“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”

Pema Chodron

How often do you expose yourself to failure? Do you only do things that you’re good at and comfortable performing? What do you fear by trying something new and opening yourself up to failure?

Modern society, convenience, and technology created an environment where our minds and bodies are losing the ability to adapt. It has created an environment where we are scared to not look our best or to stumble. We watch the curated lifestyles on social media where like Lake Wobegon, “all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” While I am a big believer in the benefits of technology and progress, we must break away from this comfortable life to live to our fullest potential. Not only is getting out of our comfort zone and pushing past our fears the key to growth, but it is also key to resilience. The ability to take a punch in life, something we will all be faced with at some points, is key to achieving our dreams and goals.

Look into your life to see what you are avoiding.  Many times, this comes back to uncertainty and change.  Our minds can hold us back and cause us to seek comfort.  Through millions of years of evolution, the mind wants to keep us safe because it fears being kicked out of the tribe.  This is why it will keep us from having difficult conversations with our loved ones and friends.  It is why we will stay silent in the face of mass atrocities.  We must figure out what triggers us and why.  We have tools we can use to achieve this.  Journaling is an important part of dissecting our thoughts, emotions, and actions.  When we ask ourselves tough questions and delve into our minds, we shine a light on our thought process.  We begin to see where we are holding ourselves back. This is just one tool we can use to help us to break the chains of avoidance.   

From my experience and in working with my clients, exposure to extreme heat and cold is another tool we can use. It provides a stressor to the mind and body that will allow us to continue to adapt and become more resilient. There is something primal about exposure to the cold. When you first get into an ice bath, every ounce of your being is saying, “get the hell out of here.” It will send your body into fear, panic, and a negative thought cascade you can learn to break! I have seen plenty of people in sheer panic when they first get in, breathing in an erratic stressful nature and then enter into a Zen mindset in as little as five slow diaphragmatic breaths. They are able to learn what the cold teaches us – that we have control over our reactions and that our breath can be used as a tool to control them.

“The mind is the king of the senses. The breath is the king of the mind.”

B.K.S. Iyengar

We can use the breath to manipulate our mental and physical state. Humans have been working with it for thousands of years and once you begin to explore your own breathing, it can take you to places you never imagined possible. Creating awareness around your breath will create an awareness around your thoughts, your actions, and your emotions.  With practice, one thing you will discover is the ability to control your physiological state to either ramp your system up or bring it down. Try it now, start breathing in and out of your mouth at a rapid pace, like you just went for a sprint. How did this make you feel? Did you become stressed and anxious or calm and relaxed? Now, breathe slowly in through your nose and slowly out through your nose. How did your state change? Explore these polarities of the breath and your mental state. The experience is yours and the power is within you.

“When you get comfortable in discomfort, you can handle just about anything in life.”

Laird Hamilton

I use the cold as an example of getting out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to growth through facing your fears and the possibility of failure. With all of the chaos that 2020 has brought upon us, now is the time to open yourself up to “annihilation” so you can become indestructible. Don’t let that voice in your head hold you back from doing something that scares you. Move towards what scares you, not away from it. Maybe it’s a new fitness routine, a presentation at work, having a vulnerable conversation with a loved one, or getting in an ice bath, don’t let the anticipation of the event stop you from doing it. The risk of failure is worth the reward of overcoming something that scares you.

Call to Action

You can begin to take a look into your own thoughts and fears with Symmetry’s NEW online Introduction to Breath and Performance.  The course is designed to guide you through multiple techniques to improve your breath, your mindset, and your life.  You can also join us for a virtual breath class, live, or recorded.  It is time for you to change your breath and change your life.  If you are ready for a more individualized approach, you can sign up for a free 15 minute call and take the next steps in taking control of your life.