The only thing that’s real is what is present in deep dreamless sleep.
Do you find you sleep better after a bracing walk; a swim in a cold river or the sea; a day of fresh air, tree-climbing, and open sky?
Do you notice that if you brave the cold, literally and metaphorically, you come out feeling better for it, more relaxed?
Those moments in my life when I have felt complete repose have been after such times. Which is why I like Wim Hof for the authentic inspiration that he is.
He braves the cold. They call him The Ice Man. He’s admired by the intellectual dark web. He’s not distracted by the swamp of post modernism and culture wars or a misunderstanding of the paradox of polarities. He just gets on with uniting himself with something greater than himself, something vast, awe-inspiring.
He swims in freezing cold oceans. He climbs Everest in shorts. Now even death holds no fear for him.
If you’re beginning to sense Jung in the background, yes of course you’re right. It’s not just your organs you flush out when you immerse in cold water. It’s your subconscious too. You are doing shadow work.
Wim Hof has shown in laboratory conditions that he and a group of people he trained with his cold water swimming techniques, combined with meditation, that they could trigger the vagus nerve at will. This enabled them to immunise themselves from a virus that was injected into them. It took only 15 minutes for results to show.
What happens on a cellular level happens on a psychic and a spiritual level too. That’s why shadow work is so important. In Kundalini Yoga, a large part of our Level 2 training is shadow work. We address it throughout our teaching lives in White Tantra. It is also integrated into the kriyas (sets of physical exercises, mantras, and breathing techniques) This is reaching in to the most abhorrent disgusting self loathing awful monstrous parts of the sub- and unconscious to face what we absolutely do not want to face at all costs.
These are the things that some of us would spend our whole lives avoiding. These are also things that some of us would rather die than acknowledge. It is deeply uncomfortable work. It is work that has to get done on a cultural level too. Carl Jung talked of collective shadows.
Some socio-cultural analysts say we are stuck on the road to nowhere in the current post modern relativist egalitarian atmosphere. They say that it is preventing us from moving forward to our collective higher consciousness. Some would say it is a necessary step towards higher consciousness.
Relativism can take us only so far. Humans cannot function without absolutes, whether we like it or not. Doctors decided that alcoholics were doomed to their fate, that the struggle would be pointless, until Alcoholics Anonymous took on the Jungian recommendation to acknowledge a power greater than themselves. It helped recovering drinkers exercise mastery over their shadow monsters instead of being at their mercy.
It’s not just a cold swim, or an icy walk. It’s being in awe of the sea and the mountain and at the same time wanting to be subsumed. It is getting out of your own way, leaving ego aside to reach a truer Self. Yes, it is getting in touch with the absolute.