Chetna Reflects on an Ice based Training


Every single thing I had to do during the 6 days of the Wim Hof training, I did not want to do it. It was actually pretty unique to have a definite “NO” supplied by my mind every single day. I did not want to undress in the snow, jump into a mountain river with freezing water, take ice-baths or climb a mountain naked in minus temperatures. I was scared, terrified and contemplating how to escape. But you know what? I did everything my mind told me not to do.

It was 17 December 2017, my birthday, when I found myself on top of Mount Śnieżka in Poland, wearing just summer shorts, with temperatures falling to ­–14 (with wind it felt ­more like –35) as the final task of the Wim Hof Winter Expedition training. My partner Swaram gave me this trip as a birthday gift, so needless to say he is not an ordinary man. That day I was so full of animal fear in anticipation of the mountain climb, which normally takes around 3 hours to climb up, and a little less to go down (dressed). I was scared for a reason. It was brutally cold!
When I arrived to the training I had a massive sinuses pain for which I had to take tablets to restore some sleep, I had arthritis joint aches which I have developed after getting very sick in Nepal 10 years ago, and I was obviously grumpy about getting exposed to the cold.
From Day 2 all headache was gone and the join aches reduced. So much so that after the mountain climb the aches that I could still sense in the body were not disturbing me at all. As if the connection between pain and nervous system was broken. I am absolutely amazed by how my fragile body was able to withstand those brutal weather conditions with no clothing protection. And I am even more amazed by how my body regenerated itself in just 6 days. My immune system had a visible boost and I feel healthier than ever before in my life.

So now I am asking myself, a week later, what has the experience taught me?
1.     Female and male bodies are in essence the same – strong and ready to protect us. Seeing super fit macho guys, and girls from hot climates with diseases doing exactly the same was an eye opener for me. How is it possible?
2.     I love my body. After the climb, I was lying in bed and looking at my body with a new understanding and depth. I love you, my body. I thank you! There was a moment during the climb when the temperature dropped sharply, as we climbed higher, I physically could feel my body changing the gear and pumping heat into my organs and limbs. I was feeling warmth and comfort. I relaxed as it got colder.
3.     Cold is the best tool for practising awareness. We walked for 3 hrs without talking and it was the most conscious walk of my life where I was aware of each breath. Why? Because cold is so painful and powerful that you cannot afford to fall unconscious. Wim often says that cold will help us see deeply within and find the soul. He is right.
4.     Cold exposure is not a power trip – it is a different type of strength. I do not think anybody is able to remain an ego under icy water in the middle of nature. Cold and nature overpowers you so the ego shrinks and hides. Even though I felt a lot of pain most of the time, the pain of the mind was reduced to zero, so there was no discomfort or suffering.
5.     The best moment for me in this whole trip was when I truly had to let go. Near the final peak, when it had gotten really tough and cold I had nothing left but LET GO. The mind was useless in ­–35 in shorts. The only truth I found was in cold itself and trust. Trust in staying alive and being one with nature.
6.     I found that cold was not only surrounding me outside, I was also breathing it inside. Being cold inside and outside was a totally difference experience for me. To my great surprise I did not get sick or even had a sneeze. Cold was just another state of being and it was possible to remain calm.
I would love more and more women to do this training with Wim and/or his team. As women, our conditionings are so powerful and subtle that I believe during cold exposure we can face them truly without escape. I found it very liberating to face my own fears and struggles, anti-life attitudes and complaints that turned out to be nothing but a passing thought.
It is truly the set of mind that negatively controls the body, but the body is so much more powerful and free, especially when stepping out of the comfort zone. If only we learnt to allow the body do its miracles as we travel through life without fear, and just be naturally healthy, strong and happy.


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16 Responses to Chetna Reflects on an Ice based Training

  1. Kavita says:

    Here in Poona it’s +14! & in my house I feel it’s 0!

  2. Lokesh says:

    Tibetans believe that Hell is a very cold place.

  3. shantam prem says:

    So good to see Chetna in Poland and not Nepal!

  4. swamishanti says:

    I recently did a marathon work of cleaning and decorating, in the end in freezing cold temperatures.

    It was the worst time of year for painting as there is very little light, and I had to leave the windows open all day even when it was snowing.

    But, the work was worth it and it paid off as I got my new carpets down before the winter solstice.

  5. frank says:

    That`s one way to chill out!

  6. dominic says:

    Brace yourselves, Wimter Hof is coming!

    Do you have to be Russian, like Chetna, to want to do this? Probably not, but it might help! Dunking your new born baby into freezing icy water is a traditional Russian practice, to boost the immune system. One couple I knew were at loggerheads over this, the mum wanting to dunk and the father believing it would be traumatic rather than therapeutic.

    I can still remember going for a run in Holland with a group in mid-winter, then stripping off and swimming in the Atlantic. It was an electrifying experience, my body felt supercharged afterwards, like I had been plugged into a power station. With my body convulsing like an epileptic from the cold, I was super-present too!

    Nordic people have been doing this kind of stuff forever and with some science to back it up, it may have benefits.

    Controversy? “His first wife committed suicide in 1995 and Wim Hof has been blamed by relatives of four men who separately drowned in 2015 and 2016 when practising his breathing exercise.”

  7. frank says:

    Chetna claims that staying in icy cold water “shrinks your ego”.
    I go sea swimming here in the UK in the summer. It’s not cold enough to shrink my ego, but it does (scientifically provable) shrink some other parts of my anatomy! It`s a pure joy doing something enjoyable, a little challenging and maybe a little dangerous.

    However, all this spiritual add-ons/super power/healing all diseases/miracles stuff makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.

    By this logic, athletes would be super-conscious, guys in the SAS would be blipping in and out of no-mind like zen masters, Wayne Rooney would be having satoris as he bangs in another goal and so on.

    What happened to doing things for fun?

    • Parmartha says:

      I agree, Frank.
      I used to do early morning cold water swimming for over a decade in the Hampstead Ponds in the late eighties and nineties (not winter!) and simply enjoyed it, and thought it kept me halfway healthy, and a little in trim.

      Don’t see why it can’t just be described as “enjoyable”, without some blather about altered states, etc.

      Sadly, one day I walked in only to see someone who had become more than a talking acquaintance of mine (Einstein’s nephew) laid out, and quite dead! He swam every day also, and then suddenly the cold must have got to him.

      • dominic says:

        “blather about altered states, etc.”
        What a frosty and chilly review, P! So briskly freezing Hof out and giving altered states the cold shoulder!

        Poor nephew, he oughta listened to his mum: “You’ll catch your death (of cold)” or his uncle, “e=mc2″, where e(entropy)= m(mass) x c(cold)2(squared).

  8. shantam prem says:

    Beauty of sannyas mind is, “Everything becomes meditation.” Eating, drinking, sleeping, cheating…whatsoever.

    • dominic says:

      Have you been cheating again, Shantam, so soon into the new year?!

      I also resolve to continue to misbehave this year, for as Osho once said of the Buddha, “To be good is to be boring!”

  9. kusum says:

    Survival instincts certainly wake one up!

  10. Prem says:

    I don’t know. When you are trying to convince others of something, it means deep down you did not enjoy it. It’s a compensation mechanism.

    I try to watch myself doing this. When I try to convince someone how great I feel about something – deep down my body is saying I’m not enjoying it.

    When you try to rationalize (by making a 6 point list) how great it was – you are trying to compensate.

    From my experience with cold exposure, it is BOTH a healing and a traumatic experience.

    The shock completely disconnects you from your feelings, so it gives you a false sense of detachment and happiness – because you are disconnected from feelings.

    Cold exposure does boost the immune system…

    And it is also traumatizing…this is why you disconnect from your feelings, to avoid the trauma. The body goes into shock. Meditate on this also.

    But it does kickstart the immune system, therefore healing some diseases.

    I would like to have some feedback from Chetna – two months after the experience. Did the joint aches return?

    Usually when people try to convince other people that “I had such a great time doing this and I learned so much” it means deep down they did not enjoy it on some level and they are trying to compensate.