I have been practicing the Four Thoughts for about 18 months. I have mostly followed some of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche's excellent teachings. I find this practice powerful and will write more about them another time. But one thing I also did was apply the Four Thoughts to taking cold showers.
Here are my instructions for how to do so. It's worth a try.
Set a timer to 3 minutes. Turn the water fully cold. At least one body part must be exposed to the water throughout.
- I appreciate my fortunate circumstances. I can breathe. I am safe. I am able to wash myself. I have a roof over my head. I have money. I have food. I have the ability to observe my own mind.
I appreciate any other positive qualities of human life.
- I notice how sensations are constantly changing. I feel pain or discomfort or resistance. But when I try to observe it closely, it is constantly changing. I can see when I have aversion to something, it isn't the sensation, but my idea of it. When I actually pay attention to the sensation, the idea fades and there is no aversion.
I may examine other aspects of impermanence.
- I notice cause and effect. I may notice: When I pay close attention to my sensation, the pain disappears. I often notice that I am tense and holding my breath. I may notice that when I relax and breathe deeply, the resistance to the cold goes away further.
I may examine other aspects of cause and effect.
- At this point, I am fairly relaxed. I can appreciate how my initial discomfort with the cold was purely my own construction. Something I added on top of the pure sensory experience. And I can appreciate how it is possible to let go off aversion and how suffering disappears.
I always am grateful and energized after taking a cold shower. I have no doubt that there are many health benefits to taking cold showers. But they are also an amazing vehicle to develop your mind and understand the nature of reality.