It was warm, 75 degrees, and rather humid for a spring day. I stood at the shoreline ready to take a plunge with my friend Libby, when she offered a challenge: “I’m going to stay in for ten minutes but if you don’t feel up to it, no worries.”
Okay, it wasn’t exactly a direct challenge, but because I’m competitive by nature (particularly with myself), I knew I’d have to give it a shot. Up until that point, I’d only jumped in and out of the frigid Atlantic Ocean so staying put for ten minutes felt like quite a stretch.
As I followed Libby into the water, I told myself I was crazy, that it was silly to stay in cold water for that long (the water was 46 degrees), and that because I hadn’t trained to do so, I wouldn’t last more than a minute.
Which is exactly why I stayed in for ten.
I plunge because it’s fun and for the exhilaration I feel when I get out of the water. But I also do it as an act of rebellion, a symbolic practice of ignoring the mind. I don’t want my life to be limited by fear as I grow older. I want to stay open to new experiences and enjoy the kind of adventures that make me feel alive, resilient, and strong.
Standing in the cold water and doing my best to breathe through the fear and discomfort, I listened to my mind replay a soundtrack I’ve heard a million times before. At the one-minute mark, it told me I’d never be able to stay for ten. At two minutes it told me I’d already done enough and it was fine to stop. Then, when that didn’t work, it warned me that, at my age, it wasn’t smart to expose my body to such extreme temperatures.
The mind can be such a smarty pants, can’t it?
It’s helpful to become familiar with the sneaky ways your mind tries to keep you in line. Those lines can become bars that will imprison you in a small life if you let them.
Now that the warm weather is here, I’m on the lookout for a new practice to continue my “mindlessness” training through the summer. If you have any suggestions I’m all ears.