I happened to be lucky enough recently to hear Dan Brule tell an impact story that rocked my world. Firstly, who is Dan Brule? He’s a breath teacher who has been teaching breathwork since the 1970s. If you’ve not heard of breathwork, and are perhaps thinking (like I did at one point), why do you need to teach someone to breathe, read on!
Breathwork, in the way Dan Brule teaches it has two aspects: breath awareness and conscious breathing. Breath awareness is becoming more aware of how we are breathing at any given time. Conscious breathing is changing some aspect of our breath. How we breathe can impact many aspects of our lives including wellness and inducing calm in times of stress.
Now to Dan’s story. He was talking about a dark period in his life. He’d had a series of traumas that eventually landed him in jail. He’d only spent a few days in jail when he acted out on a guard who had been taunting him. The guard had spit on Dan’s food before giving it to him, and Dan grabbed the guard’s arm and tugged it so hard that the guard was smashed against the steel bars. His shoulder was dislocated and Dan ended up in isolation for 17 days.
Talk about an enforced silent retreat!
I have never done a 10-day silent retreat, although I know people who have. I had never thought of “Isolation” in the jails as something that could induce an ecstatic state, but for Dan, it appears that was part of the formula.
When he got out of isolation, his first assignment was to clean the urinals. There he was scrubbing them and the drain hole itself, when all of a sudden, he caught sight of something beautiful: the brass around the drain hole.
Yup. The way he tells the story, he was struck by the inherent beauty of the brass around the drainage ring. He was scrubbing and then getting lost in its beauty. That experience started to open him up and he went into a ecstatic state. He started to see the beauty all around him. The perfection and geometry in the prison bars. He leaned against them and felt the coolness of the steel. Then he thought of how the bars are holding him up.
Soon enough, the guards came to escort him back to his cell. Dan was so overcome and in a bliss state, that he wanted to hug the guards. He started walking towards them with outstretched arms. They took that to mean he was going to attack, dropped to position and cocked their guns (which he could hear).
In that moment, Dan realized he was coming towards them with this tremendous love in his heart and they interpreted it as attack. He thought about his own life of anger and violence, and wondered how many times he had been in situations where love was coming at him, but he couldn’t see it or feel it or interpreted it as attack.
That was another key and pivotal moment in his healing.
I took that story into my kundalini practice the morning after I heard Dan’s story. Kundalini yoga gives me such tremendous access to calm, as a lot of the practice is meditation and allows my mind to settle in my body.
In that state of mind-body, what came to me was:
“What if Everything is Love?”
Of course, one can easily negate that supposition. There is so much suffering in the world. But while on the yoga mat, I let myself feel the proposition: what if everything is love.
And from that space, I “got” it. If I can allow myself to be open enough to the vibration of love, it is all around me and can come in to me and out of me.
I don’t know if I can quite convey to you that moment on the mat, but if you can imagine your heart region for a moment…. Put your hand on your heart. Think of someone or something you love (your child, lover, a flower or sunset, a dog or peak moment). Now imagine there is a white light between you and that other. It could be a while light in the shape of a pipe or simply a golden cord. However your own mind can see or sense it, is perfectly fine. The exercise is to simply feel your own love inside and feel the love that can be generated in the in-between. There is a space that extends from inside your heart region, outwards and connects with the “other” in love.
That experience of love is being able to come into you and out of you. It is the field that Rumi spoke of in his quote of there being a field and his desire to meet up there.
Now let’s take this imagining a step further. Still with your hand on your heart, imagine you are Dan standing in front of those guards. See yourself as Dan. Feet firmly planted in his ecstatic loving state. Open to love. Feel it in your chest, under your hand.
Now glance up and see the guards. This is the “other” we imagine will harm us in some way. We are seeing the threat of the outside world.
See the guards “out there” softening into love as well. They too can open into love. Love opens. Love softens. Love expands.
You. Love. The other. Love. You. Love.
After that incident of incredible bliss, Dan stayed in that state for a few more days. While “in love” – he profoundly touched the prison psychiatrist who was sent to assess his mental health as well as one of the key guards in charge. As each of them visited Dan, they were overcome with his unconditional love for them and felt his love touch the tenderness of their own hearts, crying, weeping, opening up to Dan. One of them crawling into Dan’s lap in a fetal position washing away the regret of his years of a perceived wasted life.
That’s the kind of impact we can have on others when we come from love.
Within a week of having had this love opening, Dan received a letter inviting him to come to a “Clemency Board hearing” in Washington. He was supposedly in prison for 3 years minimum, and probably more as he’d been violent at the outset. He had no idea what a Clemency Board was, or how anyone had even gotten his name.
He went to the Clemency Board hearing, where there were high ranking officials and when he got back to prison, he received another letter from them soon after. In it, it stated he was to be set free immediately.
Instead of 3 years in prison, he spent 69 days.
That is the power of love.
Can you stay in the feeling, even only for a few moments, that everything around you is sending you love? Might the only barrier to feeling and receiving that love is to let down our inner guard and feel the love pour in?
“Once you are free everything happens for you. You vibrate differently and the world changes.” … Dan Brule