Face Touching and Coronavirus: An Invitation to Practice – Paul Irving

Face Touching and Coronavirus: An Invitation to Practice – Paul Irving

One of the frequent invitations and challenges our teachers offer is to bring our practice off the cushion and make it part of our everyday, ordinary lives. With Cornoavirus we have a similar invitation.

As you likely are aware, touching your face is a common path for many types of germs to get from your hands to into your bodies. Because this is true of numerous different illnesses, scientists have been investigating face touching for a while. Their results: we touch our faces between 3.6 times per hour (in public places) and 23 times per hour (in private). Most of those touches are completely unconscious.

So here is the invitation and challenge: begin to notice the desire to touch your face as it arises. See if you can notice it before your hand begins to move.

Just as when your mind wonders when meditating, each time you notice that your hand just touched your face, or is on the way to touch your face, gently remember your intention to notice the arising of the desire as it arises.

Harshness and self-judgement will only make widening your awareness more difficult. We have been touching our faces unconsciously all our lives. Give yourself some compassion as you begin to bring this intention into your practice.

May we all be as healthy as possible.

Paul Irving


*Three of these studies are:

Facing Ubiquitous Viruses: When Hand Washing Is Not Enough. Alonso et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2013 Feb 15; 56(4): 617.

A Study Quantifying the Hand-To-Face Contact Rate and Its Potential Application to Predicting Respiratory Tract Infection; Mark Nicas, Daniel Best. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. June 2008, 5 (6), 347-53..

Face touching: A frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene. American Journal of Infection Control. 2015 Feb 1, 43 (2): 112–114