Connecting with Your Body: The Surprising Way to Channel Your Most Brilliant Self

Alert fellow lovers of exploring body-mind connection!

We talk about getting out of our heads and into our bodies….but why? Why is that important?

On Friday, September 16 at 2 pm, I am giving a keynote address at the Providence, RI Women’s Business Summit with my own answer to that question.

I’ll be talking about “Connecting with Your Body: The Surprising Way to Channel Your Most Brilliant Self.”

Since the pandemic, so many of us are feeling disconnected from our bodies in these long days staring straight ahead at screens… we start to feel lifeless, even trapped in our chairs.

So how can connecting with your body (aka methods such as @p_ssywalking) help with your confidence for a job interview or a dating event? Or figuring out the next move in your career? Or simply to feel alive?

I will be talking about how I use body connection in my own career and personal life and how my clients do too.

This Friday 2 pm event is free. The link to sign up is HERE, so come join us.

I will be the first speaker among some other interesting women, including a professor from Brown University who will be talking about life as a roller coaster. Yes.

The event will be recorded so we will share the video with you later!

Any questions, put them in the comments. Hope to see you there!

Your Pussywalking Experiences…Share Them Here For My Research

Pussywalking is a sexual energy-mindfulness technique that I created to help women center their awareness in their pelvic region, and then observe the difference this simple shift makes in their posture, energy and mood as they walk. It’s not about turning you into a sex object, it’s about turning you into a sexual subject who is in touch with your own body as a source of renewable energy and confidence.

It’s the PURRRFECT approach to women’s empowerment.

I am looking to create a body of stories about what is possible when women put their awareness “down there” as they walk. I have heard so many fascinating stories from my clients and students, ranging from the cosmic to the hilarious.

Female sexuality as a whole is so woefully underresearched, so simply talking about what happens when we mindfully connect with our internal anatomy is ground-breaking and revolutionary. We can literally teach each other what is possible by mapping our stories. So I wanted to create a structured way for you to share your pussywalking experiences with me for my research.

Have you been practicing pussywalking, for a day or a year? Has anything interesting, amusing, or extraordinary happened to you as a result? This could be about the way you felt inside as you practiced your pussywalk, and what it spurred in you, or about how others responded to you.

If so, please head over here to this Google Form and share your story.

Nothing will be shared publicly without your permission, so you are safe telling the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth of it! Can’t wait to read your stories.

Pussywalking… a talk at PechaKucha Providence

On stage at PechaKucha Providence, sharing my vision: a world where women are powerful because we are connected to our bodies

Oooooh, I’m excited to share my #pechakucha talk in #Providence on #pussywalking! The formal title: “Pussywalking: What it is, why it matters, and how you can practice it too.”

If you are new to Pussywalking, this is a simple way for you to tap into your sexual energy for a confidence boost at any time, in any context. Pussywalking is a method that I have been developing for the last ten years and sharing in my workshops and with clients. Any woman of any age can do it. All you have to do is activate your energy through your awareness.

You can watch on YouTube for a higher quality video, or on Instagram to also see the screens that I presented.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Sasha Cagen (@sashacagen)

In this talk, I admitted to being scared. This was the biggest crowd I have shared pussywalking with, and to give this talk in Rhode Island where I grew up felt both exhilarating and terrifying. I’ve always felt there is a kind of hostility  toward sexuality and sexual energy in Southern New England, the area where I grew up. Maybe it’s the memories of all the young men who yelled “pussy” out the window of their Camaros at me and my friends when we were young, going out for the night in Providence, or maybe it’s the ghost of the Puritans, or the witch-burnings, still hanging out in the architecture.

On the other hand, I’ve always known since I moved back to New England in 2020 that eventually I would share my message of empowerment through connecting with our bodies and sexual energy in this part of the world, where people need it even more than in California or Buenos Aires (the two places where I spent most of my adult life, until now). And indeed, the experience of giving this talk was amazing. The people in Providence are pussywalking-ready! You can tell by the crowd’s reaction.
I loved sharing my vision: a world where women are more powerful because we are connected to our bodies from the inside out.

I would love to keep going giving pussywalking talks. I am ready for the TED stage now. Are you a TED organizer or do you have another event where I could spread the gospel? Let me know.

At the end of the talk, I put out a call for scientific collaborators to study the effects of pussywalking on women’s posture, confidence and well-being. I am serious about this. Just as Wim Hof has found scientific researchers to study the effects of his breathing and cold-water exposure methods, I think it’s time for study of the effects of what happens when women activate the sexual energy in their bodies as they walk.

Do you know anyone in psychology or neuroscience who might want to partner with me? Reach out here.

And let me know what you think about the talk in the comments!

Creating the World We Want to Live In, One Small Space at a Time, Post-Roe

My phone has been blowing up with texts since Friday afternoon when the news came out about the US Supreme Court overturning Roe, and I suspect yours has been too.

Here are some of the texts I have gotten over the last two days:

“hi thinking of you today, hope you’re hanging in there as world events implode”

“Numb, sad, angry over here. Anyone need anything?”

“Also furious and had a good cry last night”

“Sasha, have you heard the terrible news about Roe? I want to scream at the top of my lungs.”

“Our foremothers gave us Roe with their blood, sweat, and tears. They wanted it to be our birthright.”

“Hi. Hope you are ok. This is horseshit.”

Yup. This is horseshit. Two months ago when the draft of the Roe opinion by Alito was leaked, I wrote this blog post, “I’m feeling numb, how are you doing?” 

Now that the actual opinion has come down, I feel more angry than numb. How about you? I think that’s how it works with feelings. We have to feel each and every one of them to get to the next one.

I heard something beautiful on the radio this weekend from Jenny Slate, an actor and comedian being interviewed on NPR about her new film, “Marcel the Shell with Shoes On.” She said, “…as a creative person that, you know, it’s heartbreaking and terrifying what the Supreme Court has decided. A lot of artists say, you know, you have to create the world that you want to live in.”

We do have to create the world we want to live in, and that’s what I am going to be doing over here – inviting you all to join me in creating the world we want to live in.

I also was moved by something that Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez shared in an email from her Instagram. She was asked about hope, and the very simple, wonderfully blunt question, “Are we screwed?”

She wrote something so beautiful and true in response that I want to share it here.

“My honest view is that things are likely to get harder before they get better, and we will need to stick together.

What is important in moments like these is not to think in binaries. Good/bad, screwed/not screwed. There is no doubt that things are bad. Some things, really bad. And they may likely get worse. But that does not preclude the fact that slowly but surely, some good can be growing as other things fall apart. This is not some syrupy, sweet silver-lining case for optimism. Rather, it is about a choice all of us have to make in life, either consciously or unconsciously: will I be a person who is safe and creates good for others? Will I be a person who stands up? Will I be a person who primarily minds my own business and serves myself or try to be part of something bigger? Or will I be just a passive, “neutral” observer of it all?

What I sometimes tell my staff is that the world we are fighting for is already here. It exists in small spaces, places, and communities. We don’t have to deal with the insurmountable problem of coming up with novel solutions to all the world’s problems. Much of our work is about scaling existing solutions, many created by small, committed groups of people, that others haven’t seen or don’t even know are around the corner.

So while we can’t change the world in a day, we CAN and do have the power to make our own world without our four walls, or our own blocks. We can grow from there with the faith that somewhere out there, everywhere, others are doing the same.”

I decided to take the teaching of pussywalking online after I worked through my own feelings of numbness, because I knew that this day was coming, and that seemed like a contribution I could make to others if I could break through my own fears of teaching such a taboo thing to a larger group of women around the world.

I definitely don’t want to appear to be using this tragedy as a marketing opportunity, but in fact, the truth is that the anticipation of finding ourselves in this unthinkable moment is what pushed me to bring the teaching of pussywalking online to reach more women. I really believe these workshops can be one of the small spaces that AOC is talking about that can empower us to do good in our own lives and to make this world a better place.

The patriarchy does not want women to control their bodies or prioritize their own pleasure. It is precisely this trinity of power, pleasure, and the female body that the mostly old white men on the Supreme Court, and the patriarchy in general, are so afraid of. It’s the subtext beneath overturning Roe. Our connection with our own pleasure, even subtle pleasure, is a source of power. Reclaiming our bodies, and our joy, helps us to physically engage with the world.

We are doing the first live, online pussywalking workshop Tuesday night.

If you would like to join us, there are a few spots left. No one will be turned away for lack of funds, so if you can’t afford the cost, and want to come, then send an email.

And, it’s just good to be in the company of other women right now. And men, thanks for supporting us. This is not just a woman’s issue. Obviously pregnancy itself takes place because of the participation of men, and women.

Here is the link to sign up.

Hope to see you there!

P.S. I also got this beautiful text message from a European reader:

“I read the news on Facebook. Women’s rights on abortion have gone [in the US]. But we are Diana, Artemis, Venus, and Penelope. We have to fight for a better world.”

Getting Real on “Spinsterhood Reimagined with Lucy Meggeson” (New Podcast Interview)

Lucy Meggeson who lives across the pond in the UK, who is great and hilarious, and who is definitely my kind of woman (I bet we could be BFFs if we lived in the same city), interviewed me for her new podcast Spinsterhood Reimagined.

Here’s the description: “Are you single, childfree, and tired of the stigma attached to your ‘spinster’ status? Are you actually having an awesome time, loving your life because of the freedoms afforded to you as a result of being alone and not having kids? Or are you not quite there yet? Either way, this is for you.”

Lucy’s mission is to help other women who happen to be single and childfree know their own value, and that their lives are just as meaningful as anyone else’s. Knowing that working with single women has been a focus of my coaching practice, she asked me all kinds of juicy questions. Because she made me feel so comfortable, I told her the truth, the whole truth! I so suggest that you give this one a listen!

Lucy asked about:

  • The best part of being single, even when it’s not your first choice
  • How I finally found peace in not becoming a mother, and appreciate my life on its own terms, after years of struggle with that topic
  • My own relationship history: quirkyalone and quirkytogether. I am known for celebrating singledom but I’ve actually always been pretty relationship-oriented! In this episode we talk about women who want to be quirkyalone, women who have always been in relationship and haven’t paid as much attention to their own needs and desires, and how I help them get clear about what they really want in relationships and life, and live fully.
  • How I used to be embarrassed to call myself a life coach, but not I’m embarrassed by it anymore now that coaching has grown and gotten more respect, and more people are wising up to the value of hiring a coach
  • How I draw on tango and physical mindfulness practices like pussywalking to help my clients step into their power at work and in relationships, and become the women they want to be
  • The power of listening to your body (and developing your sensuality) to make better decisions and change your life

We had so much fun recording this episode, and we hope you enjoy it! Let us know what you think in the comments, and be sure to leave Lucy’s podcast a review if you like it.

Here’s a funny little promo Lucy made for the episode. Lucy used to be an audio engineer at the BBC. Can you tell?

I’m feeling numb. How are you doing?

Hey!

I am showing up today with a simple question, How are you doing?

I made this quick, spontaneous video in the wake of some big news here in the U.S. For readers who live elsewhere, we found out last week that our Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe v. Wade, a court decision that ensured women have the right to choose whether to be mothers or not, back in 1973. Half of the women in the country could immediately lose the right to abortion, and the hardest-hit would be women without the money to travel to other states or countries. I always assumed that in the U.S. we would have the right to abortion. I remember traveling to Brazil in 2010 and the exact moment when I found out my Brazilian friends didn’t have the same right. I was shocked. Now we will likely be in the same boat.

I am getting emails from the Women’s March organizers about turning “rage into action,” and I am planning to attend a march this Saturday in Providence.

But when I look around me, I see a lot of numbness.

Are we collectively shell-shocked in the wake of this and other news? Are we all too worn out by demanding jobs to do anything about it? If we stay numb, we don’t talk to each other or act. If we don’t act, then our rights get taken away from us.

I made this video about feeling numb because I believe that in order for us to feel anything or do anything about this situation we have to be honest about what we feel right now. Emotions get stuck when we don’t speak about them, or otherwise release them by dancing, pounding on pillows, journaling, or so on.

Ultimately we are going to need a way of fighting back that doesn’t feel like fighting. We are all too drained to fight. We need a way of coming together that feels more like joy and celebration.

What could that be? I don’t know. Let’s move through the numbness together first.

Watch the video above, and let me know how you are processing the news. My friend Marina told me that “Hollywood needs me” because I look so sad at the beginning of this clip, but hey, I was feeling sad! We don’t always have to look pretty for the camera. In my ideal world, there would be no stigma on sharing how we really feel.

Dating Advice From My Spirit Animal Jonathan Van Ness

Life is feeling a bit overwhelming lately, and so in today’s newsletter, I decided to go light with this dollop of joy and enlightenment from my spirit animal Jonathan Van Ness, author of Love That Story, and star of Queer Eye and host of Getting Curious.

There are a lot of reasons to love Jonathan, but I think one thing I admire most is his unabashed enthusiasm. He often sounds like a nine-year-old girl getting super excited about something he truly believes in, and that is such an attractive quality in an adult.

Drew Barrymore asked JVN (as he is known), “What is your advice for people who are actively dating?”

And by the way, this is excellent advice for life, and work, as well as dating.

JVN: “Even if you are looking to be in relationship with someone, we always are going to come back to our relationships with ourselves.

In yoga this one time we learned, we all learned that we all have this invisible magnet inside of us that is positively or negatively charged, you know. I think when you are working on yourself, it’s going to charge that magnet in such a way that the person you are meant to be with is going to vibe towards you anyway, so you really can’t lose by investing in yourself and your relationship with yourself anyway.”

Drew: “This is why I asked you this question!”

I Was Named for my Ukrainian Great-Grandmother

moscow snapshot 1989

A snapshot I took in 1989, Moscow

People often ask me about my name. Sasha is a nickname for Alexandra.

“How do you get that?” people ask.

“It’s a Russian diminutive for Alexander or Alexandra, that’s my official name.”

I grew up during the Cold War, and the boys in elementary school made fun of me as a “commie.” I was seen as Russian because of my name, but in fact, I was named for my Ukrainian great-grandmother Alexandra (Sasha). She came to the U.S. from Zhytomir, a city in the north of the western half of Ukraine.

Zhytomir is a city which Russia recently bombed. The attacks destroyed a maternity hospital, a high school, and a residential neighborhood, and who knows how many people

I visited Ukraine and Russia in 1989 as part of a delegation of three hundred American teenagers, organized by People to People, an immersive student travel program founded by Eisenhower in 1961.

In three weeks, we visited Moscow and five cities in Ukraine, including Kyiv. We spent a day at a Komsomol camp, the youth division of the Soviet Party, and hung out with families in their apartments. We danced in the disco at our Moscow hotel when we were supposed to be upstairs.

This was summer, just months before the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, when the USSR still existed. Next came the time of perestroika (restructuring of the economy), and glasnost (openness).

A funny thing happened in 2017, nearly 30 years after that trip. I got an email from Sergei. He attached scans of letters and photos I sent to him when I was a high school senior in 1991, just about to graduate, including my senior picture and a prom photo with friends.

I had forgotten entirely, but Sergei and I became pen pals after I came home from that trip to Russia. He found my address on a scrap of paper from someone I met during that trip, and wrote to me. I wrote back. It was an era when a Russian-American correspondence felt revolutionary after all the barriers between us.

We started to email back and forth in 2017. Sergei welcomed me to visit.

I asked what he thought about politics in his country.

He sounded extremely positive about Putin, calling him the incredibly smart, respected leader who had saved Russia from chaos after the fall of the Soviet Union. Everything he said about Putin contrasted with everything I had read about him as a dictator quashing dissent and sponsoring brutal anti-gay initiatives. Sergei was pleased with the election of Trump too and expected he would help Russian-American relations. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to visit, but a Turkish friend of mine and I thought it would make a good documentary to go and visit. I still think it would.

Since then I have spoken with other Russians I met in random ways, even one via an online dating app (we quickly found out our political views were not compatible). Often they expressed incredible admiration of Putin, to the point that I thought, these people are in a cult. I mean, I liked Obama, but I never talked about Obama as a savior the way they praised Putin.

It is hard to believe now that what is happening is happening.

Russia is bombing the hell out of Ukraine to take back this country, now, more than 30 years after that trip. In the intervening years, Ukraine, like the other former republics, of the USSR, became independent. The other nations are Georgia, Belorussia, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Those countries must all be watching and waiting, like all of Europe, like all of us.

Sergei and others living within Russia have their own views based on what they are hearing, and don’t get me wrong: Sergei seems like a lovely person. But to me, it seems impossible to not conclude that Putin wants to rebuild the Soviet Union, or at least start, within his lifetime (he is now almost seventy) and doesn’t care how many people he kills to grow his glory. I am not surprised by the extremely high level of support for Putin, based on my conversation with Sergei and others.

I feel an ancestral connection to my Ukrainian great-grandmother too as I watch in horror.

+++

Many people have asked whether our focus on Ukraine is racist or white supremacist. Do we share the same level of concern for refugees who are not white and blonde with light eyes? This is an important question.

I care about the “human family,” and I am also deeply concerned for refugees of Afghanistan, Syria, and many other countries.

I do my best to live by a principle that I learned from Katie and Gay Hendricks, which is called “sorting the files.” In essence, “sorting the files” is a process of continually distinguishing what you can control, and what you cannot. I can share my story, but I can’t change anyone else’s mind. I can’t solve all the world’s problems (of course no one can). I feel called to share my personal glimpses of this complex situation because I have connections to Ukraine and Russia. I hope this situation in Ukraine can expand our hearts to consider the plights of all war refugees.

Finally, I want to share these two interviews with journalists who shed light on this crisis. Women, as my friend Sheryl pointed out, seem to be providing the best analysis. I found it helpful to watch these interviews to better understand what is happening right now, and I encourage anyone to spend the time watching them.

The Pleasure and Pain of Plunging into Cold Water, Inch by Inch

 

My fascination began in March 2020, one of those weeks when the pandemic started to get all too real. Quarantine had just begun.

One evening when I wasn’t freaking out reading an Atlantic article predicting how long this pandemic might last (three to four years, I distinctly remember reading), I watched Goop Lab on Netflix, Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness show. Many people enjoy hating Gwyneth, but I like her program’s mission. I enjoy trying out wellness trends too. Heck, I would love to have my own show Sasha Lab. In the first season, Gwyneth and her staff tested out everything from using psychedelics for healing trauma to exploring female masturbation with the queen of self-pleasure Betty Dodson.

The episode featuring the Dutch extreme athlete and health expert Wim Hof (also known as the “IceMan”) sucked me right in. The bearded, ruddy-faced iconoclast talked about how going way outside of our comfort zones by immersing ourselves in cold water can make us stronger. Hof explained that he had worked with researchers at universities for years to demonstrate that cold-water therapy worked to boost the immune system, improve cardiovascular health, alleviate inflammation, cope with depression and anxiety, and control pain. His message, in essence: If you can stand the cold water, you can take control of your health.

Gwyneth’s staff jumped into an unimaginably freezing, snowy Lake Tahoe under his tutelage. I watched, riveted, on the couch, and thought, I could try a cold shower. That night I turned the dial in the shower to the right, but I couldn’t handle the blast. The cold felt water like bullets. I jumped backward and strained to turn the dial back. Wimp, I thought to myself, resigned.

The lure of the cold stayed with me though, even if I didn’t believe I would ever meet its challenge. When I first watched that show, I was sitting on the couch in Buenos Aires, where I had been living for five years. Weeks later I found myself back in Rhode Island, crashing at my mother’s house. It was the beginning of the pandemic when going to Walgreen’s was exciting. Nature was all we had.

I told Elizabeth, my only friend in Rhode Island, that I wanted to try cold plunges. Elizabeth knew a woman who ran a group. She sent me her contact. I got added to a list.

Soon I was getting emails with the subjects “Plunge tomorrow noon” and “4 pm swim—anyone interested?”

cold water plunge rhode island

Mackerel Cove, Jamestown, Rhode Island, March 2021

One April 2020 day I took off on a forty-five-minute drive south to find the plungers. The calm beach at Mackerel Cove in Jamestown is a crescent-shaped cove with soft white sand and calm blue-green waters. The beach was starkly beautiful in early spring. I was glad for the beauty and to get out of the house. Six people emerged from their cars: one man, and five women, donning bathrobes and pink felt ponchos over their bathing suits, swim caps in hand.

I waved hello and introduced myself.

They yelled, “It’s tropical! It’s balmy! It’s so warm!” The temperature hovered around forty Fahrenheit. I didn’t agree, but I found the group charming. In their excitement, these forty-, fifty-, and sixty-somethings looked and sounded like boisterous schoolkids who got together to play. One of them did a jig on the way into the water. I dipped my feet in that day as they plunged but that was enough. I still didn’t see myself becoming one of those people. And that was that.

A year later the pandemic was still raging. The emails about cold plunges started to fill my inbox again.

In early February 2021, I answered one, “I’m coming!” By the next winter of isolation, I had grown desperate. I wanted to do something outside of my comfort zone again after so many evenings spent watching Netflix in isolation. I took up running in the morning, but I remembered seeing something else in those middle-aged eyes: true joy. True joy had been lacking in my life that pandemic winter. I didn’t know what, but I still suspected something was on the other side of the cold water. I wanted to experience it, whatever it was.

The wind whipped across the beach that gray day in late February. In New England, the winter sun descends before 5 pm. I came wearing a bikini, but I kept my pants on and rolled them up to my knees. I walked in up to about three inches, and then darted out of the icy water. In and out, in and out, six times. I didn’t get far. Submerging my ankles pushed me to my limit. Meanwhile, the group stayed in fortyish-degree water for fifteen minutes even when the air temperature dipped to the thirties. Some of them even swam. Their heads capped, they walked out radiant, glowing. Mostly women. I had never seen anything more badass.

One of them told me on the beach, “Just keep coming back and go in as much as you can.”

And so it went. I came through February and March and didn’t make it any deeper than my knees. I developed a reputation as a shrieker. I would yell and throw my arms in the air, the 45-degree water an assault on my toes, ankles. and calves, and throw my arms around like a windmill to release the pain. The women taught me how to warm up my feet after plunging (bring bottles of hot water and a basin for a spa bath post-plunge).

post-plunging spa

post-plunging spa

My envy grew every trip. This was a higher level of joy these people got out of cold-water plunging than anything I have ever seen from my fellow Americans. The group called themselves “What’s Wrong with These People People?” One day someone shouted to them from a car, “What’s wrong with you people?” The name was born. These were definitely among the more interesting characters I’d met since returning to Rhode Island.

Plungers are not your average people.

One day walking on the beach toward me, the tall, bald Michael the leader of the pack, 68, a retired scientist and high school swim coach, shouted into the air with his arms raised to the sky, “What’s wrong with us? We feel like this! I turn into a love machine. I love everything, the sand, the sky, people! It’s like that! Something about what the cold does to your body unleashes that.”

I made about fifteen attempts between February and April.

One afternoon I drove to the 4 pm meeting spot with the conviction, today will be my breakthrough. I don’t know if I am going to turn into a love machine but I am going to get into the water.

That weekend I happened to read an essay in The New York Times about a woman who turned to cold-water therapy after an unimaginable tragedy. Her husband killed their two children and then himself. She had come to stay with her aunt on Long Island and found her way to a small group of her own. I understood the attraction. There had been one day after a writing class when I felt a heavy load of shame in my body after presenting work; intuitively I knew the thing to do to shake off those feelings in my body would be to join the group. Even when I only got into my knees or hips, the cold zapped me like a kind of shock therapy. The sensation was so strong that it wiped away negative emotions and took me right into the present moment.

The obliterating quality of the cold water renewed me, even when I didn’t get all the way in.

Inside that gorgeous essay about grief, I found a simple tip.

The writer said, get into shoulder level and breathe thirty seconds to get to the other side. OK, I thought, I will try.

That April afternoon in Jamestown seven of us met. It was a windy, sunny day, on the brink of spring. The water registered at forty-five degrees, bath-like compared to the thirty-nine when I started coming in February.

I walked in with the group further than ever before past my knees, past my hips, and let the water shock my belly. My hands presented the biggest challenge. They hurt the most. I didn’t want to put them in. But I did. I submerged my hands and then my shoulders, breathing to a count of thirty. Around twenty-nine, the pain gave way to vibrating numbness on my skin. A minute or two after counting, the strangest thing happened. My inner fire lit. Somewhere deep inside of my guts a heat built, a contrast to the cold water surrounding me, and the dark water turning into a strangely silky viscous thing. I started to float with happiness, this bizarre combination of cold water surrounding me, a furnace within.

One of the other plungers wore a waterproof watch. “How long has it been? How long has it been?” I asked obsessively. I wanted to quantify my breakthrough.

I stayed in for fourteen minutes that first time, so insanely gleeful.

You never forget the first time.

cold water plunging wim hof rhode island

My breakthrough day in Jamestown, April 2021.

 

The air felt surprisingly warm that day when we got out. It was 50 or so on the beach. My legs and arms and chest blotted red, dotted with blood vessels. We looked like lobsters coming out of the water. My hands hurt. My hands felt stiff.

“Don’t worry about that,” Mike said, as he saw me regarding my hands. “Cold-water swimmers call it claw-hand. It’s the first sign of hypothermia but it’s not serious, it’s just the beginning.”

The dull ache in my hands faded enough for me to use my hands, pouring my bottles of steaming hot water into my foot basin. I stepped in. My blocky feet thawed as I stood there on the sandy beach in Jamestown by a bridge and behind a hotel, sailboats moored, dormant until warmer days. The high came on gradually. I started to finally feel it, the thing I had been after all along, the bodily joy I had lusted after for months started to take root.

It’s hard to describe the feeling but when the physical reaction came on it was like a flood of warm lights turning on inside, lit up from within. Since then it’s become clear to me that the colder the water is, the more endorphins are produced in the reaction. In this way, swimming in the winter can become even more pleasurable than in the summer. The French call orgasm petit mort, or little death. You die from the intensity of the sensation, then you are reborn. The cold water is a petit mort.

When I was leaving on that breakthrough day, one of the women in the group came over to her car next to mine.

“So you have been coming all this time and this was the first time you felt it?”

“Yup.”

“You must really like to torture yourself!”

“Maybe. I guess I had faith that I would eventually get there.” 

Of course, she was raising that age-old question: do we dive in quickly into the waves or cautiously enter inch by inch? Everyone finds their own way, if we are persistent enough. Maybe what I loved most of all in that moment was my persistence. When it comes to accomplishing big things, there is nothing more important than persistence.

Have I kept up cold-water therapy? Am I still plunging? Yes. A year later, I am still at it, feeling more like an official group member. I got all the way into the water up to my shoulders on January 1, something I am proud of, but I’ve taken a break recently as the air temperatures dip to the teens. I have my limits. But you know what? I also take cold showers now. Transformation is indeed possible.

I sometimes ask myself, Why? Why do you drive forty-five minutes each way to do something that most people regard as insane? Isn’t there an easier way to feel good? Why not play a joyful playlist and throw your own private dance party at home?

We need many strategies to feel good in our bodies, at least I do. Cold-water plunging is a special pleasure. Sometimes I think it’s the people—the opportunity to share this incredible, outside-the-comfort zone enthusiasm with the other plungers gives me energy for life. The group plunge is a communal kind of orgasm. Sometimes I think it’s the intensity—the pleasure matches the pain. That intensity feels like a confirmation of what it feels like to be a human being, a sensitive one anyway. And of course, there is the possibility of a lovely after-effect. The coldwatergasm can last for hours.

As it turns out, doing this one hard thing has helped me to do other hard things. I often think, if I can do the cold water, I can do this too. Get through this break-up. Publish that book.

I recently re-watched the Goop Lab episode that originally inspired me. I was struck by how much didn’t even register the first time. The idea of getting into the cold water so bowled me over. In the episode, Hof talks about how he turned to cold water immersion to get over the suicide of his wife, the mother of his four children. I didn’t remember that. One doesn’t have to be recovering from tragedy to turn to cold-water therapy—people plunge for many reasons—but that deeply therapeutic, wiped-clean effect does seem to be part of the draw for many. Wim said his children helped him survive, but the cold water healed him.

“You can go into the cold water and adapt, and with that, you become the alchemist of life itself,” he said. I smiled at this thought as I watched on the couch the second time, two years later. I knew exactly what he meant this time. Amen.

Michael, the swim coach, and I celebrate my breakthrough plunge a week later 🙂

our group plunging new year's day jamestown ri

New Year’s Plunge, 2022

Rhode Island PBS recently came to film a segment with a few different groups of Rhode Islanders who dare to swim in frigid waters during the winter, and my group is the first to be profiled. You can meet Mike the swim coach here for yourself. Look for my butt around 4:48 as we enter Third Beach in Middletown, Rhode Island. 😉

Free Downloadable Quirkyalone Valentines to Inspire Self-Love. Come and get ’em! :)

Happy early Quirkyalone Day!

In case you didn’t know (you may have been conditioned to believe that there’s only one holiday on February 14), Quirkyalone Day is coming up.

International Quirkyalone Day is a do-it-yourself celebration of romance, friendship, and independent spirit. It’s a celebration of all kinds of love: romantic, platonic, familial, and yes, self-love.

It’s also a day for quirkytogethers to celebrate their love in freeing, unique and non-cliché ways.

Quirkyalone Day has been going strong since 2003. Learn more about Quirkyalone Day here.

Today I am delighted to share these free printable Quirkyalone Valentines which you can send to your favorites in the mail, or by email, Whatsapp or text. 

Download them here!

These cards are so fun because you can print them out on paper or cardstock, then personalize them for all your loved ones.

To make it easy, you can then snap a picture and send the card by text, Whatsapp, or email. WHAT?! So much fun. I already did it and I totally think you should too.

You can download and print these Quirkyalone Valentines as many times as you would like.

There’s no limit to the number of Quirkyalone soul mates you can have in your life or the number of cards you can send.

Here’s the link again…

xo

Sasha + Liz

P.S. These cards were designed by my long-time San Francisco pal Liz Worthy. Check out the uber-talented quirkyalone/quirkytogether Liz Worthy’s work at her online shop and follow her on Instagram.