It was late March. The weather had been great, but on this day, the day I was invited to go for a “quick dip” in the English Channel, it was overcast and to be frank a little bit nippy. Why anyone would want to get in the slate grey water was beyond me, but I was promised unending health benefits and to be honest I was up for the challenge. It wasn’t something I would normally do, but don’t we all like to be pushed out of our comfort zone every now and then? And by this I don’t just mean plumping for the Portuguese white because the pub has run out of Sauvignon Blanc.
So we set out amongst the early morning dog walkers huddled in towels and a pink kimono for me. I didn’t realistically think that the cheap silk mix bought on a Bangkok pavement could protect me from the elements on this occasion, but I was clinging on to some warped sense of self-preservation. In reality the locals must have thought that the pair of us were a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic at the very least, and attire wasn’t really the issue here. Nevertheless, any extra layer was a bonus in my book especially as I’m not one for working on my beach/bikini body. In the UK. In March.
By the time we had reached the beach, my gung-ho attitude to new adventures had evaporated along with the sea mist. A niggling kind of panic started to rise up and threaten my very core. I looked to my companion (a seasoned sea swimmer come wind, rain, shine and more recently snow) and demanded survival tips. ‘Breathe’, I am told. Deep, steady breaths. ‘OK, I can do that. What else?’ And this is the interesting bit.
It’s true that all that I had running through my mind was the thought that the water was going to be bitterly cold, and that I was not going to like it. But what if I changed my story? What if I accepted that the water was just water, and experience the feeling of it on my skin? What if I did not attach a preference as to my likes or dislikes before I tried something? In other words, let go of preconceived ideas which just limit what I do and serve no useful purpose. Have an experience and appreciate it for what it is, at that very moment and without judgement or thoughts of the past which tend to lurk in all of us and prevent us from doing things for fear of failure.
And so it was that I waded in, initially shocked by the cold and unable to talk. But my breath guided me and calmed me, and taking the plunge into the water didn’t seem like the impossible task that I had thought it was just five minutes before. We swam for 6 minutes. I was even able to chat. For some bizarre reason my attention was mainly drawn to the sensation on the soles of my feet but as long as I kept moving everything literally went swimmingly.
We are often told to do things mindfully. To live in the moment. And these things are essential for our everyday health and wellbeing. They stop the stress from creeping in like a spider in the night. What I was so fascinated by was such a stark example of how powerful our minds really are. We can be completely controlled by them, often without question and sometimes with devastating results. By simply changing our story we can change our course, our destiny. We can have control over our lives and make choices that may have previously seemed utterly beyond our reach. Quite simply, if you tell yourself something will be ‘difficult’ or ‘hard’ then it will be.
I have always wanted to try Bikram yoga, but have told myself that I will not like the heat and I am not advanced enough to be able to do a class. I am booked in for next Friday.