Are you looking to build resilience and increase your capacity to handle stress? Do you ever wonder what it means to be enlightened and how it can impact your life? Are you ever stressed out by the constant chase to live a more enlightened, high vibration life?
Welcome back to the We Are Already Free podcast, where we inspire down-to-earth seekers and free people to live their truth and be the change by focusing on what they CAN control.
In this episode, I share a deep, vulnerable, inspiring conversation Scott Carney, author of “The Enlightenment Trap” and “What Doesn’t Kill Us,” to explore the above questions and more.
Scott is a new york times bestselling author and anthropologist. He was the first journalist to write about Wim Hof, and one of the first people to learn the Wim Hof Method. His books ‘What Doesn’t Kill Us’ and ‘The Wedge’ make the case for how Environmental training and exposure are as fundamental to human health as diet and exercise.
In this episode, Scott shares profound reflections on:
- The concept of resilience and how it can help you create space between your natural reactions to stress and how you actually want to respond
- The interplay between consciousness and the body, and how mindfulness practices like breath work and ice baths can help you change your physiology
- Near the end of the episode, Scott shares his thoughts on the dangers of gurus and the importance of being able to receive feedback from others. Listen all the way to the end to hear his unique perspective and insights on this topic.
- The Buddha’s shocking mistake: The dark and murderous side of meditative practices.
- As always, this is only scratching the surface, we also cover the hero’s journey, the middle way, Wim Hof, the big mistake the Buddha made…and much more.
If you’re looking to expand your perspectives on these topics and learn how they can impact your own life, this episode is for you.
As I said in the beginning, this is a VERY vulnerable episode. Scott talks openly about death, and a traumatic experience which shaped his life. I honour the life of Emily O’Connor, and thank Scott for being willing to share so openly. I believe this is one of the most important episodes I’ve ever recorded. If you are feeling the resonance, then listen on.
Please do reach out if this brings up challenging emotions for you! You are not alone.
Connect more with Scott Carney:
- His book The Enlightenment Trap (affiliate link) – https://geni.us/0VEI
- His website, where you can find his other books, and sign up to his newsletter: https://scottcarney.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sgcarney
Links and Things:
affiliate links where possible
- The Red Market by Scott Carney
- Charming Cadavers by Liz Wilson
- The Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell
- People: Wim Hof
- The Iceman cometh – article first written in Playboy by Scott Carney
- The Wedge by Scott Carney
“Consciousness is the thing that makes the indefinite, definite” – Scott Carney
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Thank you, I appreciate you
Nathan Maingard: Looking to build resilience and increase your capacity to handle stress? Do you ever wonder what it means to be enlightened and how that might impact your life, maybe not in the positive ways you think. Are you ever stressed out by the constant chase to live a more enlightened, high vibration life? Welcome back to the We Are Already Free podcast, where we inspire down to Earth seekers and free people to live their truth and be the change by focusing it on what they actually can control. In this episode, I share a deep, vulnerable, inspiring conversation with Scott Kearney, author of The Enlightenment Trap, What Doesn't Kill Us, and so many other books. And in this episode, we explore the above questions and many more. Scott is a New York Times best selling author and anthropologist. He was the first journalist to write about Wim Hoff and one of the first people to learn the Wim Hoff method. His books, What Doesn't Kill Us and The Wedge, make the case for how environmental training and exposure are as fundamental to human health as diet and exercise. In this episode, Scott shares profound reflections on the concept of resilience and how it can help you create space between your natural reactions to stress and how you actually want to respond.
Nathan Maingard: The interplay between consciousness in the body and how mindfulness practices like breath work and ice baths can help you change your physiology. Near the end of the episode, Scott shares his thoughts on the dangers of gurus and the importance of being able to receive feedback from others. Listen all the way to the end to hear his unique perspective and insights on this topic. He also shares a story I'd never heard before about the Buddha's shocking mistake. It's a dark and murderous side to the meditation practices that the Buddha first introduced. As always, this is only scratching the surface. We also cover the hero's journey, the middle way, Wim Hof, and so much more as always. If you're looking to expand your perspectives on these topics and more and learn how they can impact your own life, this episode is for you. As I said in the beginning, this is a very vulnerable episode. Scott talks openly about death and a very traumatic experience which shaped his life. I honor the life of Emily O'Connor and thank Scott for being willing to share so openly. I believe this is one of the most important episodes I've ever recorded.
Nathan Maingard: I have full body goosebumps even now as I'm saying that. If you feel this resonance, then listen on. Please do reach out if this episode brings up challenging emotions for you. You can chat with me directly by visiting the show notes as well as find links to Scott's books and many of the things we discussed in this episode. All of that is available at alreadyfree. Me27. That's just the numbers two, seven. So for now, without further ado, thank you for your support. Thank you for making this podcast possible. This is a community supported podcast. Thank you for being a part of it. Please enjoy this uninterrupted episode. Okay, fuck it. I'm doing it. I'm doing it. I'm diving in. It's like an ice bath. Enough standing on the edge thinking about this. Rad. So interestingly enough, you sent me a few links before of things that are alive for you that would be interesting to maybe cover. I didn't remember this. I had forgotten, but I heard you, I guess, on another podcast years ago. It must have been, I don't know how many years ago, but where you were chatting about the story of the woman you call Emily O'Connor.
Nathan Maingard: And I remember when I heard that story, it really shook me, man. It was a deep look into this whole story of this idea of enlightenment and the fact that as Westerners, we have certain ideas about what that means. So I know it's quite a long story. So I want to almost share the full story in the show notes so people can go and get it there. But if you open to just sharing a summarized version of what that process or that experience was for you and how that led you to some of the things that you think now about enlightenment?
Scott Carney: It's a great place to start this entire conversation. So thank you for queuing it up like that. For me, almost my entire career starts in 2006, right after I dropped out of a PhD program in anthropology and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I was 26, 27 years old, and I took a job leaving an abroad program in North India, taking 18 to 23 year old students through the holy sites in North India. I had lived in India for three years at that point. I speak Hindi. I'm very good with traveling around India. And we go to Varanasi, we go to both GEA. And then I have this student who is an amazing student. Her name is Emily O'Connor, and we're doing the silent meditation. So this is the Lamrim, Tibetan style mantra based stuff. And I can't take the silence. S silence is really hard for me. I have some good meditations. I have some mediocre meditations. I'm like, I'm done. And meanwhile, I learned some terrorist attacks that happened very close to where I was, and somebody I knew was caught in a blast. So it was a really tough time for me personally as the director, trying to keep students safe.
Scott Carney: And meanwhile, the nun who's teaching this program is talking about bliss and enlightenment and nirvana, all these really awesome concepts. And my student, Emily O'Connor, was just into it. And we're going to speed through this story very quickly. At the end of the program, there's another catastrophe that we have to deal with. There's a train derailment, and I'm trying to get to go to Dharmsala and get all these kids on the train, and it's a big mess, and we miss our train. And we go back to the meditation center, which is the root institute in Vodhaya. We dodge some calls about bandits in the area. I mean, it's a tensed time. The students don't know about most of that stuff. And in the evening, the kids who have been silent for seven days all want to talk. But Emily sits in a corner and just writes in her journal and writes in her journal and writes in her journal. I go to bed and then at about, I believe, two in the morning, she climbs up to the roof of the retreat center and jumps off to her death. She has wrapped a scarf around her face and her body lands about 10 feet from where I am sleeping.
Scott Carney: And so I wake up a couple of hours later when someone comes across her body and my world is completely blown apart. And over the next several days, my job transfers from being a tour guide, essentially, to someone who's bringing a corpse back to the United States and conducting an investigation into what happened. She left her journal open for people to read in a very ostentatious place because she wanted people to read it. And I read it. It's so hard for me to talk about this. I get emotional sometimes. So it starts as she's this really driven, awesome type A student of yoga and meditation. India is crazy. There's cows, whatever. No pretty normal experiences. And then it descends the day we get into the meditation retreat into statements along the lines of, now that I've sat for a meditation, I realized that all of the Buddhist Masters of the past are in me. I know all of these texts. I am on the cusp of enlightenment, and all I need to do is leave my body and then I will be a bodhisattva. And the last words are, I am a bodhisattva. And the journal is about 40 pages long.
Scott Carney: So this is the very truncated version but essentially she took her life not because she was depressed, because she was having trouble with these meditations. She took her life because she was so enraptured by the teachings and what was happening in her meditations that she wanted to stay in that moment of perfect bliss. And her way out was to take her own life. And this set me off on my entire career in two parallel paths. One path as an investigative journalist, and I was literally seeing a person go from alive and vibrant to... And this sounds a little dark, but essentially meat that is decaying in 102 degrees. And I am suddenly responsible for a body. Meanwhile, people want pieces of her body, literally. There's parts of her brain and liver and kidneys that are going for police investigations. There's insurance companies. There's just a lot of stuff that happens after you die that you do not think about. I was the custodian in charge of that. And this led me down a six year research into the materiality of the body. That's my book, The Red Market. It's about organ trafficking. I go off to investigate organ crimes, stolen knee, stolen kidneys, stolen skeletons, surrogate pregnancy.
Scott Carney: It's a lot of dark stuff with the body. But at the same time, I'm doing that, my mind is reeling. I'm trying to figure out what was going through her mind. What is it about these meditative techniques that I love, what is it that could potentially go so terribly wrong? And while I was doing that organ trafficking research, I was also meeting with high lamas. There's a Tibetan monastery outside of Varanasi in a place called Sarnath. I was going there. I was going to Varanasi to Dharamsala, speaking with some advisors of the Dalai Lama. I'm asking, Well, was she enlightened? Was she a Buddhist? What is it about this tradition that's there? And they more or less say, No, she wasn't. She has this... Westerners in particular, they say, have this problem where we get so excited about these meditative techniques, where we come from America and we look to the east and we maybe have a Christian background and we believe in heaven. And we also believe in the protestant work ethic and the spirit of capitalism. You can just work hard and you can achieve great things. And when that gets applied to meditative experiences, sometimes when you're sitting there and time just passes in an instant and you feel awesome and you're like, Oh, my God.
Scott Carney: I'm realizing such great things, you can start to think that you are special. You are Luke Sky walker, discovering the Force. We have all these heroes who do this in our media. And I think that we, as Westerners, can get stuck in that idea. And I started collecting journals of people who had gone through similar experiences, gone mad or meditated to death. And I started collecting this. And this became a whole track of my research that ended up as the book, The Enlightenment Trap, which is right here behind me. Brand new cover, very nice. But it's about this weird thing where the Western expectations meet Eastern religions. And there's a miscommunication that honestly goes back hundreds of years between east and west and thousands of years in the Indian subcontinent. And we're all wrapped up in it. And our spirituality, our view of Eastern spirituality in general has these lenses over it of history that it's very difficult for us to escape and we can get seduced by our own expectations of what we're going to find.
Nathan Maingard: Thank you for sharing that story. I can't even imagine the emotion that might come up sharing a story like that, even after so long. Even as I asked the question, I thought, Wow, this is quite a big one to dive into. So thank you for being so willing to just go there and share this with us. The Enlightenment piece to me is such an amazing thing to talk about. It's so important because I think that... I'm going to just give you a bit of context of my story and just see what comes up and see what lands.
Scott Carney: But.
Nathan Maingard: Basically, one of the things I've really fallen in love with in the last few years is the hero's journey. And I think it's such a beautiful contextualisation of experience. And there's the lifetime of someone's hero's journey of growing, getting information, getting allies, meeting challenges. And then there's the daily challenge of like, I just woke up. What now? I could just do my ordinary normal thing, or I could change. I could do something. I could do something that's going to take me on a journey. And what came up for me while you were talking there was that there's this piece in the hero's journey that is once the hero has defeated the big monster, which is down in the under world. It's around seven o'clock or something on o'clock in terms of the circular structure of the journey. And then there is the return. And I think there's even the refusal of the return. And I think that that's such an interesting piece because one of the primary elements of the hero's journey is that the hero returns home with the knowledge to serve others with the knowledge or the treasure or whatever they want, whatever they got through defeating the monster.
Nathan Maingard: And when I hear that story, I hear Emily having in some a hero's journey and defeating the monster, whatever that was for her in that moment, and being like, I don't want to go home. I don't ever want to go home. And so there's something in that. I don't know if that brings anything up for you, but yeah, that's really profound.
Scott Carney: That's deep. And obviously, you're talking about Joseph Campbell's work here. I haven't read Campbell in quite some time, so some of this is going to be rusty in my head. But I think you're right. It's going to be a journey. You have to come back to some place. And what I fear about enlightenment and the way we talk and we think about enlightenment, especially in the West, but occasionally in the East as well, is that it is a destination that you arrive at. In some way, you're doing your practices, you're reading the yoga sutras, and you see these siddhis, which are miracle powers you might get. And they tell you, you just work really hard, you can get these things. And you say, Okay, I'm going to do this. And eventually, I'll have a series of realizations. And then boom, I will no longer be me because I always realized that there is no me and I am impious and I am basically ne in the matrix. That's what enlightenment how we'll contextualize it. And my feeling is that this is the wrong characterization of enlightenment. And there is a debate in the Indic and the T ibetan traditions on this, but we don't need to get into medieval theology at the moment.
Scott Carney: But the things that speak to me is not that somebody arrives, but it's actually a journey that we're always working on. It's a thing that there is no one who was enlightened. I don't even think the Buddha was enlightened. I don't think Jesus was a perfect person. I don't think Muhammad was a perfect person. I think that all these people had great insights, and they were working on themselves, and they fucked up, and they did great things. And it is that journey that we all need to be on. And there's this thing that I picked out of the... While I was doing my research on the Enlightenment app, which was really, really relevant to this, I just said that Buddha was not a perfect person. People say that he was a perfect person all the time. They say he's enlightened. In fact, there's entire theologies based on the fact that he arrived at some point. But there is also in the very early polytexts, there is a story of this guy named Magalandika. And you should look this up. It's not very well talked about, but it's like some of the oldest Buddhist stories. And what it is is the Buddha made a big error when he was teaching Buddhism.
Scott Carney: So he had just gotten enlightened. He sat under the Bouddhi tree, made it to the spot of transcendence. And it was starting to collecting followers. And he went to some followers and said, Hey, you know what? The way you get enlightened like me is you have to realize death. You have to realize that life is impermanent, and you should go meditate in the graveyard. Watch those decaying corpses decay. And then you realize that you're going to decay. And then boom, you're going to be enlightened. That's more or less what he taught. And then he said, And then peace out. I'll see you later. I am going to go and meditate in this cave for a couple of months. I'll be back and then you'll all be enlightened. So that's what he does. And the monks start doing this. And the way that sutra that discusses these events, it says, Oh, my God. We are meditating these charnel grounds, which are open graveyards. And we're seeing these bias decay. And we are overcome with disgust of our own decay. And we're depressed. And they all start committing suicide. All of his flock in that monastery starts committing suicide.
Scott Carney: And eventually, some of them can't go through with the suicide thing. So they tell Miguel Andika, which is one of the monks, to go kill all of the monks in the monastery who want to die. So he goes around and he assassinates all the monks. And it's a blood bath. We're talking hundreds of monks. And then the Buddha comes out of retreat and says, Oh, my God. There was a pedagogical problem here. We made an error. And Miguel Andika, I excommunicate you. You're no longer my student, and he kicks them out of the thing. And then he says, Okay, everyone, let's try a different meditation. I want you to instead meditate on your breathing. Focus on the breath going in and out. And this will guide you to enlightenment. And that's how we get the breathing meditations by the Buddha. It starts with the death meditation. And then he's like, O ops, a little too intense. Let's go to breathing. And this is in the Pali Canon. When monks take vows, it's part of that initiation practice. And you can go find it. I referenced the story in the Enlightenment trap, but it's also in a book called the Charming Cadavers by Liz something or other.
Scott Carney: It is there. It is in the medieval literature. So we know that this stuff happens, that there are bad ways to meditate. Even the Buddha knew it. And to get back to my point, even the Buddha could be wrong. Even in the very earliest text, the Buddha could be wrong.
Nathan Maingard: So this is actually one of the reasons that in the intro to this podcast, I always say that... Who is this podcast for? You asked that before we started recording, but this podcast is for down to Earth seekers and free people. And the down to Earth part is so critical to me because I have had this discomfort. And again, I'll contextualize a bit where living in London some years ago, and I got involved in a beautiful community, the New Age community, veganism and sober parties and the yoga, all the wonderful things. And what I noticed started happening, as someone who's always felt like an outsider, I've never been in the in crowd or it's always never really felt like that. And then I was in this in crowd. And what I noticed was the language was around resonance and vibration. And like, well, we're just vibrating at a higher frequency than them, or we're just whatever the story is. And I noticed I was like, this is to me, as someone who has always felt like an outsider and sensitive to those things, this just sounds like another dogma and another way to create the VIPs and the cool, enlightened people and the outsiders who aren't as cool and don't really get it.
Nathan Maingard: And so to me, that part of what I see as a trap of enlightenment, having not yet read your book that I'm excited to, is this idea of, well, we're the high vibration people and we just need... What's it? Love and light only. Love and light all the way. And how much of a trap that becomes. But then what you've just shared around the story is the converse can also be true is just focusing on death and decay is a recipe for disaster.
Scott Carney: Yeah, it's almost like we need a middle way. Someone should come up with that idea.
Nathan Maingard: Tell us what is the middle way, wise one.
Scott Carney: The thing is that we're all on this journey together and we're all trying to figure it out. People make mistakes, I make mistakes, you make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes. No one's perfect, no one has the knowledge. And that's the beauty of being alive, honestly. If we actually knew how to live. And there are people, there are religions that believe they know how to live. There are seven rules.
Nathan Maingard: Sorry about that phone ringing.
Scott Carney: No worries. There's like 10 commandments that you have to follow. If you follow these, you're right. And this is like a problem with fundamentalism. They have a book and they say, in this book, this is the way to live. And it always goes wrong. What fundamentalist religion has been like, oh, yeah, those guys really figured it out. One thing or another goes wrong because the point of being alive is to figure all of these things out. The point of life is to be like, look, I want to be a good person. And I do hope I do have this principle that I think we should try to be good people. There are also religions that believe, no, we should be freaking evil. I want to tear out this person's heart and throw it down the bottom of a pyramid to get Jaguar power. That's a real religion. That's not what I think is the way we should live. I think that we should try to be good people, try to bring people up together and hold truth to power when it's important, but also let things go when it's not. We'll never figure it out.
Scott Carney: I like the fact, and some of my heroes are very flawed people, people who I'm like, Oh, my God, you're broken in so many ways, and yet there's something very special about you. I like being able to live in a gray area between... On the internet, everyone's right or everyone's wrong. There's like, you go into a Reddit or Twitter spread, and we're always looking for that one signal that someone transmits to us that means they're wrong about everything or they're right about everything. The truth is that no one is right about everything and no one is wrong about everything. I cringed that I'm going to give this example, but someone like Stalin, horrible person, but there's no way he was wrong about everything. He probably was right about some agricultural process that helped his people. And you can't just throw everything out. You have to look at context. You have to look at how things are working in a particular moment and just don't cast everything out at once.
Nathan Maingard: This actually segues into something I'm interested in exploring if it's available. And obviously, if not, you let me know. But it's this idea of cancel culture. I think cancel culture is one of the children of the modern social media age where everyone's either all right or all wrong. And it's like, we have to control the narrative. We have to control the story so that our story is the one that everyone sees as the true story and the one story. And so I know that you're going through something right now that is pretty full on intense, and I'm interested to hear about it, obviously, because it's an interesting story. So I'll just, again, for the listener, contextualize. You are one of the people who first worked with Wim Hoff before the world knew about him, basically. And for myself, I found that his example around resilience and around getting uncomfortable, as he said, actually talking about death, I'm sure I've heard him say, you need to die once a day to really come alive. And he's talking about ice baths and cold emotion at that point. And so I just rediscovered you recently, as I expressed before, looking into more of that stuff because I'm just...
Nathan Maingard: Ice baths are really changing my life in a very deeply profound way. And they're helping the people I bring them to. And it's just, it's epic. And then what I'm seeing is, listening to you, that there's this difference, this disparity between Wim Hoff as a man, as just another human doing the best he can with his broken, beautiful humanness and the business of the Wim Hoff image and the business that's out there and what they're projecting. And you're in hot water right now. Excuse the hot water ice bath God, anyway. So I just love to hear from you around what it's like to be in the midst of being canceled, dude. They're trying to cancel you right now.
Scott Carney: Yeah, it's unfortunate. So for a little background, I was the first serious writer to write about Wim Hoff for a real magazine doing about his techniques, about the science behind it. And certainly in America, I got him started in the States. There was an article for Playboy that I went to visit him in 2013, right as I was writing the first draft of The Enlightenment Trap, actually. Oh, wow. No lie. So I was out there castigating false gurus. And it's not just Emily's story. It's another controversial Llama who's a big character in that. And I was sure that Wim Hoff, this dude who sits on an iceberg and claims he can control his body with his mind and stuff, was just another one of these charlatans. So I went out there to prove him wrong. And it turns out I tried his method and it worked. In a week, I was sitting in my underwear on an iceberg, and I was climbing up mountains in my skivvies and controlling the heat with my body. I was like, Whoa, this is a big deal. Maybe I need to modify the way I think about a lot of these things.
Scott Carney: And so I ended up writing an article that would very much supported everything Wim Hoff, especially technique wise. There's something here that's really cool and let the world find out about it. And it changed my life. I am a professional ice bather now. I wrote this book called What Doesn't Kill Us about my journey with Wim. I ended up climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with him in a bathing suit. It was negative 30 degrees outside. That's the same for Fahrenheit and Celsius. So there it is. And I found these powers in me. And they're evolutionary. It's not prana coming from heaven. It's like we evolved for extreme environments, and we're just too comfortable now. And I delve really deep into the science of that. And I am on the record with you right now that I love what I learned with WM. And WM changed my life. And I think he's a really, really interesting and wonderful and complex person. And as I said, I see the gray area more than I see black and white. And I see him as this, what I say, a prophet and a mad man, like a guy who's opens the door for ice bathing for millions of people.
Scott Carney: Now, ice bathing is mainstream. There's all these different versions of it, and I love it. I just love that it's all over the place. But he, at least for me and for a lot of the world right now, opened the door, even though he was not the first ice bather. This tradition goes back, way back. So that was that. The book comes out. But always in the back of my mind, my mission was I still debunk cults. I have to be legitimate. I have to be honest. I have to look at the bigger, broader context. And I have never been comfortable with the business method that has arisen around Wim Hoff. And Wim has extracted himself from the business, and it's run by his son, Aynem Hoff. And there's a long history here. There's some videos that may or may not be out, whether or not they're taken down. But I've ended up in this fight with Aynem Hoff because I released a video critiquing some real problems with the method, with the way the method is distributed in the world. And it has been very controversial, especially within the Wim Hoff Empire. At first, Wim Hoff was very much in my corner.
Scott Carney: I have these videos of his reactions to it, being like, Wow, this is really changing something that's important in this group. As of today, and we'll see what he says tomorrow, today, he's really not happy with me because I have caused a stir that is potentially hurting the money of the Wim Hoff Empire because the way it is run, from what I have seen, it really is a money making operation where if you wanted to ask Wim Hoff to come on your podcast and you wrote WIM a message, it would be like, Hell yeah, I want to do it. I want to spread the word, which is like, Great. That's why we're into this. And then if Aenom gets wind of that, you're going to get this intersex... You're going to be blocked on whims. He's going to get in front and be like, No, it's going to cost you $50,000 for a half hour or $150,000 if you don't pay attention. And there's these threads. And there's a community of instructors who, as they get more famous, more well known for ice bathing and breath work and stuff, they have their career cut out from under them.
Scott Carney: And they get legal challenges, they get take down requests on YouTube videos they put out. And a lot of people are very traumatized and very scared to come out and speak about this stuff. And then I, being the bonehead that I am, I put this video out, and then all of that stuff is now being targeted at me, and my videos are being aken down, my channel is being hit with copyright strikes that I do not believe are fair, privacy things, and there's lawyers. And it's a big mess, honestly. It's a big mess right now.
Nathan Maingard: There's something in this that's so important. I looked this up a while ago, but don't quote me on this because I don't remember exactly, but the word cult, I looked it up because I was like, Everyone talks about cults and it's always negative. From my memory, and again, don't quote me, I'm going to look this up and at least put it in the show notes if I get it horribly wrong. But I believe the root of the word cult is the word cultus, which means something like belonging or being a part of something or being in community. And so we've got this thing again in the West of like, Oh, I don't want to be a part of a cult. But in a way, by definition, we are all part of cults. We are all part of cultus, of community, of culture, which is the same root word, culture and cult. And so it's more about how do we build systems and ways of being and communication styles that enable us to self regulate when we start getting into that cult where there's someone in control, or there's a pyramid and you got to climb the pyramid and then there's that whole thing.
Nathan Maingard: So I don't know if you have any thoughts on that, but it's something I think about quite a lot is how do I live in a good cult, basically?
Scott Carney: That's a really nice way to phrase it. The origins of the word cult and the culture. The ing group is the cult and the cult of Mary, which is not all that controversial drug. But in the modern context, we think about Jonestown, we think about Manson murders. We think about these very negative images of cult. It has this pejorative overtone that I don't think that we should ignore because those events happened and they are dangerous. I am careful around the word cult right now because I want to make that distinction between these two, when a group goes dangerous and when it's like the cult of Mac users. I see them as it's becoming two different things. And generally, the way I think of cults, they're organized around a charismatic leader in general. They're organized around controlling the actions of the followers and often have an ideology that explains everything where they get contradictions from the outside world. They're like, well, that doesn't make sense because the world is all an illusion and you are an illusion. Therefore, my leader is correct. And there's various iterations of how that works. And I find this type of cult, which exists in Christian context, Buddhist context, Islamic context, all the contexts, there are cults like that.
Scott Carney: I do not think that the Wim Hoff method is a cult in that way because Wim doesn't think of himself as that guru. But I do think there are methods of control where people get silenced, people get kicked out of the community, people get ostracized, which resemble some of the organizations that I've written about and are coercive and are negative in various ways. And maybe we can see there's a continuum of cult as in the culture of Americans and all the way to Jonestown, where everyone commits suicide because a comet comes by and everyone puts on Nike sneakers and kills themselves. There's obviously a big spectrum there. It's useful to make some distinctions between that. I think that what was happening, and one of the reasons why I did this video that has been so controversial is I was planning to rerelease my book, The Enlightenment Trap, which is about the stuff that I just talked about. And I was actually, when you write a book, originally, I wrote this in 2015, it came out under a different title. There's a long story there. But essentially, I got the rights back. I was going to rerelease it.
Scott Carney: And I hadn't read it in seven years because that's what happens when you write a book. You just don't read it and you forget stuff and you go on to other projects. And I was reading it for the audiobook, and I was sitting there and I was just going over these chapters. I was like, Oh, my God. Some of this stuff is really applicable to what's going on right now. And I was in this crisis of conscience. And I did two things. One thing, I did a video because it was coming on the 10 year anniversary of when I had started practicing the method. So I did this video about what 10 years in the Wim Hoff method was. And it was all very positive about the Wim Hof method. But then at the end, I said a couple of things that were a little negative. I was like, I don't like the business practices. And Aynem Hoff is not the nicest person. Okay, I called him mean. And I think that's fair. I think calling him mean is fair. And then I got this note from him being like, I can't believe you would say this about me.
Scott Carney: And the long like, you're a bad journalist, you're a horrible person, blah, blah, blah. And I was like, Whoa, that's an outsized reaction. And so then me being me and maybe just a little reactive myself, I was like, well, I'll show you what a good journalist I am. And I'll actually dig in. And then I dug in and I started interviewing all other instructors. And I did a dive into the legal paperwork, and I found out that Wim Hoff, the guy, the human, doesn't even... Does not, at least on the paper trail from the corporate registration and whatnot, doesn't even own a stake in his own name, at least officially according to the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. I demonstrated that. I demonstrated all of these instructors who are scared to speak out. And I put together a legitimate investigative report. And oh, man, that just caused a scene. And I talk about him threatening to sue people and taking down their videos. And then he does exactly that to me in various ways. And you can say I'm being canceled, something is going on that's bad. And I don't think it's productive for the method.
Scott Carney: And I've been trying to be very careful not to throw Wim Hoff under the bus. Because in my mind, there's a distinction between the teachings of that guy and how the business has grown up around it. Because according to his own statements that are actually currently online, he is saying that he doesn't want any part of the business. He wants to be like Gandhi, going on his salt march. And then when you talk to Gandhi's handler, you have no idea how expensive it is to keep Gandhi in robes. That's a quote of Gandhi. And I think it's the same way. Whim doesn't want to be involved in the business. So he seeded the control to his son. And the son, who doesn't practice ice bath by his own admission, doesn't practice the method, is using it to raise money and being mean as he does it.
Nathan Maingard: This is so important, man, because I think you said earlier, I don't remember the exact words, but speaking out to truth, speaking out truth. And I think that this is one of the most critical foundational things is dialogue and being able to go back and forth. And what I hear, it's that same piece. And I'm so glad you made the distinction between a cult where people get together and do horrific things and this idea of that there's a lot of variation within that. Yeah, exactly. So there's this piece in here around... And the word that comes up for me, and this is my word, I'm not saying it's your word at all, but what I hear when I hear that is bully. I was bullied a lot when I was at school, and so many of us were. I'm not unique in that. But what I came to realize about the bullies, because I am the person who's introspective, and I thought a lot about it. What I realized was that they themselves were very unstable in themselves, that they were very actually weak in themselves, that they didn't have. And the word I'm going to use here is intentionally is resilience, that they weren't resilient.
Nathan Maingard: And I didn't have that word until relatively recently. But that the structure of their identity through probably abuse from their parents, or lack of attention, or whatever the thing was that they were going through, meant that they were not resilient. And so they had to lash out to try and control the external reality. And that's what I'm hearing in the story that you're sharing right now.
Scott Carney: I mean, you're exactly right. Even though I am in a major conflict with Aynem Hoff, somehow, I actually have a lot of sympathy for how he got to where he is. He had a very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, verydifficult childhood where he, you know, Wim left him. Whim more or less left all of his children after his wife died and lived with another woman. And his kids, as I understand it, lived basically in a squat in Amsterdam for 10 years. Aenon was responsible for bringing the family up. And he was in his teens when that happened. And that is just horribly difficult. And Wim is not, in my opinion, a great father. I think that he has some major failings in there. And this is again where that gray area comes in for me. I can say, look, this was not good. And yet he still does some cool stuff with the ice. We can hold those two ideas up and say they both exist.
Scott Carney: And growing up, managing his family, obviously wants to control external circumstances because everything is so difficult. And his personality is now very externalized. And the thing that's so strange is that now he runs this big organization that makes millions of dollars. And it's built around the idea of resilience. It's built around the idea of going into ice water, confronting your external troubles, and then changing the inside. And yet he professes repeatedly that he doesn't practice the method. There's this cognitive dissonance. And I would hope that, honestly, I think this maybe this problem would be less significant if he did practice what he's selling. But maybe an ice bath is not enough, too. Maybe you need some more help. But I do have a lot of sympathy for where he comes from. But that doesn't mean just because somebody has the has a history, because we all have history, doesn't mean actions in the present are excuseable. And that's where we come into this situation where, again, it's not just me. Even though I am the most public face of this, so many people have these stories and they share them with me all the time. I've gotten hundreds of messages from instructors and other people who have been turned off by the business practices of this method.
Scott Carney: But I'm one of the only people who's public about it because no one wants to be bullied. No one wants to be bullied. And my career has been standing up to bullies. I go and interview. I'm the guy who walks into an organ trafficker who's noted for selling hundreds of human kidneys. I'm like, Why are you selling kidneys? I put the microphone in their face. I go to the mob boss in Bangalore for Wired Magazine. I'm surrounded by guys with guns. And I'm like, Why did you kill those guys? This is what I do. And so it's not shocking that I have ended up in this particularly weird situation. But the funny thing is, when I've interviewed the actual criminals, and I don't think A&M is a criminal, I just think there's some problems. But when I've interviewed actual criminals, even murderers, no one has given me as much backlash as I have had with this inner fire. So it's really funny. It's a weird moment.
Nathan Maingard: That is a weird moment. Okay, well, let's segue and move into this idea of resilience because this is such a critical piece to me. And again, I'll just contextualize a little for myself that I'm a personal and in a life skills coach, and I technically a life coach is part of what I do. For some reason, I really don't like that term because I think it can be so abused and misused. But the reality is that through my journey, I've gained the skills and the capacities to sit in very uncomfortable spaces with people and be a mirror for them so that they can unfold and blossom and rediscover themselves. And one of the big things that I have noticed, which is what we're talking about right now is that if I am not doing my ice baths and my breath work and my personal self inner coaching. If I'm not showing up for my early mornings and the things that are like inner regenerative and resilience building, I lose it so quickly on the external world. I lose that capacity to really authentically show up. So I would just love to hear your thoughts on what resiliency really is and why does it matter for an individual and for everyone, actually.
Scott Carney: When I speak about this concept, it's what I call the wedge. And there's a book I wrote about the wedge after what doesn't kill us, which is resilience is interceding between your natural reactions to stress and how you want to respond. It's that ability to just create space. And that when you create that space, you change your physiology. And I think that's really where the wedge gets a little bit more interesting than just take a deep breath. It's like your sympathetic nervous system, which is your adrenal glands and your cortisol and things like that, your fight or flight responses get triggered very quickly because that was important to survive. But in the modern world, we don't necessarily need to go into fight or flight all the time because we're not running from Lions on the Savannah and whatnot. And the reason why we as humans are conscious at all, what is the reason for consciousness? It's because your body has got these preprogrammed things that it does, but has no idea how to navigate a world that is uncertain. It has no idea. It's not prepared for 401s or automobiles or airplanes or the million things that we might get involved with as humans or even navigating a new jungle, jungle to desert.
Scott Carney: So the reason why we have consciousness is to sense the world. So the information is coming in as data, and the body has like, this is what I do with this data. Here's the preprogrammed instinct. Then there's the consciousness that says, Oh, actually, we don't have to worry about that. It's fine. It's going to be all right. And you're able to insert yourself. And I think that sensation is emotion. There's a sensation equals emotion, emotion equals sensation. And I think that's a really important concept because we feel things. Emotions are gifts about how we should react in the world. It's actually a heuristic to define how we intercede with people. So if you know somebody you don't like, you haven't had bad interactions with them before, you see them and you feel that emotion, you're like, I don't want to be here. It's not because you're thinking of the data of this person said this that time, this that time, that time. You're not like a logic Falcon. You are saying, Oh, I just don't feel right about this. And that feeling is a way to navigate the world. Your consciousness can change that. You can say, Oh, actually, no, that may be this person's legit.
Scott Carney: And you can think about it. But this is that conversation that's going on. The super interesting thing on top of that is that those changes mentally alter the secretions of your hormones, your metabolism. They alter it's literally mind over matter. Consciousness is mind over matter. And the reason why ice baths are so great and breath work is so great is because it puts you in a situation that breath work is a little more complex. But let's just talk about the ice bath. It puts you in a situation where your nervous system says death, I am going to die. And we're just programmed that way. It is the worst. You sit in the ice bath and you want to shiver. It's all your fight or flight response. If you just go uncontrolled and just let your body do what it wants, it's like, oh, right? And you're going to die. And then you realize, oh, it's okay. Oh, I can relax in this. You realize that there's actually good things and that natural reaction is not the way that you need to push forward. And then you relax. And when you relax, you change your body.
Scott Carney: You change. You're no longer secreting adrenaline and cortisol. Now you're doing these rest and digest things, and you're doing that in the environment of death. You're changing your entire perspective in the world. And I totally agree with you. I am pretty good about my practice. I'm pretty good about keeping up breath work. I'm pretty good about keeping up ice baths and stuff. But sometimes, and it's usually when I'm really stressed, I don't do it. And then it just makes the day so much worse. And I'm not going to say that ice baths change everything because they're still an element of you. But it sets the bar at a place where it's easier to interact with the world.
Nathan Maingard: Okay, so this might sound like a segue, but it's a question that just keeps coming up in this conversation for me. And that is, what do you think about infinity? Oh, Whoa.
Scott Carney: Okay. Infinity is a big concept. You might know. Where are you going.
Nathan Maingard: With that? Okay, beautiful. So basically, when I hear you talk about consciousness and when I hear you talk about enlightenment and the enlightenment trap and the idea that there's no actually to get to because we're just here having this experience. And then I think about the fact that I remember so clearly when I was a kid, I was always like, What happened at the beginning or what happened before the beginning? And everyone had these clear explanation. And I'm like, But what's the end of the universe? They're like, No, it's forever. I'm like, But forever where? What do you mean forever? And then since as an adult, a big part of my healing has been through plant medicines, through psychedelic medicines. I think that in combination with the morning practice, with the inner resiliency practices has saved my life. I really do 100 % believe that. And in those psychedelic experiences, and even sometimes in a deep breath work journey, there is a sense of the finite dissolving into the infinite. And so when I come back, I'm sitting here right now and I'm like, I'm Nathan, and then everything forever.
Scott Carney: What the fuck? So yeah, yeah. So this is a wonderful sentiment that you're expressing. And to paraphrase Carl Sagan, the late great cosmologist, if you want the recipe to bake an apple pie, you must begin at the beginning of the universe. Okay? Because ultimately everything led back, there's one event after another, all the way back to the very, very beginning. And in the wedge, I talk about this concept of consciousness a lot. And I think that we got consciousness wrong. I think that we think that we are, I am Scott and you are Nathan, and that we are different people. But I really don't think that's what consciousness is. I think consciousness is, and we can look at neuroscience as I could talk about split brain experiments, but let's go a different direction and say, at one point in the universe, way back, every piece of matter from all of the Andromeda Cluster, the Haleakala, everything on Earth, every atom on Earth, every atom in the sun, everything, everything, everywhere, all at once, was infinitesimally small, smaller than a grain of sand. Everything was squenched into this point called the singularity. Every atom in you was literally...
Scott Carney: Actually, there were no atoms. Everything that would one day become the atoms in your body was literally everything in the universe. And now we talk about quantum entanglement. Now we know that particles can be attached to each other without regard to space and without regard to the speed of light. And then you switch one electron over here and that electron over there might move. Now, there's a lot of entanglement that I don't honestly get at a physics level. And probably no one does at a really fundamental level. But if these things are possible, then you literally, from a physical perspective, are and were the universe. And when I think of consciousness, some people would say that consciousness arises out of the body. It's all material. Personally, I don't think that. I think consciousness is a thing that exists in the world, irrespective of our bodies. And I think we arise out of it. It's this theory of panpsychism, where I come out of to some degree where me, the way I talk, the way I think, the way I do things, I don't exist in a vacuum. I exist because I've had interactions with other people.
Scott Carney: You exist because you have interactions with people. When I say things with my mouth over here in Denver, you're in South Africa, through the wires of this, I am literally in your brain right now changing your neurons, whether you like it or not. You podcast listener, I am changing your brain right now, whether you like it or not. That's freaking magic.
Nathan Maingard: Oh, man, that is so nuts. So you've done the thing that I do sometimes where I think to myself, I'm having an experience, and then I think, Okay, so how does this experience happens? It happens because there's the Caravan or the trailer around me that I'm sitting in. And then around that is there's the Earth and there's the air and then the trees and it all goes. And the only reason this is happening is because everything is happening at the end of the day.
Scott Carney: Yeah. And I think that consciousness has a really interesting function. We're going way off the beaten path. This has nothing to do with my books. I think I've done some YouTube videos about this that still should be online. But here's what I think. Can I go there? Can I.
Nathan Maingard: Go out a little further? Please, please. Once in my life. I'm so in.
Scott Carney: Okay. So there is this idea of the many worlds hypothesis, where every action that could possibly have existed does exist in a multiverse. This is a physics problem that some physicists really believe exists. So anytime an atom could go left or right, a new entire universe somehow exists. And either it's a completely new material universe, like a completely new universe with all the matter, or it's like a different state of the universe that could exist on a time dimension. Okay, so there's a couple of theories for how that works. Now, I think the many worlds hypothesis is not true. I think it breaks logic in a way that... I mean, honestly, physics breaks a lot of logic, so I could be wrong. But I think it breaks logic in a lot of ways. But I think what resolves it is consciousness. And I think what consciousness is, is could this atom go left? Could this atom go right? Does Nathan call me on Zoom or does he call me on Zeng Caster? These are decisions. And each one should make a whole new universe. But I think what happens is consciousness is the thing that makes the indefinite definite is that things could have gone left or right, but consciousness somehow interceded.
Scott Carney: Not necessarily Nathan's consciousness, but big consciousness, like that singularity consciousness that I'm talking about. Things could go left or right, and this conscious force, whatever it might be, made the indefinite definite. And it's like a Zipper on a sweats shirt. When the Zipper is at the bottom of the sweats shirt, you have infinite timelines that are ahead of you. It could go all sorts of different directions. And as you zip it up just a little bit, the band narrows to what is possible until finally we get to what is, and that is now. And I think that is the process of consciousness. I don't know how you prove that physically. This might just be a zany belief of a quasi spiritual investigative journalist. I don't know. That's where I am, and I'm on the record.
Nathan Maingard: Beautiful. I love that. Thank you so much for that. I love a good image, and that image of the Zipper just really did it for me. I appreciate that. So we're coming towards the end of the big conversation that's going to be out there in the world. And I want to just segue back into your book because it just the Enlightenment trap. It really resonates with so much of me and what I believe in. I think you have touched on this throughout this conversation, but I really want to give you an opportunity to dive into it if it feels resonant. And the question is, so you're enlightened, now what? How does enlightenment... How does it work now?
Scott Carney: What does the Buddha do when he becomes enlightened? He chops wood and carries water. That's the what? Zen Koan. You're enlightened now, what changes? Nothing changes. It should be the same. And you don't arrive. I don't think you can't arrive. But if you did arrive, you shouldn't do anything differently. If heaven exists, let's say it's the Christian Catholic heaven by that's Pope Francis believes in. Let's say that is the ultimate reality and that is correct. What do you do on life now? Well, do you become a fundamentalist and just sit down and believe everything that Pope Francis says? Even though you're not, I'm saying it's correct, but you still only have your human knowledge. No, you don't necessarily, that's not what you do. Let's say it was correct. You've been living your life the way you've been living it. You should be a good person and you should do the best you can in life. Period. That should be it. You should try. You should follow the golden rule, do unto others as others would do unto you. And you should be a good person. And if there is a just God, then it's great.
Scott Carney: Then you should go to heaven because it's ultimately not Pope Francis's heaven. I could be wrong. Maybe it's that Jaguar heart taking out religion where you want to become a... E at the heart and become a Jaguar, in which case we all messed up. Every single one of us messed up. And it's irrelevant because we're not going to go to Jaguar heaven because we haven't been eating hearts. And if that is the true nature of reality, then I reject it. I reject Jaguar heart religion. I want to try to be a good person. And if I only had this limited amount of time in life, I should use it to the best of my abilities.
Nathan Maingard: Cool. The cult of Scott has got its first convert.
Scott Carney: Nice. All right. Well, here's another thing about cults that I think is actually really useful is that when someone declares themselves as enlightened. There's a problem that we can see right across the board is that they believe they understand the ultimate reality, which means that they are the only authority in the world and that they no longer have checks and balances on their own consciousness. And we've never get a point where a bunch of people say they're enlightened and they all get in a room and they say, Oh, yeah. No, you're right. We're all right. We're totally on the same page. We found enlightenment. No, they all disagree about the nature of their realizations. This is because there is no enlightenment. And when somebody does become to believe in themselves that they are at that final point, what happens is the loss of peers and loss of any checks and balances. And we see this in guru cult leaders all the time where they suddenly accumulate a bunch of followers. And usually if it's a man, it's like a lot of young women around. And then they're like, Well, my penis says that I should be having sex with all of you guys because they're male and they've got these hormones.
Scott Carney: And then all of a sudden their penis is right because no one's out there to contradict their penis. And the scrotum looks a little bit like a brain. And all of a sudden you have sex scandals. And there's a pattern, literally a pattern that you can just trace from one cult to another, where this happens over and over and over again. It's because they get isolated and no one can come up to them and say, No, you're wrong, because they have extracted themselves from peerness. And this is the trap of gurus around the world. And I feel bad for them because they can't go to their number two, their chief apostle and be like, Man, I think I might have gotten this wrong. Can we figure this out? They can't do that anymore because they're the enlightened one. They cannot ask for advice.
Nathan Maingard: Well, this might be a bit of a weird segue. I have so many interesting things. I actually want to chat with you a bit more about stories and actually tell you a story, a very funny story. A guy told me of enlightenment. But I want to bring this to a close for now. And this might be a strange segue, but the question I always ask guests at the end is, when you hear we are already free, what does that mean for you? What does that bring up for you?
Scott Carney: You asked me this at the very beginning of the show, and I've been trying to chew on it. And I try to come up with a really clever answer. It's like, we're already free, we're already slaves or something like that. I didn't quite manage it. It's all okay. There's no right way to live a life. And I think that when you accept that there are good and there's bad and that we're all in the grey, then it is okay. One thing that I like to think about is that death is a very important meditation. Considering death is a very... And all the traditions have death, momentum, worry in one way or another in there. I did not come up with this. But death is that... But considering that, it's so liberating because if life is like a song, and let's say there's a melody that's playing and it goes up and there's a joyous part and there's a sad part and it goes through and as you live your life, it's this song and it's going through different keys, I can promise you that death isn't a minor key. We know that the end of life isn't a minor key.
Scott Carney: You're losing things. You might be in pain. Maybe you're surrounded by your family. Nonetheless, it is a minor key. It's not going to be a good note. And that is inevitable. And when you realize that life already ends in loss, already ends in like, you lost this game, that lets you say, okay, well, now that I know that I've lost, how am I going to use my time right now? Because I'm already free. I can't win. I cannot become a mortal. I cannot get to some new special place. I have to accept that I'm going to die. And that becomes very beautiful because it lets you go easy on yourself. It obligates you to take risks in life. It says, look, I should go out there and I should do something that makes me uncomfortable. I should do something that is somewhat dangerous as long as I'm responsible about it. Because at the end of the day, what can I lose that it's not guaranteed already to be lost? And that is what I think about when you say we are already free.
Nathan Maingard: Thank you so much, Scott. I've so enjoyed this conversation and I'm actually excited to get into a little more for those supporters of the podcast after this. But just before we end this part, where can people find you now that the person listening is like, Holy shit, this dude is epic. Let me go and buy his book and do all the things. Where would you send that person?
Scott Carney: Well, in theory, I have a YouTube channel, but maybe not. It could be taken down. I have a website called scott carney. Com, and that will, in theory, still be alive. I also have a newsletter where I put out things where I can direct people to where to go. And you can put a link in your show notes. And it's also on my website. There's a little pop up, one of those annoying pop ups. It's there. And I'd love you to subscribe. And all of the books are there. They're very different. They're about enlightenment. They're about organ trafficking, they're about climate change. They're about sasquatch. I am so weird as a human. And hopefully you'll like some of it.
Nathan Maingard: Well, thanks again, brother. It's been a real pleasure to have you on. And I'm excited for some of the things that we're about to chat about. So just thanks again. I wish you well on the journey. And thank you for standing up to the bullies. It means a lot to me personally, and I'm sure to those listening. Thank you.
Scott Carney: Thank you. Thank you again.
Nathan Maingard: To Scott Conneigh for a full power conversation. If you enjoyed listening to this episode of the We Are Already Free podcast and resonated with any of the topics discussed, please do check out the show notes for more information at alreadyfree. Me27. It's just the numbers two, seven. Hey, how are you doing out there? This was a big one. If you're struggling with any of the challenges we shared in this episode, like chasing enlightenment, never feeling like you're enough, or giving your power away to so called gurus, please reach out to me. I'm available to chat anytime via the links in the show notes. Also as a special bonus, patrons have exclusive access to the conversation, the bonus conversation related to this episode where Scott and I continue chatting and we dive into the painful mistakes of spiritual bypassing, diving deeper into how Scott processed the loss of Emily O'Connor and that experience. Our shared love of Sandman by Neil Gaiman, if you haven't read that, oh, my gosh, I so recommend. What is the role of a buddy sat for? Why you can't have the dark without the light or light without the dark? Why an ice bath is the great equalizer?
Nathan Maingard: How an ice bath answers the big consciousness question of how do you know what someone else is experiencing? I really loved what he said about that. And also he shares a very important thing to avoid in the ice bath, and it's probably not what you would expect. And we share a few other things. So please do head over to the show notes, become a patron, reach out to me, and dive further into the world of Scott and his books and what it is that he's doing in the world. All of that is available at alreadyfree.me/27. I'm your host, Nathan Maingard, and it has been a deep pleasure and an honour to share this time with you. As always, please remember that we are already free. I'll see you next week.