An old, yet important lesson learnt yet again.
Now before I begin this, I have to do a preamble: I have always been intolerant to the cold. It dries up my skin and slows down my mind, and thus, my body. This way, living in Dubai somewhat falls within my comfort zone.
On the extremely rare occasion, when I do venture out into the cold, like I did on my trip to Vermont two weeks ago, there’s always the (intense) additional preparation that goes into the packing- thermal wear, extra thermal wear, many, many layers of clothing, extra moisturizer and absolutely anything else that I can think of that would keep me warm. In Vermont, stepping out of the house, even for a walk to the car and back called for the invention of my ‘mini-ritual’, which existed only to, efficiently get on as many layers of clothes on me before walking out.
One day, during a stay over my friend Nancy’s home, I had a completely new experience. On the very first day, Nancy’s partner Elise (or now my good friend and soul sister Elise), invited me to join her in the sauna. This meant that I had to walk about a hundred feet out of the house, wrapped-up in a teeny-tiny towel. That’s right. a towel. No long socks that went up to my knee, no long johns over that, and trousers on top, no layers. Just a flimsy towel to facilitate my long hundred-foot journey to the sauna.
I agreed to this ‘suicide mission’ without batting an eyelid only because I love the sheer feeling of doing something new or different. I experience a reinvigoration of my soul when I do something that’s way out of my comfort zone, like a new me born from that point on.
As I stepped out with Elise toward the sauna, one of them (either Nancy or Elise) said something really significant that really made a big difference to the experience. She said, “It is going to be cold, there is no denying that, but it’s going to be fine when you get there. All you have to do is keep walking and reminding yourself to breathe”
As I walked through what I used to consider hell, I did just that. I trusted what she said. I took it one step at a time and focused on nothing else but my breathing. This did something special at that moment. In my breath, I found presence. All the chatter in my head about how it was too cold, and how I wasn’t someone who had a tolerance for the cold, started to quite down. My body also slowly loosened up to the breathing instead of trying to resist the cold. You know how they say- ‘What you resist, persists’? The moment I gave in and surrendered to the cold, it was okay. I was fine.
In fact, I even went a step further. While in the sauna when it got too hot, I used to step out in to the freezing cold to cool off for a few minutes. I did this a couple of times, going back and forth, until eventually I was able to tolerate the cold for a longer intervals of time and began to enjoy it. Soon it it felt like some kind of a thrill.
A few days back, while I was walking towards the check-in gate, just before flying to Minneapolis, I was tested once again. This time, I was alone. During what felt like my solo quest, I found myself resisting the cold again. My body was rapidly tightening-up, and this was when I was reminded of the golden words, “Keep walking, and keep breathing and you will be fine”. As I did that, I found myself ease into it.
Such is life. I’d known it all along but it hit a chord again today. The more we resist something that’s challenging, the harder it gets.
Thing is, when life actually gets hard, it does not feel like an adventure or an act of getting out of your comfort zone or like renewing yourself. All of that is the romanticized version of life when the going is easy. When the going gets tough it’s not even funny. It feels like you’re stuck in the middle of nowhere and your bearings are all over the place. Every path seems hard. Everything seems uncertain. It feels like its too late to go back and too hard to go through.
It feels like that moment in the labor room just before a baby is born. I vividly recall my thoughts every time I had to go to that God-forsaken room. I hated being there. I thought it was crazy. I mean, I knew that it was going to be like that! How could I forget? I used to wish to have the ability to go back in time so that I didn’t have to be pregnant at that point of time. Funnily enough, even then, I was told to just focus on my breathing, which I reluctantly did. And then when I got to the other side, I was fine.
The message is loud and clear. Uncertainty is the only certain thing. The only way is through. There are no shortcuts. All we can do is stop resisting and just surrender. Surrender to the flow of what wants to happen.
And yes it helps to breathe and be present. And then maybe we learn can slowly shift perspectives to see all of it as adventure. Because it really is! And it does renew our soul and we do get reborn. And once we pass through, we will never be the same
In the end it will be all fine. If it is not fine, it’s not the bloody end.
With Love & Gratitude
December 20, 2015
3 thoughts on “There is no other way but through.”
Brilliant essay. You have a wonderful way of using a real life experience that everyone can relate to, to send your message across. I can talk theory of uncertainty till the proverbial cows come home, but never like this. Well done!
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Wow. Did this ever hit home for me. I could feel myself getting tense thinking back to a really stressful time. Just breath. I need to use that more and really feel into it.
Also, the best advice was if it still feels really hard then it isn’t over yet – just breath
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So wonderful to read you reflections about our hot house experience together. You were very much in my thoughts the other day as I walked through the snow to the 180 degree sauna. Here’s to more moments of being present. Love you and miss you. Big hugs from your Vermont soul sister.
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