Growing up my mother frequently beseeched me to be still, stop fidgeting, calm myself.
It’s not that I was a noisy or particularly active child but, from her point of view, being able to sit perfectly still for long periods of time is a virtue.
So I grew up believing that the state of being motionless is something all good girls, and intelligent woman, should be able to achieve.
The trouble is, no matter how hard I concentrate, I always fail.
Even as a forty-something year old woman, one of my extremities is constantly moving.
It’s usually my toes. They wiggle and dance, often without me realizing it. Even when I’m falling asleep, my toes are jiggling.
Once in a while my whole leg bounces and sometime I tap my fingers, but most often it’s my toes that are expending my excess energy.
Somewhere in the back of my mind, however, I still have that old engrained belief that all this movement is a vice, a fault, some lack of self-control.
So yesterday while I was enduring the world’s more boring seminar, I decided to take advantage of the wasted time and practice being still.
I timed how long I could sit, unmoving, staring at the speaker. I only allowed myself to blink and breathe. No tapping, no fidgeting, no wiggling.
When you’re trying to not move, you become very aware of your body. Every little itch or tingle felt a hundred times more itchy or tingly.
And the longer I sat, the faster my heart beat. After a few minutes, my breath grew shallow and I felt like I wasn’t taking in enough air.
I let my toes squirm a little, and my heart rate and breathing went back to normal.
I repeated this process enough times to feel confident in the hypothesis that I’m more relaxed, more at peace and more calm if I’m moving, at least a little bit.