Urban Misogi

Tonight was an excellent night for some urban misogi.

Some back story. Last week or so, I biked into town to hang out with a friend. While we were getting a bite to eat, some 15 year old kids decided to trash my bike. They stole the seat, lights & reflectors, basically rendering it un-ridable.

The upshot of all that was two fold.

  1. I got to watch my internal reaction to this event (almost zero – always nice to see progress)
  2. I’ve been doing a lot more walking.

The walk to town is about an hour and a half, and since I meditate while I walk (I have some great audios), this has meant a good solid three hours meditation a day (plus what I normally do) every day for the last three days.

The growth I’ve been experiencing recently has been, much like the walk itself, gorgeous.

Which brings me to this evening.

I’d been in town all day (bit of this, bit of that), and about 9:15pm it was time to walk home.

It was pouring. And I mean POURING.

Oh, oh! I completely forgot, you may well need an introduction to misogi.

The term misogi covers a few things, but generally it refers to standing under freezing cold waterfalls. Typically this happens mid winter, sometimes for hours at a time, and often (in Aikido) holding a sword as you do.

Misogi generally looks something like this...

.. except this evening, when I ended up looking a little more like this

Misogi is a purification exercise. It teaches you to stay centered. Still mind, still body, no matter what happens. It’s very simple mind-over-matter.

I got introduced to this through Ki Society (a branch of Aikido) about 20 years ago. So yes, I’ve done neck deep (& under) standing naked in mountain rivers in the middle of winter.

Let me tell you, it’s.. quite an experience.

Anyway, back to this evening. One minor issue with misogi as a practice is the difficulty with finding a handy waterfall in, say, central Melbourne.

They’re a little thin on the ground. Least of all because Australia is, for most intents & purposes, a desert.

So, this evening was quite a neat opportunity. It was about 14 degrees C (57F). Not exactly sub-zero, but certainly a good test.

Squelching along, drenched to the skin, while remaining as present as I possibly good was.. well, delightful.

After about an hour of this, I was meditating on there being “nothing to change.” Or perhaps more accurately, that I felt that yes indeed there were several things I’d like to change, just at that moment (my shoes, shirt, pants, for a start.. and maybe swap my headphones for an umbrella).

I was reminded of the classic story of the Zen master Banzan. He was walking through the market when he heard a customer tell the butcher “I want the best meat, so give me the best.”

The butcher replied “Every piece of meat is the best.” And, so the story goes, upon hearing this Banzan became enlightened.

As I remembered this, I realised – life is nothing but a series of “nows”, and every now is perfect.

(Of course, the only thing telling us otherwise is our silly old monkey mind)

I felt a huge rush of energy (& a ton of stuff leaving), and continued trudging along, tears of joy pouring down my face.

This knowledge is nothing new, I first heard it 20 years ago, and I am sure I will need to learn it again.

In that moment though, that one glorious moment, I suddenly heard hundreds of birds happily chirping in the trees, cars swishing past, and I didn’t just know it in my brain but in my heart.