Lately, I’ve been taking an intellectual and philosophical deep dive into the mind-expanding qualities of psychedelics (without actually doing any myself.) Just finished the very excellent “How to Change Your Mind” but Michael Pollan and am reading the slightly more scholarly “Way of the Psychonaut” by Stanislav Grof. Grof was one of the original LSD researchers, back in the 60s, until the US government classified it and other hallucinogens as illegal substances, in the same category as heroin. (Timothy Leary really fucked things up for those psychiatrists who were doing legit research.)
When he could no longer use LSD, psilocybin, etc., he developed what he coined holotropic breathing, holotropic from the Greek meaning “moving towards the whole,” i.e. the integration of the mental and spiritual. Most of us have heard of “altered states” vis a vis psychedelics but Grof finds that imprecise. One’s state could be altered by a high fever or a mental breakdown, for example, but such states are not generally beneficial to our psyches. So, how does one put oneself into a holotropic state with the goal of having a positive spiritual experience without drugs?
Holotropic breathing. It takes quite a bit of practice and guidance from professionals, so I’m not suggesting you try it at home however it does bring on a hallucinogenic state that can be used for spiritual insight and growth.
During all this reading, I’m also taking an advanced hypnotherapy class (via Zoom, of course) with the very brilliant Melissa Tiers. Last week, she taught us an interesting induction using a specific kind of breathing which, while not exactly Grof’s method, works very well at quickly down-regulating the mind and body. Essentially, you breath in deeply, fairly quickly, and exhale for twice as long. So, inhale counting to three or four, exhale slowly to six or eight. (This is an excellent way to de-stressify when you’re feeling overwhelmed.)
As my regular readers know, I’ve been trying to astrally project at will for a long time. My attempts to do so were the basis of this blog. But, I haven’t had much luck, to date (though I seem to have done it in dreams.) I have tried getting myself into the proper state before bed, but either a) I fall asleep or more likely b) my darling husband starts snoring which just harshes my mellow.
Being that he wakes up much earlier than I do, I’ve started meditating in the morning, once he’s up and out of bed. Rather than just do a normal meditation, i.e. with yogic breathing, or a Reiki style meditation, I’ve been using a version of Melissa’s breathing technique, with an open-mouth, slightly forceful exhale, a bit similar to Grof’s technique. My body starts to respond immediately. It feels light and tingly, the precursors to an out of body experience. The challenge has been to keep my mind focused on the breathing, and not become distracted.
The other morning, I finally succeeded! Rather than floating straight up however, my astral body fluidly rolled forward, as if I were curling smoke. At the end of the bed, I just took off! I was elated, thinking “I’m doing it!!!” I suppose I could have, should have, gone somewhere interesting but I but I was just so thrilled to be out of my body I was happy to just fly around the house. I was singing loudly and joyfully “The Sound of Music.” (I know it’s seems silly, but it captured my joyous mood — imagine Julie Andrews singing, spinning around, in that beautiful alpine meadow.) I did a couple of loops around the house, and then came back to bed where I felt asleep and didn’t wake up for a couple of hours. (I asked Michael if he heard me singing and of course, he did not.)
Now I have a dilemma! As you might imagine, I would like to be practicing every day until I can achieve lift-off at will. Problem is, I can easily end up in bed half the day, precluding me from getting anything else done, especially if I end up falling asleep, which is always a possibility.
Question: When I do this, am I being a psychonaut or just a lazy slug?