Fifteen Years Later

On Saturday Pat and I went to our fourth session of Holotropic Breathwork with Regina and Andreas in Lexington, Ky. This was on the heals of writing my paper titled Dancing the Mystery and my time with Pat reflecting on this Dancing of the Mystery, as shared in my previous post. What was my intention for this Breathwork Session? “To face my fear, to release my inner dancer.”

As always, the session was different from the previous sessions. Much movement in the beginning — for probably an hour. Then settling in, a quieting.  It was like I had been under a glass ceiling, and now the glass was gone! My hands could move freely and they so enjoyed this freedom — swaying to and fro to the heart-music of the last hour of the breathwork session. After the session I wrote in my journal of this experience that “my arms were free to dance the mystery.”  And I drew a mandala that depicted an open window frame on the ground with all kinds of colored strands flowing freely out of frame into the air above.

At our coffee time on Sunday morning Pat asked how the breath session was for me. “My arms were free, like seaweed — but in air, not water. I had not expected this (of course).” Then as I chatted with Pat about my experience at Breathwork the day before I suddenly recalled a significant retreat I was on nearly fifteen years ago. It had to do with my being a child in the womb bound tightly in cords. It seemed that my mandala after breathwork represented the cords broken and flowing freely in the air. They were even colorful cords.  I was struck by this notion that perhaps now, after nearly 15 years, these cords perhaps were broken.  My arms could freely dance!

In my interest I went back to see if I had any notes from this retreat.  I did.  In fact I had a 52 typed-page journal capturing the entire 8 days (no surprise to those who know me)!  I saw in my journal that it was an 8-day retreat with Sr. Catherine Griffiths at Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield, MA. I had first met Sr. Catherine at a weeklong workshop given the previous summer by my great teacher at the Athenaeum of Ohio, Sr. Barbara Fiand. I had taken nearly 30 hours of graduate-level seminary coursework from Sr. Barbara over the preceding 3 years in a Lay Pastoral Ministry Program, and Sr. Catherine participated in Sr. Barbara’s summer workshop by teaching and by giving special counseling sessions.  I had had one of these counseling sessions with her, and she said I could benefit from more. Her specialty was entering into prayer with people and receiving significant visions.  At the time I would do anything that might help me along my spiritual journey, and so I arranged to go on an 8-day directed silent retreat with Sr. Catherine.  It would be in November of 1996.

In my first session with Sr. Catherine at this silent retreat she was praying with me for 30-40 minutes.  The vision she got was shocking to her — a child bound up in his mother’s womb — bound up in chains in a controlled sense. No freedom. Totally controlled. The rest of the retreat built on this image — not only was the child bound up in chains, he would pull his hands and arms back into the chains if free even for an instant.  He preferred the chains. He seemed to fear freedom. This image has been with me since then, seeing my growth as coming out of the chains that bind me. Of course at first I wanted out of the chains instantly.  But eventually just gave up on the idea and the notion floated beneath my consciousness, coming up now and again, as it did Sunday morning with Pat.

But what really stopped me in my tracks when I found this 52-page journal for this retreat was the title I had given it. The title was, “Invitation to Dance, A Journal of Spiritual Reflection.”  How amazing is that!  Let me just pause and take that in.  So maybe after 15 years of work I am now experiencing a bit of freedom.  I feel deep gratitude for Grace.

Feeling love, Gary