Can you relate to any of these situations?
1. You find yourself getting emotionally triggered, and you wish that didn’t happen to you.
2. Your relationships get damaged. You and your partner don’t know how to resolve conflicts so you don’t feel deeply loved and respected.
3. When you get emotionally triggered, you don’t deal with it constructively. Instead you say things you wish you hadn’t or you withdraw. Maybe you eat junk food, or drink too much. Maybe you get headaches, back aches or your digestion gets disrupted. Other diseases flare. Or maybe you become forgetful and accident-prone.
4. You procrastinate, avoiding tasks that are important to complete at home or at work.
If you are tired of limiting patterns repeating in your life, and if you are serious about your personal and spiritual growth, you can make faster progress than weekly therapy sessions allow. Breathwork can help you create the breakthroughs you long for. Read on.
There is a connection between unresolved emotional wounds and irritability, depression, anxiety, physical pain, PTSD and disease. Here’s how it works.
How Problems Start.
We close down emotionally when we are too scared or unskilled to feel our emotions, take responsibility for them, and stay open. We don’t know how to stay fully present and keep the energy open and flowing in our bodies, so our bodies get tight and protected. I call this body-mind armoring. Our breathing gets shallow. We’re afraid to say what we really feel for fear a loved one or a co-worker won’t respond to us with kindness. Or we lash out. Neither is healthy.
This pattern often starts in childhood. With every harsh word or feeling of not being loved, we close down a little more. If a skilled adult does not know how to help us heal and open our hearts again, we become defended. We put on a protective mask which covers up our Authentic Self. It hurts to stay open and not have loved ones meet our emotional needs, so we get quiet and withdraw. Or we get angry and lash out. We become high-achievers, trying to get the acknowledgment we crave. We may sexually act out, trying to get love, but always feeling empty. We may drink or do drugs or eat to cover up our pain. We may rebel. We may distance in relationships or become clingy. We may not take good care of our bodies because there’s always more important things to get done. We may experience numbness, emotional reactivity, physical pain or disease. We’ve don’t develop a loving relationship with our bodies so we don’t give it the nurturance it needs.
The Vicious Cycle
Most of us believe that emotions are positive or negative. We want to feel the positive and we want to get rid of the negative. Depending on which emotions we define as bad, we feel ashamed when we feel them. Examples are anger or hurt or insecure or afraid. When we judge our emotions as bad, we develop an attitude of self-condemnation. In the process of judging the part of ourselves that feels bad, we may believe that God does not love us unconditionally. We disconnect from this constant source of love and then we suffer. Although we desire love from others, we often attract others who judge us harshly because birds of feather flock together. We judge ourselves; they criticize us or distance from us. That hurts even more because we don’t get our love needs met. The vicious cycle spirals around and around: wanting love and not experiencing enough love.
We set up all sorts of compensating strategies: trying to be good enough, smart enough, pleasing enough, productive enough. Or we get angry. We run ourselves ragged. Just like the myth of Sisyphus who rolls a giant ball up the hill every day only to have it roll back down, we feel an underlying sense of defeat, even when we are making progress. It’s exhausting. After a while, we get burned out. Or life deals us so many challenges that we can’t cope because we didn’t develop healthy coping strategies in the first place. In any case, we have lost touch with our Authentic Self, our spirit, which in turn connects to the Holy Spirit.
Let’s reframe this: Negative emotions are not the cause of our problems.
It is not fear, anger, or anguish that is the problem. Contrary to popular opinion, these emotions are not our enemies. We do not have to get rid of them, release them, pray them away or fill them with light and happiness.
We need to accept these emotions as part of our human experience without acting out or holding them in and getting depressed. Just as we experience light when the sun rises in the morning and darkness after the sun sets at night, we can also experience our emotional light and darkness as natural occurrences, and stay connected with God, the source of all healing and love.
Not knowing how to heal emotionally and re-connect with God is the source of our problems.
So, how do we heal?
We have to figure out a way to open our hearts again after we have become wounded. We must learn how to become emotionally intimate within ourselves and with God. Then we will be able to share this emotional intimacy with significant others. Then we will attract people who love us for who we are, our Authentic Self.
Opening our hearts leads to forgiveness, which is easier said than done. Instead of trying to figure out how to forgive, which occurs from a lower state of consciousness, I help boost you into the highest state of consciousness where you feel nice and cozy with God. You become seated in the fullness of Love. Then forgiveness is a natural by-product. You realize that only a shift of perception was needed. You don’t have to try and make forgiveness happen. It just happens. You forgive yourself for leaving the all-encompassing love of God.
Breathwork combined with spiritual healing the most effective tools I’ve found to help you heal and access spiritual states of consciousness. With mastery, you will bask in wisdom and love. I’ll teach you how to open your heart again. You will have a real live experience of how to do it. We won’t just be talking about it or reading about it. You will have the experience of emotional intimacy with yourself, with God and with others. You’ll be able to think more clearly. Energy will flow, activating your body’s natural healing abilities. Spiritual doorways will fly open so you can receive Love and insight. It’s this spiritual Love and insight that heals.
Q: What happens in Breathwork?
A: We pray for Jesus and the Holy Spirit to direct the healing work. You’ll be lying on the floor on your sleeping bag or blanket, and you’ll have a small pillow under your neck and a big pillow under your knees so you lower back is supported. You’ll bring another blanket to cover up with in case you get cold. After instruction on how to do diaphragmatic breathing, I’ll help you go into a state of deep relaxation where you feel safe.
Evocative music helps you feel your emotions while you get in touch with your body at a whole new level. You’ll get out of your “head.” You’ll get grounded and centered and you’ll know what that means, perhaps for the first time. You’ll be able to feel your emotions while containing them because you will be in a relaxed, dreamy state similar to twilight anesthesia. You’ll learn how to stop rejecting that part of yourself who feels uncomfortable emotions. You may feel the whole range of emotions from joy to sorrow, but you won’t be overwhelmed. As you learn how to be vulnerable in this safe place, you will develop a whole new kind of strength and courage … the courage to be Your Authentic Self without judging yourself. Your self-esteem and self-confidence will soar. You’ll feel so much more connected to God … on a feeling level where it really counts.
After the breathwork, you’ll draw pictures of what you experienced. This is not an art contest, so let go of that judgment. Drawing symbols and colors helps you to process and remember your experience. Then you’ll share your experience, and I’ll coach you briefly, answering any questions ou may have. If you are doing group Breathwork, the group will give you support as well.
Q: So, Breathwork is like meditation, right?
A: No. You may think breathwork is a quiet meditation. That’s not the kind of breathwork I’m talking about. This is more like an aerobic workout with emotional catharsis, and it can be noisy. If you’ve ever been to a charismatic church service, you’ll see some similarities. I teach you how to do deep diaphragmatic breathing. We’ll be doing that for an hour or more. You must have enough will power to keep breathing deeply that long.
Our intent is to help you melt through your protective layers so you can access your Authentic Self, your Spirit. We all have layers of protection. I think of them like layers of an onion. As you melt through the outer layers, you will have access to the inner layers. Your Authentic Self lies in the center. I equate your Authentic Self with your Spirit. Your Spirit is connected to the Holy Spirit. That’s what we want to get in touch with. That’s where the healing power lies.
Q: If I do Breathwork one time, is that enough?
A: Every time you do breathwork, you’ll be able to peel back another layer and develop more ability to feel and heal. You can’t do it all at once.
Here’s a metaphor: If you wanted to train for a marathon, you would not expect to be able to run 12 miles or 26 miles the first time you trained. That’s impractical.
It’s also impractical to expect that you are going to be able to eliminate all your protections in one breathwork session. It’s a process over time. The more you do breathwork, the deeper you can go. You can feel higher and freer every time. Just like training for a marathon, some training sessions are easy, some are tedious. If you stop training when you hit a rough patch, you’ll never develop the ability to run the full marathon. The same is true with Breathwork. If you keep going even when the going gets tough, you will develop personal and spiritual mastery.
If you participate in only one breathwork session, it is absolutely worth it! You’ll experience a whole new relationship with your body-mind-emotions-spirit and the Holy Spirit. Then you can decide if you want to do more.
Q: What are the rewards of breathwork and this kind of spiritual healing?
A: The reward is getting to experience your Authentic Self … your Spirit … and sublime intimacy with God. There’s no better experience than this. From this relationship, when you work, you work with joy. Your body moves in the direction of healing. You love with wisdom. Your relationships improve. You can say “no” to unhealthy relationships. You take better care of yourself. You no longer feel empty and lonely. While insecurity may still come and go, you feel so much more whole and complete. You know your center. You know your God who fuels your love and light and laughter. You experience peace in the middle of the storm. Forgiveness becomes easy because no one can shake your wholeness. With repeated practice, you will develop high level mastery. You’ll know a process that really works for healing emotions and returning to God.
Q: What can I expect my body to do in breathwork?
A: Your body may experience all kinds of changes. You may get cold and hot. You may feel heavy or light. You may feel numb or you may feel pain. Your muscles may cramp. You may get confused and foggy. You may get sad or angry. Or you may be surprised with a deep belly laugh that comes out of the blue for no reason at all. You may have transcendent spiritual insights where your body feels charged with energy.
If you keep breathing and stay open, you will move through all kinds of experiences. The intention is to cultivate the ability to stay completely connected with yourself in all your feelings, moment to moment, and stop abandoning yourself. Feelings change like the weather. Allow them to change. You can always call on me for help.
Q: What if I get too scared? You can stop the deep breathing if you choose to, and you will return to a normal state of consciousness. I ask that you stay present in the room or on the deck over looking the lake and mountains. At the end of the session, most likely you’ll feel much more balanced, clear and grounded.
Here’s an example of how moving from numbness to feeling emotion works.
Sometimes when I get a massage, in the beginning I have no pain. But as my massage therapist rubs my body, I feel pain that I didn’t feel before. She tells me the pain is due to tension that needs to be worked out. Before we started, I wasn’t aware of the tension. As she massages with just the right amount of pressure, the muscles loosen up and the pain subsides. It always helps when I breathe deeper.
When we have unresolved emotion, we often tense up our bodies to protect ourselves from feeling the full impact of that emotion. During breathwork, you may feel emotional and physical pain you didn’t know you had. As you breathe and feel and stay present, you will loosen up the stuck emotions that have been lodged in your tight body. I may also do hands-on-healing work to help you develop the courage to feel, and I will help you work through the stuck places of emotional-physical-spiritual wounding.
Q: Once the feelings come out, should I control them and keep them in?
A: You should feel the emotions and let them come out. You will learn how to process the emotions so you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else.
Q: I understand you use sound and movement in the healing process. How does that work?
A: I play evocative music designed to help you feel your emotions and get out of your head. I encourage you to make the authentic sound of your emotions. You will hear people breathing loudly. You may hear people crying or wailing or being scared or angry. You will use all the sound as a catalyst to do your own healing work without getting distracted by trying to fix someone else’s pain. This is a time to stay centered on yourself and let go of the idea that you are being selfish.
I encourage you to make the authentic movement of your emotions. You’ll be lying on the floor. It’s OK to pound the floor if you are angry. We’ll have pillows to put under your fists so you don’t get hurt. Or you can kick your legs up and down. We make sure you are safe and everyone around you is safe.
Q: I’ve already done quite a bit of healing. Why do I keep having the same emotional issues over and over again?
A: Every emotional experience has its own energy loop. If you feel only part of the emotion, you’ll get stuck. That emotion will play over and over again like a broken record … calling your attention to it like a needy child … until you are willing to stay present and feel the entire emotion. Many people think they have felt the whole energy loop, but they haven’t. That’s where I come in. I help you realize where you have disconnected and I help you connect with the deepest part of the emotional experience. I help you love yourself in your darkest moments, and receive Love from the Holy Spirit. You will experience my love, which may be the first time you have felt deeply loved while you feel so vulnerable. With enough processing, you will complete the emotional energy loop. You will feel free and light. This may happen in one session, or it may take more than one session.
I like this definition: Emotion = Energy in Motion
As Einstein explained, energy is never lost or gained, only transformed. When we loosen up stuck energy, we can use it for creativity, love and brilliance.
Q: Can you explain more about how the healing works?
A: Let me give you another metaphor. Water has 3 states. It can be a gaseous vapor: H2O. It can be a liquid. Or it can be ice.
When we are defended and hardened, we are like ice. We have lots of mind chatter that generates anxiety, stress, depression, etc. We suffer emotional and physical pain.
As we begin to process emotions in healthy ways, we become fluid like water. We develop the skills to become transparent, vulnerable and self-disclosing. Our anger softens and we get in touch with the hurt and fear underneath the anger. We may cry. We speak in undefended, honest ways.
When we resolve the wounded emotions, we become like vapor. We get in touch with our Spirit, and we can feel the Holy Spirit within us and around us. It is in this state that we come to know our wholeness. We go from thinking about being whole to FEELING whole. We experience the peace that passes all understanding. We experience Love with a capital “L.” We become clear and brilliant and centered. All the mind chatter stops. All the clouds disappear, and the sun shines.
Q: How is Breathwork different than Psychotherapy?
A: Breathwork is a spiritual healing format, not a psychotherapy format. Most of the work is done without words, which enables you to bypass your conscious mind. You cannot solve a problem from the level of the problem. Talk therapy is very beneficial, but it can only take you so far. I highly recommend that you have a foundation of cognitive therapy before you do breathwork. Then you can rise to a higher state of consciousness. You must experience your emotions and the spiritual doorway that opens, not just talk about your problems. Then major transformation occurs.
We surround our healing session in prayer. I am a Christian and I evoke the healing power of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. If you desire it, you will develop a more intimate relationship with Jesus. My Breathwork sessions are open to people of all faiths who want to experience this kind of healing work.
I listen to you even when you are not talking, and I listen to the Holy Spirit. I place my hands on you (with your permission, of course) when the Holy Spirit tells me to, and I take them off when the Holy Spirit tells me to. I use the amount of pressure I’m told to use. It may be light and gentle, or firm with pressure. You can also tell me to use lighter or heavier pressure, or to take my hands off you. It is important that you practice good boundary-setting to take care of yourself. Many people who have been violated have trouble setting good boundaries. This is a good place to practice setting boundaries and being your Authentic Self.
I do not do the healing; the Holy Spirit does the healing through me. That’s why this work is so powerful. Miracles happen. That simply means that unexplainable results occur, given our current paradigm. We are learning how to access a paradigm where “miracles” are normal, just like Jesus did.
Q: I’m concerned about feeling vulnerable and being dependent on you.
A: My intent is to empower you, not to promote dependency on me. If you want to develop the ability to do emotional-spiritual healing so you excavate your Authentic Self, you’ll need a good teacher and counselor over a period of time. The same would be true if you wanted to develop mastery in music or any sport. I recommend that you participate in a series of retreats which include breathwork. Start with one retreat and see how you like it. If you don’t want to do this work in a group, you can request private sessions.
Q: How often should I do Breathwork?
A: That depends on how serious you are about your personal and spiritual mastery. If you are highly committed, jump at the chance to do every retreat offered. Monthly, quarterly, twice a year or our annual beach retreat are all great choices until you are able to maintain the level of mastery you desire.
Q: What should I expect after Breathwork?
A: Do not plan any activity the night of a one-day retreat, and don’t make any plans for the next day. You’ll experience a big energy shift, and you may need extra sleep and time to rest before going back into normal social consciousness. It’s a bit like out-patient surgery. You need to give yourself time to recuperate and adjust. You’ll integrate the higher level of consciousness better if you allow yourself quiet time after returning home.
Note: It is best to use breathwork retreats as an adjunct to private psychotherapy. Ongoing follow-up is highly recommended, and sometimes required.
If you have a medical condition, see your medical doctor, and report the medical condition to me. Follow your doctor’s protocol, and give me permission to talk to your doctor. Breathwork does not take the place of medical procedures, but is an adjunct to it.
BREATHWORK HEALING STORIES
Click here to read Laura’s Stories
Click here to read several breathwork testimonials.
Click here to read about how one woman was healed of an eating disorder.
Click here to read 2 client stories about Breathwork at the Beach Retreat 2012.
For the list of retreats which incorporate breathwork, visit www.Flourishing-Lives.com. Click on”How I Help” then Retreats.
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Facilitator: Benita A. Esposito is a breathwork practitioner, Licensed Professional Counselor, life coach, and ordained minister with AIWP. This retreat is conducted in a spiritual healing format, not psychotherapy.
You may reach Benita Esposito through the contact page at www.Flourishing-Lives.com.