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Have I mentioned my Buddhist youth? I grew up in Boulder, as I never tire of telling people because I’m insufferably attached to the memory of the place, and believe me, it’s just a memory now, the reality being mostly tech startups. But back then, there were a lot of Buddhists in Boulder and they were fascinating. 

I remember one very scene-y bunch. You could always spot them. I mean, their building was dipped in gold! They didn’t wear robes and beads, they wore three-piece suits. They ran a writing school and it wasn’t called Random Writing School, it was called The Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. 

See what I mean? A certain flair. Naturally I started hanging around. One of their number, a really louche guy (even for them), told me this right away: “Ego will get you into meditation—but it can’t get you out again.”

Sorry to report his observation was accurate: I was not in it for the egolessness. As you will guess, ego-battering ensued. Many personal wounds and community schisms later, I left. 

Except, somehow: ego couldn’t get me out of it, after all. Like a dummy, I kept going back to similar places. Which is how I ran into the meditation teacher Reginald Ray at a yoga center.

What happened next was I heard him say something like this: “A meditator can only go so far with the mind. Sooner or later, if you want to go further, you’ve got to get into the body.” (Not an exact quote, but close!)

It was the way he said it, I suppose. With a non-judgmental vibe so different from the patronizing yoga teacher who took me aside to say, unsolicited: “I just reeeeeelly think yoga would help you get into your body.” She may have been right, but … rude! I’m the only person who gets to decide whether or not I’m in my body.

So it’s taken some time, but I’m properly into Reggie’s advice these days. Getting right into that body of mine down three paths.

Inner Awareness

Ruth Chiles treats “the yips” aka focal dystonia, or a kind of record-skip muscle memory that causes athletes, musicians and surgeons to clutch. I don’t suffer from the yips, but Ruth’s meditation for interoception, or inner awareness, has been my golden key for literally getting into the body. 

In the meditation, Ruth gently suggests becoming aware of “bones and muscles, ligaments and tendons, soft tissues, nerve endings, blood vessels, and so forth” and the first time I heard this I LOLed. For real Ruth?! “AND SO FORTH?” Like, is there more!? I can barely feel skin in some places. But I keep doing this meditation (it’s free) and now I can feel some of these things. I look forward to, yes, more. 


The next thing I’ve been doing is the breathing meditation on the Wim Hof app. (Here is one on YouTube.) You probably know about Wim Hof, aka the Iceman, or the fellow that climbs mountains in his bathing suit in the winter. He’s taught me to hold my breath much longer than I ever thought possible. 

As with Ruth’s meditation, the first time I heard him say “Feel your heart. Slow it down,” I was incredulous. But it’s real. In some way I can’t explain, a person can indeed feel their heart from the inside and slow its pace. Wim, I’ll be free-diving for abalone before you know it.

Cold Plunging

The Iceman is more famously an evangelist for the cold (which unlike oxygen kinda needs an ambassador). His feeling about getting our bodies into cold water is urgent and messianic and in his book—The Wim Hof Method—you find out why. 

But cold plunging also makes its own case. You start to crave it, just like they tell you. 

I mean! It’s 100°F here at Daniels Ranch, so check back in with me this winter. But because of upwelling, the water at the shore here is barely hitting 60 right now and I tell you what: there’s no place to be in water that temperature other than in your body in the present moment. No room for hopes and fears there, which is to say: kind of the whole point (if there is one) of meditation.

So I’m so curious: How do you go into the body? What’s that meant for you? I’m keen to know more.

Image credit: Zwemmend meisje, Fotodienst NSB, 1940–1943, Rijksmuseum. Used with permission.

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About The Author

Max Daniels is a research-based life coach whose weekly emails make us laugh with recognition and rethink everything we thought we knew. Her new book is Meals at Mealtimes. What a concept!


  • Max, I too, believe the Wim Hof method is an wonderful discipline. I started it during the beginning of the pandemic. I’m still amazed at the incredible calm that comes over me after the cold shower. I hope the readers try it for a week and see for themselves. The breathing technique has absolutely contributed to my health.

  • This week Richard Rohr’s meditation has been all about the body and how the early church made a wrong turn in dismissing it in favor of the spirit instead of integrating them. And now Max is at it. My universe is definitely telling me something here.

    • I feel the same way!! I’ve loved this week’s meditations by Father Rohr and now this, definitely a sign! – I’m dealing with ANOTHER cancer diagnosis- and definitely need some way to handle it all. I find Max’s writing so helpful and of course, MDK! BTW, God willing, I should be OK, but really, enough is enough!

  • I, too, developed an interest in getting grounded in physical awareness with Reggie Ray, at a retreat in Red Feather Lakes north of Boulder. In the context of these meditation retreats, he was teaching getting grounded via body awareness and breathing, Soon after, I moved to Boulder, where, at the time (early aughts), Richard Freeman’s Yoga Works was revered in the Buddhist community.

    Yoga practice (including breath regulation) became, and remains, one of my two essentials for feeling happy and appreciative in an aging body. The other is distance running. I now live in Madison, Wisconsin, which has many running trails, often very lovely; some are cleared of snow during our long midwestern winters. These are things I prioritized in choosing where to retire.

    Since this is MDK, I’ll also mention that Madison has a large knitter’s guild, and a nearby wool and sheep festival each fall.

    • Lovely!

  • I don’t know if it is exactly getting into the body but I find both long distance running and swimming make me very aware of my body and it’s capabilities and limitations. Both are quite meditative.

    • This! Exercise can be so wonderfully meditative if you allow it. One of the reasons I’ve always liked swimming is that it’s just you and your thoughts.

    • I totally agree.

    • And running without earbuds/headphones. Just you and yourself. I love it.

  • I immediately thought, swimming laps. Hitting the place where you could just go on and on and on.

  • This is superinteresting, Max. I don’t know if it’s because of pandemic or the times or a need for lighter mood, but I’ve been in motion a lot more in the past three months. I started doing interval workouts from the internet and am (for the first time ever!) thinking about it not as “I need to get into shape/lose weight/wear old pants” but rather “How’s my mood now?” after I do my moving around. Just paying attention to the way I feel is incredibly motivating. I never regret the effort, ever. I’m totally smug about it! Walking the neighborhood is a part of this Get Moving thing on days when I’m not flailing around on the floor. It is such a help, all this motion.

  • Great, thought provoking article. Appreciated.

  • I love cold water. I love being in my body in lots of ways, here’s one: attention to flow/dance. I can exercise but if I can bring a little attention to dance/grace into it, it makes the joy so much more.

  • I have been swimming in Lake Superior in August. In the body is all you can be is right. I will have to check out Wim Hof’s book. I read James Nestor’s Breath which was really enlightening, and he discussed Wim Hof. Can I do the cold shower??

  • Tai chi is another powerful way to get into the body.

  • I like Bar Method (barre workouts) because they are so challenging to me, I have to concentrate very hard and that leaves no room for any distracted thinking.

  • In response to Max’s question as to how I get into the body. I practice the Feldenkrais method where focus is on the feeling the movements done from inside – for example, when I lift my arm what details are involved- arms, shoulder, shoulder blade, ribs etc. – can apply to knitting and actually have taught a class multiple times around this.

  • I put “Yoga for Seniors” by Shelley Nicole (YouTube) on my Smart TV. It is 28 minutes long, gets you in touch with your body and ends with Savasana, the Corpse Pose. Your body is completely relaxed. Stress is released.

  • I tend to use Deirdre Fay’s work on Becoming Safely Embodied. Bringing kindness plus awareness to bodily sensations, plus clarifying my reactivity, really helps me stay in my body when emotions get too much. Then I can use lots of techniques: yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, road biking, and life, to stay present in my body.

  • Earlier this year I was in a functional restoration program for chronic pain from autoimmune disease. My OT taught me about feldenkrais, and it changed how I live in my body. I was very suspicious about it—it seemed too good to be true.

  • I find my calm in just being mindful while swimming. No cold water needed. Just by focusing on the sensation and movement helps me recharge.

  • I too spent part of my youth in the Boulder Buddhist community (But in the early ’70s). Some of the group eventually moved to Halifax, but I was mesmerized by the suit-wearing, attitude laden men. The women who cleaned and cooked for Rinpoche (the beloved one) made my teenage mind totally crazy. Hey, wake up!
    Now I follow a teacher who has a great sense of humor, is kind and reasonable.
    Knitting can truly be part of a mindful practice.

  • My father taught me as a child to float on my back in the water–it must have been at a lake. I don’t remember my dad ever being in a swimming pool. I love to just float and be. Let the water be the only sound in my ears, close my eyes and drift. Sooo meditative. I’ve done this in lakes, pools and oceans. Bliss

  • Thank you for this reflection. I use guided meditations and look forward to checking out those mentioned here. Always good to take a break and check into your body.

  • Interesting, the Sounds True podcast this week is with Wim Hof. Meanwhile, how do I get into my body? A three-minute dance party with Nikka Costa singing Everybody Got Their Something always, always works. Try it!

  • Well, first boyfriend lived in Boulder, and his father was a bodybuilding lawyer, terrifying in aviator sunglasses.

    I recently had different into the body – I had covid, and I remembered a story my mother told me.

    My mother had a friend who had survived a camp in WWII. She was not Jewish – she had been taken and was being kept as a prime example of the “good aryan german” but that didn’t mean she was safe. She came to understand that anyone who showed the slightest sign of illness would disappear. An older person there taught her to keep in touch with the “robot” that controlled her body and to make sure to focus on it and keep it well. She could tell all her troubles to it and it would know what to take care of.

    During my quarantine, when I wasn’t really awake and also not really sleepy and just in nowheresville, I focused my breathing. In was the immune cells gathering strength, out was them battling the virus cells, the pause between breaths was the rest before they started gathering strength for the next offensive.

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