Thursday, May 1, 2008
One thing that meditation has taught me is how to ignore an itch. My nose can be burning and I can ignore it. When I first started the practice I could not ignore anything - not the chatter chatter in my head, not my aching back and knees, not my eyes that wanted to burst open, and especially not the itch. Gradually I realized that if I just keep repeating the mantra or counting, it will go away.
This ability to ignore the itch has come in very handy as I've given up addictions. With alcohol, I know that if I just keep driving past my old watering holes, soon I'll be worried that someone will open their car door on Fairview Road (if I'm passing the Bistro), or I'll be dodging walkers and dogs (if I'm in the neighborhood of Crowley's).
With cigarettes it has been a little harder because cigarette smoking is everywhere, not just in bars. But I know that if I take a deep breath and move my attention away from the sight or smell of the smoker, in a minute or two I'll be fine.
The practice of diverting one's attention from things that are harmful, whether it is addictions or feeling sad or worrying is a good one. I don't mean thinking about people who are worse off than me or trying to see the silver lining. I'm talking about actually moving your attention to something else for a while. A book, a walk, writing, cooking, listening to music--whatever might help you keep from scratching. Because we all know that scratching an itch usually leads to bleeding and, if what my mother always said was right, impetigo!!
I could use a little practice ignoring another kind of itch - that of blurting out things that should probably be left unsaid. And to tell you the truth, if I'm meditating and feel something crawling, I absolutely cannot ignore it. But I'm working on that too.