“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” Buddha
I knew the feeling. My heart had started racing as soon as I woke up yesterday morning and remembered that it was Saturday, a polar plunge day. I sat at my desk for hours, drawing and thinking. I wasn’t scared, just anxious. But I had expected to feel that way. I had always experienced a nervous rush of emotion before I went onstage when I was a dancer, and nothing I did back then had helped alleviate those feelings that were connected to thoughts of failure – what if I trip? forget the steps? fall off the stage?. New thoughts taunted me: What if it’s too cold? <actually that was the only one I had! Looking at my phone at 4 am. and seeing that it was -4* (it eventually reached the 20’s) wasn’t helping!
When I finally got in the car at 9:30 I was on automatic. All I had to do was drive there, get in, get out and warm up. But half way to the beach a new thought came to me, “If you never got to the beach (flat tire, etc.), what would you have remembered of your morning? What’s more important, the event or the living that leads up to it? Will you always need a polar plunge?”
Hmm, I asked myself. Could it be that I could move to the next level with this experience?
So, for the rest of the drive I studied shadows and snow on trees alongside the road. I’m an artist-in-progress so I’m always trying to see things that I think I understand in a new way. Light and the way it falls on things is fascinating. So, I absorbed and learned about light…and noticed how calm I felt! And I loved it!
That’s when I KNEW… I’m not addicted to adrenaline. I’m addicted to joy and living deeply in the moment. I love getting to the place inside of me that’s calm,and full of love and awareness of what’s going on. I realized that for years, when I was going to do something stressful, I’d project myself into the future as if I was already doing that thing, and as if I’d feel all the feelings I thought I would feel doing it (we do that when we are asked to speak in public, perform, publish a blog post, show someone something we’ve created, say ‘I love you’, etc). But the truth, I found out, was that I could manage my emotions and thoughts and never go to the future again. I could stay in the moment, calm my heart down, and live with the truth of what was going on. Does that make sense?
I haven’t mastered it yet. It was a new one to me yesterday – one I had right before reaching the ocean for another cold dip. But I watched the video and saw a new me in it – a slightly less nervous version of me. I was calmer than I had been ever before.
I never know what I’ll learn from these plunges. But this lesson was powerful for me. I’d lived my life believing that I’d HAVE to take the adrenalin rush WITH some chosen experiences. CHOSEN is the key word. But that’s not true! When you choose the experience you have the power to choose your experience of it. That’s not the case when there’s an emergency OR when you aren’t aware of or care about why you’re doing things like bungee-jumping, or even polar plunges. It’s easy to become addicted to an adrelalin rush. But I, my friends, am on a path to uncover, loosen, and get rid of things that are negative and block joy. These plunges area a tool to do just that: to look closely at my thoughts and feelings while following through with a commitment to do something difficult, and to learn about how I’ve let those thoughts and feelings run my life instead of the other way around.
To wrap this up, like a body fresh from a frigid ocean, I’ve learned that adrenalin has it’s place, but in order to feel deep joy one has to find the calm and look for beauty in life to truly experience it. Adrenalin is a powerful “drug” and can actually slow down one’s journey to joy if you can’t learn to master it.
That said, the PLUNGES ARE AWESOME.
(link to the video: Jan.4, 2014 Polar Plunge )