Poetry and Breathwork

Poetry and Breathwork

Though most of these poets never heard the term ‘holotropic state’, nevertheless in their work they write of experiences of what we call holotropic states. The poems can be read and enjoyed for what they are in themselves.But these poems also offer examples of holotropic states and can help clarify and deepen what we mean by holotropic states.

A chickpea leaps        Rumi

A chickpea leaps almost over the rim of the pot

where it’s being boiled.

“Why are you doing this to me”

The cook knocks it down with the ladle.

“Don’t you try to jump out.

You think I’m torturing you,

I’m giving you flavor,

so you can mix with spices and rice

and be the lovely vitality of a human being.

Remember when you drank rain in the garden.

That was for this.”

Grace first. Sexual pleasure,

then a boiling new life begins,

and the Friend has something good to eat.    

Translated by Coleman Barks


The Holy Longing

Tell a wise person, or else keep silent,

Because the massman will mock it right away.

I praise what is truly alive,

What longs to be burned to death.


In the calm water of the love-nights,

Where you were begotten, where you have begotten,

A strange feeling comes over you

When you see the silent candle burning.


Now you are no longer caught

In the obsession with darkenss,

And a desire for higher love-making

Sweeps you upward.


Distance does not make you falter,

Now, arriving in magic, flying,

And finally, insane for the light,

You are the butterfly and you are gone.


And so long as you haven’t experienced

This: to die and so to grow,

You are only a troubled guest

On the dark earth.




The Wind, One Brilliant Day


The wind, one brilliant day, called

to my soul with an odor of jasmine.


“In return for the odor of my jasmine,

I’d like all the odor of your roses.”


I have no roses; all the flowers

in my garden are dead.”


Well then, I’ll take the withered petals

and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”


The wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:

“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you?”    

Antonio Machado (1875-1939)


The Healing Time  – Persha Gertler

Finally on my way to yes

I bump into

all the places

Where I said no

to my life

all the untended wounds

the red and purple scars

those hieroglyphs of pain

carved into my skin, my bones,

those coded messages

that send me down

the wrong street

again and again

where I find them

the old wounds

the old misdirections

and I lift them

one by one

close to me heart

and I say    holy holy.




Empty your mind of all thoughts,

Let you heart be at peace.

Watch the turmoil of beings,

but contemplate their return.


Each separate being in the universe

returns to the common source.

Returning to the source is serenity.


If you don’t realize the source,

you stumble in confusion and sorrow.

When you realize where you come from,

you naturally become tolerant,

disinterested, amused,

kindhearted as a grandmother,

dignified as a king.

Immersed in the wonder of the Tao,

you can deal with whatever life brings you,

and when death comes, you are ready.


She Dreamed of Cows

by Norah Pollard

I knew a woman who washed her hair and bathed
her body and put on the nightgown she’d worn
as a bride and lay down with a .38 in her right hand.
Before she did the thing, she went over her life.
She started at the beginning and recalled everything—
all the shame, sorrow, regret and loss.
This took her a long time into the night
and a long time crying out in rage and grief and disbelief—
until sleep captured her and bore her down.

She dreamed of a green pasture and a green oak tree.
She dreamed of cows. She dreamed she stood
under the tree and the brown and white cows
came slowly up from the pond and stood near her.
Some butted her gently and they licked her bare arms
with their great coarse drooling tongues. Their eyes, wet as
shining water, regarded her. They came closer and began to
press their warm flanks against her, and as they pressed
an almost unendurable joy came over her and
lifted her like a warm wind and she could fly.
She flew over the tree and she flew over the field and
she flew with the cows.

When the woman woke, she rose and went to the mirror.
She looked a long time at her living self.
Then she went down to the kitchen which the sun had made all
yellow, and she made tea. She drank it at the table, slowly,
all the while touching her arms where the cows had licked.

Snow Geese by Mary Oliver

Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!

What a task

to ask

of anything, or anyone,

yet it is ours,

and not by the century or the year, but by the hours.

One fall day I heard

above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound

I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was

a flock of snow geese, winging it

faster than the ones we usually see,

and, being the color of snow, catching the sun

so they were, in part at least, golden. I

held my breath

as we do


to stop time

when something wonderful

has touched us

as with a match,

which is lit, and bright,

but does not hurt

in the common way,

but delightfully,

as if delight

were the most serious thing

you ever felt.

The geese

flew on,

I have never seen them again.

Maybe I will, someday, somewhere.

Maybe I won’t.

It doesn’t matter.

What matters

is that, when I saw them,

I saw them

as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly.



With That Moon Language  – Rumi

Admit something:

Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”

Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone

would call the cops.

Still, though, think about this, this great pull in us to connect.

Why not become the one who lives with a full moon in each


that is always saying,

with that sweet moon language,

what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?