by Sandra Phocas, M.D.
Edited and posted by Alysson Troffer, The Inner Door Editor, InnerDoor (at) ahbi.org
[Editor's Note: This article was originally published in The Inner Door in May 2008. Start with Part 1 of this article.]
Supporting the Ongoing Process
Besides grounding, another general category of importance after a Holotropic Breathwork session is allowing any ongoing process to continue to unfold. When we get up off the mat, our process is not necessarily over, as many of us know only too well. We have opened ourselves and invited in something so much larger than our individual self, and it is important to honor its presence and continued need for space and time, as well as anything else that can facilitate its assimilation. It can again help to consider allowing unstructured time and space, as well as options such as: drawing, dance, journaling, bodywork, therapy with a transpersonal therapist, vocalizing or other form of expression, and the use of sound or music, as well as intention. Again, allowing the process to show you what it needs is important.
Even if it is unclear that there is an ongoing process or what it is, it is valuable to not disconnect from the Holotropic Breathwork experience; remember that what happened was real and significant and happened for a reason. It can help to hang up your mandala, to talk about the experience with someone who is understanding and supportive, to journal about it, and to allow it to be present in your mind, body, and heart. If any aspects of the experience stand out, it might be useful to allow that energy to express itself through drawing, movement, vocalization, or other expression, to allow it further manifestation.
Know, too, that we don’t have to necessarily consciously understand what happened or is happening for the experience to have an impact inside ourselves.
The Big Picture
Another aspect of integrating holotropic experiences is the larger context or perspective in which we hold them. Reading transpersonal literature and particularly Stan Grof’s books, as well as texts on mythology and archetypes, can be quite helpful. A tool of profound help to me over the years with respect to perspective and integration is archetypal astrology. I have had multiple astrological consultations with Matthew Stelzner (www.matthewstelzner.com), and that has helped me to open to very diverse aspects of myself, as well as to bring in a larger perspective than I had previously been able to hold space for, even after intense and huge transpersonal experiences on the mat. Astrology also helped me find ways to work more consciously with the archetypal energies in my birth chart and transits.
Some cautions are useful to keep in mind after Holotropic Breathwork sessions, as breathwork can leave us in a very open and vulnerable place, and often with an ongoing or as yet unintegrated process. Just keeping an awareness of this possibility—knowing that you are more open than usual and that the world might feel somewhat harsh and overwhelming for a time—is useful. Also, be careful who you share the experience with, choosing only those people who will be understanding and supportive, rather than critical or over-analytical. It is best to put off major decisions right after breathwork sessions, to not stay too busy or overbooked, and to not ignore the inner process or over-analyze the experience. If you are struggling after a session, consider calling the facilitator, if needed. Know that finding a balance between being open and closed in the world is an ongoing process.
How Often Should I Breathe?
For each person (and perhaps changing over time for each person), the time necessary between Holotropic Breathwork sessions varies. Sometimes, a lengthy time between sessions might be needed in order to integrate one session and be ready for another. For myself, when I started attending breathwork workshops in 1997, I was immediately yanked down into another world and didn’t come out for a long time. I found it necessary to go to workshops as often as I could—once a month at the time—to get help with my ongoing process, as well as to do individual experiential work between breathwork sessions with the facilitator. I vividly remember counting down the days between workshops, trying to hold on until the next one.
Others might find that they need quite a while to sit with and integrate a particular breathwork session before they feel ready for another. When I discussed this topic with a colleague, he spoke of the need often for months or even a year of integration for some breathwork sessions. So, frequency of sessions is another area where one must listen inside for what feels right for oneself at a particular time and not make plans just based on what the logical mind wants to have happen.
Integration involves living congruently within oneself. It involves living the new worldview, the new way of being, in daily life. When we incorporate new perspectives of self and world, when we ourselves are changed at our core, the change infiltrates every aspect of life, shining forth from us in our speech and our actions. It affects how we treat ourselves, others, and the world in general. It is the ongoing, vital path of moving toward wholeness.
Sandra Phocas is a shamanic practitioner and Holotropic Breathwork facilitator in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She began her journey training and working in Western medicine as a psychiatrist, followed by years of passionately pursuing training in a variety of deep healing work. She certified as a Holotropic Breathwork practitioner in 2003. She also facilitates Holotropic Breathwork workshops in Maryland, Virginia, and New York. She can be found on the web at www.Co-CreativeEvolution.com.
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