Dennis Lewis: Breathing Space into Space

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November 15, 2011

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Tami Simon speaks with Dennis Lewis, an author, teacher, and practitioner of natural breathing, qigong, and meditation. After leaving the corporate world, Dennis studied a number of healing arts traditions, including Taosim, Advaita, and the Gurdjieff work. He is author of the books The Tao of Natural Breathing and Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, and with Sounds True he has produced the audio program Natural Breathing: Teachings and Exercises for Health and Self-Transformation. In this episode, Tami speaks with Dennis about the relationship between our emotions and our breathing, how we can let go into the unknown as we exhale, breathing as a metaphor for living, and what it might mean to “breathe space into space.” (56 minutes)

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Dennis Lewis earned a degree in the philosophy of religion before working as a computer programmer/analyst, book editor, and public relations executive. After leaving the corporate world, he studied a number of healing arts. A long-time student of Taoism, Advaita, and the Gurdjieff Work, Dennis Lewis teaches natural breathing, qigong, and meditation. He is theauthor of The Tao of Natural Breathing and Free Your Breath, Free Your Life.


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Dennis Lewis: Breathing Space into Space

Tami Simon speaks with Dennis Lewis, an author, teacher, and practitioner of natural breathing, qigong, and meditation. After leaving the corporate world, Dennis studied a number of healing arts traditions, including Taosim, Advaita, and the Gurdjieff work. He is author of the books The Tao of Natural Breathing and Free Your Breath, Free Your Life, and with Sounds True he has produced the audio program Natural Breathing: Teachings and Exercises for Health and Self-Transformation. In this episode, Tami speaks with Dennis about the relationship between our emotions and our breathing, how we can let go into the unknown as we exhale, breathing as a metaphor for living, and what it might mean to “breathe space into space.” (56 minutes)

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Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice ...

Plant medicine has always been the people’s medicine, and flower essences create unique opportunities for issues surrounding accessibility, as essences are extremely safe and can be made rather inexpensively. The shift toward holism—complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and integrative medicine—and the proliferation of herbal interventions within our health-care system are proof that we are making progress. In light of this, there are a number of dynamic ways we can promote flower essences to be even more accessible and inclusive for people. Even flower essence therapy itself is a modality historically dominated by white men, but increasingly it is being pushed forward by women-identified, LGBTQIA+, and BIPOC healers.

Currently, the alternative healing community is processing its own biases. Much of alternative medicine was developed in the service of the dominant culture, or the patriarchy. Therefore, it hasn’t been a healing space for many groups, including but not limited to women, people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, economically oppressed people, neurodiverse people, and (in the United States) non-native English speakers. In the words of Cara Page, a founding member of Kindred Southern Healing Justice Collective, healing justice “identifies how we can holistically respond to and intervene on generational trauma and violence, and to bring collective practices that can impact and transform the consequences of oppression on our bodies, hearts, and minds.”

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One of the main themes of The Bloom Book involves balancing duality, which means challenging the perpetuation of oppressive systems. Unless we are actively engaged in dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, and ableism, we are merely reinforcing the power structures we are claiming to challenge. As models of healing justice are emerging, many organizations and community collectives are generating their own missions and value statements from which to work. Meanwhile, practitioners—especially white practitioners like me—have to ask ourselves:

How is my work a function of my privilege? 

Where can I be doing better? 

Does my practice truly support inclusivity, diversity, and accessibility?

The working definitions of healing and trauma are also evolving. Within a healing justice framework, one can see how, by understanding trauma merely as “an emotional response to a terrible event,” we are ignoring a more inclusive interpretation that includes the cumulative and historical trauma of colonization. In the last decade, science has validated that trauma is intergenerational and historical. Likewise, many traditions include community in what constitutes emotional and spiritual healing, whereas Western models of mental health are focused exclusively on the individual self. 

When you open yourself up to the plant kingdom, new awareness can develop. You can become more empathic, which sounds pleasant in theory, but can be overwhelming because now you’re not just experiencing more of your own feelings, but the feelings of others as well. If you’re committed to applying a healing justice framework in your work, you will likely expose new trauma and have to reckon with your own privilege, which can be painful. You could develop more attunement with nature, which also can feel wonderful and, because of the tragic state of our Earth, completely disorienting. At this time, we are experiencing a heightened polarity between the light and the dark. We are being asked to hold a neutral space for all this duality and to have more compassion for all life. Flower essences enhance the energetic interconnection between all living things and so are especially well suited to support an expansion of consciousness.

Understanding how we function within—and our responsibility to—the collective is important because none of us operates alone. If you forget what you derive from the collective, you assume you don’t owe it anything and exist separately from everyone. Much of the privileged world enjoys the benefits of being part of the collective, whether we are conscious of it or not: rights, amenities, protection, accessible health care, clean drinking water, electricity, and so on. So, those with the material upper hand at this time have a special responsibility to the rest of those sharing the Earth.

Within a healing justice framework, we must not only question our privilege as white people, we must elevate BIPOC leadership within all the transformative justice movements. We are all dependent on one another to collectively wake up and heal.

Plants, People, and Cosmic Balance: A Healing Justice Invitation blog image 2

In this way, it is an exciting time for the community of herbalists and flower essence practitioners. Modalities that are so helpful in bringing people into balance are themselves coming into greater balance. A sign of hope within an era of great hope. The ancient wisdom explored in The Bloom Book supports that the power of the plants is coming through in dynamic new ways. This text exists, in part, to provide more context around the validity and potency of the flowers. The spectrum of human emotional experience is here for our development and delight.

The Absence of Women-Identified, WOC, and QTBIPOC Healers Throughout History 

Missing from our Western history books are most of the contributions by women-identified healers through the ages. Even more scarce are WOC, and most scarce are queer and trans people of color (QTBIPOC) within the codex of Western medical history. The misogyny of the burgeoning patriarchy from ancient Greece spread throughout Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the rest of the world through colonization by white settlers. The suppression of women healers in Europe and the Americas coincided with the rise of the ruling class, capitalism, and the privatization of medical care, away from folk-healing traditions—traditions that women played a huge role in preserving and advancing. Gender seemed to be less of a construct throughout many parts of the ancient world, as there are significant written reports of intersex and gender-fluid healers. In many cases, those who exhibited androgyny were known as having special healing powers because of their ability to connect with both masculine and feminine energy. 

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As historical contexts are becoming more inclusive and less Eurocentric, there is more room for the theory around matriarchal-centered civilizations being much more prominent than previously thought. Senegalese anthropologist and historian Cheikh Anta Diop felt that, historically, most of Africa was matriarchal in organization. Colonizers were tremendously misogynistic, which holds much information for us to ponder as we consider our connection to the feminine and the history of medicine. 

The lack of representation of women and WOC healers in the historical literature of medicine is decidedly a Western trait. Not only is much history transmitted orally and through practices and traditions, but the written history is also a very biased account, formulated in large part by, and for, white men. While our participation in medicine and healing traditions has been historically restricted in the West, women have long been associated with healing, especially within the domains of life and death—as midwives and compassionate caregivers helping to bring new life and support the soul into the afterlife. Women healers have traditionally addressed the issues and needs of populations that our culture typically shames and would rather ignore. Written accounts are limited, but we do have a record of a talented few. We must honor the oral traditions that are not meant to be shared (by me anyway) with the mainstream. There is a protection in keeping knowledge hidden from the masses. This wisdom is secured within the light lineage of all healers. 

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Conclusion 

The social and healing justice movements have affected me deeply, and it is my sincere hope that we can continue to decolonize and dismantle where dominant systems are limiting the positive proliferation of alternative healing and flower essence therapy to make them more accessible and inclusive. The more we come into balance in this way, the more transformation is available to us all, our communities, and our Earth—and the more we maintain plant medicine as medicine for all people.

Healing Justice Flower Essence Allies

There are a number of herbalists such as Karen Rose of Sacred Vibes Apothecary, Jennifer Patterson of Corpus Ritual (also a Bloom Book contributor), Lauren Giambrone of Goodfight Herb Co., and Amanda David of Rootwork Herbals, (to name a few), who have been speaking on the subject of healing justice for quite some time, and I am grateful for their leadership and inspiration. Healing justice business models such as that of Third Root, a worker-owned community center that provides collaborative, holistic health care in Brooklyn, offers a standard that everyone in the healing arts should aspire to. 

I offer some essences below that are wonderful to use in process groups or healing circles that center on antiracism and anti-oppression work. Some flower allies to assist you as you dig deeper into this rich and rewarding terrain are:

Delta Gardens lemon balm—a wonderful essence for when you are immersed in deep work, to keep calm and carry on

Delta Gardens valerian—for any resistance to change, to be able to take in and assimilate new information

Flower Essence Society quaking grass—“harmonious community consciousness,” letting go of personal attachments in social groups

Flower Essence Society lupine—seeing beyond the level of self, seeing self as part of the whole

Flower Essence Society or Delta Gardens echinacea—integration of those parts of the self that may have been repressed

Flower Essence Society or Delta Gardens borage—to support the heart and offer courage

Bach Original Flower Remedies water lily—for humility and wisdom in communication, to heal the perceived separation we feel from others based on race, class, or gender

Flower Essence Society pink yarrow—for emotional vulnerability, assists in discerning what is your responsibility to emotionally process

Additional Information on Healing Justice

A Not-So-Brief History of the Healing Justice Movement, 2010-2016

What Is Healing Justice?—Healing by Choice Detroit

Healing Justice: Holistic Self-Care for Change Makers—Transform Network

Healing Justice Toolkit

Corpus Ritual

Railyard Apothecary

Good Fight Herb Co.

Rootwork Herbals 

Sacred Vibes Apothecary

Harriet’s Apothecary

Third Root 

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Bloom Book

Heidi Smith, MA, RH (AHG), is a psychosomatic therapist, registered herbalist, and flower essence practitioner. Within her private practice, Moon & Bloom, Heidi works collaboratively with her clients to empower greater balance, actualization, and soul-level healing within themselves. She is passionate about engaging both the spiritual and scientific dimensions of the plant kingdom, and sees plant medicine and ritual as radical ways to promote individual, collective, and planetary healing. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her partner and two cats. For more, visit moonandbloom.com.

 

 

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