Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
An Exquisite Connection to Breath
Category:
Healing
Stan Grof and Brigitte Grof

Holotropic Breathwork, which originated at Esalen, is an experiential method of self-exploration and healing that uses deep, expanded states of consciousness induced by a combination of simple means: accelerated breathing, evocative music and releasing bodywork. In this first-person essay, Esalen Programs Specialist Paula Wild shares her experience attending The Inner Journey: Holotropic Breathwork led by Stanislav Grof at Esalen in May.

Embarking on a journey of Holotropic Breathwork with Stanislav Grof M.D. and his team is, to say the least, mind blowing.

After many years of teaching and offering the work around the world, Stan — a psychiatrist with more than 60 years of experience in research of non-ordinary states of consciousness and one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology — returned to Esalen last month to lead a workshop focused on exploring consciousness and our human potential.

I had no prior knowledge of Holotropic Breathwork, work that Stan and his late wife Christina had started at Esalen 40 years ago, and came to the workshop with “a beginner’s mind.”

On the first day, Stan and the team thoroughly explained how we would utilize deepened and lengthened breathing over the course of a three-hour session to induce a holotropic state. This is a term he coined to describe non-ordinary or altered states of consciousness. I was curious and a bit skeptical.

Much to my surprise, the combination of intensified breathing, carefully selected music, and darkness catapulted me out of my day-to-day consciousness into a fascinating sensational landscape of the psyche. There I rode the waves of what was arising and transformation occurred. I was able to connect with parts of my inner self that are beyond explanation or logic. I found myself laughing uncontrollably, moving spontaneously and fully experiencing a sense of complete belonging.

On the third evening we watched a documentary about Stan’s work and one sentence stuck out for me: “We can’t find meaning with reason.” I am a very practical and reasonable person, in fact my ability to reason has served me well in my career and navigating the world as it is.

Yet I have always searched and grasped for meaning in life using reason and my intellect, always falling short and at times suffering from depression and addiction. Even during the week of the workshop my mind struggled to explain what was happening — to figure it out.

In the days following the workshop a great sense of peace came over me. I contracted an upper respiratory infection, and where I would normally rage against being ill, I found myself fully accepting the situation and settling in peacefully to steward the healing process.

Holotropic Breathwork is all about tapping into our own “inner healer”. It is an incredibly permissive process where the “breather” is welcomed to observe and participate in any experience that is arising.

The team — an incredible group of trained psychologists and psychiatrists with more than 80 years of collective experience between them — brought exquisite care and attention to the process. Each “breather” was paired with a “sitter”; someone dedicated in full service to be present and supportive for anything that might arise. I was deeply touched by the level of human compassion and connection that was fostered through the process.

At the beginning of each session, Stan would lead us in a relaxation exercise and then invite us to “establish an exquisite connection with our breath.” These words will stay with me forever. Whether I am embarking on a difficult journey, or making a cup of tea, the connection to my breath is a gentle reminder of my wholeness and belonging in the world. It is an affirmation that I can trust, I can surrender and I can handle anything.

Photo Credits: Jens Wazel

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

An Exquisite Connection to Breath

About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
Category:
Healing
Stan Grof and Brigitte Grof

Holotropic Breathwork, which originated at Esalen, is an experiential method of self-exploration and healing that uses deep, expanded states of consciousness induced by a combination of simple means: accelerated breathing, evocative music and releasing bodywork. In this first-person essay, Esalen Programs Specialist Paula Wild shares her experience attending The Inner Journey: Holotropic Breathwork led by Stanislav Grof at Esalen in May.

Embarking on a journey of Holotropic Breathwork with Stanislav Grof M.D. and his team is, to say the least, mind blowing.

After many years of teaching and offering the work around the world, Stan — a psychiatrist with more than 60 years of experience in research of non-ordinary states of consciousness and one of the founders and chief theoreticians of transpersonal psychology — returned to Esalen last month to lead a workshop focused on exploring consciousness and our human potential.

I had no prior knowledge of Holotropic Breathwork, work that Stan and his late wife Christina had started at Esalen 40 years ago, and came to the workshop with “a beginner’s mind.”

On the first day, Stan and the team thoroughly explained how we would utilize deepened and lengthened breathing over the course of a three-hour session to induce a holotropic state. This is a term he coined to describe non-ordinary or altered states of consciousness. I was curious and a bit skeptical.

Much to my surprise, the combination of intensified breathing, carefully selected music, and darkness catapulted me out of my day-to-day consciousness into a fascinating sensational landscape of the psyche. There I rode the waves of what was arising and transformation occurred. I was able to connect with parts of my inner self that are beyond explanation or logic. I found myself laughing uncontrollably, moving spontaneously and fully experiencing a sense of complete belonging.

On the third evening we watched a documentary about Stan’s work and one sentence stuck out for me: “We can’t find meaning with reason.” I am a very practical and reasonable person, in fact my ability to reason has served me well in my career and navigating the world as it is.

Yet I have always searched and grasped for meaning in life using reason and my intellect, always falling short and at times suffering from depression and addiction. Even during the week of the workshop my mind struggled to explain what was happening — to figure it out.

In the days following the workshop a great sense of peace came over me. I contracted an upper respiratory infection, and where I would normally rage against being ill, I found myself fully accepting the situation and settling in peacefully to steward the healing process.

Holotropic Breathwork is all about tapping into our own “inner healer”. It is an incredibly permissive process where the “breather” is welcomed to observe and participate in any experience that is arising.

The team — an incredible group of trained psychologists and psychiatrists with more than 80 years of collective experience between them — brought exquisite care and attention to the process. Each “breather” was paired with a “sitter”; someone dedicated in full service to be present and supportive for anything that might arise. I was deeply touched by the level of human compassion and connection that was fostered through the process.

At the beginning of each session, Stan would lead us in a relaxation exercise and then invite us to “establish an exquisite connection with our breath.” These words will stay with me forever. Whether I am embarking on a difficult journey, or making a cup of tea, the connection to my breath is a gentle reminder of my wholeness and belonging in the world. It is an affirmation that I can trust, I can surrender and I can handle anything.

Photo Credits: Jens Wazel

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Esalen Team

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
An Exquisite Connection to Breath
Category:
Healing

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About

Esalen Team

An Exquisite Connection to Breath

About

Esalen Team

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