Breathwork starts here. This is the rock-solid, number one most important concept to understand if and when you decide to try breathwork. It underlies everything we do as facilitators, and it should be the first “law” to which your mind returns during any moment of uncertainty you experience during your sessions.
Trust the process — the first three words that were spoken to me in my very first breathwork session (of the Holotropic variety) back in 1991. Its meaning? In breathwork, strive to bring an attitude of trust to all of your experiences — because your intuitive self will guide you! When you do this, and let go of trying to control things from your ego-mind, and surrender… then ultimately exactly what needs to unfold will unfold. And everything will be okay. This basic idea has proven true for me ever since. Those three little words capture the essence of all worthwhile breathwork sessions in which I’ve ever participated. And, I’ve seen the same principle work for thousands of participants over the years.
Your “Innate Guiding Intelligence”
You have an innate guiding intelligence (IGI) inside of you, which always knows what your true self needs next. There are many names for this, and you may be more comfortable with one or another of them: Higher Self, Inner Knowing, Intuition, Inner Healer, Most Authentic Self, Deep Spontaneous Self, Soul, etc. It doesn’t matter what you call it, your first breathwork session and every session after it is a lesson in practicing this principle, which we will explore in this post. (Actually over time, I’ve come to realize that this principle applies to all of life. But that’s a topic for another blog post.)
Your IGI knows exactly what you need next for your soul’s development, growth, and healing. While your ego-mind may not agree, this instinct in you is always striving to return you to a state of equilibrium, homeostasis, balance, healing, etc. It knows exactly what your soul requires for optimum functioning in any given moment. Your job is to trust!
Like Plants Lean Towards the Sun
It’s helpful to imagine the way that a plant will lean towards light, in order to catalyze photosynthesis, the essential process which keeps it alive. In this same way, our IGI always know which way to lean to receive the nourishment it needs.
However, and this is the key: Our IGI does not come from the left-brain thinking mind. We access it — and turn towards the sun — only when we stop trying to figure it out in our mind… when we begin to trust our inner guidance… THAT is when we effortlessly move towards healing and catharsis and release. It’s the ultimate paradox… we’ve been taught to figure life out with our logical, thinking brain. Yet we can only access the IGI when we let go of the incessant thoughts and judgments of the ego-mind, which many call the “monkey-mind.” In other words, and this is the paradox for those of us raised in modern society: You cannot access your IGI through the left-brained thinking ego mind.
The Full Catastrophe
There is a scene in the movie Zorba the Greek where the main character describes how he has embraced every one of the essential elements of life: “Marriage, having a house, having children, everything — the full catastrophe”. I think this is a useful analogy for us today. Our job in life is to embrace our own “full catastrophe” — to accept the totality of our human experience. That includes every joy, and happiness, and every uplifting moment and every loving moment. But it also includes every pain, every stuckness, every sadness, every moment of anger.
In other words, we cannot embrace only the joys of life. We must also open a space in our hearts to be curious/give permission to/allow/ create a space to our own “full catastrophe!” This is your “work” in breathwork… to release all judgment of your experience in the session… whatever your experience — “good” or “bad” — expected or unexpected — THAT is exactly the experience you need in that moment.
Many people also believe that there is a direct correlation between painful and joyful experiences: That the degree we suppress our pain is ultimately the degree to which our joy will be suppressed. We may not be able to open to one while remaining closed to the other.
There is another saying you will hear a lot of in breathwork… “What you resist persists.” This ties directly in to this idea of accepting the full catastrophe. We’ll be adding a full blog post on that topic shortly!
The Best Analogy I’ve Ever Come Up With To Describe How the IGI Works
When you cut your finger, you do not have to “think” about the healing of that cut! You do not have to actively send commands from your mind to your body: “Okay sound the white blood cell alarm! Tell them to congregate in the left shoulder and march down the arm together. They must all end up at the cut and start the healing process. NO — thank goodness we don’t have to do this! There is an innate healing system which is built-in to our body. It’s miraculous when you actually take a moment and think about it. Our bodies are innate mentally-effortless healing machines! Imagine how much trouble we would get into if we tried to control this natural process with our minds.
Well the exact same innate healing intelligence exists inside of us and works effortlessly for our psychological and emotional natures as well! It’s true. Every breathwork I’ve ever practiced this, it has worked! I’ve seen it work for thousands of live in-person breathwork participants! Dr. Stan Grof observed this principle in tens of thousands of breathwork and psychedelic sessions over his long and storied career.
Here’s another way to think about it: Anytime a judgment arises wherein you want to experience something different than what you are experiencing e.g. “I wish I could experience a mystical state,” or “Everyone else is experiencing deep things except for me,” or “nothing’s happening,” or “I can’t get out of my head,” etc. etc. etc…. that thought originates in your mind — the source of all judgment and resistance! The mind is NOT the IGI. So, in breathwork, your job is to practice letting go of all that and fully trust and embrace whatever IS actually happening… that is your process in that moment. You must fully accept whatever is happening… only then can you experience the full power of your IGI!
Some of us already live in the world of trusting the moment-by-moment unfolding of reality – of believing that things are unfolding just as they should. For the rest of us, that’s a big leap from our everyday way of seeing things. It requires a leap of faith. Think of it this way: Every breathwork session you attend is an invitation to practice letting go of the mind and trusting your inner intelligence to instinctively take you exactly where you need to go.
The simple straightforward summary of Breathwork Law #1? Get out of your head. Stop trying to control your process. Stop wishing your process was something else. And practice Trusting. Trusting that you are exactly where you need to be. Your IGI knows exactly what it is doing!
And that brings us to Breathwork Law #2: Surrender!
More on that in our next post.