“I can’t breathe.”
Terrifying words that ignited a global civil rights movement. The same words which describe the pain of patients in acute respiratory distress from the novel coronavirus.
Breath – long seen as the symbolism of life – has become a powerful metaphor in recent times.
It is hard to catch your breath with all the turmoil that is 2020 so far. Yet, this is precisely what Wim Hof, my latest guest on the Quite Franklin podcast advises us to do.
This Dutchman holds 26 world records for different feats of endurance in the cold, including the longest time spent in an ice bath and the farthest swim under ice, earning him the moniker “The Iceman”.
Hof also climbed Mount Everest in shorts and even ran a marathon in the Namib Desert without a sip of water.
Though a well-deserved honorific, “The Iceman” cools off on any hot takes about his genetic prowess or superhuman abilities.
That he was simply “born with it” betrays the years of rigorous training and discipline Hof spent to hone his mind and body.
In the nature vs nurture debate, it seems neither holds precedence in shaping Hof to become “The Iceman”.
Per his own account, Wim Hof was just a kid who loved the outdoors when he took a plunge into icy waters of a river canal in Amsterdam.
Curiosity got the better of him that day. The frigid temperatures however, did not.
In the freezing waters, Hof experienced a reawakening of the soul and senses. Like an adrenaline rush, Hof went back again and again, spending more time in the ice with each encounter.
Hof began formulating his own meditative deep breathing techniques and over time, discovered that it allowed him to regulate his core body temperature.
Through his patented Wim Hof method, Hof claims to have unlocked the body’s adrenal response, which helps him to not only endure the harsh cold but also fight disease.
To the consternation of many in the medical research community, who have decried his attempts at pseudoscience, Hof found himself on thin ice.
Remarkably, Hof silenced doubters by training others using his techniques, and helped them successfully stave off the inflammatory effects of an injected endotoxin in a research experiment.
As long as the ice has been his theatre of spiritual catharsis, Hof has been the lead act.
Now thanks to the Wim Hof method, Hof is both a spectator and teacher to thousands of hungry ears eager to learn the secrets behind his incredible mind and body.
On Quite Franklin, I break the ice with Hof on questions pertaining to his extraordinary willpower and his proclivity to live outside his comfort zone.
We talk about his childhood dalliances with psychology, spiritual and esoteric disciplines and how they led him to develop a mind-body connection that is now a magnet for envy.
In the cold, Hof found a willing teacher. As he said “It doesn’t speak in words, but it explains everything.”
As a student, I seek to uncover the same knowledge in hopes that it will help others push past their limits and overcome life’s challenges, whether they be physical or mental.
Particularly now, as we turn the chapter on a fraught political election, and as social tensions simmer in the wake of a global pandemic, it pays to heed Hof’s advice.
Let’s all take a deep breath. Winter is coming.