The Icicle of Transformation

Just over a week ago, I went away for a few nights. I’m part of a conscious entrepreneur’s group, and we meet 4 to 6 times a year as a way of inspiring each other, challenging ourselves, and simply having connection with like-minded people.
But I have a confession to make. I’ve never been great in crowds.
I become like the most awkward teenager when I’m thrust into a group of people. Small intimate groups with a handful of people and a single conversation are no problem at all…and larger groups if I’m teaching are no problem (because everyone’s energy is focussed in one direction, ie. the direction I want to take them).
But crowds in a social setting are like fingers down a blackboard for me.
Now I understand that I just feel a LOT – each person is like a walking vortex of energy – some calming, some exciting and uplifting, some utterly chaotic. And when so many people are brought together in one room and I walk amongst them – well, it’s like swimming through a very turbulent sea, with hundreds of whirlpools in it, and trying to keep my head above water and breathe.
And because I’m so incredibly tall, I tend to tower above most other people. Whilst I love my height, and carry myself with grace, when I’m standing up amidst a crowd I feel very awkward… like a Being from another Planet that’s been planted in the middle of a roomful of humans and is trying to look…well, normal. And I feel anything but normal.
That first night I walked into the large resort where the event was being held. It was a stand-up, cocktail-style event where we got the chance to mingle. Even though I knew virtually all of the people at the event, my immediate and spontaneous response was to grab a plate of food and escape to a quiet spot in nature. I sat, a little embarrassed but incredibly more at ease, and looked at the beautiful plants and grounded myself. No wonder I love nature so much! It’s always been my happy place.
And this was how the weekend progressed. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin, and because of that, I felt uncomfortable around my friends and colleagues – like there was an invisible barrier between me and them, that prevented me from deeply connecting.

Yet this is a story with a double-edged sword.

Because as much as I was feeling uncomfortable and isolated and preferring my own company, I was also deeply craving connection. My cup was close to empty, and I was yearning to have it filled with love and companionship.
So these were the emotions that provided the backdrop to what happened next. And what happened next was something waaaayyyyyy out of my comfort zone…..
The organisers had secretly planned an Ice Bath experience for us. If you know anything about Ice Baths, you’ll know they’re very, very powerful. It involves plunging oneself into a tub of ice for 3 minutes.
Wim Hoff is the most well-known figure behind Ice Baths, and the founder of the Wim Hof Method. This Dutch athlete got his nickname “The Iceman” by breaking a number of records related to exposure to cold. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in shorts, he ran a half marathon above the Arctic Circle with bare feet, and he stood in a container whilst he was covered in ice cubes for more than 112 minutes.
Wim was 17 when he first stepped into icy water. He was walking across a park in Amsterdam, and saw a layer of ice over the river. Driven by the crazy thought of “What if?”, he just stripped off and stepped in.
“It took my breath away, but afterwards I felt this immediate sense of calm,” he says.
Over time, Wim learned that by using various breathwork techniques, the experience of descending into ice became easier. And so his technique begins with a series of breathwork practices, progresses into the ice bath, and then ends with warm-up exercises to bring the body temperature back to its normal range.

So let’s fast forward to present time…..

Here is me, staring at a black plastic pool that’s filled with ice. We’ll be going into it 3 people at a time, and fresh ice is added in after each round (because our body temperature will slightly thaw and warm the ice, so we want to make sure everyone has the same intense experience).
I asked a few seasoned ice bathers for their tips. “Get in quick,” was what one person said. You don’t want to be looking at it for too long, getting yourself nervous. “Just step right in and don’t hesitate,” was what another person said. Hesitation is your worst enemy when you’re facing your fear.
My plan was to be one of the early groups to get into the ice bath – but some of the groups had already taken the lead, and I found myself watching as the most powerful experiences were occurring for people. Some cried, some just breathed, some were quite relaxed. One man dived down under the ice and came back up and sat there with an ice cube on his head for the whole 3 minutes. He’d done lots of ice baths as a professional athlete.
Yet as I looked at the ice, and saw others stepping in and having a wide range of responses to it, fear started to bubble up.
It was at this point that I realised I was frozen on the spot. The powerful warrioress inside of me knew that she was unstoppable and could do this. But the little vulnerable child in me had a whole other experience going. She was feeling incredibly apprehensive and unnerved – and right now, she was me.
I wanted to get into the ice, I wanted to have this experience, but I needed some help to get into the water.
I looked around for support, and this is where things got interesting. What I really wanted to say was, "I am feeling incredibly vulnerable right now, and would really love some support to get into the ice. Would you hold my hand and help me take the next step?”

But instead, I turned to the guys next to me and said, "Do you need another person in your group?" And they replied, "No, we're all good - we've got our 3".

They had no idea that I was actually asking for help, because I was too afraid to state it.

And I realised something profound about myself in that instant.

I realised that when I feel vulnerable, which is when I most need support, this is when I have found it the most difficult to ask for help.

And I know, if I’d asked in that vulnerable way, that any one of them would have been there for me. They would have made room for me. One of them would have held back to allow me to step in. How do I know this? It’s because this is the foundation of our culture in this group. We’re family. We help each other.

But the issue lay with me. I was the one who had been unable to articulate my need for help in a way that others would realise I was indeed asking for help.

As I witnessed this, my mind went back to our recent floods, and a parallel experience. It was the second round of floods in Byron, the one that was so bad it sank the centre of town under metres of water. I was alone in my home, and at 9.30 at night I was in a dilemma. I had a huge pot plant, much taller than me, positioned over a storm water drain. This flood was worse than the first one, and I knew if I didn’t get help to move that pot off the drain, the water wouldn’t be able to escape quickly enough and my home would flood this time.

But who would I ask?

My male friends are early birds, and unlikely to be answering the phone at 9.30pm. Would I walk in the pouring rain down the street, knocking on doors? I spent 5 minutes thinking about my options, and coming up blank. I ended up deciding to attempt to move it myself, and to my utter amazement I was able to do it. The flood water was already well above my ankles. I was wearing my gumboots, looking like a drenched rat with my headlamp on to give me some light. And I wobbled that massive pot back and forth and back and forth until I got it off the drain.

I was amazed that I managed to do it! Yet this was not just a physical feat. There was a deep emotional event happening for me – one that had me feeling incredibly isolated and alone. That emotion lodged in my lower back, and I’ve been in pain ever since. And it’s no wonder – metaphysically, lower back pain is linked to feeling a lack of support. So true!
So here I was, back in present time. It was the most beautiful sunny day, and I was staring at the ice bath, feeling that same sense of isolation, fear and aloneness that I’d felt during the floods. I had people all around me, but I felt invisible to them.

Tears sprung from my eyes, saying to the world what I’d been unable to vocalise.

Two beautiful women spotted me from afar, and made a beeline for me. They stood on either side of me, shoulder to shoulder with me. They didn’t say much – they didn’t need to. I knew they’d seen me. And so I opened my mouth and asked for their help. I asked to go into the ice bath in the next round, and they stepped forward with me to ensure that I did.

Stepping into the ice was incredibly intense. I’d followed the suggestion of not hesitating, so I was under the ice before I knew it, and before my body had time to register the shock of the temperature. Then, it was just a matter of breathing. And because I was already so emotional, I simply did some power breathing as the seconds ticked away, until I reached that beautiful instant of peace (the result of so many endorphins being released by our body), and at that point I was able to relax and smile.

When the timer went off, I leapt out of the ice bath with a happy yelp. There, with arms held wide open, was one of my friends in the group. She wrapped her arms around me, and said, “I had your back the whole time you were in there.” I let her hold me, and I sobbed and sobbed.

Then she drew me away from the crowd, looked me in the eyes, and began doing the warm up exercises with me. Her eyes mirrored her words. “I have your back. I’ve got you. You are safe and loved.”

Those words struck so deeply. How often do we yearn for someone to have our back – to be that solid rock for us, even when life throws us its curved balls and we find ourselves losing our balance or our mind?

As I walked back to the hotel with her afterwards, I shared with her my “ah ha” moment, ie. that I was so good at giving help, but found it so difficult to ask for help in a way that anyone would realise I was asking for help.

She stopped and looked at me. “That’s because somewhere in our childhood, someone who was meant to be there protecting us wasn’t. So we grew up needing to take care of ourselves, and we never learned how to ask for help. It’s something we’ve got to re-learn.”

The next day, I stood up in front of that hundred people, and I shared. I shared about every moment of that experience for me. I shared with tears running down my cheeks, but with my head held high. I shared about my childhood, and how I’d been bullied and outcast, how I’d been both physically and sexually abused at different times. I shared about how grateful I am for all of those experiences, as they’ve made me into the most incredible woman I’ve ever met. I acknowledged how foreign it is for me to ask for help, yet I promised them that from this moment forwards, I will always ask for help when I need it.”

And that’s when the magic really happened.

I thought the magic was my realisation (before stepping into the ice) that I found it difficult to ask for help. Then I thought the magic was being “seen” by the two women, and having them give me the love and strength I needed in that moment. Then I thought the magic was my courage in going into the ice bath, and breathing through that experience. And then I thought the magic was being told that my friend “had my back”.

But whilst all of those played their own important part in the bigger picture, the real magic happened when I had the courage to stand up in front of a hundred people, and to allow them to see me in all my humanness, my divinity, my vulnerability.

And they saw me. In fact, my heart-felt share became a topic of conversation for the rest of the weekend. So many of these amazing people resonated with what I said, and came up and told me so. We were all cut from the same mould – powerful people who are amazing at giving, but who find it difficult to ask for help.

And what I experienced in that moment of sharing was the dissolving of the barriers I’d been carrying around all weekend.

I was the one who didn’t want to be seen. They were simply reflecting that back to me. And as soon as I had the courage to speak out, they saw me.

We can no longer remain invisible once we’ve drawn those curtains open and let the world see us. Once a miracle is given, it can’t be taken away. And here was my miracle.