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Sailing the uncertain seas


Staff member
Dec 14, 2023
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I write this as the Covid-19 virus wave is spreading, with all its attendant discombobulation.

On the practical level, we can plug in sensible precautions, such as the most effective way to wash your hands. See also “How not to touch your face“, below.

What other subtle skills can we bring to the endeavor to help us bolster immunity and navigate a tad more serenely?


It turns out that many of my favorite ways to invite quiet flow just happen to buoy up resilience by improving vagal tone, which dials up a parasympathetic (rest and digest) response from the nervous system. I’m all too well acquainted with its opposite, the infamous sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ response. Red alert or even anxious is NOT where I want to linger if I want a robust immune system.

Influential, do you suppose? The vagus nerve:


Now, bearing in mind that we’re supposed to generally refrain from touching our faces, I’m going to describe one of my favorite calming, vagal toning and immune-enhancing packages: the Palm Hum (adapted from Dr Sam Berne). Please be sure to scrub your hands well before doing this.

Let’s make it as Alexandrian as possible:

* Stop… and simply notice what is.
* Step back from any kind of internal rush or push. Give it time.
* Let gravity flow generously through you, connecting you more and more fully to any supporting surface.
* Let your senses open outward into the ocean of air and space. Let it meet you as fully as the support, a flowing blanket of energy.
* Let your whole self lighten upward and outward, skyward. Zero forcing, this is accomplished purely through attention + intention.

Here we go: the Palm-hummmmmm:
Bring your hands together — thinking of an unbroken fountain bubbling all the way from your feet through your hands and out your head — and rub your palms briskly together, without tightening anywhere, breathing freely.

2. Place your buzzy sparkly palms over your eyes, say NNNNNN & let your tongue remain lightly on the roof of your mouth as you extend your exhale through the NNNNN. Let the Nnnn buzz gently through your sinuses. (For you lovers of the prone position, try this in prone and really feel the buzz!) Think up through your roof all through your exhale; let the roof stay open as the air flows back into you.

As freely as possible, repeat the above with your tongue between your upper lip and teeth. It will feel goofy and of course it is! But notice if you can feel the whole back line of you buzzing gently on the Nnnnn.

4. Repeat again, with your tongue betweeen your lower lip and teeth. Goofier still; feel free to take a selfie and laugh. Better yet, say your name in that position and laugh harder. But perhaps you can feel the whole front line of you (hairline to toe nails) vibrating gently on the Nnnnnn.

Yum, it’s like a giant purrrr, soothing and calming. I also believe it gets lots of chi moving.
How Not to Touch Your Face by Michaela Hauser Wagner

We are presently challenged by an unusual situation, a vaguely understood and controversially managed worldwide viral infection, Sars Covid 19. Let me first say that I respect the many people who are not worried and feel generally safe. Yet, as we will increasingly hear about recommended precautions, many of us will make certain choices during the coming days, weeks and months.

Among other recommendations it is frequently pointed out that we should avoid touching our faces. “It’s a quirk of human nature that we touch our eyes, noses and mouths all day long. It’s also a major way we pick up infections like coronavirus.”

Stopping habits, whether they are unconscious or known to us, is a key element of the Alexander Technique, the process is called inhibition! Our brain can be an unbelievably competent tool to manage our behavior. Inhibition intercepts behaviors top-down, consciously, from brain to body! That is, if we are motivated.

The current situation might be a time you are motivated to stop touching your face! Now comes awareness!

What I have done so far

I celebrated facial awareness.
I washed my face with a cloth instead of rubbing my eyes.
I indulged in touching my face while I showered and washed my hair.
I cleaned my glasses and pinned my hair back.
I used even more tissues and napkins than usual.
I stayed aware.
I was able to stop involuntary movements, then used the back of my hand, a napkin or a piece of clothing, when I felt the need to get rid of an itch. Often enough that itch went away on its own.

This mindful presence has become a new way of being; my face is alive, its needs get addressed, in new ways, when necessary.

There are habits you can begin to unlearn in just a few lessons. Inhibition is one of the most valuable tools for life.

Credits and helpful links:
Sailboat lightning bolt photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels
Lake reflecting mountains, Free-Photos from Pixabay
N Breath and Palm Hum (Eye exercise) | Dr. Sam Berne – Holistic Eye Care
MN Department of Health video on the best way to wash your hands – courtesy of colleague Lisa Heyl
The Neurobiology of Grace Under Pressure
Unlocking the power of the vagus nerve
With thanks to Alexander Technique Cheshire

This is one of those times when the illusion of certainty crumbles; our resilience is invited to step forth.
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