Each day, for 10 months, I have been practicing deep breathing (as taught on IAM Breathing Retreats at Tushita Mystery School) and having cold showers or plunging into the river.
Here is what I have learnt so far in a nutshell:
The practices expose a lack of wonder at existence. A lack that causes me to want faster, quicker material satisfaction.
I’ve been slowly remembering animal enjoyment through air and water.
Breathing exercises take a while
3 rounds is around 15 minutes, and should be done 2 hours after food. Plus time must be made for cold water swims, and both are better done slowly and enjoyably (unlike shoving down food, or getting a shower over and done with).
Each practise has difficult aspects
Breath takes energy and immersing in cold water is shocking. When there is resistance to the practices it exposes the difficultly I have with slowing down and being present: when there is wonder at existence there is no need to rush on to the next thing and no need to avoid uncomfortable sensations.
It’s difficult. Plunging into cold rivers and having cold showers all winter goes with lots of screaming
“Why am I doing this stupid thing??!”
Yet doing such acts flies in the face of being tame, controlled, and predictable. Yes, warm is cosy – but cold is exhilarating – and given our brief existence, I choose exhilaration.
My practice is not perfect
During breathing the back of my head rubs and the hair knots, the blankets sit on my throat choking it, the cold water is always cold, I forget my towel, I can’t be bothered…
Some people boast saying they breathe twice as long as me and I exaggerate by saying I do more cold than others.
I need to blow my nose in the middle of breathing and am considering which sandwich fillings are best during the breath hold but – whether it’s the frustration exposed during the practices or whether it is the air and water itself – humour has built in my body and laughter often arises!
Breathing and cold water is addictive
I look forward to feeling my lungs pump full of air, strange sensations in the hands (they curl up sometimes) and the sublime stillness when the lungs, which usually work constantly, rest.
I don’t know why the cold is incredibly addictive… but it is: while the shock is always hard, the bone, skin, muscle-freeze feels amazing.
I do the breathing exercises with other people every so often, and the wonderful result is being with people in a soft way, without incessant talking.
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I have found from these practices is valuing this existence, this body, the water and this breath. The result is clarity, softness and strength, and a slowing down that gives the space to learn about the body and watch the crazy mind.
The result is smoother, less dry skin, a more alkaline body, and deeper breathing which strengthens the immune system.
Finally, each day I get to see my naked body in the river, and during the breathing, feel my full lungs and rested body.
Who wrote this piece? Tushita Mystery School blogs are written by a number of Students at the Tushita Hermitage. Their anonymity supports their self-forgetting practice.