Cold Face

By Black Sheep Straight Shooter and Greg Hamilton
May 2, 2024


4 min read

In a recent outdoor community connection session, I was asked “Who are you”? This was deliberately asked as a part of the experience, one on one with another participant you only just met. The stranger would later have their own personal response, I think more a reflection of how meaningful your own answers were.

Well – I am just a guy. There’s nothing special about me. A husband, father, contributing member of society. We often have an identity that helps project our own self-image, soldier / dolphin trainer, business owner, entrepreneur, some profession or another. Quite often, we judge one’s identity being tied to their money earning or job title. Then rightly or wrongly, we tend to make an assumption about their quality of life and how much time they spend at work. Which is super judgey, I know. A CEO of a company might be a local artist or crafty person hand making boutique greeting cards for the local market out of their parents sewing room. Contrasting this, a business owner may have been doing 60-hour weeks for 10 years and now does only one half-day a week, just to show his face in the office and socialize at ‘work’. Sometimes, people deliberately don’t talk work during their response. In my opinion, alternative, critical thinkers who have come to see how the world really is, take about 30 seconds to work out where you’re at. Conversation might be drinking, footy and some bullshit TV show (all yawn), or it could be a cool alternative health interest, spirituality, nature or something abstractly observational.

The next part of the exercise was to stare into your conversation partner’s eyes for three minutes quietly, whilst letting the walls down and this stranger “in”. Reflecting on this there is so much life experience that determines how one could act in this situation. I’d assume many people would have their guard up immediately. I have learnt in my personal life that you never really know people’s true colours until they are at their worst. Their worst could be environment controlled, like hurting someone in a freak car accident (or being hospitalized themselves for a month) or self-inflicted such as gambling addiction or drug and alcohol self-destruction. Their state of mind in that three minutes could be all over the place, it may be just that they’re having a bad day, having had no sleep or are busting to go to the toilet. I might add, it is very socially awkward to stare at someone for so long without interaction! But in this instance, part of the process and a refreshing way to get out of your comfort zone. Then – hugs. Connection is a huge deal and something to be embraced, whenever the opportunity arises. Some of my most meaningful conversations have been with strangers. And, although most people’s favourite topic is themselves, it is interesting to let someone else lead for a change and truly listen, rather than just wait for your turn to speak. As an experiment, try to wait for two seconds before responding and see where that leads you. Two seconds of quiet can be enough for some people to think you have lost interest, which is really sad. A great way to bring people back in is “What did you get up to on the weekend” or “How do you know these other people here”? My ex-defence force, dark-coping-strategy-resilience humour has been banned by the wife at dinner parties, so I refrain from telling jokes to strangers. If they didn’t think I was a weirdo already, I’d open my mouth and remove any doubt. I prefer shock – factor cringe worthy jokes. The weather is a safer topic, but maybe not chemtrails and the incoming mini-ice age and grow zone shift cataclysm.

Identity isn’t just a profession, a stay at home parent, student or retiree. It can come from passion or something you excel at. A musician, sports star, larrakin, free diver, online gamer or movie buff. Chances are, whatever you’re super into, there are many others just like you. The depth of whatever you are into is almost limitless. Quite often you’ll connect with someone who has the same interest, but they are at a different part of their journey into it. A few times in the past, I have tried to mentor others and help fast track them on the straight and narrow. It is great when they are thirsty for more knowledge and apply it but disheartening when they go in half-cocked and don’t take it seriously. It’s true, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Skills based things are very different to spiritual endeavours. It is rare to find someone on the same wavelength in regard to them being congruent with their whole life growth with the same intensity and effort as their passion. Like Steve Anderson from That Shooting Show would say, determine your level of participation (and don’t rush, try or hurry, perform at your current level of skill).

The facilitator for the gathering said in passing that the hardest person to have three minutes of quiet eye gazing with is yourself. I agree – a lot of people don’t like what they see. A blemish, scar or acne, grey hair and tired baggy eyes. Or someone who is on the life treadmill going nowhere, not their true authentic self and actually living – just existing.  They may be very pretty on the outside with ugliness inside that hates at themselves and has imposter syndrome for someone actually loving them. They may even see how invisible they are and never get noticed. As I mature, I’m starting to get the hint that you really need to love yourself. With this, truly learn how worthy you are of your own self-respect and to actually-do the work to treat yourself right. Lean into your pain, pain is the teacher.

The next part of the session was guided breathwork to tribal music. I try to breathe through my nose as much as possible so it was a challenge to exhale so much through the mouth. It was intense and not relaxing, but I’m guessing it wasn’t supposed to be, probably more designed to oxygenate your blood. I would find it difficult to lie down on the grass near the river near a very popular walkway and two cafes by myself, but in a group setting it felt fine and even natural. There was something in the group dynamic that made it feel right. Twenty minutes later we had a big group hug and some participants shared their experience.

Next was three minutes in an inflatable tub near the river, with river water and 25 bags of ice literally rubbing shoulders with two strangers. Up to your neck in ice water. Being brutally honest, I did not enjoy the first 90 seconds. It felt very unnatural and your survival instincts are hyper alert. I felt like I was hyperventilating a little bit – definitely some hangovers of being stuck and helpless in rips as a surfing teenager. But then, a short while later, your body accepts it. It is like a calmness comes over you and the next 90 seconds are not pleasant, but definitely endurable. There is a take-away from this – you can endure discomfort for 90 seconds in a lot of situations in life. You can keep your mouth shut, recognize and process very demanding emotions, ride out the cramp, let that road-rager fuck right off, not put the shit food in your (I don’t eat pie anymore) pie hole or impulse buy the bit of consumerism because you don’t need any of it. First you need to get your head right. If you are on the screens and poisoning yourself with a bit of self-sabotage with going along to get along, you will struggle to endure a bit of discomfort and just keep numbing the pain with distractions.

A quick towel down and then a brisk half naked walk in front of the coffee drinkers brings you back to champion the other cool people having their quick cold public bath.

I will be back.