Surviving a Cold Shower

In this excerpt from the book, we pick up an entry from our "Monastic Life" chapter. Following is a short excerpt from the section on bathing:
Surviving a Cold Shower

Historically in ancient Rome and Victorian England, cold showers were seen as an essential part of an upright life, as warm water bathing was viewed as a sign of decadence and needless luxury. Indeed, even in modern times many Southeast Asians don’t really understand the Western preoccupation with a hot shower. Still, it is a creature comfort that many Western yogis do miss when without, although after some time here this too becomes less important. If you are staying at a monastery with a closed shower area, likely there will be either a giant clay pot or concrete pool from which you can use the plastic scoop to bathe yourself. Make sure to keep this water storage clean and to only lather outside of it. To keep in a traditional spirit, you can also consider using the old-style shampoo that mixes the bark of the tayaw vine with kin pun (acacia) pods, making a gooey substance that keeps the hair smooth and head cool. In any case, if you are not up for being the Spartan, here are some hints that may help:

· You can politely request a little boiling water from the kitchen and mix that into the bucket before you shower, and this may be wise to do if you happen to be sick. Alternatively, if you purchase a plastic bucket and leave it out in the sun, it often will heat up by afternoon.

· If you are in the winter period, make sure to get your shower in before it gets too late in the afternoon, and the temperature begins to dip. Because the water is room temperature, it’s also more likely to be warmer during the day than in the mornings or evenings.

· You can also purchase a scrub or loofah. With these, you can get very clean quite fast with only a minimum of water. If you are traveling, a quick-dry fabric towel is also helpful.

· An American monk recommends that you “wet your head first, and then using your hands, rub the water along your legs, arms, and finally your heart area. Afterwards, you can immerse yourself in the cold water more comfortably.”

· Eventually, learn to appreciate the cold water! As one yogi commented who came to Myanmar from a frigid Colorado winter, “the outdoors temperature is generally so hot for me here (it was 14 degrees Fahrenheit when I left my home) that I have learned to accept and at times actually enjoy cold bucket showers, pouring water from a bucket over my body.”

Local men use the town bathing facilities in the small village of Ingyinbin, in Upper Burma