Categories
Breathwork dreams healing

Lucid Dreaming: Definition, Triggers, and Controlling Your Story

It’s around Christmas time. I’m at a holiday party with friends, many of whom I have not seen in decades. 

I am back home in Des Moines, IA. I hug old friends as I greet them, and we laugh hysterically at one of our friend’s drunken grandma, who is so wasted that she goes to bed early.

It’s great to catch up with Kelly, Murph, Shuter, and Kelly’s sister. Their smiles are big. Everyone is cordial, and we are having a hysterical time. 

Except I’m not physically in Iowa. I’m having this dream while in my bed in Los Angeles.

This isn’t an ordinary dream. It’s a lucid dream—a dream where you feel like you are in control. In some cases you can actually control what is happening.

What is a lucid dream?

In a lucid dream, you are aware that you are dreaming, and the dreams feel vivid and real. Imagine if you were an active participant in your dream rather than a witness? 

In lucid dreams you are controlling the dream like it is a real-life video game. You control the story. When you wake up, the dream is deep enough that it feels like it happened in real-life. 

After the dream I wake up and jot down a few notes in my dream journal about what happens. I feel calm.

I get out of bed and walk down the hall to check on breakfast. I feel happy.

I last recall seeing these people drunk at high school parties or in the summers after we all went off to college. 

In the dream, I made amends with people who I have not seen in twenty years, enjoying one last party together. It was like we were all younger. Their hugs make me feel loved. 

My last meaningful memory with Kelly was in freshman year geometry class with Mr. Cummings. She was a cute older girl that I acted cool around, trying to keep everything low key. Our teacher, Mr. Cummings died of brain cancer that year, and I remember hiding my tears from my Dad as I walked away from his funeral towards our car. 

People like her were my surrogate family, who I confided in to help me get through the ups and downs of life.

Murph and I played baseball together in little league, where I struggled to get hits and make plays on the field. Baseball was never my sport, yet guys like Murph remained optimistic and light around me. His freckled face and monotone voice helped me to feel calm. 

Shuter and I played a lot of front yard tackle football together, and sometimes sat together at lunch in middle school. He was another person who I wanted to act low key around. 

Getting back into my morning routine, I have positive energy from this dream, lots of it, as I recall these decades-old childhood friendships.

I carry this loving energy with me as I drink my morning smoothie, drive to run an errand, and type at my computer to start my work day. 

The waking state after this lucid dream is can feel better than an orgasm. 

If you can believe it, my body feels more relaxed than it does after I have sex. 

Do you want to have lucid dreams? 

How to trigger lucid dreams

The chances for lucid dreaming increase when you practice meditation, specifically sound bath and breathwork meditations. Since I started practicing breathwork, my dreams are more alive. 

Keeping a dream journal helps me to remember these dreams.

When I wake up at 5am and have a dream, I grab my phone and type out a quick recollection of the dream. This helps me to recall my dreams in case I forget them. 

My dreams are fleeting and I need to write them down. 

Breathwork and a dream journal are my two devices to help me experience lucid dreams and train myself to write out these moments. 

Studies show that if you wake up after 5 hours of sleep, stay awake briefly, and then go back to bed to try to enter an REM  (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep period,” than you can possibly trigger a lucid dream.

You can also trigger a lucid dream if you use a Mnemonic induction of lucid dreams (MILD), which uses “prospective memory,” the act of remembering to do something in the future. When “you wake up after sleeping for 5 hours,” you “tell yourself several times that the next time you dream, you will remember you’re dreaming.”

In my recent dream, making amends at this party helped me to open up a part of myself. 

I never officially said goodbye to these friends when we all went off to college. It’s like these childhood friends were dangling in my mind and I cleared out old cobwebs. 

Lucid dreams allow me to look at my dream as if I have the full awareness of my waking state. 

Lucid dreams give me energy. 

One of the cooler benefits of practicing breathwork, meditation, and other reflective practices is that they give me a chance to have these dreams.

I was embedded in the fabric of Des Moines, IA for the first 18 years of my life, and then I moved away. And thus all my friends went away too. 

You remember old habits, ways of life, and friends from your past. Meditation helps heal lost parts of yourself. You uncover parts of yourself that go beyond the conscious mind. My brain helped me to pick specific people from my past, and have a healthy and fun interaction together. 

It is freeing, cathartic, and quite enjoyable. In this case, my dream helped to close the loop on past connections. 

If I practice breathwork before crawling into bed, I’m almost certain to have a lucid dream. It calms me down, and opens my mind to the benefits of dreaming, and it’s a lot of fun to take these dreams with me the next day.

If you want to try a breathwork class with me, you can explore the possibility of having more clear and lucid dreams. I teach virtual classes every Thursday at 6:30 PST, and you can RSVP here.

Thanks to my editors: Katherine Canniff, Sara Campbell, David Burt,Drew Stegmaier, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Breathwork Meditation

Do You Want to Try Breathwork? It Makes People Laugh, Scream, and Cry

“Breathwork helps me cope with the challenges of life,” is how Sarah, a working Mom describes the practice. 

“My body vibrates from my fingers to toes,” is what Jim, a single man in his mid twenties had to say after his first class.

“I cried about money, and not feeling worthy as a child growing up,” is how Jordana, a working grandmother described her feelings after practicing breathwork.

Have you been feeling stressed out with the pandemic, not seeing loved ones, or even the aftermath of the January 6th insurrection? 

If this sounds familiar, then breathwork may help you, too. 

Breathwork teaches us to release stress in an easy way – through exhaling. In breathwork you breathe with intention, which helps to over-oxygenate your blood stream.

It can be like five years of therapy in one session, and like therapy it can be intense. 

A good breathwork class is all about breathing deeply, yelling, crying, sweating, laughing, and allowing stored-up pain to leave the body. 

Breathwork is a spiritual practice to help you lower your stress, find a deeper consciousness, and heal your mind, body, and soul. 

To practice breathwork you lay on your back, breathing in a rhythmic breathing pattern. Music is playing in the background, and your goal is to relax your body. 

You breathe in two deep inhales. First in the belly, then in the chest. Then you exhale it all out. 

It goes like this:

  • Inhale in the chest
  • Inhale in the belly
  • Exhale it all out

You repeat these three steps non-stop for twenty to twenty-five minutes. Afterwards, you remain on your back, in calm and serenity for one to two relaxing songs. 

My life is now divided into two life spans: Before Breathwork (BB), and After Breathwork (AB).

I became a breathwork teacher during the Coronavirus pandemic. 

Breathwork is universal, and can help people of all ages. One class could have a profound impact on your life.

Students often have spiritual, mystical, and memorable experiences.

From single men in their mid twenties to grandmothers in their fifties to parents in their forties, this is what some of my students have experienced during their sessions: 

Sarah finds calm after surgery

Sarah is a fashion designer, who worked from home during the pandemic. She is recovering from a surgery. At the same time she managed her young daughter’s at-home learning via Zoom.

She shared that “breathwork class makes my body tingle, usually my hands and feet within a few minutes of active breathing. The oxygen going into my brain makes me feel like I have a runner’s high afterwards.”

She practices her virtual breathwork sessions in a spare bedroom. 

As many of us would, Sarah sometimes got frustrated with the at-home learning, while also managing her own life and recovering from surgery. 

After weeks of classes, she shared that:

“Recovery from surgery had not been going as well as I had expected. I was angry at the doctor and even myself for not being in good enough health to recover. Through yelling in the class, breathwork showed me that I had been suppressing deep anger. While trying to stay positive about the surgery, the focused breathing during class opened me up.” 

The surgery was a traumatic event, and she was frustrated. She shared: “Breathwork helped me choose to be grateful for the surgery, and made her feel lucky to be alive.” 

Breathwork was more active than she expected. It brought up memories. After Breathwork (AB), Sarah felt a sense of calm and serenity.

Jim grieves his friend’s passing

Immediately after Jim’s first class, he was shocked and said “I am surprised as to how effective the breathwork class was. It took me to a similar state as to when I did LSD.” During class he cried, laughed, and yelled. 

Jim shared: 

“Within a few minutes, my body began pulsing while my hands and feet tingled. I thought about my friend Max who died when I was nineteen. I cried. Obviously, I have some unresolved grief around that.”

Jim continued to share about the dream he had the night after class:

“That night, I had a lucid dream and slept deeply. In the dream, I had a chance to talk with my friend Max, and Max’s family. It was like we were catching up and having a conversation as if Max was alive. It was like we were reliving a moment together. Max told me that he is dead but not gone and that I can interact with Max through his memories.”

During the laughing portion of the practice, he said:

“I laughed when thinking about a high school memory of laughing with my friends. I had some funny friends in high school. I realized that I had not talked to many of them recently. After the class, I made a list of different friends that I hadn’t spoken to in a while. I have dangling friendships from life, and I’d like to make amends to people from my past.”

Breathwork surprised Jim, it brought up many old memories. He grieved for the loss of his friend. After Breathwork (AB), he felt a sense of peace and serenity.

Jordana heals tension with her ex-husband

Jordana is in her fifties with grandchildren, is divorced and has an office job.

She is a regular attendee of breathwork class. She carries general anxiety and stress related to her work, family, and ex-husband. She cried during the first few breathwork sessions. 

She explained, “I cried about money, and not feeling worthy as a child growing up. I grew up around a farm in the midwest and money was hard to come by. Thinking about my childhood during breathwork brought up a lot of old feelings.”

After weekly classes, she started to sleep better at night. She had vivid dreams about her ex-husband.

She talked about a lucid dream:

“After breathwork, I had a dream about my ex-husband. We have had tension in our relationship that negatively affects myself, our children, and grandchildren. During one dream, I was in my bedroom with my ex-husband. I whispered in his ear ‘You are coming into my dreams, and I think we have some trauma to heal.’ Then we hugged.”

This was a breakthrough. She shared:

“A few weeks later, I attended my grandson’s birthday party. Last year at this party, I felt a lot of tension, and my ex walked out the back door when I arrived. This year, we hugged. I credit the breathwork experience in healing the relationship with my ex-husband. The tension is no longer there. Breathwork healed me, the relationship with my ex-husband, and alleviated the stress in our family.”

Breathwork helped Jordana grieve, revealing more pain than she anticipated. It brought up vivid dreams around her family. After Breathwork (AB), Jordana felt a sense of peace and serenity.

In these examples we have people of all kinds benefiting from the practice – from Moms to Grandmas to single men. It can change your life, even just with taking one class.

Breathwork is a coping skill to deal with the challenges of life. It is both invigorating and relaxing. It’s a way to reconsider how you breathe, something we do every moment of the day. 

Breathwork helps the mind, body, and soul to heal and recover. 

Whether it is dealing with daily stress, general anxiety or long-term grief – the practice is a natural remedy to the pains of life. 

Seeing how breathwork helps heal people, it could bring you to the same too. Sign up to take a class with me Thursdays at 6:30 PST.

Note: All the names have been changed to keep the students anonymous. 

Editors:

Big thanks to my editors: Drew Stegmaier, Piyali (Peels) Mukherjee, Lyle McKeany, Steven Ovadia, Nanya Sudhir, and Joel Christiansen.

Categories
Breathwork CPTSD Uncategorized

How Breathwork Helps Process Stress, Pain, and Trauma: Why I Practice

 

After decades of filling prescriptions of antidepressant, mood stabilizing, and antipsychotic drugs, I finally rejected conventional psychiatric wisdom. Using ancient methods, I went against doctors’ orders to heal. Through these methods, I treated the root cause, not merely the symptoms. I charted my journey in a series of essays. 

I write bi-monthly articles, publish podcasts, and host workshops on healing, recovery, and the root causes of pain. Sign up for two stories per month, that’s it. I charted my journey and this first article is Complex PTSD: When Your Therapist Thinks You May Be F*cked.

My life is divided into two life spans: before breathwork (BB), and after breathwork (AB). 

My arms and hands tingle. My body pulses from head to toe. A sensation of powerful energy flows in and around me. My left shoulder tightens and constricts, it feels stressed. I massage my aching shoulder. Comforting my clavicle, my mind is confused, yet certain. My body is frightened, yet self-assured. My shoulder is tight, yet free. It is overwhelming, yet soothing. My soul jumps out of my body. 

An increasing itching sensation hangs around my left temple. I cannot hold back from satisfying the itch. Placing my fingers on the temple, I gently massage the itch in small circles. My brain calls for me to heal it. My left temple pulses again and again. These sensations overwhelm my senses. My body needs reassurance that it is okay. My brain needs to be looked after. Then my shoulder needs help again. I triggered myself. I go deep into my subconscious to find answers to questions that I didn’t know I sought out. 

What is going on with my body?

Taking a Breathwork Class

I am in the middle of a breathwork class. The teacher, Marlize Jourbert, monitors the nearly darkly lit room of forty students. Loud rock music and rapid breathing flow around my fellow breathers. Faint ceiling lights shine on the floor, while battery-powered candles lay in the front of the room. Folding chairs cover the floor, seemingly bolted to the ground. Wearing blue jeans, an unzipped green hoodie, and colored socks, I am laying on my back. My glasses and baseball cap rest by my side. My workday is over. I’m relaxed on a Tuesday night at 7pm in West Los Angeles.

After getting diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD), I felt like a frozen caveman getting thawed out. I had recently stopped taking a psychiatric mood-stabilizing drug, Lamictal. Frustrated by the mental health industry, I looked to alternative and more spiritual methods to heal. After paying tens of thousands of dollars in therapy and psychiatry bills over the decades, I felt abandoned by Western medicine. For years, I numbed the symptoms of my problems, while living in denial that there was a root cause. On the surface, psychiatric drugs improved my mood, even though the drugs covered up the deeper causes of my pain. Beneath my body lived stored-up, unprocessed trauma from my past. Like a caveman, parts of my body and psyche were frozen inside. As the ice melted, decades of triggers jolted throughout my body, head to toe.

How to do Breathwork

When I’m in a room practicing breathwork with strangers, I am vulnerable. Hearing people cry, screaming a lion’s roar in unison, and letting out belly laughs together helps to move the energy. Whether it’s from the heart, shoulders, or temple – our bodies are like a reservoir for trapped emotion. Breathwork flushes my system, clearing the reservoir. 

I breathe in two deep inhales. First in the belly, then in the chest. Then I exhale it all out. I’m breathing in a rhythmic breathing pattern. 

I repeat these three steps non-stop for twenty to twenty-five minutes. 

  1. I inhale in the chest.
  2. I inhale in the belly.
  3. I exhale.

I set an intention beforehand to direct the course of the practice. I prefer an I am statement. Saying statements like: I am loved, I am safe, and I am peaceful work as my intentions. And by breathwork, I mean it. In the classes, the teachers blast loud music, while they help us focus on breathing. We usually pause breathing about four to five times during each session. During these pauses, the teachers ask to let out a big belly laugh or scream at the top of our lungs, in order to release anything that may be holding us back. It is not uncommon to cry or hear fellow breathers weeping beside me during the course of a session. 

My eyes are closed. In a dream-like state, my body is still. My mind is resting.

I feel pain. 

I comfort myself.

I feel safe.

Whether it’s to eliminate old belief systems, heal trauma, or temper emotional suffering, breathwork allows me to hit a reset button. I stay mindful of my intention as I go. During classes, I receive flashbacks to emotional memories from the past. I process them in the moment, sometimes decades after the fact.

How Breathwork processes past emotions

I am loved.

I’m thinking about my Grandfather Roger who had a heart attack before I was born. I recall a story of my Dad giving his own father CPR after he collapsed in the family’s business office. Feeling love for my Dad, I acknowledge his pain, hurting, and suffering. I empathize with the unspoken trauma my Dad experienced. Repeating I am loved. I am loved. I am loved. My heart opens with self-love.

I am loved.

I’m eleven, riding my DiamondBack dirt bike in the streets of Des Moines, IA. At my friend Cameron’s house, we play The Legend of Zelda on Nintendo. I overhear Cameron talking to his older brother about how he doesn’t think I’m cool. It hurts my feelings. I haven’t thought about that moment in decades. I comfort myself, saying it’s okay. Grieving for that sad child in my past, my left shoulder relaxes.

I am loved.

I’m a second-grader. Asking my Mom to spend the night out at my friend Todd’s house to watch Saturday Night wrestling. She says no. She would rather Todd come to our house. My Mom controls where I sleep. I cannot change her mind. I haven’t thought about this moment since it happened. I say to myself, “It wasn’t my fault. It was never my fault.” My left temple itches.

I am loved.

Practicing Breathwork in groups

Back in the studio, Marlize pumps up a song by Radiohead. She walks around the room like a college football coach, providing inspiration, motivation, and helping us to stay focused with words of encouragement. “You’re good enough!” Marlize yells to the room. “Stop playing small,” she shouts out a few minutes later. Constantly inspiring us, saying, “You guys are doing great,” and, “I’m so proud of you.” I continue to massage my left temple. Feelings of energy slide down the side of my face. The triggering in my left shoulder continues. The knot is increasing.

Marlize then tells the room: “Surrender to the moment. Keep it up.” Not knowing what to surrender, or what she precisely means, I massage and sooth my body. I continued to breath. It feels like I could run through a wall when working with Marlize. I am ready to trust her with my life. She wants us to heal. 

What is Breathwork? 

According to one of my teachers Shanila Sattar, breathwork “helps you to achieve different altered states of consciousness. In these states of consciousness, you can unblock anything in your body that’s keeping you stagnant.” She says people “often have huge breakthroughs because they are holding on to a lot of stuff that is emotionally captured in the cellular level of the body.” She adds, “what breathwork helps with is stress, anxiety, trauma, pain, and anger. It helps process emotions physiologically in the body.” 

Breathwork feels like a compounding trigger. Complex PTSD is a brain dysfunction that comes with emotional flashbacks. In Triggers, Marshall Goldsmith defines a trigger as “any stimulus that reshapes our thoughts and actions.” Triggers can be conscious or subconscious. In breathwork, I process complicated and repressed childhood feelings of abandonment from parents arguing, my Dad yelling, my Mom controlling me, and all the chaos swirling around my life. I carry these moments from my childhood.

Throughout my life, I experienced fight or flight feelings in my mind and body. The Cleveland Clinic defines a fight-or-flight response as “a stress response, triggered by a release of hormones either prompting us to stay and fight or run away and flee.” During my recovery, I realized I sometimes I overreact to stressors that are not life-threatening. Whether it is getting into fight or flight over a boss yelling at me, an accusatory co-worker pressuring me, or a family member trying to control me, I trigger myself. 

Why Breathwork feels like five years of therapy in one session

Many instructors call breathwork five years of therapy in one session. Breathwork teaches me to release stress in a natural way – through exhaling. A good breathwork class is all about breathing deeply, yelling, crying, sweating, laughing, and allowing stored-up pain to leave my body. These classes give me space to grieve. I vary my breathwork from doing it once a week, to going through 30 sessions in 30 days, to practicing every morning before I get out of bed. It helps me conjure up old painful memories and process them appropriately. While therapy can help with discussing past feelings, breathwork goes deep into your non-verbal memories. 

Breathwork is about soaking in the tears from your wet eyes, screaming at the top of your lungs, and feeling pulsations all around your body. 

  • It’s about giving yourself permission to belly laugh. 
  • It’s about breathing like you want to live. 
  • It’s about danger, and risking the feelings of your old wounds surfacing. 

It’s about past heart-wrenching break-ups popping into your mind, your parents’ argument when you were five years old, and traumatic moments coming into the television of your mind. 

Your first ten minutes may send you to the darker regions of your subconscious, and your last fifteen ten may transport you into a state of indescribable ecstasy. 

Modern medicine has never taken me to a place where breathwork has in my recovery.  Breathwork helps the physical body recover. Simple actions of courage, strength, and hope can help us to heal better than any “miracle drug” from a consumption-driven corporation. It’s a natural medicine to me. I practiced it over 150 times in 2020.

Breathwork practice heals your pain, stress, and trauma. It could bring you to the same too. Sign up to take a class with me Thursdays at 6:30 PST.

Big thanks to editors:  Stew Fortier, Tom White, Marcus Whitney, Drew Stegmaier, Diana Hawk, David Vargas, Lyle McKeany, Anushri Kumar, and and Chris Holinger.

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