Have you noticed all the noise telling us to quiet? I’ve followed virtual busy-ness ideas like on-line yoga classes, Zoom sessions for writers and meditation in chat groups. I know. Weird and wonderful. Yet I also like the advice meant not to keep us busy but rather to keep us safe. Hand washing, hand sanitizer. After each contact. Twenty seconds or more. With coaching on scrubbing not only our palms, but also the backs of our hands, between the fingers, under rings.
It takes time, the kind of time we used to think wasted, the kind of time we used to lie about to mother when she asked, as we came in muddy after playing outside before dinner, “did you wash your hands?”
We’d say, “Yes,” even if we didn’t.
Now we do or should. Many of us still see handwashing as a way that gets in the way of that next thing we want to rush to do. Cook. Eat. Grab the TV remote. Jump on line. Nap. So, we wash fast.
What if hand washing offers us a way to enter into the now, and exit out of thinking how many people died yesterday or the fear of tomorrow’s statistics? Our minds time travel to the past: we should have prepared earlier. The mind also takes us to the future: when will I see my grandkids? But the body lives only in present moment time. So, washing hands invites us to live where we are. Can we feel the constant wet stream, have gratitude for warm water? Can we smell the soap? Can we watch the suds and bubbles? Can we notice how the sound of the flow changes as it leaves the faucet, then caresses our hands, then drips into the sink? As we physically distance from others, can the mind not distance from our senses? I know. Maybe weird and wonderful. But to ground into the here-and-now body is to lessen anxiety.
Our hearts can help too. An ancient Eastern practice of friendliness involves repeating phrases of kindness as a gesture to ourselves and to others. As we wash, as we feel into our senses and into the body, can we also feel into the heart, inhale and silently speak? “May I feel safe. May I be healthy. May I be happy.”
And can we exhale the warmth from our hands and heart to others? “May all beings feel safe. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be happy.”
What if we say these phrases and feel into the breath and body at the same time to see how, or if, they land in us, to see how it feels to be kind to ourselves and others? If we say them as we open to goodness, they will not sound like: MayIfeelsafeMayIbehealthyMayIbehappyMayallbeingsfeelsafeMayallbeingsbehealthyMayallbeingsbehappy.
If we pause and breathe with and between the phrases, the practice will last about twenty seconds maybe more. For the moments that we stop the pull to the outside world, that we rest in the body and breath, and while we enjoy handwashing, we slow the time-traveling mind. Washing hands, we free ourselves from fear. We open the heart to the whole affected world. There may not be much we can do to flatten the virus curve other than wash hands, don’t touch face, stay home, stay away from sick people, get groceries only once a week, advice we’d best not ignore. One thing we can do is come into peace by not ignoring our breath-bodies and those of others because this is no time to flatten our hearts.