A cold shower or nothing!

by Apr 17, 2019Wim Hof ® Method, Breathing

« To leave one's comfort zone», « to leave one's comfort zone», « to widen one's comfort zone»... so many expressions that encourage us to explore new horizons, outside our known and mastered perimeter.

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Yes, but what for?

It is clear that these injunctions are aimed at those who, voluntarily, wish to develop themselves to their full potential and discover the best version of themselves. This implies engaging in a learning process (wise apprentice?) which, once started, will probably never stop. First of all, because you get a taste for the learner's posture. Then because as we "grow up", our perspective broadens and we open ourselves to new potentialities - our own and those that the world offers us. As progress brings progress, we thus create a virtuous movement that allows us to discover and tame our uniqueness and our omnipotence.

"Our deepest fear is not that we are not up to the task. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond all limits. It is our own light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves: "Who am I to be brilliant, radiant, talented, wonderful? "In fact, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. To restrict yourself, to live small, does not serve the world. Enlightenment is not about shrinking yourself to avoid insecurity for others. We are born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not only in the chosen few: it is in each one of us, and as we allow our own light to shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. By freeing us from our own fear, our presence automatically frees others."

Speech by Nelson Mandela, Text by Marianne Williamson.

Adaptation at the heart of the process

It all starts with our birth, which is probably one of the most decisive exits from the comfort zone. Sudden light, cold, noise, hunger, touch...all these stimuli trigger emotions, actions and reactions within us, and initiate our learning and adaptation to the outside world.

Adaptation which is built each time following the same sequence. A four-step sequence.

After the unconscious incompetence - the first time - during which we don't know that we don't know (and we often live it very well!), we are quickly confronted with the conscious incompetence. And this is the first source of discomfort. For some of us, it is a source of uncertainty, stress, fear and triggers inhibition, flight or confrontation...for others it engenders envy, impatience, excitement, motivation and immediate action.

If we accept to face our incompetence and embark on learning, we may reach the third phase - conscious competence, when we know that we know. Competence is acquired, but exercising it still requires our will and conscious application. Then, with time and practice, we will succeed in forgetting that we know, to achieve unconscious competence. Things are then integrated, are part of us, and having access to them is no longer an effort.

As you will have understood, the challenge is above all to overcome the state of conscious incompetence, and to fully accept this phase of discomfort so that the magic of adaptation can take place.

Finding comfort in discomfort

So a favourable attitude can be to find comfort in this phase full of uncertainties in order to approach it in the best conditions.

Let us dare to draw a parallel with the competitive sportsman, champion of adaptation, who submits himself every day to training sessions that aim to destabilize the established physiological and mental order. This athlete knows how to approach his daily exercises by accepting the pain and the cohort of new and destabilizing sensations they generate. He plays with them, he introduces them to others, he searches for them, he intensifies them, he confronts himself but does not fight against them. He knows that they are the necessary passage so that on the day of the competition, he can be in the flow of the unconscious competence, the one that will give him access to his optimum potential.

The cold shower, an immediate application

I am no longer a competitive athlete today, but I still have a habit of putting myself in uncomfortable situations and seeking comfort. One of my rituals is to take a cold shower every morning. It is a simple and powerful act to refine my ability to maintain control over my reactions to stress.

If you want to get started, I recommend that you start the first day by taking a hot shower as always and turn the mixer tap to blue just before going out, and finish with 15 seconds of cold water. As the idea is to "go with it" without suffering and without struggling, you will try to relax your muscles (insist on the shoulders and trapezoids), smile (yes, yes!), and exhale for a long time. Repeat the operation the next day by slightly increasing the duration (5 to 10 seconds more). And so on and so forth. After a week, you will be able to shower for one minute under cold water, whistling! And then one day, you will no longer feel the need to go under hot water beforehand. And a few days later, you will look forward to that cold shower moment. You will have acquired a new skill that has become unconscious and is now motivated by an irrepressible physiological need and by the need to tune up with yourself. Just to see every morning where « you're at with the discomfort »

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