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.
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).
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.
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”.
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”.
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).
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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…