Cold swims as meditation – part 1

This strange summer, with a pandemic, social distancing, and all-over strange vibe, come mid-August, I realized I’d only been swimming two times, and both times were in my neighbors’ heated swimming pool. I’ve always been squeamish when it comes to swimming in cold water. Anything below 20C/68F used to be a no-go, but at the same time, I love swimming and being in the water.

I also get inspiration, both for my vegan cooking and otherwise, from @thehappypear on Instagram, two brothers from Ireland, who starts each day swimming in the ocean. I recommend their YouTube-channel as well 🙂 .

I’m also fascinated with meditation and mindfulness, and have, at least for a short while, had great success using meditation to calm my mind. But lately, it just hasn’t worked for me. No matter how hard I tried I didn’t get the same calm feeling, and after a while, I just didn’t meditate anymore. At least not how I used to.

So, in an attempt to get a bit bolder when it comes to water activities and swimming, I started taking short swims in water much colder than I’m used to — and the effect shocked me. Not only do I feel invigorated afterward, but the effect it has on my mental state is fabulous! In such cold water my brain goes completely blank, all my worries go away and I get a great sense of calm between each dive into the lake. I’ve found a place I go to each day, and the ritual is always the same;

  • drive to the lake, already in my bathing shorts
  • place the flip-flops on that flat stone by the water, ready to use when I’m done
  • place the temperature gauge into the water, but I don’t check the temperature before after the first dive
  • stand on the pier edge
  • take a few deep breaths, down, deep, into the belly
  • stretch the shoulders a bit, push my chest out
  • another deep breath, and relax, feel the calm
  • before I plunge myself into the dark, cold water
  • I swim as calm as I can and check the temperature
  • back on the pier, I repeat the breathing exercise & stretching
  • enjoy a completely calm moment
  • then dive in once again and repeat the process as many times as I feel like

I’ve arrived at the pier furious from some incident earlier or worried out of my wits, and after a few moments in the cold water, my focus is back. I’ve done this in sunny weather, like in the photo below, or in grey, overcast and/or rainy conditions.

This view is pretty ok as well.

I even did it when we went to my parents’ cabin in the mountains. It was about 14C in the air and 12C in the water, and the process was a lot quicker than my normal routine, but it still had an enormous effect on my mental state. This place holds a special place in my heart and is one of my favorite places in the whole world, so doing this exercise at this location was pretty special.

Sometimes I also get the company of my beautiful wife, who helps me with documentation, like the photos below and my diving photo at the top.

Follow her on Instagram for more mindful photos 🙂

My plan is to do this every day of September 2020, as long as I don’t get sick. I want to see how far I can push myself and I know I can handle 12C, even if it feels pretty extreme, but perhaps I’m a winter-swimmer-kinda-guy? I also intend to start doing regular meditation and perhaps this new experience can help me find focus in other locations and scenarios as well, using more traditional meditation techniques.