Celtic Holotropic Breathwork at Danu Lodge – Kate Curtis – midwife /acupuncturist, shamanic healer and certified Grof Holotropic Breathwork Facilitator
‘Keeper of Birth and Death’
Discussion of how Holotropic Breathwork and Acupuncture can be used to assist in Releasing the Fear of Birth and Death and of Living and Dying.
How to live without fear and how to die well? This becomes the question for many of us as we continue along our paths through life.
There is an innate fear of death amongst many of us and as we get older it tends to become stronger. Life is precious. The need to preserve ourselves becomes deeper. The protective shield which forms can be named as the protective Ego. It becomes thicker and more well disguised with age, and as we try to control our lives, and keep ourselves safe for fear of dying, and of not being safe in the world, or fear of being hurt again ; fear of loosing the attachements we have become so attached to. The deeper the hurts and wounds are, which are kept well sealed and subsequently still unhealed, the bigger the egoic protection.
Many people continue to have an innate fear of dying without actually knowing it in their conscious mind. They may have had near death experiences, or been present for others. With the horrors of war scenes and civilians dying before our eyes, now portrayed on the news and internet, both home and far afield, there is no escaping the fact that this is inevitable. Also, that within all of us we have quite possibly suffered painful and traumatic deaths in past incarnations.
Yet to live with freedom free from pain and suffering is an innate yearning. To have calmness within. Happiness in our daily lives. How to do this is to seek out and face our fears. Look deep within, and heal our childhood, or past wounds. Once healing begins, at this core level, we can begin to trust to open our hearts more and more and with deeper trust then to breath deeply, Life.
In my acupuncture clinic, many people present, with anxiety and stress, depression, pain, panic attacks, childbirth issues, fears of becoming a parent, infertility issues, fear of giving birth, not to mention fear of dying itself.
People who come for Holotropic breathwork experientential workshops, come with a wish to clear feelings of being stuck in their lives, blocked energies, anxiousness, stress, depression, addictions , low energy, and inability to move forward and to reach their full potential. Inability to form or sustain relationships. Also people who are aware of residual birth trauma, for themselves, or and their own children.
I see many women who are pregnant who are looking for guidance, and assistance through their pregnancy, preparing for childbirth. Commonly what arises, is their absolute fear or terror of giving birth. For example, some women discover, through deep inner work via Holotropic Breathwork, or during an acupuncture treatment, that they died in previous lifetimes in childbirth. Or that an ancestor suffered similarily and the imprinting of the birth trauma had reverberated through the family lineage. It was in times gone by much more prevalent than during the present times that a mother died in the process , usually from haemorrhage, or obstruction to labour. It was also more prevalent that a baby died during the birthing process.
During the process of giving birth, it can appear to the witness, to be a similar process to the process of dying . During a breathwork session whereby the individual themselves can get the sense of a birthing process , it can also be similer and is quite often difficult for them to differentiate. For the baby it is likewise a fearful event. Not only is it a journey which can be compared to a hero’s journey, but also the baby being completely symbiotically connected (via the blood and circulatory system, and the emotional system,) to their mother, will get to experience first hand what is going with mother.
As her terror fear and panic rises up, it is without doubt that the baby also feels this. Or feels the aloneness, for the first time as mother is so distracted in her need to keep herself focused and in her need to surrender to this magnificent life giving action. During the stage of being pushed out through the opening to the ‘otherworld’, as when the baby’s head is delivered, this is likened to the stage of total release when the last breath is taken, by the dying person. As the umbilical cord is being compressed there are several moments before the first breath is taken by the baby. This is a life and death moment. It is ultimate surrender. It has to be done. Just as we know that in reality we have to die.
A midwife is someone who can also be named , ‘Keeper of Birth’. Someone who stays close , soothing and keeping watch over the woman and also the baby through the birthing process. The person who stays close and watches over a person in their dying process, holding a deep unconditional space which soothes and comforts, the dying person. They can be likened to a midwife and may be named, ‘Keeper of Death.’ Both guiding through a gateway or a portal. During Holotropic Breathwork sessions each facilitator is trained to do both. Likewise one of the criteria for choosing to do deep work with an acupuncturist is that they understand this role also.
It is everyone’s primal fear at some stage in their lives, to die alone, or of pain. Fear of what is on the other side, and who will be there to greet. Fear of the unknown. The level of pain often matches the level of fear.
If there is time, during the death process, it can be likened to the preparatory time of pregnancy and of labour. Preparing, processing, healing old wounds, forgiving self and others, and saying all that needs to be said before paving a pathway onwards and upwards, towards a new life.
In ancient times Body Mind and Spirit were considered innately connected. Now with modern medicine being so specific and segregated we have become sectioned off into compartments. Attending different specialists, for specific ailments. Yet our innate wisdom tells us that the pain and disharmony which may arise in our body is our way of drawing attention to the deeper more concealed needs of our soul.
The use of acupuncture enhances our awareness, releases energetic blocks and also releases from the persons inner reserve, great strength and power during any process where there needs to be an abundance of energy. It is used with great effect during labour. The birthing process requires a huge amount of energy and perserverence both with mother and baby. Some people who have been trying to create a new pathway in life find it to be such a very difficult journey. This may be due to their lacking the fuel and courage to complete. They loose strength and courage. This is how it may have been for their mothers also. They may have had to have the assistance of forceps or Caesarean section surgery to assist their birth for this very reason.
Acupuncture used within 24 hours before the Breathwork session starts , provides the individual with that fuel. During the process there may at some stage manifest a huge surge of anger energy. It is the most empowering experience for an individual who is used to giving up at a certain point and feels a pattern in not completing life’s challenges, to finally push through with the use of this power. They are thereby enabling a new coding to be put in place. A new paradime. No more frustration and no more fear.
It is with a deep sense of honour, that as part of my training in Transpersonal Psychology and Holotropic Breathwork that I received many lectures by one of the most progressive psychiatrists, of our time. Dr. Stanislov Grof. He challenged the accepted psychology/ psychiatry of the 60,s which considered all individuals’ trauma began after birth and not during labour or in utero or before conception.
He and other colleagues gave birth to Transpersonal Psychology and also along with his wife Christina, pioneered the simple system of breathwork, which he named as Holotropic Breathwork, over 50 years ago. Having worked for years alongside his wife Christina, and studying different ancient practices of yoga, and different styles of meditation using breath, he was able to devise an amazingly safe therapeutic space for those who are brave enough to want to learn how to live and die well. He devised a system of how to heal any memory of birth which may have been traumatic.
Practicing a method of body release, using breath and sound, can facilitate a persons journey with a smooth passageway through one chamber to the next. Through one dimension or realm to the next. So to release this innate fear which lies within all of us. He created a mapping system, the 4 birth Matrices, which once learned/ experienced can help to open up the pathways to an easier experience.
This mapping is similar to the stages of birth and with practice we can achieve a gentle way to die, and a gentle way to let go our egoic protection and our fight to live and not die. Also to give birth to a new way of operating in the world. Filled with love and joy and expansiveness. Many people have no need to heal this aspect within themselves having had easy birthing processes. Yet this system offers to them a way to expand and allow the creative energy force to move more freely through the body. Artists writers musicians find expression can be made more fluid.
Buddist monks, Taoists, Yogis, Nuns, and Priests, and and many of the indigenous peoples across the globe, realise how important it is at an early age to become aware of and make friends with deep terror, and the innermost hidden parts of our psyche, which Carl Jung called Shadow. How to release and let go control, can be assisted using prayer, meditation, different breathing styles, fasting, trance dancing, medicinal/ herbal medicines, classical acupuncture and any tool which can create a channel between the Conscious mind to the Subconscious mind. Opening to an Expanded State of Awareness. Giving birth and simultaneously dying to the Ego, thus becoming more fully in communication with the Soul. To be at peace and to live without fear is to fully embrace Life.