Four Simple Soul Hygiene Practices

Our world is in a constant state of transformation. Yet we can cultivate peace and nonviolence by tending to our inner lives. And we must.

Think of it as soul hygiene (as important as brushing and flossing your teeth!). It’s a way to prevent our inner lives from atrophying.

Thomas Merton names one of our deepest needs: “to protect and nurture the ‘root of inner wisdom’ that makes work and life itself fruitful. Fed by the taproot some call the soul, we need neither to flee from the world nor exploit it. Instead, we can love the world with all its (and our) flaws, aspiring to the best of human possibility.”

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Try these four simple practices and repeat:


Meditation can help your restless mind relax. On the other side is a state of deep inner peace. All the pieces of ourselves can begin to settle and even become friends!

What’s possible?

• Negativity and aggression lose their power.

• Frustration, tension, and difficult emotions diffuse.

• Unkindness and harmful thoughts stop.

Meditation is one way to stop your inner thoughts from being at war. Human goodness becomes available, even familiar with practice and awareness. You’ll also notice and increase in clarity and insight. A stable mind is the gift that keeps on giving because with clear seeing, our ego shrinks and confusion evaporates.

The way we look at ourselves changes. Giving space to our emotions, means we can learn from them and become free from their grip. You’ll begin to respond instead of reacting.

Cultivating presence will allow you to stop prolonging the past and stop inviting the future. Without presence, we get caught by our emotions and are of no use to anyone or any situation. Think of the difference this could make!

Meditation practices are available everywhere. From library books and audio resources, to online or in-person courses. Check offerings in your local community calendar or from a spiritual centre near you.

Transform Blame

Stop to notice what happens in your body when we’re blaming somebody. Where is the gentleness in your interactions with others? Watch your impatience and judgments. Could you choose to love instead?

Five steps to transform blame:

Step 1: Let it be.

Step 2: Wait. Protect the pause.

Step 3: Recognize the feeling as discomfort.

Step 4: Don’t judge yourself. Don’t make yourself wrong for it.

Step 5: Place your hands on your heart. Breathe and then speak aloud, “May you be happy and know the roots of happiness. May you be free from suffering and the roots of suffering.”

Cultivate Humility

Humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness. Do not build yourself up and do not tear yourself down. This requires trust. Trust the world and then you can see the sacredness and magic of the way things are. It also requires a lot of letting go!

Grab a journal to scribe or contemplate (practice deep reflective thought) without trying to fix. Ask yourself, what could you let go of? What is getting in your way of tranquility?

A Vagus Massage Sequence

The vagus nerve connects the body and mind. It’s our social engagement system or the “physical manifestation of the soul.” How do you get vagal tone? It can be easy. Try laughing, singing, humming, yoga, acupuncture, even a splash of cold water on the face.

Breath is the remote control to the brain. So, it’s no surprise vagal activity is highest (and the heart rate lowest) on the exhale. Practice breathing in for five seconds and then exhaling for five counts to bring calm.

Touch is also powerful. Proceed slowly and mindfully starting with the head, using your fingertips and hands like this:

• Start with the ear lobes. Move them up and around, whatever feels good, at whatever pressure.

• Now press above eyebrows. Get curious about what you need.

• Next press around the cheek bones.

• Touch the chin.

• Cup your face in your hands. Imagine a beautiful landscape, a beloved pet or dear person as you cup your face.

• Move to the sides of the neck, pressing and stroking.

• Take both hands over the heart. Stop to notice temperature and pressure here.

• Then move to the belly and expand the rib cage.

Close the vagal massage by checking-in on all sensations. No need to assign “like” or “dislike.” Be with it.

Awareness is the key to living our lives well. Indulge in these soul hygiene practices as often as you brush your teeth!

Lindsay Coulter
Lindsay Coulter
Lindsay Coulter is a writer, educator, facilitator, naturalist, creator of culture, soul activist, and mother of two. She’s the co-founder of EPIC Learning Community a forest and nature school in Victoria, B.C., Program Coordinator at Victoria Nature School and in the process of attaining her certification in Equine Facilitated Wellness.