When I first considered learning to meditate a few decades ago, I, like most people, was in search of a way to be more at peace – with others, the world – but mostly with myself. I wanted to quiet what Buddha called my – Monkey Mind.
Monkey Mind refers to the human condition and the mind’s incessant need and habit to distract, ponder, and consider thoughts that often feel random, chaotic, and unrelated.
Often, these indiscriminate thoughts focus on fear – fear of the consequences of previous actions, fear of the future, and my Achilles heel, – the fear of the unknown. When I was taught to meditate, I was given a gift. I was given a tool to better understand myself (and my motives), a path to self-improvement, and the capacity to become an active contributor to a world in need of peace.
What is Meditation?
Meditation’s objective is not to find a way to remain motionless but to become more aware and attuned to your inner nature. Mindfulness’s objective is to optimize your brain’s resources because this optimization provides a profound inner calmness that allows you to relax physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Meditation is a simple practice that seeks to bring your awareness and focus from the chaos of the external world to your inner world. These practices of self-care seek to heighten awareness of who you are without the definitions and constructs created by your family and society.
Modern lifestyles have created new (digital) and limitless distractions, so the Monkey Mind has more to chew on than ever. The Monkey Mind’s impact is no more evident than in the current estimation of the American attention span in 2021 – eight seconds.
Yes, the approximate time it takes to read only one sentence aloud. Many studies suggest that a simple practice of meditation has positive influences on conditions like anxiety, pain, ulcerative colitis, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, and IBS, among others. Meditating makes meditators happy and has also been shown to make it easier for people to quit smoking.
- When meditating, the goal is to do and think nothing. This is not easy but doable. The mistake people make is to TRYING TO MEDITATE. Again, meditating requires that you do nothing, so there is nothing to try to do.
- It is recommended that you meditate two times daily for twenty minutes each time. Ironically, if you think you do not have enough time in your day to meditate for two-twenty minutes time periods, gurus will suggest you meditate for more than forty minutes a day.
- Be patient & remain kind to yourself as you discover who you are.
- It is a path of self-discovery, which takes time and perseverance.
Like many things – for example, dieting or exercise, the hardest thing about meditating is starting. When you feel the benefits of meditating, it will be all the motivation you need.
Why Do You Sneeze?
Sneezing is the body’s natural, explosive, and involuntary action known scientifically as sternutation. A sneeze is designed to efficiently rid irritants (allergy, dust, pepper, etc.) from the inside of your nose. A sneeze also includes a coordinated effort and response from the muscles in the chest, face, and throat.
Sneezing, which has a contagious component, has several potential causes –
- Sudden Exposure To Bright Light – also known as ACHOO – Autosomal Dominant Compelling Heloopthalmic Outburst or Photic sneezing.
- Sudden Change (Fall) In Temperature
- A Breeze Of Cold Air
- A Particularly Full Stomach
- Viral Infection
Nerve endings in the nasal cavity, when activated, send an involuntary signal (this is the body’s preparation to sneeze) to the brain to eliminate the irritating or potentially harmful substance.
With irritants and other particles propelled out of your nose at around 10 MPH, it is nearly impossible to exercise any control over the sneeze. In fact, you have very little control over a sneeze once it is set in motion – it is not possible to keep your eyes open when sneezing.
At the very least, you can be proactive and cover your mouth/nose to avoid spewing germs and other foreign particles up to eight feet.
What Happens If You Sneeze While Meditating?
If you sneeze while you are meditating, there is nothing to worry about. Because there is little notice before a sneeze explodes, you would have almost no time to sneeze in a mindful way – even if there was such a thing. Ultimately, the sneeze is yet another distraction from your exploration of your inner world.
So, if you sneeze during meditation, just shift your focus back to your practice. When participating in group meditation, you may worry that your sneeze will disturb others also meditating. While this may be true, bear in mind that a sneeze is neither a negative nor positive action.
And, as a mediator, it is important to remember that you (and hopefully other group meditators) respond nonjudgmentally to this completely natural and involuntary reflex designed to keep your body free of dirt and dust, and other germs.
This can be especially challenging for allergy suffers at the height of allergy season. The best advice – be prepared. Medication can help. Also, you can try the all-natural nasal cleaning method that has been practiced for centuries – the neti pot.
Meditation focuses on the present moment – and if it happens to be a sneeze, it is what it is. It is likely that your body is telling you something, so you may want to listen to its message. “The Chakra associated with Sneeze is Anahata or Heart chakra.”
The message from your body gives you an opportunity to heal during your practice by simply letting it go when you are ready.
How to Embrace Distractions While Meditating
Distractions are the very thing your practice seeks to subdue. So, when meditation is interrupted by an involuntary bodily necessity or need – a sneeze, an itch, or a cramp, it is essential to be kind and not give yourself a hard time. In time, you will learn this is always how you should always treat yourself and others.
Keep in mind that the objective of practicing meditation is to calm your nerves, even when facing daily life events and challenges – including someone cutting you off in traffic, a spouse who arrives late to dinner, or a sneeze that happened during mediation.
Ironically, a sneeze is like a microcosm or representative of any number of life’s mundane bodily or relationship mandates. It might be helpful to consider it is like a bonus question on an exam!
The Bottom Line
The reality is that it is nearly impossible to grow or change without fully acknowledging what needs to change – and how you would like to be instead. So, when meditating knowing that a sneeze or itch is possible (and more likely than that) will prepare you for it. When prepared, you are less likely to react (with an annoyance) and more likely to accept the distraction (or sneeze) for what it was – another life lesson.
“In practicing mediation, we’re not trying to live up to some kind of ideal – quite the opposite. We’re just being with our experience, whatever it is.” – Pema Chodron
And, at times, that will include a sneeze.