Wim Hof Weekender: The Awakening…

As I left the M6 and meandered through the narrow country lanes of southern Cumbria, I saw that civilization was being left behind as bar after bar dropped from my mobile signal until the “No Service” sign revealed that a period of digital detoxification had commenced. The valley and hills of Longsleddale was to form a natural and protective barrier from the chaos of a world gone sour, for forty-eight hours at least.

And it was during those forty-eight hours that I found the true meaning of being human, hitherto forgotten by the vast majority of society.

I had been looking forward to my first Wim Hof Weekender for quite some time and for a variety of reasons. Firstly, I had already seen a self-transformation since starting the daily practices over the last few months, and wanted to take it to the next level, and to perhaps get an understanding on whether I wanted to eventually become an instructor. Secondly, I wanted a boost to get me over the hiatus I had experienced this month, due to work pressures and illness. Lastly, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone, to hopefully deconstruct who I thought I was by plunging myself into freezing cold waterfalls and have the strength to put myself back together. As it transpired, I got all of those things and much more, more than I could ever have hoped for before setting off from suburbia.

As the valley approached, my GPS decided to quit on me as I reached a crossroads, giving me the opportunity to search deep down in my DNA for residual and ancient wayfaring skills, locked away for situations just as this. Somehow (not sure why) I felt I was going the wrong way so stopped the car, only to see a bloke coming down the road in the opposite direction with hair longer than mine, so taking a punt, I turned around and followed him, my intuition serving me well as we turned into the car park of the outward bounds centre.

Greeting and thanking my erstwhile navigator, we both marvelled at the scene that was painted in front of our eyes, with cloudless skies and a setting sun casting bursts of oranges and yellows on the hills behind us. It felt like something special was about to happen.

The barn, where the magic happens…

The barn house chimney was sending smoke signals our way to beckon us inside to meet with our comrades for the weekend, and over the course of the next couple of hours, our squadron was assembled, as far east as Greece, as far west as Brazil, as far north as Scotland and as far south as Australia, although the vast majority of us were from these green and sometimes pleasant lands.

Our instructor introduced the team for the weekend and shared that there was no structure to the events that were about to transpire, save that we would all get cold, wet, breathe well and eat well, and at the end of proceedings, we may just understand our real selves a little better than before.

One thing that was mentioned from the off was to have an open mind for the weekend, to leave all judgments at the door and try to eradicate the ego where we could, to have open and honest conversations with all participants and listen, truly listen to what was being said and to react where possible without conflict.

The mandatory “creeping death” took place as we all introduced ourselves and shared with the group why we were there and what we hoped to achieve. Brevity is key with these things, so I shared that I hoped to fine tune my practice to take it to the next level, to see whether the path of being a Wim Hof instructor was one I wanted to pursue, and how me and my hippy companions back home hope to build an eco-retreat / wellness centre in North Wales over the coming years, allowing me to leave behind the corporations once and for all.

As an introductory exercise, we each took a partner and sat opposite them, and were instructed to look deep into their eyes and say “Every time I see you I see…” several times over, based on each of our introductions and visual/energetic perceptions. The exercise was meant to put us out of our comfort zone, and clearly it did. I managed it OK but felt that I could have done more, but there would be other opportunities to get to know others more over the weekend.

Next up was to walk around the room staring only at the floor, using our feet to say hello and connect, not looking up. Then it was to move around the room and to look deeply into each other’s eyes and move on when it felt like the right time. The last, was to again look down not knowing who we were opposite, and just use our hands to greet, no touching.

What happened next was special, a true connection. A pair of hands were presented to me, and not knowing who they were attached to, we formed an invisible link, neither compelled to withdraw and move on. We stayed there for minutes, unable to move, the energy freely flowing between both of us. Clearly as one who has gone through rudimentary Reiki training, I understood what was going on, she never. As we raised our heads to see the other, the slight shock on her face turned to a smile, and I explained what had just taken place. Even though she was a yoga instructor, she hadn’t had Reiki before, and I guess she has now, and that special bond would stay with us throughout the weekend.

Our host for the weekend then gave the group some introductory information on the Wim Hof Method and humbly shared her “warts and all” backstory, in her words, from a highly successful corporate player to lowly café plate bearer and world’s worst Wim Hof participant.

We all have our backstory, and with her sharing hers, looking around the table it was clear that we were all thinking and reflecting on our own, in all likelihood sharing those with some or all of the group by the time the weekend was over.

It was already cold and dark outside and none of us expected to hear the words “get changed into your swimming costumes, we are going for a waterfall plunge”. Say what?! But get changed we did and with a plethora of head torches illuminating the hill, we ascended Stockdale Beck and saw the beautiful twilight waterfall, with semi-shallow pool of cold water, into which each of us immersed ourselves in for around two minutes, which was followed by warming exercises (the horse / warrior stance).

Stockdale Beck, somewhere in those trees…

Back to the barn for an evening meal and a warm by the wood burning fire, the cuisine bar was set very high from the off and never dropped throughout the weekend. Simply put, it was some of the best food I have ever tasted, all vegan/vegetarian, fresh, various and made with love from a pair of beautiful souls from northern Italy and Antipodea respectively.

Feeling somewhat energized from the dip and the amazing food, we then took part in protocol / regular Wim Hof breath work as well as power breathing. One thing I noticed almost immediately, was that my practice wasn’t what it should be, but after several rounds of breathing I felt the wave and perfect flow for the first time, the rhythmical movement allowing me to be comfortable in practice. As we bid each other a good night’s sleep ahead, I felt already that the course was worth it.

As we went back to our respective tents, the constellations kept watch over head, the cloudless sky remained and the three-quarters full moon cast spectral shadows on the icy grass. Needless to say, it was the coldest night I’d ever spent in a tent and my sleep wasn’t the greatest, but sleep I did, albeit broken.

No rest for the wicked anyway as a seven-thirty start got us back into the barn to listen to the science behind the Wim Hof method (which I loved) and how nasal breathing allows the body to become more oxygenated, and how protocol breathing (anerobic) and retention allows for better meditation and calmness, whilst power breathing (aerobic) reduces body alkalinity and as a result super changes the cells and gives our bodies a natural immune boost.

I’m always mindful of not taking the body too far, it was to my detriment with ashtanga yoga several years ago when I managed to dislocate my trachea when my ego wanted to put its feet on the floor behind my head, so I’m mindful about the Wim Hof head squeeze with my tinnitus. The last round of power breathing in the morning made my left ear go numb, not deaf, but a dull sound lasting for a couple of minutes. Let the body do what the body can do, but don’t risk illness or injury in the process.

All of that said, the breathing flow was much improved as an individual, but for the first time the power of the group really came to the fore. I felt the draw to pulse my energy to the group and made hand gestures to push my healing energy out to others, and as a collective we all felt completed to do the same thing, which clearly had a profound impact on us all when we reflected on the session.

Clearly we had worked up quite an appetite as we demolished our breakfast, fresh fruits, yoghurts and sitting well in our stomachs, washed down by the most amazing mango lassi I’d ever tasted, better even than Mowgli, my favourite restaurant in Liverpool. I did say to our chef from heaven that I was going to kidnap her and take her home, I do hope she saw the funny side of my veiled yet humorous threat.

Next up was the ice bucket challenge, two minutes of hand plunge into a bucket of ice. New to this was an “om” or “aum” chant during the second minute. As a group, we chanted each other through the cold, which worked incredibly well as the time went superfast, so the same can be adopted at home with the five minute cold showers.

In an effort to breath more through the nose, we had our mouth taped up and walked / jogged up and down the beck, followed by a brief sprint, again our host gave us the science behind it and how she had run a marathon breathing only through her diaphragm / nose and as a result not needing any water.

After a lunch of homemade soup, salad and spiced beans, we took to the road and hiked up the valley to the source of the River Sprint, the scenery absolutely breathtaking. I took the opportunity to talk one-to-one with several other comrades, sharing my deeper backstory of alcoholism and bloated ego which almost lead to the destruction of my marriage ten years ago, the darkest days of my life.

Got some great insights into the reasons why other folks were there too, and that there was a trend going right across the group to leave behind the corporations and transition to being “wellness instructors” in some shape or form (hypnotherapists, psychologists, life coaches, physical trainers). Clearly I was mixing with the right people here.

River Sprint, look closely for the waterfalls…
Misty Mountain Hop…
Buddhas Cave…
Take another 2c off for flowing water, and it’s a little chilly…
Chilly Dipping…

The first waterfall dip at the “Buddha cave” was amazing, all of us spending a good few minutes immersing ourselves in the pool and under the waterfall, the group pulling together to keep ourselves connected and supported. The water in the shower at home is now 14.5c so at 6c (taking into account the effective flow) it was a lot colder. Feeling invigorated, we all warmed up with the horse stance manoeuvres and made our way back down the river to the second pool, the infinity pool.

After the second dip a little further down the stream, I was the last and only one in, and I casually glanced towards the end of the pool and saw that it was indeed an infinity pool, that waters edge a single line separating the pool from the valley horizon beyond.

I got out eventually and then took to a rock to do the horse stance, and all of a sudden I had realized that the manoeuvre I had emulated from Wim Hof didn’t really flow for me, and I looked down at what I was doing, and I was making the flow of an infinity sign, next to the infinity pool. Infinity, it seems, beckons…

Moon Shaped Pool…
Infinity Beckons…

The long walk back also served as a chance to get to know each other’s backstories a little more, and I was drawn back to my “Reiki partner” who shared her journey from equestrianism to flying solo to northern India to become a yoga instructor, a brave and courageous journey which paid off for both her and her new clients. I went deeper into my story too, sharing in more details the dark days when I was in London, working, partying, drinking heavily whilst my wife carried on up north. I still to this day recall that conversation with her, so vividly haunting and in glorious Technicolor, when she said that I was a great father but the world’s worst husband and that it was over between us. As this blog has uncovered ever since, things worked themselves out in the end.

Having an exposure to life outside the hedonistic paradigm most folks find themselves in these days via practices like Reiki, yoga and meditation and now the Wim Hof Method has kept my wheels from going out of kilter and kept me awake, truly awake to what reality is and how important connections to people are.

Back at base, we undertook some more breathing techniques (outside the Wim Hof Method) to add an extra dimension and perspective on how to breathe in a better way and again through the nose, which finally sank in with me as I could genuinely feel the difference.

Evening meal was another joyous feast, this time offering up the best food this side of Bangalore, with popadums, bhajis, butternut squash curry and rice with a lemon yoghurt pudding, teaching us all how that we could indeed eat a pudding in narrow jars from the arse end of a dessert spoon. Who knew…

I brought in the ukulele from the car boot with every intention of playing badly and embarrassing myself in front of everyone, but after an intense thirteen-hour day, I hit the wall and took to my slightly warmer tent.

I was awakened by the soothing sound of rain on the tent roof, a white noise to settle my ringing ears, and after gathering my thoughts on what was an epic day, got up with a can-do and will-do attitude ready for anything. As the ukulele was still in the barn, I did manage to pluck up the courage to knock out a rendition of All My Loving by The Beatles, my fingers managing to thaw out just enough.

As we all gathered, we were instantly instructed to go back and get our swimwear back on as we were off to the waterfall again (the beck close by) for a six-minute group submersion in the icy water. The look on the faces confirmed my thoughts exactly, “already?!”, but we were ready, very ready as it turned out. We took to the pool which had completely filled up overnight due to the rainfall and formed an aquatic circle, joining hands and using the breathing techniques we had fine turned over the course of the weekend to get us all into the zone.

Quickly we started the group “aum” which was very powerful, closely followed by a haka-type chant (similar to the one Wim adopts for the horse / warrior stance). After a while I felt a sudden drop in energy, so spontaneously broke into a second rendition of All My Loving, thankfully without the awful ukulele playing, so that brought a smile to a few faces and got us through another minute or so. After several wolf-type howls from the youngest member of the clan (which I felt compelled to join in with) the six minutes were over, and we all felt we could have stayed in for longer.

Breakfast never felt so good back at the barn, and soon after it was time for our final breathing session. Again we started with several fringe practices, balloon inflating, candle blow outs and yogic box breathing.

And then the magic happened…

We were instructed to use all the techniques shared to finish off with three protocol rounds of breathing and two rounds of power breathing. The waves I formed during the protocol rounds were executed with aplomb, perfect almost, putting me in a meditative state of consciousness, feeling peaceful and at one with everyone in the room. The final two round gave us all the opportunity to supercharge our bodies and the breathing did just that. To get more oxygen in, I held open my nostrils so that which was going in was fully charged. Whilst the power round is not meant to have a breath retention, I decided to break ranks and hold my breath at the end, and it was in that very moment, that something rather incredible happened.

Throughout my journey into esoterica and search for enlightenment, I have always tried very hard (too hard in fact) to “see” things, believing only that visions of alien landscapes, shapes and colours were the only way to validate that there was an “ever after” and that I was awake. Sometimes, one can look too hard for such things, and sometimes, letting go is the answer. So there I was, physically located in a climbers’ barn in Cumbria, but deep inside the physical form of a long-haired lover from Liverpool, a mystical experience was taking place.

All of a sudden, the outside world no longer existed, and I found myself having (what Antony Peake and David Bohm would call) a panoramic life review, but in reverse. I felt myself inside some sort of time vortex travelling back in time, replaying critical events of my life in reverse chronological order. I didn’t see anything, I just experienced it, almost like watching a film with eyes and ears closed, but you somehow knew what was going on upon the silver screen.

Firstly, the most recent reconnection with my mum who I hadn’t seen or spoken to for eight years, the second with my sister who I now have an incredible bond with considering that was abruptly terminated around the same time as my parents. The most profound was yet to come, when I felt myself plunging down a wormhole to my darkest days and the time that my life almost ended with my marriage, and it was at that point that I realized that actually, I had already found enlightenment all of those years ago, and that the old me had actually died back then and a new me was reborn, awakened.

Needless to say, the emotion of that revelation was too much to bear, the tears forced their way through closed eyelids and I began to sob, quietly to myself.

As we brought our attention back to the room and were asked to stand and raise our arms and turn to our left and hug the person to the left, and there was my Reiki partner ready to cradle a sobbing Scouser.

After we reseated ourselves at the table, we individually reflected on the whole weekend and our experiences, and whilst I shared that I felt that I had successfully fine-tuned my Wim Hof Method practice, the true message for me was connection and the power of community.

Notably, all the men found it a very emotional and perhaps cathartic process, with each of us shedding a tear or two as we shared our thoughts with the group. Ask me now what masculine strength is, and I’ll give you a different response. True strength is not how much weight can be lifted, nor how much of a stiff upper lip can be held during adversity, true strength is man’s ability to connect with males and females alike and break down to share their emotions with others, impervious to what society thinks a man should be. Show me an Eddie Hall or a Tyson Fury, and I’ll show you a Greek man training to be a Wim Hof Method instructor, shedding tears and true feelings with what was initially a group of participants who he could now call friends.

Every single one of us, not one person excluded, shed a tear for a lady who had just lost her husband, and such was the bond the group had formed together we grieved collectively for her loss and hopefully took on some of that burden, albeit briefly, to help her on her road to recovery, a sad but truly beautiful moment.

We all came to be taught new things, that was certain, but what we actually learnt was very different. I felt we all came away with the same feelings, that we were not the same people that went into that barn on Friday night, and were all the better for it.

As readers of this blog will know, I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe that the odd things that happen are breadcrumbs placed by invisible hands, giving us a nudge into recognition and action, so it was no surprise to see a butterfly flying around the barn as we left to go our separate ways. We had all gone through a metamorphosis during the weekend, and just like the butterfly, we had now come out of our cocoons (sleeping bags) to carry on with our life journey with a new set of skills to help.

Such was the bond between us all, I shared that I would love to keep in touch with folks and I sincerely hope that happens, I have a good feeling that it will.

Clearly, I’ve shed further tears since, and it’s not been easy writing this missive, but what was apparent, was that I will succeed in my mission to be a “wellness instructor” in whatever shape or form that takes, using whatever methods or practices I choose to adopt.

The cold water immersion gives us that opportunity to realize that anything is possible for the individual, but like the circle of power in the waterfall, if we all work together, we are gestalt, we are greater than the sum of our parts…

Inflamed…

Well last weeks Wim Hof training didn’t go quite to plan. The first three weeks on the fundamentals course went really well, but I stuttered and stumbled my way into week four, and decided after three stop-start days to take a week off and restart next week. And I’m glad I did, as on day four, all hell broke loose.

Once again, my workplace let me down, once again my mind let me down. Once again it is very clear that I cannot continue on in this job, it really is causing so much negativity, that trying to function normally, let alone train, is such a Herculean task.

It came to a head this week where I flipped out, tired of the same old patterns of being pushed too many things to do. I’ve always said “success is a huge burden to carry” and that’s none more apparent than right now.

Several things glued together tipped me over the edge, to the point where I could not sleep, could not focus, could not eat the right things, could not exercise, all of which resulted in me having my stress first migraine for four months (accompanied by a fifteen-hour sleep) and me having to rely on Big Pharma to get me through (as an ice pack and cold shower didn’t even touch the sides), sorry Wim!

It came to a resolution though on Friday, and after successfully brokering a deal to leave the team by the end of the year, so a positive outcome was reached, but with a real drain on my mental state and energy levels.

This week was a costly one all round. I comfort ate and could actually see and feel my body was becoming more inflamed as each day passed. I saw my spare tire gradually inflating as the week went on. I stopped off with the wife at the local pub after walking the dog one evening and for the first time since giving up the booze four months ago, I felt tempted to hit the bottle, and hit it hard. Thankfully, I chose the soft drink option and remain clean.

Mental health, stress and anxiety strips away all of life’s privileges in an instant. A billionaire and a destitute can feel exactly the same way in the moment, that moment of despair, the moment where surroundings and circumstances do not apply, only the blackness, the void, the abyss, the nihilism of existence.

It is not easy to climb out of the ravine alone, and more often than not, escape is via others casting down ropes to offer their assistance. Thankfully that happened three times this week, two colleagues and the wife, all talking me through things, pulling me back up into the light from the darkness below, and for that I am truly grateful and blessed, I know others are not so fortunate.

I silently crept up on the scales this morning in an attempt to quietly reveal the truth, but the damned machine screamed at me to reveal that I had put on two kilos in a week.

I also looked into the “deep dark truthful mirror” to tell myself that I ought stop thinking too much, to be positive and see the beauty in the moment as Messrs Watts and Tolle, and not to waste what precious little time I have left on this rock.

But as Messrs Nietzsche and Carney advocate, “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger”, I’m stronger now than I was before. There are so many people in the world that would give their right arm to be in my position, in fact there’s so many people in the world without a right arm, so what am I complaining about, really.

So here we are, the dawn of a new week, a week that was supposed to be focused on inflammation and how to combat it, and this coming week I am in need of that, maybe last week was a reminder that the power of the mind (or lack of) impacts our body more than we can know, so detox week, inner fire and determination is required to get me back on track.

Let’s see…

WHM Fundamentals: Energy Management

“Everything is energy, and energy is you and me”. So sayeth Scouse progsters Anathema, the song “Everything” is one of the stronger tracks on the album “We’re here, because we’re here”, which is also the strap line on my info-graphic above.

This week’s Wim Hof theme was around energy management, its central tenet around controlling breathing to positively influence the effectiveness of the body at a cellular level, which in turn increases the amount of energy we have to play with. For that, the main practice was around power breathing, taking sixty rapid breaths instead of the regular thirty.

Going into this week with a fair amount of positivity, with only two”absence days” over the last fourteen registered. I did decide however to commence week three after a two day break, ironically because I had literally no energy in the tank left after this weekends music festival with my daughter, five decades of concerts, gigs and festival is starting to take its toll, so if the method brings more energy, then its very welcomed!

Day 1

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤬

✓ Energy Level 😐

✓ Mood 🤬

Yoga: Sun. Swan. Sun. Swan. Plank. Cobra. Cobra. Dog. Walking dog. Sun. Swan Butterfly. Seated Cat. Bridge Pose. Arching Cat. Back Roll. Boat.

Notes: Back on it today after a two day rest, although energy levels still a little low, so this week could be a welcomed thing! Was totally exhausted Monday/Tuesday after music festival at the weekend and the weather was scorching, adding to the fatigue. Still did my cold showers though.

New yoga stretches were OK and I’ll continue with Week 1 as a warm up. Downloaded a metronome app to regulate my breathing and set the tempo for power breathing and regular breathing. Felt super charged after 2 rounds of power breathing and felt the energy flow during / after the regular breathing rounds (retention of 4m30s and 5m0s). Felt totally stoned afterwards, nice feeling. Did experience some nervous twitching in my lips bizarrely, which made me pout like Mick Jagger! Should be an easy week this one.

Trying to fast as much as I can as I ate crap Sunday to Tuesday (still no meat or booze though and I’m still at my optimum weight – that said I feel “furred” on the inside, healthy eating and drinking for a couple of days will put that right). Did a pH test after breath work, was the greenest it’s been so far, so perhaps power breathing alkalises the body more. Will test after each session.

On reflection, I felt that my brain wasn’t working like it had done the last few weeks without WHM, placebo maybe, but I’ve actually missed it the last two days, just wish I could devote all of my time now to personal fitness and sharing my experiences with others. That will come, in time, and the corporations I’ve worked for will become a distant memory. My mood and stress has been adversely impacted by work, I’ve been fuming all day over the inaction of others and being told to calm my frustrations. I feel that no amount of controlled breathing and “Om’s” can get me away from the fact that I loathe this job at times, so the learning from today is to clearly stop giving a shit and be a financial mercenary. Be that nodding dog they want, do the bare minimum and take them to the fucking cleaners.

Day 2

x Stretches 🤬

x Breathing 🤬

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤬

✓ Stress Level 🤬

✓ Energy Level 🤬

✓ Mood 🤬

Notes: I dreamt of thunderstorms, and there was thunderstorms. I predicted today was going to be shit, and boy was it shit. For the first time in many years, I looked long and hard at my works laptop to see if I was got to turn it on, leave it off, or throw it through the window, such was my mood. Where has it all come from? Not ten days ago I was on the top of my game, WHM getting rid of any work related blues, so what happened, what changed? I think it was the realisation that people are taking the piss out of my good nature, willingness to graft hard and be the inspirational leader many think I am for the many, not the few. Maybe I am, but it’s all an act, well mostly. I do genuinely care for those that report to me and will do everything I can to nurture and push them on, even if that means me putting myself last and giving them all available energy until I’m exhausted and have nothing else to give.

Last night, I clicked on a YouTube link to a video by the modern philosopher Alan Watts, and within minutes I was hooked, everything he was saying was making total sense, discussions around time, thoughts, the lower and higher self resonating with me. Yet the most important point raised was courage. In order for us to be in control (of the things we can control), we must be courageous, we must make the right decisions to avoid us falling down the never-ending hole of despair. So what courageous things do I need to do to overcome my current situation. Many present themselves, all of which have consequences.

Resign – not a good idea from a financial perspective, especially given the current climate.

Sickness – a possibility, clearly the managers at work are influencing the maladies in me, perhaps an extended period of stress-related illness will put things into context for them, that their actions are causing invisible harm to others.

Work To Rule – refuse to do any work that is not within my current scope and contract of employment, should this be the case anyway?

Negotiation – plead my case to leave politely and coherently, and find a final position that will see me through to the end of my corporate days.

Clearly the best option is the last one, but I’m finding that anxiety is clouding my ability to articulate how I feel and what my own wishes are, and there is a sense of foreboding that my own wants and needs will be overruled by the strong arm of management, who will cite business continuity as the reason they will not let me move on. So logically it should go as follows:

Negotiation > Work To Rule > Sickness > Resignation.

Day 3

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Better sleep. Better day in work. Reflecting more on what Alan Watts was sharing too (a position echoed by Eckhart Tolle) is that we must live in the now, the exact now, that what has happened in the past is gone and what may happen in the future may never come to pass. I ended up not having the conflict meeting, and I was so glad I never.

Had a good chat with my closest comrade (from Chile!) and reflected on his aged wisdom and also that of young Emma Radacanu who won the US Open Tennis Championship, about inner strength, courage and control.

All WHM exercises done today, with retention of 4m30s for both rounds, feeling incredibly stoned again afterwards and a lot of energy charging during rounds. Saw some bright lights on last round retention, which was interesting, a slither of bright light appeared as a small crack in my vision, like a rip in space-time you may see on a sci-fi movie. Not reading too much into it, but it was interesting nonetheless…

Day 4

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Weekly weigh in and I’m 82.5kg, lightest I’ve been in many years. I do feel healthy on the inside, and the spare tyre around my mid-rift has now all but gone (a little flabby but not too shabby!), so just needs a tone up by yoga, planks and push ups. Just need to maintain my mental stability as this week hasn’t exactly been ideal, will try to imbibe more Alan Watts this weekend as I have a lot of downtime.

Watched The Matrix Reloaded last last, and the key theme is cause and effect. Made me reflect on two things, firstly, I am the creator of my own misery, letting work get on top of me caused my “duhkha”. Cause and effect. Secondly, the confirmation that the third pillar of the Wim Hof Method (power of the mind) really is the toughest one to crack, when that pillar dissolves, yoga and breath work don’t stand a chance.

Smashed it this morning, very much back on track. Starting to improvise with my yoga too, extending position and adding my own to work that tummy flab. Clearly work impacts me greatly, a look back over the stats for the last few months is that I report green for everything at the weekends, and have gaps and lapse days when work gets on top of me. Good to acknowledge that, difficult to change when one is caught up in the moment, in the chaos that corporate life brings. First game of squash in years too, let’s see how the knees are tomorrow! 3-2 victory, the power of Wim Hof saw me through. I was 4 match points down at 20-16 when I asked my son to stop so I could take in some Wim Hof breaths, he smirked and obliged (looking to the skies) and didn’t I just go on to win the next 6 points and bring it on home!!!

Day 5

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Happy, healthy, strong, trust, respect, love, nature. These are the central tenets of the practice for me and as each day passes, the more these things become apparent.

This morning I took to the Welsh hills, to commence with my hill training for Snowdon later this year. Dressed only in shorts and a thin t-shirt, I took the path less traveled up Moel Fenlli, accompanied by only woolly beasts on four legs, beasts I no longer ate for Sunday lunch which made me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

Controlled breathing up and down the hills, regulated without feeling too much impact on body. Kept going without stopping 10km in all and 100 flights of stairs after summitting Moel Famau (if one can summit a hill!). Yoga with sheep by my side nearly put me back in the land of nod, perhaps I was counting them too much. nearly fell asleep counting them. Self-isolation on top of Moel Fenlli allowed my to strip off and get back to the elements, with a cold breeze chilling me as I performed the exercises, was so nice.

Really felt that with more hill training and cold therapy, I will be ready for the -5c to -15c ascent and descent of Snowdon across layers of ice and snow a few months time, need to get some crampons!

A little fatigued in the evening – but given exercises over the weekend all good, after hot tub and breath work (two short retentions of 2m0s) and a cold shower. Great weekend, back to the grind tomorrow, must learn the lessons from last week and let those feelings rise and fall, escalate issues to my boss to resolve without me wading in, that’s why they pay her the big bucks and not me! Dog walk and some as the sun went down and some Alan Watts shorts on YouTube (as well as ordering three of his secondhand books) brings to an end a fabulous weekend.

Day 6

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 😐

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Minimal movement day! Felt I overdid it a little yesterday, felt a little light-headed when getting up from seated positions last night, so need to keep an eye on that.

Ordered an oximeter which turns up today, be interesting to see what my normal stats are and what they are after breath work (I see that is a fundamentals course check in a few weeks time).

Must keep my calm in work this week, cannot allow another two days like last week. Live in the moment and not worry about the injustices of work distribution and who is responsible/accountable for what, just do and don’t react. May have a light at the end of the tunnel with two new job opportunities presenting themselves last Friday, in darkness look to the light and all that.

Evening stretches (just week 3) and 4 rounds of breather (3m45s / 4m0s) and a trial run of my new oximeteter, which displayed an SPO2 of 99 at the start of the hold and 65 after a 4 minute retention. I believe the test is to increase the o2 in the blood during the breath work (it did reach 100%) and see how far it drops after retention (the alarm goes of at 94% and keeps beeping – proof during retention that the oxygenated blood drops quite rapidly. Need to do more research into the benefits of that (we already know it increases alkalinity and deceases acidity, but what more beyond that I don’t know. It’s part of week 5 training so sure I’ll find out more soon. 5 min cold shower and bed. Tired now…

Day 7

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Had a great chat with someone in work today about life, the Universe and everything and shared my experiences with over the last 3 months, and ended up recruiting another potential neophyte at work (that makes 3 in total now). It did make me feel that I could potentiall share these pearls of wisdom with a wider audience at work, and see if I can actualy start the process of running WHM session (not formally of course as I’m not accredited yet), but sharing my knowledge and progress with other, which may in turn allow them to adopt what I have done already, giving them happiness, health and strength too.

Good yoga today, feel the core difference and the lengthening is more than when I started 3 weeks ago. No longer getting pains in legs, back which is a first! 4 retention rounds nailed (4m0s, 4m30s), measuring via Oximeter dropped SPO2 level to 65 after the 4m30 hold so it does work. PH still quite acidic though, but still not overly concerned by that as my weight and BMI is on the money. Shower cold today, will measure later to see how it’s dropped from 19.5 in the early summer.

Week 3 done, still on track with the mechanical goal. That said, it’s clear that my busy life can sometimes get in the way, but one day off per week is acceptable in my mind, but I’ll always do cold showers unless there’s a day I don’t get washed (eeuuww).

One thing is becoming apparent, there is no way I can tie down a busy job and be an instructor at the same time, so I have come to the conclusion that I will likely repeat the fundamentals course several times before signing up for the accreditation process in Poland. There really is no rush for me to do this, one rotation of the 10 week course will give me a solid foundation for success in the future, and also embed that mechanical mindset for daily practices which I have been yearning for, for so many years…

WHM Fundamentals: Stress Control

Stress. We all suffer from it from time to time. Some of us are perhaps in a permanent state of stress (I know I have had periods in my life when everything was out of kilter and I simply couldn’t function at all, only the mechanical processes of breathing, eating and sleeping seemed to work, and not that well either). Add to that the position most of us find ourselves in now, lost without direction in a world so chaotic and polarized, nothing seems to be going right.

I’m a firm believer in only concerning oneself with things that are within our control, worrying too much about things we cannot influence only leads to stress, to anxiety, to depression (or worse).

As I’ve been doing WHM for the best part of three months now, I can safely say that my stress levels (given everything that is going on in the world) are low. Week 1 taught me a few things about myself, that by having a mechanical approach to yoga, meditation, breath work and now cold therapy, gives one the ability to control the mind more. My wife had always said that I think and worry too much, but I’ve not heard her say that for quite a while now, so I must be doing something right, and one of the goals for this week was to replicate the stress-free attitude in work in the home, and by jingo I think I cracked it!

This week added new tasks to my daily roster of activities, namely controlled breathing (which measures normal breaths and controlled breaths using mantras/chanting – more grunting for me) and plunging hands and feet into iced water for three minutes, both of which I had no issues with. The focused mind can achieve so much, a broken mind achieves so little, getting power of the mind is the key to a happy, strong and healthy us.

Monday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

x Cold Hands / Feet 🤬

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Yoga: Sun. Swan. Sun. Swan. Plank. Cobra. Cobra. Dog. Walking dog. Sun. Swan Butterfly. Neck Dangle. Arm Dangle. Sun. Child. Coffin. Knees chest/left/right. Coffin.

Notes: Apologised to my wife on my lack of patience and compassion yesterday during the kayak adventure. She said she has not seen any improvement in my attitude since starting WHM. Instead of reacting, I acknowledged this (which is new!), and aimed to change her perception by more positive actions and less reactions by the end of the week. Went for a 3km run (first in long time) and it went well, though need to keep an eye on the knees as they were sore later on, in an effort to increase the cardio activity, one eye on the proposed Snowdon trip with WHM Instructor Paul in a few months time. Decided to keep Week 1 stretches as a warm-up throughout the Fundamentals course as I really enjoy them. Did Week 1 and 2 stretches before taking another 10 min ice bath this morning, water was 11.1c when getting in, 16.5c when getting out, just shows how quickly the water warms up from the body, so skipped the ice plunge for and hands and feet because of this. Did controlled breathing exercise at a 10/2 rate. Feels like I have powerful lung capacity, probably due to the running and racing over the years, as well as WHM over the last 3 months. Did 4 rounds of breath work (2m45s, 3m0s, 4m0s, 4m20s) in the evening, after completing them all I lay naked (eeuuww) in the total darkness for 20 mins, energy coming in waves, and felt like a physical uncoiling in the belly, with overwhelming peaceful thoughts rising and falling. Need to also keep an eye on the tinnitus levels as well, quite loud going to sleep tonight. Great start to Week 2 though, another busy week at work and in the social diary. Created a notice board so I can track of my yoga postures each day and complete my homework sheet, and used my inflatable camping mat so I could do my WHM in the office whilst the son is using the spare room in his time home from Uni. No big pharmacy pills for 3 months, reduced inflammation due to a gluten-free / wheat free diet (mostly) and no alcohol. Keep going!

Tuesday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Cold Hands / Feet 🤢

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 😐

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Controlled breathing was different today 11/3.5, is it because I’m back at the corporate grind? Perhaps, although things are relatively calm at work. 3 min cold shower in the morning. Tired in the evening, a little weak from the days events, maybe due to dropping another half kilo over the weekend. Took more calories today to make up for the short fall after some essentials shopping (for the kids back to school/university) by eating out (nice gluten-free plant-based burger at Byron’s Burgers) so thought I would have had to kick and scream my way into yoga and breathing, but the ice challenge for the hands and feet (2 mins) followed up by hot tub sorted that. Full stretches, getting lower down already on the butterfly and the forward dangle. 4 breathing rounds were fine (2m0s, 3m45s, 4m0s, 4m0s). Will sleep tonight! Getting used to having less clothes on too. Doing my breath work and yoga naked seems more natural and less restrictive, and when I can get away with it I’ll do the same around the house. Clearly I do it out of site of others, wouldn’t want to subject others to that ghastly site!

Wednesday

x Stretches 🤬

x Breathing 🤬

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

x Cold Hands / Feet 🤬

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Back up to optimal weight again which feels better. Lovely 5 minute cold shower, as the temperatures outside are colder, so is the shower water. Injecting a bit of fun into proceedings, I have started to dance like Thom Yorke in the Lotus Flower Radiohead video definitely helps stave off the cold, coincidentally its exactly 5 minutes long so I’ll do that from now on. Busy day in work and ended up falling asleep on the sofa, waking up at 11pm, was shattered so no yoga, breathing or ice challenge. Bummer…

Thursday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Cold Hands / Feet 🤢

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Smashed it this morning, yoga, breathing (2m45s, 3m35s, 3m45s, 5m0s) and cold shower (5 mins) all done before work. Also tested my pH levels which were 6.0 before WHM and 7.0 after. Some change that in 30 mins! May research on whether ones first piss of the day is naturally more acidic, would expect so after a long sleep. Interesting though. Controlled breathing good (10/2.5). Ice challenge before evening spa (3 mins hands) and off work tomorrow, life is good!

Friday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

✓ Cold Hands / Feet 🤢

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Straight on the yoga, controlled breathing (10/3) and “Thom Yorke Shower Therapy”. Day off work today with daughter, which was spent on a coffee crawl around most of the independent coffee shops in my home town, lovely. Had an impromptu hot stone massage from the wife in the evening which was amazing. Super chilled. Cold hands, feet and face tonight, found better receptacle (washing up bowl), which I poured over my head in an ice bucket challenge fashion at the end, hope I don’t get corns on my face!. 4 rounds of breathing (3m0s, 3m0s, 4m15s, 2m15s) in the evening. Smashed it! Little pain in my right leg (recurrent issue) probably due to yoga stretches and retention clench and relax, will take it a little easier tomorrow, will need meditation / stress relief to build garden fence for the wife’s mother!

Saturday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

x Cold Hands / Feet 🤬

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Completed stretches and built fence with no complications and a happy mother in law to boot! 3 intense rounds of breathing (4m0s, 4m30s, 5m20s) and saw that my face was quite red afterwards, I guess due to the retention. Nice 5 min cold shower to chill down. Dancing like Thom Yorke in the shower brings a chuckle to my routine, don’t think I can stop now. Maybe when I’m in the cold waterfalls next month (on my WHM Weekender in Cumbria) I may not do it in front of others, but may do it for laughs (hopefully they will see the funny side!). Went to town for an all you can eat and drink supper, first time I’ve been on a bender with others and not drank, I have the willpower not to drink already, and the evening was really nice and fun, so I’m not too much of a boring bastard without the booze which is nice to know! No time for ice challenges today, though I did do a pH test which had odd results, top marker = 6.0, bottom marker = 6.75, either way still quite acidic. Will see what all of that means tomorrow. Wonder how pH levels change during the day, and will also research on whether breath hold for 4-5 mins is a good thing or not and what the scientific benefits or hindrances are.

Sunday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Shower / Ice Bath 🤢

x Cold Hands / Feet 🤬

✓ Controlled Breathing 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Well, life well and truly got in the way of practice today but boy was it worth it! Up early to do my cold shower and controlled breathing, then off to the Neighbourhood Weekender Music Festival with my daughter, her first ever. It’s safe to say I did my stretches and breathing in an unorthodox way today! As she is only 5 foot tall, she was on my back most of the day so she could see the bands play, so stomach crunches, lunges, dad-dancing and deep breathing were the only things to get me through and it worked! We both had an amazing time and was well worth the practice sacrifice, we have to live and have as much fun as we can as well, right!

The next two days I was totally destroyed, and I still had to go to work (with a lot of work planned), so I took 2 days off from the Fundamentals Training to recuperate before going into Week 3, which ironically is all about Energy Management!

I’ve learned enough about Stress Control this week though, through the ice challenges and the controlled breathing, and I asked my wife if she had seen a difference in my “household stress” this week as I’d been making a conscious effort to improve, and she said it was quite a change (for the better), so thanks Wim for the remote marriage guidance!

WHM Fundamentals: Going Deeper

Upon completing the first official training course in the Wim Hof Method over in Wales a couple of weeks ago, I received an email with a 40% discount inviting me to sign up for the ten week fundamentals course.

I was already thinking about signing up for it before the course, but something (or someone hitherto unseen) was telling me to hold off. So purchase it I did and and last week I started “Hoffing”, the results from which are tracked below.

In short, the first week has been nothing less than transformative and even at the ripe old age of “nearly fifty”, I find myself learning new things about my own physiology, how the human mind and body works as a machine and that there is a hitherto (there’s that HP Lovecraft word again) unseen element that lurks beyond the four that we are accustomed to (Earth, Air, Fire, Water), waiting for the opportunity to introduce itself, given the right set of circumstances and desires of cosmic adventurers. This invisible element goes by many names; Aether, Quintessence, Chi or simply Energy.

To quote the late, great Bill Hicks (again!) “Today a young man on acid realised that all matter is merely energy condensed to a slow vibration, that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves. Heres Tom with the Weather”.

So if we are made up of energy, how is it that we can tap into that hidden energy, that hidden universe which lies beyond the five senses, and perhaps more importantly why would we want to?

We have options. We can of course choose the psychedelic route, an express train to an Esotericville, an alien world which may give answers to the questions we have been longing to know.

Alternatively, we can practice going into our own minds through yoga, breath work, and meditation, using our own physiology to experience the quintessence that binds the whole universe together, the outcome perhaps ending at the same destination as the “day tripper”, using that energy to bring health, strength and happiness to our mortal coils, without the use of substances to get us there. There is some evidence to suggest that the deepest meditation and yogic practices releases DMT (dimethyl tryptamine) from the pineal gland into the brain, so I guess why pay for drugs when you can generate them for free! Get high on your own supply as The Iceman says.

All of this leaves me to conclude that the materialistic world (with all of its trappings) is by and large meaningless, which is a complete polar extreme to the materialists view of the whole universe, in that it is simply coincidence and meaningless.

By seeking out peace, love and harmony, we find out who we really are and what is really important. That introspective look is a critical process, as it leaches out physical and meta-physical maladies, it leaches out those flaws in our personalities and gives us a real opportunity for personal growth and sharing what we have learned with others.

And it is in that clarity that I have already found opportunities for self-improvement. No longer do I eat meat, gluten or wheat – my body operates without inflammation. No longer do I consume alcohol – no more hangovers. No longer do I suffer from work-related stress – no more conflict-induced anxieties. No longer do I feel lethargic – no more procrastinating.

That is why, in such a short space of time, the Wim Hof Method is working for me, transformative even. This is not a sell, nor do I have shares in the company, it’s an honest observation on a practice which is very simple (when compared to others), a practice which is free (unless you choose to go deeper like I am) and most importantly perhaps, a practice that is quick to deliver results to keep one on track.

Clearly after experimenting with the free stuff that’s out there on the Wim Hof website, app and YouTube channel, and after attending the one day course, and after week one of the fundamentals course, it’s safe to say that I’ve embedded the component parts into my daily life pretty well so far and I’m seeing the benefits, but by no means am I there yet. As the daily digest below reveals, there is still a lot of work to do.

Week 1: Go Deep!

Monday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Yoga: Sun. Swan. Sun. Swan. Plank. Cobra. Cobra. Dog. Walking dog. Sun. Swan Butterfly

Notes: Good start, all completed. Wanted it today. Printed manual and bound it to a folder. Breathing could be better, too much faff with the free videos that come with the course, I’ll stick to the WHM app on the watch, much better. Wasn’t comfortable on the floor, sore back, need better support.

Tuesday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 😐

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: Straight on it today, no hesitation. Morning stretches without the video, but need ms improving as the flow and accuracy wasn’t fully there. Still a little pain in the lower back due to the floor but will be fine once son buggers off back to University and I have the spare room back. Retention ok, not feeling the capability to comfortably go past 3 minutes yet but that’s ok. Took 5 min cold plunge instead of a shower in the outdoor “pool”, was much better. Will do that every day and do an ice bath once per week. If every day started like to day I’ll be happy. Autonomy is the key! Back a little sore still after stretches, means it’s working muscle groups I’m not used to moving so all good. Energy levels dropped in the afternoon / evening, probably too much effort at work. Micro-snooze in the evening before swim and sauna/cold showers. Ended with pack of Aero chocolate bubbles, naughty but nice!

Wednesday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 😐

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: 10 mins cold therapy (8 in pool, 2 in shower). Did stretches and breath work in the evening after a session in the hot tub, stretches felt much better (after false start) and the swan dive was deeper already. Held the butterfly for over 5 minutes and it felt good, no pain in the back. Did 3 rounds of breathing, 2 mins, 2.5 mins then 4.5 mins. The last retention was amazing, I worked up from the feet, up through the legs then up through each chakra, physically putting pressure on each nexus point, pulling in my root and holding my crown with my hands, I felt a surge of energy uncoil from my stomach, which made its way up each chakra (releasing what can only be described as sexual energy) and into my head, where I began to see colours and shapes. It wasn’t a psychedelic experience but it was something visual I’d not seen during meditation before and could be as close to a kundalini experience I’ve had so far. Very interesting, breath clock stopped at 4.5 mins and felt I didn’t need to do another round tonight. Will try the same method tomorrow for each retention. Now for sleep, wonder what my dreams will be like!

Thursday

◦ Stretches 🤬

◦ Breathing 🤬

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 😐

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: 8 mins in the cold tub in the morning before work. Had every intention on doing the meds in the evening but an experiment in inflammatory foods went wrong. I’ve not had a lot of food which inflames the body in a while, but the bread, fried potatoes and tempura vegetables mixed with the alcohol-free beer really bloated my stomach, to the extent where I found it uncomfortable breathing deeply. So I decided to skip yoga and breath work and go “fully in” in the morning. Trying not to beat myself up too much as I hadn’t seen my friends in a long time, it was enough not getting drunk with them, and the training isn’t a competition, I’ve already learned a lot this week from the stretches and the deeper level of breath work. Even my sleep was shorter and still felt very bloated in the morning (even my pee came out at a slower rate). Good lessons, time to write that inflammation blog! Will fast today.

Friday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 🤢

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: 11am after food inflammation gone. Just 3 rounds. 2:30, 3:30, 4:30. That kundalini experience is back too, even stronger than yesterday. 5 mins cold shower, which is now warm not cold! Body is getting acclimatised to the temperatures, even though it’s not ice cold. As the plunge pool is a pain in the arse to keep clean, I’ll take cold showers in the week and ice baths at the weekends. Really enjoying the stretches and I think it’s the first time ever I’ve stuck to yoga daily since I stared almost ten years ago. As each day passes, the practice becomes more mechanical. Mindful that my busy life may get in the way sometimes but I’m down with that, so if I skip a day or a breath work round, it’s OK. Tinnitus is still a concern as it’s bad today, I wonder if it will hinder my progress as an instructor, time will tell I guess but my stress levels in work are literally gone, even though the high pitched noise is still there. Pizza base (presumably containing gluten and wheat) gave me gip this afternoon, seems anything bready or wheat is starting to play havoc on my insides, time to ditch it for good.

Saturday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 😐

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 🤢

✓ Energy Level 🤢

✓ Mood 🤢

Notes: 5 min cold shower. Good stretches, will keep these too going into next week as warm up. Felt stoned afterwards, really great feeling. With three sets of tennis in the morning (even getting hammered 0-3 didn’t put me in a bad mood), silent disco in the afternoon (dancing like a crazy person through the streets of Liverpool with fifty other people, sober!) and shopping (retail therapy for my ladies), two breathing rounds was all I could muster! 20k steps, 17km completed, no wonder I’m knackered!

Sunday

✓ Stretches 🤢

✓ Breathing 😐

✓ Cold Therapy 🤢

✓ Sleep Quality 🤢

✓ Stress Level 😐

✓ Energy Level 😐

✓ Mood 😐

Notes: Ice bath day! 10 mins. Water a lot colder but 1 bag of ice not cold enough, need at least two, will make own (via new ice making machine) and see how many small bags I need. Good stretches and horse stance after the ice bath. Energy levels took a dip due to exercise day before as did mood/stress due to a less than enjoyable kayak trip out with the wife. Taking the positives out of everything, my wife needed help and I got annoyed at her, as the help she was asking for was basic and I thought she could do it herself. If I was to take that attitude with future Hoffers under my tutelage, then I wouldn’t last long at all. No breathing as far too exhausted to do anything at the end of the day, may need to change my routine if this is common. Slightly disappointing end to what was a strong week (no breath work , that said it was a public holiday and had lots of fun so again won’t beat myself up too much about it. Whilst I completely nailed stress at work, clearly I need to do it at home too. Next week is stress control, looks like a timely reminder!

One week down, nine to go. Week one was about going deeper, and I think I’ve done that clearly.

Week two is stress control, time to replicate the process that has worked well at work in the home too, see if I can be a nicer and more tolerating husband!

Wim Hof Method Training: Day 1…

Today officially marked the start of the rest of my life. With the first seven cycles of seven years out of the way, and according to Buddhists the closure of my forty-nine adolescence age (my wife and especially daughter just said I’ll never grow out of it, The Scouse Peter Pan), I am approaching the adult age with a lot of optimism.

Yes I’m still concreted into the corporation I’m so desperately trying to “kango” myself out of, yes I am still surrounded by abject chaos due to the never-ending pandemic and global geo-political instability (as we all are), but the events of today have solidified my post-retirement plans.

I had been looking forward to today for a long time, ringed in red several times on the kitchen wall calendar, and it did not disappoint.

Training Day 1…

I was surprised about the lack of certified Wim Hof Method instructors in the UK, especially in Wales and the north of England, a grand total of two, covering a population of over thirty million people.

Today earmarked the first instalment of the journey to hopefully becoming an instructor myself one day, a one day Wim Hof Fundamentals course set in the beautiful hills of North Wales, just a few miles outside of Gwrch Castle, which houses a pair of likeable Geordies and D-list celebrities from time to time, who have scheduled challenges of their own.

Eager to get there on-time, I was the first to arrive and was greeted by our instructor for the day, Paul Roose. I had dozens of questions for Paul but didn’t want to barrage him from the “hoff”, so waited patiently until after our comrades had all fallen in.

He did however share two things that shocked me. The first, was that the course very nearly got cancelled, on the basis that his ice supplier had let him down, and he had to scrabble around the supermarkets of North Wales for alternative supplies (water, water everywhere, nor any drop to freeze).

Ice, ice, baby…

Thanks to Comrade Justin at the local Food Warehouse, he managed to acquire the required amount (120kgs) and safely ensconced them in the on-site freezers (which were just about big enough).

Strategically spaced around the girl guides hut, Paul shared with us the background behind the InnerFire movement and the Wim Hof Method, plus some details behind Wim’s backstory. Whilst interesting and already known to me, what blew me away was Paul’s back story, inspired by his honest, humbling and heart-felt journey from the brink of despair to where he is today. What Paul lacks in height (his words not mine!) his towering strength of will and determination has got him where he is, and made his case for change (in terms of his ten disciples for the day) an easy sell, to me at least. Here we had a gentlemen bearing his soul and past dilemmas with a bunch of strangers in an effort to bring our own reasons for being present today front of mind.

So after listening to Paul, and as he proceeded with asking the group to introduce ourselves, I fell out of time as I do periodically and more frequently these days, and spent what felt like hours viewing in 8K IMAX, a panoramic review of my life with two questions running around in my head. Why was I here, and how the fuck did I get here?

The why was simple. Or was it? I’ve convinced myself that the why was because I wanted to put in place a post-retirement plan so I didn’t have to work in the corporations again, to keep some money coming in and to keep my mind from not procrastinating into dementia. But in an instant, I realised that it wasn’t about any of that, it was about my journey, all of the rotten things that have happened to me, all of the rotten things I’d done to others, and how, through the last ten years since my self-scribed “spiritual epiphany” I have gained the wisdom, empathy, life experience and communication skills to help others.

As for the how, I guess that is down to either fate, choice or blind luck.

The first chapter of my two chapter book of life was mainly about taking. I have given my children the best possible chance of success and my wife a comfortable, adventurous and happy life (mostly!) and my buddies some fun and frolics, but beyond the irregular charity donations, very little in the way of philanthropy.

The realisation of what I must do next hit me like a hammer. I must learn the skills and competencies to help more people going forward, to help heal broken people in the way that Paul was inferring with his honest approach to the neophytes that sat before him.

I’m not built for traditional yoga, the meditation manual I wrote many years ago is far too complex that even I don’t believe in it or follow it, and reiki is best administrated by those closer to “the source” than I, but here we have a method so simple in structure and accessibility, yet so strong in it’s ability to change people’s lives, that by navigating through its many levels, I have the opportunity to be proficient in a toolkit that gives people happiness, strength and health, which is all anyone needs beyond the five basics elements for living; food, water, air, shelter and sunlight.

The Iceman Cometh…

After the full round of introductions (including my own), Paul give us a good account of the basics of the Wim Hof Method, after which we had our first exercise, a simple breath retention after a single breath. I managed to knock out a 1m33s retention which was good I guess, but no surprise as I’ve been practicing my breathing techniques for over two months now.

The second was again to take a simple breath and complete as many push ups as we could, I managed just nine, not surprising with what my daughter describes as ”chicken arms”.

Men talking bollocks…

The third was to submerse ones hands and feet in ice water (the former being more difficult than the latter), something I’d not done before, but with focus and calm breathing, I managed three minutes for both. Once the body gets over the initial shock and mind overcomes matter, it is actually quite easy, the blood rushing to the surface of the skin, providing as it where, a barrier to the nervous system which would otherwise be screaming “get me the fuck outta here”.

It burns, it’s burns…

Returning inside with grass-filled feet, we then took to the floor to practice the breathing method, again something I have practiced for a little while now. That said, there were things I was not doing correctly, so the fine tuning helped me acquire a new personal best of 5m30s of breath retention (not that I’m counting, as Wim says himself it’s not a competition).

Breathe m*therf*cker…

It was as this point that Paul asked us to again “politely piss on the pH paper” (my crude alliteration, not his), which showed up any differences in body alkalinity after doing four rounds of breathing when compared to none earlier in the session, with mine showing a little improvement, others massively so. After this, we then did another round of breathing and redid the push up challenge, all of us doubling our efforts, with my meagre nine turning into a rather impressive twenty two on an exhale. Not bad for a bloke who makes Mr Muscle look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Need to breathe like Holly…

After a spot of light lunch, it was time for my first proper ice bath. I had been preparing in the months prior to the course with cold showers every day and my make-shift plunge pool in the garden, but temperatures only ever get to 16c minimum so not that cold. Today was different, today was cold! Beforehand, Paul taught the group how to do the horse stance, which was like tai chi movement but with a bit more gusto and chanting. Warming up and with the right focus and intention, I got straight in the birthing pool filled with iced water up to my ear lobes, closed my eyes, and breathed calmly until the body shock subsided.

Playing it cool…

Paul asked me if I was ok half way through, I said I was fine and focusing on a tree in the far distance. And there is strength in nature, in trees, which are firmly grounded and avoid fragility when facing turbulent weather, the same could be said for us. As Wim says, be strong like a tree!

Chewbacca legs keeping me warm…

After four minutes of being submerged and my body becoming very warm, I submerged my head under for a further thirty seconds (thus stimulating the vagus nerve which is responsible for regulating mood, heart rate and the immune system). Jumping out, I did a few laps of the field and the horse stance until my body had warmed up.

Meanwhile in the birthing pool…

Everyone did amazingly well at all of the challenges, none more so than the ice bath, all of us staying in for two minutes or more.

Feeling invigorated, we came back inside for some closing words and advice from Paul and an invitation for us all to take home and practice what we had learned, so to overcome the obstacles he clearly has in a complex and fucked up world.

Naturally I hung back at the end to fire a few quick questions at Paul, not wanting to hold him back any for getting home, he very kindly obliged and gave some sound advice on the Wim Hof Academy and the training and annual accreditation process.

The course exceeded my expectations and the best part for me was hearing Paul’s story and his journey into now (to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle), and if I have just one ounce of his passion and drive to help others to find their own paths, then I can’t fail to succeed.

For those interested, Paul is running further course this year and they can be booked via https://www.wimhofmethod.com.

Clearly I can’t recommend Paul highly enough, a great guy inspiring others to be happy, strong and healthy.

Kendal Calling…

Wim Hof Training Day Two – Four with Paul’s northern comrade Emma is coming up in October for me, a course conducted in and around the picturesque town of Kendal in the Lake District. It will be cold. It will be wonderful.

Oh and that second thing that shocked me, he had already read this blog site before I met him today, that my friends is synchronicity in action…

Wim Hof Method: The Trials…

The simplicity of the Wim Hof Method and it’s accessibility to all, is, as I have found out, the secret to its success.

I took it upon myself to dive straight in to several experiments (not all that are offered), namely breathing (including retention and meditation), cold therapy (twenty day challenge to take cold showers for three minutes per day, culminating in my first ice bath this morning), and certain physical exercises (push-ups, stretching, inversions and horse stance).

As already mentioned, I have tried a lot of eastern-based practices over the years, yet this western variant (no not Covid related) seems to resonate with me more, allowing me to stick rigidly to it, compared to the other methods.

I found the breath work to be both invigorating and serene at the same time, the supercharging of my body through increased oxygen surging through veins, arteries and capillaries, waking them up and working them to provide a natural high and the ability to hold my breath for four minutes, and it is during that time that I experience a real peace, and all for free. I recall in desperation paying a not too insignificant amount to partake in a transcendental meditation course which never really worked for me.

The cold showers shocked my body into life after the breath work, and even though the temperature was only a cool nineteen degrees centigrade, it was still cold enough to make a difference, to calmly withstand room temperature water, which is quite odd. I can walk around the house naked (what a horrible thought) for hours and not be affected by nineteen degrees centigrade, but turn that same temperature into water and you feel the immediate difference.

Might as well start on the most difficult level, no time to lose…
Mr Flibble says four minutes WOO (With Out Oxygen)…
Cold shower challenge complete…

That’s biology at work. The reason the water feels colder than air is because water is the better conductor of the two. When you plunge into a nineteen degrees centigrade shower or pool, heat escapes your body much more easily across the entire surface area, than it would if you were simply standing in nineteen degrees centigrade air, as the water takes more heat from your body, and quicker, it feels colder.

Naturally, I wanted to experience an ice bath to take it to the next level, and after some serious contemplation and lack of opportunities in buying a large wooden barrel, I acquired a portable bath (yes it’s a thing), prepared zip-lock ice bricks and took my first ten minute plunge today. At fifteen degrees centigrade (which is just cold enough for the magic to start working according to The Hoffer), it didn’t take my breath away, probably down to the cold shower preparation each day. I’ll need more bricks to get the temperatures down to below ten degrees centigrade (when the real magic happens), I just need to broker a freezer space deal with the wife!

It’s a start…
Maybe my Chewbacca legs are keeping me too warm…
Done…

The horse stance and “tai-chi-esque”manoeuvres do seem to raise the body temperatures to counter the less-than arctic blast of cold to the system, and these are much needed, as simply towelling of doesn’t seem to increase the temperatures rapidly enough before the chills set in.

My wife and I also took it upon ourselves to take the practice to the beach early one morning this week, where I found a perfectly flat rock to do my breath work and horse stance on, sandwiched between a dip in the sea, which again was a relatively warm eighteen degrees centigrade.

Just breathe m*therf*cker…

My plan is to do the breath work in the garden before my tribe rises each day and take a plunge, to set my intention for whatever the day should bring, giving me more power in the mind to succeed, at whatever it is I need to do.

One thing I have noticed, is that the method certainly gives me that grounding and stable platform for the day, but within a few hours of getting back on the corporate treadmill, the same old duhkha reappears, so I may have to carve out a “WHM siesta” at lunchtime to see me through.

One thing is for certain, the method helps, but it can’t change everything. Over time, I hope that I will have that power over the mind, and with that find the courage to make a real change in my life, to ditch the stressful job, live with the financial consequences of that decision and find more a meaningful venture and peaceful existence.

In August, I am booked on a one-day WHM course with a qualified instructor over in North Wales, with a view to seeing if I too could embrace the method more deeply and see if there is an opportunity to become qualified, to learn the deeper levels of the practice so I could teach others of the benefits that are clearly there, and with that take a bold and brave step into the unknown world of financial insecurity yet corporate liberation, and with that, a freedom from the bondage of a system that doesn’t work for me.

Fully in. Letting go….

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…

Ishnaan for the soul…

Since the turn of the year, when able I’ve taken to the sea for meditation and contemplation.

Whilst New Years Day brought several hundred to the beach and a communal spirit of togetherness, today marked a different experience.

As the temperatures in the UK starts to plummet, so have the numbers of “dipper”. I got to the beach at eight this morning to find only a few folks milling around the car park, the sea completely barren of near-zero bathers.

-2c on land, no icebergs present…

Undeterred by the cold -2c read-out displayed on the dashboard, I waded into to the duck-pond calm waters of Liverpool Bay, surrounded only by gentle waves and whistling white noise the sea was making as it ascended and receded on the not-so distant shoreline.

Eyes closed, body cooling, the tiniest of crescent moons focused my morning meditation and shut out everything else in the known universe. Meditation allows for breaks in the chaos, the disorder, the high entropy of the broken system we find ourselves in at present.

Quite soon, there is no cold, only stillness, calmness, nothingness, like a dissolution of the lower self as the higher self takes total control, and blocks out all materialism.

Eventually (fifteen minutes in), the lower self returns and the body reawakens to suggest it’s time to get out before hypothermia kicks in.

A wade back to the shore is greeted by winter-wrapped dog walkers with amusing grins, a nod to the crazy person emerging from the icy cold waters.

Back home, as the rest of the house still slumbers, the wood burner heats the frozen body parts on the outside and the warm poached eggs and coffee does likewise inside.

Toe-Toasting-Tastic!
Spinach, poached eggs, salmon and cracked pepper, breakfast of the Gods!

If only all days could start like this…