Early thoughts from my journey into the cold – John O’Brien

I was once asked if I could meet someone famous who was no longer with us, who would it be?

This question was put to me in early January this year. At this time, I was coming to grips with my twice-weekly dips in my local lake (the water temperature in Ireland in lakes and rivers at this time of year is about 4 to 5 Degrees C).

My mind was starting to focus as it had never been before. Memories of my past and possibilities of my future were bouncing around freely. I was excited about this new process and exploring further where it would bring me.

So, when I was asked the question. If I could meet anyone who had already passed on, who would it be? This is the answer that came to mind.

I heard once that you should never meet your heroes because invariably how you imagine that person and how they actually are may ultimately lead to disappointment.

I try not to live my life with what if’s, what’s done is done and what’s passed is passed. I do respect lots of people that I do not know for what they have achieved. That said if I could speak to a person who has passed on again,

Interesting and all as it would be, I would not wish to speak to some revolutionary inventor or great leader. My person would be a lot closer to my heart, it would have to be my Granny Nonie.

It’s not that I would have anything profound to say to her, there is no burning question that I want to ask her. I just liked being in her company, sitting on the couch by the fire in Thomas street, chatting about general stuff or just watching some tv.

I would, of course, tell her about my beautiful wife and two amazing little girls. I’d tell her about stories from my life since she passed, all the adventures that I’ve had and all the places I’ve seen and all the amazing people that I met along the way.

I do not know would she understand my perspective or outlook on life, but the more that I think about it, I find that possibly my outlook has come around to the simplistic and content outlook that my Granny actually possessed.

For the last year I have been sitting in cold lakes and taking cold showers. I have been following the Wim Hof methods teachings. This has helped me to quite my mind, relax my body and not fight the cold, rather welcome and embrace it like a long lost friend. For those few minutes that I’m in the lake, my whole body feels like it is under attack from the cold water that surrounds it, but I’m at peace, my mind is empty, and I’m totally present in the moment. The birds, ducks and swans around the lake go about their business. The odd passer-by smiles invariably with a look of confusion as I sit peacefully in the frigid water.

I have begun to like my time in the water to the times when I sat on the couch across from my Granny in Thomas street. More specifically at six o’clock every evening, when she would say her rosary. I imagine at that time each day that Granny Nonie was also at peace. She was also able to empty her mind of thought and Just Be…

I was raised in the Catholic faith, but I rarely take part in any religious events. I’m curious about the many religions of our world and people’s belief systems.

One common theme that appears to be common to most if not all religious orders are the concept of gratitude.

I’m extremely grateful that my time in the cold has brought me closer to hopefully understanding my Granny’s life and what her daily religious rituals had meant to her.


John is a qualified executive and life coach, he passionate about learning about what drives people to behave in the way that they do and working with them to better understand that with the right mindset they can achieve greatness. John is curious about the world around him, and the impact that he has on that world. He has worn many hats over his life so far and intends to wear many more. 

Connect with John via email. 

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