Itchy vs. Scratchy

When an itch arises during meditation,
should it be scratched?


Raymo.E-J said...

"Outside wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I will meet you there."...i dunno...

When an itch arises during meditation it offers an opportunity to see into the nature of things. That's right: rising and falling away and impermanence. In such an instance, if the itch is isolated in the mind--assuming the meditator has cleared her mind--one sees the nature of the itch:
(1) a physical sensation on the skin
(2)a neural impulse in the brain noticing the itch
(3)habit and labels arising, "Oh man itches are annoying, I outta itch it. Right? i mean if an itch arises you scratch it...cause and effect"

Insight is gained when one does not scratch that itch. One gains a glimpse into the nature of things, mind, body, and energy. There is only emptiness, an itch, and mind activity; and it's all energy or lack thereof. After enough practice accessing the true nature of noself, emptiness and compassion one may be able to happily, compassionately nest a family of mosquitoes in her ears and nose during a 8-hour sesshin.

However, I think some mindful scratching could be in order ;)

gene said...

Right, I agree with what Raymo already said. Meditation isn't supposed to be torture, so if you really have to scratch, then you really have to scratch.

But generally the whole idea is that sensations (like itches) are opportunities to observe them. I say to myself, "There is an itch on the right calf" (not "I feel an itch on my right calf"). Then I try to really pay attention to how it feels. Where does it start? Is it moving? And generally before I get very far the itch (or whatever) is gone. Another lesson in mindfulness and impermanence.

gene said...

One other thing... the thing about saying "There is an itch" to myself comes from vipassana meditation training. I'm not sure if other schools of meditation do this. I like it, because it clearly trains you to not associate with the sensations you're experiencing, but to observe them.

After the first week of this meditation training I was standing in my kitchen. I had just ended a relationship, and I suddenly felt bad about it. And instantly, in my head, I said to myself, "There is pain..." And at the time I thought this was one of the most awesome things in the world, because I was automatically applying what I learned on the cushion to everyday life (instead of gnashing my teeth, wishing I didn't miss her, etc, etc).

Ok, sorry to talk your ear off when you had such a simple question.

So the simple answer: no.