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…

We Must Build Our Own Temple…

Nick Harper is, and will remain, one of my favourite artists. Easily one of the most unnoticed and hence underrated folk guitarists of all time. It’s fair to say that in part, it may be down to his choosing, crafting anti-establishment ditties, weaving in social commentary pertinent to the zeitgeist to his songbook, and only playing small venues, typically to small troupes of his loyal acolytes.

St Mary’s Church, Chester (c. 1433 AD)

Nick is the son of Roy Harper, a folk legend in his own right. Roy had a lot of success in the 1970’s with his own career, and a nod from the prog/rock Gods of the time who recognised his talents came his way back then, with Roy singing “Have A Cigar” on Pink Floyd’s classic “Wish You Were Here” album and Robert Plant/Jimmy Page dedicating a Led Zeppelin song to him in “Hats Off To Harper”. As a child, Nick found himself surrounded by such musical luminaries, and clearly has his dads DNA courses through his veins.

We are the richer for it, and any “Evening with Nick Harper” is always special. None more so that last night, set in a church.

On average, I have seen him at twice per year over the last two decades, but last night was right up there.

Conversely, I haven’t set foot in a church since my visit to Cape Town Cathedral many years ago, and tonight’s gig was held in Chester’s St Mary’s Church, built in 1433. Reverend Harper took to the pulpit and his parishioners looked and listened on.

We must build our own temple…

Surprised to see his wacky attire and supporting a new purple rinse (to detract away from the bald spot appearing, his words not mine, and as a loyal supporter of Liverpool Football Club, this new hairstyle could be a retrospective and referential nod to “crown paints”), it was clear that he looked a little nervous, not at all surprising after two years in the wilderness, not having played to a live audience, hindered slightly by an acoustic guitar that went out of tune constantly through no fault of his own (almost turning every song into a rendition of Wicked Game by Chris Isaacs), which I guess added a little tension, not that it showed much, such is he the professional.

Maybe it was the setting, maybe it was the two year absence, maybe it was that my consciousness frequency is tuned in on a clearer channel nowadays listening for pearls of wisdom, but the opening track “Build Our Own Temple” was poignant in two ways. Firstly, because we were (in a Christian temple), but secondly and most importantly, that we must (build our own).

I have come to the conclusion now that society only works for the few, politics and democracy (“Lies! Lies! Lies!”) are truly dead and the only way out of it is to create our own, a micro-society that operates outside the carnage, the disorder, the disarray.

And that was in essence what Nick shared with his congregation. Whilst a few people have become rich beyond their wildest dreams (no not Robbie Williams again), a few, just a few of us have woken up, woken up to the realisation that we actually care for one another, care for the health and well-being of our families, friends, neighbours and communities, and by building our own temples (in whatever form that takes), “Love Is Due”.

Nick then took us on a somewhat uncharted journey through his extensive back catalogue, playing songs he rarely does live, so it was a real treat for all to witness.

Simple…

I challenge anyone to reveal an acoustic guitarist who batters their guitar as much as Nick Harper. His live trademark is, and has always been, to change a snapped string mid-song, and such was the aggression of his playing tonight he snapped three.

Settling down after an edgy start, the guitar finally behaved itself and we were treated to over a dozen more sublime songs of pure poetry and perfection, leaving me for one, once again, in total awe of the man.

This is the beginning…

The final message of the night was again a nod towards activism, with “This Is The Beginning”, a call to arms, a message to all of those listening to think about a post-pandemic world, and how we can take the opportunity right now to change things, and forge new communities based on love and sharing, not ego and greed.

Peace be with Nick, and also with you…

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!

Torn…

Adventure. Culture. Nature. Geology. History. Architecture. Language. Cuisine. Arts. Climate. Evolution. Consciousness.

These are just some of the positive aspects of travelling. As scribed in past posts, I’ve had the privilege and freedom to travel all over our “little blue dot” over the last four decades, without any restrictions whatsoever, with the exception of border crossings and passport control.

And it is for that very reason, that I have seen a remarkable self-transformation, into someone that my former hedonistic self would probably not recognise. Travelling to around thirty countries, I have over time embedded myself into the DNA of each one which has given me exposure to a different world-view, based on the geological and societal evolution of each locale.

It’s not only me that has benefited from this approach to life. My wife has accompanied me to most locations and she too is aligned in terms of wisdom and spiritual maturity. My two sons had the privilege of attending one of the best international schools in the world for three years, and both recall with fondness our holidays in Asia, Africa, Europe and The Americas, and both have turned out to be amazing human beings, very different from one another but possessing the same moral compass at their cores which is guiding them through life.

But today, we live in a very different world, a world which is effectively closed down (temporary or permanently) when it comes to travel, and as such, my daughter will not have the same world view afforded to her parents and siblings, through no fault of her own. Disenfranchised.

It’s fair to say that I am now torn. Although I am not done with adventuring on Planet Earth yet, if it came to the crunch that I could not travel anymore (for reasons other than Covid travel restrictions), then I (on personal level) would probably be alright with that, but because of Covid and the global alignment of governments the world over, what we now have is a clear choice between free will and control when it comes to the freedom of movement.

Our government today declared, in no uncertain terms, that it will only be those that are double vaccinated or fully vaccinated (inferring a programme of mandatory boosters lies ahead) will be allowed to travel across borders, and this was likely to be “forever”. Unprecedented.

As previously mentioned, I’ve already made the decision not to take the Covid vaccine (for reasons I’ll not repeat here), which leaves me in a very sticky predicament, do I stick to my strong principles and erect the middle digit to Westminster and other world leaders cranking up their own Orwellian travel rulings, or do I roll up my sleeve with gritted teeth and a foaming mouth and accept a double jab so that I can accompany my daughter on her path to cultural and spiritual enlightenment?

I’ve always said that my “ikigai” is my family and I will always do what it takes to support them, nurture them, evolve them into better human beings, and if that means overruling my deepest instincts for the love of them, then I guess that’s exactly what I must do.

On reflection too, now that I am forced into making that tough decision (taking the “blue pill”) for my daughters next few formative years, I don’t think I want to be stuck on this little island forever. I’ve never classified myself as English or British, and with a post-Brexit entrapment with perennial Tory governments in seat, I actually despise these lands now. Never have I witnessed such a polarised nation, with every single topic, idiom, way of life divided equally into two camps (with the exception of the “1%ers”, the haves and have nots), which continues to destroy and erode the community cohesion I have grown up with. That said, are there any better countries to live in just now, I suspect they are all going through the same process?

What a shitty fucking world we live in right now…

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…

Life 1.0…

What is the meaning of life? What happens after we die? Is there an afterlife?

These questions (and many more) continue to remain unanswered and even unasked by the vast majority of the public, even more so given the current state of affairs.

Most people I know are queuing up, begging in some cases to be injected with what is (and will remain, until January 2023) an experimental and synthetic chemical on emergency licence. Whilst I have no view on individuals on whether they take or do not take the vaccine (the decision is entirely theirs to make, I hope), what has come to the fore is the fear of death.

I have looked after myself in more recent years, and as I approach the half century next year, I feel as if I have listened to my mind, body and soul to make the right decisions on my health and well-being of late.

I have already “lived a life’s that’s full” and “regrets I’ve had a few”, but as I near my twilight years, my physical form is in good working order, with an optimal weight / BMI, relatively balanced diet and exercise regime. As a result, I will not be taking the vaccine, on the basis that it is still in the experiment phase and any viral load I take in will not significantly increase my chances of mortality.

I do think that for some, the pandemic is a wake up call to look after themselves more, several conversations I’ve had over recent weeks have highlighted to many that their current condition needs addressing and that if the prediction of future pandemics becomes a reality (perhaps with more deadly strains) then now is the time to act. Of course the talking is easy, the doing is much more difficult, especially after such a long period of isolation mixed with the opportunity for socialising upon us (life opens up again in the UK tomorrow) and the habitual addictions still firmly rooted (sugar, processed foods, alcohol, prescription medicines etc).

One thing has become very apparent however, is the total fear of death from some. Some people I have spoken to our petrified of dying, too afraid to leave their houses still, as if expecting the reaper to be there waiting for them, scythe in hand as they open their front door.

Why is that? Is it because they are too young, because they haven’t done enough yet in life, because they have too many commitments, because of the fear of what comes (or what does not come) next? I suspect it is all of these and more.

As I have shared on this blog over the last decade, my fear of death has diminished to almost zero. Clearly when I do pass, I’d prefer (like everyone else) for it to be pain-free. Also, I’m not done yet, as I want to see my daughter grow up a little more and see her set foot on her own path (much like her two brothers have already done). Anything beyond that really is bonus time, my ikigai remains, and always will remain, my family, and once they are fully independent, my main life’s work is complete.

Bonus time for me is anything beyond fifty five (I do hope there is a lot of it!), which will coincide with the year I leave the corporate world, perhaps sooner. Once that happens, my intent is give back. I realise that I have probably done my fair share of take over the years which has not been counter-balanced by enough give (on the basis that time has been lacking somewhat), but with the distraction of work and bills to pay gone, the thought of what happens next excites me greatly.

I will look for a life polar opposite to what I have today, satisfying the need of my tribe and my community (in whatever form that takes – healing, support, training, wisdom) over the needs of my business and my shareholders.

And when the final day comes, I will embrace it with open arms, as I’m still a firm believer that life is not the opposite of death, death is the opposite of birth, life is eternal…

Offline…

I have of late given more and more thought time to anonymity online. A brief journey through time since the inception of the internet reveals very similar origins and outcomes when comparing it to the evolution of man and the agricultural revolution. The similarities are quite remarkable.

Ascent of Man…

Clearly the origins of our eureka moment when it comes to the evolution of the human network can’t truly be validated, but if we assume that the origins of modern society was in the Middle East (Jericho, Aleppo – the Ascent of Man theory by Dr Jacob Bronowski and other historians), then the true catalyst for the dawn of our time was probably the brainchild of a single person, who came up with the idea that the cross-pollination of grasses led to the cultivation of wheat, bread, agriculture, farming, commerce, society, government, law and inevitably greed, conflict, aggression and division.

Descent of Man…

Let’s then take the internet, the brainchild of a single person, Sir Tim Berners Lee. He (with no doubt help from others) came up with the idea of the cross-pollination of data and human interaction, which led to the cultivation of technology, information, ideas, connectivity, community, e-commerce and inevitably greed, conflict, aggression and division.

Both started out with the best intentions, the betterment and evolution of humanity, but sadly it appears that both have suffered the same fate.

Society has broken down into the haves and have nots, and in each of the major developed nation states in the world, opinion is divided completely in half, it certainly is in the UK and the US which recent referendums and electoral votes validate. The exact same goes for the internet, which sees an opportunity for the tech giant owners (Amazon, Space X Starlink, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Oracle and Apple) to grow their personal wealth whilst the masses fight from two camps against each other on social media. The divisions are clear as are the similarities in both systems.

I have a very clear path now to a life off-grid, and my plans for that will accelerate over the coming days, weeks, months and years until those back-to-basics building blocks are in place and I can successfully, physically and metaphysically disconnect myself from the grid.

The upcoming build of my “Cabin in the Yard” will allow me to construct a habitation and give me new skills which will help me further down the line. I have also completely detached myself from all big-tech online organisations this week by purging all accounts, data and profiles, to have that online anonymity, with of course the exception of this blog which is anonymous anyway.

It felt quite the cathartic process, not only in the purging of the data, but in the sense of (as they say in kundalini yoga) ego eradication, there really is no good to be had in the bloating of the self (either online or offline), the good comes, really comes, in honest and compassionate conversation without the need for hyperbole or acerbic criticism, whether that be via age-old means of verbal and face-to-face dialogue or new-age means in the form of the comments box below.

Like I’ve said many years ago, this site acts as a metaphysical timeline for myself, sharing my inner thoughts with my wife, my children and possibly (hopefully) my grandchildren and of course other folks I’ve never met. It documents the evolution and journey of a simple man who matures over time, who acknowledges the wrongs he has done in his own personal history and how he tries to put those right where he can, offering some primordial and basic nuggets of wisdom for others to read and cogitate on along the way…

Days of Futures Past…

Communing with nature. Living off the land. Mind, body and soul cleansing. Community spirit and oneness. Consciousness expansion. Peace and love.

Deep down many of us want the ideals above but are either unable, unwilling or lack the courage to do those things that we know will be better for us and better for the planet.

This week saw my eagerly awaited trip to Lammas Eco-Village in South Wales, an expedition into the uncharted territory of off-grid living., a fact finding mission for our band of neophyte hippies to sequester information from the founders, Mr and Mrs Wimbush, in order for us to gain insights into their ten year journey from a barren greenfield plot of land, to a fully functional and self-sufficient settlement.

As a guy who has worked in and around IT projects for most of his life, I bring to the table my decades of structure, organisation and planning, so I took the responsibility to plan out our trip in advance, including timelines, itineraries and a large set of questions, the output of which would give us enough answers and direction to kick-start the build of our eco-retreat project in North Wales.

This is a work project not one of pleasure (although no doubt the journey and end result will no doubt be a joyous thing), and as such the trip was “allowed” under the strict “essential travel only” guidelines. Even still, I had a bad feeling before setting off that at some point over the four hour journey south, our collars would be felt at least once by the boys in blue, and in preparation for that eventuality I printed off all materials (Covid travel guidelines, agenda, emails etc) as a form of proof to plod that our trip was legitimate. As it turned out, the trip was “copper-free” and we arrived safely at Lammas, collars unfelt.

As we drove into the village, the first thing that struck us was the size. Each of the plots sized between six and seven acres and there were plenty of them (totalling seventy seven acres in all).

Our destination for the day however was Maes Melangell, the home of both the Wimbush family (pioneers of Lammas) and a newly-constructed and yet-to-be completed Lammas Earth Centre.

I had done some research on Lammas over the previous nights (reading the One Planet Life book as well as watching several YouTube videos) to provide at least some background knowledge on what the set up was like and what their journey had been like thus far.

But like a great many things in life, reading about something is one thing, experiencing it is markedly different, the whole day was testament to that.

We were greeted (after a few wrong turns) on the tracks by Hoppi (aka Mrs Wimbush), who welcomed the group warmly and invited us in to the main house for a socially distanced and hand-sanitised chat, so that we could get to know each other a little and our posse could set out its expectations for the day.

One thing that did strike me on the way in was how impressive their homestead looked, it was clear that the well-built dwelling house, the super-impressive Lammas Earth Centre, the animal barn and all of the cultivation areas had taken years to achieve and a ridiculous amount of dedication and hard graft (both physically and meta-physically).

With a hot cup of Bengal Spice Tea in hand, Hoppi walked us through their ambitious journey so far, all of us playing silent witness and in awe in what they had achieved to date and how they had done it. Their home was warm not only in temperature (from the amazing wood-burner and impressively insulated walls), but in feeling too, clearly the house was also wrapped in the warmth of love, of oneness with each other, with nature and the universe at large.

It became apparent early on that what we saw before us had taken an Herculean effort, not only in planning, designing, developing and constructing, but in terms of pressure and stress too. Here we had a small family (children were six and nine at the time) living in a small touring caravan on an empty landscape, with huge plans for off-grid living in their heads and one hell of a journey in front of them.

We shared our own plans for the eco-treat which were met warmly too, but it was becoming apparent (to me at least) that our embryonic project was very different than what was in front of us in terms of components, requirements and end-state.

The five of us involved thus far all have day commitments that we don’t foresee giving up any time soon, and at this point we don’t envision any of us living at the eco-retreat permanently. So it dawned on us that going down the One Planet Development route for our project was likely to be a dead end and overcomplicated from a planning and local authority permission perspective. Ours would be a different path than the one Lammas has taken, but it would have the same ethos are drive for sustainability.

After a warm exchange, Hoppi then took us on a tour of the site, explaining the exact functions of each building and zone, safe to say that we were all in total awe of what we were viewing.

Many hands make light work…

Their plans were not only realised by their own hands, but by those of volunteers too. Through the use of an entire tribe of volunteers (over seventy in total) they were able to morph their barren landscape into something truly remarkable.

And it’s is the essence of that very approach which has left a spiritual and collective resonance around the place, almost like a mycelium layer of positivity and love, woven into the very fabric of every component on site, borne from the many hands of like-minded individuals.

The beating heart of Maes Melangell…
The Owl Sanctuary…
The composting toilets…
The Solar Kiln…
The Eco-Retreat…
The Eco-Shower…
The Innovative Waterproofing…
The Renewable Energy Supply…
The Earth Centre…
The Interstellar Roof…
The Barn…
The Kids…

After the staggeringly impressive show and tell, we had the opportunity to wander the site on our own, I took the time to fly my drone over the site to get a birds eye view whilst my comrades meandered through various muddy pathways on foot, the site as impressive from the air as on the ground.

Bird’s Eye view of Maes Melangell (Lammas Eco-Village)

We finished our trek as the door to the main house opened and for the first time we met Tao (Mr Wimbush) for the first time. Set and setting are always important and the lunch of Pumpkin and Parsnip Soup with home made bread and goats butter transformed a basic meal to the best lunch of all time, ever.

It came across well on the videos I had seen, but in person, Tao’s calming nature juxtaposed against Hoppi’s effervescence made it a perfect partnership, and I saw the deep, loving and spiritual connection they both had for each other on a couple of occasions. Beautiful.

We shared our vision and hope for the eco-retreat with Tao and based on the components we wanted to develop (very different to Lammas), Tao advised that the One Planet Development wasn’t the best way to go for our venture and he suggested an alternative approach to achieve the desired outcome, to which we all agreed.

I was truly blown away by Tao, to be surrounded by such an amazing feat of construction and sustainable cleverness was one thing, but his calming, warming, nurturing, inspiring and guiding words (and well as long hair and beard), felt to me like I was in the presence of a modern day Jesus (affirmed by “L” on the way back home who thought the same).

As the darkness drew in and thoughts turned to the arduous long journey home in poor driving conditions, with a genuine sadness and gratitude, we bade farewell to our hosts for the day and headed back north to on-grid living, resigned and melancholic in the knowledge that workers boots and corporate laptops would called upon within just a few hours of returning.

Like my Robin Williams blog from a few years ago stated (Life Is Experience Not Knowledge – https://infinitybeckons.wordpress.com/2016/10/18/life-is-experience-not-knowledge) there is nothing quite like experiencing things first hand as opposed to reading them in a book.

We had so many take-aways from our trip to Lammas, hints, tips and nudges in the right direction we simply would not have hot had we not visited. We agreed that when we returned home we would double-down on our efforts to get things moving, albeit in a slightly different direction to our initial plans.

After visiting Lammas, Hoppi and Tao, it’s now very clear to me that one can live in the fruitfully in the future like we lived in the past, it just takes courage to detach oneself from what is, quite frankly, a broken and totally meaningless capitalist society.

That courage is within us all, we just need to do, there is no try…