I like to experiment with cold showers. I feel blessed by the opportunity to turn a knob and have cold water spiral and whirl through pipes and splash onto me, and turn a knob again and scalding water rushes out. I also feel a little sad – no one asked the water about this – but as so often in these cases of enslavement I choose gratitude to dignify the water’s gift, rather than pitying it and thus treating it as a lesser being.
I’ve been taking cold showers for years now, on and off. So I experiment – I don’t always enjoy them, or at least, I don’t enjoy them unless I focus my awareness on the experience.
I recently noticed a very fine distinction. Usually, I focus on letting the coldness of the water “flow through me” – whatever that may mean. I have a sense of “meeting it fully” without shrinking back.
But recently I noticed something remained – some element of disconnection between me and the cold water. I could feel it – when no disconnection exists my body relaxes deeply into the cold water, and I can feel circulatory effects – tingling, pumping, and so on. But I realized I hadn’t felt this in a while.
So, working to recreate this phenomenon, I focused my attention where every drop of cold water hit my body, investigating every scrap of chilly sensation.
Suddenly all those circulatory effects kicked in – the tingling, the deep relaxation. In that moment I realized, though I had chosen to let the water “flow through me”, I still held up a tiny bit of armor against the cold – I still resisted the reality of the coldness – I still didn’t want to fully experience it.
In essence, I could choose Awareness, or Resistance. Any presence of one dilutes the presence of the other. To the extent that I resist, I cannot stay fully aware. To the extent that I stay fully aware, I cannot hold onto resistance.
I’ve noticed this in martial arts too – if I spend time not wanting to feel a hit, armoring myself against the blow, then my awareness drops. If I fully investigate the sensations of the interactions – the grappling, the blows, the sweat, the effort – my grace in action blossoms.
Armor, Resistance, Callousness – these layers of protection, by their very nature, have less sensation, less sensitivity. In order to protect in this way, I must smother some Awareness.
Often when we meet new ideas, due to the poor parenting of this modern culture, we tend to evaluate them on a good or bad continuum. And so it comes easy to think of “Awareness” as good, and “Resistance” as bad.
Perhaps. But rather than resisting “Resistance”, what if we extend our inquiry fully into it, and feel how it wraps around us?
What does “Resistance” do to our physicality and consciousness – and why might we have that capacity to resist? How might this benefit us?
What does “Awareness” do – and why might I choose to embrace full awareness without resistance? Why might I dilute it?
In inquiry -