How to handle the cold
The same way a starving teenager crossed a frozen desert
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The Gobi Desert separates China from Mongolia. For many North Korean escapees, this is their last obstacle to freedom. It takes about a day to cross on foot, and once in Mongolia they can be guided to safety and their new home.
The Gobi Desert is a very cold place. If you’re lucky enough to cross in the summer, temperatures are usually in the 60’s Fahrenheit. That’s cool for a desert but easily navigable. But when you’re a refugee, you don’t get to pick the time of year to cross. In January, the mean temperature is around -10 degrees. It was around this time of year that a malnourished teenager escaping human trafficking along with a small refugee group that included a baby, had to cross the Gobi to earn their freedom.
We tend to view things we might try through the lens of “will this benefit me or not?”
This is a selfish tendency but it drives us. And because of this, when we experience benefit from an activity, we want to tell everyone else about it. “Here’s why you should do it too!”
I’m not going to tell you why you should try the cold. You don’t need to hear about the benefits from me. You need to experience them yourself. So I'm going to assume no benefits at all and simply explain how to do it.
You can do it, can’t you? A starving teenager did it for 24 hours because she wanted to live and be free. You are going to tell me that you can’t do a few seconds?
The starting point
You can start in one of two ways.
Step into a hot shower, do your business, and then at the end turn the shower to cold and try to tolerate 10-15 seconds
Step into a cold shower, try to tolerate 10-15 seconds, and then turn the shower warm and do your business
Either method is fine. It doesn’t really matter. The big big secret is this:
You have to do this every single day
Tolerating a few seconds of cold is no big deal. Tolerating it for weeks, months, years is another thing entirely.
Here are some tips:
Use a timer at first, or count in your head. If you need to watch the seconds tick off, that’s fine.
Before you shower, be aware of your thoughts. You will have some real interesting ones. Like, “this is ridiculous, why am i doing this?!” Honestly, those thoughts never go away, so if you want to master this skill you have to get comfortable with that voice. Once you are comfortable with it, you can learn to ignore it.
Once you are in the shower and you have turned the water on cold, force your mind to say the word “Witness”a few times. Witness what is happening and you will calm down. Witness, because you are the watcher. You are not getting wet, your body is. You are watching your body, experiencing it. Witness it.
Don’t force heavy breathing. If you remain calm and witness, your body will adjust naturally and your breathing will change on its own.
Set very small goals. Try to be somewhere around 30 seconds of cold every day by the 30th day. That’s very reasonable. Set small goals that you can crush and it will give you the confidence to go after bigger gains.
That’s it. Stop thinking. Step into the shower. Turn the water to cold. Witness.
Now go do it. Because you know you can.
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