This year I’ve taken on an experiment with biohacking. Over the last couple years, I had come across a man from Iceland called “The Iceman” whose method (The Wim Hof Method) has taken the world by storm throughout the pandemic.
His method is fairly simple. It’s about 10 minutes of deep breathing and 3 minutes of cold exposure each day. These two things added to my daily routine reduced much of my regular inflammation, stress, and heightened dopamine. Even if this was a placebo effect, it is free and takes less than 15 minutes a day to do.
After doing this for awhile, you tend to forget how crazy this could be perceived. Everyone I tell about my voluntary nature of jumping into a near freezing tub each morning tells me how they could never. But for me, this is one of the hardest things I do each day besides working out or yoga.
This had me thinking about an elemental theme that I’ve been fascinated with ever since reading pre-socratic philosophers such as Heraclitus. His general idea of the elements was the dualistic nature of them. Cold things warm up, warm things cool off, wet things dry up, and dry things get wet. This was known as his theory of elemental transformation. In many other regions and religions of the world, this is commonly known as the “unity of opposites”.
While I could go on with the phenomena of the unity of opposites such as pleasure and pain, you’re probably well familiar with the paradox in your life already. Heraclitus had an interesting perspective on this unity however. To sub quote Heraclitus:
“Fire lives in the death of earth, air lives in the death of fire, water lives in the death of air, and earth in the death of water.”
Visually seen, you’d see the following pattern of elements:
Now there’s two ideas in this passage that are interesting. The first is that any element can transform into another. The second is that any element does so through a series of birth and death.
This had me thinking that while I took on two of the major elements in my daily routine through cold exposure(water) and deep breathing(air), I wasn’t embracing the missing elements of fire and earth.
As I would read more about these elements and how they might be practically took on in a daily routine, I settled on two main things. The first is walking alongside the earth and being embedded in nature for 30 minutes. The second is being exposed to enough heat to break a sweat without exertion. Given I live in Texas, I can usually get this while on a walk given the warm temperatures. But I also found a contemporary solution through the means of a portable sauna.
As I embraced the four elements in my daily life, I’ve found much more balance in my life. My baseline continues to stabilize rather than having high highs and low lows. I’m active and illuminated like fire. I’m free and stimulated like air. I’m nurtured and fluid like water. And I’m stable and grounded like earth.
If you’d like to try this in your life, here’s a quick list to get started:
- Fire – High temperature exposure for 20 minutes a day. (Sun/Sauna)
- Air – Deep breathing exercises for 10 minutes a day. (Wim Hof/Box Breathing)
- Water – Cold temperature exposure for 3 minutes a day. (Cold Shower/Cold Plunge)
- Earth – Walk or yoga for 30 minutes a day. (Sandals/Yoga Mat)