Karen Darke Paralympian and quest 79 Creator
Lance Wantenaar: [00:00:00] Good evening listeners. Welcome to the thinking like a genius podcast episode. Today’s guests that I’ve got with to me is Karen dark, who is a Paralympian, a gold medal winner, MBE and also somebody who I’ve really actually fascinated to find out a bit more about was also involved in geology, but of interests on, uh, from my side of things.
[00:00:49] Karen, I studied agricultural research. And when I was in South Africa, before I came over to the UK and obviously one of the areas which we studied was soil science and. Obviously the sciences that are involved with that. So first of all, give us a bit of an introduction about yourself and bit of your story and how you got to be where you are currently.
[00:01:11] And then we’ll start diving into some of the other topics, which we’ve
[00:01:15] Karen Darke: [00:01:15] mentioned so well when, through my life. Space of a minute, maybe. Well, then she started with Josie. I’ll start there. I grew up in Yorkshire in England. I actually started studying medicine and then realized I wasn’t really enjoying digging holes in bodies that much.
[00:01:31] And when you leave the medical school at Leeds university, what posse earth sciences department. And I found myself looking up at. The side and thinking, Hmm, that sounds pretty good. And when I was 10 years old, my mum and dad were teachers and they swapped jobs and houses, and we lived in America for a year.
[00:01:46] And that was a year just after Mount St. Helens, that exploded. And so I’ve just grown up like that year in America was just immersed in the London, volcanoes and, and Yellowstone and all these incredible national parks and this world of geology. So that got me really fascinated. So, yeah, I went on, I ended up studying gold, did a PhD, looking at gold in the Bolivian undies, never saw any for the whole time I was studying.
[00:02:09] It was all microscopic and beyond visible with the human eye on the end of super, super, super strong scanning, electron microscopes. So, yeah, I think in my final week I finally saw some gold and then partly through that PhD, I broke my back in a rock climbing accident, so became paralyzed from the chest down.
[00:02:27] So my. My studies in gold geology in Bolivia changed a little bit because I had to kind of adapt to the fact I couldn’t walk anymore, but I did still go out to Bolivia and do a lot of field work out there. And yeah, then I started the career working as a geologist, but hated sitting in an office all day, sitting in front of a computer and then had an unexpected, radical transition into learning and development, mentoring, coaching, fascinated by.
[00:02:51] I stink. I think my accident probably just triggered my interest in human development and growth. And so that kind of sent me down a very different path. So I ended up restudying, various masters degrees and other degrees. I’m like, there’s so many studies, but I like to keep learning, um, about yeah, about how we learn and grow as human beings.
[00:03:11] And. That’s kind of been a parallel journey with my own journey through life and the challenges of becoming paralyzed and then going on with this passion for wilderness, not venture, which has really been at w which is really at the core of my being. I get, you know, get labeled as Paralympian, but actually my heart is much more in exploring the planet and exploring cultures and ways of seeing and being in the world.
[00:03:36] And. So, yeah, I’ve had kind of, I’m very much interested in the internal explorations as much as the external explorations. So, very fascinated by healing and alternative approaches to healing and wellbeing, kind of worlds of invisible energies and ancient systems of medicine, et cetera. So, yeah, that was kind of my, a bit of my background.
[00:03:56] And then yeah. Unexpectedly. Yeah. Partway through. Well, in my thirties, I suddenly got into Paralympic sport mainly because it was going to be a Paralympic games in London. And I just thought it’d be really cool to try and get to one in my own country and have friends and family there and just see if that was possible.
[00:04:12] And then that unexpectedly took me into a career ever since then. So really kind of. Yeah, that I lost count now, 14 year career. So far of 13 year career of Paralympic sport in hand cycling. So more recently I’ve integrated that again with some of my adventures and exploring and writing and. Yeah, that’s a, that’s a positive history.
[00:04:36] Lance Wantenaar: [00:04:36] That’s a policy history, some areas I just want to explore a bit more about, you mentioned some of the healing. you got some references on your website about, south Americas and, alternative healing. What have you discovered? What have you learned from going through that process of.
[00:04:54] Learning a lot more about yourself, healing physiology, and going down that path. And how has that changed your perception and your approach to day-to-day life?
[00:05:06] Karen Darke: [00:05:06] Hmm. So I think that journey with healing has made me realize, so I’m extremely grateful to Western medicines. It saved my life. On many occasions.
[00:05:14] I can probably have five near-death experiences where Western medicine has saved me, but I think when it comes to more chronic conditions or other health problems that are trauma related, then. There’s a lot that we can do for ourselves. And I suppose I’ve been exposed to realizing that, you know, when we have the more disease we have in our life, you know, the more likelihood of having disease in the body.
[00:05:43] And so bringing just, you know, I think we’re designed to try and be in balance and maintain that balance. And. That’s what I strive to do every day in the way that I approach and practice every day. But I’ve certainly not got that right along the way. And it’s been a huge learning journey. And I think what our body is really out of balance, then that’s when we can have other problems and things can set in and that, you know, that being out of balance can begin.
[00:06:09] Mentally physically, emotionally on different levels. So, you know, kind of working on all the levels all the time. Yeah. That’s a bit of, a bit of an overview. I think my most impactful, my journey with healing probably began with Chinese medicine and acupuncture. I received it and noticed quite profound effects emotionally when I received it and then went on to study yet.
[00:06:31] And then since then kind of pretty much never stopped studying different modalities of healing and not practiced as much as I may be, could have done. I’ve lacked confidence in myself to practice for many years, but that’s kind of, part of my journey is just that trust in self. And so I am practicing again at the moment and really quite enjoying beginning that journey again enough to dropping it various times.
[00:06:56] But one of my posts, profound experiences was in south America, in Brazil, where. It’s a long story, and I don’t want your listeners to write me off as a crazy person before we’ve got any rabbits being chopped up. I couldn’t buy a spirit surgeon after reading a book by a Japanese journalist. And, um, it was a very, very profound life-changing experience for me.
[00:07:18] Not that I walked away from my wheelchair, but what it really did was blew my mind with what happened there. The fact that I had. Bloodless painless surgery with no anesthesia, no hypnosis, no evidence of anything. It just, nothing, nothing was steroidal. It was just crazy in my world, you know, the paradigms and the culture that I’ve grown up in, in south America, people seem to accept it as something normal, but for me it was, and it really blew my mind about what is possible and how we L we know so little and we limit ourselves with fairly, fairly limited ways of thinking often.
[00:07:58] So I think it just opened my mind up to. The realization that so much as possible and that our minds are hugely powerful and we are hugely powerful. And we just, yeah, I just kind of think we know so little and it just really shifted my way of viewing the world and made me realize that yeah, there’s a lot, there’s a lot to discover and I think the discovery is part of life and it never really fails to continue.
[00:08:24] It’s always very exciting. I
[00:08:26] Lance Wantenaar: [00:08:26] must agree with him that aspect with regards to the. Mind’s ability to do things way beyond what we think we are capable of off. And it’s been a fascinating journey myself to go through a lot of the experiences I have over the, over the periods of, of my life and some of these things that I’ve had, I grew up.
[00:08:50] Yeah, fairly nondescript. I’ve never been a, although I enjoyed learning. I’ve never been a good exam tape taker. So my, my process of, of learning is I tend to read a lot. I tend to study a lot and a lot of my own drive when it comes to health and wellness has been gone because I suddenly started having an issue with eczema.
[00:09:11] One is 18, just came out of the blue. No reason for, for having it. Uh, and it took me a good 10, 12, probably 15 years to finally resolve it. And it came down to nutrition and I’m now very, very big on nutrition because there’s simply your nutrition is a better unit. Nutrition. Nutrition is. The better overall results you’re going to have.
[00:09:37] Now, the other thing that I’ve also sort of getting a lot and a lot of interesting too, is the combination where the physiology of the brain and psychology intersects. And to find that you could say sweet spot, that you can get all of them functioning in the right way and getting that optimum. That you can work on as much as possible in any given day.
[00:10:01] Now you can go to the nth degree where you go for state of flow, which is a completely different story. And that, that changes the dynamics quite dramatically. I haven’t had a chance to really spend a lot of time to tests, state of flow, especially last two years, because some of the things that I want to do, like maybe wingsuit or.
[00:10:24] You know, skydiving or something of that nature has been restricted obviously, but the only other option is to go surfing at the moment. Surfing is not the best place over here, where I am at Liverpool because the sea tends to be very flat. But I used to do, uh, when I was in South Africa, I used to go down into sea and that was probably the closest I came to being addicted as actually being in the ocean, being in the sea catching waves.
[00:10:49] Having that level of unpredictability that goes with it. So yeah, that’s, that’s probably the one area which I would really love to have some opportunity of diving into.
[00:11:01] Karen Darke: [00:11:01] I don’t think we need extreme sports to experience flow though. I think we can find it in everyday life. Yeah. That’s obviously an area that I have experienced through sport when I’m racing and you just get that sweet spot every now and again, when you go out, you have some amazing, or you just feel incredible.
[00:11:17] You don’t even notice that you’re working so hard and you know, it just feels effortless, effortless being, or effortless doing is something that I am experiencing more and more in life. I think the more, the more I explore this world of. Of connectedness and discovery of self and. Invisible energies. It feels like I’m experiencing more and more life in flow.
[00:11:42] Um, and I would describe that as effortless kind of effortless doing and being so like I’m amazed as winter, I seem to be training really hard. I’m training for the Tokyo Paralympics. I’m working really hard. And if I look, if I was to write down everything that’s on the horizon or that I’m involved with, it would in theory, just feel totally overwhelming.
[00:12:04] But it just doesn’t feel overwhelming at all. It just feels like it just happens easily. And as long as I don’t. Allow myself to get, you know, to go into the world of feeling stressed by it. And I just go, go with the flow that I find that I’m in the flow and everything feels really, really good and enjoyable as well.
[00:12:21] So it’s interesting about whether or not it’s something that necessarily is connected to some kind of extreme sport. I think maybe the key is finding ways to experience it in everyday life, rather than need to escape everyday life to find flow because everyday life’s too difficult, you know, to me.
[00:12:36] Lance Wantenaar: [00:12:36] Yeah, I think you have to really focus on awareness and that’s a key thing when it comes to, if you really dive into flow state or anything of that nature.
[00:12:45] And if you read any of Steven Kotler’s books, he talks about a lot of the athletes being in a state of heightened awareness, very, very focused, very present, which allows you to get into that very relaxed, easy. You could say ability to function. And that’s one of the areas where you get to that point where you feel everything kind of falls into place, even though it’s, but it’s, it’s getting that right balance between not overall arching over reaching yourself to a point where you fatiguing yourself or you’re almost on that edge.
[00:13:20] You’re not pushing yourself way past your ability is just outside of your current case. Yeah. He says
[00:13:27] Karen Darke: [00:13:27] challenge beyond your skill level. So that you’re just in that suite of, um, growth.
[00:13:33] Lance Wantenaar: [00:13:33] Yeah. And the other area, which I think is quite fascinating is that when you get to that point, she ties into mindset because.
[00:13:42] I love the whole concept of mindset is actually just a push of your capability. And by testing your capability, you might not have the current confidence in doing something. But once you start, start with a process and you push yourself slightly in each given case, you get to the point where, oh, I can do this.
[00:14:01] And then you start building confidence and you also start building momentum. And I quite motivation, uh, almost like, uh, and being involved in something like having a, a positive and a negative charge, like a battery energy doesn’t flow on itself. If you don’t do anything about it, that stays static. It needs a positive and a negative.
[00:14:24] So negative could be as something as pushing you away in the positive, what you want to achieve in the fall and the end goal. So you work in that in between state and, and the war. You more, you get involved with the process more. You actually get into that flow of movement. The more, you’re going to build up a momentum and a process and skill everything else that comes from developing their capability.
[00:14:45] And as you start pushing your capability more, you start realizing you are capable to do more, to become more confident. So it’s a bit of a working theory in a, in a principle that I’ve basically. Decided to, to look at, but
[00:15:03] Karen Darke: [00:15:03] the nothing, nothing exists alone. There’s always an opposite. So yeah, dark and light, strong and weak, happy, sad.
[00:15:12] We can’t know one without the other. So there’s always this kind of duality of existence and that’s um, whether or not we have to be escaping one and moving towards the other. I, I don’t know whether I really. Go with that or not. But that awareness that both, yeah. The awareness of both exist in the experience of both.
[00:15:30] It can only, it’s the only way to know what, what is isn’t able to experience from the other? Yeah.
[00:15:38] Lance Wantenaar: [00:15:38] I said workshop. I was very interested to read through your blog posts about that. Can you tell people a bit more about your principal and your approach and also how you go about teaching that.
[00:15:52] Karen Darke: [00:15:52] Yeah. So it’s come about really through combination of not just my study, but my own experience and that realization that there’s so many things I’ve discovered now that I didn’t know, 10 years ago and how useful they are, and then just really wanting to share that with other people.
[00:16:08] So it takes people through a kind of process of getting to know their conscious mind a little bit more. So that awareness piece becoming aware of what is going on in your head becoming aware of. Of patterns of thinking of stories that you’re telling of languages used. And then also, um, kind of like the keys that we get as an insight into the subconscious mind, and what’s maybe driving us or beliefs that may be driving us from there, which.
[00:16:35] Perhaps on working for us or serving a good serving as anymore. Like some, I think our beliefs that we have change and sometimes they work and help us and sometimes limiters. So just helping people find ways to access the subconscious mind and perhaps influence what’s happening in there as well. So those are the kinds of two levels I work on.
[00:16:53] And then. Um, yeah, the, I talk about the three PS, so our psychology and looking at the way we’re thinking and our phrasiology. So the L the language that’s coming out of our mouth, and even down to specific words and how we can really change how we feel about something or the outcome of something just by changing even one word.
[00:17:15] As you mentioned before, the way, all the way into the body and the mind is through our physiology and how we change that to change our, our mental state, the things that happening in our mind. So yeah, kind of working on those different levels really, and I’m loving doing it and, um, yeah, really enjoying the journey and it’s taken me a while to step up to it, to be honest, I think it’s kind of.
[00:17:39] COVID and lockdown, and this ability to work virtually, which is enabled me to bring forward some of the stuff, which previously, I couldn’t really see a way to, to work with people cause I was always away or training. And so even though COVID is very difficult for many people, I realize I’m, I’m actually finding this opportunity within the crisis as well.
[00:18:00] And yeah. Just feel excited about the ability to connect with people in ways that weren’t possible before, and to bring some of the things I want to offer and share with the world in the belief that they’re helpful. And finally having a way to do that, which before would have been a bit too challenging.
[00:18:14] So yeah.
[00:18:17] Lance Wantenaar: [00:18:17] One of the things that you mentioned in your blog post is the perceptional shift about, you know, the giant hand. Can you tell people a bit more on how you felt when you had that perception shift? Because I’ve got a bit of a approach when it comes to perceptions, your, your perception is determined by a context and when you change the context.
[00:18:42] You can actually change your perception enough if it’s in a specific situation, just to give you a bit of a break into give you a different view, but if you get enough of a context shift, you can actually have quite a major perceptional shift. So
[00:18:59] Karen Darke: [00:18:59] what do you mean by the context?
[00:19:01] Lance Wantenaar: [00:19:01] Okay. So let’s say for example, we take the example of the giant hand where you were, you were feeling quite down and a friend told you about, think about the, the mountain and the giants had
[00:19:15] Karen Darke: [00:19:15] maybe tell that story.
[00:19:16] So I looking at mountains, feeling sad that I couldn’t go there anymore. And thinking of all the things that. I wasn’t able to do and feeling distant from my friends and this mountain experience. And a friend had been paralyzed a bit longer than me. So just imagine you’re a giant and running one of your giant hands over the mountains and feeling all the textures and the colors and the streams and the rocks.
[00:19:37] And. Just imagine, like you’re, you’re up there and in it and feeling it all. And I kind of thought it sounded crazy, but then when I did it, it really, you know, it really did shift my perception and I suddenly didn’t feel so distant from the experience anymore and felt very much like I was in the mountains again.
[00:19:53] So yeah, that kind of shift in perception. So in that, in that story, what would the context be?
[00:20:01] Lance Wantenaar: [00:20:01] So the context is where you were feeling in that state is that you felt disassociated, you felt far away from it. You didn’t feel like you were there, you felt alone and changing the context by experiencing it, touching it, feeling it.
[00:20:22] Do you have a feeling of the cracks that sensational, visceral touch experiencing it, not just with your hands, but also the smells and the sights and looking at it as if you there and you could touch it and experience, it means that you you’re changing your perception by. One experiencing it through touch, but also visually and then hearing things and the emotions of how it felt.
[00:20:49] So what happens is that your context has been changed now, now, now you no longer feel detached in a way and alone in it. And separated now you’ve felt. Integrated part of it, experiencing it. So you’re engaging all of your senses, your emotions and your wonderment of the mountain, which meant it gave you an attachment and a connection to it.
[00:21:10] So now what happens is your whole perception shifts because your context has changed. So that’s what I meant by, by changing context, you can change your perceptional shift. Sometimes it can be small. Sometimes it can be really. Big and dramatic. And this case, it was quite a powerful shift for you because you no longer felt alone.
[00:21:29] You no longer felt disconnected. You felt like you were there. You could connect to it allowed you to
[00:21:36] Karen Darke: [00:21:36] be sorry. Yeah.
[00:21:39] Lance Wantenaar: [00:21:39] So that’s, that’s my interpretation and how a lot of it than I, because I deal with things on a day-to-day basis from cyber crime and fraud, uh, when you’re doing investigations, especially when you’re talking about social engineering, the psychology side of things, and you actually look at how people behave during a situation, and you ask them some simple questions.
[00:22:03] When you were doing this, what was happening at the time? What, what we’re doing, what we working on. And then when people have that shift, they see that they’re there have that context, which changes is what they were doing, or they were doing this and it could be something I’m trying to multitask and they made a mistake and they think, oh, why did I do that?
[00:22:28] And so, because that context has changed enough, the self-awareness kicks in then suddenly wakes up. And I mean, some of the cases you’ll have something where it’s really complex and very well done, and you will, it’ll be, it’ll take a while to re-engineer it or to try and explain it. But if you get a phishing email, somebody will see this email one day and they won’t react on it.
[00:22:50] The other day, they will see a phishing email and they make a mistake. Because sometimes the context has changed because you’ll have the situations where somebody to fight back banking, email. Yeah. But they might not react to it. Two weeks later, they will react to it because they’re having problems getting access to the bank account or they’re having, it looks like it’s the same one.
[00:23:09] They’re not paying attention to it. And they make a mistake it’s because their context has been shifted as I shifted because of the situation that they read. Yeah. And that’s why I find context and perception is quite perception is very individual, but the context can determine how that perception has shifted, which I find incredibly
[00:23:28] Karen Darke: [00:23:28] fascinating.
[00:23:30] But yeah. Yeah, we don’t. Um, so that’s a bit like the muscle provost’s saying we don’t have to change the landscape. It’s just a perception of it. And then, um, yeah, absolutely. And that, but that gives us huge power as well to yeah. To adapt our, to our world. And with that awareness, whenever we notice that we’re experiencing something in a way, which it isn’t.
[00:23:53] A nice way to experience that we can change that. Um, we just have to play around with it. And if I’m increasingly playing with psychology, like you noticed something and you’re like, okay, I know there’s a better way than this. I know that I don’t have to feel like this. So how do I shift my perception or, or change if you can’t change what’s happening around you or outside of you, what you can change, how you’re seeing it, how you’re viewing it, how you’re interpreting it.
[00:24:20] So. It’s um, just yeah, exciting to constantly play with that. And it gives us huge amounts of freedom and, um, and the ability to create emotions and an experience of life, which is far more enjoyable than having a difficult experience. Yeah. One
[00:24:39] Lance Wantenaar: [00:24:39] of the things that really fascinated me is I, I did quite a bit of research into various topics.
[00:24:46] And, and just talking about this whole, how you can shift and shift your perception as they did some research on people that were in solitary confinement. And they, they did quite a lot of research to understand what actually happened to people during those periods of solitary confinement, because some of the people said they were, at some point they were getting really stressed because they were getting no sensory feedback or response or any kind of information in their brain started creating their own virtual environment, their own virtual experiences.
[00:25:19] And they were physically experiencing things. Even though they weren’t in the room and they were having full on sensory, normal human experiences because the brain wasn’t getting any kind of sensory input. So they actually created an environment to basically give it something to deal with. And it was incredibly fascinating to hear that these guys, with this complete absence of feedback and response and input.
[00:25:51] Because of solitary confinement had four experiences where they were outside, they were walking, they could feel the sunshine, they could smell things, they could hear things, they could sense things. Yeah. And the fact that the brain could create something. So, so real when there was a lack of information, I found incredibly fascinating to realize that it can create such powerful experience, even when there is no.
[00:26:15] Sensory input, which is part of the reason why I found you can say meditation and breath control and self control. So fascinating is because if you’re able to physiology physiologically can improve your response to your world and allows you to perceptionally. Manage your situation a lot better.
[00:26:39] Karen Darke: [00:26:39] And that’s well through my journey, I’ve not been in solitary confinement.
[00:26:43] Well, sometimes feeling a lot of it. So, um, I do spend an awful lot of time on my own, and I have had periods of time where I’ve been stuck in a hospital bed for months on end, just looking at a ceiling or as I’m paralyzed from the chest down, I’ve damaged the skin on my bottom a few times and have to just lie on my tummy for months on end in a house of my own.
[00:27:02] And so it’s. Amazing how good you can get at having adventures with your mind and through my life in sport and adventure. There’s been various situations where it’s like life and death. And if you don’t take control of what’s physiologically happening right now, like a big fear response or a big stress response, then you know, that’s not going to be the best way to get out of the scenario that you’re in.
[00:27:27] Um, So, yeah, like hanging off the rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite national park, I spent, went back and claimed, went into climate and I had a huge fear response. Like I was literally shaking and sweating and crying, and I had to just, the only way out of there when you’re hanging off at over one kilometer high of hanging rock face that you’re tied to for a week is too.
[00:27:51] Take control of your, of what’s happening and start to create a different story in different imagery with the mind, which can then flow through to the body. So obviously from solitary confinement, but a kind of another, another scenario where, you know, you’re creating something different in the present moment and really impacting how you feel and changing public outcomes quite radically.
[00:28:15] And it’s something that. I’ve used in sport a lot is just, I, I will spend time a couple of times a day, just visualizing, imagining, dreaming, creating with, with mind and emotion, what it is that I’m wanting to feel or create. Um, Sometimes it’s a labor of love and hard work and sometimes super enjoyable, but it’s, yeah, it’s very special to work with.
[00:28:41] I think the head on the heart and combine that creation that you’d like to bring into fruition by thinking it and imagining it with the feelings that you’d have and the power that comes out of that.
[00:28:54] Lance Wantenaar: [00:28:54] All of the experience that you’ve had with the operations and the physical challenges and the medical treatment, have you found, it’s given you a lot more mental resilience when it comes to the challenges that
[00:29:03] Karen Darke: [00:29:03] you’re facing, maybe the other way round?
[00:29:05] I’m not sure which w which one feeds into what, because weirdly I choose to put myself in a lot of challenging situations, especially. On some of the adventures that go on. So, you know, there’s been various times when I’ve chosen to leave my wheelchair behind for a month. For the most extreme case was three months, sea kayaking from Vancouver to the capital of Alaska.
[00:29:25] Do you know? And that was 10 weeks on the sea, sleeping on beaches with no wheelchair and no mobility. I’m being very dependent on my friends and seeing mobile only in the kayak and then not off the kayak and some of the scenarios I realize I’ve chosen to put myself into. It’s very intriguing. I don’t fully understand why I’ve chosen to do it, but I think it’s just that I love, I really love being in nature and being part of a team.
[00:29:53] And so that has required if I want to have that experience of just leaving behind some things, which give me a lot of independence and therefore create quite a lot of mental and physical challenge. But I think the combination of those kinds of choosing those kinds of experiences and then. Well, I’ve learned from those and then having experiences in life that I’ve not chosen often the medical ones.
[00:30:14] Yeah. I’m not a big fan of the word resilience because resilience sounds like slightly stoical. Like we have to be like, it’s all, you know, really hard work and a struggle, which I don’t believe it has to be. But sometimes I wonder if we have to experience quite a lot of struggle or the feeling of needing to be resilient, to actually experience.
[00:30:35] Life with less struggle, even though there might be challenges, if that makes sense.
[00:30:39] Lance Wantenaar: [00:30:39] Hmm. I don’t think my way. I see resilience is more of a arrange that you’ve exposed yourself to, to then realize what you’re capable of. Uh, I don’t see a resilience as being hard and fighting and actually a battle because resilience is, I think it’s more of a range.
[00:31:00] Some days you push yourself really, really hard to beyond what you think is physically capable. And then when you walk away from and think I’d never think I would have done that. I mean, 10 years ago, I started doing obstacle course racing because I wanted to get over injuries. I’d never run any kind of extensive distance.
[00:31:19] Um, I had, you know, been washed off some rocks when I was trying to get into the ocean. I’ve torn some muscles and my glutes, my hamstring. So for a long period of time, my left leg was literally, I was literally walking 90% of my, my right leg. So I had to rebuild up my left leg, my capability, and I had to relearn how to run and I to build that capability.
[00:31:42] And I started doing obstacle course racing to push myself and then did some of the challenges like. Like found dance and found on the most challenging one that I did was the Trident, which is I did wear the 40 pound backpack, which is, uh, over Brecon beacons along the Roman road. And then back again, and then I did the nighttime event.
[00:32:03] Uh, and then I did the Sunday events. I did Saturdays Saturday night and Sunday, which is equivalent to, I think, about 70 clicks and 30 hours with a 40 pound backpack. And. At about two o’clock in the morning on Brecon beacons with a rain driving your face and fog, and literally having little or no visibility.
[00:32:26] If you have that moment of, you know, realizations, you know, I really got to reassess my life choices. Because if you made a mistake, you’re going down the mountain, but it was incredibly painful for me because of some of the injuries I was carrying, but it was one of the most rewarding things that I do.
[00:32:42] And I still to this day will go back and do that event regardless of how much pain it goes through, because I feel. It’s challenging, but it’s, it feels to me. So, so rewarding
[00:32:54] Karen Darke: [00:32:54] venture that gets called a type two adventure type one is it’s great at the time. And it’s great. Afterwards type two is it’s rubbish at the time, but you look back and you’re like, that was amazing.
[00:33:04] And then type three is it’s just rubbish, rubbish. Yeah. Some things were, it was the biggest growth type. One is the biggest fun and type three is just like.
[00:33:17] Lance Wantenaar: [00:33:17] Yeah, but yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of things that I’ve done. I mean, there’s been cases where I’ve done obstacle course races and I’ve done it in the winter times and I’ve got, I can, uh, stages of hypothermia doing it.
[00:33:30] And you know, when you walk out of that, you start realizing how much physically capable you are. And that’s why I became so fascinated in breath work. Um, things like them half and Breatheology and all these things and cold therapy and how that actually interacts with the body and how you can actually program yourself to cope with these conditions.
[00:33:50] Karen Darke: [00:33:50] You injected the eco lions yourself yet then, or, um, Corona model.
[00:33:55] Lance Wantenaar: [00:33:55] No, no, not gone to, quite
[00:33:56] Karen Darke: [00:33:56] to that load, to that extreme.
[00:34:00] Lance Wantenaar: [00:34:00] No, no, not quite to got to that research. Um, I mean, there’s a lot of things that I’ve tried, but you know, I still have to make a living at the moment. So until I’ve got a bit of financial independence to do something really crazy and not like out and not have to worry about money, then, uh, I’ll have to worry about that at a later stage.
[00:34:20] Karen Darke: [00:34:20] I’ve not mastered it yet. I was cycling in the Highlands of Ethiopia just, um, the year before, just before lockdown and, um, managed to. Man, it’s just, I have to, well, I’ve got to go into the details, but I managed to put very dirty water, um, into my body, not through drinking it. I have to use water to wash out the other end and, um, forgot that it was probably infested with bacteria.
[00:34:42] And I used to get really, really, really ill. And I’m like, okay, now it’s time to bring in all these systems and all this stuff I’ve learned and fight the bacteria, but I didn’t manage to, unfortunately. So I’ve got some mastery to do yet. That’s
[00:34:55] Lance Wantenaar: [00:34:55] good. Uh, what it’s, these are experiences either life experiences, which you never get and it’s, you know, you just think, oh yeah, I could have done better, but yeah, that’s hindsight.
[00:35:06] You can never predict something.
[00:35:08] Karen Darke: [00:35:08] It’s still a process of learning thought I’ve not reached that Himalayan guru standards yet, or Wim Hoff standards. I can’t fight off the biggest bacteria, but maybe, maybe I can maybe, maybe I can without realizing it now, but
[00:35:21] Lance Wantenaar: [00:35:21] yeah. It’s a, there’s a lot of really interesting, uh, really, really interesting research, which is tied to Vegas nerve activation and breathing, which is what a lot of them, half stuff deals with.
[00:35:34] But there’s also things that I’ve been doing a lot of research in because the Vegas nerve connects up to the brainstem and the brainstem has actually got a lot of inputs on the, uh, immune system. And by improving your breathing and your breast control, you can actually improve your overall health.
[00:35:50] There’s a, there’s a lot of research which is going into that. So there’s a, that’s been a really fascinating journey for me. And that’s also the other thing that I’ve found out is that by being able to control your breathing, you’re able to change your brain states because you’re changing the areas of your brain that you’re activating,
[00:36:10] Karen Darke: [00:36:10] touching on in, in my program as well.
[00:36:12] And yeah. And apparently the vagus nerve is also the way for people with spinal cord injuries to have an orgasm. So there’s lots of exploration to be done with the Vegas nerve too.
[00:36:23] Lance Wantenaar: [00:36:23] I think I’ve heard somebody mentioned that before. I was really fascinating because it’s such a big nerve that connects so many different parts of the body.
[00:36:32] So it’s, uh, I, I have heard somebody mentioned
[00:36:35] Karen Darke: [00:36:35] that before. Well, it’s the principles, the principle parasympathetic nerve of the, yeah. But isn’t it and connects to all the major ones from our brainstem right down to our lower intestines. So really to our genitalia, if it’s also the root to too much pleasure
[00:36:51] Lance Wantenaar: [00:36:51] does do is that the body can reroute some of the signaling that it gets through various other parts of the nervous system.
[00:37:00] So just because it’s part of it’s not working, but the body is actually very resilient and certain aspects on, I think what it does agree roots is to various other parts because the enteric nervous system is known as the second brain, which is all of the receptors, which are in your intestines all the way down, uh, to, to your organs in their unit, in the abdomen.
[00:37:22] And then you’ve got your parasympathetic parasympathetic and the. And the sympathetic nervous system, which works in unison to deal with the stress and digest and the two states of between, you know, your, your, your resting and your stress state. And so that’s, it’s as whole unit that all connects into together and function.
[00:37:43] So it’s, it’s a fascinating subject just in
[00:37:47] Karen Darke: [00:37:47] itself. Yep. Sure is.
[00:37:52] Lance Wantenaar: [00:37:52] In any case, Karen, I really appreciate your time. And I think it was a fascinating interview and I would love to have you back at another stage. No,
[00:38:01] Karen Darke: [00:38:01] it’s been really interesting. I enjoyed that. We’ve not, um, I’ve done quite a few podcasts recently due to meeting people and clubhouse and, um, a lot of them we’ve had, you know, similar topics and this has been different.
[00:38:13] So thank you very much. It’s been enjoyable. No territory.
[00:38:19] Lance Wantenaar: [00:38:19] It’s a pleasure. I really did enjoy speaking with you and hope to have another chance to interview again, tell people how they can one get hold of you. And also about your quest 79, a challenge that you’re doing in your, your quest that you’ve got going at the moment too, just before
[00:38:36] Karen Darke: [00:38:36] sign off.
[00:38:37] Okay. Yeah. So, um, if people want to learn more about some of my, me and my background, then Karen dark. Karen with a K dark with an E on the end.com is my website. And, um, you can message me from there and there’s access to, you know, the programs and stuff that I’m running there as well. And information there’ll also about quest 79.
[00:38:57] So that’s just, um, a thing which the universe has brought to me rather than me bringing to the world. I won the 79th metal for Britain in Rio in the problem pick games, 79 is the atomic number of goals. W there’s a lot of, kind of backstory to it by the number 79, just keeping popping into my life and all sorts of weird and wonderful ways.
[00:39:17] And it did again this weekend, there’s a valley that I write regularly and suddenly the number 79 was just sad and great engraved in stone on a wall. I ride past all the time and I’d never seen it before. Anyway, my personal question tonight has been to ride seven continents and nine rides. So the Rio and the Tokyo Paralympic games, and I’ve been taking journeys across the continents, falling rivers and oceans on my ham bike with people who on the whole have never done anything like that before.
[00:39:45] So it’s been quite an interesting experience and really amazing few years, and one continent remains and that’s Antarctica. And then I, I discovered in the process at 79 degrees, latitude and longitude crosses in Antarctica. And as soon as I found that out, it’s like, okay, that’s where I have to go in Antarctica.
[00:40:03] Um, so going to create a new pole there called the pole of possibility and alongside that, I’ve been encouraging other people just to do something for themselves, which takes them into that zone that you talked about into the kind of stretch zone that slightly beyond your comfort zone, but not totally impossible.
[00:40:21] The kind of thing that would excite you, but maybe scare you a little bit or intimidate you a little bit or that you might suddenly tell yourself you couldn’t do. It’d be too difficult. And people have been doing some really special things. So all of these questions, people are doing a connected to the number 79.
[00:40:36] So sometimes it’s repeating something 17 times, sometimes it’s 79 seconds. Sometimes it’s 79 days, 79 miles. One of the first people to get involved was a 10 year old boy from Scotland who decided to try and climb 79. Peaks in 79 weeks. And these were like big Scottish mountains. Didn’t even like mountain climbing, but just decided that it would be really interesting to stretch himself and discover something new.
[00:41:01] And there’s been lots of just fantastic ones since then of different shapes and sizes and nature, not always physical, um, from planting 79 trees, 79 acts of kindness, 79. Miles of running 79, someone did a marathon, but he would only run it his first day of a marathon, but only run after 17 people had donated blood and send a picture of themselves doing it.
[00:41:27] So just some really nice, unique, special things, which are just like, seem to be spreading like a positive virus around. The world and, um, having people in different countries, getting involved to someone in South Africa right now, who’s decided she’s going to offer free 79 free coaching sessions to help people change their lives or improve something that they want to improve just really special things happening.
[00:41:50] So I just feel really inspired by these amazing people who are coming on board and doing things. And there’s no. Real finance. There’s no financial purpose to it. There’s no, it’s basically just something that’s bringing a lot of amazingness to a lot of people in different ways and spreading kindness and inspiration around the planet, which is, um, really exciting to see us what we need more of and we’re human beings and we went out with it, but we’re also full of it.
[00:42:16] And just to see people starting to shine and. Find that in a gold I’m calling it, you know, 79 is the atomic number of gold. And when we do these kinds of things, we always find something special, not just for ourselves, but for people that we touch and had a wonderful thing this weekend, a friend here in new Yorker decided she would spend some weeks climbing the local mountain and she was going to do it 79 times, but she thought three months would be a push.
[00:42:43] In the end, she managed to do it in a month and a half. And it was originally just her and her two dogs. And by the end yesterday, there were about 30 people on the summit with, uh, women of all shapes and sizes and ages, and one matter thing, and they had a drone up there. It made this wonderful film and all these women and are so excited that they’re.
[00:43:06] Deciding they’re going to do more walks around the island and now spend 79 days collecting rubbish from all of the islands, clean up special places. And that’s just an example of, you know, how one little positive thing that we do even for our souls can start to impact those around us and really spread that wonderfulness around the world.
[00:43:24] So they’re more of that will be great.
[00:43:27] Lance Wantenaar: [00:43:27] Excellent. I will definitely, uh, put this out and let people know about it, but thank you very much for your time, and I wish you all the best with your
[00:43:35] Karen Darke: [00:43:35] endeavors. This one’s thanks for having me.