When I graduated from university I was obsessed with travel. Every spending choice I made was held up against the alternative of putting that money in my travel budget. A new purse or even having something other than water at a restaurant never won out over putting that money toward an international flight.
During those days, however, not many people travelled overseas. If they did, it would have been reserved for their partners. That meant I did a lot of travelling by myself. Pretty sure of the over 60 countries I've been to, nearly 2/3's of those were solo travel.
But, oh how wonderfully times have changed. There are so many more and better options and alternatives to travelling on your own (though I do love solo travel). Consider retreats. These were not common and if so they were priced for those who could afford luxury holidays. The range, price and locations of retreats offered now are extraordinary.
Working in the wellness space, I've done my share of retreats. The best ones I have found, don't make sweeping promises, they align with the type of getaway you need at the time.
Enough of that, I will finally get to what I really want to share with you. A retreat like no other. A retreat so good I'm afraid all other retreats will fall short of this experience. This retreat surprised me and it shifted something in me and it's worth shouting about.
My friend's son did a retreat with Wim Hoff up in the Polish mountains several years ago. I suspect by now you've heard of the Wim Hoff method. Perhaps even practicing cold showers or breathwork. Anyway, the friend's son said it changed his life. I believe him as it shows.
His mom and I took the leap! Somehow with little discussion, the stars aligned and we found ourselves signed up to a Wim Hoff retreat with the N.ice Collective. As the time approached, we both wondered what the hell were we thinking. Taking advice from a kid almost 30 years younger than me. Getting that rare week away with a girlfriend, and where do we go? To be hiking and swimming nearly naked in the icy cold Polish mountains instead of downward dogs in Goa? The two of us had been on a retreat before together. It was so bad we left and snuck out early. Sneaking out was exciting. Definitely better than days of eye gazing.
We agreed, not to worry, if we don't like it we'll leave and spend our week in Prague. It never came to that. Within the first day we were amazed at what was unfolding. We loved it.
The location was beautiful. A snowy mountain with trails and icy streams creating a stunning backdrop. I fell in love with each and every person on that retreat. You have to be mildly crazy to chose to spend your precious holiday time and treasure to try something like this.
Our leaders Artur and Martin from the N.ice Collective curated what I can only say was the most wildly wonderful thing I've ever done. My girlfriend, a stunning woman who can re-assemble a Kalashnikov blindfolded, felt something awaken in her just as I did. That says a lot.
By end, I made peace with the cold. A year on and my threshold for discomfort has stretched and my capabilities along with it. See, once you realize the numb feet and hands is a sensation of your body working just as it should, you get more fascinated about your body and less focused on the discomfort. You literally feel the magic of your body. The effects of blood moving to your organs. And, it like that in life: a few extra challenging moments is where the growth is.
Here are some posts from my Instagram account to give you a taste of it.
Swimming in cold water is nothing like being immersed in freezing water. For me there is no swimming in freezing water. Just immersion. The pain in the feet is profound and in the legs the sensation is like being cut like a knife. The pain in the feet is however temporary and though still extreme when you get out it dissipates over 5-10minutes. And with that knowledge, it gets easier to go back in day after day to feel into the pain. Experience the sensation in your body because you are safe. A pain that becomes manageable as you understand there is no harm in it and, well, once you experience the profound mental and physical benefits...more, please!
We immersed ourselves in the ice water, surrounded by such natural beauty and pristine air, about 7 times across the week. It became invigorating and a healthy challenge. After a six hour hike we voluntarily went back in later that evening in the dark.
A retreat in the natural world does not offer a safe container or person to hold the space. You must trust your body and tap into the right mindset to endure.
Hiking in freezing temperatures with no shirt and trousers is an opportunity to exercise mindset and the breath while trusting the body. The sensations in your body are nothing like you may have ever experienced. Feel into that, breathe through it, allow your body to do what it needs to do.
The weather turned harsh on this long uphill snowy hike. My body had more of a burning sensation, my limbs felt numb. When we finished the muscles in my arms and fingers were too weak to re-dress without assistance, but my body was taking care of me just as it needed to and it eventually brought me back to full functionality.
I loved this experience so much. I'm now grateful for the harsh weather we had during the first hike - for this new experience in my body. For teaching me to stretch myself, strengthening my positive mindset and resolve, getting out of my comfort zone and knowing and trusting that my body will take care of me.
If this speaks to you, I highly recommend you checkout @nicecollectivelondon@martinpetruslondon @arturpaulins who facilitated this profound experience
What's it like to meditate in 0 Celsius for 30 minutes?⠀
The thinking mind quiets as you drop into your body to endure the extreme temperature. Trust the intelligence of the body to take care of you and relax into a profound state of bliss as the beauty of your inner and outer ecologies merge as one within the natural world.
Get outside your comfort zone, stretch yourself. Do something like nothing else you've ever done before and you won't be the same afterwards. You'll be better!