30 Days Challenge (Dave): Learn a language / Full Moon Swim / Floatation tank

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Floatation tank



The way Joe Rogan talks about floatation tanks you’d think they were a portal to another dimension.  Having just done my first I can agree that in a way, they are.  My float was one of the most interesting experiences I’ve ever had.  What follows is a description of my experience once I closed the door of the tank and turned off the light.

Gravity.  A force so strong we stay rooted to the planet and so weak my 2 year old can jump in the air.  Swimming and the occasional cliff-jump aside I’ve spent 99.99% of my time with some part of my body in contact with terra firma so it was disconcerting to find myself touching nothing except salt-laden water.  I felt lighter than a pickpockets touch.

With my ear plugs in I could hear nothing except the beating of my heart, the rush of blood around my skull, and my breathing.  With my eyes closed I couldn’t see anything, not even the memory of lights across my retina.  After a few minutes in the body-temperature water I couldn’t feel any part of my body.  All that was left were my thoughts.  No sight, no sound, no touch, no taste, no smell.  Just thoughts remained.

In a strange way it was like being introduced to myself for the first time.  Take away our bodies, our senses, and what’s left of us?  The part of us that’s supposed to separate us from the beasts, that’s what.  Sadly, my thoughts aren’t that deep, or insightful, or instructional.  One of the downsides of being a semi-professional eejit is that profound revelations are rare but if revelations are to be had I imagine floating is a way to speed up the process.

Other tales from the tank
  • At the beginning, before I settled, even the smallest movement felt like you’d been pushed through space (space of the Gravity kind!).  For example, at one stage I moved my head slightly back and my body felt like I was flying backwards.  It was amazing.  I waited for my head to crash off the top of the tank but it didn’t.  It was such a powerful feeling I found myself laughing hysterically like a normal person would on a rollercoaster (I’m terrifed of roller coasters).
  • I found the last 15 minutes or so tedious, I was done and was glad when the knock on the door came.
  • My elbows, head, and feet occasionally bumped the edges of the tank and this takes you out of the experience for a minute.

Full Moon Swim


I must be a water baby because our full moon swim was as enjoyable as the float.  Part of the joy of these challenges is that we do things that we wouldn’t ordinarily do.  So much of adult life is repetitive and breaking these routines to do something new is seriously refreshing.

When I was 17-20 myself and my friends swam a lot in the sea.  We’d swim 3-4 days a week in the summer and have a couple of dips in the winter, usually including a Christmas morning swim at the 40 foot.  The pull of the sea became so strong that if I found myself walking near the sea I’d often have an unplanned dip and dry myself by walking back to the car in my jocks.

Ireland’s sea is never warm, even in the summer, but it’s coldness is part of its charm.  Mindfulness fans take note; swimming in cold and/or choppy sea ensures that you’re completely present in the moment.

Jessie had a dipping method to ease the pain of the cold and to my surprise it worked.  Jessie is fearless, entering the heavy swell without so much as a whimper.  I, on the other hand, yelped like a stood-upon puppy at the first contact with the soupy sea.  By dip number three I longed to let go of the rails but the swell was too strong to swim in open water safely.  Another time.

The post-swim feeling is beautiful.  Your body has so adjusted to the cold that there’s a 10 minute window when your skin tingles with warmth that comes from deep inside.  Do yourself a favour and take a dip soon, before it gets warm!

Learning a language

This movie was so good I went to the cinema twice in a week to watch it.
This movie was so good I went to the cinema twice in a week to watch it.
I completed 22/30 days on this challenge

The experts say that anyone can learn a language regardless of their age.  They also say there’s no such thing as an aptitude for learning languages.  Maybe they’re right or maybe I’m the exception that proves their rule.  Either way it was with dread that I approached learning French once Niall suggested it as our daily challenge.

I spent 5 years sitting in French class in school and somehow managed to learn very little.  So little that anything beyond a statement of my name and country of origin was beyond me.  I watch a lot of French tv and French films, I’ve had brief flirtations with French hip-hop, and I’ve been to France twice on holidays.  Oh, and my cousin married a French man.  In spite of all this on Day 1 of the challenge I could only manage to write down 200 French words, many of which I didn’t know the meaning of and some of which I’m pretty sure didn’t exist.

Michel Thomas

The Michel Thomas Method is widely acknowledged as the best way to learn French.  It promises no books, no writing, no memorising.  Michel himself tells us on day 1 of the audio series that he doesn’t want us to try to remember.  I’m great at not trying so I knew Michel was the man for me.

The beginner series is a collection of 32 audio files varying in length between 5-10 minutes.  The files are Michel teaching 2 students certain key phrases and as a listener you pause the recording and play the role of the third student.  That’s it.  Michel himself is charming but demanding and gently prods his students into putting the basics of the language together.

To my great surprise I loved this challenge.  Most evening I sat down to do 1 segment and ended up doing 3 or 4.  I’d usually listen to the final segment from the night before and then launch myself into 2 or 3 new ones.  For the first time in years I surprised myself by being good at something I didn’t expect to be and this felt great.

For 3 of the 4 weeks I buried myself in the Thomas method and my knowledge of the language improved measurably.  At the end of the last week I watched a French soccer match and understood about 40% of what the commentators said (soccer commentators the world over say the same inane things).

I work with a girl from France, a direct descendant of Joan of Arc no less, and our stilted 5 minute chats over the 30 days became slightly less stilted, but only slightly.  These chats were also horribly repetitive for her but she smiled through her pain and for that I’m grateful.  By the end of the 30 days I could write down 400 French words.  Progress.

It's good to talk

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