to scratch or not to scratch

I begin Open-Source Learning Academy meetings with mindfulness. I started the practice when I taught in the classroom, and I’ve used it online ever since.

At the beginning of each new term, learners explore research about how mindfulness can support comprehension, concentration, and memory. Then we experiment. I set a timer for 60 seconds. We sit quietly and listen to our breath.

Then we share our experience. Every time, almost everyone reports positive effects, which they describe with words like: lighter, calmer, more relaxed, mellow, focused, etc.

Each time we do this experiment I am reminded of two things:

  1. Most of us do not learn mindfulness in school. My teachers frequently told me to pay attention, but they never told me how.
  2. In just one minute, without spending money or doing anything dramatic, you can change your entire state of mind.

About a year ago someone asked if we could double amount of time, so our MOM (previously Minute, now Moment of Mindfulness) is now two minutes.

The Itch

About ten seconds into a recent MOM I got an itch. I started thinking about the itch and I got preoccupied.

How perfect: I can model choosing whether to stay with a thought or watch it float away like a leaf on a stream.

Dammit. This is really itchy.

To scratch, or not to scratch?

How annoying.

Maybe I should scratch and get back to being a role model. Why not? OK I’m going to scratch.

But… wait. Maybe I should sit with the itch. Delay gratification. You know, embrace the itch.

Is this discipline? Focus? Am I being present with the sensation in my body in the moment? Am I becoming the person who will tell the story of the scratch indulged, or the itch denied?

Is this what Shakespeare meant for us to understand? Was Hamlet actually describing his future, imagining himself as a person who would always carry the memory of the choice he was about to make?

I will always be the man who scratched, or lived with the itch…

Ohmygod. This is my job? My career? What am I doing with my life?

The conversation in my head is now existential. It’s just an itch! This is ridiculous.

Is it? Is it any more ridiculous than worrying about the bureaucratic thing I have to do next, or the bill I have to pay later?

Alright fine I’ll just go ahead and – huh.

The itch is gone.

And our time is up.

Please Contact Me for more on practicing mindfulness with learning communities.