Do you like the cold?
Ice baths with the @iceman_hof breathing method at @balispiritfest was epic! Let me take you back to that experience….
DAY 1: I felt a numbness encapsulate my hands and wrists as I submerged them into a bucket of ice, pushing my perceived limits of being able to endure freezing cold temperatures. I wanted to give up. I wanted to take my hands out of the ice. I wanted to run and hide. At the same time, I also wanted to push past the discomfort.
1 minute down. Breathe. Fuck, this is hard. 2 minutes. Breathe. Ok, I can do this. Then 3-5 minutes. I was tripping 🤩 Breathe. Maybe I could stay a little longer. Breathe. Get out. Wow, that was equally as painful as it was invigorating.
I was pulled toward the ice and now I knew why. The real practice was not the cold. The practice was in staying with what feels uncomfortable, what we fear and want to run from, knowing that eventually, the body would adjust to the cold, the pain and discomfort would become manageable, even subside, and the incredible benefits and feeling on the other side…. (an awakening of sorts), would be worth it. Physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually. Wow. The cold is a life metaphor.
Then, time for the feet and ankles to bathe in icy cold madness. Instantly, pain takes over and the mind says “I can’t do this”, so I get out of the ice pool. One of the guys encourages me to get back in. So I did. But as quickly as I got back in, I ran for the second time. The same guy tells me to breathe and get back in again. This time, as much as I wanted to run, I stayed for the remaining 1.5 minutes. I couldn’t feel my feet, yet they were like a quantum field of sensation. Body intelligence was so evident.
DAY 2: Frozen fingers and frosty feet. Second time around with new awareness and freezing cold extremities, the urge to run was present, but more of an afterthought. I made it to 5 minutes of each again, and fuck it was painful, but somehow it was ok.
Today, a deeper aspect of this cold experience emerged. Community, connection and intimacy with Self and others.
I started each ice immersion with eyes closed. Once the cold felt easier to endure, I opened my eyes, and this is where I saw and felt the connection and power of community. It also helped me ground to know that I was alive and not alone. Gazing into each other’s eyes, as we breathed the same breath, went through the same challenge, the same pain, it was ok, because we were all in this together. We leaned on each other, some of us having our hand on someone else’s shoulder; a beautiful representation of the connection and support that was present in the group.
We’re not done though. Full body ice bath. “Who is fearful of this?”(asks the facilitator). Several of us (including myself) raise our hands. “Great, you’re going first!” he says. Me: OH SHIT!
Second in line, I jumped into the ice bath, dunked my head under the ice water, then sat up, pressing my hands against my chest, breathing consciously and deeply, using the specific technique we were shown, to distract us from how cold it was. Breathe. You’ve got this. You’re doing so well. We were supported from all directions.
Full body immersion wasn’t so bad! 5 minutes gone and I jumped out. Total body numbness. To warm up and create heat, we formed a circle, then moved, jumped around and made sounds together, until regular feeling and temperature came back to our bodies. We hugged and high-fived. We were high, energetic, happy and alive! Such an amazing, expansive, enlivening experience! And I slept really well that night!
Have you experienced ice baths, cold showers or cold ocean plunges? Do you avoid the cold? Consider sitting with the cold. It is an amazing teacher!