The First IBTA Board Meeting – Baltimore, MD, USA
© 2005 Jeremy Youst
“…And I say, see who is there with you and celebrate. At this time in history,we are to take nothing personally, least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” The Hopi nation – Oraibi, Arizona
The golden sun burst through the clouds and a long, long a period of waiting was over. As the late morning mist lifted around the smokiness of a roaring bonfire, the faces of eight individuals squinted over the flames at each other and realized the same thing: the Sacred Council of Elders was together again! A blessed circle of souls had returned to sit across the fire from each other, to laugh and cry together, to share the harvest of their long journeys and to hold precious the Earth Breath Child that was gently awakening in their arms again.
The Spirit of Breath was alive once more, and began to speak aloud in an eight-sided voice that would shape the next step in the global evolution of breathwork. Who had been called to such an event? Who were willing to set aside the time to journey across the oceans to new territory, to hand deliver the best harvests of their years of breathwork cultivation? Who were willing to put forth their best thinking into a mission statement for this fledgling organization, this International Breathwork Training Alliance, suitable for professional scrutiny, ethicality and integrity? Who were these beautiful souls, these old and new, young and yearning pioneers?
vWith every passing moment during the next five days, every passing breath, leadership gave way to stewardship, jet lag and fatigue gave way to excitement and focus, singularity gave way to mutuality and synergy. In a beautiful octagonal healing temple, eight diverse individuals swam together in the current of an irrevocable ocean tide: to take the next step in recognizing, promoting and standardizing breathwork internationally as a viable, therapeutic healing tool. We were here to remember, to embrace and to embody the fundamental idea that, as far as worldwide breathwork was concerned, now was the time and we were the ones to take breathwork to the next level of professional acceptability and credibility.
After years of percolation held through the visionary co-leadership of Jim Morningstar and Jessica Dibb, the healing power of place and the compressive power of time became the backdrop for the first board meeting of the IBTA. Jessica’s amazing retreat center, so carefully tended and nurtured, complete with Molly Durga the dog, and the two resident cats – wise Sita and chatty Francis, often mirrored the energetic and relational perspective of our time together. Dominating the main entrance and providing the first shade for the gathering was a magnificent white oak tree that, upon arrival and sometimes at night, we would swing under on a beautiful two-person wooden swing.
The beautiful retreat location of the Inspiration Center was set just outside the hustle and bustle of Baltimore and its sprawling suburbs. The absolute peacefulness and nurturing energy of this place and its surrounding grounds stood in stark contrast to the driving commerce and consumerism just outside its gates. So peaceful was the energy that gentle movements of deer would periodically sweep close by, casually grazing the fields and forests that surrounded the central home. Bluebirds and goldfinches would sing and perch in nearby trees, and Turkey vultures would soar high overhead on the warm summer air currents, often punctuating the truths being spoken below.
Everywhere these inner and outer movements seemed to mirror each other. Sometimes a sudden motion would cause the deer to startle and run off, initiating a series of cough-like warning calls and retreats. Sometimes our inevitable emotional attachments would startle the innocence and gentleness of our group communications and would cause us to retreat amidst words and postures of warning. But just like the deer, once the harmony of the natural world returned, once our innate inclination to connect with, trust and love each other was reestablished, we would return to graze again on the fresh creative ideas of our beautiful (and often playful!) thought field.
At first, the task appeared to be formidable: to align and synergize eight powerful and unique individuals into a fledgling organization, to allow their dreaming bodies to catch up their physical bodies (depending on how much jet lag they had to endure!), and to strike the vision bell loud enough so as to create a sufficient resonance in thought, idea and value. A daunting task for any group of professionals! Yet, sitting in such an incredible circle of skilled and compassionate World Elders, and surrounded by such beautiful energies and angels of guidance, I had no doubt we were up to the task, and that real world accomplishment would soon follow.
In the beginning, Jim Morningstar told the story of how the IBTA came into being, how 22 breath schools from around the world were called together to carve out the initial principles, ethics and guidelines that would become the working documents for the organization and its website. Then, we took a look at our own personal fears and doubts about the success of the mission, and spoke aloud and found ownership of the truth around those fears. We began to look at the mission and purpose of the IBTA, and clarified exactly whom this organization would serve and what the requirements for membership would include. Diving right into a hot ethical issue that was plaguing our breathwork community, we powerfully clarified a shared position of integrity for the organization and breathwork in general.
Each wave of interaction, each cycle of sharing and listening, brought us closer towards each other, and deepened our understanding of the various gifts we brought to the circle. Then, after a day and a half, the wind shifted to the southwest and the rains came in. With some of us still struggling with environmental and jet lag adjustments, two additional realities came out of the forest and entered our clearing: a death was happening and a birth was happening. Jim got news that someone very close to him had recently passed. Jessica found out that her sister had just gone into labor (and delivered a beautiful bay boy later that night!). Bringing the fundamental gift of breath into the circle, we deepened our presence and loving recognition of these two movements of life and death.
Amidst prayers and hugs of support, we pushed on and re-entered the fantastic “thought-grape-stomp” preparing the wine of our mission statement. In every regard, excellence of co-creative thought and thinking showed up to hash out, write down, type, edit, rehash and retype the word vessel that would become the container for the IBTA mission and purpose statement. Breath breaks, snack breaks and meal breaks refreshingly broke up the lengthy intensity of our forum. Our deliciously healthy and flavorful lunches were lovingly prepared and delivered by Sherri, accompanied by her adorable star-child son.
By the end of the mission statement day (Friday), it felt like vast stretches of mental landscape had been traversed; yet we were still not complete. After a brief break, the membership, the structure and the formation of the IBTA board was established and refined. Our brains felt fried, but our hearts felt full. Passion and purpose were spontaneously intermingled with frolic and fun. Playful imaginings of boxes of air to be sold on the website along with action dolls of all the board members with one-liner pull strings had us all laughing out loud and grabbing our bellies.
High intensity work and high humorous play marked our five days together. And if we weren’t engaged as a group, we were connecting and sharing the riches of our work, our life stories or perhaps taking a nice, peaceful nap! Evening times we gathered around the kitchen for leftovers or courageously went out to the ‘outside world’ to sample some restaurant fare with our public faces on. In any case, with each passing day and engagement we managed to deepen the intimate weave of our beautiful web as very real human beings deeply and spiritually aligned with the global breathwork mission.
Saturday we rolled up our sleeves and hammered out a lot of the details of working and running a non-profit corporation. After finishing one more (yet another!) revision to the Mission statement, we talked about decision-making, internal and external communications, ethics and standards, membership, administration, fundraising and other areas of focus. We established a brief action plan and reconfirmed who was going to do what after we left the sanctity of our space. After a few breath breaks and with heads still spinning, we finally came to completion and went out to dinner to celebrate!
Early Sunday morning the air felt different. It was warm; the dawning light revealed a thick fog, not storm clouds. The birds sang with the expectancy of a hot summer day. Slowly each one of us arose, grabbed some breakfast and made our necessary preparations. Then, as if called by an invisible siren, we crossed the dew-laden field in front of the sweat lodge and circled a five-foot fire pit, sitting down facing each other. It was time to exhale. It was time to slow down and return to the innocence of our loving presence. It was time to sanctify our dedication to this gathering, and consecrate ourselves as the first board members of the International Breathwork Training Alliance.
Slowly, the drum sounded as the fire began to crackle high into the air. One by one we stood and made our prayers to each other, to ourselves, to the fire and to the world. The sun began to burn through the late-morning fog, and the sacred pipe was loaded during the heart-felt prayers and intentions spoken by everyone. Then, in the second sharing circle, one by one we spoke aloud our pledges and commitments, followed immediately for each with thunderous applause and bell-ringing! Shouts and tears of joy – our unabashed humanness spiraling upwards with the pipe smoke amidst the blessings of the angels and spirits!
Then someone spoke and we heard it – and it seemed like all at once. It was as if by some great déjà vu we had reconvened to sit just this way across the fire from each other. It was like we were a close-knit family sitting by the fireside. We were members of a tribe reconnecting from a time long ago. We were a council of world elders deeply designed to show up and remember this moment, to celebrate our deepest world-soul’s intention: to midwife the delivery of the next healthy beautiful Child of the Breath to the earth. No one else was showing up in quite this way. Yes. We had all heard the words before: We’re the ones we’ve been waiting for!