It’s Sunday 11 a.m. and I am about to wade into the swirling waters of the Forth River. Every now and then we get a glimpse of the sun as it tries to break through the wintry sky, dispelling the bleakness for a moment. Casting aside all thoughts of a cosy Sunday morning coffee time near the open fire at home, I resolutely step into the fast-moving river.
Words can’t describe the sensation that hits my body all at once: my legs and feet feel as if they are being poked with millions of needles, like Chinese torture!
I am instantly taken back to another time when I was in the same river being swirled around and around, nearly forty years ago, at age 20. My best mate and I had been rafting down the Forth River. It was exhilaration. We were having a ball, and being high on adrenalin we were suddenly struck by a crazy notion to go over the weir. We went over alright, but much to our horror we got sucked back into and under the fall of water coming over the weir. This wasn’t what we had expected. We became stuck in the same spot, being tumbled around and over and over like a useless piece of driftwood. No sooner was I back in the inflatable raft, then it capsized again.
Today, standing there in the freezing water it occurred to me for the first time that I can’t remember anything about being cold or almost freezing to death at age 20. Because that is exactly what happened to me. My best friend Mick drowned and I was within a whisker of dying from hypothermia.
It doesn’t make sense because I clearly remember being 5 or 6 years old, feeding out hay with my dad on the farm. I would end up crying with pain from the cold in my hands and fingers, from grasping tightly to the slippery metal bars of the carryall, the frost glistening on the grass in the early morning sun. If I can clearly remember that, my mind must have decided to block out the freezing cold of that traumatic experience of my life, where I lost my friend Mick, who meant the world to me.
While being caught up in that horrific event, it didn’t seem terrifying at the time. I was aware of people running around helplessly on either bank of the river, while for me the world became peaceful. Then the whole scenario faded and I drifted off into a nice serene sleep.
The nightmare began when I came to, shivering like crazy under at least a dozen blankets in a hospital bed at Latrobe. I was all alone. The memory of what had transpired came back to me. “Where is Mick?” I asked, once someone decided to check on me, only to receive a dumb stare in response.
Sitting in the water up to my chest on Sunday brought all those memories back to me. The story doesn’t start here though, so I’ll go back to a bit over 12 months ago, August 2016. Grada and I had just returned to Australia from a few weeks in sunshiny France and Belgium. We had left the balmy weather behind to end up in the middle of winter, doing a boot-camp with Wim Hof, alias the Iceman, in Victoria. We spent four days learning techniques to get used to the cold and train our bodies to deal with it. When you do this, you gain access to a vast reservoir of energy that is otherwise locked away, due to our comfortable lifestyles. We experienced firsthand how the cold, combined with breathing techniques and mental focus, resets our immune and autonomic nervous system. Wim’s mantra is to be ‘happy, healthy and strong’ and that this is within the reach of everyone. Wim has no fear of death. His greatest fear of not living or more specifically, not getting the best out of life.
Grada and I hardly slept at all the first night, in rough school camp barracks, with the only heater on a timer that switched off every 30 minutes, when we could have spent those extra 5 days of our holidays in sunny France!
During the night, we heard an ambulance arrive. There was a bit of hushed commotion and we were concerned for one of the students who had seemed seriously ill, but had insisted on coming to Wim’s boot camp as a last resort. Perhaps he had pinned all his hopes on it. I stopped feeling sorry for myself when I thought of this young bloke who might be fighting for his life.
We stirred to the sound of voices and footsteps outside about 7.30 a.m. We were to learn breathing techniques in the hall at 9 a.m. Grada and I were the only lucky ones, we had a room to ourselves, while all the other poor beggars slept in dorms, squashed up in bunkbeds where the vibration of the snoring was the only thing to heat the air. Pity they didn’t have a timer on that as well.
Throughout the day we learnt the Wim Hof breathing technique. It is so simple that you are not prepared at all for the results: before our breathing session I did 25 push ups, and after only 3 rounds of 30 breaths, I did 50 push ups, all in one breath-hold (we were told to HOLD IT!)
After the breathing session, we went outside and did 15 minutes in a half squat yoga position while we performed some Qigong/ Tai chi type moves and some huffing and puffing. My legs were like jelly at the end of 15 minutes. The following day, Wim suggested we do 30 minutes. I remembered how weak and shaky my legs had been the day before after just 15 minutes, but I surprised myself. I did 30 minutes easily and my legs were fine!
Breakfast at 11 a.m. was very welcome and then we soaked up what winter sun filtered through the trees. More breathing in the afternoon before the ice bath at 5.30 p.m. Luckily there was firewood and we had stoked up a big campfire. I think most of us were cacking ourselves. I put it off until the last round, hoping the other 5 groups may have warmed the water a bit. No such luck! The ice still floated around me as I gasped the air into my lungs. “Keep breathing!” and “Just concentrate on your breathing!” was all I could hear. The seconds ticked by. Finally, two minutes were up and I jumped out of the ice bath as fast as I could. I felt totally invigorated! For those two minutes, all the noise in my head had ceased. Wim had told us his journey of delving into different cultures and philosophies, only to find his Nirvana in the cold murky canals of Holland.
The next day we did a lot more breathing. At one stage Wim was guiding us to take big breaths in and letting them go, for what seemed like a hundred breaths. I felt myself becoming colder and colder till suddenly I was freezing and shivering out of control. Grada was next to me on her mat comforting a Dutch bloke from Melbourne who had fallen apart (probably letting go of his parents’ issues in his tissues, from going through the WW2. I had heard many awful stories from Grada and her parents). Anyway, Grada suddenly noticed that I was in a foetal position, shivering like crazy and cold to touch. She whispered softly that maybe I was finally releasing some stuff from when I was 20, drowning in the Forth river. No sooner had the words left her mouth I became a blubbering mess. Who says us fellas don’t show emotions? Only decades too late, and I had to cry about that too, the acute sadness about wasting all those years, when I could have felt lighter and been more present. The breathing had finally hacked into the traumas that had been firmly locked away in my survival brain, and it’s not as if I hadn’t tried to let them go earlier because I have spent thousands of dollars and many hours practicing all kinds of different therapies. I guess I had assumed I had gotten to the bottom of it all, until now, and it took me completely by surprise. We went on to have a 4-minute ice bath that day, followed by an 8 minute one the next day.
Prior to flying home on Monday, we cut short our boot-camp and decided to get back to some creature comforts and booked into an airport hotel. In the morning, I ran the bath full. Full of chilly water that is. I didn’t touch or turn on the hot tap. We both had a 15-minute cold bath, feeling exhilarated afterwards. It actually felt quite warm to the water we had become accustomed to in 4 days.
Fast forward to today. Grada’s brother Piet has become a fully certified Wim Hof instructor. Piet had gone through his own dark night of the soul in 2013 when he was diagnosed with a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and underwent the standard harsh treatments over the course of the following year. While he was in remission, he developed an acute form of arthritis and his joints ceased up. What happened between there and now is for a different story, suffice it to let me say that today, Piet is fitter and healthier than he has been for decades.
I am not to only one in the frigid river today, I am here with several of my offspring, including grandsons doing a Wim Hof session in the hope to alleviate Elijah’s juvenile arthritis, as well as anxiety in some of the other grandsons, all 9 years old and under. By creating a miniature father-sons-only Wim Hof boot camp and turning it into a game, we are hoping to trick the kids into making them feel that submerging ourselves in the Forth river in the middle of winter is fun rather than torture. We want them to get the benefits from a kids’ version of mental focus, deep breathing and cold exposure and we are doing it out in the wilds to add to the appeal.
There have been many accounts of adults as well as children recovering from all sorts of auto-immune disorders and we never give up finding something that will give Elijah lasting relief from the pain of R.A.
Piet is a father of 5 and granddad of four. I am impressed watching him push the younger ones to go that little bit further without going too far. After explaining that we are here to find our ‘inner fire’ they all enthusiastically throw themselves into action. I was surprised to see how many push-ups they managed to do, even Elijah, who is normally quite crippled with sore knees. We had a great time finding and connecting with our cave-man-spirit and returned home feeling as if we could tackle Mt Everest next Sunday!
Study the Wim Hof Method with Piet Blokker and save a considerable amount of money (as well as misery) over your lifetime!
- Control your immune system,
- change your core body temperature,
- create super human strength and stamina,
- sleep deeply,
- burn fat,
- reduce inflammation,
- have more energy and
- switch off stress at will.
People have also reported relief and even complete recovery from mental, autoimmune and inflammatory diseases.
With just 20 minutes of practice a day you potentially have a very simple and scientifically validated method that could dramatically cut your medical bills.
Sunday 8th October 9.30 – 5 pm
Tasmania’s own Wim Hof instructor, Piet Blokker, will guide you through a series of activities that will help you connect to the guru within. The focus will be on using your breath to reset your computer, connecting with your Still Point, and a short ice-bath at the end of the day, followed by a meditation session. You can look at this workshop as a one-off life altering experience, of use it to kick start a 10-week program to optimum health and happiness, with weekly group sessions by Wim Hof instructor Piet. P64283007 to register your interest or click on the link below to reserve your place!
Investment: $300 (includes healthy lunch, morning and afternoon tea)
Followed by optional 10 weekly group sessions: $30 per session.
Bring: towel, cushions or yoga mat, bathers, and wear comfy gear.
“People don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity” Jack LaLanne, age 96