Mindfulness And Shaving: Get Better At Things By Using Dangerous Tools

by Randy Murray on September 5, 2013

There’s nothing that clears the mind and sharpens ones thoughts as doing something that might cause you great bodily harm.

Too many of our activities are mundane and repetitious. We can complete these tasks without much thought. And that’s exactly the problem. When you do something without thinking it’s very easy to think about other things and lose track of the task at hand. It’s the cause of many things done badly and that unsettling feeling of letting one’s mind race, filled with things that may be hard to recall when we stop and actually try to focus.

For me, shaving has become a mundane task. For many years, most of my adult life, I’ve worn a full beard. I only needed to shape things up, shave my neck and a few spots to keep my face in trim, and move on. I’ve used the same disposable razor brand for years. They’re safe and easy. No worries.

And in the shower, as I shave, my mind wanders, and not always productively.

But recently I’ve become interested in shaving with a bit more of an edge (pun intended). I’ve trimmed my beard down to a Van Dyke (the proper name for what some call a goatee. The chin beard and mustache is a Van Dyke. Just the chin is a goatee). I’ve spent time on Reddit’s Wicked Edge and located an old straight razor I bought years ago. Very few things sharpen and clear the mind like holding a surgically sharp blade against your own throat.

When I shave now, all I think about is shaving. I think about the angle of my hand, the blade, and the passes that I’m making: against the grain, across the grain, and with the grain (ATG, XTG, WTG in shaving shorthand). I focus on the activity and only that activity. And when I’m done I not only have an amazingly close shave (called  BBS-Baby Bottom Smooth), but I find that I feel more relaxed. I feel better. My mind hasn’t raced all over the place. I’m focused, relaxed, and have a new and clear mindfulness. I’m now ready to do something else with this same level of focus.

There are many dangerous things that you can try: juggling chainsaws comes to mind. Or perhaps you can just learn to sharpen and use a pocket or kitchen knife. Ride your bicycle out on the road. Rappel down the side of a building. Speak in public.

But here is the key: unless you are exceptionally foolish you will attempt none of these things until after you have studied, trained, and practiced with the less dangerous alternatives and work yourself up to the naked blade. Mindfulness comes from knowing the steps of the task and executing them properly. What seems dangerous about the tasks I’ve mentioned in this article is actually not dangerous to the prepared, trained individual who has a focused, clear mind.

For me, the most dangerous thing that I do every day is write and publish. Writing is an act that takes focused mindfulness. It’s difficult and it’s dangerous. It exposes you to the blade of criticism, which can cut deep. I can’t write while my mind is going off in a dozen directions. I need a clear, rested mind. If I come to the page with that tumble of thoughts, I take a deep breath, put the blade to my throat, and begin writing. My mind clears quickly as the words appear.

Find your own dangerous activity as a way to practice and achieve mindfulness. Then use what you learn to do the things that you want to get done.

The Mindfulness And Shaving: Get Better At Things By Using Dangerous Tools by Randy Murray, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Siddle September 5, 2013 at 10:32 am

In the middle of January after 13 years of having facial hair, I shaved it all off. A month prior at Christmas, my wife was kind enough to give me a brush and soap shaving kit with an old-school safety razor. It took a few months of some very close attention to my shaving to where I didn’t look like I was an extra in a horror movie (not always successful). Great post as usual Randy.


Randy Murray September 5, 2013 at 10:37 am

Thanks. I’m enjoying a more “shaped” look, although I’m toying with the idea of both completely shaving my head and the Vandyke. My wife isn’t in favor of it, so it remains a dream, at the moment.


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