Holotropic Breathwork eases my violence

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Holotropic Breathwork these past 10 days in Germany, it that I am a violent person. Violence was all around me when I was born. My mother almost died, I heard and as a result, she suffered post-partum depression and I was shipped out to live with my grandmother in another state of the USA. I don’t remember any of this, but you see and begin to feel things when you take part in a program like this Breathwork.

My father was violent at times. You couldn’t have a dainty coffee table in our living room. Achilles Contoveros would smash it with his fist when he got emotional. I don’t know how many cheap wooden tables we went through when he got excited. It reminded me of my Italian friends who told me their families did nothing but yell at each other at home!

A Catholic priest taught me how to box when I was just 10-years-old. The German minister would put gloves on me and set up a match with a kid two years my senior but who was my same height. I held my own and never once cried out when he hit me upside the head and hurt me.

I got hit upside the head when I reached my teenage years. Each April, I’d end up with a black eye after getting into fights whenever I acted out trying to get the attention of girls. Some bully would call me names and I’d never bite until he called me the one name: “faggot.” We’d really get into it and I’d give almost as much as I got.

Soon, I found myself learning to fight in the army. I was good with a weapon and someone saw some leadership skills and invited me to attend Officers Candidate School where I became the second youngest second lieutenant in our graduation class. I became an officer and a gentleman at the ripe old age of 20 and was leading men in a combat zone in Vietnam just a short year later. I guess you can’t get any more violent than that.

violence umage

Stop the violence within through spiritual transformation

Next came my fight with authorities as a muck-raking newspaper journalist, trying to dig up the dirt on bad government officials. I relished a good story pointing out malfeasance whether it was at the township level or a born-again Christian church that had ripped off the followers. I continued my rebel ways while working as a union organizer and then enrolling in law school to be a labor lawyer.

God had other plans and I got a D in Labor Law. I then studied an area where I’d end up serving the most violent parts of our society. Criminal defendants in a city called Philadelphia. I once tried 10 jury trials in less than 10 weeks and hardly ever requested continuances in my legal career. I fought with all my might. I didn’t know any other way to serve someone’s Constitutional Rights.

Violence hit home about 10 years ago. My wife fell down a flight of stairs in our home, suffering a Traumatic Brain Injury which she never recovered from. Post-Traumatic Stress from the war cropped up and soon I faced what psychologist called care-giver burnout. I placed my wife in a nursing home and turned to the study of spiritual things where I practiced Buddhism and the study of the Kabbalah.

Demons still clanged to my new way of life I couldn’t release my attachments from so many things I should have learned to have non-attachment for. I felt so much like a character the Buddha met who was one of the most violent men the Enlightened One ever came across.

The man’s name was Angulimala. He was cursed by a false prophet who convinced him to create a necklace of thumbs to reach liberation. Angulimala had to remove the thumbs from people, often killing them in the process. By the time Buddha met up with him, he had put 999 thumbs together.

The Buddha helped the violent man to see the light and to renounce his negative actions. He accepted the dharma teachings and became so devout in his practice that he was able to achieve an Awakening in one lifetime.

No, I don’t foresee that for me. All I want is to develop more skillful means to express myself in nonviolent ways so that I don’t scare off people with harsh and blunt words. I intend loving kindness and must choose words to accommodate that feeling. I need a filter and I hope I learn to stay grounded enough in Breathwork to stay within the boundaries of love.



6 comments on “Holotropic Breathwork eases my violence

  1. Gul Durmayaz says:

    Dearest Michael, I missed you and remembered your beautiful blog. So I’m here:) Sending you much love, light and peace my dear friend… And a little gift of a song that reminds me of you 🙂

    Your friend from Istanbul,
    Lover of Rumi


    • contoveros says:

      You are a true lover!I am so glad we met and shared what Rumi offered the world if we but gave up all pretense of being separated. We are one, my dear, and I hope we never forget it.

      I hope to see you come September. (That’s sounds like a movie that Bobby Darin starred in, doesn’t it?)

      We’ll share a glass or two of wine and offer cheer to the Philadelphia landscape and you can tell me how peace has returned to your homeland of Turkey.

      Thanks Gul.

      Michael J


  2. It is our culture of violence … We are shaped by culture, by environment, and exposure. The priest teaching you boxing for example. What does that have to do with Catholicism? I am sure there is an argument about sport, and fitness … But pugilism? Why not track and field? Undoing all that training, decades of hypnotic programming, is difficult. Jung calls it shadow work. Exposing these undesirable facets of our psyche to the light so they evaporate … It is a noble path, far more so than OCS, as this path is aligned with Spirit, with intention … Many blessings for your journey


  3. Lea Strongheart says:

    I did Holotropic breathwork for years. I worked with a man who studied in Germany.


    • contoveros says:

      Was his name Ingo by any chance?

      How have you been, my woman warrior? I miss you and the sage you burned to help purify my life. I wish we could get together for a Pow Wow or a sweat lodge someday. It would be great to cheat and whisper on the silent retreat as we have done in the past!

      With overflowing love and admiration:

      Michael J


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