On the evening of the winter solstice in Bali, I began a 10 day Shamanic Breathwork facilitator training. Ironically, I found myself in a facilitator training without ever having done breathwork before, but I know well enough by now to trust what the Universe has in store for me. By the end of those 10 spectacular and brutal days, I had let go of pain that I had carried since before my conception and felt myself embody a new version of myself, brimming with powerful alchemy.
Shamanic Breathwork is a combination of breathwork and shamanic practices including chakra aligned music, drumming/use of other instruments, and body/energy work, all used to facilitate a truly transformative experience. Shamanic Breathwork was created over 30 years ago by Linda Star Wolf, who also created the Venus Rising Association, which trains and supports facilitators in service of ‘breathing’ the world.
During a breathwork session people work in pairs. The ‘breather’ is the person that will be taking the breathwork journey. The ‘co-journeyer’ is the person that is tending to the breather; they offer whatever the breather needs during their journey (this is discussed in the pair prior to the breathwork session beginning so that each are clear on the boundaries of the session – what to do, what not to do, where to touch, where not to touch, etc.). At the end of the breathwork journey, when you are led out of your trance state and brought back into the present moment, the breather draws whatever comes to them about their journey (this could be a single dot in the middle of the page or an elaborate scene, including words, figures, symbols, or numbers).
It’s impossible for me to speak to the depths with which my 10 day experience took me but upon reflection, there were three aspects of the journey that impacted me the most.
Tribe, Touch, and Creativity
Walking into the yoga studio on our first evening and sitting in a massive circle with about 50 people that I had never met before was overwhelming and a bit intimidating, to say the least. But in that very first meeting, Star Wolf, the facilitators, and master apprentices took the due diligence in creating the safest emotional container I’ve literally ever been a part of. Privacy and confidentiality were underscored and highlighted and each one of us had to make the commitment on that first evening that no matter what happened over those 10 days that we would continue to show up… no. matter. what. In that first evening, we were initiated into a sacred pack, a wild tribe, and each of us was bestowed with the honor and responsibility of looking out for each of our pack members.
We supported each other, hugged one another, laid with one another, laughed and cried with one another. We all shared tender bits of ourselves, knowing that those bits would be tended to, rather than scrutinized or judged. We gave love and magic to one another, walked each other to the bathroom when we were shamanically ill, generously gave kisses on the forehead and held hands tightly, and danced with reckless abandon in broad daylight until we were all dripping beautiful beads of sweat.
It didn’t take long for me to realize just how skin hungry I was. In our modern world, especially in the West, we have become so painfully restricted with touch. It’s absolutely incredible that we have become aware of and explicit about boundaries and the (rather constant) overstepping of them, but instead of having more conversations about appropriate touch, we seem to have implicitly banned it all together. I don’t often make absolute statements, but with this topic, I can say that the overall lack of touch in our current culture is completely unnatural. The power of touch is a power that isn’t tapped into nearly enough and if it’s done with consent, mindfulness, and love (all qualities that we explicitly practiced throughout the training), it brings a depth to healing that is unimaginable and unshakable. And this healing was taken in through so many different avenues. Breathing, embracing, dancing, crying and screaming, drawing mandalas of our breathwork journeys; creation. We created space together. We created transformation together. We created a passion to bring this to all in search of something (a need, want, or simply the satisfaction of a curiosity).
Shamanic Breathwork brings you back to your timeless, ageless, ancestral roots from millennia ago; our necessity for touch, of belonging to a tribe of like-minded/spirited/hearted people, and the creative expression of our true selves. This is where true healing lives and this is where I will continue to journey back to in order to find my precious medicine and magic.