Olivier Award Winner Adam Spreadbury-Maher is an Australian/Irish Theatre Artistic Director, Producer and Writer. He is the founding Artistic Director of the Cock Tavern Theatre, OperaUpClose and The Hope Theatre, and is the current artistic director of the Kings Head Theatre, Islington. London.
November 2010 in Brighton is where I first met David Parker, when he was speaking at a Convention I was attending. The Convention and his topic had nothing to do with breathwork but as time has passed, the link between then and now has become more obvious.
Our paths crossed a number of times in the next couple of years randomly bumping into each other here and there and we connected on social media. It was then I started to read David’s story and what he did/does regarding breathwork. I was nosey rather than curious and didn’t look too much further into it. In the autumn of 2013, my wife and I went to Malta where I had been asked to speak at one of them Conventions where I first met David and lo and behold, David was there. One of those ‘coincidences’.
We spent a lot of time in each other’s company in that week and I started to ask a few more questions about this thing he did. My interest had moved on from curiosity to intrigue and I started to think I wanted to know more and perhaps experience what it was this breathwork was all about.
I had my own ‘issues’. I’ve been in recovery from active addiction since June 2009 with which I had been battling with for 30 years and I had a lot of consequences none more so than my physical state. I’ve been in a coma twice, I’d had a stroke, I’d had the Last Rites read over me, I’d had pancreatitis on a number of occasions, I’d broken near enough every bone in my body, my right lung had collapsed twice and this was before I got into recovery.
Since getting clean of all drugs, including alcohol, I then had testicular cancer, I’d had a shoulder reconstruction and in 2014, I underwent 4 surgeries on my knees culminating in a full left knee replacement AND to add to the fun, I’d suffered a burst appendix in the summer of 2014 which I was lucky to survive.
I had also put on a lot of weight as I had been unhappily comfort-eating and although I’m 6ft 5, I was within touch of 20 stone on the scales. I was also in and out of employment and hadn’t held down a regular job for years. The experiences of 2014 were enough for me to want to change a few things. I needed a different way of seeing myself. My physical health (or lack of it) had become my identity. The first thing people would say to me was, “…and how’s the health, Scott?”
I spoke to David once or twice around this time and he said about coming along to one of the seminars he was getting up and running in Victoria. I went along open-minded and with no expectation on what was going to happen.
It ended up being one of the most extraordinary moments in my life.
I still can’t explain exactly what happened but I had an ‘out of body’ experience during my first ever breathe. I cried like I hadn’t cried since I was a baby. I felt all this physical pain fill up inside me, overwhelm me and somehow drain from me. I curled up in a foetal ball, I shook, I sobbed, I made a hell of a noise and I was looked after tenderly by David and the team and I felt, without being too dramatic, reborn afterwards.
I left the seminar, got a train from Victoria to Clapham Junction then another train to Basingstoke and then a taxi home and it was only when I put the key in my front door I suddenly realised I was home! I’d done the whole journey in a trance and couldn’t recall a thing about it.
My thinking DID change from that minute on. I decided my health was NOT going to be my identity. I looked at my diet. I looked at my exercise (or lack of it). I looked at my attitude. I looked at certain people, certain places and certain behaviours and I did a full-on spring clean. I didn’t fall out with people as much as I stopped falling in with them to begin with. I began to keep my counsel smaller and closer and started to look at what was important to me and what I wanted to achieve from my life.
I became a regular ‘breather’ and I’ve been attending groups and seminars with David more or less monthly ever since that first experience. I travel all the way from Basingstoke Hampshire to Camden NW1 and back for every session. It’s a 3 hour round trip on public transport, it’s the best part of £40 in fares and that doesn’t phase me in the slightest. Nor does the fact I get home at midnight and I’m up at 5.30 the following day for work. The breathwork and the coaching sessions prior to breathing have become an integral part of my continuing recovery. I’ve learnt a lot about me, what makes me tick, what fires me up and acquired great techniques to deal with life and what can crop up for me on a regular basis.
3½ years on from that first breathwork experience, I am now in the best physical shape I’ve been in since I was at school. I’m down to a manageable 16½ stone, my diet is unrecognisable from a few years ago, I walk 30-40 miles a week, I’m all clear on every physical front and had a Well Man check a couple of months back and was told I had the physical attributes of someone 10 years younger than myself. I’ve been in full time work since the summer of 2015 and this is the longest tenure I’ve had with one employer ever.
However, life comes along unexpectantly and I had a major accident last year when I was hit by a bus and I broke my pelvis and sacrum and was off work for almost 5 months. Albeit, I was in a lot of pain, I didn’t take any medication.
I stuck to the principles of my recovery programme and I used what I’d learned from David to work through not only the physical condition but through the emotional and mental effect this accident had on me. It would have been very easy to revert to self-pity and wallow in it all but none of that behaviour serves me anymore.
There has been further pro’s to the breathwork.
Pro’s that are completely unexpected and quite random. I have to undergo regular gastroscopy due to my various conditions over the years and this used to be time of extreme anxiety event whereupon I had to be sedated and it was quite traumatic for a few days afterwards. I now find this procedure, although still very intrusive, nowhere like that today be and I can breathe right through it even when I get a gagging reflex.
Given this is something I have to undergo regularly, the fact I can manage it with breathing techniques is an amazing turnaround.
I’m also a good swimmer. I always have been BUT I’ve always struggled with snorkelling and the like as I could never get my head around breathing while underwater. I can swim underwater but not to observe and enjoy marine life.
During a boat trip in Thailand in 2016, I thought I’d put on a snorkel and found I actually could now breathe and without panicking. I could see the life beneath the waves and love this new-found thrill.
Since then I’ve become more and more adept and snorkelling is something I enjoy on our regular jaunts overseas.
I’m now back at work, I’ve recently been upgraded with a view to a promotion and I like my job. I like my life and I owe a substantial debt of gratitude to what David has taught me, shown me and helped me with over the past few years.
Today, I’m very much more the me I always could be.
I’m a good husband, son, brother, friend, employee. I like me and that’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say. Thank you, David, for your continued help, support, encouragement and “…breeeeathe, Scott, breeeeathe!”
Details of this Seminar in English is here : https://rebirthyourlife.me/recycle-your-life-c-dependency-compulsive-addictive-relationships/
People seem to have got it into their heads that it’s a divine right to find a soulmate or lifetime partner, often feeling cheated by the world if they don’t turn up. Not so many decades ago a woman ” left on the shelf ” was a visible sin. A man who hadn’t married was deemed sad, gay or both. A son or daughter who stayed home looking after a parent was seen giving up the chance for love – for duty, and thus praised.
This romantic vision of being snatched by love, held tightly hostage is fueled by books, movies and musical lyrics. This illusion of wholeness is as rancid as old butter. Anne Wilson Schaef, the most progressive exponent of relationship recovery in the ’80s & ’90s said ” The realization of the extent of our relationship addictions, both individually and as a society, is shocking. However, there is no need to get depressed, because we can do something about it.” This following quote from her book When Society Becomes an Addict : Understanding The Social System, Reclaiming Our Personal Power – is food for recovering serial relationship addicts. You know who they are.
” Dependent relationships are the norm within the addictive system of society. Addicts of any kind are invariably dependent or counter-dependent. Counter-dependency has been described in psychological circles as a reaction against extreme dependency. Counter-dependent people feel so dependent on others that they must convince them ( and the self ) that they do not need anyone at all and, hence, act so as to say : I don’t need anybody “. An addict , to recover, must recognize the need to rely on oneself and take care of oneself. Recovery is the realization that one has the ability to do this AND the ability to stay close to others without being dependent.This realization contradicts everything we are taught. From an early age we are told that dependency is the road to intimacy, and that two people cannot get close to each other unless they become mutually dependent. Two people are deemed intimate when they have reached the stage at which neither can function without each other. We call this the perfect union, the perfect marriage.
What I have observed, however, is that dependency DESTROYS intimacy.
The person being depended upon feels sucked dry, and the person doing the depending comes to resent the other. The relationship that once made both of them feel important and needed and secure eventually leaves them drained and exhausted. Over time they may even come to hate each other. In other words, the mechanism does not work the way we are taught it will work. “
What struck me re-reading these words from my bookshelf is that we have only just recognised that our banking and financial system no longer works. We have allowed our lives to be run by addicts in suits and we are paying the price. How long will it take for society to realise that old relationship demands no longer work either. Do you wish for a dream of lifetime hostage or prefer to be set free to explore interdependent relationships where two people exchange intimacies while setting each other free,to experience wholeness and authenticity not entrapment and dependency?
Whole interdependent relationships are possible but you need to address the issues that hold you back from receiving TRUE LOVE, the love for self and another human being without conditions – including staying. Unconditional love means nothing less.
Discuss at leisure.
There is some debate as to whether Greta Garbo actually said ‘I want to be alone’ in the MGM film GRAND HOTEL. She is famously quoted as saying : I never said, ” I want to be alone”. I only said ” I want to be left alone . There is all difference”. Pedantic or not, Garbo knew that the devil was in the detail. Being alone, being lonely and being isolated are all different strands of the seemingly same string. Tried and tested recovery material states that an addict alone is bad company. I guess that is because the ego as companion can weave many tales from the committee in the head, while convincing you of the value of self-sufficiency.
Corinne Sweet in her book OVERCOMING ADDICTION writes an excellent piece on this.
” Isolation is the root of all addiction. We can feel that nobody understands us, nobody really cares and that we have to fight our corner on our own. Isolation means retreating into ourselves, not believing that anyone is out there for us, and that everyone else had it easy. When you give up your addictions, for good, you necessarily have to give up isolation. This means looking around yourself and asking for help. This can be terrifying, especially if you have always done everything for yourself and don’t believe other people are there for you. You may feel that other people could not cope with your needs ( or deny them altogether ) because you don’t want to risk being disappointed. You will only stay free for good if you decide to give up your isolation – no matter how desirable it seems to hang on to it – if you ask for, seek out, even demand, continuing positive support. “
For those who can afford to be alone without self harming, eating slabs of chocolate in one go or risking boredom might suggest that recovering obsessives & compulsives aren’t safe to be left alone, when in fact the recovery process teaches the difference between being alone, feeling lonely or teenage bedroom isolation. If only the rest of society has access to such learned material we would all benefit. In a relationship men are often accused of ” being moody ” when half the time they want to be left alone, need space to be alone and can’t express it so they just clam up. The most healthy relationships have a holiday period built in so each partner can holiday alone, be it a week or a weekend. To most people that’s not ” being in a relationship “. What’s the point of giving your ALL to someone and they want to lie on a beach ALONE. It’s not what they signed up for.
Well the point of this interdependent arrangement is that we do need space alone to re-find ourselves, to create courage sometimes to tell our truth to ourselves first, and then the partner. Every relationship needs air in it, but many are in a unsteady relationship because of fear of being alone, which is another kettle of fish – a kettle called codependency. This misguided vision of romantic love works well until they leave you, then you have to play the hunting game all over again to feel whole. So the prospect of traveling alone, living alone or working alone is as fearful as a gambler missing the bet..
So the thread of today’s blog is to recall the last time you went somewhere on your own.
It took me ages to go to the cinema or theatre alone. It’s essential to get rid of the johnny no mates concept, people are so absorbed in their own self obsession that they aren’t interested in who is sitting in row D. Trust me. Learning to be with yourself alone, to give yourself attention, to use the space for solitude or meditation of any kind will serve you well in future. Taking a train ride to the nearest stretch of water, kicking stones on a beach or witnessing ducks play is all part of your further education.
Now if you will excuse me, I vont to be alone.
” In the quest for wholeness, paradox is at every turn. It is true that we cannot realise our wholeness as long as we deny any fragment of ourselves. If we seek to avoid fear or pain or sadness, we will simultaneously block the love and joy and laughter from our awareness. That pain, fear or sadness contains great stores of energy, which can be released for potent creative and constructive use only after it is consciously felt and thus allowed to integrate. A truly healthy person, one who has power over themselves and their own life, is courageous enough to become willing to experience whatever life has in store. “
I read these words by Christina Thomas in 1989 when I was once again in liver failure, back in hospital and losing the plot. Christina is a Rebirther and student of A Course In Miracles ( ACIM ) and since Rebirthing Breathwork had halted progression of chronic active Hepatitis B for me, I was eager to enter the unknown to seek solution. I was in emotional turmoil, a close friend had been murdered the year before, the loss of people around me dying from Aids was approaching 50 people and there was no cure for my Hep B condition. I felt slain in more ways than one, yet I had stayed stopped from smoking, drinking and drugging for 7 years, so something was working. I had halted relationships as all I attracted was people who thought I was brave, and did nothing to meet my emotional needs or just smothered me with their own fear of me dying. The only relationship I was interested in was within my body and the spiritual strength to survive it.
Recognising my wholeness – warts n all – was my saviour. I may have felt damaged but knew that feelings weren’t facts – the body is only casement for the soul. It was at this point that I found, was given, or came across the affirmation ” God is my business Manager “.
Having had good instruction since 1982 in 12 Step Programme Recovery work I had blown away all the religious cobwebs associated with ” god stuff “. Thankfully I was not brought up a catholic or another dominating religion, so I could free spirit ” my god “. In the end I chose Babaji who entered my life in 1988, reading about Leonard Orr, Sondra Ray and Rebirthing Breathwork. That sat with me well and I have not altered this vision over 20 years later.
One of the lessons in ACIM is ” I will stand back and let him lead the way ” and when you are on deaths door that feels apt, in my experience. The big problem occurs when we have recovered, when the creative mind is once again alert to ego demands like making up for lost time. These days I am no longer dazed by circumstance but amazed by results. When I focus on MY part in the great jigsaw of life, all is well. In order to develop ongoing recovery one learns to face everything rather than sweep under the carpet of fear. This sense of wholeness is as refreshing as completing a whole bunch of paperwork for the accountant or finally clearing out that cupboard. It is a paradox that in order to accept my wholeness I need to accept my flaws – the loves, the pains and the whole damn thing. This is true spiritual embrace, a detox of the ego.
You may want to consider today how you ask for help and who you turn to and whether self punishment is still part of your inner curriculum. Self punishment is simply suicide compared to the pains that life throws at us. At least with life pains we can learn. Just think how fast the last two years have passed. Two years ago recession was feared, the worst since the depression. In retrospect we have all learnt something from this period of global cutback including the harsh reality that we have more than we need around us – should we seek it – that old habits can be changed and that confronting the worst, the death of something actually breeds life, energy and hope.
These fears are small beer indeed compared to the fear of finding another drunk, addict or gambler for someone who has the unhappy knack of fishing for fools. If Dad was a drunk, some women can have the inner magic of finding a drunk male substitute to love & marry. If Dad was a gambler it’s easy to find a man whose unpredictable behaviour feels ” just right “, after all it’s the excitement of not knowing what’s going to happen, that keeps your spirit alive.
If mum was depressive and snappy because her doctor stopped the prescription drugs it will be easy to find someone to spar with on the emotional front because it’s just what you are used to, and what you are used to becomes a blueprint for survival.
Take a look at any old school group photo of smiling kids. Can you guess who will turn out to have the longest marriage, the shortest life, the addictive personality? When a recovering person decides to check out their addictions, attachments and codependencies it’s easy to think that they are the ones having to work hard catching up with the rest of so-called respectable society. Many years ago I read a corporate report that stated “recovering alcoholics make better than average workers”. How can this be? A very small percentage of the population look at themselves, most spend time observing the habits of other people but drunks, drinking or in recovery, discovered that observing other people only made the situation worse. Resentments build and excuses flow to justify and enable a continuing addictive pattern, not exactly the route to personal responsibility, amends made and feelings checked, that is suggested for emotional balance. Learning to respond, rather than re-act to other peoples behaviour is vital for continued codependency recovery.
Recovering Alcoholics in a 12 Step Programme make better than average workers because they adhere to a new way of working after experiencing personal rock bottoms, act out gratitude on a daily basis, realise the need to demolish the ego and when they are wrong promptly admit it.
How many people in your life do that?
When the wedding pics are taken it’s hard to imagine the abuse that can follow or the fear of abuse returning. Robin Norwood’s book WOMEN WHO LOVE TOO MUCH way back in 1986 pioneered the realisation that good girls can choose bad guys, again & again. Recovering people also need to be aware of there own track record before they started observing themselves in detail. The reality is that no one knows whether you are going to get hitched to a drunk again, or find another person to rescue, someone who uses you as their own private bank but you can take steps to weed out the obvious candidates. In my experience it always pays to tell the truth FASTER. When selecting friends, lovers or future partners, always be clear about what you want ( by stating what you DON’T want sometimes ), and being upfront, rid yourself the desire to clam up about the past, buying into shame. Though focussing on the present moment can be taken too literally, if denial is companion. People who have grown up in a family where someone dominates the energy by anger, alcohol, depression, drug use, verbal, physical or sexual abuse need to be extra aware of relationship pitfalls. Being aware of a new friend or partners behaviour does not mean double checking everything they say and do, so lighten up, nor does it work to seek perfection. However as a recovering addict/alcoholic/codependent I would not want a relationship with anyone whose parents had similar backgrounds to my own addictive patterns. This is because I don’t want to be a teaching tool in a relationship, I would rather choose someone without an addictive background or be without a coupling. The whole point of fixing yourself is that eventually you find people who don’t need fixing.
I hear many people say ” we are working on our relationship ” as if the relationship is a therapy session. They say that love brings up everything unlike itself – I get this – but many relationships are simply a protection from the past, thus they remain in constant conflict in order to ” learn the lesson “. Maybe the lesson is GET OUT NOW. In most cases I would advise those people to fix themselves instead of the relationship, when this is done you put out a different vibration – one of interdependence – and start attracting totally different energies around people places and things. This is when REAL recovery begins and it starts with you saying NO more often, billing in time away from a partner and acting out frequent updates within the relationship.
” Some people mistakenly think that if you have a guru or a master, then you have to give your power away. In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth.
My experience is that the master helps us to achieve our own power and stand on our own two feet; and this happens as fast as you can take it. In the presence of a master we are able to touch our own wholeness and our own perfection faster. As you get closer to the master, you find less of him and more of yourself. The guru is the mirror. Only in this case, it might feel like you see yourself magnified times one thousand or more. It can be very intense, ” You have to face yourself like never before “
from Sondra Ray’s book PURE JOY
Sondra Ray became a master to me in 1988 when I first encountered the Loving Relationship Training ( LRT ) Breathwork & Coaching Programme in London & Madrid and also for many years after this first encounter. As a Rebirthing Breathwork pioneer she handed down her craft for the benefit of others. Along the way I encountered other mentors who encouraged me to find my own route and my own authenticity and not one said I must follow THEIR doctrines and their practices. Over a 20 year period I have come to believe that surrender is a passionate act of service.
To surrender the ego to mastery of any kind is sacred. To surrender the notion that you don’t know everything is a joy to behold, instead of holding shame that the ego desires you have, for knowing less. Making mistakes then becomes an amusement instead of forming personal attack in your learning laboratory. You ARE good enough to question, and in my questioning I found myself not to be a disciple but a Master within myself. Sondra offered me the courage to search and breathe toward my own sense of mastery.
Being in therapy or in recovery is uncomfortable. The challenge of looking in a real mirror in front of you and reciting loving affirmations is more than difficult for most, and certainly was for me, in my quest for stemming self harm. I tried many seminars, workshops and self help processes.
One of the most testing ( . . . and I attended at least 3 of these ) was an Enlightenment Intensive lasting 3 days facing another person for 16 hours a day. When facing the person they ask you only one question ” WHO ARE YOU “. In response for 5 mins non stop you answer ” I AM . . . “( followed by a thought, fact or statement about yourself ). There is no discussion, the partner only acknowledges a thank you. In order to facilitate this process the intensive is residential where you are fed on healthy digestable food and 8 hours sleep. You do nothing but the process of sharing, surrendering and being. Every hour you walk in silence for 15 mins before returning to the I AM process for the remaining 3 days. This cleansing can place you in a shamanic trance of clarity and emotional release for healing.
Bob Mandell, co-author of BIRTH & RELATIONSHIPS with Sondra Ray said ” the only guru you need are the results in your life “. This simplicity will tell you what to work on next and whether your present circumstances are a mirror to your inner self. Is it an automatic love you have for yourself? Do you begrudge the flaws you see in the mirror or simply smile at their presence? Do you practice self harming behaviors? Finding a teacher, a coach, a mentor, a sponsor or a therapist is an admission that you require help and an act of surrendering to Win – not surrendering to lose.
Who is your master and who are the apprentices you mentor? What do you pass down to others in search of mastering living sanely in this world? Questions, questions, questions.
Now consider the answers.