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Watching the itch instead of scratching it

I must have listened to hundreds of hours of Ram Dass lectures over the years (there are many hours of content on Apple Podcasts, YouTube + Netflix docs).

Formally Dr. Richard Alpert, a well respected Harvard professor, who after experiments in consciousness with psilicybin and LSD went on the trip...inwards.

And outwards, mainly to India where his guru eventually gave him the name Ram Dass and the instructions to go back to the US to spread the word.

One of the original psychonauts along with Alan Watts, Timothy Leary and Terance McKenna.

His travelling through the inner and outer depths brought him firmly back to the heart. This is clear in his talks.

I love this quote and seems to go the core our reactivity in the face of discomfort.

An itch on the toe or the nose usually brings the impulse and reactivity to get rid of it. And why not, it’s an itch that wants to be scratched - they can be bloody annoying after all.

My first meditation teacher used to say: “nobody ever died from an itch.” During the 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course, around the mid-point, there is emphasis on working with stressors. It’s a practice of learning firstly how we react / respond to unpleasant sensations around the body and in notcing that, how we may respond in a more helpful and supportive manner.

Perhaps the reaction to the itch is insight into how we may be in the face of discomfort - do we scratch immeditately with the backdrop of thought that suggests this is annoying? Is the tendeancy to want to get rid of any discomfort without delay?

But it’s just an itch we might say, it has no bearing on my life. How do we meet discomfort or resistance in our daily life?

If it’s too cold or too hot? To challenging or too taxing?

Is there the immediate reaction tending to want to get rid of what’s uncomfortable in favour of comfort? Do we notice thoughts that add a layer of judgement and evaluation to the physcial expereince and sensations?

Or is there a possiblity to notice the itch first, even be curious about the direct raw sensations it provides - notice the habitual tendency to want to get rid of it? Notice the thoughts that give the itch meaning - Is an itch pleasant, unpleasant or neutral? Be with little discomfort, just for a bit…

And you can see how this may be applied in our daily life…that annoying co-worker who constantly taps his collar bone or the driver that cuts you up at the round about? Can I watch this instead of immediately reacting?

Eventually, we’ll probably have to get rid of the itch, but it can be an interesting observation...

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