Icy Cold Refreshment

I always make sure a few minutes of my shower is cold. It wakes you up and gives you energy. It’s just science.

Do you wonder why Yamabushi and esoteric Japanese Buddhist practices involve “kaji”–waterfall training? It gives the practitioner energy and willpower. The plain truth is that consciously relaxing the muscles and breathing deeply while amidst icy cold water uses up an individual’s old energy and forces one to take in new stuff from the surrounding areas. That’s why there are ascetic Shinto practices which involve getting possessed at shrines whilst taking an ice-cold shower. The individual is catching the new energy in the waterfall.

 Hiroshige’s Waterfall

I don’t know about the whole possession thing, but if you live at a shrine or nearby, you’re probably half-possessed anyway — so go for it! And as for the rest of us chumps living in stale, (sub)urban areas without gnarly ancient shrines filled with tengu, a cold shower still develops the spirit.

When one is in the midst of freezing cold water, there’s only two choices: (A) Give up and freeze like a pansy; or (B) use willpower and powers of concentration to objectively observe the sensation of the cold, relax the muscles (especially around the neck, shoulders and hips!) and focus the mind on the warm parts of the body. When one has the ability to concentrate like this even amidst the freezing cold, they can move on to other sensations of pleasure or discomfort and overcome bodily identification with those.

Ahh…don’t overdo it though! Sitting in a freezing waterfall for 2 hours is sort of dumb. Uses up your chakra and all that good stuff.

Cold water is also good for the skin. I’ve always considered cold water good for the complexion and warm water good for the muscles. So switch ’em up in the shower for fast and positive tension-taming results!

There’s a reason hermetic, ascetic and Daoist masters all advised one to bathe in cold water.

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4 Responses to “Icy Cold Refreshment”

  1. parallelsidewalk Says:

    I’ve done cold showers for a while now on the advice of a friend who teaches Kundalini Yoga. I also did cold showers briefly back when I lived in Norway but only for the rather shallow reason that it supposedly improved visible muscle tone. If you train internal martial arts, a lot of teachers will also tell you to take cold showers.

    Another reason I feel like the Zazen-only Buddhists are a bit cultish-they have a tendency to, rather than having a healthy skepticism, dismiss out of hand the benefits of various practices. Does a Japanese dude standing for hours under a waterfall look silly? Maybe, but a lot of people think sitting in lotus position staring at walls looks retarded.

  2. wizardsmoke Says:

    For what other reasons do you think Zazen-only Buddhists are cultish? I just consider them negligent of the deeper aspects of their tradition.

    To me, their Zazen diatribes just sound like everybody else who is preaching out there, who claim that their method works the best because it worked for them.

  3. parallelsidewalk Says:

    Well, traditionally Japanese Soto Buddhism is extremely authoritarian and doctrinal anyway, but the zazen only people seem to be even moreso, with a very, very strict and dogmatic idea of what is Buddhism and what is not. This is as true as ever despite whatever tools like Brad Warner are saying how revolutionary the views of Gudo “wouldn’t a global police state be awesome” Nishijima are, or however many Zen dudes I meet who have been sitting twenty-five years and talk shit on people who do more than sit and have clarified greater matters than them.

  4. wizardsmoke Says:

    Ha! I always liked Deshimaru’s stuff more than Nishijima’s. I’ve never heard Nishijima say that kind of stuff, but I’ve also not read his books.

    I know a number of the Soto Zen lineage holders were the ones encouraging soldiers to rape and kill out of a sense of Japanese superiority during World War II, but … I hear a lot of similar superior attitudes from the Tibetan/Vajrayana Buddhist folks too.

    My view is that the closer you get to “real” Buddhism (or any religion) the more authoritarian it becomes. I always have to wonder, are the fundamentalists just saying that stuff to make other people practice or do they really believe it?

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