I had the privilege of experiencing the power of somatic breathwork for the first time on my recent Front Row Dads retreat. This episode is an attempt to recap some of the energy, visions and emotional release that came from the experience. It was truly amazing.
Special thanks to the FRD team, our guide (Sarah) and her team, and all my FRD brothers that showed up and contributed to this experience. I am still in awe of what happened that day… 🙂
Welcome back folks Ali here with the new solo episode. Today will be focused on somatic breathing. I just returned from one of my front row dad's retreats, which I usually blog about, but this time around I thought I'd record a podcast episode to switch things up. My intention is that I can capture some of the detail in audio and tone format this time around that can tend to get lost in writing.
For some quick context, FRD retreats have always delivered massive value in my life. I've talked about this before, I blogged about it before. It is a community that has given me so much, and I'm so grateful. And these retreats, which happen twice a year, are amazing experiences where I get to connect and bond and share with other men, other front row dads.
However, this specific retreat was particularly impacted. We had the opportunity to take part in a somatic breathing experience. This was something entirely new to me and the majority of the men at the retreat. And it was such an amazing experience that I felt compelled to share. So here's my recap for you.
The experience started with us all gathering in a large conference room. There was 50 plus men total. We all spread out and took a seat on a towel with pillows and blankets and blindfolds nearby. I remember thinking at that time, how this felt like some of my childhood experiences where I joined my dad at the mosque for prayer.
And shortly after our guide provided some detail around instructions and expectations, her name was Sarah. She was very clear and energetic with awesome enthusiasm. She explained that this type of retreat will give you as much as you surrender to. And that stuck with. Which you'll hear about later. She also had a team of five to six other people to support her who were helpful in guiding the experience.
And so we get started. Everyone laid down on our backs and sleeping position with our hands on our stomach. So very restful state. Most of us put the blindfold on, including myself, via recommendation from our guide. And then Sarah began the instruction of deep breathing into the nose, out to the mouth.
Just like this. And I started to experience a tribal like chant that filled the room. Cause again, there's 50 men doing this simultaneously. Not necessarily in harmony, but together. And that's when I realized like, wow, we are in for a group experience here. I was thinking like, damn, this is heavy. It's a serious. And I need to give this the focus that it deserved.
At the same time, some music started playing in the background, which is nice to kind of offset the intense breathing that we were managing. So we continue this breathing at fairly rapid pace for the next 15 minutes or so. I even recall it being challenging to keep up almost like a sport or competition and balancing different thoughts in my mind. Self doubt started to kick in. And can I continue doing this? Can I keep up with this? But I remained focused on the breathing and continued to remind myself to surrender. Like I said, that stuck with me and I was very focused on that.
And sure enough, after about 20 minutes, I started to feel some tingling. It was in my shoulders and it moved to my arms and into my hands. And our guide, Sarah said this would happen. So I was somewhat prepared for it. And then the energy, the tingling energy moved to my stomach.
And at that point it was this warm, nice sensation. Almost like a sun was located in my stomach at the core of my body. And that's when I knew something special was happening. And something new is happening, again I had not experienced this before.
So shortly after some visions kicked in. And what I mean by that is that during this experience, I experienced a variety of visions. Over the next hour or so these visions were tightly connected to some things I've had in focus recently. No surprise there, right? Podcast pursuit of something. What are we focusing on? And it was almost perfect in that I got that. I got these visual experiences as part of my retreat experience. I will also say that these visions were influenced by some of the music transitions, which I'll explain here in a bit.
The final thing I'll say before I start talking about these visions is that this is not an easy thing to explain. You know, I have my interpretation of the visions I experienced and then I'm trying to communicate them. You have a filter in which you're listening and trying to make sense of the same communication. So I'm going to do my best to give you an overview. At least, my promise to you here.
So first I saw my children, Everest and Sepia. They're four and six at this point. So young children that are a huge part of my life. They command a lot of focus, a lot of energy, and they are ultimately my highest priority, right alongside my wife.
And when I saw them in this first vision, I mean, I really saw them. Their faces, their eyes, their expressions of love. It was beautiful. This aligns a lot with some of the recent focus I've been giving to how I see my children. I think one of the most important things we can do as parents is make our children feel seen.
And that's so easy to say, right? Like, oh, of course my children feel seen. I see them every day. But I would pause and question. Do you really see them? Do you see them for who they are, who they want to be and who they're becoming?
Next, some strong drum based music began. And I found myself climbing a mountain, leading others through the forest and into the sunlight. This part was invigorating. I remember feeling so alive. My heart was almost pumping out of my chest at this point. I could hear and feel every beat. So again, that, that powerful energy of my core, the tingling, everything was in full force at this point.
And at this point I also realized I could control my breath. There were times where I paused for several minutes, two three minutes at a time after the exhale before inhaling again. And this was amazing. I'd never done this before. So I was just completely shocked and absorbing in the moment like, wow, this is so cool. I've heard about this before, but this was the first time that I felt like, wow, I can literally control how long I before for when I decide to breathe, et cetera.
And I did test this. So as I was in this vision of climbing the mountain and feeling just so alive and energetic, I was also kind of playing with, well, I might just wait a bit before I inhale again. So that was certainly a peak of this, of just, just feeling the energy and feeling all of it.
Then the music transitioned into a sad song. And I found myself at my funeral. And this is when things got real. I have some awareness around why I was here as well. A good buddy of mine shared the power of writing your own eulogy, not too long ago, which piqued my interest. So thank you, Mike. Another coaching group, I'm a part of called Brave Life has also given us the exercise recently of writing, how a couple of buddies might talk about you at a pub after your funeral.
And so now I was here. It was time to face this, this sort of thought that's been lingering because both Mike's nudge and the Brave Life nudge to do this type of exercise was very appealing to me. Cause I hadn't done it before. And I knew that it would yield something interesting. Something I could probably learn from and something that would hopefully evoke emotion, right.
But I wasn't quite ready for it until now. And so there I was, the vision became more clear at this funeral. I see all these loved ones, friends, family. And then I saw my eulogy start.
At this point, I felt the emotions wanting to come out. Other men in the room were also starting to create more, um, cry like noises, is the best way I can describe it. And like I said, I felt like whoa, something needs to come out here. And I was resistant at first, but then I reminded myself again to surrender.
And sure enough, it all came out. I cried harder in those moments than I have in the last few years combined. It felt like unplugging a bottle and releasing all this built up emotion, stress, pressure. And at first I wasn't clear on where this came from and what the funeral represented. The initial instinct was sadness and what it would feel like to be at my funeral and to embrace that for the gift of knowing that time is precious and to act on things, right. That was my instinct, I think, from hearing Mike and Brave Life and people plant this seed. But funny enough, I think it actually represented something else, which I'll get to in a bit.
And so the funeral was certainly the most powerful part of the vision experience. Because like I said, it brought so much emotion, so many tears, so much energy out of me that had been suppressed.
And as the music transition, the funeral started to disappear. Some lighter music kicked in and now I found myself dancing with my wife, Gabrielle. It was almost like our wedding day, but just the two of us sort of dancing through light. It felt like what I would expect if I had to paint a picture of heaven. And she was leading me to something.
We soon found ourselves on a large property with an open field, green grass, various gardens surrounding us. The sun was out again. My kids are running around playing. And I was just marveling at all the plants, the vegetation, the vegetable gardens. Some of our direct family members were also there, which made it this really peaceful and blissful experience. It felt like a place to heal, a place to be one with nature. And it was just so welcoming almost if we were on another planet. That's how I felt in the vision, at least.
And as many of my friends and family know Gabrielle and I have been considering a move for the past couple of years, very seriously. We currently live in Denver, which we love, but we've been gravitating towards something new that can give us access to more land and more favorable conditions for gardening and growing things, which has been my recent passion. And also access to water, ocean, which Gabrielle is very interested in.
So this vision was very aligned with how much energy and focus we've been giving the move, you know, it has been a huge thing. We've even come close to making offers on some homes in North Carolina. So this made sense. This felt like exactly what I needed to see.
This vision gave me a lot more peace with our planning because it's been a stressful thing in my life. And I know in my heart, we need to move soon. Because there's things we're not getting here in Denver and we are ready for a new chapter. And this was just such a nice way for me to kind of face that and come to terms with some of these final thoughts on whether or not we should move. So now I feel pretty good about that. However, stay tuned. You know, that story is still needs to unfold, and I'm sure I will be talking about that as it does.
The final vision transitioned into me being at Sepia's wedding. Again, my daughter is four now. And so this is definitely something way in the future. And this vision wasn't about the wedding itself, but rather seeing my children again. I found myself dancing with Sepia as a young adult, she was wearing the same Beauty and The Beast dress that she wears around the house now, and has so much fun with her imagination and her creativity.
And it was just a moment with her in that vision where I was like, wow, you are grown. And it felt like. Nice to see her then, and to feel like I could almost go back to the four year old and remember her in that dress, you know, it was, it was a very blissful experience.
And then Everest was in the corner with a full grown beard, looking like Brad Pitt. He looks so mature and wise and he was just watching. I almost think he was just a reflection of me as a young man. You know just sitting there and, and sort of, uh, giving me connection in that moment. I'm like, Hey dad, I'm grown up and everything's going to be just fine.
And this was also another part of the experience that evoked a lot of emotion and release, mostly some sadness, but also some joy. Just seeing my kids all grown up, it was not easy. Like, you know, I do struggle with this when I think about some of the things they're going to have to face and I continue to try to let go. And it felt okay in the moment, it felt like something I needed to see in a way.
And I'm not exactly sure why this vision came up. But it was powerful. I think it relates to some of the parenting philosophy I've been practicing. Of giving my kids agency to make their own decisions and find their own way, supporting them as a guide, not necessarily a teacher. I think many of us parents struggled to give our kids true autonomy and agency.
We feel guilt and pressure of needing to teach them things or guide them in a certain direction or have certain beliefs. Whereas I've come around to truly letting them find your own path as much as possible.
And now the music started to fade out and the experience was ending. Our guide began to bring us back. We were all instructed to slowly raise up to a sitting position, remove our blindfolds. And as I did this, it was so clear that this room was in a state of tranquility. I remember having this just pure smile on my face for five, 10 minutes, just in awe of what just happened in that moment.
Again, something I'd never experienced, and some of the other men started to share and communicate what they experienced. And it became very clear that they also had a similar new experience in their own way.
Some of them shared how they too found themselves in vision-based experiences around stuff that had been in focus or that they've been battling with or navigating. So that was really cool to feel that sense of alignment and comradery in the moment with a lot of my brothers, men that I've become very close with over the recent years.
And I just want to say now for any of them listening or if they're not listening, I appreciate everyone who participated and showed up and surrendered in that moment. Les mentioned this, but we collectively made that a truly unique group experience. There was what I took from it, which I'm trying to share here, and there was what we all took from it and contributed to it, to make it what it was. So this will certainly be something I reflect on and cherish for years to come.
After cleaning up the room and exiting, we'd grab some lunch. Got back into kind of retreat mode, shared more in small groups, which is a big thing for us at Front Row Dads or treats. And then, it just felt nice to start to explain some of this and let some of it out. Hear other brothers experiences and their perspective on things. So this was a really awesome way to do some group analysis and share.
And then something very serendipitous happened. I jumped up from the table to go grab a glass of water. And I find myself with another Mike at the table who I hadn't spent much time with yet. And so we did a quick greeting and then he asked me about how my breathing experience went. And I paused because even now, and in that moment, I'm trying to find a way to explain this without giving this huge elaborate story.
And I explained I was still processing things, but I felt inclined to share that I found myself at my own funeral. That was a key moment. And it was one of the initial things I shared with him. And Mike perked up. I just felt his curiosity peak. And then he quickly asked how old were you at the funeral?
Stunned by the question, I was like, uh, I was my age. Have you been at your funeral? So I kind of fired back because now my curiosity was peaked. And he confirmed, yes, several times. Mike shared how he's been practicing somatic breath work for years now. And he started to educate me on what a funeral vision can mean, what it can represent, and it can be associated with putting a specific identity to rest. Not necessarily your actual and only funeral that we think about it end of life.
And so in this conversation, I felt chills run down my spine and realized how this could apply to my vision. I was present age at my funeral, like I said, and so were all the people there. And this aligns with some personal and professional challenges I've been navigating around identity and purpose over the last 12 plus months. In fact, I've been on a very intentional purpose journey with the help of a coach, help of a group, and help a friends and family just to kind of really support me on starting to figure out some things and ask some really big and deep questions.
And so, after having that conversation with Mike things started to become more clear. In fact, I have a lot of clarity on what identity I was putting to rest, but that's a podcast episode for another day.
So at that point, the experience felt complete. For example, I couldn't have designed meeting Mike at the water table at that moment, having that conversation. That moment, that experience in general, was a beautiful example of how the universe gives us what we want when we surrender.
At least that's one of the main things I learned from this, is that when we start to surrender, the universe can ultimately give us what we want. Or what we need to see, what we need to face, because it definitely felt like that in a way.
And I know what some of you were thinking at this point, this sounds crazy Ali. Like, did you really see all this stuff? And I know it can be hard to believe. I couldn't believe it happened for a while either. I've done some recreation drugs in my past that have sparked similar vision-based experiences, but those were not like this. I want to be very clear.
This was in its own unique category for me. It was raw and natural. It was so intense yet peaceful. I've never felt more one with my body, mind and soul. It was like all three were connected and integrated. We were all just one, and it was amazing. I am a fan of somatic breathwork to say the least, I'm also very intrigued to learn more about our breath and study it and practice it. Because this was such a unique way that I got access to parts of myself that I didn't know were accessible. And at the end of the day, it's about breathing, which is pretty cool.
So I'm going to wrap this up with a few key takeaways from the experience.
First, human connection is critical. We get this at our retreats. It is one of the fundamental reasons that we retreat as Front Row Dads. And doing this experience and the entire retreat in general, with 50 other men made it the experience that it was.
Connecting with people in-person like this is way different than connecting digitally. I've talked about this before. I will continue to emphasize it. So whether you're doing retreats or you're doing groups, or you're just meeting people on some cadence or just randomly, I strongly encourage you to find people you can connect with in person and share real experiences with.
Second, breath work can be POWERFUL, in all caps. I think my story is a testament to how I and other men have found some hidden power within our breath. Breathing is also one of our most core functions, yet we often overlook it or take it for granted. And this experience really taught me to appreciate and pay attention to my breath more.
I also think many of us need a guide to experience some of the true power behind breath work. We were fortunate to have Sarah and her team for being our guide. So thank you immensely for your role in that experience.
Finally, unlocking our emotions is key. I feel like a massive weight has been lifted from my life. I had no idea I was carrying all this unreleased emotion, and letting it all out was amazing.
It also left me in a state of recovery for several days. I came home to my family and still needed some time to process this days after it happened. Honestly, I didn't even share it with Gabrielle until a couple of days after getting home. There was such a release here that, while it was amazing to get this out, it also took a lot out of me where I had to sort of refuel.
And, regardless I think that this is imperative for men, fathers and everyone in general, to find ways to unlock and release our emotions. It's so easy for us to bottle them up and keep our defenses active. We act strong and resilient and come off as if nothing can phase. We put our masks up and assume these identities that the world demands of us. When in reality things do phase us. We should be allowed to take our masks off or put them aside forever. To show weakness and vulnerability. To show up as our true selves.
Ultimately, I think we need healthy ways to process our emotions in a safe environment. This type of experience was really effective for me to do just that. And I'm forever grateful to Jon, Front Row Dads, Sarah and her team, and all the men that contributed and participated in this experience for giving me that gift.
So I will leave you with that. I hope this sparks some type of inspiration. Until the next time.
Ali is a father, husband and serial entrepreneur with a deep drive to create. He writes, records, codes and builds things to inspire the artist in all of us.