Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Unless you are either versed in Japanese culture or practice one of their martial arts, there is a good chance you don't know what the title of this blog means. I only half-remembered it myself when I thought of it, and had to look it up to make sure I had it right.

Misogi is an old and traditional practice in Japan. Many people used different versions of it for ritual purification, and the founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba, used it as part of his training. Ueshiba found that water misogi, specifically standing under a cold waterfall, helped him to find his center and cleanse his mind so that he could move further toward understanding of himself and the world around him.

It's the waterfall that always interested me. Not as a spiritual cleansing, but as a physical and mental test of yourself. To me the idea of subjecting your body to long periods of extreme wet and cold and trying to toughen yourself to endure more every time you try it seems very primal. The mental control it takes to force yourself to remain still when so many outside stimuli are screaming at you to move, to end the discomfort, to be somewhere warm and dry and peaceful.

Fascinating. To me, anyway.

I have always wanted to try it. Not too many waterfalls around here, though, and for one reason or another I never got around to it.

Yesterday, I did. Sort of. It started raining early in the morning, and it was cold. Cold enough that there was zero chance of any zombies coming for us. Cold enough to require a winter coat. Not quite frigid to the point of turning the rain to snow, though, and that's what got me thinking.

I sat in my back yard on a small patch of grass wearing only a pair of shorts. The rain waxed and waned in the thirty or so minutes I was out there, ending with fat drops much like bullets, each one a painful sting on my skin. I shivered and burned to move away from the cold. I tried to think of anything else but where I was and the numbness in my limbs.

Thoughts crossed my mind that seemed so simple to me at the time, yet now that I have to write them down feel complicated and clunky.

The Fall happened. Society smashed apart when it struck the hard earth, and we are still dodging the pieces. Part of why the compound and so many other groups out there have survived is because we haven't cut ourselves trying to snatch the remnants of the old civilization from the flying debris around us. Most survivors instead remember what was, and move forward in a way that makes good and practical sense.

This has helped us bind our groups together in a way that has helped prepare us for today. For a time when we would have to deal with large groups of living people from other places.

The Fall of society made many of us more open to other people, more willing to accept them. Because circumstances demanded it. The constant zombie threat toughened us for the battles we have faced and will surely face again. We have survived and flourished because we embraced the struggle, accepted the pain and discomfort assailing our minds and bodies. We recognize the futility of wishing for things to be the way they were, or at least different than they are. The struggle to change and improve our lives has been accepted as an indelible aspect of those lives, and so we are able to work toward those goals.

At the end of my experience in the rain yesterday, I no longer wished to be somewhere else. I stopped thinking about being warm and comfortable and accepted that I would not be until I made the conscious to change my circumstances. It's a weird sort of loop, I know, but it makes a lot of sense to me.

The rain of undead upon us along with the effort required to simply survive has done something to us very similar to this ancient practice. We have been toughened physically by the constant fighting. Our minds have new clarity of purpose and focus. Our intent has been purified.

I don't know if I will ever know real enlightenment. I know that my desire to understand myself and the world around me is partially to blame for my inability to reach the totality of that understanding. But yesterday something in me changed. My perspective grew.

I am the same man I was a day ago. My circumstances haven't changed. My goals are the same as ever.

But my understanding of them has bloomed, and I am content.

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