May 30, 2017

Personal reflections of the Breath of Life conference and workshops

My experience as conference facilitator of the Breath of Life events


I have just emerged from running a huge event in London--The Breath of Life Conference and Workshops--spanning nine long days. Sitting on a transatlantic flight to LAX I notice my overwhelming exhaustion as I reflect on my experience of the conference. I have been organising the Breath of Life Conferences with Michael Kern for the last ten years and it has been quite a personal journey. No more so than in the last ten days.

Michael began producing these events about 15 years ago before kindly asking me to join him. As a newly qualified craniosacral therapist I jumped at the opportunity to bring my wealth of business experience into the cranial community. I liked the idea of being involved in an important national event that was helping to raise awareness of this magical therapy in which I had recently trained.

Since then the conference has grown into a huge international phenomenon, attracting not only pioneering speakers from around the world but also delegates from as far away as Hawaii, South Africa, Japan, New Zealand, the Middle East and many other far off countries. The audience has broadended into anyone interested in mind-body health. I feel blessed to be involved and so took time this year to establish why my ego would want to be involved in producing such an event. The answer is multi-fold. I like the idea that we produce something that might just help humanity by creating an emergent community in the field of mind-body medicine. I love meeting and learning from not only the amazing speakers but particularly our delegates who bring such a depth of experience. But more recently I have come to realise my ego is not the one to decide why I run these events. Most important for me now is allowing the field to dictate who I meet and where I am taken. I am truly humbled by what the field brings me, assuming of course I am able to let go and allow it to take the lead. When I can let go and simpy allow, I am continually amazed by the synchronicities afforded.


These are some personal highlights that caught my heart at the recent conference:


Dr. Gabor Mate through reciting personal stories and interacting with the audience, taught that trauma carries a relationship template. We don't react to what happens but to our interpretation of what happens. I carried these thoughts as I moved and interacted with the conference community, noticing how my response was to that of my personal history and rarely to the actual events taking place. I was struck by how Gabor embodied his teaching and how he held the group. I wondered how his work with indigenous practices in South America supported his embodied presence. 


A lady from Glasgow brought me to heart warming tears by reminding me to live from my truth and to not attach to the outcome of my actions.


Dr Wendy Anne McCarty presented on pre and perinatal therapeutic work. One moment in her presentation reminded me, almost too acutely, of my own birth story of needing to be seen and heard. And for me that to live means to be alone, so engaging fully with joyful life has not been an easy process for me. The profoundity of this embodied realisation was almost overwhelming.


Robert Lever brought the wisdom of poets into his talk, something I often think speaks greater truth than anything else. But most importantly he said that the closer we get to the truth the more words fail us. Life is all about experience. He reminded us of T S Eliot's wisdom in Burnt Norton: "At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless; Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is." Emergent stillness is beyond words. 


A lady from Liverpool told me to keep going and, despite my doubt, that I was on the right path. Words that I needed to hear at that moment. 


As well as his many great neurobiology teachings on trauma recovery Dr Bessel van der Kolk particularly caught my attention when he spoke about bringing theatre into trauma recovery. I firmly believe that the arts should be an integral part of our self recovery and I am excited to see how this develops in my own work in the trauma recovery field. 


Katherine Ukleja and Cherionna Menzam Sills spoke about the feminine principle in biodynamic craniosacral practice. As I listened I was astounded how my embodied response was so positive to their presence and message. I dropped into a peaceful grounded still place in my body, for the first time in a few stressful days. This is without doubt the approach that works for me--a receptive holding that is present and listens to the field.


A group of ladies from Ireland reaffirmed my love of my homeland that is the Emerald Isle.  I am blessed to live and work there. 


I could not have survived without the presence and wonderful support of the volunteer stewards as well as that of particular friends at home. I am slowly learning how to allow others to support me, after a life time of independent survival.


There was a powerful energy in the field throughout the nine days of sequential events. My experience was that the systems of the whole group were trying to co-regulate while at the same time often being triggered through listening to trauma histories of others. Perhaps some, like me, were trying both consciously and unconsciously to repair old wounds. Perhpas we even shifted the collective through our global coherence, following the theory of Dr Rollin McCraty's HeartMath research. 


I am deeply honoured to be able to work in such a rich environment and to meet such beautiful souls. 

Most important for me is the notion that these Breath of Life conferences create a container, an alchemical vessel as it were, for great ideas to come together and where truly emergent behaviour takes over. It is not any one individual who dictates what will be the outcome or the learning of the events. One delegate offered that the gathering might just have moved the collective one step further towards conscious, co-regulated and socially engaged behaviour. That would indeed be a wonderful thing.

For those who attended the events, I hope it was a positive experience and that you will also take time for integration. 

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