Monday, July 14, 2008


At the time, she thought her elementary school teacher was Jezebel, my friend said at lunch today. In addition to whatever else K. suspected about her teacher, the woman did one thing that was really, really annoying. She allowed no twitching, no finger drumming. She required that the students sit still.

The very thought makes my nervous mannerisms go into full play. (Now taking off bracelet, flipping it around in circles.)

And what a harsh thing to do to a bunch of kids.

But she was right about the twitching, K. says. It sidetracks energy away from the focus of attention. Sitting completely still allows a more intense focus. That's the idea.

I don't argue with that.

However, for me the twitching, even multi-tasking, helps to keep me from a kind of hyperattentiveness that can be as destructive as neglect. This hyper-focus is also known as trying too hard.

Ideally, I'd get rid of the trying too hard, and then be able to sit still, and then take in third grade math in a blinding flash. (Reach for the stars!) But without the near-continuous leg swinging, toe tapping, finger drumming, doodling and twiddling, I fear I'd gain a hundred pounds. Seriously. Steady movement burns a lot of delicious calories.

Anyway, I may try this stillness experiment--I realize now that my right foot is bouncing. But I'm going to be careful with it. I'd be interested in anyone else's experience with the pros and cons of full focus.

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mamie said...

I have to share this!! Right now I am sitting at the computer reading your blog. I impulsively reach over to my box of daily reading cards and pick one. "All mankind's problems are caused by one single thing, which is their inability to sit quietly in a room." Don't know whether I agree or not, but it sure did go with your entry yesterday.

Peggy Payne said...

Well-chosen card! A very nice synchronicity, (she wrote as her foot jiggled madly against the back of her other ankle)

I don't know about all of mankind's problems being solved, but I can think of some "issues" of my own that would likely unknot if I were better at stillness.

Mojo said...

I met a woman once on a blind date (well, more like visually impaired, but not quite blind) who had been to several Buddhist retreats where the entire exercise was to sit quiet and still for six or eight hours. My knee-jerk response to this was "Six or eight hours??". (Because honestly, six or eight minutes is about my limit.)
There may have been something to it though, because she seemed like one of the most well adjusted people I've ever met. Of course we exactly one more date after which I think both of use recognized the vast gulf of difference between us. So my assessment is only based on a few hours of "face time" supplemented by a number of emails.

Peggy Payne said...

Interesting story. The one person I know who goes to multi-week silent retreats has an air about him different from anyone else in my world. I think of the quality as "clear water." Sometimes I tell myself to be clear water--at times when I feel I'm falling into some kind of posturing.

(all of which is different from privacy or the lack of it)

Mojo said...

Mmm... clear water or not, I think it would take about one of those retreats before I was ready to retreat to a padded room. Those sensory deprivation tanks that were in vogue about 20 years ago gave me the same sense of unease. (I never did that either... of course that may have been just my mild claustrophobic tendency.)

I guess people find enlightenment/peace/centeredness in may ways. Runners, divers, bikers, even photographers... they all find refuge in the thing that drives them.

jite raho Peggy ji

Peggy Payne said...

Well, ji is the only part of that Hindi I recognize, Mojo. Thanks, and do translate.

BTW, I tried those tanks too. Once it was a great experience, completely refreshed all my senses. The other time it made my neck hurt.