Full text of Dutch athlete Wim Hof’s talk: Standing the ice with our minds at TEDxYouth@Maastricht conference. Popularly known as The Iceman, Wim Hof in this talk discusses the ability of our minds and bodies to influence our immune system.
Wim Hof – Dutch extreme athlete
Look at this little film, three and a half minutes.
(Video clip starts…)
Narrator (in Dutch): Wim Hof, The Iceman. This is how we know him, a man who can withstand extreme cold for hours.
Journalist (in English): 8 o’clock now, on Friday morning January 25th, 2008, a chilly morning for most folks on the plaza…
Narrator (in Dutch): A man who can climb Mt. Everest just in shorts. A man who ran half a marathon in Lapland, barefoot and in shorts at -30 degrees Celsius. A man who swam large distances under the ice, from hole to hole. He does the impossible.
Journalist: Wim Hof knows how to deal with extreme cold, and says he knows how to control his innate immune response. According to scientists, it’s impossible. For over a year, the St. Radboud Research Center conducted experiments on The Iceman. Is he really a medical mystery? The results, according to the scientists, are remarkable.
Narrator: Something remarkable is going on with Wim Hof. It seems as though he’s able to influence the response of his immune system.
Doctor: To make it scientifically reliable, Wim should train a group of ten to practice his techniques, and have another group of ten not trained by him, to see if we can reproduce those differences.
Narrator: 12 young and healthy volunteers have been trained by him for four days in Poland, for a crash course in what Wim mastered years ago: withstand the cold and meditate.
Wim Hof: If you learn some techniques I learned in the cold and apply my breathing technique, you can go deep into your nervous system; not just a little deep but down to the autonomic level.
Narrator: And then, the research. Just as with Wim in 2011, the volunteers were injected with a dead bacteria while applying the techniques taught by him. A normal human being would get very sick for about three hours.
Doctor: Here comes the endotoxin. 10 for the worst state, zero for the best.
Narrator: And then, the control group: volunteers not trained by Wim. Results: the guys were very sick, even shivering. All the blood samples of the 12 volunteers and the control group have been tested in laboratory setting. The results are very, very remarkable.
Doctor: Our most important conclusion is that we’re able to say, for the first time in history, very clearly and without doubt, that a human being is able to influence his autonomic nervous system, something that was scientifically not considered possible.
Wim Hof: It is you, who can do this. You, you and you. Everybody.
If you can control the stress hormone level in your body and bring it back to its natural state, you feel more energetic but also more complete yourself, a deeper level of self-awareness. We can do much more than we thought would ever be possible.
Video clip ends…)
Wim Hof: All right. There he is!
I heard great speakers, just now, before me, and it’s all coming from the heart. We are able to make mistakes. Of course, we believe that living from the heart is the only way in which there is no border. There is no border in feeling, in sensation, in what we want.
And to come on this planet Earth — beautiful planet by the way – I had my… What?
Oh, in the red spot. Okay. Yes.
You know, the only goal on this planet, this beautiful planet, actually, is to become spiritually aware and to have a feeling like a plant, like a flower. She grows into a stem, then leaves. It takes sunshine, rain, and all the elements, and in the interaction it becomes a natural flower.
We are like that.
Our spirit wants to evolve, grow, become strong and expand, and become happy, therein. There’s only happiness in living from this belief, feeling, within the depth of our being.
And that made me search for what was not in the books, it did not tell me, “This is luck,” “This is absolute health,” “This is the way to live.”
It was always so far from me.
So I began, beyond my fears, beyond my way of thinking, the rules, and all the things which had set in because of school, systems and hierarchy, I began to look for something deeper within myself.
Therefore, I went into nature. I went back to nature, mother Nature. I had followed many esoteric disciplines, but from books.
With the existent disciplines I could not really make this contact deeply within myself. Therefore, finally, I got attracted by freezing cold water.
Intuitively, I felt it was attracting me. It wanted me to go in it. I went in. I only took one minute inside, but I felt a tremendous recognition of the depth of my physiology, and I knew from the inside: this is it. This is what I was looking for.
Maybe you think: “Freezing water? Are you looking for freezing water?”
“It’s f**king cold! No, I’m not going to do that.”
But we have such internal powers within us. We are mammals, and we have these mechanisms, developed over millions of years.
Since we became humans, we’re making everything comfortable, putting clothes on, making rules to Nature, actually inflicting a damage to Nature.
The Amazon is in danger because it is not able to absorb so much CO2 anymore in the last 30 years.
What are we doing?
I tried to go into the depth of myself and look for answers. I found it in cold water. It brought me back because cold water really is merciless, but it is righteous.
And it brought me into an absolute certainty, within myself, beyond my thoughts, into this primordial very good, very strong feeling, and it united all the mechanisms within myself, making me able to stay, for example, in shorts, in freezing temperatures, all night long, just sitting, using breathing.
The breath is able to get into the depth of our physiology, far more than we thought before. And because of our way of behaving with clothes, we are not living in interaction with Nature anymore.
So cold does not affect us, and heat does not affect us because we are all, all the time, able to control the environment. But we are not able to control the mechanisms within.
Now, you saw this little film, which showed I trained people within four days, to be able, without experience in the cold, just in four days, to go in shorts at minus 10 degrees Celsius, and then for hours climb up a mountain to go to the summit. And there, it was minus 27.
It was all in a research program.
The doctors who were accompanying us were completely dressed with scarves, head-covers, and thick coats. They were suffering from cold.
And these guys in shorts were dancing the Harlem Shake on the top of the mountain.
Then I knew, these guys, in four days, will be able to control their autonomic nervous system, related to the immune system, making them able to withstand an injection of the E. coli bacteria — which normally creates uncontrollable shivering, headaches, all over miserable feeling, no good — they were able to control that within 15 minutes.
And you know why? Because they not only danced the Harlem Shake, they awakened these internal mechanisms from which we became alienated because of our comfort — the so-called comfort — and controlling Nature, without being able to control the nature within.