An esoteric group of therapists think they’ve cracked the code for Eureka moments. Have they?
Can you use breathing exercises to go on a drug trip? We found someone who says you can.
Let’s rewind a bit. This post is about those moments — call them Eureka moments, a-ha moments, epiphanies, whatever — where everything seems to come together. When inspiration strikes and changes everything.
Epiphanies happen to everyone on occasion. But how do they work? What causes them? And can we do anything about it?
Previously, we talked about how the creative geniuses of the past have attempted to court inspiration. Today, we’re investigating Holotropic Breathwork, a type of alternative therapy designed to induce altered states of consciousness — without drugs. The goal? Achieve new heights of clarity… and a Eureka moment.
Developed by Dr. Stanislav Grof, the therapy combines intensive breathing exercises with music and creative activities to produce the hallucinogenic effects and dreamlike state of mind typically associated with psychedelic drugs like LSD, Ayahuasca, or psilocybin mushrooms.
We talked the talk with Balázs Rákóczi, a Hungarian therapist and practitioner of Holotropic Breathwork. That’s his crazy-ass story you read above. We talked with Balázs about what goes down at a breathwork retreat, what happens in your mind during a Eureka moment, and how to achieve insight in your own life, too.
Step One: Take a deep breath
Basically, Holotropic Breathwork is a way for people to enter a state of altered consciousness. Depending on how you get there, this state can be variously described as transcendence, religious ecstasy, tripping balls. But the important part is this: this is a state where Eureka moments can happen.
Holotropic Breathwork is a kind of group therapy, so people assemble for Holotropic Breathwork retreats that last a few days. Aided by the breathwork facilitators, they pair up and go on what is essentially the modern version of a spirit quest: a search for insight.
Step Two: Abandon your preconceptions
According to Balázs, the goal of the therapy is to bring you face-to-face with these often uncomfortable parts of your personality. He calls them “submerged structures” within your psyche, and the idea is that by confronting your baggage, you can finally leave it behind.
Immersed in the heightened existence of the breathwork, people can deal with their issues and move past them. But it can have another function as well.
Step Three: Approach it from a new angle
These Eureka moments often happen when someone approaches a problem in an entirely novel way. Most of the time, when we attempt to solve a problem, we implicitly accept the framing of the problem and attempt to solve it from within the terms of that frame.
It’s a kind of mental economy, but it can also backfire, restricting our thinking. Many great discoveries and inventions have been accidents: think about penicillin, microwave ovens, slinkies, and Teflon.
This idea — that insight comes only when you forget what you already know — is an important part of Holotropic Breathwork. But the logic can be applied to your everyday life as well.
Holotropic Breathwork isn’t for everyone. It’s not a good idea and can even be dangerous to try it without proper training or outside of the organized retreats. But understanding how breathwork functions can teach us about the limitations of our own minds, and with that knowledge, we can attempt to overcome them.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not reflect the official policy or positions of Grof Transpersonal Training or its facilitators
“If you can look at reality differently — shed your preconceptions and filters — you can change your life, you can invent something, you can make new observations, you can do things you were afraid or unable to do before. You have better access to the full spectrum of what exists.”