by Joan Heartfield, PhD
Every Spring and Fall for 3 years, I spent 2 amazing weeks with Dr. Stanislav Grof and a host of luminaries in retreat centers around the world ranging from Hollyhock on Cortes Island, Canada, to Findhorn in Scotland.
Stan Grof was one of the first researchers in LSD therapy and the founder of Holotropic Breathwork. He is one of the greatest minds I’ve ever known, and his work in discovering the healing that can be done in non-ordinary states changed my understanding of psychology forever.
Stan discovered that LSD, and later Holotropic Breathwork, opened the gateways to healing our emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds. In working with thousands of people from all walks of life from clergy, to students, to deeply disturbed inmates in institutions, he observed people moving through emotional suffering, birth trauma, past life awareness, and profound spiritual experiences into a more balanced and healthy place in themselves.
My own experiences in Holotropic Breathwork opened me first to an array of past life experiences that eventually took me into a vision of a jungle where I saw myself as a toothless female shaman, rattling and dancing an incantation in a ceremony. Years later, I found myself drawn to the jungles of Ecuador, where I had a variety of shamanic experiences that felt so very familiar. And it is where I met Tomas. This deepened my understanding of the vastness of consciousness and how to navigate consciously within it.
Every Holotropic Breathwork 3 hour process took me somewhere different, but it always left me aware of something profound and important for my understanding of others and myself. I was clearly shown where many of my feelings and fears came from that didn’t seem to have their roots in this life, and some that did. I was able to release rage I didn’t know I had, sadness from incidents in my past that I had repressed, and I was taken into spheres of mystical grandeur and overwhelming love, that I knew was my true nature.
I even healed a chronic pain in my back through reliving a past life experience where I was raped and killed. In that life I froze instead of fought. In one breathwork session, I let my body act out the feelings of rage I had blocked. I fought for my life with my sitter and others making sure I was safe to “let is all out”. I thrashed and punched. My back went through contortions, my spine cracked, and I released primal howls. When I walked away from that session, the pain in my back was gone, and never came back.
Stan was my favorite therapist ever. He taught me, by example, that acceptance and love is what heals. I saw him hold people, sometimes for hours, as they unwound their terror or grief. I learned to do this too with my clients, when needed. Loving safe touch and deep acceptance is what we all need, but particularly if we are “wound tight” from experiences that have deeply scared or scarred us.
So much of who I am now comes from my three years with Stan, and the years of Holotropic Breathwork and therapy I’ve done with students and clients. I have learned to understand what we need to come home to ourselves and heal. Once enveloped in this healing container of love and consciousness, we can all help each other to wholeness.
If you don’t know of his work, please Google Stanislav or Stan Grof, and watch every u-tube you can of him. If this work speaks to you, please join us for our offering at Hale Akua April 7. View Event Details.