Shamanic Journey and Breathwork
Description of the event we were about to attend via the Pyramid of Chi’s website:
Access extraordinary states of consciousness and inner awareness through guided visualizations and a two-part pranayama breathwork meditation all while laying on a comfortable mattress within the safety of the Pyramid of the Earth.
Learn techniques to take ownership of your emotional releasing, allowing you to drop deeper within and get comfortable in the uncomfortable so you don’t have to revisit old patterns and stories that no longer serve you. This paves the way for a deep sense of self-acceptance and love!
I wouldn’t say I am overly cynical but at this point in my life I have not yet experienced any deep sense of spirituality or religious fervor and I do find the excessive degrees of valley girl namaste life to be grating and often performative. But maybe here, at one of the birth places of genuine spiritualism, I could find some of the meaningful depth that many performative spiritualists lack, so I reminded myself to keep an open mind and receive whatever gifts (or harsh realizations) were to come my way.
The first indicator that this was not a social media cash grab was that no phones or pictures were allowed, since they interfere with the journey and atmosphere. So, instead of pictures, I am going to draw “hyper-realistic” representations of the event. Please enjoy.
We enter this gorgeous teepee structure that has designated mats laid out in a semi-circle, with the focal point being the shaman’s mat. There’s a feeling of reverence intertwined with nature in the air with big leafy plants, glimmering crystals, and musical percussives around the shaman’s area. The lights are dimmed low and you can hear the low thrum of the jungle around you; the crickets chirping, frogs bellowing, and birds calling.
We stand awkwardly, wondering at where to sit when our shaman, Krishna, tells us to find mats that aren’t next to anyone we know since our energies can interfere with one another. Looking at him, he strangely looks the part and looks nothing like the part – an in-shape American man with a long braid who walks with the confidence of one who is doing what he was made to do and doesn’t give a damn if we like him or not.
He’s someone who would not stand out jamming at a Jimmy Buffet concert down at Key West nor as someone in charge at a CEO boardroom. Dare I say… it’s an energy he emits.
The twelve of us or so (mostly strangers) are sitting on our mats and nervously make eye contact with each other as he sets up and sits down himself. He then goes into a short history of himself, a brief introduction into what we’ll be doing, and then gives us a medical breakdown of what we will experience with a reassurance that he is well trained and will keep us safe. He stresses that the breathwork we will do will activate our fight and flight response and he’ll use sounds and phrases to pull out past traumas and events that have left scars that our emotional brains are unable to process.
We’ll potentially experience muscle contractions in our hands and bodies that can be frightening and uncomfortable, but to not stop our breathwork. That we will feel out of our bodies in a strange dissociative haze, or potentially panic, or feelings of suffocation, and that we’ll almost certainly feel the need to pee as our brains are desperately trying to find ways to escape the mounting pressure caused by our elevated fear responses. I described it as the ego desperately trying to reassert its dominance while we were in a battle of will to dominate it and let it go.
I did not take what he was saying seriously, since a lot of nominally profound things are overhyped in Bali, and he said them so casually that I didn’t think much of it.
My nonchalance changed very, very quickly. During the two hours, I seized, peed (thankfully not in my pants), and panicked before reaching a naturally induced psychedelic state where I swore I became one with a female divinity. It. Was. Magical. My friend, a proponent of mushroom use, later said in a wondrous tone that it felt very much like mushroom trips he’s had in the past. This experience, however, required more work than swallowing a few shrooms, and the road to magical boundary sublimation was initially paved with a forest of fear, but it was an experience I would repeat in a heartbeat, especially with the same instructor.
The Actual Process and Science Behind it
So the idea is to have a relaxing, womb-like atmosphere, where you are comfortable and are willing to let yourself go a bit during the breathing induced panic. The magic of the shaman is to create this atmosphere and guide us through the difficult parts of our ego battle.
First, Krishna, our shaman, had us lay down and close our eyes. He gave us a visualization of going through a forested path and onto an altar where we were met by beings of our imagination. We imagined ourselves laying down on the altar where a transformation ceremony was to take place rife with struggle but then a white light would shine over us as we overcame the struggle.
It was to get us into the mindset of the painful transformation that we were about to go through, with the overt seed planted in our minds that, while it might be difficult at first, there is goodness and hope to come wash over us at the end.
Then he gave us instructions on how to do the breathwork. It was two sharp inhalations, one sharp exhalation, and repeat. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME FOR A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. We were going at it for at least
45 minutes 75 fuckin minutes and by minute three you’re already starting to feel the lightheaded dizziness and nascent panic. Before too long, your hands start curling in on themselves involuntarily and I had the incessant urge to pee.
He stated that this was the trauma interacting and fighting you in physical form. During this time Krishna is playing music to set the mood for battling the adjuratory ego who fights with all its might to not be let go. He is walking around us, sprinkling us with water, calming us with a touch of his hand on our heads, shouting at us to not give up, hitting the gong, and so on. The intensity of the battle continues and the music crescendos until a peace came over us and he played…Phil Collins You’ll be in my Heart.
To be honest, he may have played other calming pieces before that but I was too far gone to notice but this one I did. I didn’t expect to hear Phil Collins during a shamanic experience but by God, it brought tears to my eyes and they flowed non-stop. And judging by the sounds I heard, I wasn’t the only one crying.
Krishna brought our session to a gentle end and let us lay in our own thoughts for a few minutes before we all sat up. All of us had either clearly been crying or were still in the process of crying, and looked dazed, if not still a bit psychedelic-out. He was gentle with us and said that we’d be exhausted and need some time to recover, to not be stressed about it and let the healing take its shape.
He said he would be around to talk for the next few minutes and then he was going to head out to grab a delightful peanut butter and chocolate cake from the bakery next door.
I think I was one of the last to leave, still stuck in my dazed state before heading out with my two friends to grab some cake ourselves. We swapped stories on what we each experienced, each story being unique to us as individuals but equally profound. I slept like a baby that night.
My key take away, is that if you want to bring up painful experiences that you feel are holding you back, re-experience them, while fighting a water-less waterboarding experience, then lose your individuality as you become one with the universe in an inexplicable divine moment of pure ecstasy, and finally enjoy some fabulous cake afterwards, go to the Pyramids of Chi.
Shamanic vibes audio