The Iceman Cometh…

Baader–Meinhof is a phenomenon in which after noticing something for the first time, there is a tendency to notice it more often, leading to a belief that it has a high frequency, and perhaps (taking it a step further) there is an esoteric force at work, pushing it into consciousness, giving the self a nudge to find out more.

I had never heard of Wim Hof until recently. The first time I heard the name was when I took to the road last year to survey the land for our planned eco-retreat (the progress of which is near zero due to pandemic related logistics issues). Our trip to the Lammas eco-village soon after raised his profile further, and further still with my foray into ishnaan (ancient cold water therapy first practiced by Indian sheikhs in the Punjab) and finally Russell Brand who has waxed lyrical about the guy for the last eighteen months.

As my recent duhkha post detailed, I have been trying far too hard to find enlightenment, peace and equilibrium over the last decade, in a desperate attempt to find answers to the hard questions of why are we here, how do we maintain a healthy mind and body and what happens to our soul when we die.

I have undertaken many practices during that time, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, reiki, kundalini and all forms of holistic therapy. Whilst that was not wasted time, I found that I was no more balanced than before, wiser of course and more knowledgeable, but still somewhat out of kilter.

One of my commune comrades started to talk about Wim Hof again a couple of weeks over breakfast, and I decided to take a deeper look into this guy to find out what his method was (WHM – Wim Hof Method).

After watching some of his (and Russell Brands) YouTube videos and downloading his free app, I found that his approach to wellness was simple, so simple in fact that it was instantly accessible to all, free at the point of entry, which used our mind, lungs and skin to help retune our physical and meta-physical states of being to bring back balance, calmness and a super-charged immune system to boot.

Contrast that to the other forms of conditioning out there, chemical conditioning via Big Pharma, mental conditioning via Big Therapy, physical conditioning via Big Trainers, spiritual conditioning via Big Religion, all of which comes at considerable expense.

Even the spiritual practices like yoga, transcendental meditation, and holistic therapies don’t come cheap, but the WHM looks to give you all of that balance for free via (in the main) breathing techniques and cold water therapy. That’s it. No detailed rules, laws, regulations, dogma, trinkets, gadgets, just you, your body, your time and water.

Naturally this sounds too good to be true, but as with many things in life (with the exception of injecting heroin, jumping out of a plane without a parachute or supporting Liverpool FC), I’ll try anything once.

So I did just that, and all that I can say is that it works, or at least it is starting to.

Breath work I have done before in yoga (relaxing and energetic), but never have I attempted body oxygenation and breath retention. Within the space of just a few days, I found myself being able to hold my breath for just shy of three minutes, post-which my stress levels plummeted to absolute zero. No technique I’ve done thus far has allowed me to go from breakneck speed to a dead stop so quickly. Remarkable.

The cold therapy I found quite easy too. New Years Day this year saw me in sub-zero temperatures in the sea close to home, albeit with a swim suit on, and I have taken cold showers since, but not with such routine or regularity. Every day I wake up now, energised after unbroken nights of slumber (another benefit of the WHM), almost racing for the spare room where I take my morning “meds” in the form of breath work and contemplation, followed by either a cold shower or a quick dip in the sea if the tides are right before the work day commences.

I am already seeing the benefits, I feel my head is less foggy, my body is reacting well to the new practices, and conflict situations in work have been dealt with as matter of fact rather than “oh no!” scenarios.

Naturally I wanted to know as much about Wim Hof as I could, so my wife bought me his recent book for my birthday which came today, three chapters down already at lunch and I’m in awe of the guy. Humble and honest background, no bullshit, easy to read and the words come straight from the heart, giving me the impression that this guy is both authentic and awesome in equal measures.

Incredibly, he has twenty-six work records, mostly ice-related shenanigans, but it was his clinical trials that pricked my attention most. Here was a guy in his fifties, deploying his own breathing/cold therapy/mind over matter techniques being injected with ecoli under lab conditions, monitored by medical practitioners to see how this man really reacted when his body was put under a real attack, only to find that his immune system was so strong, the bad bacteria had no impact on him whatsoever. He repeated the experiment with twelve of his trainees a short while later and all twelve tests had the same outcome.

What is this? Is it luck? Is it good DNA? Is it poor test conditions? Or is it the fact that here we had a man who could manipulate his immune system in such a way that made him somewhat impervious to bacteria and viruses, even when injected directly into the body?

From what I have read thus far, the science backed up the latter.

Many have frowned upon me when I have told them that I will not be taking the Covid vaccines, on the basis that I believe that I am healthy enough for the virus to only impact me slightly, and that the vaccine is still only on emergency licence until 2023 with no clinical conclusions reached. Mr Hof it appears has now given me the opportunity and associated techniques to boost my immune system even further, which I will embrace with freezing arms (from the cold showers).

I’ll continue to do the daily exercises to see how the practice improves my mind, body and soul, but may leave the ecoli injections a while longer…

Suhkha…

“In darkness, look to the light” is a line from the Dungeon Master, for those of you old enough to remember the old Dungeons & Dragons cartoon from the Nineteen-Eighties, a line I’ve carried with me through the last four decades.

Whilst my last post outlined and detailed the current dissatisfaction points in my life, that of course is just one side of the coin.

My wife read my post yesterday and whilst holding back on the many other problems she sees from her position (no doubt), she asked me what gave me satisfaction, what gave me suhkha, suhkha being the opposite of duhkha, those things in life which keep our wheel in kilter, spinning perfectly.

The list below is a definitive one using the same categories and clusters from yesterday, and although no doubt others could argue against a few of those, this captures the things that please me, that put me in the PMA zone (Positive Mental Attitude) and allows me to function at my best;

Work

◦ I am well respected in work as someone who works hard and achieves greatness

◦ I mentor and nurture others to help them realise their potential

◦ I am liked by my work colleagues

◦ I am paid very well for what I do, and have a good work/life balance

Health

◦ I am fit and healthy for my age

◦ I have optimised my weight and BMI

◦ I am in tune with my health and can listen to my body, adapting my habits when required

◦ I like to take alternative therapies to keep my balance (mind, body and soul)

Mental Well Being

◦ I am happy compared to others I know

◦ I can recognise when I am under stress and have the right tools to decrease anxiety

Relationships

◦ I have friends for life, not many compared to some, but loyal and honest soul mates

◦ I like spending time with friends and they like my company

◦ I am a good judge of character and don’t suffer fools / waste time on pointless relationships

Society

◦ I like being a part of my local community / tribe

◦ I like it when people I know and like do well in life

Hobbies

◦ I like reading

◦ I like blogging

◦ I like music and live concerts

◦ I like the arts, film and theatre

◦ I like time spent in nature

Being

◦ I love my family, my family loves me (my ikigai)

◦ I am liked by friends, neighbours and colleagues

◦ I am seen as fun and energetic by others

◦ I believe in life beyond death which settles me

◦ I am wise and see the world how it really is, not how it is presented by others

◦ I am kind

Life is all about balance, good vs bad, light vs dark, day vs night, but such things are not conflicting or fighting against it’s opponent, it is complimenting it.

If we do not have opposites in play which bring the balance, how can we truly evolve as individuals if everything we have or do is positive.

I have spent this weekend in one of the most magical places on Earth (in my opinion), the Isle of Avalon, Glastonbury, where I am penning this blog from now, the majestic Tor sitting atop its ancient mound in view from my temporary bedroom window.

I have been coming to this place for the last twenty-seven years, and every time I visit I feel closer to The Source.

Adding what happened this weekend would not do justice as a footnote here, so I will save that experience for another post, but I will leave you with a pictorial reminder the both duhkha and suhkha exist, and it is our challenge to find the right balance, so we become balanced, which for me is enlightenment…

Duhkha…

“I got nighty nine problems but a bitch ain’t one” is a horrendously offensive line from a rap song from the ultra-materialist Jay-Z, but the origins of that line go back millennia.

Whilst I may have personally been impacted by the pull of the brace of supermoons recently, and unconsciously by the pandemic, there is something not right at my core. I feel like there is a huge fatberg in the sewers of my mind, building up quickly now, and with it a huge pressure on the entire system.

Why I gravitated to the dusty tomes in my loft this week I don’t know. As I have been off work this week enjoying the sunshine, I took some time to rearrange my personal bookcase in the bedroom, with the four quadrants of my Billy bookcase organised from left to right (History, Science, Noetics and Nature). Alas, one book was missing (and I didn’t even know I was looking for it) in Steve Hagen’s Buddhism: Plain and Simple.

Eager to reread, I recalled buying it on iBooks several years ago, so spent some time this week refreshing my memory on the content, whilst the physical book remained hidden somewhere in the attic.

The book explains the concept of duhkha, not easily translated into English, but can be attempted by saying dissatisfaction or as the book puts it, those things that puts our wheel out of kilter.

The extract below details quite accurately explains the human condition today and how none of us really want any problems to deal with:

Once upon a time an affluent farmer approached Buddha with great hope. He prostrated before the sage and sought his blessings. Buddha raised his hand in benediction.

“O Venerable One!” the farmer said, “I have a major problem and I know only you can help me.”

Buddha kept quiet and the man went onto narrate that his good-for-nothing son was troubling him and that he was mad at his wife because she supported her son over him.

The man said, “Do something so their minds change and they realise how much I’m doing for them.”

“I can’t solve this problem for you,” Buddha replied and lowered his eyes again, in a meditative state.

The farmer told Buddha how he was worried about the upcoming harvest as the weather didn’t seem too favorable and the monkeys were destroying his crop.

“I can’t help you with this one either,” Buddha said calmly.

Still hoping in the powers of Buddha, he told him that many people owed him money and he was having hard time recovering it from his debtors. And that he too owed money to lenders and creditors. He asked Buddha if the sage could give him any remedy or amulet.

“Hmm…” Buddha said, “I can’t solve this problem for you.”

“What good are you then?” the man yelled. “Every one says you are the enlightened one and here you can’t solve any of my problems. Is there absolutely nothing you can do? I’m tired of my terrible life.”

“You see,” Buddha said patiently, as if he hadn’t heard the man’s tirade, “at any point in time, you’ll always have 84 problems in your life. The 84th is the key.

If you solve the 84th problem, the first 83 will resolve themselves.”

“Please solve my 84th problem then,” the man said, going back to being humble. “How do I do it?” he added.

“First, we have to identify your 84th problem.”

“What is my 84th problem?”

Buddha smiled and peered deeply into the man’s eyes that were full of desire, doubt and anxiety.

“Your 84th problem is,” Buddha said and paused, “you want to get rid of the first 83 problems.”

So whilst I understand that we can’t solve all of our problems, and that if we do pop a few off our list, inevitably a few new ones will be added, I felt it was time to actually document all of the things that cause me duhkha right now, and see if any (or all of them) are significantly increasing the size of the fatberg that grows within.

The process is the same as Step Four from the 12 Steps to Recovery programme those with serious addictions go through, and it was quite cathartic jotting those down and reflecting just how much each one was impacting my being.

The list below is a definitive one, and although no doubt others would add a few more, this captures enough for me to cogitate on for a while. They formed natural clusters once the list was complete, so it felt natural to categorise them:

Work

◦ I don’t like the ethics of the company I work for

◦ I don’t feel in control of my own career

◦ I don’t like my job

◦ I don’t trust my chain of command

Health

◦ I don’t like the ringing in my head (tinnitus)

◦ I don’t like the pain in my “man pipes”

◦ I don’t eat the right things, too much processed food

◦ I drink alcohol but I don’t like it’s effects any more

◦ I don’t exercise enough

◦ I don’t walk the dog enough

Mental Well Being

◦ I don’t relax enough

◦ I don’t do yoga enough

◦ I don’t do meditation enough

◦ I don’t speak nicely enough (curse too much)

◦ I don’t want to be stressed

Relationships

◦ I don’t have enough like-minded friends

◦ I don’t spend enough time socialising / connecting with friends

◦ I don’t spend enough time with my sister/niece

◦ I don’t speak to my parents

◦ I don’t like how I am too self-righteous and judge others on their actions/inactions

◦ I don’t like the way I judge others on how they look and not how they are

◦ I don’t do enough for others

Society

◦ I don’t like having a big mortgage

◦ I don’t like the way I spend too much money on things I don’t need

◦ I don’t like the way society is (broken) but do little to change it

Hobbies

◦ I don’t read enough books

◦ I don’t blog enough

◦ I don’t spend enough time learning the ukulele

◦ I don’t spend enough time with nature

◦ I don’t do enough sports

Being

◦ I don’t want to live my life without being enlightened

◦ I don’t connect with my higher self

◦ I don’t always make the right choices

◦ I don’t react well in conflict situations (too quick without thinking)

◦ I don’t like the way I want to control things beyond my control

◦ I don’t like acting upon my cravings rather than acknowledging them

◦ I don’t like feeding the addictions my ego desires (sugar, alcohol)

◦ I don’t always make the right choices

◦ I don’t like other people controlling what I do, how I look

It’s quite some list, and likely not unique either, I’m sure most of us have experienced some, most or all of them over time, and perhaps continue to do so.

The more serious ones, the ones impacting my mental and physical state of being, do need to be addressed now.

Acknowledging our duhkha list is, in my opinion, the first step to recovery and unblocking the sewer, just how we do that depends on many factors, but the overriding one for me is courage, courage to make difficult decisions or to change deeply engrained and programmed habits and behaviours.

To have that mindset, that ability and willingness to change, often needs a catalyst, and that will be the topic for my next blog.

Enter, The Ice Man, Wim Hof!

Sugar: A cereal killer…

It may or may not be a surprise to some that the biggest killer on the planet may actually be sugar.

The vast majority of people have a good understanding that those processed and great tasting foods are generally quite bad for us and as a result, too much of them can attribute to weight gain. We have all been there.

A Convenience Truth…

My recent experiment in an effort to reduce my raging tinnitus by stacking several “mushroom-based supplements” (not including psilocybin!) and juicing celery every morning failed. After one whole month of fastidiously sticking to my early morning regime, I came to a few conclusions.

Firstly, it didn’t work. Secondly, if it didn’t work, the outcome and especially the cost made no sense in carrying on. Lastly, and probably most importantly, my general dietary intake hadn’t changed. I had fallen back into old ways of convenience eating and snacking, eating processed / sugary foods, drinking booze too often and having many take-aways. I of course blame boredom and the Covid lockdown, and there is some truth in that.

As a result I felt bloated, my weight had escalated back up to unacceptable digits as had my BMI, and the overhang of the belly made it a bit more difficult to see my “lovebone” when I looked straight down in the shower.

With the advent of the allotment and thinking more seriously about my organic future, I came to the conclusion that it could well be the influence of sugar that was the root cause of my problems.

A brief sojourn through YouTube last weekend gave me the reaffirmation that refined sugar was bad for us, and the two videos below, a science one and an influencer one gave me the extra kick to kick sugar.

The Science…
The Experiment…

It’s not through a lack of education that piles on the pounds, it’s a lack of focus. My brain has been conditioned over the years that in times of melancholy or stress, the resolution to that temporary negative state of mind is either sugar or alcohol. The serotonin /dopamine hit it gives me boosts my mood and makes me forget, albeit for a fleeting moment and the reason why I reached into the cookie jar / beer fridge in the first place. Gets me every time. That very behaviour is the dictionary definition of addiction and sugar is the drug.

There is no argument in my mind that sugar is the biggest cause of death on Planet Earth. If we take a look at the UK and the USA, then the obesity and diabetes rates (amongst the major nations) are right up their at the top of the league tables. Map those two counties against the Covid death rates and there is a similar view. There is also a link between obesity, diabetes and dementia / Alzheimer’s. It appears that if heart disease through ones lifestyle choices doesn’t get you, then your twilight years may not be worth living anyway (sadly my father in law suffered the latter, a decade of dementia purgatory).

The case for healthy living is a strong one, the real difficulties, as the influencer video above calls out, advertising, convenience and the ubiquity of sugar-powered food, you can’t get away from it. Go into the supermarket and just look at the labels. I was surprised (but not shocked) to find that even “Free From”, “Low Cal” and “Fat Free” are saturated with sugars. Shockingly so. Subliminal food advertising is a real scandal, but that’s what make the big bucks for “Big Farmer” (and I was interested to see the billionaires Bezos and Gates are buying up vast expanses of land in the US, I wonder why)…

Shocking advertising, always read the label (which sugars)…

So with that information in mind, it was time for real and direct action.

I wanted to remove all processed sugar from my diet, not overly concerned by whether it’s plant-based, meat-based or that nutrients are delivered via paleo or keto methodologies.

I wanted to test scientifically whether in just one week, I could notice the difference. Well, that’s an understatement!

I set up a non-calorie-counting routine, boring perhaps for some to follow and maybe more difficult in the long term, but I wanted to see what effects and outcomes having zero processed sugars had.

Day One was fine, eager to go and regimented.

Day Two was a kick in the testicles, I felt like a Trainspotting Ewan McGregor lying in his crack den bed whilst a baby crawled across the ceiling, a migraine literally splitting my brain into a further two hemispheres.

Day Three was much better, as if my headache had purged all of the badness in one awful twenty four hour cold turkey period.

Day Four I felt lighter and less bloated, and noticed I had a full nights sleep and felt better for it.

Day Five and I felt my cognitive ability improve in work by quite some way, and my mind, body and soul sang a common chorus.

Day Six was the dreaded weekend but surprisingly, there was no “reach-in” to the snack store, just a reach-up to my secret stack of no-processed-sugar fruit bars (my saviour throughout the week!).

Day Seven was again plain sailing, helped mostly by my tornado tear-out of all sugared products in the cupboards and fridge.

During the seven days, I lost 1.7kg and 0.5 BMI, improved my sleep, energy levels and cognitive abilities, and due to the lack of stress, my tinnitus didn’t seem as bad.

My wife knows all of the above and is now sold on the idea of sugar-free living. She admits she is totally addicted to sugar and I will do all that I can to free her from those deeply ingrained hooks she has. That will be a challenge, as will migrating my thirteen year old daughter to our new processed-free-pantry.

Weekly tracker below:

Day 1

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 86.5kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Moderate Pain 🟠

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 2

Sleep = Broken 🟠

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Apple 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Average IQ 🟠

Body = Chronic Pain 🔴

Soul = Purgatory 🟠

Day 3

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Egg/Salmon/Asparagus 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Broccoli 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 4

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Banana/Satsuma 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable/Nut Stir Fry 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = None 🔴

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 5

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Paleo Bar 🟢

Lunch = Carrot Soup 🟢

Dinner = Vegetable Fajitas 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = None 🟢

Exercise = Gardening 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 6

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = N/A 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Roast Chicken Breast 🟢

Dinner = Low Carb Lamb Roast 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

Day 7

Sleep = Full 🟢

Weight = 84.9kg 🟢

Vitamins: Taken 🟢

Breakfast = Home Fruit Juice 🟢

Lunch = Home Broccoli Soup 🟢

Dinner = Venison/Shrooms 🟢

Drinks = Coffee/Tea/Water 🟢

Snacks = Fruit Bar 🟢

Exercise = Dog Walk 🟢

Mind = Genius IQ 🟢

Body = Pain-Free 🟢

Soul = Heaven 🟢

On reflection, I think the real problem we have here is convenience-store-capitalism, we all need food to live and on that basis if big companies can make that food look better, smell better, taste better, feel better and sound better (via advertising), then they attack all five senses at once, not many things in life have that ability.

We sow the seed, nature grows the seed, and then we eat the seed…

We received our first organic farm produce today, and have already welcomed back our old milkmen with open arms after he delivered his first pint of fresh milk this morning. So it’s up yours Morrisons

Stay strong. Stay focused. Stay away from sugar…