The familiar feeling of confinement

I like to observe things through the lenses of the perinatal experience. Especially events of an archetypal nature such as the current pandemic. A disease rapidly infecting humans on a global scale resonates with the idea of the toxic first matrix. The amniotic fluid, the life-giving ocean from which consciousness emerged, suddenly becomes a poisonous cloud that permeates everything, an invisible but tangible and deadly threat.

This signal marks the expulsion from paradise, from the comfort, from the known, and the beginning of the birth process. This first part of birth is the beginning of labor, of contractions. At this time, the cervix is not yet open and the pressures endured by the creature about to be born are titanic. The biological reason behind this apparently cruel punishment is to move the baby in the optimal position for expulsion. But this meaning is completely lost on the tiny thing experiencing it and the only understanding presenting itself at that time is that the once loving and kind universe has been replaced by a malevolent and cruel divinity determined to crush, suffocate, erase and annihilate.

This is the experience of the second perinatal matrix. It resonates with feelings of betrayal, paranoia, deception, and of despair, powerlessness, rage, depression, loneliness. At that time, there is no movement towards the exit, there is nothing that the baby can “do” to get out of this: it is at the mercy of the malevolent divinity that has it trapped, alone, beyond hope and help. The fear of spiders that similarly trap their prey resonates very much with this. The fear of large snakes that constrict their prey also vibrates to the same frequency. And of course, claustrophobia in all its forms.

This is the emotion that is emerging for most of us, as our movements are getting limited and as we are approaching or experiencing confinement. This is the nightmarish experience at the dawn of our initiation to human beingness that casts it immense and terrifying shadow on our understanding of the situation. This is why panic, despair, hopelessness and paranoia are extremely present at this time.

This is an energy that my practice of Holotropic Breathwork has made me very aware of. I’ve spent countless hours, just lying there, incapable of doing anything, frustrated, full of rage and without hope, convinced that this feeling would last for all eternity. In this state, I have tried numerous strategies to “get out”. None of them work. Since no strategy works, the only solution, for me, has been to accept the situation.

Accept that I have no control over the situation, over how long it will last, over the reason it is happening. Accept that the situation might last for ever. Accept that I am extremely small, that the universe is infinitely bigger, and that I am nothing. I am an ant trying to figure out space travel. I am powerless to do anything. I can not even understand what the “I” that wants to do things is.

At this stage, most people rebel against this “solution” and start to say things like “This is nihilism” or “We still have to try to do stuff”, etc. All this might be true and useful and all that, but it still comes from a place that is trying to avoid feeling this thing that I am trying to describe: the second perinatal matrix experience.

Of course, it is something very difficult, very painful to experience, but it is also very important and powerful. When all hope disappears, when all sense of power and control dissolves, a very real sense of clarity emerges. When self (and consequently self-preservation) is taken out of the picture, only then can you start to see things with a certain objectivity. And it is this clarity and objectivity that will allow a solution to emerge. Something new, unexpected, miraculous that will turn defeat into victory, death into rebirth.

This is why I roll my eyes at people who don’t even take the time to experience the pain and difficulty of the weeks and months ahead and already proclaim to know what awaits us after. They will often use vague language like “vibrate on higher planes of energy” or some such empty concepts, as if it meant something. Those words have the effect of a narcotic in that they mean to take the pain away by removing us from the here and the now. Something will certainly emerge form this, but no-one yet knows what it is. We will be transformed by this planetary experience, but into what? No one knows and those who say they do are either dishonest, stupid or at least lacking in humility and imagination.

For something new, powerful, true and alive to emerge, we have to take the time to experience our absence of control, our despair, our hopelessness. If we do not take the time that is offered to us to familiarize ourselves with these emotions that are deeply imprinted in us since birth, we will again be manipulated by the ones who will be the most effective at distracting us from those emotions.

And we will waste this incredible opportunity for transformation that is offered to us. Six months ago, people gathered in vast numbers to demand change for the good of the biosphere. Now, as everything comes to a stop, we see that radical change is possible. Something unimaginable a few months ago is now happening. But for this moment to happen, people are dying by the thousands: we can not let those deaths mean nothing and just be an intermission before we resume our ecocidal circus. That would be a terrible tragedy.

Our job at the moment is to sit with difficult emotions. It is the only way we can truly honor the dead. It is the only way we will build the strength to prepare us for what is coming, whatever it is.

The Hidden Power Within

I like original thinkers, people who have very personal, thoughtful and articulate opinions on all subjects. These thinkers who come to make us question certainties and evidence. But I have no attraction for gurus. For those people who are quick insert their certainty back in place of the certainty they have just shaken. For those people who say they can change us, “save” us or show us the way to salvation. Especially when they dare to say that they are the only ones who can offer us salvation.

This mistrust of the gurus is something that has strongly attracted me to Holotropic Breathwork. What we call the holotropic attitude is the belief – the voluntary belief – that we already have all the resources to grow, heal, learn, etc. And it is the essential experience that Holotropic Breathwork aims to achieve: taking a moment to listen to what is happening inside us or for us, at a specific moment in our lives. In this respect, Holotropic Breathwork can be likened to meditation. Holotropic Breathwork, like meditation, is a technique of exploration, observation. But that’s where the similarity ends.

The strategy, in Holotropic Breathwork, aims to turn your attention inward and try to make everything bigger, whether it is an emotion, a physical sensation, a memory, a “weird” experience, etc. But the strategy also aims to “stay with” what is happening, not to reject the experience as useless or insignificant a priori. It can be really challenging work, but it can also be very difficult. The word “breathwork” talks about breath, of course, but it also talks about work.

What always amazes me is when a person who has just worked very hard and obtained a result that seems to create a feeling of relief, comfort or satiety will often attribute their condition to someone else, especially to the facilitator who has just worked with them. I make it my duty – and it is the duty of every Holotropic Breathwork facilitator  – to always give the power back to the person.

“Thank you for giving me credit, but you did the work.” It should be noted that it gives me the right to do the same thing when someone wants to pin his or her difficulties on me. I do not own the successes or difficulties (the word “failure” has no meaning in Holotropic Breathwork) of the breathers. My responsibility is to ensure that material and human conditions foster a sense of security. That is the meaning of the expression “to hold space”. The work that is done in this space is not my responsibility and as a facilitator, I consciously decide to have no plans for people who breathe. And this is the difficult work of a facilitator: avoid projecting his or her will on the work that occurs in a breathing room.

This points to a simple method for identifying a guru: the guru is the person who takes credit for your work and presents your difficulties as failures. This is possible because the guru has a project for you: he declares that he knows better than you what you should be or become. But gurus can only take all this power because people are willingly giving it to them. And this is where the apparent paradox of power lies.

If you ask people if they want more power, the vast majority of people will say yes. But this is far from being the case. Power is even a source of vertigo, of terror. After all, as superhero movies say, with power comes responsibility. And power can only be obtained according to the responsibility one is willing to accept.

Example: in the face of the challenging environmental situation, it is tempting to refuse to see your power. To refuse power is to allow yourself to do anything, because, ultimately, you convince yourself that everything you do is useless or meaningless. But taking power means deciding that the actions you take count. With this logic, someone will try to reduce his or her energetic footprint, consume less, favor renewable resources, reduce waste, etc. The actions to be taken are infinite and it is almost impossible not to feel awe in front of all that will still be left to do.

Taking power, taking responsibility, is an act that condemns us to discomfort, work and uncertainty. Taking power requires a lot of courage. It is much easier to give our power to someone who already claims to know everything, to someone who is certain of things. This is what makes gurus or personal growth stars so popular. It is also what eventually causes their downfall, because power, concentrated in few hands, always causes corruption.

How about you? Do you have the courage to claim your power?