Hmmm… you don’t have to answer that. I know the answer. Unless you live in the arctic zone, or in a log cabin somewhere northern Norway, where the temperature goes below minus 20 degrees Celsius effortlessly, your answer is predictable. I remember when I visited my Norwegian friend, we didn’t have a bath for five days! What fun, I hear your gasping. And some other friends must be equally disgusted, I’m sure.
Don’t give up on me yet. In the evenings, we would stand in our swimwear in front of the fire in the sauna room… and then for a few quick minutes we would rush out into the whiteness of the snow. Holding our breath and shivering in the chill, we would roll around in the snow a few times and then rush back into the sauna room. Quite an exciting alternative to the boring old bath!
We all do some things to keep the things we love, including our bodies, clean. Every mother reminds her children to wash their hands, especially before meals. As a child I used to fascinatedly watch my neighbour loving and ceremoniously cleaning his old Fiat every morning. I used to carefully clean my first pair of Reebok shoes that my aunt from the US had gifted me (when the only shoes available in India were Bata’s and Kelachand’s).
We live in a culture where cleanliness is regarded at ‘Godliness’.
Everytime we visit Goa, we visit our German friend Yogini. She has had an interesting and varied life. She has been a mosaic artist, a fashion entrepreneur, a sanyasi, run a pizzeria and now owns her own restaurant in Goa called Villa Blanche. She has had her share of ups, downs and ups in her life. What I admire though is that she is always excited and enthusiastic about life.
As we were walking on the beach, I asked her a question - “What is the message you would like to share with the youth of today?".
It didn’t take her more than a few seconds to respond. She used these two words that hit me hard. She just said "have MENTAL HYGIENE!"
We focus so much on physical cleanliness that soaps and shampoos are a multi-billion dollar industry. What do we do to make sure that our thoughts are clean, our mind is clean?
What do we do to make sure that sadness, anger and guilt don’t linger in our heads and hearts for too long?
What do we do to make sure that no matter what happens, happiness is a choice we can make?
What do we do so that even on our worst days, we can stay happy and smiling?
Yogini said, “I would tell young people not to make the mistake of thinking that happiness is the consequence of something we do, we achieve, or we become. Being happy is a choice. It is independent of what I have or what I achieve. This is what I have learned in my life"
Wow! Thank you so much, Yogini. From now, just like a bath, ‘mental hygiene’ will become an everyday way of life for me :-)