Wednesday, August 4, 2010

tummo

Is that Denali I see?
Ice water immersion.  Yes, that's just like it sounds.  In Finnish it is avantouinti.  If I can't get a sauna, then this is what I can do this winter - cold water dousing also has the effect of elevating body temperature.  The only problem is that it is difficult to keep a large tub of water from freezing solid in the winter here.  But it's not impossible, I could insulate a large tub set in the ground, maybe even have a pump circulate it, but that's a lot of trouble to go through.  I recall hearing about Tibetan monks who do a sort of meditation call “Tummo” in which they can raise their body temperature, especially that of hands and feet, to the point where they can stay outside in the cold, even drying wet sheets draped over their bodies.  This practice is associated with the monk Naropa, Tibetan Buddhism, Tantric meditation, and Kundalini Yoga, but I think that consciously affecting thermoregulation is not a rare feat that requires special training in meditation.  I would guess ordinary folks asked to concentrate on elevating their bodily heat though a kind of biofeedback involving visualization and relaxation are probably capable of doing it.  And this is something I'd like to do, to help me keep a clear mind and good physical health as well as enjoy the outdoors.  Wrapping a thin sheet over my skin could give me some level of protection from instant frostbite. 

If I can develop an ability to generate heat and know my limits, then wearing only a fundoshi I would like to participate on Dontosai, January 14, in the annual hadaka mairi (written 裸参り in Japanese) at Takekoma Jinja in Japan.  It would be a great experience!  I believe it was in 2004, during a visit to Japan that I saw the festival at this shrine first hand.  But first I am going to make my own outdoor shower, and use it until the first frost of the year. 

My greenhouse plans had long since turned to “a plastic sheet covered metal pipe box barely five feet high”, and now my sauna plans have turned to me sitting outside baring my skin to the cold and wet.  And these are my ideas for “the backbone of recreation during the summer and winter - outdoor oriented activities, play in the snow and cold, and in the summer watch plants grow and mold  - social activities, to be shared and enjoyed in the company of others?”  Yes, they are, and now it seems I have it all.

3 comments:

Aratina Cage said...

I just picked up reading your blog from where I left off and the idea of making a cold tub is hilarious! I expect to hear about your adventures at the annual Polar Bear Jump one of these years.

Actually I remember that I did immerse myself in very cold saltwater and freshwater many times growing up (just not in the winter--except for a few accidents with the water bucket) so I guess it isn't all that bad as long as you are quick about it or having fun while in the water (or practicing tummo, I guess?).

Keir said...

Well, I wouldn't recommend tummo to anyone sick - they'd almost certainly just get sicker. Whereas using a sauna will make a sick person healthier. More than half of the time I feel stressed out or sleep deprived, so I can't imagine many situations in which I should try tummo right now. Maybe next summer I will try to build a sauna. I am sure there must be a few nice saunas around town here, but it isn't a very visible part of the local culture at all! I mean to change that.

Aratina Cage said...

I hope you do change the culture. My dad's side loves saunas and one of his siblings built a really nice outdoors one from what I've heard. They sure are great places to relax in as long as you're with the right company.

I'm thinking, too, that after living in a place where the weather is in the 90's most of the summer, I might just die of a heart attack if I were to take a dunk in a cold tub any time soon.