Kochi: “I saw a light engulfing the world, and within this light I found answers to questions which have been haunting me for years,” said Betty Alex, as she lay blindfolded in a conference hall.
It may sound crazy to some. But people who have a spiritual bent of mind, or those who know about psychedelic or transcendental experiences may sense a ring of truth about it. The experience Betty talks about is similar to the ‘acid trip’ or psychedelic experiences brought on by the use of hallucinogens like LSD.
Interestingly, the altered state of consciousness is reached not by popping pills but by employing a simpler method: Breathing.
Betty was one among the 20 participants who took part in a session of ‘holotropic breathwork’ led by Fr K C Thomas of the Bosco Institute of Psychology and Spirituality at the Don Bosco School in Vaduthala.
“Holotropic breathwork was developed by Stanislav Grof and his wife Christina Grof. Stanislav had worked heavily on LSD and its effects on transpersonal psychology. When the use of such drugs was banned, he devised a new approach to self-exploration and therapy after studying the breathing patterns of people in order to create the same the psychological experience,” said Fr Thomas.
Fr Thomas became a certified holotropic breathwork coordinator for the Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT) in 2015 and has been conducting private breathwork sessions for priests and nuns across India and other countries since then.
Over twenty people from various backgrounds turned up at the Don Bosco School for the three-day holotropic breathwork session by paying Rs 3,000 for the programme.
“I had read about it but I could never participate in such a session. In Europe the organizers charge exorbitant rates (1000 euro) for such a session,” said Ravi Menon, who runs a consultancy firm in Kochi.
As part of the programme, the participants are blindfolded and follow a specific breathing pattern instructed by the coordinator, while they lie on the ground with psychedelic music playing in the background. While the participants concentrate on their breathing, they will be supported by a ‘sitter’, who is also a participant in the programme. The ‘sitter’ will assist the ‘breather’ in case he/she needs anything.
“Modern conversations on drugs revolve around its perils and also its promises. The positive impacts of hallucinogens have been proven. ‘Holotropic breathwork’ helps in creating a similar positive physiological impact, which can have a profound impact on the life of the participant, and the good part is that he/she does not have to deal with the side-effects of drugs,” said Fr Thomas.
The session seems to be working, at least for some. Said Betty Alex, a homemaker in Ernakulam: “I was able to find a closure from my past and resolve the problems I have been dealing with for many years.” Denny Thomas, another participant, said: “It was after of lot convincing that Fr Thomas agreed to conduct the session. We will have another session in April.”
(The Times of India)