February 13, 2012

Learn to Meditate via Thumb Twiddling. ~ Donna Wilding

Elizabeth Buie

Ever since I remember, he twiddled his thumbs…and he’s damn good at it. He can go on for hours twiddling.

I took notice of this as a child, and tried to mimic it during my visits with him. I failed. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t twiddle for as long as he could. I tried to mimic him again recently, this time discovering a lot more about thumb-twiddling.

The first major discovery –– being that your thumbs become increasingly strong and aware of how to maneuver. No more loosing at a thumb war again.

And I bet you didn’t know there’s two types of thumb twiddling –– one where the thumbs touch and another where the thumbs avoid contact.

Here is a video of my grandpa twiddling his thumbs:

Both are equally delightful, with each style offering a different sensation. Sometimes there’s a great deal of joy from avoiding contact, feels like a game this way, and other times it’s rather soothing to have the intimacy of the full-contact twiddle. It’s even kind of comforting to hear the gentle ‘schmooshing’  sound generated by colliding your thumbs together.

As part of my twiddling study, I reached out to other sources and found this:

“Thumb twiddling is frequently used as an example of a useless, time-wasting activity.”1While this made me laugh thinking of all the “time-wasting” he’s done, I disagree. After much twiddling myself, I believe that a great deal of his calmness & coolness is in fact, from thumb twiddling.

It’s a great work out for your mind, requiring focus, perseverance, and calmness. If my mind isn’t focused, it’s agonizingly hard to keep my twiddle rhythm. The same way it promotes strength and awareness in my thumbs, it does the same for my mind. But twiddle time must be focused to reap any benefits. I try not to think about dinner, what’s on my to-do list, or how my day went. I simply think about twiddling my thumbs –– “simply” is easier said then done, it can be hard to sit still and focus on one thing at a time.
This suggestion is also in his favorite book, The Power of Positive Thinking:
“Slow down. Make quiet time. Meditate.”
This is exactly what good thumb twiddling is –– meditative. While it’s suggested as “time-wasting”, good thumb twiddling can be a great use of time. When done properly, it’s helped me focus more and finish my to-do lists faster. Thank you Grandpa.
If you’re interested and mimicking the video above is too tough, have no fear–keep reading!
How To Twiddle Your Thumbs (meditatively)*

Materials Needed
  1. Comfortable seat
  2. 1 left hand with thumb
  3. 1 right hand with thumb

  1. Take a comfortable seat – take your time to ensure you’re comfortable and your posture is straight.
  2. Hold your left hand with your right hand and interlock your fingers.
  3. Take your dominant hand thumb and proceed to move it in a circular motion around your weaker  hand’s thumb.
  4. Take your weaker hand’s thumb and chase your dominant hand thumb in a circular motion.
  5. Experiment with the two types of twiddling: contact of the thumbs and no contact of the thumbs. Choose one to work with for each twiddle session.
  6. Focus.**
  7. Practice, practice, practice.

5-15 minutes is a good start. When that becomes comfortable, bump up the time if your mind and thumbs desire.

Curious about the benefits? There’s tons ranging from increasing calm, reducing the risk of illness to feeling all around better. With so many benefits it’s hard to overlook meditation as one of the secrets to living a longer, content life.
                   Edited by: Lindsay Friedman
Donna Wilding is a teacher of yoga, student of yoga for 9+ years, and a student of life for 31. Donna recently quit her corporate day job to teach yoga. She’s happy to say that she no longer survives in the city by having a job, but instead, by sharing her passion. Donna believes the benefits of community to be irreplaceable. She currently resides in Toronto, Canada where she brings the healing aspects of yoga to corporate offices. www.donnawilding.com
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