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Torpor is used to describe animal hibernation. When applied to humans, the word indicates a physiological and/or psychological sluggishness, a slowness or dull complacency. Affluence engenders torpor. Our soft modern lives lull us into complacent grooves. Our relatives in the not-too-distant past made their livings in highly physical occupations; nowadays we make our livings with our minds. Our physical side is so neglected and our occupations so devoid of any physicality that we invent gyms and fitness and diet plans to replace ploughing fields and running after game with a ferocity born out of hunger. As a species we are regressing; the body becomes less and less important. We live comfortable lives that require a minimum of physicality.
Weakness is the genesis of frailty, obesity, sickness and disease. We are weak. We are stuck in our respective warm wombs of sluggish complacency. We live virtual reality lives where everyone is a star in their own reality TV show; the Facebook mentality exaggerates our feelings of self-importance and provides our empty lives with a false sense of worth. Mired in the muck of torpor, we need to be jerked out of the sludge. Well, I found the man to do the jerking.
Henri Troyat once said of Count Leo Tolstoy, "He swaggered through life with his eyes wide open, his nostrils flared and his ears pricked." Wim Hof’s method offers a way in which to access this type of electric, hypersensitive aliveness, a primal mindset that cannot be mentally conjured or purchased. Wim offers a way in which anyone can access the wonderment of the instantaneous present.
As an athlete and coach, I have spent a lifetime pondering how best to recalibrate the mind to improve human performance. High-level athletics, national and international level, requires a focus and concentration normal people can never experience or relate to—they have no frame of reference. Mind and body must unify to generate maximum athletic performance. A phenomenon all serious athletes have experienced is the way in which truly intense physical exercise alters the athlete’s state-of-mind. After an intense training session, the elite athlete basks in an afterglow of pure bliss and contentment.
My postulate is that intense physical exercise offers a way in which to fold inner space, to access advanced levels of consciousness—the type, kind and flavour of consciousness that is sought after and experienced by advanced meditators.
Intense exercise short circuits the conscious mind, allowing the athlete to (unknowingly) attain advanced states of meditational consciousness. This higher state of consciousness is an unintended consequence of the intense training. The key to routinely accessing this bliss state is to present ourselves with a physical task of such severity that only by unifying body and mind can we succeed.
To successfully meld mind and body requires that the chattering mind, the internal commentator, cease its eternal yammering. We cannot generate the requisite 102% effort needed to succeed if we have even a hint of preoccupation. The elite athlete routinely subjects themselves to tasks so Herculean that only by achieving true and complete mind/body unification can they succeed with the task at hand.
The elite athlete methodically and consistently seeks to exceed their current capacities and limits. Only by continually assaulting the barricades of the status quo can the athlete hope to improve those limits and capacities. No athlete improves by striving to stay the same.
After fifty years of intense physical training, I can effortlessly access this "Mind of no Mind" via intense physical exercise. I can invoke a true and pristine mental silence in every workout. As an athletic monk and mystic, I can say with zero hesitation, I am at my best, as a person and as a man, as long as I remain enveloped in this exercise-induced state of altered consciousness. It is physiological and psychological Nirvana—addictive and exhilarating.
Over the interceding decades, my challenge has become: once attained, how can I extend my stay in this blissful, centered "glow state?" Once I enter this Nirvana of electric quietude, what can I do to extend my stay? I am still working on this: my current strategy is to roll from one "absorptive" task to the next: training to writing to cooking to running in the woods to music to careful reading…one creative task after another—then pass out at night in a regenerative sleep coma. Wake and repeat.
When the chattering monkey-mind comes back online, the bliss ends. Conscious thought is overrated. Krishnamurti nailed it: "The cessation of thought is the awakening of intelligence." Only when the ceaseless internal chatterbox is bitch-slapped into silence can we experience reality—reality always unfolds in the immediacy of the instantaneous present. Reality is like standing knee-deep in a raging stream. Only that is your life rushing by…
If you are thinking, you cannot perceive the immediate present, simple as that. Conscious thought exudes an inky film that blurs the perception of reality. The paradox is that one cannot use the conscious mind to silence the conscious mind; that would be just another expression of willpower and a form of suppression: an enforced mental silence is no silence at all. At some point the clenched fist must unclench.
Wim Hof has a far less complex way in which to access the bliss of the instantaneous present. Exposure to cold has the power to transport you into a wondrous state of higher consciousness. Mind and body must morph and meld in order to cope with the Herculean tasks Wim presents you with.
My entranceway requires equipment and great expertise and extreme exertion and time. Wim’s method allows anyone to access the perfect present in a faster and simpler manner.
Wim has a specific definition for the concept of commitment, as it relates to his approach. If I were to be so bold, I would like to paraphrase his definition and relate it to my world. A person can stand ankle-deep in a freezing lake for the next 20 years and think they are doing something—and to a certain degree they are—the ankle wader is certainly better off than those that won’t venture even this far. However, to reap the optimal physiological and psychological results, at some point the ankle wader must take the plunge and commit!
In my world, those that train at 70% of capacity attain 70% of their capacity. To commit, in my world, requires a man step up and handle 102% of capacity—consistently and repeatedly. The immediate gains and ongoing progress is attained by regularly and routinely and systematically exceeding current capacities. The elite powerlifter or elite spec ops fighter can routinely and regularly will themselves to operate past their capacity; no big deal at this level; strength of mind is one of the reasons why the elite are the elite.
Working at 102% in my world could be exemplified by a lifter in training setting a new personal record, pushing a 6th rep to lockout in the ultra-deep back squat with 635-pounds, one excruciating inch at a time with catastrophic physical collapse a real possibility. Yet still the elite push and struggle and embrace the pain. By locking out that 6th rep, by besting a previous best effort, maximum gains are reaped because the athlete maximally committed. That which does not kill me makes me stronger—and more muscular and far more rugged.
The ankle wader must, at some point, make the commitment and (literally) plunge into the extreme cold, embracing it fully and completely in order to absorb and realize the full and complete cornucopia of results. The 102% effort requires we push past the known, step off into the chasm. Dare to struggle, dare to win.
Most point to the results of Wim’s method—the feats, the medical testing, the success of students, the reduction of disease and life-extending attributes—these are the results of Wim’s method. I would respectfully point to the causes—I would suggest we look harder and with a greater sense of appreciation at the causes that power the Wim Hof Method.
You can fold inner space and experience the exhilaration of living in present-tense reality by submerging in an icy lake; this can be made into a meditational practice as profound and effective as sitting in deep Zazen in a Kyoto Monastery. The body-shocking severity of "The Cold—merciless and righteous," bitch-slaps the chattering mind into silence.
The breathing and the cold are the causes—the feats and tests and health benefits are the results. I would suggest that if you fall in love with the cause, results naturally and inevitably occur. In my world of Iron Zen, the ones that succeed are the ones that fall in love with the training, not the applause.
The breathing and the cold, the tools of the Wim Hof Method, will transport you, instantaneously, into the present, and an altered state of higher consciousness. The results you seek lie down the road—but in every Wim training session you have the opportunity to access the present and ergo, higher levels of consciousness. Is that not profound?
Wim’s method induces psychological Nirvana. Wim’s gateway method can be used by anyone—use it and quickly attain reality. Is this not monumental in and of itself? Use Wim’s method to fold inner space. Join us and experience the exhilaration of living in the thought-free, super-sensitive, ultra-alert, stress-free present. The Samadhi state-of-being defines living with eyes wide open in the instantaneous present. Fall in love with the causes and results are inevitable.
World champion team coach
IPF world masters powerlifting champion
Author of The Purposeful Primitive
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