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Let's Keep This Simple; This is How Breathwork Changed My Life

After thirty years I still believe that Breathwork is the simplest, fastest and most profound tool for putting you in contact with your soul. If you want to know who you are and why you are here... try Breathwork. (Of course I hope you try Effiji Breath... I know how effective it is).

There simply isn’t anything more important than your breath. Try living without it! How you breathe is how you live. Think about how many breaths you take in a day without ever being aware of how you do it. To get the maximum out of each breath you need to take some time to focus on retraining your breathing so you can master your life. Retraining your breathing along with all the things you are learning and doing to improve your life takes time.  

Breathwork is the practice for this time. This complex, pressured moment of transformation we are all in.

My story is unique but I didn’t magically become a teacher, a founder of technique and leader of a community. I went through my own process, suffering and discovery just like everyone else. This is my story. The story of how breathwork changed my life.

I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s where adults and children lived in separate worlds. I was taught to fear authority. In elementary school in Canada they still used the strap on the unruly kids and most adults scared me. At five years old my mother took me to piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music where old nun-like ladies in horn rimmed glasses would take out their pent up energy on young children who either pleased or displeased them. I had one teacher who would smack the pencil hard against the page to the beat of the metronome making the page I was reading illegible. She knew I wasn’t practicing and intended to shame me for it. She would poke and graze the page with her pencil yelling at me for being stupid, eventually smacking the top of my hands when I played. Back then all adults were on the same team so I was afraid to tell my parents about it. Around 12 years old I told my mother and she was horrified and that was the end of piano lessons.

How Breathwork Changed My Life

I grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s where adults and children lived in separate worlds. I was taught to fear authority. In elementary school in Canada they still used the strap on the unruly kids. Most adults scared me. At five years old my mother took me to piano lessons at the Royal Conservatory of Music where old nun-like ladies in horn rimmed glasses would take out their pent up energy on young children who either pleased or displeased them. I had one teacher who would smack the pencil hard against the page to the beat of the metronome making the page I was reading illegible. She knew I wasn’t practicing and intended to shame me for it. She would poke and graze the page with her pencil yelling at me for being stupid, eventually smacking the top of my hands when I played. Back then all adults were on the same team so I was afraid to tell my parents about it. Around 12 years old I told my mother and she was horrified and that was the end of piano lessons.

How Breathwork Changed My Life

Even back then it was my dream to become a musician, which I did, but I had scars. When I got older and I would get the opportunity to perform for people and that fear of being hit was always there in my body. My hands would go ice cold just before I went on stage no matter what preparation or self-talk I did. I used to wear gloves with cayenne pepper inside twenty minutes before it was showtime. A life hack that did not warm up my hands, but as you can imagine, created all kinds of messes after I took the gloves off.

My desire for attention and my fear of retribution for expressing myself seemed permanently mixed together. I became like my teacher, a person with a lot of pent up energy that I had to get out somehow. There was a mix of fear and anger around my self expression causing me to have all kinds of personality quirks.

Since the cause of my teachers hitting me was my lack of discipline, I bore some responsibility. But as a child living like an alien in my family and community I had very little resonance to my surroundings.

From a very early age I already felt something was fraudulent about it so I just didn’t do what people expected of me, but I didn’t do it openly. I never did homework and found myself figuring out where and when adults were paying attention and moved in my own world to avoid contact with their expectations. Not practicing the piano was one example. As a child my awareness was dim as to who I was and what I could do about my situation. What I did do was to get around the rules and avoid responsibility which is how I found myself being marked by my piano teacher both on the music page, on my hands and in my inner world.

This sense of alienation and the scheming to get around things were fiercely wired into me by the time I was five. The combo of creativity, the need for expression, lack of discipline, anger, rebellion and secrecy could present in any situation as me being shy, disruptive, tactless, lost, bombastic and rigid all at once.

That’s who I was when I found breathwork.

Somewhere around 24 years old I had a gig playing in a piano bar. It was 7 nights a week. It was a tough gig singing and playing from 9pm-1am every night but the money and lifestyle suited my independent outcast personality. Paupers Pub, my hub was located in the bohemian artsy university area of Toronto Canada. It was a perfect fit to be among creative misfits as a twenty-something wanna be musician in the 1980’s. Back then smoking cigarettes was allowed indoors and the owner who was always cutting corners had remodeled Paupers and didn’t bother to put in any ventilation. Every three months she would simply have the ceiling painted to cover the brown tar that had accumulated. 

Meanwhile, I used to have a terrible sore throat at the end of the week but it never dawned on me that the second hand smoke might be the cause. In fact, I’m not sure if the phrase second hand smoke had even reached the zeitgeist. Between the smoke and my continual fears around expressing myself I was a very tense person. My back, shoulders and hands were always hurting. To get the energy going I would pound out boogie woogie keeping time by pumping my legs hard, up and down and pretty much ruining my knees. 

One day, while walking to Paupers Pub I saw a sign that said “Sutherland Chan massage school, discounts for newcomers”. I thought maybe I’ll try this “massage” thing. I went over and got booked with a woman named Pat Lodge, who became my true first healer. She was an expert masseuse and had an aura of acceptance and fun about her. She was very easy to be around. We liked each other and became fast friends.

Every few weeks I’d go to her where she would work out all the knots. One day, she played a tape of “Osho” talking about the word “fuck”. It was hilarious, weird and like nothing I had ever heard. We laughed so hard together I’m not even sure she gave me a massage that day. She started to tell me about her guru Osho and later, she told me I could come to her house to get a massage which is where I met my breath teacher, her husband, Tom Lodge.

The first time I saw him I was completely weirded-out by his vibe. He looked like an imp. I found him to be repulsive. He had this strange smile and look about him and his war-era bad teeth didn’t help. Everytime I went to their house he smiled at me from his desk but he never said anything. Later, I got married and he and Pat came to the wedding and still we never spoke.

Little did I know that I had quite a bit in common with him. Sound, music as transformation and spirituality. His grandfather, Sir Oliver Lodge invented the radio and the telegraph. Most people don’t know this but Sir Oliver went to the British government to get a patent on his invention called a radio but he, being a rebel and a spiritualist, had few friends in the government and they denied him eventually giving the patent to Marconi two years later.

The first time I saw him I was completely weirded-out by his vibe. He looked like an imp. I found him to be repulsive. He had this strange smile and look about him and his war-era bad teeth didn’t help. Everytime I went to their house he smiled 

at me from his desk but he never said anything. Later, I got married and he and Pat came to the wedding and still we never spoke.

Little did I know that I had quite a bit in common with him. Sound, music as transformation and spirituality. His grandfather, Sir Oliver Lodge invented the radio and the telegraph. Most people don’t know this but Sir Oliver went to the British government to get a patent on his invention called a radio but he, being a rebel and a spiritualist, had few friends in the government and they denied him eventually giving the patent to Marconi two years later.During my time with Tom in the nineties he was invited by the British government to go back to Britain where they honored his grandfather as the true inventor of the radio. Sir Oliver Lodge also had a lot of relations with Tesla not just in science but with Hindu philosophy and specifically Swami Vivekananda which is one origin point for the breathwork that Tom later came to learn. In about 1963, the year I was born, Tom, was the lead DJ on a pirate radio station off the coast of Britain called Radio Caroline

In the early days of rock-n-roll the BBC was the only radio station and they wouldn’t play people like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. It was Tom who was responsible for getting their first airings on the radio by docking a ship 150 miles off the coast of Britain and out of the government's reach. He eventually wrote a screenplay about it and went to Hollywood to pitch it sometime after I stopped working with him. 

I heard that he got a lot of meetings and left his script with several studios who basically stole it and made it into the movie “Pirate Radio” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Tom. Later in 1970, Tom started the first ever recording arts program in the world in Hamilton Ontario called Fanshawe college. One of his first students ended up being my first recording engineer mentor, also before I met Tom.

He and Pat left Canada in 1977 to be with their guru, Baghwan Shree Rajneesh, who later changed his name to Osho. Osho’s rise and fall is documented in the 2018 Netflix series Wild Wild Country. After they opened a commune in Oregon and the government broke it up in 1985 they moved back to Canada where I met him in 1990. In 1990 months before I met him he had taken a breath technique he learned in India and started his own brand called “Breatherapy”. 

He also had written a book called Success Without Goals which was his spiritual take on marketing gurus like Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich). Of course, I didn’t know any of this when Pat called me out of the blue because they were moving to California and needed to get help putting stuff in storage. 

In retrospect, I suppose they wanted to seek their fortune for breathwork and his book as I would do 4 years later following them out to California to seek my fortune in music. Would I help them in exchange for a massage? You bet! Then she said “how about having a session with my husband who does Breatherapy?”. I was disappointed to hear it wasn’t going to be a massage but I said “yes” because she said it would help my cold hands. 

At that point in my thinking I had not made any connection between my cold hands and my childhood piano lessons.I had only just begun to examine myself and I was at the stage of realizing that my parents were human beings with their own problems.

I trotted over to their place which was right by the pub and Tom took me into the bedroom and had me lay on the bed. I don’t remember what he said but he could be a man of few words. I supposed I was told to hyperventilate while he played music and coached me through it. The second it started I was terrified and wanted to stop. I kept talking and asking questions. He told me to stop talking and keep going. I begged him to stop. He kept telling me to keep going. At one point I thought he put his hand over my mouth and I opened my eyes and my arm had completely curled inward including my wrist (imagine a deflated party favor) and to my surprise I saw not just my own hand but in fact both of my hands covering my mouth. The pain seemed unbearable. Again I begged him to stop.

During my time with Tom in the nineties he was invited by the British government to go back to Britain where they honored his grandfather as the true inventor of the radio. Sir Oliver Lodge also had a lot of relations with Tesla not just in science but with Hindu philosophy and specifically Swami Vivekananda which is one origin point for the breathwork that Tom later came to learn. In about 1963, the year I was born, Tom, was the lead DJ on a pirate radio station off the coast of Britain called Radio Caroline

In the early days of rock-n-roll the BBC was the only radio station and they wouldn’t play people like Jimi Hendrix and The Who. It was Tom who was responsible for getting their first airings on the radio by docking a ship 150 miles off the coast of Britain and out of the government's reach. He eventually wrote a screenplay about it and went to Hollywood to pitch it sometime after I stopped working with him. 

I heard that he got a lot of meetings and left his script with several studios who basically stole it and made it into the movie “Pirate Radio” starring Philip Seymour Hoffman as Tom. Later in 1970, Tom started the first ever recording arts program in the world in Hamilton Ontario called Fanshawe college. One of his first students ended up being my first recording engineer mentor, also before I met Tom.

He and Pat left Canada in 1977 to be with their guru, Baghwan Shree Rajneesh, who later changed his name to Osho. Osho’s rise and fall is documented in the 2018 Netflix series Wild Wild Country. After they opened a commune in Oregon and the government broke it up in 1985 they moved back to Canada where I met him in 1990. In 1990 months before I met him he had taken a breath technique he learned in India and started his own brand called “Breatherapy”. 

He also had written a book called Success Without Goals which was his spiritual take on marketing gurus like Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People) and Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich). Of course, I didn’t know any of this when Pat called me out of the blue because they were moving to California and needed to get help putting stuff in storage. 

In retrospect, I suppose they wanted to seek their fortune for breathwork and his book as I would do 4 years later following them out to California to seek my fortune in music. Would I help them in exchange for a massage? You bet! Then she said “how about having a session with my husband who does Breatherapy?”. I was disappointed to hear it wasn’t going to be a massage but I said “yes” because she said it would help my cold hands. 

At that point in my thinking I had not made any connection between my cold hands and my childhood piano lessons.I had only just begun to examine myself and I was at the stage of realizing that my parents were human beings with their own problems.

I trotted over to their place which was right by the pub and Tom took me into the bedroom and had me lay on the bed. I don’t remember what he said but he could be a man of few words. I supposed I was told to hyperventilate while he played music and coached me through it. The second it started I was terrified and wanted to stop. I kept talking and asking questions. He told me to stop talking and keep going. I begged him to stop. He kept telling me to keep going. At one point I thought he put his hand over my mouth and I opened my eyes and my arm had completely curled inward including my wrist (imagine a deflated party favor) and to my surprise I saw not just my own hand but in fact both of my hands covering my mouth. The pain seemed unbearable. Again I begged him to stop.

After it was over I was a changed person.

 Although it was terrifying, emotional and painful, I felt exhilarated, alive, clear and peaceful. I certainly felt proud that I had weathered a storm but I didn’t really understand what the storm was. I did begin to notice within a day that I felt more relaxed when I played the piano. I was improvising a lot and wrote a bunch of songs. I was genuinely happy.

I felt like the breathing released the trauma of being hit by teachers. It wasn’t an immediate connection in my mind but slowly as I continued to compose and play in front of people the fear was palpably less and eventually I made the connection between my hands curling over into a ball with all the repression I had from being hit when I played. I would have loved to talk to Tom and Pat but they already left for California. I was genuinely pretty confused about what happened and what it was about. Any insight I received and how I organized my brain around what happened was my own, which to say the least, was spotty and ignorant. Having just started therapy for the second time, Breatherapy seemed like a faster route and I quit the day after my session with Tom. Without a guide to talk to me about the follow up process, I immediately felt superior that I had found the way to escape problems that other people had to deal with.

I did reach out to my musician friend Andrew who also helped them pack their stuff and who had also done Breatherapy with Tom. I asked him if we could do it by ourselves. He said “Sure!” and claimed that “Tom said it was fine.” Which was not true at all. So on top of my own intoxication I began getting up every morning and doing some breathing on my own which led to a lot of chaos I created for myself in my life (which is it’s own story). Needless to say though breathwork had already begun to change my life just doing it the one time.

9 months later I got a letter from Tom and Pat saying they were doing a training in San Francisco. Did I want to come? Yes!! I wasn’t thinking about a career, I was just following the “yes” inside me.

I got to San Francisco, blown away by the feeling and culture that was so different from Toronto, Canada. To say I was naive would be an understatement. The first morning they took me to breakfast in the Richmond District where the diner stocked Celestial Seasonings tea. I thought San Francisco must be mecca for spiritual people and right then and there I wanted to move there. One main problem besides the question of legal immigration was that my wife who, back in Toronto, was eight months pregnant, and I wasn’t sure if I could convince her to have the baby in San Fran. Naive and bombastic, I was quite a character.

I began the training up in the city breathing over and over again. I could see Tom and Pat weren’t that organized and I began helping out, first by cooking and then organizing the workshop for them. Somehow, despite my ignorance and naivete, I could see what the whole workshop needed and I started to make myself useful. I believe Tom saw my value but found me invasive and annoying. I remember walking down the street in the Richmond and seeing a dead bird covered in flies on the sidewalk and said something. He began telling a story “There was a famous Zen master who was known to be silent. He took long walks everyday with his closest disciple. One day the disciple asked if he could bring his friend on the walk. The master said ‘yes’. They walked for one hour and at the end the friend said ‘what a beautiful sky it is today’. Later, the master told his disciple, ‘please do not bring your friend again on a walk’. The disciple asked why and he said “because he talks too much”. I was the seed of who I am now, when unguarded I could babble away and Tom, a zen monk, an Aries, found me to be a useful pest.

how breathwork changed my life
how breathwork changed my life

I began the training up in the city breathing over and over again. I could see Tom and Pat weren’t that organized and I began helping out, first by cooking and then organizing the workshop for them. Somehow, despite my ignorance and naivete, I could see what the whole workshop needed and I started to make myself useful. I believe Tom saw my value but found me invasive and annoying. I remember walking down the street in the Richmond and seeing a dead bird covered in flies on the sidewalk and said something. He began telling a story “There was a famous Zen master who was known to be silent. He took long walks everyday with his closest disciple. One day the disciple asked if he could bring his friend on the walk. The master said ‘yes’. They walked for one hour and at the end the friend said ‘what a beautiful sky it is today’. Later, the master told his disciple, ‘please do not bring your friend again on a walk’. The disciple asked why and he said “because he talks too much”. I was the seed of who I am now, when unguarded I could babble away and Tom, a zen monk, an Aries, found me to be a useful pest.

We soon moved to a weekend workshop, blindfolded up at a nude hot springs called Harbin Hot Springs where Paul Lowe taught and many Osho disciples both visited and lived there. I stayed up there for two weeks experiencing the hippie magic of Northern California while conversely getting the worst case of Poison Oak while running through the woods naked. 

In the last 2 weeks of the training we came back to San Francisco where we brought people in from the outside world to breathe. I asked my wife to come and she breathed 10 times in 10 days whilst 8 months pregnant. She had a two hour labor which she credits to the breathwork. My daughter, Sareesha, who is now a facilitator of Effiji breathwork, has always had a curious quality of being calmed around a lot of noise and drama. Her training to feel safe around releasing began in the womb. In fact, once back in Toronto I would lead breathwork and leave her in a car seat while loud music and screaming was going on and she’d nap through the whole thing.

Two years later we moved to San Francisco partly to begin my last attempt to get a record deal in California but I quickly became Tom’s organizer and show running ended my career in the music business. Breathwork became my life, livelihood and spiritual path and why not, what is more important than your breath. Master your breath and master your life as they say.

In the last 2 weeks of the training we came back to San Francisco where we brought people in from the outside world to breathe. I asked my wife to come and she breathed 10 times in 10 days whilst 8 months pregnant. She

had a two hour labor which she credits to the breathwork. My daughter, Sareesha, who is now a facilitator of Effiji breathwork, has always had a curious quality of being calmed around a lot of noise and drama. Her training to feel safe around releasing began in the womb. In fact, once back in Toronto I would lead breathwork and leave her in a car seat while loud music and screaming was going on and she’d nap through the whole thing.

Two years later we moved to San Francisco partly to begin my last attempt to get a record deal in California but I quickly became Tom’s organizer and show running ended my career in the music business. Breathwork became my life, livelihood and spiritual path and why not, what is more important than your breath. Master your breath and master your life as they say.

You have a story. Just like this one. You can write your own story on ‘how breathwork changed my life’. Breathwork is a conscious act. The first time you do Effiji Breath may or may not immediately change your life but it will definitely change the direction of your life. You will look back and see how it creates a pivot. 

30 years later, tens of thousands of people and my own personal practice continue to show me the reason why I continue to do it and share it with others.

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