In Holotropic Breathing, you breathe to music and get holos–experiences, images and insights so you grow. Holos, properly integrated, can cure your psychic, emotional and physical ills, so you enjoy, know and love more.Stanislav and Christina Grof designed Holotropic Breathwork to access holos. Breathwork blends psychology and sacred studies with deep breathing, evocative music, hypnosis, focused bodywork and art therapy. (1)
In Holotropic work, you evoke inner experiences and express them your way. If you’re healthy and happy, Grof sessions expand your awareness; if you suffer, breathwork helps you heal. Grof’s Adventure of Self-Discovery describes breathwork in depth.
Breathwork frees your most loving capacity. The breathing and contemplations are safe, easy, practical ways to discharge any pain or anger you may hold from personal or empathized experiences. Grof breathing leaves you placid and able to contribute more to the world.
HEED YOUR HOLOS: THE IDEAS
You can do Holotropic Breathwork in a group setting or in private.
Privately, in an individual session, a breathworker discusses the experiences you may get, plays powerful taped music and helps you when you ask.
In a “holo” group, you choose another participant as your “sitter.” A breathworker plays music while your sitter watches you breathe, then draw.
In a holo session–private or group–when you ask, your breathworker or sitter holds, resists, supports or wordlessly encourages you.
He (or she) offers pillows for you to stroke, kick or hit. If needed, he protects you from bumping anything. He brings you water, tissue, blankets, a basin or a towel and helps you to the bathroom and back.
Grof breathing’s safe; thousands report it increased their vitality and insight. But holotropic work does involve deep breathing, so use common sense. If you’ve had heart problems, hypertension, brain hemorrhage, psychotic tendencies, or if you’re pregnant, don’t do Grof Breathwork. Don’t do it when you have a contagious disease or unhealed surgical wounds.
HOW TO DO HOLOTROPIC BREATHING
This is how you do Holotropic Breathwork. Tell your sitter how you’d like him or her to tend you when you breathe. Then lie back on a mat for three hours. Close your eyes, relax each body part. Breathe deep and fast–through throat and nose–to music. It’s simple as that.
You visualize. Hear, smell, taste. Intuit. Feel. Move or stay still; keep quiet or make sounds. You may laugh, cry or jabber gibberish. Perhaps dance on your back, writhe, shake, sweat or shiver. Some people temporarily cramp or choke as they finish inner experiences that free them to feel good.
When you first breathe to music, you see (behind your lids) rich, moving colors, dazzling designs. You hear, besides the music, inner rings, chirps, buzzes. You enjoy aromas and tastes. For fifteen minutes, sensations shift, surprise and fascinate you. Then you relive your life’s passions, see spiritual sagas or experience fetal feelings.
Maybe, in your mind, you return to times of bliss. Or you meander among memories placental and postnatal, scenes spiritual and prosaic. You might relive labor, loves lost, child or teen trauma. You could even relive past elapsed lives or mythic mentations. Perhaps you meet guides and gods, Gaia and God.
Breathers with repressed images may rerun times they almost died, or times they imprinted problems, upsets or urges. Some relive times they poisoned their minds, bodies or relations, thwarted or hurt themselves. They release their feelings and drop harmful habits tied to those times. By the end of the session, most breathers feel resolved and peaceful. A few breathers need another session in the next few days.
Usually, however, when you’ve holoed a few hours, you relax. If not, you can simply intensify your discomfort and release it. You may want your sitter or breathworker to press your tight points. If you wish, a breathworker will guide you to inner dialogue or further imaging, till you resolve emotions you stirred up when you breathed.
Then you draw and discuss your experience. Perhaps you act-out the drawing’s parts.
In a group-setting, when you finish drawing, you change roles with your sitter. He breathes while you practice concentration, compassion and nonjudgment.
You usually finish a session resolved, nourished, healed. Almost certainly, if you participate in a series of sessions, you end up feeling loving, peaceful, flowing, spiritual, inspired, sexually-responsive, appreciative, expanded in outlook, more integrated.
THE BAD SIDE OF MY HISTORY WITH MOM
Write “The Bad Side of My History with Mom”–your unpleasant memories of her. Emphasize her negative side; raise your ire.
Use fists, a tennis racket, baseball bat or rubber hose to pound a pillow. Each time you pound, yell, “Mother, I resent you for …” (Complete.)
List things you hid from her.
Imagine Mom sits before you.
Tell her your secrets.
Then sit on her seat and play her. As her, respond.
Dialogue about the secrets; alternate in her role and yours.
Finish, to her, “I haven’t resolved …”
Let Out Longing
Tell her what you wanted and needed from her.
Say all you longed and hoped for from her.
Admit Adopting Her Attitudes
Realize how you copied her. List the bad traits you got from her.
Deepen your understanding of her so you forgive and love her.Maybe she gave you less affection, support, freedom and encouragement than you wanted. But put yourself in her place.
Then you drop your anger, work through conflicts keeping you apart and forgive her. Identify with Mom when she was 13. Begin with, “I’m … (her first name) and my life’s like ... (Describe it.)
“I got this way, because …”As her, say whether and how you felt loved. Tell how the people in your family got and get along, how your parents taught you to get along with your brothers and sisters.
Relate how you fared at school. Say how your parents treated your friends.Tell your child-to-be how your parents led you to raise him or her. What flaws marred their teaching?
Be you again. Tell your 13-year-old Mom-to-be how your first 13 years compared to hers. Ask how her early years led her to treat you.
Switch to her and answer.
Imagine Mom died. If she already died, recall or imagine her funeral. See her coffin closing and think of the hopes, dreams and loves she cherished as a child. See the girl in her closed into the coffin.
As you see her buried or her ashes housed or scattered, think of how her life turned out. Consider what she wanted and whether she got it.
Finish this: “Mother, I forgive you for …”
Tell her what you appreciate; say her good traits.
Relive the good side of your history together.
Notice any of Mom’s habits and attitudes you gladly adopt as your own.Imagine you and she both 13.
Play, frolic, skip, share love.
If true, say, “Mother, I love you.”
Visit, call or write her (or speak to her spirit). Tell her kindly about finishing your feelings toward her.
DEAL WITH DAD
Notice notions and mannerisms you derived from Dad.
Remember if any of his habits helped or hurt you. If you fought them, you may have become his opposite instead of your real self.To empower the rites for clearing your father’s program in you, assume that, to the degree he didn’t fully love, satisfy and support Mom and you kids, he embittered, chilled her; made her cold, phony or critical.
Did Dad deem you a blessing, accident or burden?
Did he want you male or female? Want you to do what he didn’t?
Did he make you meet his standards?
Compete with you?
If you’re female, did he ignore you, teach you males counted more? Did he model men as cold, distant or babyish?
Did you and Dad hug, play, talk, listen and love as you wanted?
Did he heed only his, Mom’s or the other kids’ needs and ignore yours?
Did he parent or just pay for and police you. Or leave you to Mom?Did he avoid, fear, bully, put down, or humor Mom?
Did he grovel? The way he treated her showed you how to act with women. Did he openly hug, kiss, and compliment her?
How he treated you and the other kids started your attitudes toward authority. Did he dictate, stifle spontaneity?
Did he hit, confine or abuse you, Mom, your brothers or sisters?
Did he, with love, help you learn right from wrong?
Did he always decide what you’d do together?
Or always let you have your way? Or combine guidance and flexibility?
Did he cheer and enjoy you and your siblings or judge, mock or just tolerate you.
Did he emphasize grades too much? Did he care?
Did he see you only when you misbehaved?
Did he make you compete with the other kids? Favor you or them?
Was he fair?Good provider? Or did he make you beg for money?
Did he discuss family finances so you mastered money?
Did Dad demand Mom love only him, while he had other women?
Was he happy married to Mom?
What view of sex did he give?
How did he react to your puberty and interest in sex? What did he teach you to expect in relations?
Did he overwork? Work poorly? Balance work and play?
Did he laugh lots?
Did he leave or die early, making you deal with a stepdad or Mom’s lovers who modeled negative traits for you to adopt or rebel against?
Write the unhappy side of your history with him.
Release your anger toward him.
Tell him your withholds.
Relate your longing and unmet needs.
Tell him how you got his bad traits.
Pretend you and he, both 13 years-old, talk. First, play him. Tell your child (you) how your folks raised you that led you to parent as you did.
Compare your 13-year-old lives.
Play Dad and tell your child the trouble you had raising him or her.
Be you again. Tell Dad what you appreciate.
Tell him what you forgive him for.
See him buried and feel warmth for him. Tell him you love him.Make a list of his good traits and any of his habits you want as yours.
Relive the good side of your life with him.
Talk with him in person, if possible.
Clear, as you did for Mom and Dad, with each person in charge of you as you grew. Purge your negative feelings toward each.
PLAY IT AGAIN WITH LOVE
Relive an upset you had as an infant or later in life.
What did you feel? Feel it now. Express that emotion.
Tell and show people involved in the upset how you feel.
What’d you decide as a result of the upset?
What’d you gain from this decision?
What would you like to do that you didn’t do?
Rerun the scene aloud, the way you’d like it to have been. If you do it with a partner, have him or her play the other person involved in your upset the way you wanted. Do what you’d have liked to.
Forgive yourself and the other person.
What’d you learn? Sum it up; affirm what you learned.
Imagine living from what you affirm instead what you decided earlier.
Imagine yourself a reasonable adult in a safe, private, pretty place free of bad energy.
As Adult, tell the Brat in you, “I’ve purged the passion that made you misbehave. So stop blaming Mom and Dad for your immaturity.”
Tell Brat what you resent and demand of him or her.
Play Brat; respond. Tell Adult your gripes.
Alternate roles between Adult and Brat; air their cares.
Imagine white light pours on Brat, changing him to a playful child. As Adult, take Child on your lap. Ask Child to teach you to play.
Fantasize playing together.
Enact an excited, friendly, fun-loving five-year-old. Play ring-around-the-rosies, follow-the-leader, pass-the-apple, hide-and-seek, duck-duck-goose, freeze tag, jump-rope, doctor. Play spontaneously.Imagine your Child entering a warm, safe room in your heart.
Touch your heart whenever you wish to invoke him or her.
Consider “C,” one of your conflicts–one that doesn’t involve your real parents.
Fantasize a MODEL MOM, perfect every way. She always cherishes the babe, child, teen and adult within you. She adores your fantasy father and reacts always with archetypal maternal wisdom.
Portray her; tell your traits.
Tell your child (you) how you feel toward him or her.
Counsel your child how to relate to “C”.
Hold the child close and let him or her feel your love, absorb your clarity.
Change back to you and get Mom’s gifts.
Picture PERFECT POP–wise, warm, fair, protective, encouraging. He adores the child in you and worships yourideal mother.
Act him. Describe your qualities. Tell your child how you feel toward him or her.
Advise your child on Conflict C. Hold him or her and your ideal wife. Help your model mate convey compassion, strength and understanding to your child. Picture your HIGH SELF illuminating you and your ideal parents.
Fuse with your High Self; beam light and love to the ideal parents and their beloved child (you).Play you again and get the love, blessings and wisdom of Your High Self and your Ideal Parents.
Imagine your Ideal Parents enter the safe, warm room in your heart where your Inner Child dwells. There, they nurture the Child, who continues to grow.
This week, deal with Conflict C with the wisdom you gained from your Ideal Parents, High Self and Inner Child.
Invoke your perfect parents and High Self when you need encouragement and support.
FEEL FETAL PHASES
Do the rite below alone or with a breathworker. Either way, take the postures indicated. If you’re with a breathworker, use his or her hands and body to simulate the womb. Role-play (first) your actual and (second) improved natal experiences.
Imagine the first months you float in your mother’s womb. Feel yourself tiny again, afloat in fluid. Rub your cord and genitals, suck your fingers. Move your arms and legs through liquid. Hear Mom’s heart beat, her gut gurgle. You and she are as one, at peace, part of each other.Imagine you absorb her attitudes toward herself, Dad and you.
Feel if she drinks, smokes, snorts, rages, tenses, sickens, shoots-up, takes abuse, works in noise, tries to abort, almost miscarries; if she feels unhappy, unloved or starved.
Does she feel joy? Contentment?
Does she make love?
Bring your knees toward your chest. Put your hands under your chin. Curl as tight as you can.
Imagine the months before labor, when you grow too big for the womb. The womb presses you. When, occasionally, it contracts, you feel crushed, your food, warmth, contact, oxygen scrunch-off. You feel lonely, caged, hopeless, helpless, guilty, depressed.
You’re drawn to the cervix.
The cervix opens. You push and the birth canal pushes you along. You’re learning active cooperation. You’re learning to strive for better conditions.Identify with the canal. Squeeze the fetus along. Teach it what it’s like to be powerful.
Become the fetus experiencing labor again. Notice any difficult moments.
Does the cord loop or catch between your head and Mom’s pelvis, cutting your warmth, making you desperate for oxygen?
Do you feel sexual from feeling choked or sensing your mother’s excitement as you push and slide through her vagina?
Do you smell, feel or taste anesthetic?
Feel the heat as Mom’s nerves and yours fire.
Relive the moments before birth. Then emerge from the canal.
Feel blood flow to your lungs. They open and take over for the cord. Breathe air the first time. Release sounds. What do you feel, taste, smell, touch, hear, see, know in these first moments, hours and days in the world?How do Mom and others regard you? Notice your emotions as they react to you.
How do you regard yourself?
Fantasize and enact your womb-life, birth and first moments in the world the way you wanted.
When you do breathwork, you may see pastlife images–images of you and people you know, but in other bodies in earlier lives. You picture prior lives when you had traits and feelings you still have.Pastlives portray present problems and pleasures. A pastlife can exaggerate and explain your agony, ecstasy, confusion or compulsion. You can feel current, childhood and even birth joy and pain as though it belonged to someone you used to be.
YOU COULD SEE A PASTLIFE WHERE YOU
Fear being left, feel insecure?
were deserted, separated in a war, orphaned, sold into slavery, left to starve
Feel depressed, apathetic?
lost a beloved or parent; didn’t complete mourning; killed yourself; gave up in war, mass murder, exile
Fear beasts, fire, water, bugs, knives, disaster, smothering?
were hurt and killed by beasts, flames, water, bugs, knives, disaster, smothering
Feel guilty, play martyr?
made others die
Over-eat, starve, worry about money?
starved, were poor or bankrupt
Suffer injuries, physical abuse?
died as a young soldier
Get in family struggles?
were betrayed, bullied, or cheated by relatives
Have sex problems, genital infections or involvement in sex abuse?
raped, abused or tortured. If abused this life, you image abusing in prior lives.
Have cruel impulses?
were tormented, with sexual undercurrents and want to get even
Have marriage problems?
had reversed sex and power roles with your mate
Have chronic physical ills?
were hurt or killed by trauma to areas now troubling you
Have throat ailments?
denounced someone, held-in thoughts
hanged or strangled
Suffer wanderlust or long for homeland?
were exiled, separated from loved ones
Have traumatic labor or birth?
had same kind of trauma at death
tortured, tormented, took advantage, killed
Feel ill or depressed at certain times of year?
were killed, hurt, traumatized at that time of year
Treat a pastlife you get in breathwork or the exploration to follow as real; don’t judge or interpret.Express pain, horror, shame. Live the main events of the pastlife–death too. See how loss, hurt, guilt, grief, bitterness you felt that life led you to defend, rationalize and avoid resonances this life.You may image a life opposite yours now. Or see a series—a life when you were enslaved, raped or killed, then a life when you enslaved, raped or slew. Forgive yourself and your antagonists.You could view a pastlife when you parented the soul who’s now your mother or father. If you’re male, you could view an earlier life where you were female and the women in your life now were men. A parent this life could be a mate in another; your wife now could have been your son in a prior existence.Let earlier lives show you why you relate as you do this lifetime. Come to peace with yourself and them.
LEARN FROM A LAPSED LIFE
Lie on your back. Breathe deeply; relax. Think of an emotional, body or relation problem, a painful defeat, a subself you find hard to accept or a time someone abused you.See a scene, person or image to stand for the abuse, defeat, problem, hurting body part, or subself.
Talk aloud to that person or image; tell it/him/her how you feel about the situation. Let out your feelings.
Choose a few words to sum-up your feeling in the problem, defeat or situation. (Example: “It’s my fault.”)
Keep saying your sum-up sentence till it takes you back to a story of a prior life.
See the main turning points of the prior life.
Express your thoughts and feelings.
If you get darkness, or no visions, imagine that means you died. Replay the story, just before it darkens.
Forgive yourself and anyone you resented.
Say your last words and thoughts, then relive your death.
Separate from the body. As the separated soul, feel peace. Rejoin loved ones who already died. Float with them toward a light.
Meet the karma committee and your guide. They review the lessons you learned in that life. They tell you how to bring the lessons of that life into this one.
FANTASIZE THE FUTURE
Holotropic breathwork helps you learn your life work, work that gives life meaning–commitments to people, goals and principles. You pursue your purpose and enjoy serving larger causes. When you follow your calling, you put emotional upsets in wider perspective.
FIND YOUR PURPOSE
Get a large piece of paper and crayons.
Close your eyes.
See the landscape of your life, the roads taken, roadblocks, detours. View the regions–physical, emotional, social and spiritual–you traveled.Imagine yourself at the base of a mountain peak that stands for your highest purpose. Your experiences have prepared you to climb the mountain, fulfill your missions, find the meaning of your life, meet your destiny.
You’ll create a score or more great things as you ascend. Only you can climb this path, achieve these creations. Look up the trail and see these creations.
Draw your life-path. Show your past, present and future. Show the influences affecting your ascent. Identify regions, travel conditions and destinations.Put your drawing on the wall and look at it daily for a week.
Grace grows in death’s jaws. Almost dying or considering your death can be enlightening.People who barely escape death mature and feel more connected to life. Survivors of falls, near-drowning, combat, cardiac arrest and attempted suicide wind-up more spiritual, joyous and relaxed than before.Golden Gate suicide survivors–miserable when they leaped–transformed as they fell. In the seconds before they hit water, they reviewed their lives. Rescued, they started solving their problems; they savored life, helped others and valued the divine more.East Indians deployed doom to spur the spiritual. They threw a disturbed man to de-fanged cobras or to an elephant, trained to charge but not crush. Or they staged a trial, sentence, execution and last-minute pardon. American Plains Indians, initiating youths to spiritual adulthood, also staged near-fatal ordeals. Amazon Indians to this day evoke psychedelic death-visions in new shamans. Patients in psychedelic therapy–legal in the U.S. till the ’50s–likewise experienced dying, karmic life-review and spiritual deepening.People of every age, culture and religion who die then revive report similar experiences. You know you died, feel peace, float out of your body. Loving relatives and friends who already died guide you to a light. A Being of Light reviews your life and shows you its purpose: learning and love.When you almost die, you appreciate life more, take joyous responsibility, think more clearly and upset yourself less about trivia.After a near-death, you believe in an afterlife and no longer fear death. You love others more and seek further education. You connect with everyone and everything.
Holotropic breathwork evokes similar out-of-body experiences and images. Breathwork brings back accidents, illnesses, descent through the birth canal and delivery. You experience ego-death and realize you’re much more than just your intellect.Contemplate death with the rite below and come to peace with the fact that you’ll die. The rite helps you realize you’d better love, get honest, win your goals and fulfill your missions while you still can. It also teaches how–though you body dies–your soul, love, art, knowledge and contributions to human consciousness live on.
CONTEMPLATE YOUR DEATH
Fantasize a final get-together with the people and animals who mean most to you. Tell all, some or one of them any unfinished feelings you have.
Say what angry feelings you have.
Tell them withholds–secrets, desires you held back.
Say what you appreciate, your loving feelings and physical impulses toward them.
Fantasize you do what you want your last week alive.
Say your last words and thoughts. Imagine your heart stops.
Forgive yourself and anyone you resented.
Separate from your body and suffering. Feel relief and peace.See, from above, the people nearby. Try, but fail to talk to and touch them. Realize you died.
Whoosh down a tunnel toward the spirits of loved ones who already died.These guiding spirits take you to the Being of Light, the karmic guide or the Life-Review Committee, who show you the main events of your life and their consequences for others. Witness the love you gave. Review the love you got. Notice what you learned from your life, what you contributed to humanity, to the consciousness of the cosmos.
See what you need to complete–your missions and purposes–before you die “for real.” Return to this world. Wiggle your toes. Open and close your hands. Stretch. Swallow twice. Open your eyes; look at three things you enjoy seeing. Listen for three sounds you enjoy.
Holobreathing can make you think of others’ deaths too.
CONSIDER OTHERS’ DEATHS
Remember someone you knew who died [=X].
Imagine _____ [X] hears you now. Tell him/her what you left unsaid.
Play _____ [X] and reply.
Dialogue–switch back and forth, playing you and _____ [X].
If you’d like _____ [X] to forgive you, ask.
Hear _____ [X] forgive you.
If you held something against _____ [X], make a gesture of forgiveness and forgive him/her aloud.
Visualize your dearest living person [=Y]
Make-believe _____ [Y] has a few hours of life left, hours to spend with you.
Talk to _____ [Y] for the last time this life.
Play _____ [Y]. What, in these circumstances, do you say?
What, as you again, do you want to add?
CONJURE A COMING INCARNATION
Imagine yourself in a time machine that stops at a future life, one where you’ve completed the lessons you learned from all prior ones. Describe your ideal future.
Note aspects of this future you can live now.
EXPLORE THE SPIRITUAL
In breathwork, meditation, the rites in this book, nature walks or everyday life, you experience the spiritual. You may love and feel oneness with all people and things; have peak experiences. You get ecstatic rushes, visions. Perhaps you sense your psychic powers, see synchronicities.Maybe you meet archetypal guides or gods. You could even sense yourself and everything in the cosmos as aspects of the Creative Force.
Spiritual visions, feelings and insights free you, make you more present. Cleansed, you drop grandiose drives. You empathize more, enjoy people’s differences. And relish nature. Spiritual experiences let you view yourself and your experiences as part of a divine plan.
When you peak, you experience your High Self: clear, joyous, loving, blissful, timeless, absorbed, accepting, delighted, fascinated, at-one with the world.You may peak when you orgasm, deliver, marry or revive. Or dance, hike, climb, run, swim, dive, sail, bike, ski, skate, row, paddle. Or enjoy a spectacular sight, achieve insights, or feel oneness with God. Or even wash dishes or live any aspect of your life with total appreciation.
The rite below suggests you integrate the qualities of peak experiences you’ve had into your everyday life.
Relive a peak you had. See, hear, feel, relive; taste, smell, feel.
Re-experience the central quality of your peak.
Say a word or phrase that captures the quality (e.g., clarity, power, love, peace, bliss) of your peak.
Imagine you radiate this quality to someone. Now radiate it to your community. To the world.
Invoke an archetype–an image from humanity’s mind. Whatever archetype you get stands for a force in you and everyone else, too.Maybe you’ll see Christ, Flipper or Luke Skywalker. Take what you get–an image from meditation, breathwork, a dream, movie, novel, fairytale, sacred text, tarot, nature or fantasy. Or you may represent one of your moods, worries, mind-loops or compulsions. If a trait of your mate irks you, the trait may show up as an archetype.
Ask the image you get who it is, what it wants and why, what it’d like to show you. Accept its answers and the story it shows–even things you dislike or don’t understand.
Express your feelings to it. Tell it if it reminds you of a person, event or dream. If it says to do something in your head, do. If it suggests an ethical, reasonable outward activity, do that also.But if the archetype suggests something destructive or extreme, refuse and say why. Tell it that–whereas its world’s eternal–you’ve committed to fairness and justice, to serve people, to love and relate to family, friends in the present world. You need to express all your aspects. You have to listen to other archetypes too and keep your practical life together. Talk, compromise.
When you know an archetype, you and it guide and empower each other. You serve one another, those you love and the growth of human consciousness.
CHAT WITH AN ARCHETYPE
Close your eyes. Center and open yourself.
1. Imagine yourself in a sanctuary where you can get messages from deeper consciousness.
2. Picture a Greek god, personified force (e.g., tidal wave, Mother Earth), or a Tarot, fairy tale, book, Bible or movie character that stands for one of your problems or concerns.
3. See an archetype that symbolizes your current challenge, a fantasy you have, one of your life motifs, a mood or a worry you’d like to understand better. Picture a guide or a mysterious being. Review the images you saw. Focus on one of these images.
4. Identify with that image. As it, say your name and the archetype you represent. Say what you’re like.
5. Switch to yourself. Ask the archetype a question.
6. Change to the archetype; reply. Tell the person playing you what you want of her/him and what you need.
7. Play yourself. Tell the archetype your limits meeting its demands.
Ask if it has a rival.
Talk (4-8 above) with the rival.
Change into the rival, then the first archetype. Enact a dialogue between them until they and you feel unity.
Agree on a ritual and a place where you can meet them again.
Do a mind-ritual to return you to everyday reality.
Choose a way to use what you learned.
TRAVEL AS A HOLOTROPIC SHAMAN
The shaman served humanity since the Old Stone Age. The shaman–an otherwise ordinary farmer or hunter–sent his or her soul journeying into an alternate reality to heal other people. (11) The shaman’s still an archetypal part of you. The shaman in you comes out in holotropic work.
It’s easier to take a shamanic journey in a holotropic group than it was in the Old Stone days. To take a holotropic shaman’s journey, you attend lectures, watch slides, maybe miss a meal. Then you lie back and listen to majestic music. You return and share your visions with others.
If you’d been a traditional shaman, you’d have fasted, stayed awake, skipped sex. Then you’d drum, rattle, dance, chant yourself into a trance. In some societies, you’d take a psychedelic. Holotropic or traditional, when you’re a shaman, you go into a trance. You meet power-animals, guardians, teachers, guides, the dead. They give you riddles, advice and visions of the future. You encounter animal and nature spirits and feel how their spirits join. You go down into the lower world, rise to the upper or glide through the ordinary world with extra-ordinary power. Animal, plant or natural forces guide you down the roots of the world tree (or central axis). You meet lost souls and angry spirits and, though your guide helps you, the spirits may rip you apart or eat you. Then natural creatures or forces revive and repair you. They give you new powers and return you to everyday life to cure or ease the dying of others. When you enter the upper world you climb a tree, peak or rainbow. Or you fly as a bird. Flora, fauna, humans and spirits in the upper world mirror your gifts or unconscioussubselves. The denizens of this realm tell you ways to heal yourself and others, ways fix relationships too. They show you how to help your community.
Sometimes, on a shamanic journey, you stay here, in the middle
world, but your soul travels in space and time. You see what’s useful for you, others and the world. Whether you go to the lower, upper or middle worlds, when you return, you remember anything. In the days to follow, you share what you remember. And you chop wood or go to the office.
Here’s a rite for you to sample or deepen shamanic imaging before or after breathwork.
Play Journey of the Drums (or other shamanic drum music) while you lie on your back, eyes closed.
Imagine you’ve abstained from sex all week. You fasted, alone and awake, two days. Late this afternoon you steamed two hours in the sweatlodge, then jumped in the river.
Now, as dark descends, you sit in the ceremonial hut, feeling the psychedelic you took at sunset coming on. Your costumed and masked buddies and kin drum, shake rattles, click sticks, ring bells, dance, chant, support you.
To focus as you enter your trance, ask yourself:
What friends or relatives need help healing–bodily, emotionally or spiritually?
How do I want to help my community or the world?
What soul of the dead would be valuable to contact?
How do I need healing?
What perplexes me? What challenges me?
Find yourself transported to a cave, peak or tree–someplace in nature where you can access the shamanic realm.
Encounter an Ally–a friendly animal, plant, spirit or force. The Ally helps you descend into the lower world, climb, fly or ride a rainbow into the upper. Perhaps your Ally shows you how to send your soul through time and space on this world.
Confront the Guardian of the lower, middle or upper world. Identify with the Guardian, empathize with it. As it, block the shaman; overcome him or her. Or feel the shaman overcome you.
Be the Shaman again. Experience yourself–surviving or dismembered–reach your destination.
Meet a great power there. Merge with this power. Notice what you’re like it.
Be Shaman again and tell the power what you seek, your questions.
Be the power and answer.
Give the shaman experiences, visions, advice, commands, objects, information.
Take the shaman role again. Return to your clan; remembering all you experienced in the shamanic realm.
Translate what you learned on your journey into the life of the tribe.
Return to modern times and your present body. Think of specific ways you can use what you learned in this rite.
GET YOUR GUIDING MYTH
Process pain to its uplifting inner myth. Perceive the patterns pain pinpoints for you to improve. Pain, processed, propels progress–yours and humanity’s.
Grasp the bigger picture; rise above the particulars you experienced. Pain punctures your complacency so you can prune your patterns. Let wounding waken you.In the rite below, (12) tell the tale of your torment like a legend. Symbols and metaphors turn trauma to transformation. Sacred saga stimulates spiritual ascent.
Relive major emotional hurts in your life, how you suffered from conception till now. Recall when the womb, birth, illness or accident hurt you. Review times someone invaded, abused, raped, tortured or robbed you. Feel again when you lost trust, job, home, status, fortune, marriage, family, sanity, self-esteem, loved ones.See the effects–good and bad–of each injury. What did you want in each situation? Find the motifs threaded through them.
Retell the history of your hurts again as a hero-myth.
Instead of saying “I,” speak of a mystical child, god, animal, plant, another person or being on another planet. Include a call to adventure, guides, ordeal, reward, maturity-gain. Start with, “Once upon a time …”
Forgive the people and forces who hurt or betrayed you.
Resolve the story in a way that helps the hero and the world.
Fathom the moral of the fable, the purpose of the pain.
Next time you hurt, make it epic. Evoke an archetypal pattern that gives your personal loss meaning: growth for you, your group and the globe.
Earth lives, grows, thinks. Biologists define living systems as ingesting, digesting, using, excreting matter and energy, sensing the environment, coding, storing and retrieving information.(13)
Earth does all these–ingests, digests, etc. Humanity’s part of her self-reflective tissue–a cortical neuron net.
Identify with Earth, Gaia. As Gaia, contemplate your existence.Notice your circulation, elimination, growth, temperature-regulation, learning, energy-exchanges.
Watch the pains and promise of humanity.
What, as Gaia, do you want? Why? What do you need?
What do you resent about people? What do you demand? Appreciate? Tell humans what you want them to know.
Identify, again, with yourself as the holotropic journeyer. As yourself, imagine Gaia’s essence concentrating, till it’s a small sphere. Absorb the sphere into your heart, into a place in your heart where you and she can keep sharing.
Receive God, manifest in symbols acceptable to you. Identify with this final archetype of your essential nature. State your existence. Tell the person playing you what he or she needs to hear.
Detach into formlessness containing all potentials–arising, interpenetrating and dissolving, moment to moment.
1. Grof, S., Realms of the Unconscious: Observations from LSD Research, New York: Dutton, 1976; LSD Psychotherapy, Pomona: Hunter House, 1980; Beyond The Brain: Birth, Death and Transcendence in Psychotherapy, Albany: SUNY, 1985 and The Adventure of Self-Discovery: Dimensions of Consciousness and New Perspectives in Psychotherapy and Inner Exploration; Albany: SUNY, 1988; Grof, C. and S., Spiritual Emergency: When Transformation Becomes a Crisis, Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1989; The Stormy Search for the Self, Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1990.”Holo” means “whole,” “tropic” is “toward;” “holotropic,” “moving toward wholeness.”
2. Firman, J. and Vargiu, J., “Dimensions Of Growth,” Synthesis, 3-4, 1977; Vargiu, J., “Psychosynthesis Workbook,” Synthesis, Volume 1, 1974. 3. Tobin, S., “Saying Goodbye in Gestalt Therapy” in Banet, A., (ed.), Creative Psychotherapy, La Jolla: University Associates, 1976.
4. Hoffman, B., Getting Divorced From Mother and Dad, New York: Dutton, 1976. 5. Hoffman, B., 1976, op. cit.
6. Huxley, L., Recipes for Living Between Heaven and Earth, 1975, New York: Avon, pages 160-165.
7. Grof, S., 1988, op. cit.; Woolger, R., Other Lives, Other Selves, New York: Doubleday, 1987 and what I’ve seen.
8. Grof, S., The Adventure of Self-Discovery, NY: SUNY, 1988; Grof, S. and C., Beyond Death, London: Thames and Hudson, 1980; Noyes, R. and Kletti, R., “The Experience of Dying from Falls,” Omega 3:45, 1972; Rosen, D., “Suicide Survivors: A Follow-Up Study of Persons Who Survived Jumping from the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridges,” Western Journal of Medicine 122:289, 1973.
9. Maslow, A., The Farther Reaches of Human Nature, NY: Penguin, 1971.
10. Dallet, J., “Active Imagination in Practice” (in Jungian Analysis, Stein, M., editor, Boulder: Shambala, 1984) and Johnson, R., Inner Work (Harper and Row, 1986).
11. Harner, M., “What is a Shaman?” in Shaman’s Path, Dire, G. (ed.) Boston: Shambala, 1988; Townsend, J., “Neo-Shamanism and the Modern Mystical Movement” in Dire, G., 1988, op. cit.; Walsh, R., “Shamanism and Early Human Technology: The Technology of Transcendence,” ReVision 12:1, Summer, 1989; “The Shamanic Journey: Experiences, Origins, and Analogues,” ReVision 12:2, Fall, 1989.
12. Houston, J., The Search for the Beloved, Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1987.
13. Russell, P., The Global Brain, Los Angeles: Tarcher, 1983.
14. Wilber, K., The Spectrum of Consciousness, Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing, 1977.