Highlight : Shervin Boloorian

Q: What inspired your new album?
SB: It’s an album of sacred songs, and chants from ancient texts. Each one has a positive message and is recorded in the original Persian or Arabic. The songs on my album “One with the Beloved” are mostly original compositions and others are my versions of traditional Sufi Mantras and folk songs.  

Q: How did your upbringing influence this album?
SB: I grew up in Britain in an Iranian refugee household. We spoke Farsi at home (Persian) My parents had lost virtually everything in Iran. It was humbling to experience being an outsider and to learn the importance of compassion and friendship at a young age from certain English friends we had who were kind to us.  I went to the US to go to college after getting my GCSE.
Iranians revere figures like Rumi (a 13th century philosopher and poet), whose texts are the main inspiration for the lyrics used in my album. Rumi himself was a refugee who had a revelation which transformed his creativity. I resonate with Rumi’s journey and his wisdom is timeless and universal to me. Leonard Cohen and Coldplay are among the most well known musical artists who have been inspired by his messages, yet his name seems to fall into obscurity. I am hoping to change that through my new album.

Q: Can you explain more about your vision of unity over separation?
SB: Whenever there is political violence that may hold a person in dread or despair that you pause before judgement and consider that this is a desperate act and not how people normally are. Of course some will say that is already happening, but is it really sinking into our consciousness that Islam, Middle Easterners or people of faith in general are not a danger? When people make these claims, they are attacking every person of faith and rather than to debate which side is wrong or right, I wanted to make a contribution showing the world that there is a universalist message from within a faith, which is wrongly associated with violence.
We in the West are urgently lacking when it comes to reversing stereotypes in a meaningful way about civilisations that we have been at odds with. Policies of alienation and adversity are outdated and are not working as they stand. We need to start focusing on humanising and not ostracising those we cannot understand—and engaging from that place. That means calling on imagery, figures in history, literature and artistic expressions that can help us regain a more complete picture of those who have been our so called “enemies”. If we can do it in a way that is relatable, then I believe, lives can change as well as perspectives.
I believe everyone can relate to a figure like Rumi because of the tremendous appeal of his writings and it’s no accident that he is experiencing a resurgence today at a time when our relationship with the Middle East is at its most chaotic. We need more of his voice.     

Q: What measures do you feel people could take to try to overcome the current worldwide barriers of political mistrust?
SB: I could say what everybody else says: “vote” “be engaged civically” and “write to your elected Rep” and generally I would respond in such a way, BUT the truth is we’ve had colossal failures when it comes to our policies concerning the Middle East.
When it comes to something like our relationship with Iran for example (and I worked in Washington on this issue) there is a lack of reliable information and it creates this sense of desolation no matter what we do or where we turn. Historically, when our institutions are gridlocked, it’s up to the grassroots to get involved and to come up with alternative ways of pursuing the positive change that we urgently need. That’s not practical or easy when there is a large distance and gap in cultural awareness.
Music and the Arts are powerful tools in rebuilding that human bridge. Their potential is untapped here, and if we can make these tools accessible and personal, if we can trace the relationships between societal wounds and the wounds and fears within each person’s individual consciousness that exists, then there is hope, and I believe Rumi would approve. 
Q: What is Sound Healing and how did you first come across this?
It’s a holistic modality that involves vibration and frequency (not just music) and it can have positive effects on the consciousness and the physiology. I learned about the cellular research that Fabien Maman was doing on blood cells and their response to sound vibration and was inspired to become a practitioner. I went on train at Fabien’s Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color and Movement and became certified as a sound therapist in 2011, two years after leaving my career in Washington DC. 

Q:You have worked in the past with many major businesses such as Google to provide their teams with Sound Healing and Talks. How did this come about and what has been the feedback and positive impact of these?

SB: I had someone who took a workshop with me in Bali who worked at Google. They invited my to their offices and I did a presentation for them in Singapore and had a great response. I have also done corporate events in Bali and shared about my personal journey to retreats and private groups as well as giving a demonstration of the deeply relaxing effects of the different instruments I play.

Highlight : Anthony Abbagnano

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A 13 month-old toddler wobbles towards the side of the road, just as a car approaches. “Toby! Stop!” his mother screams as she runs towards him. In that moment before he breaks into tears, the child freezes, his breath trapped in his chest. It’s a moment his being will never forget.

Each trauma we experience makes us contract, the reaction becoming a habit until as adults we become used to denying our body a full and free breath. Even a small rise in tension is enough to make it short and incomplete. Yet our breath is our most important bodily function. Without it we are brain dead in just ten minutes. In fact our brain consumes as much as 20-25% of our oxygen intake, and over the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution, we have steadily diminished the supply due to pollution, lack of exercise, and living in closed, air-conditioned environments. Our air quality has become so bad that in hospitals, the very place where health should be protected and restored, we now contract mysterious illnesses we have never seen before due to the lack of plain old ‘fresh air’.

The truth is, Breath is the greatest gift we never received.

My life is a joy because I travel the world and teach The Alchemy of Breath. Day after day I witness what happens for those who are prepared to explore the simple practice of breathing consciously. I have seen lives change direction in a day, marriages revived, addictions abandoned and depression defeated. What is it about conscious breathing that makes life change so quickly?

I believe it to be information. When we breathe consciously, its not just the oxygen supply we increase, it’s also what comes with it. There are three ways that conscious breathing can make a difference to our health; physical, psychic, and spiritual.

Let us start with the physical body. The more we research oxygen, the more we become aware of its benefits. Many diseases cannot survive in an oxygenated environment. Recovery time from serious surgery has been cut enormously by using simple conscious breathing practices. Likewise, we are developing diagnostic techniques that use the breath as the information source. Cancer can be detected in the exhale, imminent heart attack can be revealed by breath analysis, and of course for those who drink and drive, they are well aware that alcohol levels have been easily determined by examination of the exhale for over 50 years! Diagnosis as a whole is set to change over the next 5 years as a result of the understanding the Breath. It will become instant and non-invasive, as the information required is already there, in our exhale.

Google ‘breath’ and ‘detox’ and see the myriad of information about how to use the Breath for cleansing the system!

If we consider our psyche, and the example I used at the top of this article, we have found that by using the Breath we can release trauma that has been embedded in the body for a life time.  The ‘freeze, flight or fight’ reaction to traumatic impact embeds or archives the event in our body and our psyche. The loss of breath associated with trauma ensures that the memory is stuck deep inside our awareness, and thus we are easily ‘triggered’ or re-minded of the trauma in later life by outside circumstances. In order to make life more bearable, we develop coping systems that protect us from the fear of aggression or trauma, and these systems then become the shell or the shield we hide behind for safety. We lose our self-confidence and freedom of expression. Our relationship with the unknown becomes fearful, and we learn to accept a life with limited potential. We may idealise hero’s and celebrities on the outside, but inside we are dominated by limiting core beliefs that tell us we are not good enough, we don’t deserve love, or we do not belong.

The simple act of breathing consciously shows us a different story. Each free and full breath opens the veils of protection, strengthens our trust in the beauty of life, and restores our self-belief.

After one breathing session an elder woman came up to me with tears in her eyes: “My husband,” she said. “For the first time in twenty-five years he told me he loves me!”

Now if we consider the Breath in a spiritual context, let us look at the word ‘inspire’, the origins of which are to imbibe spirit (in-spirit). The dictionary of etymology (or word origins) tells us c. 1300, “immediate influence of God or a god.

For those who are greedy for spiritual uplift, Breathwork is an instant way to import information from the higher realms. As we learn to breath openly and fully, keeping each cycle of breath connected to the next, we breath into new levels of trust. Once the obstacles of trauma and the mind are out of the way, and with a regular breathing practice, this new spiritual access becomes embodied, providing us with a very clear understanding that we are spiritual beings above all, and even though our journey on this material planet may be challenging at times, by simply using the Breath we can reconnect and re-pair with our true purpose.

What seemed like problems in the past take an entirely new perspective. The trauma that has limited our lives is dissolved, and we are permitted unlimited spiritual alertness. Many times after a Breathwork session I am told “I finally understand what God is.” Or, “Now I know God is everywhere, as inside as outside.” Our connection to the divine is re-stored, and we are gifted with the knowing that duality is but an illusion after all. The inner peace that comes with this awareness is a salve to the soul.

I have identified here the three levels of the breath, how it reaches our deepest subconscious through our physical body, and connects us with the higher realms. When these three levels are connected and aligned, miracles are normal. Just as when our chakra are aligned, instant healing takes place, and permanent insights replace the impermanent concepts and notions we have clung to in the past – revealed as mere illusions that have limited our relationship with life itself.

In The Training, a one year journey with The Alchemy of Breath, we focus not just on the experiential value of a Breathwork Session, but also on what happens between the sessions. How can we best integrate this new awareness into our daily lives? We use inquiry, Alchemy Meditation, exercises, and group support to unravel the tight knots we have learned to carry inside, and dismantle the old and rusty architecture that has held us back in life. The Training is also designed to bring the student to Practitioner level, and can be supplemented to become a Trainer as well. But perhaps most important of all is the understanding that we cannot provide Healing for someone else. We can only work on ourselves, and by accepting this as our truth, then we can be alongside others in their healing journey, enabling and supporting them in their own empowerment, reassuring them that our presence cannot be shaken. Healing is not just a process but a state of being, each moment offering us the choice to renew and regenerate.

My own journey to breathwork was sequential, beginning as a young man. I remember as a ten year old, when a friend handed me a paper bag and said “Breathe into that for a minute, deep long breaths.” I did as I was told and in seconds I had collapsed and ‘saw stars’. I became a father at 18 years old, and learned and coached my wife in the LeBoyer technique over the pregnancy, which contributed to a painless natural birth of my son. Over the ensuing years I explored many breath practices, including Pranayama, Sufi Breathing, Holotropic Breathwork and Rebirthing.

But it was a near death experience that finally strung all these experiences together, when I lay in bed for three months in the paralysis of pain. Breathing was all that was left. My mind sought escape. What must I learn to end the hell?  But it was the Breath that gave me the support I needed to let everything fall to pieces, all the ideas and constructs of who I thought I was. I saw the emptiness inside the success I had achieved, and I learned to turn around to look at what I feared most in my life. By finding the dark hole in the centre of my fear – not with steeliness or resolve, but with softness and surrender – I had found a portal. What seemed the end became a new beginning, and the richness of life that I had never yet seen was shown to me.

Then I knew what I had to do.

Each inhale is the embrace of life, and each exhale is the letting go. Each inhale is an opportunity to absorb the new, and each exhale the chance to let go of what no longer serves us. There was no way I could refuse the call, and even today as I facilitate groups of up to 200 people, it is easy to see those who are called to be facilitators. There is no greater gift than to bear witness to the transformation of the human soul. If you feel the call, then you are called.

We can be the change we want to see, one breath at a time.

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Anthony Abbagnano is the founder of The Community of Healing, an international organisation that promotes the union of Western medicine with all other healing modalitiesHe is also the founder of the ARK foundation in Bali Indonesia, a centre dedicated to community health and growth of consciousness. With 8 years of personal daily breathing practice, Antonio has explored many different styles of the breath, including LeBoyer, Holotropic, Transformational, Sufi Breathing, and Pranayama.
As a result of his own healing journey, including the survival and transformation from a near death health crisis, Anthony holds tender space for the depth some need in their own healing path as well as supporting the celebration of joy and ecstasy that a breathwork practice promotes. Now a Clarity Breathwork practitioner, Anthony brings his life experiences of Motivational Speaking, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Bodytalk™ Therapy, Conscious Loving and Conscious Living Life Coaching (Hendricks Institute) to the practice. He also incorporates Sound Medicine and Aromatherapy into his Breathwork practice.
Living in Europe during the summer months and on the island of Bali the rest of the year, Anthony has created The Alchemy of Breath group workshops and private sessions.
Anthony will be offering Alchemy of Breath workshops at The Bali Spirit Festival on April 1st 2016. Alchemy of Breath Video

For more information about international online and residential trainings and a free accompanied Alchemy of Breath session that you can use at home on your own, contact Anthony Abbagnano info@alchemyofbreath.com

The Alchemy of Breath is a member of The Community of Healing.

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© Lightening Magazine 2016