What was said to the rose that made it open was said to me
here in my chest.
Had a wonderful, intense, delicious Retreat last weekend! One of the experiences that is very powerful and healing for people is the breathwork. So I thought it might be helpful to give you a little background.
There are many forms of breathwork: integrative breathwork by Jacquelyn Small, rebirthing-breathwork by Leonard Orr and Sondra Ray, holotropic breathwork by Dr Stanislav Grof, vivation by Jim Leonard and Phil Laut.
They each have many features in common, and share similarities to yogic practices such as pranayama.
When Charles and I were first experienced breathwork, introduced to it by a couple who had studied with Leonard Orr, the instructions we received were simple: Pull on the inhale, relax on the exhale, and connect every breath. They also told us to do the process until we were complete and “you’ll know when you’re complete.” Simple enough, right? I mean, we all breathe.
But after a single breathwork experience we knew that how we breathe has an extraordinary impact on our consciousness. We experience this in Kai Chi Do too – The movements and the music are great, but the combination of the breath and the movements brings you into a new, broader state of awareness.
Breathing is literally the way we interact with the world. When we pull on the inhale, we’re pulling in Life. When we exhale, we’re releasing the parts we don’t need. We don’t need to force them away. We just let them go. We give and we receive. Out and in, in and out. Breathing is an energy exchange.
Some breathwork leaders believe in what’s called cellular memory – the idea that memory isn’t just stored in your brain, it’s stored in the entire body. Cellular memories include suppressed emotions held in our bodies, like armor. The emotions we suppress tend to he the ones that cause us pain, so we walk around with our emotional pain in our bodies, a part of our identity. We think they’re who we are. But they’re just emotions, just memories of the past. We don’t need to hold onto them. We’ve just locked them up. One way to let go of the pain of the past, held in our bodies, is through relaxed, connected breaths. We let Life in with the breath.
When the emotions surface, you just keep breathing, and your body has the wisdom to just let them go. Your body knows – if you just trust it and don’t let your thinking get in the way of your air. That’s one of the things I love about breathwork – My nose does all the work and my job is just to get out of the way.
Of course you can’t control it. You don’t get to choose what you want to breathe about. As they taught Shanti in kindergarten, “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.” Sometimes breathwork brings up memories. Sometimes it brings up feelings. And sometimes it just brings a bright, spacious awareness. We take what we get, and we trust that it’s what we need. We sit as the witness to our own experience and keep breathing. Until the breath brings us into a feeling of completion, a feeling of relief and resolution. In my very first breathwork session, I forgave my mother. And I didn’t even know I needed to.
What’s left when you let all the stuff go? All the stuff that’s not in harmony with Life. What’s left when you let all that go?
There’s a point, a delicious point in breathwork, when you’re not trying to do the breathing anymore – It’s the point where you finally let Life breathe you.