…cold is a purifying agent – just like salt and alcohol (sake), flowing air and perfect words – like the first two, it is a traditional means of preserving food. When you perform misogi, not only do you stimulate the hind-part of the brain associated with altruism, and kick your blood circulation and your immune system into overdrive…. you also drop your body temperature to a place where many micro-organisms slow down or cannot survive.
But I’m realizing, as the temperatures in Boise hover in the single digits and the teens: this cold, and the snow and the ice, transform our walking, cycling, driving, into a meditation practice.
Walking on the snow, we think about what our feet and ankles are doing. Driving on this snow we drive with more care and mindfulness. And cycling on the greenbelt and the back-streets, I find that both mind and body have become very aware of angle, momentum, and gentle force. And I find find myself completely absorbed in the landscape: the landscape in front of and under my wheels – like a good river-boat pilot amidst the rocks of the Salmon River, I know where the hidden ice is, I know how each surface is to cycle on, and I know where the powder snow on the surface is actually rough-sanding the hidden ice. When the temperatures rise to around freezing, I will keep track of where melted water has refrozen to slick ice, and is hidden under the snow. I have become as involved in the landscape as a Shugendo pilgrim walking the hills behind Kumano Hongu Taisha up to Nara, or as an Aboriginal, old-time Australian, walking and singing his way through the features of the desert.
And at the same time my mind is completely transformed, and my attitude to this landscape completely changed, by the thought that I am getting to experience summer temperatures on Mars…
– – – Peter John Still , winter, 2012-13