Feeling is Understanding… This takes us back to the depth of our physiology, to the inner nature, the way it was meant to be.
– Wim Hof
What we must cultivate over the idea of a particular physique or end goal is our feeling sense. When I use the term feeling sense I mean our very aliveness, our vitality, our chi. Such an idea might be easily dismissed as esoteric or as being some unreachable understanding which will cost you your entire life on a mountaintop, secluded from the rest of humanity. Most of us are not interested in living this way and so we inconsiderately throw ideas like meditation out the window.
I firmly believe that this elusive understanding which I dub “feeling sense” can be reliably cultivated in any individual who has the desire to do so. See, the feeling sense which we refer to as touch and the kinesthetic awareness we refer to as proprioception, I believe to be one in the same. This is to say that the touch sense is also active within the body and is the mechanism we use for autonomous movement of our voluntary muscular system and also for balance and recognizing emotion. It is universally accepted that through training the voluntary muscular system may be honed, sharpened and refined in order to make movements more skillful and even make movements which would be otherwise impossible, possible. How does this occur? It occurs through the growth, interconnection and myelination of nerve pathways. Neurons which fire together, wire together. Essentially when a particular movement or skill is mastered what were once independent circuits act jointly, producing fluidity, efficiency and effortlessness in action. I feel that to witness such mastery from our fellow human beings is a call to action for us. We recognize the beauty and potential in what we are seeing and are inspired to develop ourselves towards mastery. Well what if this same function of mastery extended not only to the voluntary muscular system but throughout the whole body?… even through the endocrine and nervous systems. These are the systems that produce hormones in response to our environment which includes our diet, climate and habitual thoughts. I believe that the respiratory system is the gateway to this higher degree of feeling sense.
Yes that’s right, even thoughts! Each thought, especially those which are repeated will produce a hormonal response either triggering sympathetic or parasympathetic nervous system activity. Simply put, thoughts which stress you out will activate your fight or flight response releasing hormones like cortisol while thoughts which bring excitement or peace will activate the relaxation response. This relaxation response can be activated through meditation, gratitude or time in nature. Please note that the same process of muscle memory aka habituation which makes muscle movements easier also makes thought patterns more readily accessible which can be free us or imprison us. The hormones in your bloodstream will affect every cell in your body therefore your thought habits aka mindset is a significant factor in your overall health and vitality. The quickest way to begin understanding the feeling sense in my opinion is to employ the Wim Hof Method of breathing.
Wim Hof champion of 20+ world records related to cold immersion discovered this breathing technique as a response to cold exposure and found breathing and cold to be effective in managing the stress he felt being a single father after his wife’s tragic suicide. On top of that he believes that the mental illness his wife suffered which led to her suicide and many other illnesses can be treated through breathing, exposure to the cold and mindset. I forward this message to you today because I share this belief and I find this beautiful because it is returning all the power to us, to the individual.
This is the breathing technique: You will essentially be toggling between hyperoxia and hypoxia you can experience a range of physical responses just as you would experience goosebumps in the cold or sweating in the heat. It is simply you’re body reacting to the environmental factor of oxygen levels, only now you are consciously manipulating that variable. Experimenting with breath retention and controlled hyperventilation affords different conditions for the body to experience and adapt to. Naturally this means a host of different responses such as the release of varying hormones and neurotransmitters, produced through voluntarily by choosing to engage in this technique. This is extremely exciting, groundbreaking and empowering for all of us looking to gain mastery over ourselves.
When combined with all different types of exercise from plyometrics to power lifting, martial arts to dance this elevated feeling sense dramatically increases our capacity for understanding the movement and how to we can best orient our unique physiology to harmonize with our desired result. This means posture, tension, position etc. and we become more proficient with movements more quickly because we are gaining more experience than we would be with a lower feeling sense. In other words, as the nervous system becomes more active due to heightened levels of oxygen, the learning curve on any movement is reduced.
This style of breathing (WHM) combines nicely with goal oriented visualization. This effectively allows us program our state by going into a physiological euphoria, then pairing that with intention which creates an imprint of euphoria in association with the desired thought. This is very effective for building habits. For example if I do the breathing technique before I return home and visualize/feel myself in a loving, present state with my family I am effectively programming my behavior for when I arrive much in the same way as is used to prepare for the cold in the Wim Hof Method. This is an incredible ability because we can minimize the times when we act out of our ideal character. We can begin to access our optimal self and present them to the world. I like to call mine “Higher Juan”. So higher reader I encourage you to check out the Wim Hof Method and begin practicing then combine it with your exercise and personal goals. Best of Luck!