The 1st thing that made me question my decision to become a monk way back in 1997 wasn't the celibate lifestyle (I could see the freedom gained from that), it wasn't the early morning meditation schedule (4am was when I was used to going to bed not getting up but again I could see the benefit), nope it was when I was introduced to the early morning cold shower, I mean why? What has cold bathing got to do with spiritual life??
These days cold water bathing is going through a bit of a craze, with "ice men" and cold water challenges popping up all over social media. There's lots of modern day science behind the benefits and a simple google search will give you over 111,000,000 results to choose from. It's not a new thing either, in fact the oldest known medical practice, Ayurveda, recommends it for helping with depression, increasing alertness, weight-loss, healthy skin, reducing stress, improving blood circulation and much more.
However, back then as a healthy 22 year old monk newbie, non of the above seemed relevant and I really wanted to know why the hell I had to go through the austerity of cold showers when I was just about dealing with the fact I had to get up in what I considered to be the middle of the night.
The answer was / is incredibly pragmatic.
The Bhagavad Gita explains that everything we experience is influenced by 3 'modes' of material nature; Goodness, Passion and Ignorance and we decide how and which 'mode' we want to influence our state of consciousness (I'm going to talk more about these 'modes' in future articles.)
Simply put, sleeping induces the mode of ignorance and bathing the mode of goodness. Showering automatically makes the body clean, we've all probably experienced how clean spaces are nicer to be in than unclean, its the same for being in the body. Cold showers though go the extra mile, they wake the subtle body up and get the happy hormones going.
In short it body slams the ignorance of sleep off of you and gives the consciousness an early morning dopio espresso.
Which made our morning meditation, the foundation of our day all the more easy and all the more rewarding.
I might not be a monk any more but I still take a cold shower before I meditate every morning.
The practice of cold water bathing has been connected to a more conscious, compassionate yoga lifestyle for thousands of years, practised by mystic yogi's, community leaders, great warriors and simple sadhu's. Why not give it a go?
Quick tip - Wash with warm water first, then once all the soaps rinsed off give yourself a blast all over for about 40 seconds.