Harm Reduction

Transcript: Why Transformational Breathwork Is Key To Cultivating Presence – Philippa Wilkin

The Third Wave · April 26th, 2020

Please enjoy this transcript of our interview with Philippa Wilkin.

Philippa Wilkin, transformational leadership coach and breathwork facilitator, sits down with host Paul F. Austin to discuss existential crises, why breathwork helps to integrate repressed emotions, and how consistently live in a state of presence.

If you’re interested in why breathwork and psychedelics make for an excellent pair, then join us for a deep dive into the story of one of the world’s foremost breathwork facilitators.

In this episode we talk about:

00:00 Paul Austin: Welcome to The Third Wave podcast. I’m your host, Paul Austin, here to bring you cutting edge interviews with leading scientists, entrepreneurs and medical professionals who are exploring how we can integrate psychedelics in an intentional and responsible way for both healing and transformation. It is my honor and privilege to bring you these episodes as you get deeper and deeper into why these medicines are so critical to the future of humanity. So let’s go and let’s see what we can explore and learn together in this incredibly important time.

00:39 PA: The Third Wave podcast is brought to you by Magic Mind. Do you want more creativity flow and energy in your day-to-day routine? Then go to magicmind.co and get the 2-ounce shot that contains 12 magical ingredients scientifically designed to improve your productivity. I’ve been using Magic Mind over the last couple of months. It has replaced my morning coffee as matcha, lion’s mane and a number of other nootropics, and I can’t say enough about it. It is so, so useful. So if you’re interested in Magic Mind, go to magicmind.co and enter promo code “thirdwave” to get 10% off and try it for yourself.

01:18 PA: As long time listeners know, yoga and meditation had played huge roles, complementary practices, to my own responsible psychedelic use, and that’s why we’re excited to be working with Halfmoon Yoga as a partner for the podcast. They carry everything from basic yoga supplies to more advanced things like bolsters and sandbags to meditation cushions that are super comfy to sit on. And right now, they’re offering a 15% discount to Third Wave listeners with the promo code “thirdwave”. I’d encourage you to check them out at shophalfmoon.ca if you’re looking for tools to support your yoga or meditation practice.

01:52 PA: Hey, listeners, welcome back to The Third Wave podcast. Today’s podcast is with Philippa Wilkin, who is a dear friend of mine. I met Philippa a couple of years ago now. She attended our very first Synthesis retreat in the Netherlands. This was April 2018, through a mutual friend. She had never done psychedelics before and had come from a long background of breathwork. And we facilitated a great experience for her and she ended up working for Synthesis for some time and leading breathwork within our ceremonies. And her approach to breathwork, the way that she work with clients, her understanding of the relationship between the opening or the awakening and how that ties into the work that we choose to pursue in the world, all of it resonated so much. And we really haven’t had someone on the podcast yet to go deep into breathwork, so that’s why I wanted to have Philippa come on to talk a little bit more about that. So, Philippa is trained in transformational breathwork. So there’s holotropic breathwork, Wim Hof breathwork, there’s also transformational breathwork which we get into a little bit in the episode.

03:04 PA: And we recorded this in London last October 2019 in a park because we were trying to find a place where we could do video. So we just set up a video in the middle of Hyde Park, sat down on a bench next to each other and just started to riff on psychedelics and breathwork, and Synthesis, and meaning, and all of these other things that just come from having a great conversation with a really close friend. So more than anything, I think you’ll enjoy the authenticity of this conversation, the closeness of this conversation, and you’ll really get to see Philippa’s beautiful soul and heart come out in it’s full form. So without any further ado, I bring you Philippa Wilkin.

03:48 PA: So we’re sitting at Hyde Park after a little bit of a fiasco at an Airbnb that we had early on and I’m sitting here with Philippa Wilkin. Welcome, Philippa.

03:57 Philippa Wilkin: Thank you.

03:58 PA: It’s great to have you. Tell us a little bit about your story before we get into some of the more practical things. Why are we here recording a podcast in London? And what is it, it’s October 2019. Tell us a little bit about your story, what brought you to this moment, what brought you to breathwork? I’d love to just start there.

04:17 PW: Yeah, awesome. So, firstly, thank you for having me and it’s absolutely amazing to see you, it’s been a long time. Yeah, good question. My story. So, really, it goes back 10 years now of being in a place where I was highly successful, I had a job in the insurance industry in London and I pretty much thought I could have everything that I dreamed of, that I wanted. At that point, everything broke down. Everything disintegrated. A long-term relationship ended. I was in a lot of pain and I was really what I would describe as having an existential crisis of, “Oh my god, what am I doing? Why am I here? Am I in this job because I love it or… What’s going on?” And so, really, that catalyzed my journey to be here now, sitting on this bench in Hyde Park in London with you to answering or finding some answers to some of those questions of, “Who am I? What am I here for?” ’cause it wasn’t that. I was very clear in that moment that it wasn’t that thing.

05:15 PW: And so I guess my journey for the last 10 years has been finding out who I am beyond the conditioning of who I thought I was and what society or my parents, or anybody else expected me to do and what I’m here to do, and how I’m here to serve and how I’m here to bring my, I guess, unique gifts, the essence of who I am, to the world. And that’s… I haven’t figured out all those answers but I found a lot along the way. So that’s what’s brought me here, through different means and finding breathwork and yoga or meditation. I’ve done lots of weird and wonderful things in my time. We met last year, I guess…

05:52 PA: Through Synthesis.

05:53 PW: Through Synthesis. So yeah, being involved in psychedelics scene for a short period of time as well. So, all of these different tools have led me to where I am now. So it really is a synthesis of many, many different things and many experiences that have brought me here, and breathwork has played a really, really big part in that.

06:12 PA: What I love to bring us back into is the moment. Where was the shift for you? What was the catalyst to the existential crisis in terms of waking up and realizing, “Oh, I’m working in a job, I’m successful, I’m not happy and I think my path is elsewhere and I’m gonna go pursue that path”? What was that moment? Bring us into that moment.

06:32 PW: Yeah. So I had this job, I was earning a lot of money, I was having… I had a lot of responsibility. I was working in the city. I was running part of a business that was essentially getting on for $18 million at that time and my work was very repetitive. And I came to the point where, “I don’t wanna see another email, I don’t wanna necessarily deal with another client,” but at the same time, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place because I was earning a load of money which facilitated the lifestyle that I enjoyed, holiday, vacations, whatever. I was in a place where I didn’t really have to think about money.

07:13 PW: So what had got me to that place is a lot of hard work and dedication, but also overriding really what my true underlying values were at some level. And so I was very emotionally disconnected. Every few months, with my then-partner at that time, he’d say, “I don’t know what’s going on with you, I don’t know how you feel, you don’t talk to me.” And really, the best I could do was I would cry ’cause I couldn’t communicate, I couldn’t express my feelings, I couldn’t tell him what was going on for me. A few weeks later, I’d say, “Yeah, yeah, I’ll do better, I’ll do better,” and then a few months later, be back in the same position.

07:48 PW: So I was just very disconnected from really who I was and what my emotions were trying to tell me, and really unable to communicate with anybody in an intimate sense what was going on for me. Yeah, there was a part of me that knew something different was out there and that I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing, but the other part of me was scared of change and all of this, I guess, facade that I built, in a way, around my work and my job, and that really defined me as a person.

08:19 PA: It was your identity at the time.

08:20 PW: It was my identity at the time, so even the thought of letting go of that was scary as hell. And I’m sure anybody out there listening to this can relate, particularly if they’re on the edge of a career change or they’re going through some kind of transition. Really, we’re breaking down a lot of the things that we thought we were and the reality is we weren’t in the first place. We were just sticking to somebody else’s expectation, trying to live up to something outside of us and we get walked in that process, we get distracted from what we’re really, really here to do. That was what was going on.

08:54 PW: I was underneath… To the outside world, my life looked like the perfect life that anybody would wanna have. Inside, there was a lot of turmoil going on, but people didn’t see it. And I think that’s true in the world today. People are suffering in silence because we’ve lost this ability to communicate, human to human. We’re involved in social media or over computers, where even on the tube or the bus with our headphones in, we’re very, very disconnected and unfortunately, I don’t think that is a good thing for the human condition. With really, connection, conversation, even physical touch, I think, is such an important factor that we’re negating and it’s no wonder that we are feeling disconnected and isolated, and confused.

09:43 PA: So where does breathwork come into this story? ‘Cause that’s how I know you. I know you as this fantastic transformational breathwork facilitator and obviously, our conversations range beyond just breath into spiral dynamics and into, generally, things related to doing personal work and understanding more aspects of ourself. But I feel like your… One of your key contributions and gifts is leading people into this liminal space by utilizing breath, so I’d love to just go into that a little bit. How did you find breathwork and what does breath mean to you?

10:14 PW: So I’ll just give a little explanation perhaps as to what breathwork is, in case people out there don’t know. My interpretation, and this is kind of a commonly used one, is two things: Breathwork is really about becoming aware of your breath. So just becoming aware of your physical body, what’s happening with your breathing. Breath awareness is part of what I would class this breathwork. And the other part is then the conscious modulation or change of how we breathe. So doing particular breathing exercises, breathing in different parts of the body and being consciously aware of changing the pattern or adapting the pattern to, I would say, achieve a particular outcome but what we can do with that is we can create particular states, and one of those states can be the liminal space. So that’s just a brief overview of what breathwork is.

11:03 PA: Before you keep going, could you just do a brief explanation of maybe what are some of the fundamental differences between Wim Hof breathwork? Because a lot of people know Wim Hof, transformational breathwork, which is the one I’ve learned from you. What are the key differences between those two?

11:17 PW: Yeah, that’s a great question. In many senses, they’re all overlapping. That’s what I would say. There’s no one thing that’s the best, in my opinion. They all bring different flavors, if you like. So, something like Wim Hof, which I really enjoy, is really with more of an angle towards performance and immunity. I’ve done a little bit of it. One of my good friends is a Wim Hof instructor. And it’s really, really powerful. So, it works with a different combination of deep breathing exercises with breath holds, either where you have the breath in or where you have the breath out. And there were also other combinations of accelerated breathing. So you start off slowly with the breath with no pauses and you get faster and faster, and faster until, again, use some form of breath hold, either with an inhale or an exhale. Both of these can create altered states.

12:10 PW: It’s undeniable that, for me, all breathwork really creates altered states of different and varying degrees. My view is that Wim Hof is more aimed towards performance and also in combination with cold exposure, so cold shower therapy, which again enhances immunity. The form that I practice, which is called transformational breath, is using a connected breath, so no pause between inhale and exhale. It’s a more relaxed form, so we’re not taking huge big breaths that we might do with the Wim Hof style. It’s more flowing process of going with the breath rather than forcing the breath, albeit we do invite people to take a bigger breath than normal.

12:51 PW: In that process, we also use sound, so expression, and really we use that in a way that’s more like a chant and use the vibration of that in the body. We also use movement. So to physically move the energy in the body and perhaps express something physically that we might be feeling. And we also use physical body work, so touch work, so acupressure, releasing certain muscles or certain points in the body to help facilitate the process, and also affirmations. So words of affirmation, positive words of affirmation. And all of these come together in the system that I use.

13:28 PW: And further to that, there are many other types of breathwork. There’s the holotropic form of breathwork, there’s SOMA breathwork. There are many, many different schools. Fundamentally, they’re modulating the breath in a different way and many of them use similar techniques. It just boils down to the specifics of the set-up as to whether somebody has a preference for one over the other. But my invitation is always, go and experiment. Go and try it for yourself. I often say with breathwork that it’s a bit like eating an apple. I can tell you what an apple taste like like, “It’s crunchy and it’s sweet, and it’s juicy,” and I can tell you all the words in the world about what an apple tastes like, but until you eat the apple, you’re not gonna know. So that’s my encouragement, always go and try different things. See what you like, see what you don’t like, see what you get from it, see how you feel, make up your own mind.

14:22 PA: So why did you choose transformational breathwork? What was that process like for you?

14:27 PW: I don’t know if it was a choice, actually [chuckle] because I found breathwork specifically after I’d done lots of different things. So, 10 years ago when I was like, “Who am I? What I doing? Where am I going? I had no idea,” that started me on the path of yoga, meditation, probably for the best part of five years, mainly, if I’m really honest, to keep myself from not going crazy. From that moment onwards, rather than being emotionally numb and void, and shut down, I went the opposite way. It was like everything was overwhelming. I was tears, sadness. I was going through a real challenging time and I had turned to yoga as a way of trying to keep sane, if I’m really honest. [chuckle]

15:11 PW: And so I’ve been practicing and that took me to one of the mind-body shows in London, and that was in 2014. And I’d been thinking about doing this breathwork session thing for a while and it just so happened that at this show, there was a breathwork session. So I went along and there were about 40 or 50 people in the room, and it was with a guy called Allan Dolan who is an amazing breathwork facilitator. He’s called “The Breath Guru”. He led this session. It’s about two, two-and-a-half hours. People from all walks of life, as I said, 40, 50 people. And at the end of the session, there were lots of people sharing their different experiences.

15:50 PW: For me, my first session was quite physical. I had a lot of tingling in my face, I had tingling in my fingers, I felt energy moving through different parts of my body. I was like, “Oh, this is really interesting, this is really interesting.” And at that point, I knew there was something in it for me that I needed to go and explore. And at the end of the session where everybody was sharing and they had been crying, or laughing, or having big catharsis, or they were explaining their experience and how moving it was, then I was like, “Oh, there’s really something in this for me. I really need to know more.” And so from that, I was also in a place where I really knew I needed to transition from my career. I’d already, that year, been to Brazil and I came back from Brazil and I was like, “Okay, I’ve tried these different jobs to see if it’s me or the job. It’s the job.”

[laughter]

16:41 PA: I’m definitely cool. The job, nah.

16:44 PW: The job, not so.

16:45 PA: It’s not my thing, right? It just wasn’t your thing.

[laughter]

16:48 PW: No, it wasn’t my thing.

16:49 PA: It’s not most people’s thing.

16:50 PW: No, it’s not most people’s thing. So I had had this idea that I need to go and live in Brazil. This is about two months, a month or two before. “I need to go and live in Brazil. What am I gonna do?” I don’t know what I’m gonna do, I just need to leave, and I didn’t have a plan of what’s next. So I was still in my job but I went to this workshop and I thought, “I need to explore it.” So, I think, two or three months later, I just booked myself straight on the course to learn how to do it for myself. So during the end of that year, towards later in that year, about five months, four or five months later, I’m booked on this course and it was just a slight progression, really. It was like an unfolding. So I was getting more information, I was understanding more about myself, I was what I would describe as integrating some of this emotional stuff that had been stuck with me for a long time.

17:36 PA: Can you give a couple examples of that? What were some of that emotional stuff?

17:40 PW: Yeah. Yes and no. I think I had had… By that point, I’d been to talk therapy for a couple of years and that had been really helpful in understanding why I was doing what I was doing, and how I was stuck and also showed me my resistance to talking about how I felt. So that was really, really beneficial. But what I found is it wasn’t necessarily getting to the root cause of the emotional starkness. So, very good talking about it but I wasn’t feeling it. So, breathwork allowed me to go into some of the pain that I had experienced and repressed, some of the challenging, perhaps, times in my life that I’d put a lid on and I didn’t wanna deal with, and I was able to go into that emotion, into that scenario, and actually release it. And it wasn’t about getting rid of it but it was about accepting what had happened. And in that space, in the breathwork session, I was able to see, I guess, the harmony or another side to that experience and actually resolve it. So it was really powerful for me, somatically, as well to feel in my body some of these emotions and allow them to move on and leave.

19:02 PW: And that might have been through the expression, so making some sound. Perhaps I was really angry and frustrated, so maybe I was either screaming into a pillow or sounding out loud and really allowing myself to go through these experiences and express. ‘Cause I think that’s another big part where we’re stuck in society. We’re all, particularly in British society, stiff upper lip, “Nothing’s wrong with me, I’m fine.” Whereas really, we’re raging inside or we’re fearful, or we’re frustrated, or we’re scared…

19:31 PA: Or we’re sad.

19:32 PW: Or we’re sad.

19:33 PA: Or angry, whatever else it might be.

19:35 PW: Exactly. So that was really great to have, I guess, a catharsis in a way at some moments and other moments where experiencing bliss and joy and actually feeling my heart open, and that there was something greater beyond me. And I’ve never been a particularly religious person. I’ve always had a sense that there’s something beyond me. But in those moments, so I was really able to experience that grace, for want of a better word, that brought tears to my eyes just from breathing, just from breathing. And this is what I wanna say is that the reason I love breathwork so much is because we have… They’re at our fingertips, so at the end of our nose. The air is free for now. [chuckle]

20:22 PA: It’s not in China.

20:24 PW: It’s not in China. Apparently…

20:25 PA: They actually get sold bottles of fresh air from Canada, but for now. For now.

20:31 PW: I know, this is crazy. But for now, air is free and these tools are free in the sense if you go and learn how to do this, you have… This is a tool for life. Wherever you are, whenever it is, you can go and sit down and center yourself or process something that might be stuck, and it might have been stuck for a very long time, to enable you to really be the person who you are underneath all of the bullshit.

20:58 PA: Right.

21:00 PW: Right? So that’s why I love breathwork so much is anytime, anyplace, like meditation, anytime, anyplace, you can drop into this space and reconnect with who you’re really are. And that for me is what breathwork is and does.

21:14 PA: Full stop.

21:15 PW: Full stop.

[laughter]

21:16 PA: Well and ever since we’ve known each other, it’s been about a year and a half now…

21:20 PW: Yeah, maybe even longer. Yeah.

21:21 PA: This has been the recurring lineage of our conversation. It’s like we kind of ping back and forth. Obviously, I’m a big fan of psychedelics and those are exogenous, those come from outside. And what’s so powerful about breath, as you mentioned, is it’s endogenous, it’s within us. And even over the last month or so, I’ve been getting deeper into morning rituals. I read Aubrey Marcus’s “Own Your Day“. I’m normally hesitant to read any sort of tactical self-help books because I went through that stage in my early 20s and I was like, “Alright, well, I went through that stage, I don’t need people to continue to tell me what to do, I get it,” until I fell off the bandwagon and was like, “Okay, maybe I should get back into it.” And something that Aubrey recommends is, as part of a morning ritual, basically doing some Wim Hof breath. So I’ve been getting more and more into that and what I’ve noticed is it’s like, throughout our daily existence, we just take on a lot of stuff and it piles on and it piles on, and it piles on. And it’s not until we’re able to clear the vessel, so to say, and come with a clear vessel that we can actually fully show up as who we are regardless of all the bullshit, as you mentioned.

22:31 PA: And what I found breathwork to be so effective at is just… It’s clearing the vessel, and every morning, being able to drop and then clear the vessel. And I remember specifically, there was an experience that we did before Synthesis last year where you led me through some transformational breathwork right before I went into a Psilocybin experience. And essentially, what it did is it just… ‘Cause I’ve been holding on to so much sadness throughout that process, it just cracked me open to the point then where I could even just allow myself to express everything that had been stuck under. And ever since then, I’ve been… We haven’t spoken about it a lot in the podcast or publicly but I’ve just been so interested in breath as a modality that can be utilized consistently in a healthy way to bring us back into who we really are, as you said.

23:16 PA: I don’t wanna spend too much time on psychedelics because I feel like we get enough of that and you’re so great with breathwork but I would love to talk a little bit about your experience with Synthesis. We had started this retreat in April 2018 and from what I remember, you were there for the first pilot retreat. So I’d love to hear about your experience. What was it like to lead breathwork at a psychedelic retreat? And just walk us through that process for you.

23:40 PW: For me, as you remember our conversation in May of last year, my primary interest at that point in the psychedelic space was supporting integration and coming to an experience such as psychedelic ceremony is quite a mind-expanding experience, let’s face it. And so my interest in the field wasn’t necessarily to do with the psychedelics, it was to do with, “What do people do when they go home?” And I think you remember that conversation that we had of, “Really, that’s my focus.” So the same was true with coming to Synthesis, and as you know, I came as a participant, thanks to your kind invitation.

24:27 PA: I forget these things. Weren’t you just there facilitating from the get-go?

24:33 PW: No.

24:33 PA: Did you facilitate at any of the first… That’s right, ’cause you had never done psychedelics before, right?

24:38 PW: No.

24:39 PA: Oh, so bring us back into that.

[laughter]

24:41 PA: You were on the first pilot retreat for Synthesis that we ever did. What was that like then doing psychedelics?

24:50 PW: That was an incredible experience.

24:51 PA: The guacamole. Remember the guacamole?

24:53 PW: The guacamole. It wasn’t guacamole. So that was…

24:57 PA: It was not guacamole?

25:00 PW: That was a really very powerful and profound experience, led me to understand a greater level, I think, what was happening within me and also what was happening within people when they were going through these experiences, and that was primarily the reason they came. We were talking about integration, we were talking about breathwork and I figured that I couldn’t walk the talk and I couldn’t help and support people if I hadn’t been to the process myself. So that was my primary motivation, is like, “Okay, I need to walk the talk. So if I’m gonna do this in this area, then I really need to have the experience.”

25:35 PW: So coming out and obviously, coming from that was then discussions about how we could work together and then joining in November when Synthesis had a permanent location for the first time. And so it kinda happened by default in a way in that I was facilitating another retreat, the first retreat or the second retreat that I’d facilitated with my time and it so happened that you’d ask me to come and facilitate another longer Synthesis Retreat. And then I happened to stay at the venue in between and by happy coincidence, I guess, as you were there at the time as well, if you remember, what was that, “Okay, what about putting some breathwork sessions into the retreats coming up if you’re here?” So I was like, “Okay.”

26:22 PW: So really, that was a happy coincidence that ended up to be very, very powerful and beneficial for everybody that was coming to the retreat and going through the process. And so it really happened in a way that was quite organic and it just fitted in, it just made sense. And my experience of working in the retreat setting… It was amazing to see that people were coming for a ceremony, they were coming for the psychedelic, and many people… Some people had heard of breathwork, some people had done breathwork because of Michael Pollan’s book, “How To Change Your Mind“, which talks about his experience with holotropic breathwork. And so I think it’s great to hear that more people are becoming exposed and understanding that there’s another method out there, which is great. So we would have a mix of people but many people hadn’t either heard of breathwork or done any breathwork.

27:17 PW: And so, adding it into the retreat was a really powerful but unexpected benefit to many people and it really helped them to lose their or lessen their fear of what might come during the ceremony. It really allowed them to open up and it really allowed them to relax a lot more and to trust themselves and to trust the process. So rather than having, perhaps, a lot of fear and anxiety coming up, what was gonna happen, for many people it being their first experience, it enabled them to really be able to let go and go into the process at a deeper level, I would say, and also to be able to be more in contact with their body, more in touch with their body. Because this is what I find in the Western world. Particularly, we’re very disembodied. We’re very in the head, we’re very much in the mental space, we’re breathing up in our chest as well, which correlates with that, and we’re very unattached or disassociated from our physical sensations.

28:24 PW: So breathwork is a really amazing way of bringing people into their body, really having a sense of grounding and feeling into their body and trusting their body. And for some people, it can be a very visceral experience and that visceral experience can help them understand what they’ve been holding on to, and we call that in the body like body armor, the tensions that we build up. Almost like the physical armor that we put on to protect ourselves. We can become viscerally, so physically aware, of how tense or tight our body is. So when the energy starts flowing in the body, for some people, it can be a very strange unusual experience, as I’m sure you’ve experienced as well. Tingling or energy moving around or feeling of expansion, or feeling of vibration. Some people have never had this experience in their life and it’s like, “Whoa.” And sometimes they used to say, “That’s the warm-up, now you know.” [chuckle]

29:25 PA: You got a sense for it right?

29:26 PW: You got a sense, right?

29:27 PA: Stick your toe in the pool.

29:29 PW: Yeah, and if you can go through this, if you can endure… Sometimes, breathwork is challenging ’cause there’s stuff that we don’t wanna face. But you keep breathing, you’re gonna shift it, you’re gonna integrate it. That’s the thing I can promise you. It’s like, for some people, they might have had a challenging experiences like, “Well, you’ve got through this challenge. You can prove to yourself that nothing actually… Even if you’ve had some things challenging come up, that it’s not gonna kill you, you’re not gonna die.” And that’s what most of us, I think, are stuck with this expectation or belief at some level that if I feel my emotions or I feel my sadness, or I feel my pain, I’m gonna die. So I don’t wanna go anyway near there ’cause that’s not good. I don’t wanna be there and I don’t wanna be stuck there.

30:09 PW: The reality is you don’t get stuck anywhere. If you really go deep into an emotion, 90 seconds is really the maximum you’re gonna spend in it. And there might be tears and there might be catharsis but we never get stuck anywhere. The human experience is always fluctuating. So that really, for me, was the benefit of that environment and to the people coming into the environment, was that it gave them a sense of grounding in their body, it gave them a sense that they could overcome anything, it gave them a sense of how disconnected, perhaps, they’d been and that this was accessible. This changing state, this emotional integration, this becoming whole and who we really are and connecting deeply with ourselves is possible just with breath, with nothing outside. So ongoing is an integration. You come and you have this experience and you have this amazing journey and visuals, and everything else, but you got home and now what?

31:10 PW: For me, those types of experiences are there to be integrated, they are there to be utilized. So one way of continuing that journey, a tool you can take home, is breath. And that was the original conversation you were coming back to way, way back last year that we were having. And so that was my experience too. So, it was great to see what I, perhaps, conceived or perceived might be because I actually had a grounding in my experience and the feedback that I was getting there.

31:41 PA: Now, one more tactile question I wanna ask before diving into some of the current things that you’re excited about. In our conversation so far, you’ve mentioned there are these various spaces that you can access with breathwork. So you mentioned the body armor, we talked about the liminal space. The way that I think a little bit about it, it’s like the physical emotions that come up and then once you get through the physical, you may be going through the emotional things, the sadness or the anger that comes up. Some people have full-blown mystical experiences with this. So I’d love if you could just talk our listeners through what are those various stages from a breathwork perspective that we’re stepping into the deeper and deeper that we go into this alternate state.

32:18 PW: Great question. So, I think, primarily, the first thing, if people are disconnected from their body, there’s a lot of physical sensations. So, this awareness that we live in a meat suit, we have this thing that moves, lives, breaths and has sensation and often, we’re numbed out to that sensation. You might have an ache or pain that we don’t even realize we have and we’re just shoving it down. So the process can be very physical. You might have tingles, you might feel like your arms are levitating, you might have a headache, for example, as the energy starts moving. And really, you’re clearing out the crud from an emotional perspective, in an energetic perspective. You might notice that you’re really tired, you might notice that you’re really physically full of energy. So, physically, we become a lot more aware of our body, is the first thing I would say.

33:08 PW: And also, from a physical perspective, most of us are not utilizing our diaphragm, breathing with our diaphragm which sits here at the base of the ribs. And really, if you look at how a baby breathes or a young child, their chest moves, their belly moves, they expand, they’re like a big accordion almost. And as we develop and become adults, we tend to lose that capacity. So, really, the focus is on opening that capacity up so that we can be utilizing all of our respiratory system, so we can get the air in.

33:41 PW: Often, we have tension, perhaps, underneath the diaphragm, underneath the ribs, in the soft part of the belly. When we have that, it makes it difficult to use the diaphragm. But ultimately, we know when we’re using the diaphragm, which is the primary muscle for breathing, when our abdomen does move or certainly, our side ribs move, and this moves down into the abdominal cavity and displaces whatever’s in there, your lunch. So, physically, we’re aiming to breathe with our diaphragm, so our belly moves, and also that we open our chest up because often, we’re quite closed. Maybe we’ve had some heartache, maybe we’ve lost somebody and we tend to close this area down to protect ourselves. So opening up our chest.

34:25 PW: So from a physical perspective, we’re really looking to get all of the system moving and open, and any tension in the physical body might restrict us to do that. And usually that tension is related to some kind of emotional imbalance experience that we have held in the body. So we’re holding our experiences really in the body, and that was when I talk about body armor. Often, we build up these protections as a way of not feeling and that’s when I refer to body armor, tension in the muscles that prevent us or keep us safe really. These things have a purpose, they keep us safe. We perceive they do anyway until they no longer serve us and we become rigid and we become stuck in patterns.

35:05 PW: So, physically, lots of different sensations but really, it’s about opening up the capacity. Because we sat over a desk often on a computer not thinking about our breath and often what we do is when we don’t wanna feel an emotion or when we get stressed, we hold our breath. And really, we trap in that moment everything and anything. Our emotions, we suppress them. So it’s opening up.

35:29 PW: Then we can go into this kind of, I would say, mental and emotional space. So that could be a memory that comes up, it could be a feeling that comes up without a memory attached but a physical sensation in the body and these often are things that we’ve suppressed or repressed at some point. And so they come up really for us to recognize them and to address them, and let them go. So it’s really in that moment we’re changing our perception, we’re accepting something has happened, we perhaps feeling the feelings or the emotions that we suppressed at the time. We could even be seeing the perfection in everything of that happening. And so it allows us to have some kind of resolution and integration of that experience rather than carrying it around with us. And also perhaps we have a catharsis, maybe we cry, maybe we get angry. And on the flip side, not only do we suppress the things that we don’t wanna feel, typically fear, anger, pain, we also cut ourselves off from joy, and love and peace and live in this little bracket in the middle which is a bit stagnant and stuck, and numb.

36:37 PA: It’s grey.

36:39 PW: It’s grey, right?

36:40 PA: It’s grey, yeah.

36:41 PW: We don’t get to have this experience of life that has many, many colors. It is grey. It’s everything in between. So we can also experience these positive and happy moments, and joyous, or even blissful moments. So really, that’s from an integration point of view. We are clearing out our psyche, we are allowing things to become conscious but often we’ve suppressed. So the unconscious is becoming conscious and we can then put the two and two together and integrate some of these experiences.

37:06 PW: The other area really is what I would describe as spiritual. And that’s not any dogmatic position, it’s just whatever that means for you. For me, that’s a deep connection to myself, with who I am. And for other people, that might be a creator or there is God, if you’re religious, whatever it is, grace, the universe. But we can go into this state where we experience the totality of everything, not too dissimilar to some forms of psychedelic state, and we can receive messages. So we can receive insight, some wisdom and healing, and all kinds of things. So this, for me, really what breathwork does and might sound a bit hippy but it really helps people reconnect with their soul.

37:58 PW: And then when you when you do that, I don’t need to tell you what the next steps are, right? It’s not about me being a teacher and telling you where to go and what to do. When you connect with that inner authority, you have your direction. And so the more you can do that, the more you can really live in your own values and true to yourself. And that, for me, is the path to, I wouldn’t say, happiness but, at least, contentment and fulfillment because, really, you’re living true to yourself and not the world around you, which I think we… For many, many, if not most of my life, I’ve been in that position of living by other people’s expectations, and it’s freaking painful [chuckle]

38:38 PA: ‘Cause they’re not listening to what you need, right…

38:41 PW: Right and…

38:42 PA: To what the self needs, and it’s kinda like it’s the path of self-realization.

38:46 PW: Yeah.

38:47 PA: We live in a world that’s very distracting and is built, in some ways, intentionally to distract us from that. And that’s often where this tension, this… You were talking earlier about how you had this fear when you were in that state where you couldn’t express things, you could only cry and then the fear of like, “Well, what’s on the other side of this?” And I feel like this is a thing that so many people are going through right now in our culture because once we have these experiences with Breathwork or with Psychedelics, whatever else it might be, through Byron Katie’s or through Demartini, which I wanna get into next, when we have these experiences, it’s really just getting us to listen to ourselves again. And that’s, oftentimes, the most powerful thing that we can do.

39:26 PW: Absolutely. All the paths lead to the same top of the mountain, coming back to self [chuckle], ’cause you have the wisdom.

39:35 PA: It’s already there.

39:36 PW: It’s already there.

39:36 PA: It’s always been there.

39:37 PW: Probably, most of us from a young age have been conditioned to be something else. We’re born and our parents have expectations, and it’s gonna be a doctor, or a lawyer, or some form of external success, and that’s really not what we’re here for. Great, if that aligns with you but we are here ultimately, to be our own person and to follow our own unique path. And many of the ways that society functions these days, whether it’s modern take on parenting and manners and morals to education systems, are all imposing something from the outside unto us, particularly if you look at the moral conduct and what is moral, you can’t narrow down what is moral. It’s culturally contextual, as well.

40:26 PW: You go to a different country, you have different view on what is moral and what’s not. Somebody in India, for example, showing you… Is it India? Showing the bottom of their feet is inappropriate, for example, whereas here it’s nothing. So, there are so many different confusing models that we’re born into and we think that they’re normal because everybody else follows them, but many of them don’t make sense. But we live by those constructs until we get to a point where we realize, “Holy shit.” This self-actualization of that, “None of this makes any god damn sense.”

41:00 PA: Yeah, and it’s all limiting.

41:01 PW: And it’s all limiting.

41:02 PA: It worked like a few hundred years ago.

41:04 PW: Right.

41:06 PA: And that’s when we get back into Breathwork and Psychedelics, it’s like this adaptation.

41:10 PW: Yeah.

41:11 PA: They help us to adapt to this new way of being, feeling everything along the way but still being able to flow and move with that. So when you’re talking about removing blockages, we’re talking about clearing the vessel, it’s like the metaphor of the river. We just need to unblock all these things that are preventing our river from flowing, and then we could keep going into that but I feel like that would be a little bit of a rabbit hole.

41:30 PW: But I think this is why we kind of get stuck, because some of the things that we feel we feel that perhaps we shouldn’t feel. And, particularly in British culture, but many cultures, we’re encouraged not to use our GPS system, which I would describe as our emotional system, what makes us feel good, we’re put into… Or we’re made to believe in a different system that you have to work hard and you have to follow this process and then you’ll be happy. That really isn’t how life works. We’re all unique. Doing the same process for everybody is not gonna fulfill everybody. Some people, it might do, but I think this is where we get stuck. A lot of the time is imposition from outside authority, which isn’t us. Find your own inner authority, follow that path, that is fulfillment, that is success.

42:19 PA: That’s a really great transition point for what we were talking about earlier. Tell us a little bit about what you’re most excited about right now, what’s really lighting you up. I’m just watching you and you’re just smiling and you were going on and on about at this one and I was like, “Let’s save, let’s save some of this ’cause it’s super interesting.”

42:35 PW: Yeah. Alright. Right now is something I’ve discovered a couple years ago and I’ve only just had the opportunity to actually sit and do some courses for, but it’s something called the Demartini method, and it’s developed by a guy called Dr. John Demartini, which I’m hoping that you are gonna get on here. And he has been working in the fields of neuroscience, philosophy, religion, and studying, researching and teaching in this area of human development, really, and human consciousness for the last 47 years. And he’s developed this method which is a cognitive process of balancing the mind, for the best part of how I would describe it. Where he’s coming from, really, is that many of our perceptions are biased and skewed. So we take a snapshot of what’s happening and we put a label on it, and we don’t see beyond that label, we categorize things in black and white. And where we categorize things in black and white, it actually narrows our mind down. We become more subjective and we have a narrow view of the world.

43:48 PW: So that actually creates… Excuse me, stress in the body. If I compare it to something like Psychedelics or Breathwork, we are zooming out. We’re having… This is where I feel we’re having a bigger perspective, when we get all human and she did this and he did that, we’re coming down to the human, the little human with opinions and beliefs, which aren’t necessarily the case, it’s just what I see and I perceive somebody doing and I’ve put that in my head, really, we’re zooming out and we’re seeing actually that there’s a perfection in everything.

44:18 PW: So this process, really, is identifying our biases, so either the people that we look up to or the people that we look down on. And where we look up to somebody often we are infatuated with certain traits of them and we inject their values, perhaps, into our system, right? Likewise, if we have somebody that we look down on or we resent, we look down on them because we don’t believe that we also own the same traits.

44:49 PW: Okay? And we try and inject our values onto them. Either way it means that we don’t live in our values, we’re too busy either taking on from somebody else or putting on the person what we perceive is below us. So we’re out of this state of harmony, and we’re out of this state of connecting with our mission and our purpose. So this process is a question and answer process, that you go through, and it has various different stages. And what it’s doing in that process is making you aware of the unconscious material that you’ve chosen not to see, in the moment, and balancing either side of that equation. So, we’ve taken a judgment and we’re balancing that judgment with actually, No, that’s when we go through the process, we see that that was our judgment. It’s not actually the case at all, it’s not the reality of what was happening. Many other things were happening in that situation, we’ve just chosen to see one part.

45:42 PW: So, the question and answer process, takes you through seeing how either we own those traits within ourselves, when we’ve done the exact same things within ourselves and that’s usually why we resent them, ’cause we don’t wanna own the fact that we have the capacity, or we’ve done these things, right? Likewise, if we are in admiration of somebody or infatuation with somebody that we also own those traits, right, because often we’re too humble to recognize that we own those traits. So you go through this process and really what it does is it collapses any emotional charge that you have around an individual or a circumstance. So rather than reacting in the way that you know somebody always pushes your buttons… I did this experiment where I spoke to my mum and my grandmother. I think it was during the week after I’d done this training, and they we’re saying things to me usually that would wind me up and piss me off, and… You know, I’ve done a lot of work, but I’m still human. And I had these conversations with them after I’d done this process and I was just like, “Oh, nothing, no response, no reaction, nothing whatsoever. No guilt, no pride, no… Yeah, just very much connected to myself, knowing that what I was doing, even though they were perhaps worried about it, was perfect for me. I didn’t need to justify myself.”

47:06 PW: So it was very clear to me in seeing, having done this process on myself, that I needed to do the facilitator training which is what I’ve just done. And hence why I’m so lit up about it because it really is a completely different paradigm shift to how mental illness is being dealt with, to how something like grief is being dealt with, because again, there’s a process for grief, which, if I hadn’t have seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn’t have believed. But a woman that had lost her husband a year before had her feelings of guilt and shame and missing her husband and everything else dissipated within two hours.

47:46 PA: Gone.

47:49 PW: So he says, “There is no reason that the human race needs to suffer any more than two to three hours with the grief.” And as I say, if I hadn’t have seen it with my own eyes, I would have said, “Yeah, whatever.”

48:00 PA: Well, what’s… In that process, what’s happening? What did you experience or what did you observe, within that?

48:05 PW: Yeah, so it’s again, it’s a Q&A process, and what he says is that where we infatuate with something of somebody, so perhaps we lose somebody, we become infatuated with the things that we’ve… Are missing.” So, what we don’t, are unable to identify, are that those things that we miss are actually still present with us, but in a different form. So you go through this process of identifying all of the different forms that are there, that are providing exactly the same thing, but that you’re not aware of. So it’s bringing to your conscious awareness. Actually, you know what, I miss, for example, physical contact, physical touch, but I have it in all these different forms, and the law of conservation, “Nothing is created or destroyed. Everything is always here or is present, but it just changes form.” So when you go through this process and identify all the different forms, now that you see, you recognize that you still have it. Might not be in the same form, but you still have it. And so, going through this process, you recognize that nothing is missing, it never has been.

49:14 PW: And one of the things he says is, “At the level of the soul, nothing is missing.” The level of our human perception we perceive that something is missing, but it never is. So it’s bringing again, the unconscious to the conscious and harmonizing them so we can actually integrate our experience, and our warped perception. We change our biased perceptions to seeing the world as it is, seeing things as they are. And then when you do that, you’re actually in a state of grace and presence, rather than infatuating about something that perhaps also wasn’t so great. He says, “Do you remember your husband’s smelly farts,” for example, “or do you miss those, or do you miss this, or do you miss that?” It often is that we pick out certain things that we miss, but we forget the other things. We have a subjective bias, we have a subjective memory.

50:10 PW: So yeah, those are just a few things, but this process is something that I’m now gonna be adopting very, very much in my work because having been through the experience myself, night and day, for one session it can make such a significant difference, that it’s undeniable. Breathwork and other modalities can have just as profound effect, but this is something that, for the world is quite mental, likes to understand and know, and process cognitively. It’s an incredibly powerful way of shifting your awareness, your consciousness and actually being able to move on with your life, right, and moving in the direction that you wanna go. That’s what it’s all about, right, coming back to ourself. So yeah a really, really powerful work, so the Demartini method is what I’m fired up about right now.

51:03 PA: So breath work seems to be much more somatic. So I’m just curious to hear your thought then. What are the overlaps there? How could those be utilized together? What would be that combination?

51:12 PW: Yeah, that’s a great question, and it’s still something I’m integrating ’cause the training that I’ve been on is relatively very recent and…

51:18 PA: Last week.

51:19 PW: Last week, yeah. So yeah, that process is still on going in my mind as to how these things work together. My feeling is that breath work is an important part of getting into the body because the more we can be in our body, present with our body, we can be present in the moment perhaps when we’re doing the method. And the most important thing with the method is being present in the moment. Recalling a memory perhaps, going into that moment. And I think the two will really, really well, they’d balance each other out really well, because like you say, one is more cognitive. There’s a lot of brain processing, which can be tiring. The other one, which is the physical aspect, is also really important for us to be here and integrated. So doing both together, I think work, I think they’re both gonna complement each other from an integration perspective. And also, once you complete often the Demartini process you are in a place of gratitude and of unconditional love and that’s what he says is we have these biased opinions. It’s only when we rise above the polarized emotions that we might have into an emotion, which is more transcendent which is really grace unconditional love, that we are in our, what he describes as telos. We are in our mission, our purpose, we’re with grace, we’re with gratitude.

52:39 PW: And this is another way that I think I can work with breath work is in that state after a process of actually expanding that and really going into that state and perhaps pulling some more information through a breath work process is to, “Okay, what are the next steps for me to really be able to step into my purpose?” So that’s just, there’s some musings for now as to how I think I’m gonna to work with these two things together. But like the mental process it’s something I’ve avoided for probably the last five years, not wanting to get into at all, but I really now see the benefit. And this is actually a neuro-biological level having an impact. It’s actually changing the neuro-chemicals by this Q&A process, and he also has some other ways of dealing with lots of different things. So for example, like addiction. There are certain protocols in relation to that using this method. So he is a no victim mentality with this method and for some people that might not float their boat but it’s very… It’ll blow your mind.

53:48 PA: It gets you to take a lot of responsibility I imagine.

53:50 PW: It gets you to take responsibility.

53:51 PA: ‘Cause ultimately everything, especially breath work, psychedelics, whatever states that bring us into these path of self-realization, ultimately, I think that’s, it seems to be the overlapping message is, if you are God, then everything is your responsibility.

54:05 PW: Right.

54:05 PA: And it is and it isn’t. It’s complex in that way. Obviously, we live within a web in an ecosystem. But having that mindset and mentality I think is so useful in doing this sort of work because it basically, it’s agency. I think in its best it’s agency and it’s like, “Yeah, I can take this on and I can make this happen and I can do this.” So I don’t know anything about the Demartini method outside of what you’ve just told me now and the fact that you texted me yesterday and told me that your mind is blown with it. So it’s something that I wanna dig more into. You know, I have a little bit of experience with Byron Katie’s method, The Work, which it sounds like there’s some commonalities and overlap there in terms of the Q&A format.

54:42 PW: Definitely.

54:42 PA: And getting us to be more reflective about well is this just a subjective bias? Is this just a story that we’re creating the external word, or is it actually true? And I think that’s also a big thing that we come back to is truth. So I appreciate you sharing that with everyone.

54:58 PW: Yeah.

54:58 PA: What’s coming up next for you? So what are you, obviously we talked about what you’re most excited about, but in the next three to six months, what do you have going on? Where is your vision leading you? Where is your path leading you? I’d love to just drop a little bit into that.

55:12 PW: Yeah, great. Thank you. So the last five years since I quit my job, since I quit my corporate life, it’s coming up five years at the end of this year, have been very much on this path of discovery and self-exploration and training in different modalities. And I’m now in a place where I’m back in the UK for, I’ve been back in the UK for a couple of months and I’m gonna stay here for a while. And so I’m very much in this place of transition for me. I was working at the retreat center earlier in the year, and now my focus is working with the Demartini method. It’s gonna be working a lot more with the Demartini method of helping people really, to really get to who they are and identify where they wanna go and help people live the life that they’re here to live, the magnificent, fulfilling life that is what I think we’re all here to live. And really find that purpose and really connecting to themselves.

56:21 PW: So that’s gonna be kinda coaching. It’s gonna be doing, over Skype, Zoom, working with people all over the world. I’ve actually got three consults this week with completely new clients that kinda just turned up before I started doing this Demartini method, but this is really gonna start moving quite quickly. So I’m gonna be working with that. I might be having some retreats coming up. I don’t know about this year, but potentially next year, perhaps in Costa Rica, I don’t know yet, but really what I wanna do is work intensively with people and also with groups because you can make such a big shift in such a short period of time, that it makes sense to do work intensively, whether that’s breath work, whether that’s Demartini, whether that’s coaching. I’m pretty open to doing all kinds of things, collaborations. I like novelty. I like different experiences. I like working with new people and doing different things, hence my involvement with you and all kinds of things.

57:24 PW: So I’m really an open book. So that’s me for now. Staying in the UK. Doing some work in London, and the surrounds and getting involved in things that light me up. Happy to be bringing a new tool to the world, which I think is really, really gonna help people transform their lives. I guess that’s the other thing I just wanna finish with really is nobody can transform your life for you. That’s why I really appreciate the word facilitator, is that I’m here to help facilitate something. I’m not a healer. I’m not gonna, hoo, wave a magic wand. Because ultimately, you’re here doing the work, you’re taking responsibility for what you want. And that for me is the most empowering thing is to help people recognize it’s down to you, but it’s also down to you. That might feel overwhelming but once you understand that you have the opportunity to take action to where you wanna go is really freaking empowering, and that’s what I really wanna help people with, is to be empowered in their life, to create what they want and to be content, and be fulfilled and be happy in that. So, yeah, that’s what I want.

58:34 PA: Well, that’s beautiful. Well thank… This has been… I think this is the first podcast we’ve done fully on breath work and there’s just so much great stuff here. So listeners go back and listen to this again if you have the chance. And just thank you Philippa for joining us and thank you for all the work that you’re doing and the light that you bring to the world. It’s really beautiful and I have had such a pleasure getting to know you and being in your life and it’s been so long since I’ve seen you and so I’m just so glad that we could sit down and record the podcast and do this together.

[music]

59:03 PW: Yeah. Thanks for having me. It’s been amazing and likewise, thanks for all the work that you’re doing out there, great work in the world and together we can make a difference.

59:11 PA: Together we can make a difference.

59:23 PW: Woo-hoo [chuckle]

59:27 PA: Great.

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