The Mindful FAQ: How to Meditate with a Cold

Mindfulness is a practice of being with whatever shows up—that includes the sniffles and itchy eyes.

Illustration by Susan Haejin Lee

Q: What should I do if I have a cold and can’t breathe without coughing and sniffling?

I’m not a physician, but I’d recommend treating your cold and its symptoms wisely, and consider mindful coughing and compassionate sniffling! The practice of mindfulness is unique in that there are no right conditions for doing it. The intention is that mindfulness is practice independent of conditions, as long as we are capable of being aware. Which is pretty much that period of time between your very first breath and your very last. If you’re reading these words, this applies to you!

If we believe that mindfulness is something we do to make ourselves peaceful or is to be practiced when we have plenty of time or only when conditions are right, we are missing the point.

(Funny story: I once attended a mindfulness workshop where the facilitator announced at the very end of the workshop, “So, let’s all pause one last time and take our final breath together.” I had NO IDEA that attending this workshop was going to be my final act on earth! I couldn’t stop chuckling to myself at her choice of words while everyone else was dutifully and seriously attending to their respective breaths.)

If we believe that mindfulness is something we do to make ourselves peaceful or is to be practiced when we have plenty of time or only when conditions are right, we are missing the point. A cold is a small but noticeable personal challenge and is totally worthy of our attention in practice. We’re going to be sneezing, blowing our noses, scratching our eyes, and feeling a tickle in our throats anyway, so why not see if we can be fully with it and notice how much we resist these moments when we are uncomfortable? Perhaps we might even cultivate a bit of equanimity in the face of the common cold. Couldn’t hurt, could it?

This article appeared in the April 2018 issue of Mindful magazine.
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