Consciousness expansion medicines have been used for centuries by different cultures around the world for healing and transformation. Now with Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind, the creation of the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelics and Consciousness Research, the influx of VC capital into psychedelic drug companies and last but not least, groundbreaking non-profits like Usona and MAPS leading the charge of clinical trials and research, it’s clear that new approaches to holistic healing, growth and consciousness are on the way to becoming more accessible and accepted. Yet the question remains, how soon until these treatments become widely available and affordable? And how can breathwork provide related benefits to both create immediate access for more people as well as provide deepening and integration for those already involved with these medicines?
While ketamine has already been approved to treat depression, other medicines including psilocybin, the active compound in psychedelic mushrooms, MDMA, DMT and LSD are in clinical trials to treat anxiety, depression, PTSD, addictions and to aid in terminal illness. The efficacy of these medicines, combined with a holistic approach to healing, has the potential to expand consciousness across psychological, biological and spiritual levels and change the face of mental health.
This flourishing of new healing modalities is exciting. We are hopeful that these developments will continue to build acceptance and availability in the coming years. And yet, we are still talking about a relatively small number of people (for now) that will have access to (or be open to working with) these medicines.
Many of us reading this may already have some experience with these plant medicines and psychedelics and know that they’re not something most people can (or should) do every week. And that the focus on integration of these experiences is key for long lasting change and transformation. So how can we do this deep inner work on a more regular basis to support our continued healing and growth?
The answer lies in the work of the two breathwork visionaries, Dr. Stan Grof and Leonard Orr. Psychiatrist Dr. Stanislav Grof pioneered psychedelic assisted psychotherapy in the 1960s using LSD. Following the suppression of legal LSD use in the late 1960s, Grof developed Holotropic Breathwork based on the work of Leonard Orr, who discovered and founded Connected Breathing, also known as Rebirthing Breathwork.
These types of Breathwork, which, like LSD, also creates expanded states of consciousness, and offer patients the same benefits, namely the ability to treat depression, anxiety, addiction and PTSD. That’s right, breathwork can have similar effects and benefits as plant medicine and psychedelics, while being totally safe and legal.
Here are ten of the most common shared experiences with breathwork, plant medicine and psychedelics:
Being in the present moment and a deep somatic relaxation in the body, supporting the parasympathetic nervous system and decrease of anxiety, nervousness, fear and depression.
A cathartic emotional release – through laughing, crying, screaming and breathing– which creates a lightness of being and a new sense of self. This spaciousness and new perspective can allow for the healing of trauma by being able to revisit it in a safe and sacred way and see it from a new perspective.
Personal growth, awakening, transformation: self-exploration and personal empowerment.
Experiencing deep happiness: feeling and embodying the frequency of love, self-love, joy, bliss, gratitude and euphoria.
Physical release from pain as energy flows through the body, releasing stuck and suppressed emotions and physical pain.
Enhanced energy, focus and clarity that supercharges the mind and body.
A “journey” that moves beyond the ruminations of the busy mind and ego self to a surrender into a higher state of being, where intuition, vision, connection and creativity flow and new ideas emerge effortlessly. Many experience “lightbulb” moments and insights about their life.
Pronounced feelings of connection or being with a deceased family member or friend or ancestors. Direct messages or conversations with those people.
A mystical or spiritual experience that connects you with spirit, the divine, source, higher self, god.
Ego dissolution and oneness: a loss of the sense of a separate self, and an enhanced feeling of connectedness with people, animals, nature and the cosmos.
So we can see that Breathwork and Psychedelics have a lot in common. Now here are some reasons why we would recommend Breathwork as a weekly or daily practice:
It’s affordable and accessible
It’s less emotionally and mentally risky
It’s legal, so you don’t have to wait for clinical trials or legalization in your geography
You can do it daily or weekly as a healthy habit, in fact regularity enhances your practice and your ability to deepen into a release of emotional issues or traumas that are carried in the body
It’s a powerful way to integrate and keep with you the experiences and learnings from your plant medicine and psychedelic journeys, bringing them into your daily life into your body and your somatic and spiritual experiences beyond your journal and meditation practices.