I released a podcast earlier this week in which I talk about COVID-19 and what I am doing. People seem to really like this one, and if you have 20 minutes, maybe give it a listen. Some of it is about the relationship between the urge to face touch and meditation.
Meditation and Impulse Control
Meditation is about a lot of things, one of which is learning impulse control. We can observe a thought or a feeling and not have to act on it. We see them float by and think, ‘humm, that was interesting,’ and then let them go, invariably replacing them with the next rambling thought.
Last week, I sat through an hour-long meeting and did not once move my hands from their clasped position on my lap. Many times, almost every minute of that meeting, some part of my face or my wonderfully smooth dome were calling out for attention. It was exactly the same feeling as wanting to open my eyes when meditating — and just like in meditation, the urge passed.
Resist the Urge to Touch Your Face
My current meditation practice has been about a 7-year run and has given me considerable ability to say no to the monkey mind impulses that, every morning, try their best to interrupt me. This practice has become surprisingly handy recently, informing my resistance to the ever-present need to touch, scratch, rub or otherwise engage with the skin of my face and head. Just say no. Keep the hands clasped; it is just fine. You are just fine. But I must admit, unless I am paying attention, my face wins the urge-control battle.
If you are a meditator, you know what I am talking about. If you are not a meditator, this could be a nice entry path for you. Sit quietly, and don’t react to the desires of your face for endless attention.
COVID-19 and Social Responsibility
As I read more and more about our virus crisis, it seems that we each have some responsibility to the rest of us to act responsibly. If you are infected, it may be several days if ever that you show symptoms. There is a very good chance that during this time you may be spreading infections to others, who may or may not become acutely ill. I hear stories of people rebelling against the guidance of public health officials with a sort of “I’m not scared, I’ll show that virus who’s the boss” parties or other displays of careless abandon. Interesting, and really dumb.
It is one thing to decide to take risks with your own health. Whatever. If you want to jump off a cliff, have at it, you have every right. But if your behavior increases the speed of transmission of the virus, this is not just personally irresponsible, it is socially irresponsible. There are dozens of ways to let the world know you are a real badass and risk the removal of your DNA from the gene pool — may I recommend you take up paragliding from alpine cliffs? That seems to work very well. Or playing grab the snake with rattlesnakes, especially popular with 20-something men.
Little things like resisting the urge to touch one’s face, although a small personal gesture, may keep you from getting sick. Even more important, it may keep a number of others from getting sick. The virus may suddenly disappear, who knows, and if it does, and we have all learned a bit more about caring for our neighbors and ourselves, that’s not such a bad outcome either.
Want help with meditation? There are a lot of apps, but a teacher like Jill is invaluable.