Mindfulness & The Big City: The Importance of Being Cold!

"Just humor me," I told my mother. It was the beginning of January, and she was packing for her first-ever trip to Egypt. Her suitcase was filled with t-shirts and light summery pants.

"Pack some sweaters," I told her, remembering my surprise last year that the land of camels and sand dunes could be so unpleasant in January.

"No, honey," she said with an amused smirk. "I checked the temperature in Cairo, and it's not cold." My mother is a full-blooded German, and she loves the cold. I am half-German, and I hate the cold.

"Numbers aren't everything," I muttered.

In the end my mother humored me and packed two sweaters, which she wore for her entire trip layered under a thick jacket. She didn't touch a t-shirt. "Cairo is cold," she admitted.

Cairo's coldness defies quantification. The temperature is not that low, the humidity is not that high, and the sun doesn't set that early. January brings an iciness that worms its way through layers of clothing, and lingers in bedsheets. It's an unpleasant chill that drains my energy and makes me want to stay in bed under a dozen comforters until March. As soon as I come home, I crank my heaters to 32, start the tea kettle boiling, and jump into a hot shower. I hate being cold.

But I am grateful for the cold.

This week as I sit on my balcony to write and stare at the leafless trees, I am bundled in a thick coat and clutching a hot coffee. I challenge myself to experience the beauty in the cold.

Consider the trees who stretch their mighty branches toward the heavens. The cold weather has stripped them of their foliage, so that they may concentrate their energy and rest, gathering strength to stretch higher in the spring. As I guzzle hot coffee to power my manic flight through a series of over-booked days, when was the last time I slowed down to rest? How scary would it be to shed my foliage of constant busy-ness?

My yoga guru advised that every yogi should take time each day to sit in emptiness, to let the experiences of the day integrate. Such empty down-time is not encouraged by our society. Integration and reflection have been replaced by multi-tasking. Winter could be an invitation to power down and restore to the core.

A slight breeze rakes across my fingers. I consider moving inside to finish my work, but I stay and challenge my heart to feel gratitude for the wakefulness. The cold brings me a sharp awareness of where I am and my body in space. I consider my body heat pressing against the air and the air pressing against me, each a part of the other. Without the temperature difference, could I ever feel the subtle dance of energy between the universe and me?

As the season swiftly tilts towards warmer times, perhaps I will loosen a layer and be mindful of the crispness in the air, just as in a deep yoga stretch, one should breathe into the pain and be grateful that one can feel. I will turn down my heater, stop trying to control nature, and enjoy the blessings of life the way it is. As we sit on the cusp of seasons, now is the moment to be aware.

In the comments section below, please share some of your favorite hallmarks of winter turning into spring :)