Cold Water Warrior

I am a cold water warrior. 

There’s no way I could have said those words just a few years ago. The cold used to make me wince and run. And that was just cold air… I wouldn’t even get near cold water. I am Canadian, but it doesn’t mean I would seek out the cold without proper clothing. And cold water is just a different kind of cold – all enveloping, bone-chilling COLD. Cold that doesn’t leave the body quickly. Why would I want that? No thank you. 

And then… 

I found the power of my breath through yoga and breathwork. I learned how to control my thoughts. I shifted my mindset – things that I recoiled from were now challenges that I could at least consider accomplishing. Afterall, it’s a mantra in my home – “I do hard things, successfully, with ease, everyday”. Kids love to say “that’s too hard” (and us adults might say it in our mind)… so I needed something in my back pocket. And… I wanted to model that behaviour, that I, too, can do hard things successfully, with ease. 

I remember the first time I willingly spent time in really cold water. My family was visiting the dunes in Tadoussac, Quebec – the mouth of the St. Lawrence to the Atlantic Ocean. Wading through the water, we decided to explore just around the corner of the rocky outcrop, where the eye couldn’t see anymore. I’m the type who wants to see just a little more than where most people stop – just past that bend in the trail, over that hill, or I get down on my knees to observe the forest within that tiny patch of moss. Back to Tadoussac… my kids gasped when I was the one leading them around the corner. “Mom, how are you in this water? It’s so cold”. At that moment, I decided I wasn’t going to wait on the beach, in my warmth and safety, while the rest of my family explored around the corner. And we discovered the most magical waterfall, exploring it with our hands and feet; climbing, dipping and drinking in its beauty.  

After that trip in 2019, I decided to join my husband in dipping in a lake at least once a month intentionally from October – June… summer swimming is a given. We would find a location on the lake where we could get in “up to my thyroid” (as I don’t like to get my hair wet), take a few gasping breaths, then run out – just like they do on New Years’ Day at the Polar Bear plunge. Winter dipping is cold, my friends! 

In April 2021, we dipped with our friend Maria Jose, who made the plunge that much more ceremonial. She prompted me to pay attention to where my mind goes during difficult times. She reminded me of my sympathetic nervous system – the one that activates fight, flight or freeze. When I am stressed out, anxious or depressed, my mind, body and breath want to either run or curl up and do nothing – I could mirror plunging to those times. Wading in the water with her made me recognize that I had been running from the cold as soon as I had gotten in – even if I was counting the full 1 minute, I was thinking about getting out of there. From that day forward, I learned to sit with the uncomfortableness of the cold. I brought to mind that I can lean-in to the lessons and breathe. I remembered that it is okay to come exactly as you are – the waters welcome it all. I recalled how to calm my mind, body and breath in a difficult and shocking situation. And I take these teachings with me in my life. As I’ve shared in my role as a yoga teacher, yoga starts when you get off your mat. 

My first Soul Full Camp was in August 2018 – the very first Soul Full Camp. I made sure I got in the water then, and at every camp where I can, I do. I’ve laid in the 2-ft deep creek that feeds the frozen lake at a March camp with Soul Sisters. I’ve held space of encouragement for participants to leap into the lake in June. And we’ve been 16 playful campers in the water at the Spiritual Camp in late summer. Morning dips are now part of the itinerary at camps where it is possible. Know that I will guide you if you need it, or I will share laughter and joy with you as we co-create the expanding group of Bare Soul Bathers at camp. “Bare” Soul optional 😉 

Hubby and I decided to do a 30 day challenge starting Easter this year… dip every day for 30 days to get the full benefits of cold water therapy. After a few days, I was going in the mornings and he was going in the afternoons, as it was better for my schedule (my son stood on the shore birdwatching, for my safety). On my day 10, I had 2 friends join. On my day 14, another friend joined, and a fourth friend joined on my day 15. This group has seen about a half dozen other women come in and out of our mermaid pod in my 37+ days… so far. Hubby did his challenge for 30 full days, never missing a day, and will now only go when it calls to him. I’ve missed 5 days since I started, but because I am leaping in with these ladies I have a community, a sense of belonging, a reason for showing up beyond myself – this challenge became so much more than 30-days for me. And… I crave the cold now. I had loved it for a while, but now it is the sacred ritual that starts my day. Our pod meets at a channel into Bowmanville’s harbour, and I find it warming up, and it’s just not the same… for me. But this morning we descended into the expanse of Lake Ontario, and she is still cold! 

Through this cold water practice, I can now sit with the uncomfortable times that life brings. I can breathe through it and know that I will come out the other side, proud of myself for getting through that challenging thing. Because I can do hard things successfully, with ease. Every Day! 

We are growing and we invite you to join if you feel called. We’ve come to the weekday time of 7am, and weekend time of 8am. So far we have been at Port Darlington’s West Beach in Bowmanville, but this morning we ventured to Paradise Beach in Ajax. And if you feel called to join, please reach out, and I’ll share where you can join us.

My biggest gift in this practice is the sisterhood that I have co-created – but there are also so many body benefits. Maybe I’ll write about those another time, as it’s all about community for me! We start the day with hugs, laughter, and a huge hit of dopamine. Of those original 5 friends daily dipping, 4 of us are Soul Sisters, having been to Soul Full Camp before (but not all at the same camp). Please come to camp this year, and consider joining the group of us dipping there… I promise it will enhance your camp experience! 

Written by Rachel Logan

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