Do things that scare you

Fear is my baseline. It’s my knee-jerk reaction to pretty much everything. I don’t like being uncomfortable. But when I let fear rule, I cocoon in my den and the fears get bigger, and my willingness to face the world gets weaker.

So I’ve done a ton of things I was afraid to do. I was terrified when firing someone for the first time as a manager, or speaking at a UNESCO event in Korea, or doing an internship with a remote Mayan community in Guatemala. Every time I am afraid things will be uncomfortable, I remind myself that I washed from a rain barrel – for weeks – outdoors in the mountains near Quetzaltenango. 🥶

But to be honest, I still resist being uncomfortable and doing things that I’ve never done before. I’ve made peace with the fact that “nope” is my first reaction. I smile and screw up my courage to do it anyway.

A couple years ago, Molly became determined to do a Wim Hof workshop which culminates in two minutes in an ice bath. She said the extreme cold activates the endocannabinoid system in our brains decreasing stress, depression and anxiety.

OK. What she actually said was:

“It’s supposed to feel amazing!”

I thought “Oh boy, here we go.”

First, because when she’s hypomanic she gets these wild ideas that scare me.

Second, because sitting in a barrel full of ice is something that I always thought was unnecessarily painful, bordering on stupid.

But like I said, I make a point of not stopping at “nope” and doing things that scare me when the opportunity presents itself. (Or is jumping up and down excitedly beside me). So after checking the credentials of the facilitators, I agreed.

The workshop was amazing. It was held in a yurt in Northern Ontario woods in early Summer. The forest was buzzing with new life. The sun sparkled through leaves as though they were stained glass. The air was fragrant with fresh pollen.

We learned about the mind-body connection. We heard inspiring stories of healing and perseverence. And we practiced breathing techniques.

Then it was time for the ice bath. Gah!

I trembled as they filled an old wine barrel full to the brim with ice.

I questioned my sanity.

But the facilitator was lovely. She didn’t make me feel stupid or embarrassed for trembling. She was supportive and reassuring, and held my hand as I climbed the wooden stairs and stepped into the barrel sinking down to my shoulders. She coached me to breathe as we had practiced.

You know what I’m going to say: it was awesome.

It was strange to feel the body adjust to the extreme cold. I stopped shaking. My core grew hot. My mind fell silent. And then the two minutes were over.

The experience taught me that my body can do things I will find hard to believe. It is built for survival, after all. It is built to adapt. It is much tougher and more resilient than my mind wants me to believe.

My mind will always argue for staying safe, staying quiet, staying hidden. And why shouldn’t it? It is trying to keep me alive and comfortable in a random and turbulent world that does not always have my best interest.

But I don’t always have to agree. If I want to feel alive, I need to push the boundaries of my comfort zone now and then.

Will it be scary?

Well, for me, yes, most likely.

Will it seem stupid?

In a last-ditch attempt to dissuade me, my mind will question my sanity. 🤔

Should I do it anyway?

Likely. (I did check into the workshop and made sure I felt in good hands.)

Will I regret it?

Not likely. I want to learn and grow and experience new things. I want to live while I’m still here.

How was it?

It was amazing. I felt euphoric for the rest of the day. I don’t know if that’s because of the ice water bath or the fact that I did something that scared me, but…

It doesn’t matter.

Photo by trail on Unsplash

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