Back when I was in college (and dinosaurs ruled the Earth) I used to meditate sometimes. I learned a version from some guy who came by on the lecture circuit with a program called “How to Relax and Enjoy” (my gosh, his book can still be found on Amazon…). It was good for clearing my head, easing anxiety, or staying awake to pull an all-nighter before a big test. Maybe I even unconsciously thought about it while doing my very first wet shaving video, where I said that there was something “Zen” about traditional wet shaving:
I recently read a thread on Reddit that, along with similar threads that I see on the wet shaving forums fairly often, got me thinking more about shaving as meditation.
Part of Wikipedia’s entry on meditation says:
“Meditation is a practice in which an individual trains the mind and/or induces a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit.”
The entry goes on to quote several sources on the meaning of meditation. I found this one particularly relevant:
“We define meditation… as a stylized mental technique… repetitively practiced for the purpose of attaining a subjective experience that is frequently described as very restful, silent, and of heightened alertness, often characterized as blissful” Jevning et al. (1992)
One concept of meditation I learned is to focus on something–an image in your mind, a symbol, a sound, or an activity–and to avoid distraction. If you do get distracted, you don’t “beat yourself up” about it but simply acknowledge you’ve been distracted and go back to your focus. A typical session lasted about 20 minutes.
So what do we have with shaving? A repetitive, almost ritualized activity that takes about 20 minutes (or thereabouts, depending on skill level) and that requires focus.
Special room – check
Special mode of dress – check
Contemplative, unrushed mindset – check
Cleanliness and order – check
Practice of technique requires focused attention (aka flow) – check
Use of special tools, often old – check
Tools both functional and aesthetically pleasing – check
Suspension of mind chatter, critical judgments – check
Senses—sight, hearing, touch, smell—fully engaged – check
Physical enjoyment of sources of warmth – check
Awareness and enjoyment of aromas arising from hot water – check
Definite sequence of steps – check
Specific structure for the entire experience, repeated each time – check
What aspect(s) of shaving and grooming give you bliss?
[NOTE: This article was originally published on The Good Men Project on August 13, 2012.]