Moving Naturally in the Zoo

CagedPersonI’ve talked about MovNat’s Human Zoo concept before, but here’s a quick primer for the uninitiated:

The “human zoo” is a modern, global and growing phenomenon generated by the powerful combination of social conventions, technological environment, and commercial pressures.  Increasingly disconnected from the natural world and their universal biological needs, zoo humans are suffering physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Are you experiencing chronic pain? Are you overweight?  Do you often feel depressed or suffer from frequent illnesses and general lack of vitality?

These symptoms indicate that you are experiencing zoo human syndrome.  Modern society conditions us to think that this is normal and unavoidable.

At MovNat, we strongly disagree with that view.  We believe that our true nature is to be strong, healthy, happy, and free. We have designed a complete natural movement physical education and fitness system that empowers zoo humans to become strong and healthy again – to experience their true nature.

If you’re a regular reader, then you know I can rant. See here or here for examples. I’m one of those annoyingly cynical, sardonic, hyper-sensitive introverts who thinks the world is out to get me. So I fully expected to leave the safe confines of my week-long Costa Rican MovNat adventure and be so incapacitatingly irritated at everything in my path that I would be lucky to make it home in one piece.

It just didn’t happen.

WideOpenTreeInstead, as I stood in several long lines in the San Jose airport, I found myself initiating (*GASP!*) several conversations. Airports are great for people watching. After spending a week discussing healthy human bodies and being surrounded with the lusciously delicious specimens of my retreat buddies, it was easy to scan the crowds and find the few people who came close to exhibiting health. But far from feeling shut off and defensive, I felt wide open.

I asked two fit men with backpacks in front of me what they’d been up to in Costa Rica. They told me all about their spearfishing expeditions up and down the Pacific coast. They asked in kind, and I told them about MovNat and how I’d just gotten certified to teach it. One of them had been a personal trainer in the past, so we had a conversation about that.

I chatted with a young couple who had an 8-month-old daughter. I was amazed at the little one’s ability to pull herself up already, when my own daughter waited until after 18 months to walk. Without starting any of the conversation threads, the mother and I talked about breastfeeding, how kids don’t need shoes on their feet, and how much better carrying your child in a sling is than strapping them into a stroller. The little girl chewed on my brand new Costa Rica pen.

A man approached me and asked if I was Dana Perino, former White House press secretary under George W. Bush and current Fox News commentator. After seeing a photo of her, I realize it’s quite the compliment! I hated to disappoint him, but I asked if he was from Texas. I told him I grew up on the New Mexico border and would recognize that accent anywhere. He smiled and we went on to have a conversation unlike any I usually have in my little liberal hippie hamlet about taxes and conservative politics.

None of these conversations could have occurred prior to this retreat. I’ve done years and years of yoga that focused on heart opening and I got nowhere. One week of being a human thinking about humans doing human things put me in intimate contact with my own humanity.

I’m open about my judgments. It’s easy these days to look out at the sea of broken people and feel superior for solving my health problems and looking better for it too. It’s a perfectly human response.

FingerPointingBut what I felt after MovNatting for a week was complete compassion for all of us caught up in a zoo of our own making. Because for all the ways I’ve figured out how to escape occasionally, I return again and again to the comforts, conveniences, and safety of it. I am not the off-the-grid wild woman I dream about and wish I could be. That saying about pointing one finger equals three pointing back at you? Totally true here. If I let disdain for their zoo situation take over, it would prevent me from truly understanding my own relationship with the zoo. If I don’t understand it, I can’t continue to learn how to occasionally escape it in all the ways that matter. And as a mother, I feel like this skill is one of the most important I can pass along to my daughter: the zoo is there, but we have to know how and when to use it and when to leave it behind.

On my flight home, heading west between Houston and San Francisco, we were instructed to close the shades so folks could watch a movie on the screens. At some point, it was getting dark and we were hitting some choppy air, so I wanted to peek outside and see if we were over the Rockies yet. All I could do was hold my breath at the beauty below me. Our plane was chasing the sunset and our altitude prolonged that magical moment when the sun has slipped below the horizon leaving brilliant orange that fades to yellow then light blue, blue, darker blue, twilight black, then black sprinkled with stars. Every color the sky possesses. This spectacle was reflected back to me in the shiny silver metal of one of the engines on the wing. We were indeed beginning to fly over the Rockies. In the dusk’s skewed depth perception, the snowy foothills below seemed like a vast, casually-tossed silken cloth. They gave way to the jagged young peaks hugging the ski towns of Breckenridge, Aspen, and Vail, their city lights glowing as orange as the horizon. I wanted to tell everyone on the plane to remove their headphones, open their window shades, and look! Look!

But for all I know, I may have been the only one on that plane witnessing those moments. Moments provided by a strange, historical anomaly on earth called human flight that allowed me to fly to a far-flung coastal area to reconnect with my humanity that is with me everyday whether I acknowledge it or not. May I have the peace and fortitude to keep acknowledging it.


5 Responses to “Moving Naturally in the Zoo”

  1. I really enjoyed this article. Great stuff, Karen. Something occurred to me for the first time about the ‘human zoo’ metaphor as I read the MovNat blurb. Imagine the zoo being built, designed and created by the animals’ leaders. What’s the word for that?


  1. Moving Naturally in the Zoo | Paleo Digest - 04/17/2013

    […] Paleo Periodical / Posted on: April 17, 2013 The Paleo Periodical – I’ve talked about MovNat’s Human Zoo concept before, but here’s a quick […]

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