Mindfulness & The Coronavirus

Echo & The Bunnymen 2006 — Photo by Steve Ioya. Creative Commons 2.0

It all started with Echo & The Bunnymen.

I was lying peacefully in bed, breathing shallowly and listening to the song “People Are Strange” on my favorite New York radio station, WFUV, after suffering a particularly bad viral episode in which a horrendous stomach cramp led to a 15-minute session of hyperventilating and writhing on the bed, feeling not so much pain as discomfort, a clenching feeling around my chest, as if something had taken hold of my body and would not let go.

Mistakenly thinking the song was The Doors’ original version, I let my mind drift back to happier pre-pandemic times, living in Venice, California, the former haunting spot of The Doors before they gave way to Harry Perry, prowling the boardwalk on his old school roller skates, singing about aliens invading from another planet. Little did I know at the time that his words were a prophecy.

I focused on the song’s twangy guitar break, letting my mind ride the notes like a wave in the California surf, thoroughly enjoying Will Sergeant’s (who I thought was Robby Krieger) handiwork, and my uneven breathing finally returned to a state resembling normalcy.

That’s when I realized how I‘m going to kick this motherfucker’s ass.

Mindfulness. The practice of bringing your mind into the present, focusing on the here and now, paying attention to what you’re paying attention to. I live in New York, just a few miles from the New Rochelle hotspot epicenter, but I’m a native Californian, so even though I’ve never fully subscribed to my native state’s various New Age modalities, my DNA allows for a little hooey-phooeyness every now and then, especially when I need it.

Having said that, there is plenty of scientific research that mindfulness can improve one’s immune system. Or, as the authors put it more indecipherably:

In conclusion, across 20 RCTs and more than 1600 participants, we found tentative evidence that mindfulness meditation modulates some select immune parameters in a manner that suggests a more salutogenic immune profile.

So far my symptoms have been relatively mild, but now I stand on the precipice of Week Two, when complications have been known to kick in, and as I consider the ramifications, both existentially and clinically, I realize the only defense I have is my own immunity system. I plan to make sure my it remains a lean, mean fighting machine, ready to take on whatever nastiness those little motherfuckers are cooking up inside. There’s no messin’ with my temple.

So bring on the mindfulness, the probiotics, the ginger-turmeric tea, the Qi Gong. I have absolutely no data on this, but it seems to me that trying to strengthen the diaphragm, the muscle that controls inhalation, would be be a pretty good idea right now, especially since there ain’t too many mechanical ventilators lying around New York these days. Thank you, Mr. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named President.

And, of course, bring on Echo & The Bunnymen. Maybe, if they ever release another album, they can title it “Salutogenesis.”

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Who, what, when, where, why, how.

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