The Wim Hof Method

I have heard of Wim Hof before. However, I hadn’t realised there was any specific method or that it involved more than cold showers. I found it fascinating at the time of hearing about it, that this guy could immerse himself in extreme cold, ice water to be exact, for long periods of time and be free of the usual effects. Like many things you read or hear about, you move on and don’t think about it again unless it comes up and you recall having heard about it!

Wim Hof did come up again, recently, when my brother said he’d started doing something that has literally changed his life. He then passed on a link to a Tom Bilyeu (Impact Theory) interview with Wim Hof and a few instructional videos and told me to take a look because he thinks it is definitely something for me.

We can’t take everything on board someone suggests for us and integrate it into our lives. However, there are always opportunities presenting themselves and those times when something just resonates with you and sticks around. This was one of those times.

I watched the video and was in absolute amazement at what was being said. For someone who already has a daily yoga and meditation practice, integrating the breathing techniques is an easy thing to do. As for the showers, it is just changing the temperature at the end of my usual shower. How these two simple techniques can make such a difference is quite unbelievable. I am only three days in and already noticing differences…

I won’t go through the techniques step by step because my suggestion at the end of this post is going to be to watch the interview and decide for yourself if it is something you wish to do. However, I will say, that for such a small amount of time, with the potential for massive changes and benefits, surely it is worth a go?

The biggest impact for me, just 3 days in, has been the effects of the cold shower. Wim says in his videos that the cold is your teacher. I didn’t really understand what he meant until the realisation struck me yesterday and again this morning.

I am fair weathered. No fan of cold weather at all. I live in a cold country, but much prefer California sunshine and warmer weather. Yoga practice is always better in hot weather and generally I feel better in warmer weather.

It wasn’t, therefore, appealing to me to turn the shower to cold and especially because we are in sub zero temperatures outside at the moment; hovering around -5!

The first day I did as instructed and showered and washed in usual hot water. I then turned the dial to cold…sharp intake of breath, literally the shock taking my breath away so that I could barely stand it. I remembered Wim saying to focus on the breath, which helped. I could take the cold water on my front but could hardly stand turning around so that it cascaded down my back. I didn’t stay in it for longer than 30 seconds. Certainly nowhere near the recommended 2 minutes to reap the benefits.

The feeling when I got out of the shower, however, was surprising. It was like something had switched on within me. Meditation and mindfulness bring focus, but there was such a sharpness to my awareness that it was noticeable. I felt empowered and strong – was it in my mind? Maybe, but I could feel it coursing through my entire being as I dried myself off with the towel. I felt like every movement was purposeful and I was so present that I could only focus with such clarity on what I was doing. Nothing amazing, just drying myself off in the bathroom, but the brilliance I experienced in the few moments after getting out of the shower were a direct result of my body being subjected to the cold.

The second day, I went for an early morning swim and when I rinsed myself off after coming out of the pool, turned the shower to cold. I couldn’t stand it. I decided to wait until I got home. It was at this point that it occured to me that perhaps the cold was a teacher. Why was I so afraid of a little cold water? Being the, ‘deeper than a puddle’, kind of thinker that I am, I concluded that my fear of cold water was far greater than just the cold water itself. No, it was my fear generally I was facing. It didn’t make total sense to me and still doesn’t, but I know that there is more to come.

When I got to my usual shower, I decided to take a different approach to immersing myself in the cold water. Rather than turning the shower from hot to cold, I decided to do it gradually. I had washed my hair so knew that my immersion was going to be stronger than the previous day, in terms of my head being in the flow of cold water as well. After showering as usual and washing my hair (leaving the conditioner to be rinsed out with the cold water, therefore, having no excuse not to get my head in!), I decreased the temperature slowly. Each time allowing my body to adjust to the cold. Again, because our temperature outside at the moment is sub zero, it didn’t take long before it felt cold, even though there was still a little hot water trickling through. I continued for a few more seconds and then decreased again, until the dial was on cold. There is a point on my shower where the dial is in the total opposite position to what it was. I’d gone completely cold, and let me just tell you, it FELT cold. However, I knew there was just a tiny bit more where the dial goes back on itself and where it can turn no more. I remained where I was, focusing on my breathing and standing under the torrent of cold water. What’s funny (well maybe not) is that naturally when you decrease the temperature of the shower water, the water flow increases. As the water got colder, the amount of water hitting my body grew, which of course just completely drenched me in a forceful flow of very cold water. I rinsed my hair and remained for a good couple of minutes before deciding to turn the dial that one more inch until it could go no more.

Freezing. That describes that last inch. I didn’t allow it to take my breath away, although my breath was on the way in and I just caught it to balance it out again. I stayed for just a few more seconds before switching off.

The effects when I stepped out the shower were the same as the day before, but magnified to such a degree that it was as though my whole body were vibrating. Everything seemed so intensely sharp that I could do nothing but just stop in amazement at the feelings within my body and mind. It reminds me of looking through the viewfinder of my camera – when you first look into it, the numbers on the screen are blurred. There is a little dial on the right hand side that you turn until the numbers in the viewfinder come into crystal clear focus. It’s an adjustment you make to your camera that is personal to you. Coming out of the shower was like that, as if adjusting the dial so that my conscious awareness is so sharp that everything is just beautifully crystal clear. Really nothing was any different, but the cold shower had made my perception, my awareness of what is, radically different.

On the third day, today, I did the same method for reducing the temperature. However, I remained in the final freezing water for a little longer. Something really bothered me yesterday to where I have felt emotionally a little off balance. Practising mindfulness around relationships is enormously helpful in restoring equilibrium, but it takes practice and can be difficult. As soon as I stepped out of the shower it was as though this emotional angst had been waiting for this moment and I felt like it was directly in front of me, and all around me. Facing me. I felt instinctively what to do – to let it go and as cliche as it sounds, it is as though the cold literally washed it away. The unimportance of my angst became so apparent and so clear that it was almost bordering on ridiculous to hang onto it.

All that from a cold shower? I hear you ask. I cannot give you the science, although in the video you get a good explanation of that, I can only convey my experience and say, try it. You can watch the interview by clicking the link below and the visit www.wimhofmethod.com to sign up for the free mini class that introduces the three videos that include instructions to the breathing techniques and cold shower.

Tom Bilyeu interview with Wim Hof

[This image is copyright Wim Hof Method – screenshot from the app on my phone!]

Goals anyone?

I have a mentor who often sends me 30, 60 and 90 goal sheets. We are having a conversation and she will often say that I need to set realistic and achievable short term goals.

I have always been a bigger picture kind of person. When I was little I would often sit on my bed, by the window, staring out into the night sky wondering what was beyond the stars. I would think about it so much that it actually became overwhelming; the thought that there was more space and more beyond that. My mind couldn’t comprehend that much space, or where it ended. I now realise it doesn’t end. Who knows what is a bazillion light years beyond that galaxy and the next and so on…

So when you look at things like that, short term seems irrelevant.

I have always gone from where I am to the destination in the fastest time possible. My driving has slowed down to speed limit and I think I am guilty at times of driving slower than it. I have worked hard on my persistent need to hurry up. I have stopped rushing when I write and have spent years working on being patient – thank God for yoga. I am getting there and owe much of it to the power of mindfulness and a regular meditation practice.

You get the picture, back to goal setting. Although I have set myself intentions and achieved them over the years, they have always been quite lofty goals and again fuelled by getting to them as fast as possible. The list is long, but to name a few; become a yoga teacher (seriously injured my adductor muscle with that quest), a life coach, writer, meditation teacher, web designer, internet marketer, author, shop at Waitrose (yes that was a goal and OK not too lofty, but nevertheless at one point it seemed like an impossibility)…consultant, photographer and so the list goes on.

After much retrospection I can see that to achieve all those things I had to take the steps necessary to get there, but it wasn’t really a conscious thing, not the earlier intentions anyway. I haven’t always been the mindful soul that I am now. I just set the intention and somehow managed to get myself there, and of course, in the fastest way possible. Sometimes that worked out fine and others I am sure the fastest way meant sacrificing something along the way – like the aforementioned adductor muscle. My second book read like it was galloping towards the finish line someone said…and really they were right, it was.

I have learnt to slow down and enjoy the ride, so to speak, although still have the ability to go at 100 mph. I just don’t sacrifice the quality over the quantity anymore.

It makes sense then that along with that experiential wisdom came the ability to figure out these 30 day goals. 60 and 90 follow naturally if you can get your head around the 30 days. It actually, not surprisingly, came to me through mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness teaches you that there is only one moment you need to concern yourself with, and that is of course, the moment you are in now….and now…and now. We cannot affect the past and the only way you can ever shape your future is by the thoughts, behaviours and actions you have in each moment. Sounds simple right? When you truly understand this concept you realise that you have the power to create anything you want, right here in this moment. Every moment is an opportunity and every moment matters.

I work on 4 main life objectives. These 4 pillars (as my friend Jules likes to call them) are my overarching life goals. Parts of them I am living and parts of them I am working towards. Whatever decisions I make in life I make with these things in mind. Making short term goals then becomes easier because they usually fit into one of those objectives. If they don’t that’s ok, because I will have gone through that thought process as to why, and if I am changing direction.

So I simply set my 30 day goals based on that. The 30 day goals might be standalone or fit into a bigger 60, 90 or longer term goal. The point is they are realistic and achievable….with action! The latter is important.

It took me a long time to realise that a goal without a plan is simply a dream and to turn the dreams into plans and can’t’s into can’s, you need action. Action is the motion that fuels everything, the energy required to make things happen….and what starts that is thought. Thought is energy….the thought becomes behaviour and behaviour becomes action.

So when you set a 30 day goal (I set 3 each month) you work on each of those daily. Daily becomes hourly, hours become minutes and minutes become seconds. I am not saying that every single second you have to think, behave or act on one of those goals, but we all have 24 hours in a day…what you choose to do with them is of your own making. So when you think, behave and act in alignment with your goals, during moments, over hours and days, you’ll find when you reach 30 days you have achieved them.

Although The Secret paves the way to convincing people that all you need do is write an intention down, make a paper aeroplane out of it, chuck it out of the window and wait for the universe to sprinkle its magic and deliver it back to you with a red bow on top, it requires a little more than that. Conscious creation (the process outlined in The Secret) does indeed require us to set an intention. To think (energy) as if that had already manifested itself in our lives, but it is that energy being fuelled by motion…the action that is required. We must take action. Thought may indeed bring about circumstances (synchronicity) and opportunities in line with what we are wanting to achieve, but we must act to make them happen.

Set some life goals….really give thought to what you would like your life to look like and simply work backwards to where you stand now. Set yourself some realistic 30, 60 and 90 day goals in line with that and then be mindful. Be mindful every moment you can be…notice opportunities presenting themselves to you, make the right decisions, think the thoughts in line with your goals, behave in accordance with them and act upon them…this is of course meant to flow more than the process I am writing it to be….and it will…enjoy the process and be mindful to act…

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.” –

Amelia Earheart

[This photo is of fitness star, Claire, during an urban photo shoot I did with her in the area around a board (skate) room.]

Learning to listen

Are you a good listener? I am sure most people would answer yes to this question but then upon reflection, if they were honest, might consider otherwise. Listening is a skill and one which, like all other skills, can be learned.

I haven’t always been a good listener. In fact years ago, when I was younger, I was one of those people who listened to speak or perhaps didn’t even listen before I spoke. Just jumping in whenever a thought popped into my head. It stings a little to say that, but if I am being true to myself, it is most definitely the case. It wasn’t that I didn’t care what other people had to say, it was just an instinctual thing that I had something to say, add or that must be heard and so interrupted, constantly. I do have a character trait of being in my own bubble and not always having that filter of thinking before I speak, but my listening skills have most definitely improved over time.

Not too many years ago, however, I had a session with this guy, who I guess for want of a better word was a coach. His approach was slightly random in that you walked outside for your sessions. Interesting concept and one which definitely created an environment that was conducive to growth.

He observed me in a meeting before our first session and then when we met up for our ‘walk’, he told me exactly what he thought of me in terms of how I show up. I was so incredibly offended. Partially because there was some truth in what he was saying, but also because really I felt he wasn’t actually seeing all facets of me, just one of them. He hadn’t taken the time to listen to me. After I got over the initial feeling of being wounded by his words, I faced up to them and thought that I seriously needed to work on my listening skills.

Listening skills are something I have worked on for years and although, as I said, I have got much better at it, I still have a long way to go. I think if we can be forever a humble student there is always, always more to learn.

Recently, I’ve noticed with much profoundness, the number of people I’ve come into contact with who do not listen, at all, nor have any seeming desire to hear anything other than their own voice and what they have to say. Perhaps I could look at this from the angle of, I am simply listening more and so hearing more. Although to be honest most of these people, when I do try to speak, really don’t listen at all, or when I have said something, they immediately turn the conversation once again to, I, and begin to go on again about themselves…

Deep sigh…I am finding this terribly frustrating, which usually means there is much to be learned. Being mindful in these circumstances helps because it brings your attention not only to the person who is speaking but to what comes up within you, giving you the opportunity to choose how you respond.

Perhaps we merely need to listen and smile, wish the person well and move on…everyone has a perspective, some have the ability to only see one; their own, whereas others have the ability to see many and want to hear with interest what others say….

Being present enables you to decide where you are in this scenario…when we are quiet we can hear…we cannot listen if we do not cease our own chatter first and create the space to listen to others.

Try it…

[This image is of my friend, Tori, who, when I thought about a photograph to show good listening, popped straight into my mind. Tori is a great listener!]

The New Year Sale

I’ve been pondering recently on an exercise suggested as an alternative to setting New Year resolutions.

I am not a fan of New Year resolutions. I don’t make them. I can resolve to changing something at any time during the year. New Year resolutions for most people don’t stick. Most often people make them because they feel they have to, rather than wanting to, which makes it meaningful and more likely to last. If this is the case, chances are they won’t last much beyond February. Another reason why you find the gym you go to so jam packed during January only to quieten down again and return to normal in February.

Instead, I like to reflect on the year that has passed and think about what I’d like to see happening for the coming year. I avoid setting goals at the beginning of January and just ease myself back in and then start thinking about it towards the end of the month.

So an alternative New Year exercise is to review your entire calendar for the year just gone by. Take a notepad and draw a line down the middle of the page, heading ‘negative’ on one side and ‘positive’ on the other. Review the calendar week by week, writing down the name of each person you’ve interacted with in one of the columns based on the impact they’ve had upon you?

Easy right? Not so, there is more to this than one would first think…

By the way, if you have an iphone it will have a default setting that erases your calendar as you go along. No idea why it thinks this would be helpful. You can restore all your diary by going into calendar settings and choosing to ‘sync’ all events. It adds everything back in almost instantly. I can’t speak for other devices but for ical this works. If you don’t note or write who you meet in your calendar, you could simply make a list of all the people you have interacted with through the year. To be honest I found I did a bit of both because I don’t always schedule personal meet ups in my calendar, so I wrote down a list of all the people in my life and who I have met with in the last year.

Once you have your list of people, write them on the naughty or nice list.

The idea is that at the end of the exercise you can choose to have less or no interaction with those on the negative or naughty list.

For me it wasn’t quite that black and white. What I found was, that there were many people who had both a positive and a negative impact on me. Not surprisingly some of these were family members, but also people I work with too.

There were so many benefits to doing this. It gave me the opportunity to see who I spend most of my time with – am sure you have heard of the saying that we are the sum of the 5 people we surround ourselves with. It gives you the opportunity to appraise who those people are.

I realised that at some points we all (some more than others) impact both negatively and positively on others. Even if we aren’t intending to it is the perception of others that decides the impact we have upon them. So in that vein I came to the conclusion that really it is my response that makes it positive or negative. After all that’s all I am in control of. I can’t change the way another person behaves. I can only change the way in which I respond, and, as the purpose of the exercise, decide whether or not to keep people in my life.

Gives a whole new meaning to a New Year sale.

Random Act of Kindness Challenge

One of the practices I incorporate into my day is random acts of kindness. I’ve been doing a 30 day Random Acts of Kindness Challenge that I think I was introduced to on a Tim Ferriss blog. I started this in November and loved it so much, both in the sense of making me feel good and of course extending acts of kindness to others, that I decided to embark on another month.

The challenge is simply to do one random act of kindness each day. It doesn’t have to be some gargantuan gesture. It might be letting someone go in front of you at the checkout line, smiling at someone or donating to a cause that comes your way during that day.

During the first month I found I would forget. That isn’t to say I am not kind outside of these RAOK (we’ll go with that acronym for short) but I didn’t want it to become a box ticking exercise. It is more around increasing my contribution to others, which is something that I believe to be so central to living a more fulfilled life.

I keep a list in the notes on my phone so that I can see how I am doing and over the month look at the bigger picture.

The second month, however, I found I rarely missed a day. Here are some examples of my RAOK during the past couple of months:

  • Gave my Auntie £20 so that she could stay in the guest room of my grandmother’s care home.
  • Picked up a little girl’s balloon that had blown away and gave it back to her.
  • Bought my daughter a bear when she was feeling poorly.
  • Donated money to a dog charity on top of my bill at the pet shop.
  • Gave my gifts to someone at an event because there weren’t enough to go round.
  • Treated my nephew to a football game ticket.
  • Read the bible to my Grandma.

These are perhaps things you would ordinarily do. However, the fact you are consciously embarking on the challenge is a daily reminder. I’ve found the more random acts of kindness you do, the more opportunities come your way to give them. There are days when there are many and then days when perhaps I have been home for most of it I have to remind myself to give. It isn’t about right or wrong, good or bad, just more of creating this as a daily ritual to practice kindness and contribute to others.

I remember watching a Friends episode where Phoebe tried to find a selfless good deed..it was impossible. Even if you think you aren’t gaining, you are left feeling good, so technically you are benefitting. It makes me smile when I am faced with something during the day and it pops into my mind that it’s another opportunity for a RAOK. The purpose of this is obviously not to receive, but it adds to the joy of your day when your random act of kindness has helped someone, made a difference or impacted positively on another person’s day.

Try it for yourself and let me know how you get on!

The Crazy Chimp

Hello December 🙂 hope you are all enjoying some peace and calm in the run up to the Christmas holidays. What a perfect time to talk about the crazy chimp…

I am reading a book someone recommended me to called, The Chimp Paradox, by Prof Steve Peters, an English psychiatrist who works in elite sport. I am probably only 10% in, but the premise of the book is that our minds are basically operated by two key drivers. Our human and logical self and then an emotional chimp. That in itself sounds crazy, however, it is a simplistic and brilliant way in helping us to understand and manage the way our minds work. 

It is one of those books that you relate to so much that you find yourself nodding or saying out loud how much you agree with it. So relatable and so relevant to our every day thinking and behaviour.

In my meditation recently I have been reminded of the sense of self and the fact that we all interact and experience through our own perceptions. Through the practice of meditation it can become possible to see yourself separately, so that you are almost getting a birds eye view a situation to see that your own perception is often skewed. When you can detach from a situation in this way on a day to day basis, you become much more able to see the perceptions of others in the same way. It isn’t that one person is necessarily wrong or right over another, it is just their perceptions are different. We each come from our own place of thinking, feeling and experiences.  However, understanding this and considering the theory that Steve Peters outlines in his book about the chimp and the way that ‘it’ operates, means you can begin to interact with others in a totally different way. You begin to think and, therefore, act, more on, ‘what is’, rather than what you ‘think’, is. Two very different things; the latter coming from your own skewed perception of what is, which you learn is controlled by the crazy emotional chimp. 

Meditation breathes space, not just into the moments you are practising, but throughout your day. Allowing for pause where you would ordinarily respond and enabling you to consider how to respond to someone or perceive a particular situation. Your perception becomes based on fact, rather than fiction – which is created by our chimp running the show.

When we are present we are not acting on emotion (which is truly what the chimp controls) and causing a REaction. Being present allows us to respond instead or sometimes just choosing not to respond at all, indeed, there is great power in silence. 

Having the choice is the key. We do have control over our perceptions and the way in which we interact with others and experience our world, once we realise how our minds work and our thoughts and perceptions are formed. It doesn’t matter what our understanding is now, or even if we never reach a point of understanding, simply meditating will unravel an inner understanding all of it’s own…we just have to begin and I quote my sister who said, ‘be where your feet are planted.’ The only place that can be is here and now, in the present moment. 

[I’ve had this image for years…bought for a website project I was doing at the time. It depicts being free…when you walk through the door that meditation opens, freedom awaits you on the other side…]

noticing the transition

If you meditate regularly you’ll most likely sit and practice for a set period of time each day. This might be just a few minutes, half an hour  or maybe more. We see this as our ‘meditation practice’ and a specific time when we sit to do that.

I was reminded recently about the transition from meditation practice and into daily life.

When I talk to other people about practising mindfulness during their day, it’s simply about bringing your awareness to the present moment and noticing. Noticing the sights, sensations and sounds around you as they are happening.

This morning, as I finished meditating, I noticed the transition. The point at which I stopped meditating and opened my eyes. There is a moment, a split second of transition; from sitting in silence to jumping into life and starting my day. I’m up and moving. I make the bed, go into the bathroom, brush my teeth, take a shower and on it goes.

What if there is no transition. What if I don’t ‘finish’ meditating and instead, open my eyes and continue on in my day being mindful – as if performing a moving meditation.

Now I know it is impossible to meditate continually while going about your day, and I am not suggesting this at all, unless of course you are Dynamo…[hmm, now there is a thought]…What I am suggesting though is to take the awareness and mindfulness into the rest of the day as much as possible. Erase the transition.

So as you are brushing your teeth, taking a shower, making coffee, walking the dog, driving the car, interacting with others, working and so on, you are mindful. Mindfulness takes some serious practice at the best of times and often means having a cue or reminder to bring your awareness to the present moment. However, if there is no transition then are you still meditating?

Perhaps it is that simple…I like to think so and am going to try that tomorrow…

[Image was taken in Tomales Bay, California on a hazy, warm October afternoon ….the stillness reminds me of meditation practice and then when you start your day you create simply ripples in the water.]