A darkened room. One hundred pairs of seekers. One of each pair lying on a pad, restful, breathing, breathing. The other partner is sitting, watching, holding space. Instructions are given to relax, progressively all of the body, toes to head. Breathe deep, through the diaphragm. Music plays, a wide variety of world beat, traditional, folk, mystical, chanting. No other instructions are giving, except Grof implores us: “Focus on your breath, deep, quick breath. Breathe until you are surprised.”
What would come for me, I wondered. In the morning session, I served as Sitter while my partner was the Breather. Nearby others were breathing, and starting to go into “process” as Grof calls it. What is it? Varies as widely as human experience, and as the human imagination. Grof reports people having visions, leaving their body to become other people, animals, plants. People report remembering their birth, before their birth, past lives. In his description he validated all these experiences as true, as real. Something my Skeptic was very put off by. The BS-o-Meter was pegged. Still, I stayed the course. I was there for my Breather, sitting and watching.
The time went quickly even though the session was 3 hours, and I found myself experiencing a lot of emotion while Sitting. I remembered the work I’d done 20 years ago with Peter, in Re-Evaluation Counseling, how we got to deep emotional states of release, and how I’d wondered if I would ever find that level of safety again, of trust in the emotional process. I was encouraged by what the Assistants were saying, how they were supporting other Breathers. The sounds in the room grew louder, with crying, raging, wailing. Some Breathers became quite physical, rocking and pounding the mat. The Assistants came close, holding pillows up to show the Breather the boundaries of the space. So familiar this was to my own Emotional Liberation work 10 years ago…
Lunch flashed by, but I chose to fast as many did for this workshop. I know at least that much about myself. Empty stomach makes for powerful process. Like going into the sweat lodge. Now it was my turn. I lay down, and started to relax, to breathe. I followed Grof’s relaxation directions. I felt my body begin to tingle, starting in my hands, then my face, then I saw light, briefly. Music flowed with emotions. Then it happened. I was surprised.
It started with crying, holding my Sitter’s hand. Then Joyce came and got close, holding me as the grief grew stronger and longer, my whimpers became wailing, I let go as I had back in New York, at the men’s retreat. Shaking, writhing, staring right into my deepest fear – the abyss of death, “no, no, no!” The Assistant just stayed close, let me go as I let myself go, holding on to the only thing that matters – a hand, a human contact, what makes the abyss tolerable. Grief at lost time, a dear lost friend, my betrayals, lost years…all came bursting forth. An earthquake, a tsunami, a flash flood, a blazing inferno. And then it was gone.
Music softened, became meditative, and I followed. I laughed. I sighed. I kept breathing, feeling the tingling again, my whole face and neck. Energy flowing. In the moments after the session, I was like a newborn, the room looked so bright, even though it was still quite dim. I got up slowing, feeling light headed, wobbly. My Sitter walked me to the Mandala room, where other Breathers were drawing. I took my journal and began to write: “My Skeptic is strangely silent…” Indeed. No, I didn’t experience the woo-woo, out of body, past life visions. But I certainly entered a non-ordinary state of consciousness, felt emotions at the deepest level I can ever remember, felt awakened, cleansed, alive! I was stunned. And ready for more.
Though the workshop ended, I knew this would be a path to which I would return. One of the Assistants, Joyce, said she had taken a 6 day module and knew “This is my tribe.!” She lives near Tillamook, and will be offering a workshop in Oregon. I intend to go even deeper, to add this breathwork to my professional skills. The training for Holotropic Breathwork entails taking seven extended modules, over two or more years. Definitely do-able. Each module includes more and more breathwork. More release. Getting closer to my core, closer to myself. I know this is right for me. I know this is a place I can be fully open. This is my tribe.
One thought on “Holotropic Trippin’, San Francisco Style”
Hi, Ocean,A friend in Seattle who’s a biker and a Breathwork enthusiast sent me the link to your blog. Terrific description of your experience on the floor, and great post-BW photo! I’m wondering if you’d object to my sharing that portion of your experience with someone who’s interested in doing the work, as a testimonial of how it can go. You can let me know at my email address, above, since I’m not on Facebook, etc. So good to meet you in SF! My partner and I are working on the logistics of getting a small event going here sometime in coming months. Meanwhile, would love to hear from you! Love, Joyce