Ditching the status quo

Status Quo: Noun  – The existing state of affairs, esp. regarding social or political issues: “they have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo”.

I tried something radical this morning. My back and limbs were stiff and painful on waking as always at this time of the year. Normally I strive to keep warm at all costs and apply heat…take a hot shower…sit with hot wheat bags against my body for what feels like half the morning…make sure the house is warm. Cold-avoidance has become my mantra of the cooler months (and doesn’t that flag up the inherent conflict being waged in my physicality) as I’ve learned the hard way that a sustained drop in temperature can be the worst thing imaginable for how my body fares as it typically locks up in pain.


Yet, browsing my emails in bed, I tripped upon an article on ‘Contrast Showers Hydrotherapy‘ from The Future of Health Now. It propounded the theory, long favoured by people living in the far north, that heat swiftly followed by a short-sharp immersion in extreme cold, is a practice conducive to extreme good health, to optimum organ function and all the rest of it.

Of course, we’ve all heard of those ‘mad’ people that follow up a stint in a hot sauna with a skinny dip in a sub-zero lake or roll in the snow. Like most people, I’ve wondered if there is something in it for ‘other people’ yet have clung fiercely to my hot baths and showers due to my muscle pain…even in spite of all the tireless efforts I’ve made to improve the functioning of my organs and metabolism for years now. Temperature had become my blind spot.

The sentence that grabbed me here was “The more severe the pain or illness, the more severe will be the necessary changes. These may involve breaking bad habits, or acquiring some new and better ones” and I suddenly realised that, for all I’ve broken just about all my ‘old’ habits in the name of recovery, here was one massive one, at the very centre of it all, that remained quite untouched.

Without a moment’s hesitation, that inner voice that connects with higher self (and made me wonder at the sheer perfection of this email ‘happening’ into my inbox on this very morning after affirmation that this is it, ‘I choose to be well’)  told me this was a great idea, I really should try it.

So I did – stood for good ten minutes or so, as normal, under the hottest water my shower can deliver and then…without pause for second-thought…I finger-span the dial right down to freezing point and stood there for what certainly felt like a good thirty seconds of icy cold water power-showered straight at my head and torso. One round of this felt like quite enough on the first ‘go’.

Then I stepped out of the shower (with none of the usual dizzy head pounding disorientation but briskly) and over to the bedroom to get dressed (without any of the usual flop on the bed to slow the room spin and allow the wave exhaustion that usually follows my shower to pass). I felt instantly alert, clear-headed, invigorated, motivated and…dare I say it…quite ridiculously good!

It was around then that a wry smile began to tickle around my lips. I’ve been looking at things so much from the ‘new’ perspective of full spectrum living, experiencing and incorporating…embracing the non-polarised viewpoint that allows us to dip our brush in at any point across the palette of life and choose whatever we wish to sample in each moment, without fear, without labelling anything as ‘wrong’, ‘dangerous’, ‘bad for us’ or ‘ill-advised’.

In fact, across so much of my life, I’ve been all about allowing the full breadth of experience… celebrating the very fact that we chose to be here on this planet, in this life, in order to HAVE all those experiences. I’ve been so in the flow.

But then with my ‘stuck’ health, I’ve been camped out at the ‘extreme hot end’ of the spectrum, clinging to the status quo of managed pain, gripping on to the ‘safe’ position that tells me that at least if I keep my body warm my pain won’t be aggravated, it won’t flare up, there will be minimal reaction, an avoidance of drama…


So how is this any different to how I/we have been living our lives metaphorically wrapped up and coddled in the status quo of our political, societal and cultural structures to which we adhere largely for fear of riling up a situation, stepping out into the unfamiliar or aggravating circumstances of which we have become fearful to the point of virtual paralysis.

Not at all. Brings to mind the old adage ‘there is nothing to fear but fear itself’ because – as I feel like I’ve just demonstrated to myself – its not the metaphorical ‘cold’ that has had us seized up for so very long, its our very fear of it!

In my own case, even while my energy body has been expanding into all new territory, pain avoidance had become everything in my physical body and as a bi-product of this, I’d stopped allowing myself to feel all but the most limited range of sensations…forgotten that even a brief dip into a broader range of sensations can have a balancing and opening effect upon the whole range of experience that makes up our life-adventure.

From the unpolarised, all-inclusive point of view, a bit of drama, of sensation, of contrast and extreme is to be welcomed, it cooks up a new breadth of experience, it stimulates sensations that stretch and question us, titilate the senses and remind us what it is to be alive. That explosion of experience, once allowed, then tends to find its own level, its own best resting place that is neither too ‘hot’ nor too ‘cold’; too ‘dark’ or too light’. Without allowing ourselves to experience both ends, how do we ever find our chosen middle ground, the place where we are optimised (rather than a default territory of status quo, clung to out of fear).

After all, we came are here expressly to experience all that life has to offer…to try it all out.The only reason we have constructed so much fear and dread around so many experiences is this old tendency to identify with each and every one of them, to become that experience (or allow it to become us like a label we have given ourself), to wear it every day like a favourite suit and take it all rather too seriously rather than just allowing it to pass through like a magical colour-show; just as the landscape doesn’t ‘become’ the dark, or anything else for that matter, but merely changes hue and tone in each and every experience of the light in an endlessly changing colour display.

Once we can allow that passing-through of experience in ourselves, we can open up to it all without fear of getting drawn into anything that all-consumes us; we can choose from it all. We no longer feel as though we have to grip to something that we have long-ago labelled our ‘best’ or ‘only’ option, like a sailor gripping onto the mast of a shipwrecked boat, and so we suddenly free ourselves to reinvent that definition in each and every moment, to play with it all.

My body, right now, is neither too hot nor too cold, I feel remarkably alert and energised and, while my muscles feel a little surprised (I can tell) by their morning’s experience, they are doing OK and feel sort-of curious, as though awoken from a deep slumber to greet a brand new morn. Certainly not pain-free but ‘different’…and different can be such a good sign. Nothing ‘bad’ has happened and, at the first attempt, I am encouraged to venture into this more by making it my morning practice for a while…like a literal embrace of both ends of the spectrum as an experiential plunge into my day and then allowing my physical self to choose its own optimal landing place across the broadly expanded range of all possibility.

Somewhere across that breadth of experience, we find our way to our own personal experience of bliss, exactly like the hydrotherapy patients described in the article who, after their treatment, “looking stunned, dazed and doped-up, almost drooling on the floor… were relaxed, physically blissed out – emotionally and spiritually healed.”

Once again, aren’t our physical-selves the greatest metaphor for, and teachers about, the so much bigger picture?

On a related theme

Getting to choose our canvas size


About Helen White

Helen White is a professional artist and published writer with two primary blogs to her name. Her themes pivot around health and wellbeing, expanded consciousness and ways of noticing how life is a constant dance between the deeply subjective and the collective-universal, all of which she explores with a daily hunger to get to know herself better. Her blog Living Whole shines a light on living with high sensitivity, dealing with trauma and healing from chronic health issues. Spinning the Light is an extremely broad-based platform where she elucidates the everyday alchemy of relentless self-exploration. A lifetime of "feeling like an outsider" slowly emerged as neurodivergence (being a Highly Sensitive Person with ADHD, synaesthesia, sensory processing challenges and other defecits overlapping with giftedness). All of these topics are covered in her blogs, written from two distinct vantage points so, if you have enjoyed one of them, you may wish to explore the other for a different, yet entirely complimentary, perspective.
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6 Responses to Ditching the status quo

  1. When I was first diagnosed I stayed in bed a lot, too scared to get out and walk around in the horrible pain I had become used to. Being inactive made everything worse, and it was only when I became so bored of being in bed that I ventured out, and realised life wasn’t the scary place I thought of in my head. Yes I felt pain, but I could handle it. It lessened as I grew stronger again. There’s too many great things out there to live in fear and stay at home, we need to go and explore.


    • Helen White says:

      Couldn’t agree more, I ‘do’ so much that most people don’t even guess there’s anything ‘wrong’ but the early months of laying low depressed me utterly and that just fed into the feeling of being unwell.


  2. karinvandenbergh says:

    Oh my God, Helen, you’re so courageous by exploring that ‘other side’ of the spectrum 😀
    Temperature is my blind spot as well. I’ve tried the hydrotherapy a couple of times, since I too am a very ‘chilly’ girl and have to deal with circulatory problems and although I’m familiar with the health benefits and do feel a difference afterwards it’s still soooo cold! One thing though, at least I feel much more appreciation for the luxury of having hot water running out of the faucet.
    I’m glad it’s working for you. I might wanna try it again..one day 😉


    • Helen White says:

      Ha, perhaps a little foolhardy…I hurt soooo much today, but could also be the solar flares and eclipse energies. Will start the hydrotherapy again tomorrow…;-) Mainly, the thought processing I went through of realising how gripped I had been to only one ‘solution’ for fear of trying anything else felt like a huge lesson yesterday…broadening out my options in all arenas.


  3. You seem always to be so open to exploring new ways of being, I’m glad that stepping through the fear had a benefit for you.


    • Helen White says:

      Thank you Andrea! Im still ploughing on with the cold shower blast (most mornings) and whilst my muscles object a little, the overall feeling of wellbeing is worth it 😉 I would never have known this if I hadn’t been prepared to try it and I suspect the benefits could be cumulative.


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