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Holotrophic Breathwork

by Aaron Kushner

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Spiritual development is a primary longing that propels us toward wholeness and the discovery of our true potential. It seems as natural as the processes of physical birth, growth and death - an essential aspect of our existence. For centuries, entire cultures have sacretized inner transformation and have developed sophisticated rituals and meditative practices to invite and encourage this journey. Humanity has stored a treasure of emotions, visions, and insights involved in the process of awakening in poetry, literature, and music, and in the records of mystics and prophets. Some of the most stunning and inspirational contributions in the realm of art and architecture celebrate the mystical realms, for it is within these luminous stirrings that our potent clarity can manifest its wisdom leading us to new realms of possibility.

For some individuals, without the skills needed to actively engage this profound call, the transformational journey can be painfully challenging and confusing . Holotropic Breathwork is one such skill that can take us ever so deeply into our personal reality that we unveil our personal potential.

This experience unfolds altered states of consciousness which facilitate transformational insight, and awaken spiritual emergence. In this journey, emotional, psychosomatic and psycho-spiritual symptoms are not problems to be fought with, but healing efforts by the organism itself to be supported, encouraged and brought to illumination.

In preparing for Holotropic Breathing, I begin with a discussion of the many types of experiences that may emerge during the process. This is very important, for many people are uncomfortable and confused with unusual states of consciousness and resist their healing potential. I convey a clear message that such phenomena as death-rebirth sequences, archetypal visions, states of cosmic unity, and integration angst are absolutely normal. The purpose of this phase of the process is to give the participant impetus to accept, trust and value whatever contents emerge.

After the introduction I ask people to lie on soft mats and guide them through relaxation exercises that focuses their attention on the body, mind and breath. I then ask that they allow their rate of breathing to be guided by the flow of music played throughout the session. If possible, to suspend analytical thought and surrender to images, emotions, and physical feelings that arise, completely uncensored and unimpeded. During the event, I sit in attentive devotion, that I may unconditionally encourage and support this dramatic, experiential process. The emphasis for me is not on insights, interpretations or interventions. My intention is to encourage the client's innate brilliance by nurturing their journey.

The reaction to this combination of accelerated breathing, music and introspective focus may in some produce intense emotion, such as sadness, joy, anger, fear or excitement. For others, an increase in body tension expressed as tremors, spasms, pelvic movements, or dramatic gestures in hands and arms. Frequently, the psycho-emotional content of these experiences is revealed by accompanying visions or memories. Some may respond by becoming progressively more relaxed, losing their boundaries with the external world, moving directly into a unifying, mystical experience. Activation of the psyche by this mode of breathing seems to set in motion healing processes that are governed by a spontaneous wisdom, for this reason, the optimal mental attitude during the session is one of receptiveness, openness, and willingness to experience with complete trust anything that emerges from ‘deep mind'. The normal trajectory of the Holotropic experience is to move from dimness into light, where an easing of psychological confusion, physical pain and difficult emotion releases a sense of joyous peace and spacious clarity. The latter portion of the session is spent in quiet meditation, slowly making the transition to every day consciousness.

In the technique of Holotropic Breathwork, I see the client as self healer and encourage them to realize this, and to cultivate a sense of mastery and independence. Each client unravels their own reality, uncovers the deep roots of symptoms, confronts the unconscious material behind them, and embraces their essential self.

After the session, I ask that the experience be documented in some way, such as visual art, dance, writing, clay manipulation, poetry, music, or some other personal format. This will allow full expression of the emerging forces in the psyche, help to concretize unconscious contents and facilitate their integration. This very integration becomes the pulse of transformation. I see unlimited potential for this means of dynamic self revelation.

Aaron Kushner, B.M.,M.M. is a Transformational Therapist working in Halifax. He can be reached at 431-4105 or 902-489-6926 or wildoats@ns.sympatico.ca.

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