A brief interlude from studying gave me the leisure to listen to this delightful work on monks who chose to live in the Egyptian desert and practice extreme austerity throughout their lives. It would seem to be some inspiration for my self-inflicted pain with the cold open water swims, except that the monks endured hardship in order to renounce the world, whereas I am driven only by vainglory. The monks also lived continuously in the manner of self denial, whereas I daily retreat back to my comforts.
It is, however, truly exceptional to think that these men and women would go to the most wild extremes in order to avoid temptations. Often a beautiful young women would lock herself into a tomb in order to not be a source of ill thoughts for the men. In spite of all this, it seems that most of them spent extraordinary amounts of time wrestling with evil spirits, even as they tried to devote their mind entirely to meditating on God and living in utmost simplicity.
Still, the second command in the Bible is "love your neighbor as your self"and this is a bit tricky to do if you chose to spend 10 years without once seeing or interacting with another person.