What Is Misogi?

A traditional Japanese purification ritual centred on waterfall bathing. In the Shinto faith, ‘misogi’ means ‘water cleansing’. Standing under the icy waterfall purifies the soul and prepares one for the next 364 days of the year.

In a contemporary context, misogi has extended into a comprehensive personal development and transformation approach. The goal remains purification and renewal, but it is achieved through a broader range of pursuits, including physical and mental challenges and spiritual practices. Mental resilience is a focus; a tough physical challenge challenges the psyche; therefore, techniques such as meditation and reflection help one to tackle significant challenges. In many misogi approaches, nature plays a significant role as its energy and purity can support the cleansing process.

I was introduced to it by a friend some weeks ago, and it appealed to me. In his embracing the concept, he schedules an annual physical challenge. He failed last year, and I have understood that this is important. The misogi should challenge to the point there is a 50% probability of achieving the goal. Pushing oneself hard and looking internally for strength and resources is part of the spiritual cleansing. It cannot be in the comfort zone.

Learning More

The conversation led me to read The Comfort Crisis by Michael Easter. He posits that our modern lifestyle is too comfortable. Driving, living in air-conditioned comfort, and more food than we can ever need all serve to undermine our spiritual and physical richness and resilience. He explores this at length, centring the book on him going into Arctic Alaska for five weeks, hunting to survive, enduring extreme weather, and none of the comforts we deem essential. Five weeks without washing was a footnote, given the scale of the challenges. I approached the book with scepticism, tired of ‘bro science’ and magical diets and exercise routines. This one boils down to one simple idea – to get out of our comfort zone.

It prompted me to revisit this blog post on Mind Over Body, and I can see the threads of The Comfort Crisis running through this thinking.

My Misogi(s)

The notion appealed to me. I like to tackle hard things, not seeking to win but to prove that I can. In recent years, this has made me more resilient and self-aware, more in touch with my inner conversation, and more capable of managing my spiritual and mental health. I have already identified my 2024 misogi, with me entering the New York Marathon—my first-ever marathon and running a sport that I received medical advice to cease more than twenty years ago. Add osteoarthritis in the knees to my advanced years; I believe it’s misogi-worthy. Getting through the training and event will take a lot of mental resilience and introspection.

I’m attempting a mental misogi. I have wanted to write a novel for most of my life, even as a teenager, yet I have always found a reason not to. I believe I don’t have the skills to get it done, that I’m not naturally inclined to the artistic, and have the necessary that I don’t have the inner knowledge to write something compelling. Definitely less than a 50% chance of achieving that. I find it almost incomprehensible that I can pull together a novel. So let’s go.

I’m giving myself one year to arrive at an advanced draft of a novel. It’s my birthday in May, so to make the finish line easy to remember, let’s say the draft will be completed on 22 May 2025. It may take me two years; who knows? But it’s a big challenge that will test a lot of aspects of me, and that in my book, is a misogi.

Putting It Out There

This is a short blog, but it is important to me. I don’t want to be someone who casually throws around ideas prefaced with the words, ‘I might’. We all know people like that. Hell, I’ve done it myself. I am responsible if I tell you I will run a marathon and write a novel. There is no walking away from the misogi. Watch this space.

And as a final question: what’s your misogi?

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