Qi Gong Personal / Spirituality

One of the most powerful tools I’ve discovered for becoming more present and aware of my inner world is “breathing”. Everyone breathes, but most people remain consistently unaware of their breath, and of the impact that conscious breathing can have upon emotions, health, and well-being.

I think it feels great to yawn, sigh, laugh, and take deep breaths. But I’m finding I can gain more from the experience when I pay attention to how I feel when doing so. There is something almost magical about breath in whatever form. Maybe that’s because it plays such a huge role in sustaining life. A minute or two without breathing, and I’d be playing the harp on cloud nine (or roasting on an open fire, according to some). :)

My experience with conscious breathing began with meditation. As I slowly inhaled and exhaled, focusing on different aspects of my breath, I found myself becoming more present in the moment, more relaxed, and more at peace. The benefits of meditation are numerous, many are scientifically verified, and the practice of meditation is increasing in popularity throughout the Western world.

There are many ways to meditate. Some methods I’ve enjoyed over the years include observing my thoughts and emotions without judgment, listening to guided meditations that take me on imaginary journeys of self-discovery, and repeating a mantra or phrase to help focus my mind.

All of these methods have been effective in calming my mind and bringing peace. But recently, I’ve been practicing a different form of breathing that instead of calming, intends to shakes things up, bringing issues to the surface to be dealt with. Strong emotions sometimes arise, from fear and rage, to joy and bliss, but the end result of each session for me is usually a powerful feeling of connectedness with everyone and everything, and a sense of being bathed in love.

There are many different techniques for this type of breath work. Clarity Breathwork, Transformational Breathing, Holotropic Breathing, and Re-birthing are a few of the common ones. Some involve quick, fast breaths and a forced exhale, inducing hyperventilation (which some believe helps emotional integration). Others involve a more relaxed, connected breath, with no pause between the inhale and exhale. This exercise is usually sustained for about an hour.

I’ve tried some gentle forms of breath work six times now in group settings, along with facilitators, music, and other activities to educate and stimulate. Each time has brought different insights, awareness, and integration. My first few experiences were quite cathartic. I felt a lot of fear, strong tension in my body, and many uncomfortable emotions. Lately, they’ve been more mild, as supposedly my more difficult emotional blocks have been dealt with, or perhaps I’m just not ready to deal with more yet. Sometimes I think I’ve even fallen asleep. But I’ve gained something wonderful each time I’ve participated.

In one session, I remember seeing myself (like in a dream) in a situation from my past where I was hurt by someone else. I felt the pain of that moment acutely, along with accompanying tears. But instead of handling it like I did in real life, unconsciously repressing my feelings and hiding my emotional pain in an attempt to be loving and “strong”, I saw myself express my emotions fully. I stood up for myself, and yelled inside at the other person, stating how I felt that I deserved to be treated better. I felt more anger than I probably ever have in my life. I also realized that I hadn’t been respecting myself. I didn’t have to stay in the situation and be hurt. Rather, I knew that I was worthy of the most supportive, gentle, sensitive, freeing, and unconditional love that can be given. And I realized I could give it to myself. Then I began to show myself this love and respect by accepting what I was capable of dealing with in that moment, speaking my truth, and setting appropriate boundaries. I felt immense love for myself and gratitude for others. These feelings have carried over more into my “waking” life as well.

In another instance, after some pre-breathing exercises about discovering and living our life’s purpose, I came out of the breath work session overcome with a sense that I really do have something to give, and that it’s okay and good to do so. I shared this experience with the group afterward, and felt immense love and support from all of them, even though most were strangers. Since then, I’ve felt more confident in sharing myself, my feelings, and my creations with the world.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been reading a book called The Presence Process which also recommends circular, conscious, connected (no pause between inhale and exhale) breathing for 15 minutes, twice a day. This is done through the nose and in a sitting position, rather than laying down breathing with the mouth open like in the group sessions. Any emotions that come up are to be felt and embraced, not sedated or controlled. I’ve found immense power in doing this, and have found that it accompanies group breath work beautifully.

Who would have thought that the simple act of conscious breathing and the practice of emotional awareness that accompanies it could have such a profound impact on my emotional and physical health?

If you’d like to get an idea of what happens during a breath work session, here’s a video that captures some of the essence. The most recent workshops Jen and I have been going to are not exactly like this, but similar, and led by the same amazing woman, Christabel Zamor. Like in the video, there is usually some dancing before hand, and some interaction with others in the group. We’ve made some wonderful new friends this way as well.

Have you ever tried focusing on your breath for an hour? Have you ever meditated or experienced any benefits from it? What techniques have you found helpful? Have you ever breathed through painful emotions and learned something about yourself by doing so? Does all of this sound ridiculous to you? I’d love to hear any thoughts and stories you have to share below.

Brandon is a location independent entrepreneur, musician, worldschooling father, and the principal author of this blog. He's all about reaching his potential and enjoying life to the fullest in each moment.


  1. Jennifer Pearce Says: February 10, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Roasting on an open fire… hahaha. It’s so easy to take something as simple as breathing for granted. When used as a tool for emotional integration and personal transformation, it becomes surprisingly powerful, as I’ve also been discovering. I’ve always appreciated breathing, as I’m sure we all do, but I just never realized it could be so fun or feel so amazing. We’ve managed to tap into something really special, that’s for sure, especially with Christabel and her very nurturing group breath work sessions. She’s such an exceptional teacher and facilitator.

  2. Chris Mower Says: February 10, 2013 at 10:41 pm

    Hi Brandon,

    I have yet to try most of th e breathing exercises that you mention in this post, other than the deep inhales and exhales associated with meditation. I’ll have to give some of these techniques a shot. Meditation for me has been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. It has helped me view people and situations in a balanced way and allowed me to let go of a lot of negative emotions that have been bubbling inside of me. I think it’s also helped me to tap into the present more fully and see others more compassionately. Overall, meditation has made me a happier person.

  3. Hey Brandon, thanks for the post. Breath is something that I have been working on as I am trying to improve my run time. I find that as I get (ahem) older running fast is more and more of a challenge. Your blog post gave me pause to think about the bigger picture. I do not meditate but my wife does. I am going to share your thoughts with her and would not be surprised if the book you are reading ends up in our shopping cart from Amazon.

    As an aside, I am enjoying your blog and following your family’s adventures.

    Best rgs,

  4. Just downloaded the book on my Kindle or iPad…. looks like I may have an opportunity to put some of this breathing work immediately into practice with the imminent passing of my father from this world. Something for which I am very grateful (he’s had a miserable existence for many years), but it is also stirring up emotions that I thought I had already dealt with.

    Thanks again for leading the way…

  5. Just received in the mail both books you recommended and I’m getting serious again with meditation. I’ve practiced over the years with other forms but have recently noticed old emotions stirring up similar to what “mom” commented on.

    Thank you and I’m looking forward to seeing what type of releasing experiences I will encounter.

  6. I really enjoyed our ‘breathing session’ on New Year’s Eve while I was there. I wish we would have had the opportunity to attend the Breath of Bliss class- that sounds amazing. I love that you get to learn all of these incredible things and then share them with me. That’s the point of being a big brother- teaching me what you know about life so I don’t have to do as much work ;)
    Love you!

  7. I just found your blog and I’m stoked to find a family that is living a minimalistic/entrepreneurial life. Whenever I discuss how I’ve recently chosen to live my life, I often hear from people how it’s just not possible to live so free with a family. I definitely would like to start a family and maintain location independence, so I’m pretty stoked to have found this site!

  8. In college I took a “Performance Visualization” class, which was essentially meditation and the study of visualizing yourself achieving good performance (music, dance, sport, etc). I remember asking the teacher once, “but what if I can’t VISUALIZE myself doing what I want?” (i.e. a dance move that I really wanted to master), and his response was, “Well, THAT is a problem.” Hahaa! The class was at night and I often fell asleep during the meditation/visualization part of class…but it was very enjoyable, anyways! Part of the class assignment was going to a special office on campus and being monitored (heartbeats, etc) while the other student worker did a relaxation/visualization session. It’s amazing what meditation and breathing can do for the body. I have learned, however, that I am an intensely private person–and don’t like group settings for this type of thing. It’s great that you do, though!

  9. Just realized my comment was clear as mud. The class assignment was ME, the student, being monitored while reclining in a chair while listening to music and following visualization prompts by the other person (also a student–probably in a related class/discipline), while they monitored and recorded MY heartbeat, vitals, etc. Pretty cool class :-)

  10. Hey Brandon,

    I really enjoyed your post. Thanks for sharing. And I just wanted to share with you that I too read through The Presence Process – in fact have read and practiced it 3 times now over a period of a year. It’s awesome! And he has a website called thepresenceportal.com (or something very close to that) with lots of articles and resources to supplement the book. I look forward to seeing you around Ubud at breath work sessions. I’ve just returned to Ubud after sequestering myself away on a solo writing retreat. See you!


    Robin Sparks
    Another Clarity trained Breathworker in Ubud. :)

  11. Hi Brandon. I’ve just recently started following your blog. I really like and appreciate your well-worded, honest and objective writing style. I come away informed, but not preached at – it’s a gentle enlightenment. Thank you for sharing (which reminds me that your words on sharing here were beautiful).

  12. Does all of this sound ridiculous to you? yes.. :)

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