From childhood most of us learn the importance of hygiene. We learn to clean our bodies regularly, we wash our hands several times a day, we brush our mouths at least once daily, we watch what we eat and keep our surroundings clean. These are important. Imagine a world without hygiene!
If only we were also taught the importance of mental hygiene from childhood. Children trust us with their lives and we mislead them into thinking hygiene is limited to the physical, hence a world where minds malfunction en masse. This is partly because we grow up believing that reality is limited to the visible.
What if we presented personal hygiene as holistic, and encompassing both the tangible and the intangible? Imagine if we grow up as consistent and intentional in the care of our minds as we are in the care of our bodies.
A world with no mental hygiene is precisely the world we have today. A husband becomes enraged for legitimate or illegitimate reasons and kills his wife and leaves his innocent children with her dead body. A wife stabs her husband to death because he offended her. Addiction, depression, suicide and violence increase at home and everywhere else. In a world without mental hygiene, there is prevalence of mental illness, there is abundance of mental malfunction.
None of us is immune to the destructive effect of unwashed mental negativity anymore than we are immune to the effect of inadequate hygiene. If I leave my mind unwashed for long enough, I will as a matter of course be self-centered, despondent, perverted, hateful, violent and so on.
Our obsession with physical hygiene over mental hygiene is hypocrisy and a sign of the need for mental hygiene. Pharisees are obsessed with hand-washing and neglect mind-washing even when they know that it is more important to wash the mind regularly. Personal hygiene is incomplete if it does not include mental hygiene. Washing our visible parts regularly is a practice and a reminder of the more important need to wash our intangible parts regularly.
It is impossible to engage in regular mental hygiene and suffer from rage, depression, confusion, jealousy, envy, substance abuse and all forms of unclean thoughts. These are the thoughts that get cleaned away again and again in each of us, to reveal underlying beauty and purity. It is impossible to practice mental hygiene and be mediocre, because our minds have an inbuilt capacity for excellence, which hygiene reveals. Cleaning after all, is,
“the process of removing dirt from any space, surface, object or subject, thereby unveiling beauty, potential, truth and sacredness.”
One of the greatest gifts anyone can give the world is to practice mental hygiene. When we become regular cleaners of our respective inner worlds, we have changed the world.
But how do I clean my inner world? How do I clean my mind again and again?