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I don’t have hot water.
My shower head is attached to a PVC pipe that leads to the holding tanks sitting outside of my walls. It’s not uncommon for a home in Thailand; it’s actually more than many homes here are equipped with.
Each time I step into the shower, I learn something new.
It’s never the same experience twice.
Sometimes, it’s refreshing on a hot day to feel the cool water running down my back. Other times, it feels too hot, with no option to turn the temperature down on a scorching, hot summer day. In the winter mornings, it is so cold that my nail beds turn blue and my body is covered in goosebumps (those are the days not worth shaving my legs because it starts growing back before I’m fully dry).
You may be wondering why I’m telling you the intricate details of my shower time—something so personal that need not be shared on the internet where anyone and everyone can see it.
So, what’s the point?
I’d like to share five of the most important lessons that I learn each and every day during my time in the shower.
1. Less is more.
The unpredictability of the water temperature has taught me that water is valuable. Gone are the days of letting the water run while I lather my hair full of suds and clean my body. I use what I need and not a drop more. Part of this came from trying to save the hot water that was at the top of the pipe. I’ve learned that I’ve got a good 20 seconds worth of shower bliss if I save it instead of letting it run down the drain. I’ve built the habit, so now I always turn off the water (even if I’m in a space that has access to a range of temperatures).
2. Make it count.
A continuation of the last lesson. I’ve learned to make what I have count. This means that my morning showers have turned into a bit of a strategy session. I know that I have those 20 seconds, so I’m sure to make it count instead of wasting it. It has also trickled out into my daily life. I make what I have count by reusing what I can, shopping at thrift stores (most of my wardrobe is pre-loved), using a reusable cup for my morning coffee, unplugging electronics when they aren’t in use, and turning off the lights when I leave the room. I use what I need and not a drop more.
3. Be present.
When I had access to a shower that I could control, I was never present. I used that time to do what showers are intended to do: get clean. I would quickly turn on the water, leave it running until it got hot enough, jump in, get clean, and get out. Most of the time I was already thinking about all of the things I had to do that day. I was living in the future.
Cold showers allowed me to come back to the present. When my body is being blasted with water that feels like a polar plunge, there isn’t much of a choice other than being present. I’m faced with the sensations flooding my body, from the jolt of cold water hitting my skin that feels a lot like knives, or the warmth of my own touch in between. The body comes alive under less-than-comfortable conditions.
It’s almost impossible to think about all the work that needs to be done when the only thing I can think about is how to breathe (because somehow, in that moment, I instantly forget how to do the one thing that is keeping me alive). It’s a battle between the mind and body, or rather a process of getting them on the same page. It’s a meditative practice (much like Wim Hof describes) that breaks the loop of the monkey mind. Learning to control the breath and breathing through the discomfort is such a magical journey. It has really taught me how strong I am when I am living in the present.
4. Expectations are useless.
Like I mentioned before, my shower time is never the same experience twice. To go into the shower with an expectation of how it will be is useless. I can have an idea of what I would like it to be, but 99 percent of the time it is the opposite. It has been a true lesson in satisfaction. Oftentimes, I wish the water were hot, and it’s cold; the next day I may wish it were cold, and it’s hot. I wonder if that is just my own human brain always wanting things to be as they’re not. It’s a daily reality check and a reminder that things will almost never be as we wish them to be, so revert back to number three and get into the present moment.
5. Need versus want.
Do I need hot water? No.
Do I want it? Sometimes, but I always come back to the same conclusion.
I will survive without it. In all honesty, I believe that I thrive without it. It allows me to challenge myself in a practical way. It brings me back to what’s important and what’s not. Sure, I could go buy a hot water heater, but I never do because it’s not important to me. This is just one practice that brings me closer to myself. The shower is always the one place that I can snap back into the present moment—especially when I’ve dropped my other mindfulness practices because I don’t feel like meditating or practicing yoga. The shower is always there to bring me back and allow me to confront what I’ve been avoiding.
I’m curious to hear if you’ve tried cold showers. If so, I’d love to know what lessons you’ve learned. Let me know in the comments!