What kind of thoughts come to your mind when you think of swimming in the Ocean? Most of us get a chilly ripple down our spine just thinking of it. It’s a bittersweet relationship we have to one of the greatest gifts on the earth. No one can deny its beauty and it’s ability to sooth and even excite you. Living in Southern California it’s a luxury not many get to enjoy but she’s also a bit of a tease, because, let’s face it, who wants to hop into 40 degree water? I am not a fan of cold water and I don’t know anyone who is, but I adore the ocean and adore being in nature. In fact, there’s nothing I enjoy more in life than being in a tropical location, the sun beaming down onto me, and swimming inside clear, warm tropical waters with fish and turtles swimming beneath me. Not so much the case in Santa Monica or Malibu.
Several years ago I overcame a large fear I didn’t know I had: Walking on fire atop raking hot coals. I had done one of Anthony Robbins live seminars called Unleash the Power Within, and it was life changing. So, when the moment came to pull up my pants, take off my shoes and walk across 2000 degree coals, I did so successfully without a burn or blister. Fast forward a few years and my friend Olaf tells me about the Iceman, a mature man who lives in Europe who can successfully regulate his own body temperature with his breath, and as such, can sit in ice or ice water for two hours. He holds the world record.
My friend Olaf, being a Chi Gong master and, and master of many things spiritual, took a keen interest and invited the “Iceman” out to Los Angeles to do a seminar on the secrets of doing what he does. This is also a man who ran a marathon barefoot in the Sahara desert with no water. He’s amazing. And he stayed at my house for a few nights.
During the seminar, and after a few hours of breathing practices we had to put our skills to the test. A bathtub stood outside and in it, several hundred pounds of ice cubes. Our job as students was to climb in, sit up to our neck in ice, and breathe deeply. I remember not being terribly nervous about it but also disgusted with myself that I had put myself in this situation – what was I thinking?
It didn’t help that attractive women were hopping in in their bikinis and making the most indulgent faces as though they were receiving some sort of euphoric pleasure from the ice itself. After several men that needed to be first went in, it was finally my turn. Ready, set, go! I wanted to get it over quickly but the idea was not to rush. I climbed in, pushed the ice all the way up to my neck and began to deeply breathe. I’m not going to lie, I found the experience challenging, but there I was turning into a human popsicle with the Iceman giving words of encouragement alongside us. Not only that, but everyone there, roughly 40 of us, were all standing around the tub watching.
Now the lessons that come from something like this run far deeper than just a shock factor experience. It taught me a lot about myself and both how capable I was but also how much I could grow. And it wasn’t over yet. The next day, we had to go to the ocean – and of course it was a cold, dark and overcast day. In fact it wasn’t even a pleasant day to be standing on the beach at all even in a wool jacket and pants. But there we all were, most of us, in our bathing suits preparing to practice our breathing exercises inside the freezing cold ocean.
And we did. In and out we went. Swimming all the way in the ocean then back out on the sand for deep breathing practices. Then back in again, then back out. Quite an amazing experience. Many of us began to shiver strongly after about 10 minutes of being out of the water and we used our breathing to bring us back to normal. It was truly an amazing experience.
I share this story because since then, I have made the cold Pacific Ocean my friend. Probably that Winter, Spring and this last Summer that followed, I was in the ocean 15 more times and guess what? It was absolutely amazing!!! Yes, cold sometimes but amazing!
There is nothing like the power of the ocean to literally wash away all of your concerns. Nothing brings you more to a zero point awareness than being in an ocean. It’s a gift you just can’t get anywhere else, not even in a pool. So while normally I am a man who appreciates comfort, I am so glad that I had these experiences. It has opened up a world to me that has changed my life forever.