An interview with me, Ann Harrison and Les Jensen at www.blogtalkradio.com
It was my pleasure a couple of years ago to speak with Les Jensen.
As I listened today I was delighted with how Les drew out aspects of my personal journey with the breath that took me Shanghai, my years in Hong Kong where I created the Tai Tan Centre - a retreat in the countryside by the sea. We talked about my approach to Breathwork - in working with clients and developing trainings.
This is quite a lengthy podcast. Great to listen to in the background. Especially relevant to those who want to know more about the power of Breathwork and are considering a longer workshop or training.
"Take a deep breath and relax into a Breathing Circle.
You will find ways of accessing deep relaxation, connection with like-minded people and learn a simple spiritual practice for inner calm and every day healing.
So, what is Breathing Circle? A Breathing Circle is a network of people who are committed to:
We meet once a month to celebrate the breath and introduce other people to this transformational tool."
Ref. Australian Breathwork Association
Conscious Breathing Circle Saturday 4th August
Time 2 to 5-5.30pm
Address Millthorpe Meditation Centre, 58 Victoria St
Preparation - please wear warm loose comfortable clothes and warm sock. [I have heating but in the process some people can feel cold]
If you would like to remind yourself about what Breathwork is, here are some links to information
1. What is Breathwork http://annharrison.com.au/AH/Breathwork.html
2. How to prepare for a session http://annharrison.com.au/AH/Consultation_files/Preparation%20for%20a%20Breathwork%20session.pdf
3. What people have said https://www.breathworktrainings.com/recommendations.html
1. Short 1min 30 sec extract from an interview I did with Jim Morningstar on Breathwork and Education https://youtu.be/J__dT0opUgk
2. Longer overview of Breathwork for those who are considering longer retreats - but it has in it useful information on What is Breathwork https://youtu.be/SQeHoLQRY7s
Real Creativity comes from our connection to self, to the creative power the lies within us, and which is part of a greater whole.
Breathwork is a way of connecting to that power through mindfulness, According to the great modern Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, what keeps us trapped and unhappy is a denial of what is. This in tern undermines our freedom.
Kornfield suggests that there are four key principles of mindful transformation of difficulties, for which he offers the acronym RAIN.
R - Recognition
A - Acceptance
I - Investigation
N - Non identification
Recognition comes when we contemplate and/or concentrate and focus in the present moment. We can focus on external people and objects; and we can focus on our own state - physically, mentally, emotionally and spirituality. Since we are the source of our own experience, to know ourself and make friends with ourself and life, is to learn how to live with greater ease.
Kornfield says if we don't know ourselves or ...: " if we deny our dissatisfaction, our anger, our pain, our ambition, we will suffer. If we deny our values, our beliefs, our longings, or our goodness, we will suffer....Acceptance allows us to relax and open to the facts before us."
The easiest way to come out of denial and know ourselves is to begin with a focus on the relationship between our breath and body.
Modern Breathwork in the form of Conscious Connected Breathing has just that goal.
Kornfield goes on...Starting with investigation in the body, we mindfully locate where our difficulties are held. Sometimes we find sensations of heat, contraction, hardness, or vibration. Sometimes we notice throbbing, numbness, a certain shape or color. We can investigate whether we are meeting this area with resistance or with mindfulness. We notice what happens as we hold these sensations with mindfulness and kindness. Do they open?
By staying with the awareness of the breath, body and emotions we experience change and ultimately transformation.
By learning how to remain in a state or awareness, and not identify with our thoughts, emotions, body sensations, social roles, social group and culture we become free. In my terms - creative.
The Real Creativity workshop is an exploration of specific mechanism of denial, how we lock ourselves out of our own creative power. Participants will be guided and supported to use of the breath to investigate deeply what normally lies outside our conscious mind and expand into a greater state of awareness; and "every form of genuine awareness is liberating" [Kornfield]
For further information about the workshop you can read here or ring Ann Harrison on 0403-823-636
Ref. Jack Kornfield, 2011. Bringing home the dharma
Thich Nhat Hanh has said:
"To practice mindfulness of the body, follow your breathing and focus your attention on each part of the body, from the hair on your head to the soles of your feet. Breathe mindfully and embrace each part of the body with the energy of mindfulness, smiling to it with recognition and love… Identify the form elements in your body: earth, water, air, and heat. See the connection of these four elements inside and outside of your body. See the living presence of your ancestors and future generations, as well as the presence of all other beings in the animal, vegetal, and mineral realms. Become aware of the positions of your body (standing, sitting, walking, lying down) and its movements (bending, stretching, taking a shower, getting dressed, eating, working, etc.). When you master this practice, you will be able to be aware of your feelings and your perceptions as they arise, and you will be able to practice looking deeply into them."
The words of the great spiritual teacher Thich Nhat Hanh perfectly encapsulate the goal of this Spring Breath Awareness retreat 13-20 October 2018.
All the great Eastern traditions - yoga, Taoism, Buddhism - recognise the importance of awareness of the breath and its relationship with body, mind and emotions. Modern Breathwork practice is a powerful way to increase that awareness and knowledge.
Contact Ann on 0403-823-636 for further information or to enrol.
For the remainder of 2018, here in the Central West of New South Wales, you have a range of possibilities to suit your need, time and budget.
Breathing Circle - 2-5.30pm first Saturday of the month
A breathing space to take time out to replenish the batteries by connecting with your self through awareness of breath, body, mind and emotions. The circle will gather to mindfully experience chakra meditation and supported self directed breathing cycle. Fee: $60
Chanting and Meditation evening - 6.30-7.30 first Thursday of the month
Simply drop in - the Millthorpe Meditation Centre and to yourself. No teaching, just the experience of 30 minutes chanting and 30 minutes guided meditation Fee: Donation
Winter Reflection Weekends
9-10 June | 23-24 June | 7-8 July | 21-22 July
These weekends are part of the Level 1 Breathwork Training. It is the Breathwork experience that transforms an individual. However, there are ways of seeing the world that can provide both a guide and support on a healing journey. What is offered together with the facilitated Breathwork experience are paradigms - ways of seeing the world - that will allow you to maintain and develop self confidence, self acceptance and courage, As you begin to apply what you learn you will
Spring Renewal 13-20 October
This 8 day retreat is focused on the awareness of breath, body, emotions and mind.
You will experience simple Feldenkrais exercises, qigong, therapeutic touch and well as at least 7 breathing cycles. The programme is designed to ground you in your body, knowing your mental emotional nature and how to best act, for you, in the world
Your facilitator, Ann Harrison, had been conducting breath and meditation workshops, and breathwork trainings for over 30years.
This human journey is one of self discovery, whose fundamental questions is "Who am I?"
The addict is in the paradoxical situation of needing to know, at the deepest spiritual level; while at the same time trying to escape the pain that this bodymind has experience.
The 7 day retreat of Breathwork Trainings breathworktrainings.com - Psychotherapy and Spirituality, addresses these issues. The environment expressly creates and atmosphere of support and compassion, while undertaking and emotional education and healing of spirit.
Dr Gabor Maté says:
" All the substances of abuse, whether they are opiates or cocaine or anything else – they are actually pain killers. Some of them specifically are pain killers. But physical pain and emotional pain, the suffering is experienced in the same part of the brain. So when people suffer emotional rejection the same part of the brain will light up as if you stuck them with a knife.
Eckardt Tolle says very nicely that ‘addictions begin with pain and end with pain’. So that all the addictions are attempts to soothe the pain. So when I work with addictions the first question is always, not why the addiction, but why the pain. What you find is emotional loss or trauma.
In the case of the severe addicts…[in my experience] they were, every single one, traumatised.
There are no women walking the streets here who have not been sexually abused.
But you know, whether it is...
Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist, said (he had a severe heroin habit as you know) “all the contortions we go through just not to be ourselves for a few hours”
Why would somebody not want to be themselves? Because they are in too much distress and too much pain. So I don’t care what they tell you about genetics or choices or any of that nonsense, it is always about pain.
The Tibetan Book of living and Dying, its got a wonderful line in it: “Whatever you don, don’t’ try and escape from your pain, but be with it”. Because the attempt to escape from pain creates more pain. And that’s the reality of addiction.
But the question is how can people be with their pain? Only if they sense some compassion from somebody. So as another teacher says: “only when compassion is present will people allow themselves to see the truth”. So addicted people need a compassionate present, which will permit them to experience their pain without having to run away from it. And all the attempts to run away, like another teacher says: “the surest way to go to hell is to try to run away from hell”.
So you gotta be with that pain, you just have to be with it, but you have to have some support.
And we live in a society that one way or the other, is always about instant relief, quick satisfaction, distraction. In other words, we live in a culture that is based on, both economically and psychologically, on not supporting people to be with themselves. So it is always the quick get away. So it is very difficult to deal with addictions in this society.
It is a matter, at some point, of finding a way of being with your pain, so you can actually get to know what is really all about."
If you want to find out what you and your life is all about, contact Ann 0403-823-636 or email
" Emotion is far more verb than noun, being not some entity or thing that we can get out of our system, but a vital process that is always in some degree of flux"
Robert Augustus Masters - Emotional Intimacy
Over the last 12 months, I have been studying a modality called Breathwork.
In using the breath, I discovered that not only was I distinctly NOT in touch with my emotions, but I really had not fully made the leap into really understanding how deeply ingrained my emotional patterns were, and how this was affecting my health.
It has been through this study (and subsequent process) that I have come to really appreciate how we all get so distracted by life so as to not experience some emotions- particularly the emotions that we would like to pretend don't exist in us.
So what are our emotions?
We all know about emotions. We feel them every day in response to many things- we observe, we judge, we feel our response, and we move on.
However, we prefer to hold on to those feelings that are acceptable and palatable, and run away from feeling the full extent of those really uncomfortable emotions. Like Fear and Shame...
The problem with this is that we then keep running away all the time, and we never really get to understand what the prime motivator in our life is. Every time we feel anxious, it is because some of these unpleasant emotions have been triggered in us by an external stimulus.
Psychotherapy is very useful in naming and quantifying these emotional states. However, intellectualising about emotions does nothing. This is a mind game that can be soul destroying, as we end up judging and pathologising perfectly natural responses to certain situations that may be distressing for us. Men are very adept at this in our western patriarchal culture.
What we need to do is to feel all of it...and not be afraid to experience the backlog of emotions that we have stuffed into the recesses of our soul..
To do this, we need to feel safe and unjudged as we navigate this inner territory.
The physiology of emotions
Emotions have been reduced scientifically to biochemical reactions, influencing hormones and neurological states. The body produces many hormones and neurotransmitters such as dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, oxytocins, cortisol and GABA. Chemistry in the body which can of course be manipulated with drugs.
Recent understandings in neuroscience have identified key areas of emotional processing and the mapping of the Limbic system. Theories abound, and a Google search will bring you into the mine-field of the emotional realm.
No wonder we can't be bothered! Resistance to understanding your own emotional territory is easy under these conditions..
The best bet then is to keep pragmatic, working and avoid all that nasty stuff!
The Necessity to explore....To actually FEEL....
The reality is that the physiology of our emotions really does affect our physical health- and whilst we may not see how our emotions affect our health when we are young and resilient to setbacks, the truth is that long term suppressed emotion and disassociation with unpleasant emotions will cause us long term health issues – if you don't see it physically because we are a great manager of our outer life, it will show up in some area of our life that will look unhealthy.
The most obvious being our relationships with others, and usually in the most intimate relationship - with one with our partner. You will see both areas affected in varying degrees.
This the origin of what I call "The Gender Rift"..
The influence on our physical body...
If we ignore our inner emotional life long enough, eventually we will see a physical/emotional or mental breakdown.
This idea is not new. But for some reason modern medical science chooses to overlook these obvious links. There is a lot of research on what is known as Somatic theories in Psychology. Pioneers in a new paradigm of Health are now beginning to recognise the obvious link to physical disorders that are made worse by an emotional cause. Indeed, may even be from an emotional cause.
One link that is very clear is between weight gain and stress, particularly in women. Catecholamines (stress hormones by the adrenal glands) are well known to cause inflammatory process in the system, and will show up by weight gain around the middle.
Because the adrenal glands are situated on top of the kidneys, the flight/fight response could also affect kidney function. (In Chinese medicine the kidneys are understood to be related to our collective fear). This in turn can also increase blood pressure unnaturally, leading to hypertension. Long term hypertension can cause Kidney dysfunction .
Recent studies have identified a link between Kidney Function, Hypertension and Cognitive functioning.
It makes logical sense then to address the deeper fears in our life, so that we are not so triggered, thereby aiding in maintaining our overall endocrine and metabolic balance.
As a Dorothy Hall trained herbalist, I would want treat the above situation holistically using herbs like: Buchu, Rosehips, Borage, Withania, Hawthorn and Maritime Pine Bark
And for the emotional stress and endocrine system balance I may include Dr Bach's flower essence of Rescue Remedy, Walnut, and Scleranthus.
There is no doubt that working deeply with these emotions will aid your health even more, by facing the deep fear, and transforming the control that these unknown fears have over your subconscious.
Cath McDowell is a learned and highly experience herbalist with decades of experience
From Ann Harrison
I would like to thank Cath for her permission to reprint this article from one of her newsletters. It was a delight to have her as a Breathwork student and learn how her knowledge of the body and herbs complemented Breathwork, which is an emotional spiritual education. I would also welcome you to our Autumn Breath Awareness Retreat
Next Course 17- 24 March 2018
Or contact me on 0403-823-636
There will always be endings and beginnings - inner and out journeys.
The breath itself enlivens us and carries us on our life journey. We are born, grow and pass through rites of passage that take us through the many stages of life. We journey outwardly and by necessity we are all forced, at some point, on an inner journey of reflection and discovery when life's challenges of disappointments and grief; or success that comes too fast and too big overcome us. It is a human journey and for me and my students the Breath is our guide and support.
The photos above reflect how my students and I journeyed to the underworld, re-emerged to celebrate and then quietly and confidently look towards the future.
I would like to share with you the words of my students who courageously went on an inner journey with me.
As a final celebration the 2017 students as part of their graduation assisted me in a public programme. The participants said:
'I was skeptical but it was truly amazing'
'It was distracting in the beginning but I ended up in a profoundly restful place.
Just what I needed'
'I had never done anything like this before, and i was taken on an inner journey that was amazing. I needed to accept something very difficult in my life, and I was able to do just that.'
I want to learn this. I have done many things as part of my personal growth. This is the most powerful so far'
My assistants who had been on their own journey were able to see that range and diversity of experiences that are possible with Breathwork, and how experience that goes beyond words can be so healing.
COME AND JOIN ME IN AUTUMN 2018 IN A 7 DAY PROGRAMME
It will be held in Millthorpe and costs $1300. Check out the information now.
It is the experience of the Breath that transforms. So I have developed a programme that is based on experience.
Level 1 is for all those who wish to jump start their life and learn to see the world in a way that supports them.. This is in 2 modules of 7 days
Level 2 is a Breathwork practitioner training and consists of 4 modules.
Level 2 involves a considerable amount of self study that will be assessed.
Each module is 7 days and costs $1300
It has been over 30 years now since I have been doing this work. It is simple, profound and life transforming. It has provided me with inner resources to live well, with deep contentment.
So as 2017 draws to an end, I hope that our reap the rewards of all your efforts this year and enjoy a time of celebration; and I invite you to join me in 2018 on a inner journey with the Breath.
A Breathwork Experience. 18 November, 1-5pm $60.