~Martin Luther King, Jr.
I can vividly remember the first few times I immersed myself in cold water. It immediately puts you into a primal state of being. In other words, your inner animal comes out. Your heart rate races and each beat feels very intense – almost as if your heart is going to pound right out of your chest. A natural tendency to let out some primal sounds (such as screaming, cursing and grunting) and movements (such as shaking, flexing muscles and even beating your chest) are common. By the way, this alone can have tremendous health benefits because you release pent up tension and emotions.
The cold water puts your body and mind under some extreme pressure. It is as if you are being attacked (loss of safety and security). For this reason, you lose control of your regular sense of being (you need to fight back or run away). We have all been in a situation where someone verbally attacks us and we quickly lose our cool. It is an instinctual reaction.
But can we overcome this instinctual reaction? This was my ultimate goal for taking on this 30 day cold shower challenge. Could I eventually be calm while under this extreme (cold) pressure? The answer is yes! I’ll admit, it took me a while (several weeks) before I could achieve absolute calmness but it was an incredibly rewarding experience when I finally did it. Why was this so important to me? Calmness under pressure is what turns athletes into champions, surgeons into life savers and ordinary people into extraordinary heroes.
Meditation is the practice of staying present and mindful from moment to moment. This practice allows you to be less reactive and more in control of how you respond in any given situation. Remaining in a mindful state while under extreme stress or pressure is the ultimate test of your meditative practices. If you are able to stay calm and in control of your responses in extreme circumstances then you are truly the master of your destiny. Therefore, any exercise such as the cold water challenge, offers the perfect opportunity to build this extraordinary trait into your character.