As a child I ran, pedaled, tap-danced, twirled, hop-scotched and pot-a-boureed my way through life. I’ll never forget my Nana once asking, “Don’t you EVER sit still?” To which I remember thinking, why would anyone want to sit still? How boring.
Nowadays, I enjoy stillness…or so I thought.
As part of my “try new things” initiative (inspired by my recent Kenyan Food Revelation), this past Sunday I decided to get a hot stone massage. (I’ve gotten massages before but never one with hot stones…so technically, this counts as a new thing.) Considering how cold it’s been lately, nothing seemed more relaxing, therapeutic and downright wonderful than a hot stone massage. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until the masseuse had neatly lined my back and calves with hot stones that I realized what the key ingredient to a successful hot stone massage is: complete and utter stillness.
As I digested the fact that I had to remain perfectly motionless for 60 minutes or all the stones would fall off my body and crash to the floor, I had the sudden realization that I’ve never actually outgrown my inability to sit still. Even as an adult, I’m always racing from one activity to the next, rarely pausing to catch my breath.
Of course, once this realization sunk in, the ability to sit still eluded me further. And the more I thought about it, the more I needed to move. Suddenly, my shoulder-blade itched, I had something in my eye, I was overcome with the desire to stretch my neck and move my legs. And it was then, just as I was on the brink of losing it, that I discovered I could wiggle my toes without upsetting the intricate rock formation on my backside. (As ridiculous as it sounds, I’ve never been so relieved to be able to wiggle my toes.)
Feeling a little better, I tried some meditation techniques I recently learned. Even though I’m awful at meditating (apparently my body isn’t the only thing that can’t sit still), I was able to shift my mind away from the intense desire to squirm and focus on my breathing. As I drew a deep breath in and slowly exhaled, I told myself the same thing I tell myself at the gym, that I can do pretty much anything – no matter how painful or uncomfortable – for 60 minutes, including laying still.
My self-coaching and toe-wiggling was starting to pay off and I was just beginning to settle into a relaxed state when the masseuse went ahead and stuck tiny pebbles IN. BETWEEN. MY. TOES.
I bit my lip and fought the urge to jump off the table and send the stones flying in every which direction. I battled through every minute and it took all my mental energy, but somehow I managed to get through our session with all the stones intact. What’s not intact, however, is my confidence in my mental health. Um, since when did I become so neurotic?
The thing about stillness – and the reason so many people practice meditation and get massages –is that it’s a great way to clear your mind of worry, stress, guilt, anger and other toxic emotions that fill us with negativity. So the fact that I can’t seem to still? Not good.
My hunch is that my current lifestyle is to blame. On any given day, I’m literally running like a madwoman from one activity to the next: work, going to the gym, spending time with my hubby, writing, blogging, errands, cooking and the necessary evils like laundry and cleaning. Every minute of every day is pretty much accounted for, so when I do have 60 minutes of stillness, apparently I don’t know what to do with myself. It makes me wonder if the thing I need to eliminate from my life is the absurd notion that I need “stillness” at all? I mean, I obviously haven’t had much stillness over the last 29 years and 11.5 months. And, to be honest, road rage seems to be working just fine as a conduit for stress reduction.
Maybe I had it right when I was six years old; what’s so great about sitting still anyway?
What do you think? Stillness: essential or overrated?