(1) Breathwork Story: Breathing into Joy.
I arrived at Benita’s Beach Retreat at the Florida Gulf Coast filled with unknowing. Trepidation, nervousness, worry, hope and fear flowed through me as I anticipated the days ahead.
“This will be profound,” Benita said, “Life changing.”
I kept telling myself “No matter what, this will be an adventure. No matter what, I will be OK.” Yet I was really, really scared. I think I was terrified of actually facing and encountering all the pain I’d been living with for so long. I was afraid of looking deeply at myself and I was afraid of opening in front of strangers, afraid of relinquishing control. I guess, since I’ve been living in a cloud of generalized fear for a long time, it made sense that I would feel fear about confronting fear.
Benita described the Breathwork process in great detail. It sounded rather outlandish. Would I be able to do it and be successful? By coming to the retreat I had placed myself in a position of trusting Benita. I had to consciously decide to honor that initial trust, to continue trusting, to trust her and the process. I tried to quiet all the doubts and just follow through with her instructions.
I lay cocooned and darkened, breathing into my depths. Belly expanded, air flowing toward the pelvis. At times I felt like a woman in labor. Big belly, pushing pelvis. Music swirling, sometimes lovely, sometimes crazy. I knew my mind was supposed to relax, dissolve, as other consciousness emerged. But, my mind did not go easily into that altered state. It kept watching me, doubting me. “This won’t work,” it said, “You will fail.” “You will fail at breathing.” Suddenly this seemed so ludicrous. To fail at breathing! Hysterical! I felt great waves of laughter rising in me. They rippled along my abdominal wall and into my chest. Waves, shudders, rolling abdomen. Then, came pain. The laughter was gone. My chest filled with ice, with memories of a past time when I’d felt frozen. Pain tore through my middle and into my chest. Black, ripping pain, layered on and interlaced with memories of years of this same pain. Memory and present merged. Sharp, stabbing, overwhelming. Yet, somewhere behind all this, I felt a capsule of excitement, of happiness. It was working. I was experiencing the profound. I was inside the life changing experience. I had not failed at breathing! The pain subsided. I didn’t want it to go. It seemed I wasn’t done with it yet and it wasn’t done with me. Years of darkness can’t dissipate in one threshold experience, can they? A few more black waves rolled in and then quiet.
I focused on my breathing. Deep in, deep out.
Then, movement. My right arm wanted to move across the floor, to stretch, to reach out far above my head, hand open, palm up, beseeching. Instead of ice, my chest filled with yearning. Opening, opening into a huge empty cavity of longing. Now the left arm is moving, now the left hand is stretching, fingers splayed, asking, seeking. “Fill me.” “Fill me.” I am a voice begging, “fill me.” The straining cavernous chest, the reaching arms, the spreading fingers. “Fill Me.” I think of light, sharp yellow and blue, dazzling, flooding my palms. I fill with the words “Fill me.” I reach and reach, pulling towards the light, pleading.
And then, it’s over. My arms relax, my chest deflates. I am released back into a normal body, arms resting on breathing belly, mind in a state of wonder, wanting more.
– E.E. (September 2012)
As I started my retreat journey to my Authentic Self, my feelings were so mixed. I was so nervous, uncomfortable to the point of making myself sick to my stomach and my head ached. I asked the Holy Spirit to guide me and be with me as I faced this new adventure.
The first day Benita talked about what to expect, but I had no idea that I would be so moved. Normally I am a person of doubt and mistrust. At the beginning of the Breathwork, I kept telling myself, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” And then something happened. I did it! I honestly can say that this new method of finding my Authentic Self was amazing!
During my first breathwork, I asked the Holy Spirit to be with me and keep me safe. After several minutes of deep breathing, memories started flooding in. I experienced many different feelings such as intense pain, deep sadness and then anger. During this time, I was able to process some of the anger and sadness that I felt about my abusive past and for the first time, I realized I did not deserve the abuse.
At the end of our breathwork session, I felt like I was floating, held in the arms of the Holy Spirit. The pain was gone. I had an inner peace which I had not ever experienced.
Before the retreat, people normally saw me as a “Chatty Cathy,” but no more. I no longer felt the need to hide behind frenzied words and a plastic smile. I was relaxed. I had found a wonderful part of me. I could finally think of my past without anger, pain and sadness, and most of all, I knew I was OK.
– R.J. (September 2012)
* * * These stories were written by the Breathwork participants and posted with permission. * * *
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Benita A. Esposito, Facilitator. Bio