Practicing Mindful Meditation At The Nail Salon

I was recently watching an episode of Mo Rocca’s “My Grandmother’s Ravioli,” on the Cooking Channel, featuring Raj, a man in his “97th year,” who didn’t look a day over 80. When Mo asked Raj to dispel the secrets of the elixir of life, Raj replied that he attributes his overall good health to his practice of meditation. As a viewer, I was inspired, yet somewhat annoyed. It was just another sign that maybe I should give meditating a try. Such suggestion seemed to be coming at me in all directions lately, or maybe I’m just hyper-attentive. Regardless, I resolved to try it the next day, but then, inevitably, distractions start to creep back in and meditation falls to the bottom of my to-do lists, day after day.

Mindfulness seems to be the hot topic of the moment. Articles, news reports, and blogs affirm that mindfulness is one of the best ways to achieve some sort of psychosomatic peace and combat stress. Meditation newbies, like me, see it as non-threatening because you can practice mindfulness while doing almost anything. It’s sort of like the great equalizer in the mediation world. Alright, so maybe that’s pushing it just a bit.

Yesterday, I got my nails done and actually had time to sit and dry for a little while, instead of haphazardly rushing out the door with my fingers outstretched, trying to take all necessary precautions to avoid a smudge. I inevitably always fail at this. There’s always a teeny little smudge, that, if I were looking at the situation rationally, only I could see, but of course nothing about a nail smudge situation is rational. It’s like splurging on super cute vintage tee at a thrift store with a no return policy, and then realizing there’s a questionable, albeit, tiny and imperceptible stain smack-dab on the front. I don’t think I’ve ever walked out of my nail place 100% satisfied. This, of course, has nothing to do with the technicians’ work and everything to do with my neurosis and need for absolute perfection. But that’s a separate issue to delve into at another time.

So, it was a wonderful gift to have the time to sit and relax under the cool blowing air for a good 20 minutes. And in that 20 minutes, I think I may have succeeded in my first mindful mediation attempt.

There’s something about sitting with your hands and feet under the dryer at the nail salon that encourages mindful meditation. How can a nail salon possibly inspire such a release of tension and ability to narrow in on the now? Well, I like to sit and dry for at least 4 revolutions of the dryer, which is equivalent to about 20 minutes. I was one of only three customers in the nail salon at the time, and instead of feeling like I was overstaying my welcome, I chose to perceive the situation as such: I just paid for a service, which includes the subsequent drying period. I didn’t need to let other customers dictate my pace, nor my experience. In choosing to claim my experience as my own, I felt a wave of relaxation come over me, one that I hadn’t experienced in quite some time. Furthermore, the drying station at my nail salon is adjacent to the storefront window, and provides a perfect view to look out the glass window at passersby. I thoroughly enjoyed watching passersby either briefly glance toward me, make unintended eye contact, and then briskly turn away as if I was Medusa or the basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, or run past the shop, clearly on a mission to reach their destinations as quickly as humanly possible. I forget how much I enjoy people-watching, and it felt oddly, yet satisfyingly voyeuristic to be able to do so, with only a wall of transparent glass separating me from the outside world.

I became attuned to all of my senses at once. Instead of passively seeing, I was actively watching. Instead of hearing, I was actively listening: to the muffled sounds of passing cars and conversation outside, to the monotone hum of the drying machine, and to the faint music playing on the radio inside the store. The wonderfully anachronistic wall clock with Roman numerals ticked softly to my left. I was surprisingly aware of the blowing air on my hands, sending a cool, tingly feeling all over my body. And most importantly, I could breathe. Really breathe, from the deepest place in my body, expanding my stomach, and releasing tension everywhere with every slow exhale. Moment of calm. A pleasurable heaviness filled my entire body, and in that moment, everything was okay. I was present. I wasn’t worrying about the future or dwelling in the past. I experienced  pure, unadulterated contentment in the present. As I turned to look at the clock, and cautiously glided my right index finger over each nail of my left hand to double and triple check to make sure they were dry, I proved to myself that mindful meditation is not beyond my naturally hurried, anxious disposition. I’m capable of slowing down, of tuning in to my surroundings on a deeper level. To know that there is no one right way to do so is the key to being able to do it.

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