Let’s still bless the sneeze.

December 31, 2023

Dear friend,

A few times a week, you generate wind at the speed of 30 to 40 miles per hour—in a sneeze. Your tongue elevates, your palate lowers, your mouth partially closes, and your diaphragm contracts—all to get rid of the irritant in your nose. If you are lucky, you hear someone say, “Bless you.” Why do we bless the sneezes? 

An ancient myth says that during a sneeze, you risk evil spirits or illness entering your being. Hearing a blessing protects you from getting the plague or being possessed—a small investment for a profound benefit. Myths aside, the idea is precious—connecting a routine occurrence with a positive intention. 

As I grew older, blessing the sneeze became automatic for me, to the point that when I sneezed alone, I would bless myself!

Recently, I was in an elevator when someone sneezed. That sneeze evoked fear instead of a blessing. “What if he has COVID?” “What if I catch that infection?” “Why did he have to be in my elevator?” I felt a slight irritation toward that person. 

As these thoughts swirled in my mind, I realized how I had changed. In just a few months I have started fearing people who sneeze around me instead of blessing them. While I understand where this thought is coming from, I don’t feel proud of it. I don’t want this pandemic to change me for the worse. 

I think it’s still important for us to bless each other when we sneeze (hopefully behind a mask). In fact, how about even blessing yawns and coughs?! That might double the blessings you give out each day. 

Adversities that do not diminish love can be tools for transformation. Our generation won’t forget COVID-19. But you have a choice in how you let it affect you. You can choose to embrace wellbeing, resilience, and self-kindness. 

With that choice, you may be happier, wiser, and better connected in 2021 (and beyond), than you would have been otherwise. That would add a little honey to this very bitter tea, perhaps with a more palatable aftertaste.  

Take care,


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