Brrrr… It’s cold outside!
Well at last the weather is more fitting for the time of year here in the UK. We are coming to the end of January and are entering a period of seasonal cold! It would seem that at we finally have a more Natural Nature.
I have walked out the house on the past few mornings to be greeted by several degrees of frost. The ground has been covered with a blanket of frozen dew, my breath instantly freezes and the cold air makes my nose run! My feet have been a live to the tingle of the cold, it’s been great! We just need a little (or a lot) of snow now!
“The cold is really”
~ Apache saying
In The Woods
I case you didn’t know last weekend I was once again in The Woods attending a Shamanic ‘Workshop’. This visit to The Woods had us working with the cold amongst other things.
The processes or exercises that we used to embrace the cold are really too detailed to go into great in depth here but I will outline some of the more simple straightforward techniques that we were shown.
Before I go on I will say that these exercises are not an alternative to actually wrapping up against the cold, they do raise your core temperature and you don’t ‘feel’ cold but there has to be a level of common sense applied if you are not to get hyperthermia. Also we had an experienced guide with us at all times, while we went through these exercises.
This is the easiest to do but the hardest to achieve. When we get cold our bodies instantly start to shiver, it’s a natural process that generates heat by rapidly contracting the major muscle groups of the body. However the process of shivering also brings your full attention to THE COLD, your mind instantly starts to focus on the reason why you’re shivering, which just makes you colder!
Energetically, the contracting of the muscles also inhibits the natural flow of energy around the body. If the natural flow of energy around the body is interrupted then those areas that need an increase in energy just won’t get it.
So the first step is to relax, to relax into the cold. To start with it isn’t easy to stop your body shivering but with a little practice you can relax into the cold and stop the shivers, once you stop the shivers you’ll instantly feel warmer as the energy flow around the body picks up once again.
What you focus on is what you experience; this just doesn’t apply to the cold it applies to many areas of life also. If you focus on the cold, for example you focus on the how cold your hands or feet feel (as it is your hands and feet that generally feel cold first), then you are opening your mind to the experience of this cold.
So the second step is to focus your attention on the more subtle (and NOT the cold). Very much like out of mind out of sight. This is where Expanded Awareness comes in; this is a process that I have mentioned before (and at some point will into greater detail). Expanded Awareness allows you to easily move your focus from the obvious to the subtle, in this case it may be that you move your focus from the cold to the sensation of the ground below your feet, or the sound of the wind in the trees or the feeling of your clothes on your body.
Before anyone says, ‘of course I’ll warm up if I start running!’ By movement I don’t mean major excretions of energy like jumping up and down or running, but these also will keep you warm, however how long you could maintain this level of movement is another question.
In this context, movement can be as subtle as slow walking (fox walking), by moving your body, even slow deliberate movements are enough to help ‘pump’ the energy around the body. The whole idea is to keep the energies moving around your body instead of being centred in just one or two places.
Raising Your Energy Levels
There are a number of yoga or meditation practices that are based around raising and focusing your personal energy levels. While in The Woods we used a combination of movements adapted from Qigong and Shaolin Kung Fu that allowed us to raise and focus our internal energies. We only needed to practice these movements when we could feel our energy levels dropping, which is normally at the beginning of the exercises. Once our internal energy levels where raised they were easy to maintain without having to revert back to the yoga exercises.
So with these in mind we were presented with a couple of exercises to do both of which would allow us to embrace and become friends with the cold.
In The Woods
The first exercise was straight forward enough and not too much of a shock to the system; well it wasn’t a shock to the ego. We were sent off alone to find a space in the wood where we were comfortable, once there we went through the various exercises to raise our core temperatures, once ready, we then took off items of clothing, stripping down as far as we were emotionally comfortable with. Once at the edge of our comfort zone we then blindfolded ourselves and proceeded to move (slowly) around the woods until we had embraced the cold at which point we took off the blindfold and proceeded to move around as normal.
After being in out in the woods for an hour or so we were all summonsed to returned to camp, even back in camp we sat and stood around in tee shirts and shorts for another hour or so, totally oblivious to the temperature.
Moving around blindfolded helps the mind to focus on the more subtle, humans are extremely visual in their outlook; removing or inhibiting the vision almost forces the other senses to come alive, resulting in the subtle being experienced.
In The River
The following day we were to put these exercises to the test, a swim in a local river, in mid January!
Yes you did read that correctly! The idea being that we would gradually enter the river allowing the water to slow rise up our bodies and NOT to plunge straight into the water.
I will not lie this was a challenge, especially when the water level reaches your genitals and mid-rift! However by applying the same principles as in the woods (minus the blindfold) we all embraced the cold, in fact we all became friends with the cold.
For me, and everyone else agreed, the whole experience was that of a physical, emotional and spiritual cleansing, a truly enlightening moment. I have never felt so a live as I did when I got out of the water. I truly understood what the Apaches meant when they say ‘the cold is really’.
Again after getting out of the river we stood around on the river bank in shorts and tee shirts chatting about the experience, without even the smallest consideration for the air temperature.
A Funny Story
One thing that I haven’t said is that the visit to the river was an unscheduled event and as such none of us had any swimming costumes with us, so in the true sense of living in the woods we wore our birthday suites!
Also, because of the time of the year and the rainfall over the previous week, the river was quite high and fast flowing, something that I should have taken note of when entering or more accurately exiting the river. We entered the river in a secluded spot, not obvious to those passing by, and it was at this point on the river bank that I got undressed and left my clothes. After swimming in the river for a while I allowed the current to take my about 20 or 30 meters down steam, what I didn’t realise was that the current was too strong for me to swim back up river, so I was left with no option other than getting out where I was. So I dragged myself dripping wet and in my birthday suite up onto the river bank, only to be greeted by a group of anglers heading off for a day’s fishing! A cheery ‘Good Afternoon Gentleman’ was all that I could muster as a strode along the river bank back to my pile of clothes as if a January swim in the buff was a perfectly normal pastime!
At least it gave them something to talk about that night in the pub