Breathing: it’s something we do every day, habitually and on auto-pilot, and one of the few vital bodily functions that can be controlled consciously, as well as, unconsciously. With many steps leading up to my mushroom journey, we also had a breath workshop. Even though I have had some experience with breathing practices and like my encounter with mushrooms, holotropic breathing was wildly different.
Vinyasa yoga has been the most beneficial for me so far, from the various techniques I have experience with. The premise being that you match your movement with breath so that you’re able move energy and release anything blocking the flow. Breath in: white light-hearted energy. Breath out: dark, dense energy. This too requires focus and practice, however, you will soon feel changes afoot and can expect endless benefits. Some of which led me to my work with psychedelics.
Breath can regulate your state of mind and even transcend the narrow boundaries of the body ego into a relaxed and spiritual high state. I was actually not surprised to find that this is the goal of holotropic breathwork. This discipline falls under the umbrella of transpersonal psychology and attempts to integrate the spiritual with conventional methods. What actually transpires is difficult to describe, but I will do my best to share my experience.
The sacred mushroom retreat I attended was off grid, on land in the mountains of San José del Pacifico. We were free to walk or hike the land in between the events we attended throughout the day. We would also gather to integrate and process our experiences daily. The room we met in was cozy with a bamboo hatched roof, big windows overlooking the mountain, a fireplace, candles, carpets laid on the wood floor, and an altar set up to gather around and connect. Over the course of the week, we were sharing the most intimate details of our lives while this became more than a meeting place with strangers, but an extended family.
The day we arrived to do our breathing practice, the room was freezing. There was a hole in the fireplace that had been smoking the room up so we couldn’t light the fire. If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s trying to relax when I am cold. Andrew, our guide, told us that once the process started we would be thankful for the chill and want to throw off all our blankets. I just laid there shivering with my eyes closed and tried to take a few relaxing breaths.
Too quickly, it seemed, the practice began. “Inhale though your nose and push it out though your stomach as fast as you can. Watch your stomach as you exhale,” Andrew said. There was some rhythmic music playing to support the session. Though I had great appreciation for Andrew’s playlist, I can’t remember even one song now for the life of me! We started to speed up our breath, trying to keep our mind clear and then repeating till we were in somewhat of an altered state. And altered state it was. All I remember is breathing so loud I felt myself trying to scream, but nothing was coming out.
Andrew asked me to focus on it…scream as loud as I could. Still a whimper came out. It was as if someone had control of my sound, my throat, my power. All I felt were tears rolling down my face. Then other’s seemed like they were belting out their sounds. The energy had been building in the room until we all sat up with one last deep exhale: we looked out to the mountain, above the trees, to bright blue sky, to the light–and as quickly as it began, it was over.
I am still not altogether sure what happened that day. When we sat together to integrate what came up for us. It was clear that at some point in my life, I had given my power away, over and over again. My voice had been dimmed. I had believed it was my place in the world to be seen and not heard. Andrew told me that my throat chakra and in turn my heart was blocked.
This theme that had continued in sitting with other plant medicine and beginning with Ayahuasca.“I was invariably lost and I couldn’t simply ‘think through’ how to help myself. The negative emotions I had pushed down from childhood created a wounding that had an energetic hold on me I couldn’t shake.” Had I lost my connection to my own voice? Is that why I purged for the first time ever in my Rapé session under the water fall? “I am here, at the retreat, to release what is no longer serving me?” I said.
Now with every plant medicine, healing session, yoga, mediation, I remind myself that I am here to serve and the healing I do for me, is also for you. The world needs to hear my voice.
I now know, that I can regulate my state of mind using measured breathing and even take myself to a state of calm. My breath is my power. It’s not one thing that gives your power back, but breath certainly would be at the top of my list for having a tool that’s helped me the most in moving toward a state of wholeness. Sort of an oxymoron theoretically, since I already know that I am whole. I just need to believe it with every part of my being. To embody it–this is the work–the path.
A special thanks to Andrew Barron and Jessica Calvo for their amazing work at One Spirt Infinite Journeys. https://www.onespirit-infinitejourneys.com