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Adjacent Practices: Wim Hof breathing, Cold Therapy, Fasting, Ketosis, Psilocybin

A question from the community:
“Thank you for the excellent writing. What do you make of practices that might be considered related or adjacent like Wim Hof breathing, cold therapy, psilocybin, fasting, ketosis … ?”

The tools you mention have an interesting connection – they are all ways of forcefully altering the mind-body system to exert a feeling of control. Wim Hof breathing and cold therapy can shock the body into submission, which in turn subdues the mind. Fasting and ketosis, although slower, provide a similar shock treatment via the GI tract. Psilocybin and other hallucinogenic substances like LSD, cannabis, and DMT push consciousness into the astral dimension, which alters our perception of reality and can break the hold of persistent mental states. These methods ultimately rely on will power to gain control over the mind-body system. Without will power, and when will power gives out due to exhaustion, the mind-body system spins out of control.

Breath Connects Body and Mind

Breathwork is fascinating because the breath is a direct connection between the physical body and the mental/emotional mind. It is a great way to build confidence. We can play with moving the breath in different ways and observe how it affects our mind-body system relatively quickly. By diving deep into the practice, we also begin to see the limits of our control. We can hold our breath for only so long – we’ll either gasp or pass out, and the body will breathe. And eventually, the breath stops permanently and we die, a fact beyond anyone’s control!

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy activates our survival systems. If our body is fully functional, this can have an invigorating effect. People who have had a near death experience often describe a sharper perception and sense of gratitude once they have recovered from the ordeal. For those with dysautonomia, both cold therapy and breathwork can be dangerous as they affect the autonomic nervous system in sometimes unpredictable ways.

Diet, Fasting, Ketosis

Dietary changes are one the most powerful and most difficult tools to use. The challenge comes because each body is different, and bodies change over time. Fasting and ketosis can rapidly shift the body, which is gratifying to the ego. However, the human body is not designed to operate in a state of fasting or ketosis long term. When done properly, these methods can serve as a spring board that helps us break down ingrained patterns. The key is to have a plan to follow after the initial fasting and/or period of ketosis. (It’s vital to do proper research of how to fast and/or enter ketosis before beginning as well!)

Hallucinagenics and Spiritual Growth

Utilizing psycho-active substances in select cases can help someone shatter a harmful mental pattern. However, the mechanism through which it works is it shifts the energy within the body to the periphery. In order for spiritual development to occur, the internal energy must return to the central channel. Once the person’s consciousness is broken open with a substance, the energy must be pulled back into the physical body, and then directed through the peripheral channels and into the central channel.

Those drawn to use such substances are often seeking an escape hatch, usually because being in the body-mind system is extremely painful. They wind up trapping themselves in a cycle of temporarily feeling better with the disconnect that comes from being in the astral and the immense pain of coming back into the physical. So they keep imbibing instead of facing and moving through the mental and physical issues. Using chemicals to alter the body-mind system is often abrupt and can have a devastating effect if not managed with care.


With all of these tools, one must ask what is the goal?

If you’re looking to develop willpower and activate the immune and autonomic nervous systems for physical and mental health, the WimHof method, cold therapy, fasting, and ketosis have been shown to create powerful results when done properly. From a spiritual perspective, exploring the limits of the body-mind system teaches us about personal power and humility.

For mental health, including addiction issues, new research in the use of micro-dosing combined with targeted therapy is showing promise. But again, this is an area to approach with caution. More than any other tool mentioned here, one’s goals must be clear. If someone is looking to create a stable life, treatment would consist of developing coping mechanisms. If spiritual awakening is the real goal, then one should see the use of substances as a temporary fix, and even then much investigation into motivation and expectations is required to discover if it will actually move one forward or become yet another obstacle.

Control and Surrender 

In the beginning spiritual practice follows the mantra of “Control, Control, Control.” As a teacher, I can tell you the only thing we control is the focus of our mind, but you won’t know this until you prove it to yourself.  While learning to control the focus of our wandering mind, we discover we have greater control over the body as a result of our practice. This stage lasts a very long time, and many are tempted to skip through it quickly. As we develop and refine our ability to control, we eventually have the realization that nothing is actually within our control. If we truly have control and understand its limits, we avoid nihilism. It is at this point that we can surrender to the movement of Light by offering up what we have worked so hard to gain.

Want to continue the discussion? Post your questions on my Free2Z page or in the comments below.


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Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness