Over 10 years ago I embarked on my first Holotropic Breathwork (HB) journey. I had heard it was a technique for accessing an altered state of consciousness by using only the breath and evocative music.
I remember it being a very blissful, transcendent experience followed by a great feeling of Universal Love. Very positive. My world at the time looked like this: I had only been in Seattle a few years, just started the Reiki Training Program and was involved in a long-term relationship that was changing.
Over the last decade, I since went on to explore other modalities and ways of accessing my inner healer, through Reiki, hypnotherapy, shamanic drum journeys and various forms of breathing meditation.
When I returned to HB this weekend, I was curious to see where I might go this time. Now my world looked like this: My school has now been well established, my father’s health has changed, I feel very integrated into Seattle as my home and my partner and I are quite settled.
The process of HB involves two participants teamed up. One is the ‘breather’, who will go on the journey into non-ordinary reality, practicing deep and quick breaths while letting the music that is playing take them to where they need to go. As they enter their various altered states, their partner, a ‘sitter’, is compassionately watching them to ensure they are safe. The breather may start to move their arms, shake, release tears, anger, laughter, etc. If the breather needs to get up, the sitter helps them, being grounded in ordinary reality. The whole session takes about 3 hours, followed by integration time where the breather can draw their experience in the art form of a mandala. Then the team of participants switches roles.
When I laid down to go on my journey, I was open and curious. As the tribal and pulsing music began, and my breath took on it’s own rhythm, I was soon propelled in a life review of the last 10 years. I experienced spontaneous laughter, tears and a gratitude in my body for having carrying me this far.
Breathers around me (this group had about 12 of them), began crying out sporadically, releasing their own feelings or emotions that needed expression. Many remained silent and focused on an inner journey.
But as the breather, you are really only in your mind. Mine soon took me into my own relationship with my father, my mother, my grandparents. I felt a strong sense of ancestry in my blood. It was very powerful. With my dad’s health having changed, I let go many tears, mourning the loss of health, the passage of time. I realized I had deep within my psyche held on to a resentment of having had to move to Arizona when I was 18 to go to college, when at that time, I had wanted to stay back in NJ.
Forgiveness came in waves. It overwhelmed me. I felt an amazing sense of peace.
After that emotional inner work, I had to release via going to the bathroom. Not an easy task when you are in an altered state. I was grateful for my sitter. She helped me up, and held my hip and shoulder toward the bathroom. My legs were like jelly. My breathing was still continuing deep and fast. It was the most surreal experience of doing a very basic thing, elimination, and really being more of a witness to this biological function.
My sitter guided me back to my mat on the floor and I went immediately back into that state of forgiveness and acceptance. It was exquisite.
The music changed, it was now more transcendent and peaceful. I started to drift off and away. Far far away. Not unlike places I have explored during Reiki.
Time ceased. My perception of self was no more. My next recollection was that some people were moving around me and I had no idea where I was or what had just happened. I wasn’t afraid, just curious. Oh, something must be ending, I thought.
I opened my eyes and saw my sitter. She looked familiar to me, and then I remembered I was in this HB workshop. She guided me towards the room for making mandalas. I sat down for the next hour and drew a landscape of Arizona with many hearts imbedded in it. I really had no ‘thought’ in the drawing. It was a beautiful representation of forgiveness.
After lunch, it was my turn to be the sitter. My partner, now the breather, had done HB also many years ago, so was familiar with the process. Being her witness was an honor. There was one moment during those next three hours where she had moved her body off the mat so that it was now bowing and lying prostrate, covered in her Native American blanket. She looked as if she was in supreme and sublime surrender to the verdict of the Universe. It made me cry.
Watching other breathers from the sitter perspective, I realized that HB gives individuals permission to explore their minds and their emotions in safe space. It’s one way of bringing about insight to underlying issues and another way of taking a journey into altered reality.
I’m excited for the new developments that Glenn and his partner Laurel are creating in the HB community here in Seattle.
Everyone is excited that the founder of HB, Stan Grof, is coming to our town Oct. 18-20. A very special workshop indeed.
I recommend a session if you’ve never tried one. My advice is have no expectations, connect to your breath, trust in the process and be prepared to be surprised!
Copyright 2013 Eileen Dey