©2019 by David Westerlund. Photo credits: Ramona Laird, Alvin Shim, and David Westerlund.

Yes, I'm diving in!


If ever there were a moment to Underthink It, it’s on New Year’s Day here at Lake Padden in Bellingham. It’s the annual Polar Bear Dip.


Here’s how it works: at noon on the dot, a bunch of people charge in the water, yelling and howling, dive in, and yell and howl some more as they make it back to solid ground. It’s quite exhilarating! And yes, it’s insane. I won’t argue with you on that point.

Yesterday the water temp was around 36 degrees Fahrenheit. Doubly insane.


Here’s what convinced me to do it.


I thought, “What a great opportunity to have an experience of facing something, that and I have some mild fear and apprehension about and doing, leaving behind comfort. and doing it with others, and discovering Joy!


How are we able to face bigger things if we don’t have the experience, in our bodies, of facing things that we in fact can manage?


When we have the experience of facing small fears with the support of others, it grows our potential to face larger fears and problems. It’s similar to how our immune system develops throughout our childhood. And of course, each person’s window of tolerance is different. We must have safe containers where we can be vulnerable and safe, and discover connection and joy in our bodies, with others.


It hit me that this act of jumping into 36.8 degree Lake Padden is the same thing as being present to our lives; having a crucial conversation with someone you love, stepping into a new vocation, trying improv for the first time. With each thing we face, the muscles of facing get stronger and more robust.


I’m finding this image to be true of so much in life.




So many things could be placed at that intersection of fear and joy.

In this new year, what can you face, move towards, and dive into, remembering that you are not alone?


If you are really afraid of engaging with a particular colleague at work, don’t start there. Start facing something small, but that still takes courage. And do it regularly. And if you want to regularly move towards fear, with others, and discover joy – take an improv class. Dive In!


I ran in the frigid water at high noon yesterday with a slew of people, all of us yelling. I dove in, came out as fast as I could, howling and smiling as the steam and joy emanated out of my whole being. I felt SO ALIVE! And I felt my facing muscles getting stronger. : )


Happy New Year! May you dive into what’s in front of you, remembering you are not alone.


The New Year is a great time for your work team to get on the same page, and build a supportive network. Contact me david@BePresentDiscoverJoy.com if you are interested in having me lead a team building retreat or workshop with at your workplace. Also, if you live in Bellingham, consider taking an improv class at our local Upfront Theatre. Or if you live elsewhere – ask around – I bet there is improv happening near you.


*Venn Diagram image from the cover of Jimmy Carrane’s book ”Improv Therapy” *Polar Bear Dip photo from Bellingham.org’s Dec 27, 2017 post

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