The horrific spate of murders of unarmed black people by law enforcement, the devastating global acts of terrorism, the homophobic mass shooting in Orlando and the recent police executions in Dallas all have one thing in common.
They all leave trauma in their wake. With a 24/7 news cycle, these events have many of us experiencing the effects of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder. Add this to the pressure of balancing our everyday lives and there could potentially be an unhealthy powder keg of anxiety, depression, and stress.
So, how do we cope? Extreme self-care is definitely one part of our healing prescription. So is connecting to the power of the breath.
Kathleen Booker is a Breathwork Coach and Breathing Technician who refers to herself appropriately as “the Jedi of Calm.” That means that she teaches people how to use their breath to enhance their lives on a mental, physical, emotional and spiritual level. Kathleen was introduced to breath work while studying at Iyanla Vanzant’s school, Inner Visions Institute for Spiritual Development (IVISD). If Booker sounds familiar, you may have seen her on BRAVO reality series Blood, Sweat, and Heels working with late TV personality, Daisy Lewellyn.
“I began to feel more courageous, my thinking was clearer, I felt safe being in my skin and I felt ready to have, be, do more in life,” Booker said, referring to the start of her Breathwork practice.
Here, we discuss how Black women can overcome the trauma we so often experience, especially in the wake of a number of tragic events.
Kathleen, how do you define emotional and psychological trauma?
Trauma is emotional, spiritual, mental and physical pain caused by an experience. Some events that can cause emotional and psychological trauma are: war, a denigrating boss, an emotionally and verbally abusive spouse, rape, bullying, child abuse, earthquakes, illness, witnessing a murder, loss of a loved one.
With the recent violent events in America, many of us have a form of PTSD. What kinds of feelings might people be having after these events?
Let’s take the horrific killing of Alton Sterling in Louisiana. This “pain-FULL” traumatic event is reverberating throughout Black communities in America. In one of my Breathwork classes last week, every single individual in the circle had pain in their shoulders. I offered that the pain in their shoulders represented the weight of this traumatic event. I opened the circle up to discussion and everyone said how stressed out they felt about the killing. [They also shared] that it was stressful feeling they had to look over their shoulders when they passed a policeman. They felt impotent not having a solution.
I shared with them that the power of the breath is reciprocity. You inhale and you receive, you exhale and you give. With your breath you are spreading love and peace. Breath is connection. We did more breathing exercises and everyone was more heart-centered and no longer stressed.
What exactly is breathwork?
Conscious Connected Breathwork is connecting your inhale to your exhale with no pause in between. I like to say that Conscious Connected Breath is like a circle – no beginning and no end – the inhale and exhale flow easily from one to the other. The breath is a unique tool that we can use anytime anywhere to release stress, pain, and anxiety. The beauty and uniqueness of the breath is that it not only relaxes you, it simultaneously energizes you.
As you noticed in your Breathwork Class, many law-abiding Black and brown people have expressed to me that they now feel paranoid when it comes to the cops. I have to admit that feel this way — and I teach empowerment, love and self-love. I feel terrified for my loved ones. What do we do with this fear?
I am a Black woman; I can feel the tension in the air. However, to remain in fear, fear of constantly looking over your shoulder creates cortisol/stress, which can lead to “dis-ease,” mental illness, fatigue and a host of ailments. I say spread love. The breath creates connection. And when you begin to consciously connect your breath, those around you will begin to relax.
Try this experiment when in a crowded elevator or meeting. Begin to consciously connect your breath and you will notice people will begin to inhale deeply and easily exhale…relaxing. I offer for those feeling triggered by the police do the same…you are spreading love and peace in addition, to releasing stress from YOUR body, lowering your blood pressure, [and increasing] clarity of thought.
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How can we heal from the trauma of witnessing horrific public violence when the events keep coming before we have healed from the last one?
Get support! Support could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, counselor or Breathing Technician.
Please share a simple breathwork exercise that someone reading this can do to heal trauma or PTSD.
Place your feet flat on the floor with hands palms up on your lap. Sit with your back as straight as you can and lovingly close your eyes. Inhaling and exhaling through your nose, become aware of your breath. Don’t try to change it or alter it; just be aware of breathing and how your body feels while breathing.
Thoughts will come. Allow them to float into your head and float right back out. Continue inhaling and exhaling through your nose. Very gently begin to lengthen your inhalations. Just let the exhale happen. Repeat that 10 times and then take a big inhale through a wide open mouth and exhale saying ‘aaahhhh.’ Wiggle your fingers and toes and lovingly open your eyes.
Learn more about Kathleen’s work at BreathingForFreedom.com.
Abiola Abrams is the author of the award-winning Sacred Bombshell Handbook of Self-Love, Manifest Your Miracles meditation album and Womanifesting Goddess Affirmation Cards. The popular love and lifestyle guru is also the founder of the Spiritpreneur School podcast, blog, web TV show, and online academy at SacredBombshell.com. Follow her on Instagram to continue the discussion about this week’s hot topic, and then email her your burning questions now.