Alan Thong poster, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.

The Asian Iceman Cometh

The Asian Iceman Cometh 1024 768 Cyndie Burkhardt

A tropical country such as Malaysia typically connotes unrelenting heat. So it was curious to meet “Asian Iceman” Alan Thong leading a five-hour meditation class in Kuala Lumpur. As the origin of the nickname and the connection to meditation unfolded, he had my full attention.

Turning-point life lessons

We gathered on the final night of Chinese New Year and the central message was starting the new year with positive energy to attract abundance. Exercise mind control and overcome limiting beliefs, negative thinking, and fear, all of which keep you from getting what you really want. Learn to be in charge of yourself and reach your goals. Alan’s wisdom sounded like any other self-help advice. 

Alan Thong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.

It soon became clear however that Alan’s unique brand of coaching is anything but cookie cutter. Based on personal principles and philosophies for challenging himself, it supports a stance that whatever you put your mind to can be accomplished. His own challenge? To overcome the cold. He trained himself to tolerate ice baths for up to 60 minutes and freezing cold showers, which are a daily practice. Ice bath meditation, he says, is “energizing and refreshing” and “the energy is pure and awakening.” Meditation, breathing, and acceptance are the core skills needed, along with practice, practice, practice. He praises this mastery for boosting his mental strength, mental control, resilience, and confidence.

All images ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.

111 hours in the Arctic

A test came in Svalbard, an island just below the North Pole. While hiking in temperatures around -30º Celsius, Alan was “called” to swim in the Arctic water. Typically, he was the guy who would swim a little then rest, it wasn’t his scene. Nevertheless, he’d been practicing ice bathing and decided to go in. Wearing only a Speedo, he swam for 10 minutes when his body started numbing. He couldn’t feel his hands up to his elbows or his feet up to his knees. Aware of the precarious situation, he somehow remained calm and swam back. He went on to fulfill a solo trip in the Arctic wilderness of Lapland, Sweden for 111 hours, often wearing nothing but a singlet and shorts. Telling the story, he noted that he didn’t die or get sick and all body parts are intact. Naysayers were proved wrong.

For days after the meditation event, I couldn’t stop thinking about Alan’s many stories. What was driving the mashup of extreme challenge, risk-taking, meditation, and core spirituality? I met up with him to learn about his draw to life-threatening situations and why, of all things, he chose the cold.

Alan Thong at Future of Wellness, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Human behavior

Before there was the Asian Iceman, Alan worked in physical therapy and noticed a lot of clients had body pain that couldn’t be treated. Making a connection from his psychology studies, he reasoned that the mind could create imbalance in the body and subconsciously cause physical problems. Viewed in this framework, pain, discomfort, and suffering weren’t limited to a physical cause but could be rooted at an energetic or mental level. It was time to take his body into an experiment.

Mt. Kinabalu

His first foray outside in the cold was climbing Mt. Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malaysia—at night. Temperatures there can dip to 0º Celsius. Being a sacred mountain, he couldn’t go topless. The least (or the most) he could wear was a singlet and shorts. He proceeded to remove his clothes as he hiked up, eventually dressed in the bare minimum. He was totally prepared for the cold but didn’t expect the rain. His arms were all wet, his whole body was wet. Moist cold is harsher than dry cold and the wind cut into his skin like a knife. Other climbers and local guides were in winter clothing and raincoats.

“When I felt the cold, it can really get to you, I started thinking I need more codes,” Alan said, referring to the Matrix (movie). “When you go to a conscious level, you can inject the codes by your own will to stop the nonsense, or death, or whatever. You say no, breathe, bypass, believe in the impossible, and the feelings will change. You have to train your mind to be very strong, very flexible, very resilient.” In this context, the commitment to meditation is an understatement.

Why the cold?

This account sounds insane, yet also remarkable. In the comfort of a warm environment I wondered why, of all the things in the world, take on the cold, and why to the outermost limits? “It was my biggest fear,” says Alan. “I had to start with the thing I was most uncomfortable with.” His takeaway from achieving the climb safely and unharmed: how much myth is in the world and how much our brains are conditioned in ways that limit and confine us. He said, “I can show by action that we can get out of the matrix.” Overcoming (perceived) physical limitations as well as manifesting desires were equal on his radar.

Alan Thong poster, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Alan researches for hundreds of hours and chooses the most extreme locations he can find.
Suicide forest

You’d think storybook-worthy stints of mental and physical achievement would be sufficiently satisfying. For Alan they emboldened something deeper, on a pure spiritual level. Quite literally. A four-day solo retreat into Japan’s Aokigahara Forest, a.k.a. the Suicide Forest and deemed the most haunted place in the world, was an opportunity. Aokigahara has the unfortunate distinction of being a destination for people contemplating suicide. Before venturing there, the visions came. “I could see myself walking in the forest, I was already creating the connection. The forest was calling and my spirit could not wait.”

His mission was two-fold, to survive the forest’s fatal energy and to ease its many spirits. On his last night he offered to walk the spirits off into the sunrise and help those who wanted to get to a better place. He conducted quite a few meditation sessions for them, and he purposely bought and brought a kimono all the way from Tokyo to honor the final evening ceremony. I asked what energy he felt and he said he made a deal, “If I make it alive in the forest then I’m chosen to do this and if not, I’ll take my life there.”

Willing to die

Death dances on the perimeter for Alan, but no closer. The driving force behind his pursuits is his stated desire to help people, to “do something for the world.” He believes this noble intention is why he’s been able to achieve what he has, why things come to him, and why he’s been spared from death multiple times. “I came to a point where I was willing to die for knowledge,” he said, fully aware that knowledge is power and entirely thirsty to gain that edge.

The connection between death-defying situations and living to help the world is a bit untenable, especially if something ends badly. He has a different angle. “If I did not die, I would learn that it’s possible to go beyond whatever people have said, it’s possible to not die in action, it’s possible to use the mind to retain heat or even push beyond limits. Our mind can create pain, what if I can gain power to create healing. If I can use my willpower, my mind power itself, to not feel cold and to be fine, can I use power to stop the pain? I was extremely curious.” That spoke volumes.

Equipment at Alan Thong's center, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia ©2020, Cyndie Burkhardt.
Bells and bowls: Singing bowls vibrate and produce a rich, deep tone when played; a beautiful form of energy medicine. Kettlebells require discipline and promote a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.
Saving the world

What motivated all this? Alan veered in a different direction and credited the stories of Jesus Christ with influencing him. Such as—people being healed with a single touch from JC’s hands. “Obviously, I would love to do that,” he says with a big laugh, “it’s like my dream come true! I see people in physical pain and I want to do something.” JC was also willing to die for people and if Alan was too would he have the same experience as JC, would he receive the same wisdom gifted by god? He has an insatiable quest for knowledge and learning and these are deep inquires. One thing is clear in his presence, these unbounded thoughts and good intentions come from a genuine heart.

A cold shower

My shower has been a little cooler since the meditation event, but not much. I hate being cold. Still, I’m sitting with a master and I ask anyway—how do I get a cold shower? The quick answer is to meditate in the cold and build on the trust in infinite possibility for the goodness of the world.

Yeah, that’s not going to make me turn the knob. The look on my face must have communicated as much and Alan continued, “When intention gets bigger you get bigger. You will have all that you want and all that you need if your intention is good and pure to the world. You’ll be rewarded.”

Then he said, “I just passed you the codes, now we share something in common.”

For more about Alan Thong, visit his website

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