How discomfort and breathing can heal you with "The Iceman" Wim Hof

Way back before capitalism, it used to be that self-welfare was the key part of our lives. We would face formidable physical and situational challenges and have to endure them, alone and with our tribe. It was likely those trials were the most meaningful experiences for our prior relatives— the very thing they could depend on and take comfort in.  

Today we’ve lost that ability. Comfort is handed to industries that insulate us for a fee. We spend money and depend on hermetically sealed homes, cars, drugs, food and clothing. If things get rough we rely on doctors, pills, and booze. But recently, there’s a rising voice that we’ve come to the end of the Western Medical Model. An awareness that those things don’t make life better anymore. That there are other roads. 

Some, like this week’s guest Wim Hof, believe it’s time to tap back into our natural abilities. That they’ve been forgotten. If there’s anyone that knows about getting out of their comfort zone, it’s him. His journey started when--with four children at home--his wife took her life by jumping out an eight story window. To deal with his grief, he went out into the extreme cold. Since then, he’s shown through examples of enduring extreme cold like being submerged in ice for nearly two hours or using his mind to ward off disease, that anyone has amazing power to face anything and literally self-regulate. He’s now using the best scientists in the world to back up what he’s learned and therefore challenge science, culture and the very industries we’ve come to assume are the answer.  

This week is a change up from the normal show format. I guess it’s the best show for it, as it’s show about how extreme challenge can change what you think is possible. This weeks show started from an email from Chris Ryan. You might remember him from the episode “Why everything feels so fake” or know him from his book Sex at Dawn or his podcast “Tangentially Speaking.” We’ve continued our relationship, he’s the one who recommended his ex-professor and friend, Stanley Krippner as a guest. Anyway, Chris dropped me a line and asked me if I knew, “The Iceman," Wim Hof. He said he had become friends with Wim and that Wim was coming to Stanford so that Stanford neuroscientists could further study him and recommended that we co-host an episode not only with Wim but with Stanley. How could I say no to that? So, much like we did for Chris, April and I hosted a cocktail party and BBQ reception for Wim following the show.  

But unlike when I met Chris, I wasn’t at all prepared for the insanity that showed up at my door. When I opened it, Wim was standing there in flip flops with his adult his son and daughter and bust inside immediately chasing our toddler in circles around the house until finally stopping to ask our teenager if he had dumbbells he could use, which he did. Then he immediately started vigorously using them on our deck while more and more people showed up. The next time I turned around he was balancing himself on the floor in an unrecognizable way. All this while more and more friends of ours, of Chris’ and neuroscientists filled the house.  Imagine that crazy picture—the packed house while the Iceman, Stanley, Chris and I ducked into my studio and had the following amazing, chaotic and inspiring conversation. 

Music credit: Ada Jones All She Gets From The Iceman Is Ice (1908)