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Contemplative Hygiene

iStock_000022917046XSmallWhat is Contemplative Hygiene? How do we do it? And why should we care? These are three great questions that I’m going to explore with you here. But before I do, let’s back up a bit to the source from which Contemplative Hygiene arises…

Since I’ve started working with other meditators, I’ve noticed a very subtle theme emerge around the idea of meditation practice. Mainly, what I’ve picked up on is a ‘specialness’ quality people have associated with practice. I think this is a common occurrence among spiritual practitioners, especially when we are starting out on the path. And one that doesn’t necessarily go away over time, but actually increases in subtlety. In my tradition, it’s also referred to as ‘the stink of Zen.’ I don’t have any judgement around this per se, other than I think it has the potential to sabotage or prevent the practitioner from a more full experience on the cushion. This subtlety may arise as not wanting to practice unless the causes and conditions are ‘perfect’ or it could come in the form of being afraid of sticking with just one practice and going deep versus skimming the surface of three or four practices for ‘fear of missing out’ (fomo as the kids like to call it these days). There are many different ways in which attributing specialness to practice arises as an obstacle to practice itself.

Meditation is Self-Care for Your Mind

As a way to work with this, I’ve been using the term ‘Contemplative Hygiene’ to help normalize the experience of practice and meditation because I believe the more normal we can make meditation practice, the easier it is to truly integrate it into our everyday lives.

So just like you brush your teeth and take a shower in the morning before you start your day, you also sit on the cushion and put on clean clothes. Hygiene is important whether you’re dealing with the gross body or the mind. And it seems pretty safe to say that humanity (for the most part) has body hygiene covered. Now it’s time to include the mind in our daily hygiene routines.

Meeting Notifications Give Good Meditation Reminders

As a way to help implement Contemplative Hygiene into your daily life, here are a few helpful pointers on how you can more seamlessly add a daily sitting practice into your normal routine.

1. Make an intention to sit everyday. Intentions are important to create before engaging in any activity and help to get the most out of what you’re doing. When it comes to meditation practice, I’ve found it helpful to create a practice intention by either saying it outloud to myself, writing it down in my practice journal, or sharing my intention with a close friend. Verbalizing and sharing your intention with another person is a great way to create instant accountability for your practice.

2. Create a designated sitting space – Create a place that is all yours and available to you whenever you want to use it. This could be in your bedroom, in your office, or a little nook in your basement, to give you just a few examples. And whether you are sitting on a meditation cushion or in a chair, make sure to include your sitting material in this space, leaving it there as a way to physically designate that this is your personal sitting area.

3. Find time in your day to sit. If you can find 15, 20, 30 minutes in your morning, before you start your day, great. If you can find 30 minutes between two clients everyday at 11am, awesome. If the evening works better for you, go for it! The point is to find a time (and preferably the same time) each day that is your meditation time. And literally schedule this into your calendar. Google calendar works great for this as it sends you a pop-up reminder on both your computer and mobile devices, alerting you 10 minutes prior. I find this is a great way to stay on track with my sitting practice.

4. Use a timer to keep track of your mediation. This works well so that you can let go of time, drop in deeper, and let the timer do the rest. There are various timer apps you can download on your mobile device that include meditation bells as the start and stop indicators. Digital gongs are all the rave these days for the meditator on the go!

Of course these helpful tips focus on the exteriors of practice life. There are also interior, or subjective hacks we can work with as well when implementing a meditation practice into your daily routine. I’ll be exploring these in a future post here on Integral Chicks in the weeks to come. But in the meantime, are you with me? Comment below if you are ready to include ‘Contemplative Hygiene’ as part of your daily routine.

What’s Hot for Kelly Right Now…


Currently Reading: Treasury of the True Dharma Eye: Zen Master Dogen’s Shobo Genzo edited by Kazuaki Tanahashi

Practice Focus: Zazen

Currently Watching: Girls

Currently Listening To: Thrift Shop

Shadow Element or Emotion Discovered While Writing This: Insecurity.

Link of the Week: Buddhist Geeks Conference 2013


Kelly Sosan Bearer is the Co-founder of Integral Chicks. She is an Integral meditation teacher and was ordained in 2007 as a Zen monk in both the Soto and Rinzai schools of Zen Buddhism and is a senior student of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory and Practice. Kelly also studies Hatha Yoga and Feminine Embodiment with Sofia Diaz. She is a published author in the Journal of Integral Theory and Practice and completed her graduate studies at Naropa University with a MA in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology. In addition, Kelly is also the Conference Producer and Creative Director at Buddhist Geeks. Follow her on Twitter @KellyBearer.

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