5. Is there a prescribed ‘order’ of experience?

We have seen many newcomers to Holotropic Breathwork arrive at a workshop with fixed ideas about what they have to experience or will experience, as if they’d been given instructions by their therapist. (One person even arrived with a map of his body, drawn by his therapist, showing me where his ‘stuff’ was.) But in Holotropic Breathwork, there is no prescribed order of experience, and no way to predict what will emerge. Facilitators stress over and over again: let go of your agenda and be willing to be surprised. The inner healer will select the issue you will explore, the healing you will experience, and the lesson you will learn.

There is also a common misperception that clients must first clear personal trauma, then work through birth trauma, and then, if they’re lucky, might have a transpersonal experience. This is an understandable misunderstanding of Grof’s work, for he did suggest this as the general order of discovery in a holotropic process. However on a case by case, session by session, basis, it doesn’t work like that. I have seen many people have very powerful spiritual experiences in their very first session: these experiences may give them the incentive to continue, an overview of their process, or the tools they need to continue. I have seen many people whose first sessions are entirely transpersonal, and this might continue for many sessions, until they realize that the next edge for their growth is in their personal life, or in their personal history.

Interestingly, many sessions present many levels of the psyche at the same time, in a fascinating, holographic way. And as with dreams, each session can contain a prelude or hint of things to come. I remember one participant, a devout vegetarian, having a holotropic session in which the image of a Big Mac appeared in his mind, fleetingly, much to his amusement. In his next session, several days later, he had a full-blown transpersonal experience in which he experienced himself as a lion, hungrily devouring the raw meat of a just-killed animal.

I have come to believe that Holotropic Breathwork simply brings up exactly the experience we need right now, in the moment, from whatever level of consciousness. Whether this is a ‘therapeutic’ experience or a ‘spiritual’ experience is irrelevant. Whether it seems to be from the past is also irrelevant. Whether it is literal or metaphoric also doesn’t seem to matter much. What matters most is simply having that experience, that day. The session gives you a glimpse of the archetypal structure of the present moment, and brings you, very efficiently, to the next stage of your development.