I recently attended a day-long workshop in Holotropic Breathwork, organised by Holotropic UK. Holotropic means ‘becoming whole’. And that is certainly what I felt during my first holotropic breathwork session.
There were 18 of us attending and after an introduction to the day we partnered up, with one of us ‘breathing’ in the morning, the other ‘sitting’, and then swapping roles in the afternoon. As ‘breather’ you wear an eye mask to encourage you to go ‘inwards’ during your journey so the ‘sitter’ is there for support – to pass you a drink, a tissue, or to help you to the toilet.
Each breath session lasts 2.5 hours, and is accompanied by very loud music – this can be anything from African tribal music with drums to almost trance-like music and theatrical scores from movies (one of the highlights was the famous song from Last of The Mohicans). This music is a key part of the experience and I can’t express how powerful it was, and how perfectly the music has been orchestrated.
The only guidance we were given around the breath was to breathe a little faster and a little deeper than we usually would. This freedom is quite liberating and I tried my best to tap into my intuition. As a result, I actually found myself breathing VERY deeply, with VERY powerful long exhales for certain periods, and short and sharp breathing like a tired dog at other times. This was often based around the music which provided a nice tempo for me.
About an hour into the breathing (at a complete guess!) I realised that this way of breathing didn’t feel authentic any more, so I slowed it right down to a normal/natural breathing pattern. It was at this point that I experienced the peak of my experience – this is always filled with strong emotional responses for me (rather than detailed visions).
Interestingly at one point, I did see a bright white light enter my vision from the left and slowly spread to the right. Bearing in mind I was wearing an eye mask, and the room was very dark anyway – I knew I was entering an altered state of consciousness. Sound weird? Well, those who participate in darkness retreats (where you are in absolute pitch black for days) often find by around the fourth day they are seeing all sorts of different lights and colours.
I often find when I do these experiences – whether it’s a breath workshop or a psychedelic experience – that I get ‘downloads from the universe’, a term I have heard Aubrey Marcus use before. I FEEL core truths about life. These might be things that I intellectually knew, perhaps a concept I have read in the book, but during these experiences, the concept becomes so much more. It is no longer an intellectual concept but a felt experience. An experience that permanently shifts my beliefs about life and the universe.
What did I learn during holotropic breathwork?
I learned that it’s ok. It really is ok. Everything is ok. It’s ok when we’re ok, and when we’re thriving, and, it’s ok when we’re not ok – when we’re struggling and suffering with whatever it may be.
I learned that our pain is shared. We are 100% energetically interconnected. Your pain is my pain, and my pain is your pain. The world is in pain right now. Politically, environmentally, climatically. I believe this global pain is a representation of the pain we feel (or don’t feel!) at an individual level – ultimately the pain is a disconnect. Disconnect from nature, from each other, from mother earth, and from ourselves.
I think we are very disconnected from mother earth, from nature. We have a disconnect in our countries. We have a disconnect in our towns. We have a disconnect in our families. And we have a disconnect in ourselves. When we have one, we have others.
I also learned that the way to change this, the way to help heal and connect the world is to start with myself. I need to show up, I need to shine the light. I need to focus on my development to encourage others to work on theirs, and this will start a ripple effect within my network.
These ‘universal downloads’ had me in tears – proper ugly crying! I was there listening to people’s pain – some of my fellow breathers were screaming, groaning, swearing, dancing…you name it! I could hear their pain, and I could feel their pain. Their pain was my pain.
There is nothing more healing, than group work. Being vulnerable. Opening up. Letting go. Surrendering.
I feel more and more that a lot of things that trouble us in health – are related to energy, and unexpressed emotions. We are energy. And emotion is ‘energy in motion’. We need to ensure we are moving that energy, frequently, and, we need to ‘clear’ blocked emotion and energy for true health.