Get high on your own supply, reads the slogan on the t-shirt of one of the trainers present at the home of the legendary Wim Hof. But for the most part, all eyes were on the Iceman himself: for two full days, he enthused a diverse group of attendees. Swedes, Australians, Brits, Mexicans, Portuguese, Americans, Dutch and a handful of Belgians, of which I was one.
A mutual fascination for optimal health, personal growth and conscious living brought all of us to the Dutch village of Stroe where Wim resides. Together, we came to listen firsthand to the philosophy of the kicking-the-shins-of-the-establishment-and-loving-every-minute-of-it anti-guru Wim Hof. The topic? How breathing, cold therapy and the power of intent can eradicate infections and pain, and in the one move also expand your consciousness.
An iceman on a mission
Wim Hof has been experimenting for over 40 years with breathing and cold therapy. Throughout the years, he has attracted the interest of the media as well as the medical world. The latter is baffled by the ‘superhuman’ accomplishments he achieves time and time again. Running a barefoot marathon at the north pole, climbing Mount Everest in his swimming trunks, swimming 66 meters underneath the polar ice… Wim’s physiology doesn’t seem to suffer, while the organs of any regular mortal would have stopped functioning early on during any of these endeavors.
Every time Wim demonstrates his exceptional skills in the confines of hospital research departments, renowned doctors check their fMRI scanners and other equipment. By merely controlling his mind, Wim is able to influence his own blood levels and regulate his body temperature. Professors, doctors and scientific researchers are left baffled. But Wim says everyone can learn how to do this.
“It’s time for a paradigm shift. Religion and traditional pharma have had their chances. Everything we need is already there,” begins Wim. “The cold is out there in nature and we all have our breath.” Wim wants to change the world and spearhead scientific research into natural ways of building a stronger consciousness and healing people and the world of a load of problems. Think chronic inflammation such as rheumatism, but also the treatment of pain and depression.
Breathing beyond time and space
In the morning, we listen to Wim’s story. He recounts how he invented the Wim Hof Method and disrupted the foundations of the medical world. We begin with the breathing exercises. Continuous breathing, deep in and deep out. Eyes closed, lying on our yoga mats in a colorful room abundantly filled with natural light. Wim’s loud voice sets the pace. Between his shouts, he reminds us of the role we are playing in the bigger story: we are contributing to the preparation of a scientific research protocol. We are all guinea pigs, volunteering with smiles on our faces. In total, we breathe for almost an hour until our blood is sufficiently alkalized.
At the end of the fifth breathing session, there is one final deep breath in and out. Once more, we hold our breath. Tension mounts. Wim strikes a huge gong and shouts from the top of his lungs, “Take control!” We push all the built-up energy through our brains and relax our bodies completely. An intense, high-frequency vibration takes over my body. In my head, I find myself in a radiant source of light and energy. My face seems to be frozen in a huge smile. I lay like that for minutes on end – blissfully, there is no other way to describe it. ‘Get high on your own supply’ – I get it! If you perform the practice right, all sense of time and space goes away. “In every cell in your body there is a universe, and you can become a time traveler,” says Wim. I’m already convinced.
Fully intentional into the ice bath
The ice bath is waiting for us after the afternoon break. I’m not a huge fan of cold water. I prefer avoiding cold water, except for drinking it in the summertime. When I go for a swim in the public pool, I already think the water is way too cold, even though I’m moving all the time. “Confronting the cold is like confronting any random stressor. You do that by turning it into a really pleasant experience,” Wim tells us. “Three elements play a key role here: breathing, excluding the outside world and the power of intent. Breathing and focusing inward, not on what’s happening around you. Check!”
And then there is intent. “In your intention, you can already take a sneak preview of what the cold will do to you and how you will react. By internalizing that scenario, you can overcome the fear of cold. In the moment, you are fully present to give it your all. The cold is a very good teacher,” Wim continues. “If you are not focused, you will suffer. But if you go in with all the attention you have, euphoria awaits you.” Wim has been experimenting with cold since he was seventeen. He knows what he’s talking about.
Shifting borders and transformation
In groups of twelve, we go into the ice bath, with only our heads sticking out from among the ice cubes. We sit up straight, hands on our thighs. Temperature: 2°C (36°F). Time: 3 minutes. I close my eyes and focus on taking slow, deep breaths. It’s working! Everybody makes it, hands down. Borders have shifted, that much is clear. That goes for me as well. Keeping my cold aversion in mind, I never thought I would be able to do this.
“You can go even further, “Wim stresses. “Into the subconscious. A practice likes this immediately creates a new mindset: I. Can. Do. This! Take control over your own mind. You don’t need to lift rocks with your mind. Lift yourself up. Be happy! When you wake up your mind, you awaken the neurology within.” The atmosphere in the group is relaxed and exhilarated at the same time.
Moving borders even further
The next day, Wim tells us about the other levels of sensory observation: extrasensory perception, proprioception and interoception. I had never heard these terms before, but I take them in with great curiosity. Wim goes on about how breathing changes the chemistry of the brain and of the heart. “Change it by just being there, by trusting your heart. Without needing to think. That is how you move beyond fear and realize true growth. Handle it playfully and trust that everything you need is already there,” Wim points out. He is on a roll, announcing that after today’s breathing session, he feels confident the group will be able to sustain, and even enjoy, a six-minute ice bath.
The group is ready for the challenge. “Follow your intuition,” Wim advises. The sun is beaming, everyone is in shape, a bit high on our own supply. Six minutes… No thinking. We swing our legs over the edge, sit down in the ice-cold water and start breathing. I’m looking for the point at which I’m able to enjoy the experience. In the meantime, Wim is playing the ukulele while singing happy songs. All twelve of us are in the water with huge smiles on our faces. The six minutes pass at an extraordinary speed. Again, borders have shifted to the point that nobody, especially me, could imagine was possible.
Integration into daily life
This weekend with Wim was, for all participants, a truly transformational experience in the way that it has touched us in our essence and changed us. At least, that was what I could discern from all the stories told afterward. The next step is actually doing something with this experience. Taking a daily cold shower, for example. If you’re not a big cold water fan like me, you can begin with warm water and add cold water at the end until you are able to stand under it for one or more minutes. I, for one, already started and the effects are clearly visible: I begin my day with added energy and focus.
Try the breathing exercise and experience for yourself how it changes your body and mind. I meditate daily in the morning for twenty minutes or so and exercise before or after. But since the weekend with Wim, I have gladly made time for this daily energy boost. On the Wim Hof Method website, you can enroll in a free mini course on cold adaptation, breathing and the natural power of intent. Try it and experience, like thousands of others worldwide already have, how you can, naturally, through your own strength, take control over your body and mind.
Enjoy the cold!