement is breathed and the music is allowed to resonate within and expand it.


“Forget the dancer, the ego center, and become a dance,” Osho said. Nobody knew how to exploit the concept of dynamic meditation like him.

Osho believed that for Westerners, unaccustomed to staying still and focused, movement facilitated meditation. He also believed that a catharsis should take place as an unavoidable previous step to meditation.

With these two ideas he created his Dynamic Meditation, in which through breathing, movements and sounds he goes from stillness to ecstasy and from this back to stillness. To this technique he added others that included dancing, including a whirling call inspired by Sufi dance.

In catharsis the person is consciously carried away by emotion, chaos and experience; the objective is that, when these begin to give way, you can observe that there is a calm inside you that does not need to be forced because it arises by itself.


This discharge can be experienced in other dances that are practiced today for sometimes meditative purposes and inspired by shamanic dances, such as the “trance dance” or the dance of the 5 rhythms created by Gabrielle Roth.

In shamanic cultures it was already danced as a means of entering a trance. The sound of the drums allowed access to altered states of consciousness that could provide experiences of ineffable unity and happiness.


Music, the voice of a yoga teacher, or performing specific exercises can help direct attention to movement and what is happening, but attention can be trained anywhere and at any time in everyday life. In this way all movement and all action can become a meditation.

In fact, there are those who experience meditative states at some time even doing something seemingly so unrelated to meditation as running, swimming, or cycling.

You can live waiting for that to just happen, but the noise of the mind does not usually stop just like that. Sometimes it happens, because we all have the capacity to bring attention to the present moment, but, if you are not trained, the state of connection does not take long to dilute.

It is in the nature of the mind to jump from one thought to another and identify with them instead of living in the here and now. Training your attention is what will allow you to live each moment with greater awareness and stay focused no matter what you do. Life is movement, but there is within each one of us a space of stillness and silence from which it is possible to join in that movement without getting lost in it.


  • Lower to the body. Movement shifts the focus of attention: it moves it away from the mind to closer to the body. One may wonder: how is this movement that I feel in the body? What muscles are involved? Is it a smooth or abrupt, slow or fast movement? What is my breathing like?
  • Stay alert. Many people find it very difficult to stay alert while sitting quietly, either because they become sleepy or because they have a hard time stopping the flow of thoughts. This, although normal, often leads them to abandon meditative practice. In these cases, body movement can be of great help, because it avoids problems such as laziness and drowsiness.
  • De-automate. Most of the things we do during the day are automated and that is why we can do them without paying attention. But without the attention the conscience is diluted and one lives like an automaton. Bringing consciousness back into movement allows it to be de-automated and is a way of exercising an open and creative attitude towards everything that is done and everything that happens.
  • Pace your breath. In all meditation, whether in motion or motionless posture, the breath plays an essential role. As in sitting meditation, in the dynamics you can observe the breath and match it with the body movement. In techniques such as yoga, chikung or tai chi, it is considered that in this way the circulation of vital energy is favored. In addition, you can also become aware of the relationship that is established between the two, between movement and breathing.

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