Cold showers and knowing “why?”

Alright. The first post was a flurry of thoughts, and now we can start to sort things out a bit. First – I have to make sure not to fall into the writing-rather-than-doing trap. At the end of the day, laziness is my biggest foe. It’s too easy to write away about things to do and be without getting off the chair. As someone wiser than I put it: “you don’t go to the gym to watch TV.”

So, I’ll be sure to report on my progress as much as I keep looking forward.

Experiment #1: Cold Showers and Sleeping Patterns. David Cain, the author of the ingenious Raptitude blog (one of the big inspirations for this project of mine,) writes about a great self-discovery he had in the shower. No, not of that sort 🙂 He talks about forgetting to bring a towel to the shower, and describes having to step out completely naked and and very cold:

“Defeated, I stood on the mat and let the cold air flood over me. I watched the ice fog pour over the sill like freezing smoke. I just let it have its way with me. I didn’t get mad at it, I didn’t shiver or scramble to dry off. I just let it feel like whatever it was going to feel like, and noticed something peculiar.
It didn’t hurt me. It wasn’t excruciating, or even unpleasant, just colder than I’d like. My choice to resign to the cold, rather than escape it, robbed it of its power to make me miserable. It was only when I cowered and shivered that it was so awful. I was impervious to it, so long as I didn’t insist it not be cold. Why would I ever resent the cold again?”

[You can read the original here.]

It recently dawned on me that in general, I try to avoid the pain in my life as much as possible. That, in itself, doesn’t sound too odd. However, even when the pain is inevitable, I avoid confrontation, fall into denial I don’t admit to, and try to keep cool by taking the easier road. Instead of ripping the band-aid off in one take, I do it as slowly as possible while convincing myself there is no band-aid there at all. Now, I’m not gonna fix that in one take, but I’ve though of a place to start. The discipline aspect of the military has always attracted me, because it demonstrates exemplary self control. However, one of the simple things that’s always seemed impossible to me were the cold 6:30 (4:30?) AM showers. Stepping into a cold shower first thing in the morning is hard. And it’s scary. But I think that at the end of the day, it’s really not that big a deal.

Moreover, with a little research I’ve found that cold showers are actually a really good idea. Apparently, the Sikh Masters taught the value of ishnaan – or hydrotherapy – as part of the daily practice of Sikh Dharma.

“When you take a cold shower in the morning, it is like the first battle of the day. Shouting Wahe Guru when you are shivering is your battle cry. And when you come out victorious, you are ready to face any challenge come what may.”

Alright, count me in! And if that’s not enough, this article from the Art of Manliness gives a whole range of reasons to take cold showers, from better circulation to higher testosterone production. And at the end of the day, it’s just something I’m afraid to do. So, starting tomorrow morning – Monday – I will take cold showers for a week straight. Now, the getting up part is a serious weakness of mine. So, I’m gonna tackle a whole bunch of issues here. I hope I’m not being overambitious. I sometimes fall asleep in class, often while trying very hard not to. I strongly suspect that it’s because my sleep cycle is all over the place. My classes all start between 9:30 and 11. So, 7:55 is a fine time to get up. Which means I’ve gotta get to bed before 1. That’s just not negotiable.

So, 1 – 8 sleep, 8AM cold showers. On the weekend, I’ll cut myself some slack and get up later, especially since I’ll hopefully be out on Friday night. That’s Experiment # 1.

* * *

Why do certain tasks look so scary? Homework is the classic example. I am taking possibly my hardest college class so far: Econometrics. I know that I’m behind a lot, so I need to sit down and just read the textbook carefully, slowly, until I really understand what’s happening. I spent about half an hour on it today. But I kept getting distracted, kept looking for a way out.

My room is pretty messy. I know I need to clean it. I know “why” – because I’ll feel much better about myself, and because it’ll be easier to get tasks done – tasks like writing music, finishing assignments, tackling all sorts of projects.

At some point, it just becomes about “do it” – you know “why,” you just need some simple effort to accomplish the thing.  Still, I think that sometimes it’s really important to ask “why” are you doing this to begin with? That way, effort is directed and more focused. This is a thought to still contemplate. More on it later. For now, I’m recording a concert, packing up, and then meeting a friend for dinner. Then, a girl for a good conversation, hopefully.

~ M.

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