I frequently prescribe water cure therapies to heal my patients who are unable to control their eating, or get themselves to exercise or generally are in want of the power to govern their actions wisely.
One such therapy is to end your morning shower with a brisk cold rinse and then vigorously towel dry every body part, intentionally using the towel to invigorate and heal that body part. I find there is a common error which many students make when I suggest this therapy. The error is in turning the water to as cold as it gets, which is not the instruction.
The instruction is to first ground yourself in your innate self-healing power (kindness). Then while remaining deliberately grounded in kindness, explore the use of colder water according to what your own kindness dictates.
I recommend this water treatment because it often brings students to face the central issue in learning to master our behavior; being kind to ourselves vs forcing ourselves. Water cure is but one way of expressing fierce kindness into the personal challenges we face to healing ourselves.
Change is challenging. Period. We often host a radical self healing group (a group for support and accountability based on kindness) because we want to change our behavior and to do so with greater success than we were able to on our own. Our method of cultivating beneficial change in our behavior is radical reliance on kindness. We heal ourselves with the power of our own actions.
What I am saying is this: the only way to determine how cold to make the water and how long to stay in the water is by staying highly attuned to your bodily sensations and responding to them with kindness. This is like playing a sport. You must be able to respond appropriately in the moment. The same applies to healing your eating, movements, thinking and relating. You do it in the moment you are performing the action. Sure, in our support groups you have declared certain actions you will take each day, but how you take those actions is everything. Actions sourced in the present moment by kindness are the only actions that are sustainable. You will reject all else.
If you have not been trained how to rely on kindness (your innate self-healing wisdom), you then must rely on prescriptions and formulas dictated by others. These prescriptions seem necessary only if you have not yet discovered your own innate wisdom to guide you. If you have not developed a relationship with your own infallible genius, you naturally feel you need to be told how to care for yourself; e.g. how much water to drink, what to eat, etc. Again, while this has value for some, it is limited.
Also it takes will power and forcing yourself when you are attempting to conform your behavior to external prescriptions. Will power and trying harder has limited use in mastering your behavior. Kindness is the power of the universe. It is the essence of skillful means.
Imagine if this were the voice in your head as during your morning water cure. “Charley, I love you and admire your goodness for wanting to Heal your body. I can see you are frightened and apprehensive about doing this. Look, dude, I am with you. Right now. I’m not bullshit. I’m you. I’m the your own actual good intent. I’m not here to hurt you. The opposite. I will be with you in every moment, watching over you, protecting you like a father to his son. If you feel too frightened, don’t make the water so cold at first. Or you can bag this altogether. I will love and respect you no matter what you choose to do.”
I could go on, but you get the picture.
Lets be real. Change is challenging. It takes work and sacrifice to heal. You desire freedom from the misery of your self-harming habits such as drinking too much wine, overeating, and anxiety. To win your freedom, you face a test, a challenge. There is a real price to be paid for your freedom, a ransom. You pay the price, you pass the test, and you are rewarded with freedom from being forced to injure yourself in that way. If you don’t pay the price, if you don’t pass the test, you remain bound to repeat this self-harming action and reap the same miserable results of repeating the same misery producing actions. These actions will produce these results forever, without end until you change your actions. This is the way life works. Waking up to this is sobering, empowering. We are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We know nothing will change if we don’t change and we are sincere and serious about ending our suffering.
I’m using cold water therapy simply as one example. Facing cold is but a variation on facing pain. It may be the pain of hunger in mastering your eating, of pain or fatigue in workouts, the pain of anger or fear, or the pain of being disliked, judged and rejected by others. It’s all a variation on the same theme. You must enter the arena and face the bully you have not been willing to face.
In our own personal war for our freedom we are learning to fight skillfully, rather than blindly trying harder. Trying harder, while laudable, is perhaps the lowest level of skillfulness in self-healing. It is desire without intelligence; caring without wisdom.
Our skillful means are kindness and honesty practiced in community. With these tools we are able to steadily master our behavior and thereby gain freedom from our illness and suffering.
To summarize, I prescribe water cure therapies not solely for their powerful healing benefits but because facing cold, which evokes almost universal aversion, gives you a unique opportunity to wield the weapon of kindness and experience your power to master your behavior. Further it is another practical way we can open ourselves to ever present kindness in every activity of our day, getting dressed, walking, driving, eating etc.
Why shower unconsciously and compulsively when you could transform this ordinary action into an extraordinary means of loving, caring for, and Healing yourself? The same applies to your every thought word and deed.