Improve your survivability with Misogi

misogi challenges to build endurance

Right now, you’re probably sitting in a chair in a brightly lit, climate-controlled environment as you read this. You’re likely not hungry, exhausted, thirsty, in pain, or in danger. You’re comfortable.

Maybe too comfortable?

Not by today’s standards. In fact, should we experience any of the above-mentioned discomforts, a large proportion of individuals will feel compelled to document their “plight” on social media. This isn’t a rant on the evils of comfort. It’s natural for us to take advantage of comfort, our human condition gravitates towards it. However, modern living without much discomfort makes us soft and, more importantly, unhappy.

Think for a moment of the discomfort aversive technology available to us in our day to day living. Discomfort like our ancestors faced only a few generations ago is unheard of in our present state of nearly constant comfort.

Break the Comfort Cycle

What would your mental state be if, through some disaster or circumstance, everything that brought you comfort was gone? As a survivor, it’s to your benefit to know your limits. Better yet, take a step beyond knowing and expand your tolerance for discomfort.

Special forces do this regularly. In his book On Combat, the Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and Peace Dave Grossman goes into detail on how special forces operatives push their limits to the point where they literally become comfortable with very discomforting situations.

For us less commando types, we can expand our mettle by embracing the concept of “Misogi”. It’s a Japanese word that can be loosely described as “doing hard stuff because it’s hard.”

In the book The Comfort Crisis,  Misogi is described as “an emotional, spiritual, and psychological challenge that masquerades as a physical challenge.”

For some, Misogi takes the form of an ultra marathon. For others, the challenge could be pushing yourself through to the finish line of a 5K, or taking an ice bath.

Simply put, Misogi is any physical activity that tests your mettle and pushes you to the point of meeting the real (insert your name here).

The Challenge

I’m a fan of training for the real experience. Why wait to face an actual trial before wondering how you’ll do? Worse yet, such trials usually hit you in multiples. At least with this exercise, you face them one at a time.

If you’re having problems coming up with ideas, I have a few that you might consider. Here are some challenges that every prepper should experience to some degree. Living with and through a discomfort is an invaluable lesson for survivors. They teach you what to expect of yourself (and others) should you meet this challenge during an actual crisis.

There are only two rules to Misogi. 1) Make it hard and expect to suffer, and (2) don’t kill yourself, just suffer.

Take the plunge

Take an ice bath. Not into ice baths? How about an icy river or lake? And I mean icy.

Get cold. Real cold. Experiencing cold is one of the most mentally challenging stressors. Plus, it’s a common discomfort in many survival situations. So get use to the experience. Take the plunge.

misogi in an icy lake
Take an extended plunge in an icy lake

Do not tackle this challenge without a partner versed in the symptoms of hypothermia. The goal is to experience the discomfort of cold and note its effects on your body.

No Lard for You!

Fast for a day. Done that already? Yeah, I know. Fasting is pretty vogue right now. Many of you might already be pros at this for one purpose or another. So up your game. Make it two days. Still not enough? Throw in an exercise routine.

From personal experience, never break a multi-day fast with a couple of high octane beers. It only sounds like the perfect reward.

Like getting cold, being hungry is something most of us rarely, if ever, are forced to experience in our present culture of comfort. But when you have no expectation of procuring food for a day, things can seem really grim. Knowing you can handle a day or two without food and still function is a great confidence builder in times of chaos and uncertainty.

Since we’re talking about food here, check out these great fireside recipes.

Sleepless in …

Go without sleep. Remember as kids staying up all night? Then why doesn’t it sound fun now? Try it and note your level of cognitive function throughout the next day. I’d advise against driving or making any important financial decisions.

For an extra kick add some stress to the mix. Drive out to the forest or open country, and hang out for the night in an unfamiliar yet relatively safe location.

Run to explore

Pick a landmark, get your running shoes on, and just go. You can run direct from your house to a landmark of your choice or consider what scenery you might be interested to investigate.

Running is excellent for exploration. Some cities or towns have greenbelt paths alongside a river which I have often found are excellent to check out, particularly in the morning before the masses awaken. Take the path until you can either go no further or you’ve seen all there is interesting to see, then turn around and head back.

You don’t have to go fast, either. Establish a comfortable cadence to where you’ll not be tempted to burn yourself out but quicker than walking pace so you can cover ground in a hurry.

Straight routes are easiest not to get lost on, as if you run for long enough it may be difficult to remember your way back.

Push yourself. Go further, faster, or longer than you’ve gone before. Make it a goal to set a new personal record in any of those categories each time you go out. Beyond pushing yourself to the limit, running will help your cardio and muscular fitness, you’ll also find a number of other benefits. My personal favorite is trimming the anxiety from my mind each time I go out.

Hit the trail

Walk for miles, and miles, and miles. It needs to be a mind and body numbing exercise. Make it a circuit/loop hike instead of an out and back trip. That takes away the temptation of turning around too early.

Are you a stellar hiker? Then hike in the rain or snow to the point that you are really regretting it. That is the key to this exercise. It isn’t about the scenery or destination. Its about trudging on for hours on end because, well, you might have to evacuate on foot some day. And the closest safe spot is 30 miles down that highway.

Location is not an excuse for not attempting this one. I read where one guy ran an entire marathon going back and forth on his apartment balcony. Covid had cancelled the race he had trained for, but he was determined to run it.

Boring as Hell

Get bored. Really bored. Mind numbingly bored. (You see the pattern with some of these)

You might be surprised how you react to total boredom. It’s more alien to us these days than an icy plunge. In fact, when you’ve been really bored, you might even have scrolled through videos of people taking the Polar Bear Challenge – because the alternative, God forbid, was being alone with your thoughts. And that’s a big part of this challenge.

Leave your devices and toys behind and go somewhere where it’s only you and your thoughts. Totally isolate. Take a walk into nature, find a comfy place to hang out, and let the hours pass achingly by.

I watched one of those survival series on television where individuals were placed along the coast of British Columbia and told that whoever could survive the longest without having to call for help would win like a $100,000 or something. Many gave up before they could reach the point where they could survive in those conditions.

As expected, a number of them overcame one challenge after another for several weeks, managing to build adequate shelter, stock up a food supply, build fires, etc., to the point where they were set for the long haul. They had essentially beat the challenge. It was only a matter of waiting the others out.

However, a few contestants mentally fell apart once their minds didn’t have to constantly focus on survival. They gave up, citing reasons that seemed pale in comparison to the prize money they left behind. Out there all alone, with no worries to focus on, their minds started working against them.

Hope I didn’t bore you with that story.

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