There is a man who has:
>> Climbed both Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Everest in nothing but a pair of shorts.
>> Ran a marathon in the Namib Desert without drinking any water.
>> Broken the world record for staying submerged in an ice bath for two hours—without lowering his core body temperature.
(No big deal, right?)
You may have heard of him: Wim Hof, a.k.a. “The Iceman.” He’s on a mission to bring love into the world through happiness, strength, and health.
Through implementing a series of breathing techniques and exposing himself gradually to the cold, Hof has developed a method that has been scientifically proven to stimulate the body’s immune system on command, influence the hormonal system in a way that positively affects our mood, and enhance our resistance to extreme forms of bodily stress.
Of course, we still need more research, and more world records still remain unbroken, but one thing is absolutely clear: this man is onto something.
The Wim Hof method gives hope to people who are battling serious health conditions, including depression and other mental health disorders. It makes it possible for us to tap into our deeper nature and get in touch with the very depths of our own physiology.
This is what the method looks like: we take at least 30 deep in-breaths while releasing less oxygen than we put in (this might make us a little light-headed!). We then push the air fully out in one breath and stop breathing in for however long we can hold it. Eventually, our gasp reflex kicks in, and we take a deep in-breath and tense our stomach, which pressurizes the oxygen into the brain stem. The idea is that we are hyper-oxygenating the body, which feels good and has many health benefits. This is preferably done while lying or sitting down.
Then, after a doing a body scan to see how we feel, we can begin trying to build up our cold tolerance. We can take a warm shower that ends with 15-30 seconds of cold water. The cold water should hit our feet first, then our legs, stomach, shoulders, neck, and back. The head comes last. The key is to try to relax and breathe, even if we start to shiver. Over time, we might find we actually enjoy the feeling of an invigorating cold shower.
As someone who has been living with a severe chronic illness for the past number of years, The Iceman has been a personal inspiration for me. Not just with his method, but as a human being. He pushes it to the limit, testing the very fabric of his own soul.
After one of his many feats, Wim exclaimed something in an interview that I will never forget. Something that cut right through to the core of my being.
“I do not fear death. I fear not living fully…If I live fully, then I do not care about death…I am living!”
Simple. Powerful. True.
His methods have not cured my condition, being that I have multiple infections in my body that negatively interact with each other and perpetuate my illness, but they have astronomically improved my quality of life and given me a sense of hope in recovery that I didn’t have before. This is a priceless gift, considering what the last few years have been like for me.
Having suffered more than I ever would have hoped to imagine, I can say with full confidence that Hof’s words ring true for me. I don’t fear dying. I am most afraid of not living up to my potential. Anytime I feel down about my life, hopeless about my recovery, or sad about the state of the world, I just remind myself of this truth. I know I am going to die; that is a certainty. What matters is how I live and what I make of myself in the short time that I am here.
There is no time to give into sorrow, no matter how overwhelming that feeling is. We must live fully, and that means finding our passion and pursuing it with total fierceness of spirit. Who knows what this will look like, because it is different for everyone. We are all on our own unique journey and responsible for our own lives, which makes it feel all the more special when we uncover our passions and dreams for ourselves.
Where should we start?
Physically, we can try out Wim’s breathing methods, found on his website. The body scan after practicing this is so important, as it gives us the opportunity to notice and appreciate all of the changes the heightened oxygen levels have brought to our bodies.
Mentally, we can try the self-authoring program by Jordan Peterson, which takes us through a series of writing exercises that helps organize our past, present, and future, orienting us toward finding meaning in our lives.
Personally, I like to engage in a stream of consciousness form of journaling, where I write out my most immediate thoughts and feelings without any structure or goal. I just let my consciousness roam free, and see what comes up on paper. This helps me feel close to myself—inwardly connected. I just sit and listen to myself, and this gets me in touch with how I truly feel. This is how I bring love into my life and keep my passion for my journey.
Let’s join Wim Hof in his noble quest to bring back love in the world. We can do this by living fully—uncovering the love that dwells within the depths of our souls, and letting it flow to the surface. Let’s find what kind of things make us happy and chase them down.
This is life. No one gets out in one piece, so always being afraid of what might go wrong is a stupid way to be. Let’s face our f*cking fears and fill our hearts to the brim with love. It’s not as hard as climbing Everest in shorts…or maybe it is.
But f*ck it.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: ビッグアップジャパン/ Flickr
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Travis May