Silver Hair

Silver Hair as a Spiritual Practice

About four years ago, I let my hair go silver, and I have come to view this process as a spiritual practice.

This may sound like an odd claim, so let me give you some context.

Two summers in graduate school, I had the privilege of teaching Asian philosophy. And one of the books we read was the Bhagavad Gita.

In Discourse 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, there is a discussion of the practice of yoga.

Most of us think of yoga as a series of poses people do.

However, the Gita suggests that yoga is, in fact, a state of mind, rather than simply a series of poses.

I recommend this translation and commentary of the Bhagadvad Gita by Eknath Easwaren, which you can find on Amazon or your local bookseller or library.

Yoga is state of mind in which we let go of anxiety and our tendency to cling to certain outcomes.

Drawings and paintings in this post are by Shelly P. Johnson

And the Gita further suggests that when we have a yogic state of mind, we focus on the path in front of us with peace and presence.

In doing so, we practice wise action and abide in the truth and equanimity.

In the Gita, Krishna teaches this about yoga:

When you have made pleasure and pain the same—also gain and loss, and victory and defeat, then join yourself to battle;

and in this way, you will not cause harm.

Thinking about yoga as this peaceful, non-clinging state of mind is very helpful.

It is often easy in our life to focus on the way we want things to turn out. In doing so, we try to control every aspect of our life and make it a certain way.

While it is certainly okay to set goals and imagine how we would like life to be, it can be a problem when we get too attached to these goals.

In doing so, we fail to pay attention to what is before us and the way our life unfolds in each moment.

As such, we often miss the good before us because we are too busy focusing on what we want in the future.

This state of mind creates a lot of anxiety, stress, and dissatisfaction.

And this harms us.

Furthermore, it can cause us to miss out on important information in our current lives.

Missing such feedback can also harm us.

I think gardening illustrates this problem well.

For example, I love planting summer gardens. What I love the most is when my garden is in full bloom, full of beautiful fruits and vegetables.

It’s amazing that all I need to do to produce such a harvest is plant seeds, water and weed, and occasionally trim overgrowth.

Photos in this post are by Shelly P. Johnson.

The process of gardening is pretty straight-forward and time-tested.

Nevertheless, sometimes when growing a garden, I get too focused on the outcome.

I desire a fully, mature healthy garden. Right now.

And if I focus too much on this particular outcome, I worry in the process of growing it that my garden isn’t moving along fast enough. 

And then I worry further that something is wrong with it.

So, focusing too much on the outcome of my garden makes me dissatisfied with its current state.

I become dissatisfied even though the current state of my garden is completely reasonable and appropriate.

In worse case scenarios, my unreasonable dissatisfaction with my garden’s progress leads me to neglect it.

So, when I focus too much on the outcome of my garden, I miss important information that could help me become a more engaged and skillful gardener.

I also miss a lot of beauty.

And this is true about every area of my life in which I focus too much on the outcome and not enough on the present moment.

Here is a more serious example.

Let’s say we have a certain job that we desire. If we cling too much to the job we desire, rather than our current job, it can harm us in several ways.

First, it can distract us from our current job. And if we are too distracted, we miss potential joy or important lessons in our current situation.

Second, it can make us feel as though the life we have now is not worthwhile because we do not have the exact job we imagine.

Lastly, it can also make it hard for us to do our current job well. And that can prevent us from getting future jobs.

We harm ourselves in all these instances.

Of course it is fine to imagine. But after the process of imagining, it is wise to return to our current situation.

When we do so with attention and peace, we live more wisely.

Yoga is a state of mind that encourages us to focus peacefully on the path in front of us. 

And it encourages us to take wise and appropriate action based on our current situation.

As such, we can bring a yogic state of mind to whatever we are doing. This might be actual yoga poses, or it may be something else.

For instance, it may be gardening, working at our job, washing dishes, or even aging.

So, with the yogic state of mind, we can turn anything we do into a spiritual practice.

I love this idea of a yogic state of mind in the Gita.

It’s similar to ideas in my own Christian tradition that teach us to commit all our plans to God.

In doing so, we make them sacred and a vehicle for learning more truth and goodness.

And this point brings me to my silver hair.

Lately I have been thinking about silver hair as a spiritual practice.

Now, it may seem silly to think about silver hair in this this way.

However, changes in our hair and body are a natural part of ageing.

And we often feel a great deal of stress about them.

That is because we often cling to certain images of how we believe our life or body or hair should be.

Or we cling to certain unhelpful messages about aging that society communicates to us.

We do this rather than approaching the stage of life we are in with presence and peace.

But adopting a yogic mindset reminds us that we can make holy and graceful all areas of our life.

Why not silver hair, too?

I have generally loved the process of growing out my silver hair.

It has been fun discovering the color, texture, and highlights that I hid under hair dye for many years.

Nevertheless, sometimes my silver hair does not look the way I think it should.

And sometimes I get really frustrated with it because I am focusing on outcomes, rather than process.

Unfortunately, when I do this, I feel stressed and discouraged, and I view my silver hair as a burden of getting older.

And then I inevitably view aging itself as a burden.

This is the opposite of how I wish to view aging because I think aging brings so much freedom and wisdom into my life if I let it.

The other day, in a moment in which I was in a peaceful state of mind, I sensed what it feels like to approach my hair as a spiritual practice.

And here is what I wrote:

Be still.
Follow joy.
Take a step.
Keep Going.
Do this when you can.
Don’t worry when you can’t.

I wrote this after several months of letting go (at least for a while) of what I believed my hair should look like.

And in letting go, I practiced accepting the stage I was in and acting with care and wisdom.

I felt much happier in this process.

In writing this little meditation, I felt like I captured a yogic state of mind.

Now, this post is about hair. But I write it because these same insights apply to any area of life.

It’s wise and reasonable to imagine how we want our life to be.

After all, it is through our imagination that we grow and develop our positive human capacities.

Such imaginings are especially profitable when we take time to be still and listen to our intuition and constructive desires.

This personal information often indicates to us how we can live a life of greater integrity and authenticity.

But just as it is wise to spend time imagining certain outcomes we desire, it is also very wise to release these outcomes.

One way we do this is to trust our imaginings to the Divine (or the magic of the Universe).

We can trust that we will have the resources we need when the time is right.

And as we release these outcomes, the wise thing to do is to pay attention to where we are in our process, sanctifying it with a yogic state of mind.

Such attention can help us notice moments of anxiety and stress, to readjust, and to keep moving forward with joy and wisdom.

And it’s okay if we fail sometimes in this endeavor.

We can just notice our failure, readjust, and try again.

This is how we can make silver hair—or anything else in life—a spiritual practice.

Here are some questions and activities that you can use you to guide you in your own life, if you choose:

One: What is an area of your life in which you feel stress and dissatisfaction?

Two: Take some time to be still and to listen to yourself. Imagine how you would like this area of your life to be.

For instance, what are some images or feeling that represent to you an ideal state in this area of your life?

This ideal state should be a condition that brings both peaceful and joyful feelings to you, as well as joy to the world around you.

Three: After taking time to imagine this state, commit this imagining to God or the magic of the Universe (if you aren’t sure you believe in God.)

You can simply say,

“I commit my plan to you, God.[1] Please help it become a reality, and show me any part I need to change to make it good and true.”

Four: After committing your plan to the Divine, set a new intention to focus on the process.

Five: Set your intention to peacefully focus on each day noticing the important information you receive in that process.

Repeat this process whenever you need to do so.


Mini-Course Opportunity: My silver hair journey helped me better understand something I call The Four Basic Truths, which is that everyone is Worth, Capable, Connected, and Called to Adventure. You can take a mini course on these truths here: The Four Basic Truths


You might also like these posts on silver hair:

Silver Hair, Limiting Beliefs, and the Power of Imagination

My Two-Year Silver Hair Update

The One-Year Anniversary of My Transition to Silver Hair

Five Things I Learned from My Silver Hair

I’m Letting My Hair Go Silver

By the way, I follow an Istagram account titled GirlBeBrave. Today, the author of the account–Cheryl Hale-posted this picture, which I think matches this post beautifully. You might want to check out her account.

Picture by Cheryl Hale at GirlBeBrave.


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[1] Feel free to use the term Magic of the Universe here, if it is more helpful for you.

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