car was also covered in a thin layer of ice which required a bit of work to remove, and then I was off to the school. I delivered the package and received a sweet kiss from my daughter, and then I was back outside in the crisp,
cold air. I felt myself making a choice to slightly contract my body in and subtly harden in an attempt to shield myself from the low temperatures. Fortunately, within a few moments, I remembered the practice I had firmly
established the previous winter, the momentum of my season-long efforts and body memory returning quickly –
“do not brace against the cold.”
So with this first wintery day, with many more to come, I want to share this wonderful, self-honoring practice with you.
To begin, simply step outside on a cold day. Begin to notice what you do with your body. Do you contract your shoulders inward? Do you harden your muscles? Do you tend to slump down and compromise your posture? Do you feel any emotions such as frustration or anger? Do you bring tension into your facial muscles? Do you escape further into your head? Bring awareness to your body and just honestly notice what goes on for you. Even the most ‘physical’ of us –athletes, yoga teachers, bodyworkers, etc - are often not consistently and deeply aware of how we are feeling in our body. Simply recognizing and being honest about the quality we are holding our body in any situation is a giant step toward being open to healing. Once we become aware of the choices we are currently making in how we are in our body, we create the space to make different, more loving choices.
The next step, therefore, is to feel if you want to make a different choice. What I have found in this scientific experiment with my own body and my own being, is that contracting against the cold provides me zero benefits – it simply never feels like a loving and tender choice to create hardness in my body. What does feel beneficial is to be aware that there is contracting, shielding or hardening that is occurring, and then choosing instead to become very gentle, open and
expansive in my body. Usually this is a shift that is truly enjoyable, and I actually feel instantly more comfortable, and even warmer, but sometimes it is hard to hold. When that is the case I ask myself, “am I dressed warm enough for the
day?” or, “Is this the right time to spend much time outdoors?” as there is, of course, a very practical aspect of loving self-care in Winter - to be sure we are prepared for it in what we are wearing and when we choose to spend time
The final step of this practice is to be aware of the metaphor it contains. This simple practice of being aware of
how we harden against cold or harsh conditions can symbolize the sometimes more subtle, yet insidious occurrence, of how we tend to also harden/contract/shield/guard/tense/contract in situations that we deem cold or harsh in our lives. This can happen in a myriad of moments – such as when we are interacting with someone we find challenging, when we are facing a difficult task, when we are driving in heavy traffic, when we are paying bills, when we are rushing through ‘mundane’ tasks – it is different for all of us what ‘triggers’ us to harden in the body, but in every single one of these moments of hardening there is always the choice to make the self-loving choice to return to gentleness in our body. And thus the cold of winter can become a symbol of the ‘cold’ situations in our lives, and thus a great tool of developing a momentum of real self-love. The more loving we are with ourselves, the more loving we can be with others. So, do not brace against the cold, cold of any kind, as it harms us by limiting the flow of loving energy in the body. The more we choose to develop an ever-deepening gentle quality in our body, even in the harshest conditions, the stronger of a momentum we build to live in a consistently more connected and loving way.