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Page 5

Interview with Leonard Orr - 
Founder of the Rebirthing Style of Breathwork

From the May issue of Thresholds Quarterly

Since 1962 an estimated 10 million people throughout the world have experienced altered states of consciousness owing to one man.

Recently this man entered into our presence.

It is our privilege and infinite pleasure to share with you wisdom from the Father of Rebirthing Leonard Orr

Leonard Orr came to the College of Metaphysics through an invitation tendered by Chancellor Daniel Condron. Dr. Barbara Condron suspects it had more to do with Babaji than any of us perhaps will ever know,-that is a story for and about another time. When the time came for Leonard to return to his home in Virginia, he said it best, "It has been the best time I've spent in all my travels, with the exception of the immortals." Without doubt, the sentiment is reciprocal.

Born in Walton, New York, Leonard Orr became a born-again Christian when he was in high school. Filled with Spirit, he attended Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and majored in Bible. His original intent was to become a minister until the day he received a message from Jesus saying that he was to minister to the unchurched.

At the time the meaning of this message was unclear to Leonard Orr. Over the next 12 years a series of what he describes as "spiritual accidents" led to the discovery of rebirthing, and in 1974 he started rebirthing other people. As he rebirthed over 100 people he became totally, consciously aware of what he was doing, and started the first training center for rebirthers in Walton in 1975.

Since that time, rebirthing has spread all over the world and over 100,000 rebirthers have been trained. Leonard describes the breathing rhythm of rebirthing as "the most powerful form of prana yoga. The secret to life and death in the body is breathing." His own practices have evolved in his quest to fulfill his goal, which, he says, always has been "to enlighten people spiritually and to make them spiritually self-sufficient." It is a pleasure to share just a bit of our time with Leonard Orr with you.

Thresholds: What is rebirthing and how did you come upon it? 

Orr: My first rebirthing experience happened in 1962. I got in the bathtub in the morning before going to work. I was living at a rooming house at the time. I lost all my power and strength and couldn't get out. I'd developed an ability to relax in strange situations before that time, so I just kind of surrendered to the experience. I don't know how long I was there because it was my first experience of that kind. It was probably a couple of hours. As a result when my strength came back just as mysteriously as it left, I was able to get out of the tub, get dressed and go to work. It was kind of a mysterious experience. In 1962, [descriptions of the experience] weren't present in any of the literature so I began spending a lot of time in my bathtub. When I had my own apartment, I used to spend hours in the bathtub. I noticed every time I spent a lot of time in the bathtub, I would just get fantastic realizations about myself and they were so valuable and liberating. I didn't notice it at the time, but when I look back at it, after I developed rebirthing, every time I got a realization or anybody gets a realization they spontaneously take a deep breath, it frees up the breath. I had hundreds or even thousands of those experiences between 1962 and 1974, when the rebirthing movement started, and then in 1967 I unraveled my death urge.

Thresholds: A death urge, what was that?

Orr: When I unraveled my death urge and realized that God, or micro-organisms or the devil weren't trying to kill me. There wasn't  any micro-organism running around the universe looking for me. Then I felt safe in the universe for the first time. That enabled me to remember, consciously remember my birth and have prenatal memories because birth is the scariest event of most peoples' lives. You have to feel safe enough in your own mind before you can remember your own birth.

I remembered my birth and the realizations continued. I really became a cause in my own universe and became financially successful at the end of the sixties. I could earn more money than I needed for my personal use by 1970 so I became a business consultant. I basically was teaching spiritual enlightenment to business people and I discovered that it doubled their income, usually in thirty days. It was amazing.

Thresholds: Teaching them rebirthing or...

Orr: No, spiritual enlightenment...and I learned from Joel Teutsch and Phinneas Quimby. I don't know if you know who Phinneas Quimby is...

Thresholds: I've heard of him.

Orr: He was actually the healer of Mary Baker Eddy who started the Christian Science Church. He was the most successful healer in American history in the middle of the 1800's. He had the idea of personal law and Joel Teutsch had the idea of personal law. Personal law is simply the thought that controls your mind and your life more than any other thought. Finding that thought is the most valuable knowledge that you can have about yourself. It is like the leverage on personal change. It enables you to change very efficiently.

These basic ideas of the spiritual enlightenment affirmations, the science of affirmations and personal laws is basically what I used as a business consultant. It was just more successful than anything they had ever experienced so I was endorsed by many corporations to work with their people. Since I had several hundred successful case histories, I realized that it was really valuable and everybody should have access to the information so I started teaching seminars to groups of people.

During one of my early seminars, there were a bunch of seminar junkies there. I was talking about my birth memories and how significant birth trauma is to personal healing, and about half of the group said "Well we want to have birth memories. How can we have birth memories?" I gave them one technique which is to get into the bathtub and stay there until it is time to get out, and then to stay there another half hour to an hour at least because I'd learned from my experience that I would be in the bathtub for a certain time and I would say, "Oh, I better get out of the tub." Then I would say, "Why do I have to get out of the tub?" I realized that after defending that and asking that question there is an urgency barrier in the mind. Anytime you ignore that urgency barrier and relax through that urgency barrier you come upon and turn into self knowledge. They all tried this and they had such powerful experiences they wished somebody had been there who knew what they were going through and they could talk to about that. I made appointments and sat with people while they were going through that experience. I noticed that my presence accelerated the experience because I had a safe space for people to relax into in addition to just the basic support and safety of having a person present. That's how the idea of rebirthers was born, facilitating people and remembering their birth.

After doing it with several people like that, I got the idea of using a California hot tub. This was in 1974 when hot tubs were becoming popular and the rage in California. We got the idea of using a big hot tub and a snorkel and having two people in the water. One to watch the snorkel and the other to support the person's body so they wouldn't bob up and down and lose contact with the experience. Then people had full blown rebirthing experiences that were just amazing.

Thresholds: Were there common elements in the experiences?

Orr: After watching several hundred of them, I realized that the experiences were so intense for people that they needed to have at least ten experiences before they got through the drama, the physiological-emotional drama and could rebirth themselves because people would reach a barrier and then they would back off. They couldn't have what I called a completed energy cycle. The completed energy cycle is a totally miraculous healing experience and people healed themselves of all kinds of diseases - migraines, epilepsy, asthma, heart disease and just everything you can imagine disappeared in the tub when people were breathing with the snorkel. It was fantastic. Even diabetes in some cases. Diabetes is kind of a tough one. It takes a while. People had all these amazing healings.

Thresholds: Would you speak more about the completed energy cycle?

Orr: I noticed during this completed energy cycle that the breath of life took over and breathed a person's body without their control. They would lose control and the breath would break out of its prison of inhibition and would just take over. They would have a kundalini experience that was just mind blowing. I watched this breathing rhythm that occurred spontaneously during these sessions and at a certain point I wondered what would happen if I guided a person into that breathing with or without the water. I started to experiment with that and discovered that it was much more efficient for the first ten sessions than to use the water because the water was like a physiological stimuli to the subconscious that overwhelmed people with too much psycho-analytical material, you might say. People could do ten breathing sessions without the water and then they did breathing sessions in the water. They experienced with the breathing and they found the water experience to be also much more efficient. By the time they did the warm water experiences they would sometimes go back to some of their early breathing sessions and have the same phenomena occur but they were easily able to integrate it while it was happening rather than becoming overwhelmed. So we called it dry rebirthing, and dry rebirthing enabled it to spread ten times as fast. You didn't have to limit yourself to people who had the courage to get together with a stranger, take off their clothes and get in the hot tub. Dry rebirthing made it available to middle class housewives so it just took off and spread around the world to ten million people. 

Thresholds: Did your seminars prepare people for what they  might experience in the rebirthing session?

Orr: In the beginning I always gave people what I called the Spiritual Psychology Seminar before they did rebirthing as a preparation. Then my goal really was to build what I called one year seminars which were spiritual communities that lasted for at least a year. It was really an alternate spiritual family because the one-year seminars produced lasting friendships that were more intimate than blood ties. The one-year seminar idea is really the most powerful thing that I created.

Thresholds: People lived with you for a year?

Orr: No, they just came one full day for ten hours each month. Then rebirthing was created at the same time that I started the first two one-year seminars. We continued experimenting with rebirthing through the whole year with those one-year seminar groups. The most successful rebirthers came to those first one-year seminars, one of the most famous is Sondra Ray. That's basically how it started. As it spread, the quality and support in the spiritual community on which it was based kind of got lost because rebirthing is so powerful that people can usually make a living being rebirthers. The referral rate is more than anybody can keep up with and so good rebirthers never have to advertise, never have to do anything but just give high quality service to their clients. [They] have more clients than they can ever keep up with, which is what caused it to expand so rapidly. The only way that they could satisfy the demand is to take their best clients and train them to be rebirthers and so it has happened all over the world in every country. It continues to grow. 

Thresholds: You said that when someone gets to the point that they have a completed energy cycle and miraculous healings, how does that work?

Orr: Well, when a person does the connected breathing it takes them to a deep state of relaxation and then, since you understand channeling, the rebirther is also an energy channel because they have had at least ten sessions. They've cleared out all of that tension and pain and fear and stuff and so they are like conduits of that energy to the person that is breathing. The breath takes the person to that place even without the rebirther, with the rebirther it just takes them there faster. The rebirther, guiding their breathing with them, can continue to give them instructions in regard to their breathing to continue the relaxation process. They just go through one level of tension after another until they release all of the tension that they can release in that one session.

Thresholds: How long do sessions last?

Orr: With some people it takes one to two hours, other people it can take even three to four hours. Usually, statistically, the average session takes about one to two hours. It's totally amazing because when a person breathes they go through one stage of relaxation after another and every stage releases tension. It has physiological manifestations or emotional drama and they just breathe through the drama or the sensation and go to another level of relaxation and another layer of tension comes to the surface. They just breathe through it and so it's like a bowel movement. You get rid of everything you have to get rid of at that moment and that's finished, right? The same thing is true in the spiritual, emotional, mental level as well as physiological level in terms of the sensations  that heal diseases. People release everything that they can release in that one session and then it's like the energy just stops moving and you feel totally satisfied like you do at the end of the meal. That is a complete energy cycle. It is not controlled by the person breathing or controlled by the rebirther. It's completed by the nature of a person's energy.

Thresholds: Do people get to a point where they can do that without having to be in a rebirthing session? Like let's say something emotional happens that they on the spot can do something with their breathing.

Orr: Yeah. They can just do the connected breathing and in the early stages, in the first year or so, people frequently have a session where they might have to lie down and breathe for an hour or an hour and a half. Specifically, in terms of like an epileptic seizure or a migraine headache, they just have to lay down, devote their total attention to the breathing until they breathe through whatever the symptoms are that are occurring.

The same is true with the common, just ordinary emotional experience from the past. It comes to the surface spontaneously and a person might be able to breathe through it in ten minutes or it might take an hour or two to breathe through it but they can do it by themselves. It is common for people to have those kinds of experiences for maybe the first couple of years of practice. It might happen once a month or every couple of months -what we call a powerful session. For the most part, if people do the practice, if they practice the connected breathing rhythm on a regular basis, whether it is daily or weekly or a couple times a week, people get into their own routine, then they have a tendency to dissolve whatever is coming out efficiently. So they just sail through life, unbothered by their own trauma because they stay focused on their reality or whatever their goals are without obstruction from the emotional mind. Because it is like you can dissolve it as fast as it comes to the surface. Just by laying down and breathing for an hour. 

Thresholds: Can you talk about your experience with Joel Teutsch? I was very fascinated about what you said last night, in terms of what you learned from her.

Orr: She was born deaf, dumb and paralyzed and was in that condition for about 20 years and then she was healed by a being which she could see and talk to and hear. She didn't know, because she never had any reason to ask, that other people couldn't see this being. It took her probably about three months before she realized that other people couldn't see this being who she just referred to as her friend. So I had a year of classes from her.

About 15 to 20 years later, after she became a very powerful healer and spiritual teacher, this being kind of withdrew in stages as she learned, so that she could operate on her own. He would inhabit her body from time to time during the class. It was always very easy to detect - she was born in Brazil actually - and her thick Brazilian accent would disappear and this male authoritative voice would come in and he would just read everybody's mind in the class and just completely blow them into a new space. This was the most powerful thing I had ever experienced up to that point. It was in 1960 and I was still in college.

Thresholds: Did she teach people how to do healing or did she do it herself? What was the basis of the kind of healing that she did?

Orr: She would always work with the cause. She didn't do hands on healing, she would make people aware of the cause and teach them how to change the cause. And then the symptoms disappeared. So, I learned that and was quite successful working with that all through the 60's. 

Thresholds: In what manner? How did you work with that?

Orr: When I had a person who had symptoms and they were willing to work with it, they were willing to heal it, I would use my personal connection with infinite intelligence, which I'd been developing before I met Joel. Then I would look for the cause and give them some thoughts and channel some energy directly that would help them heal the cause and move them to a new space and their symptoms would change.

Thresholds: How did you develop that connection with universal intelligence?

Orr: In this life, it came as a result of studying the Bible, my absolute fascination and falling in love with the Bible. And commitment over and over to God. But, I have come to know in a recent previous life I spent perhaps 20 or 40 years working with the gayatri mantra. And the gayatri mantra is the mantra of enlightenment which affirms our connection to infinite intelligence and so I was predisposed by previous life conditioning and so it bore fruit in this life.

Thresholds: Is that the mantra that you talked about last night - Om namaha shivaiya?

Orr: No. I don't know the Sanskrit, but basically the idea is that it is an affirmation about becoming illumined and about becoming free of all greed, jealousy and hate and being fully connected to God. Becoming illumined and having knowledge are the basic ideas of the mantra.

Thresholds: How would you describe yourself now? Would you describe yourself as a healer or a teacher or a minister or any of those?

Orr: No, I don't. I just refer to myself as being Spirit, Mind and

Body like everybody else and working toward the mastery of my natural divinity and the healing of my emotional mind.

Thresholds: When you were talking earlier this morning it sounded like you have a sense of yourself as being a kind of missionary to bring what you've learned to as many people as you can.

Orr: Yes, everybody likes to share. The more riches you have, the more you can share. So I like to share everything that I have that's of value.

Thresholds: What is your hope or goal or what you want for humanity?

Orr: For myself, I like to share it where it is easy and where there is the most support. That is why I enjoy being here, because I feel that I am welcome and that you are prepared already. I don't have to share as much as when I work with what is called as the "unwashed public". I have worked in really tough situations, too much perhaps.

I worked where there was no agreement whatsoever. So, I have done enough of that so I really like working in a place where there's spiritual community already established. I could tell just from reading Thresholds that this is one of the best communities I have ever come across.

I don't know if you can see it yourselves as I see you because you are inside of it and sometimes it is more difficult to view objectively where you are at and what you have to offer when you are inside of it. You have a breadth as well as a depth which is really refreshing and an openness as well as your thrust and value that you are offering. That is really great because sometimes even in the metaphysical schools people just get blinders on like fundamental orthodoxy only in metaphysical dressings and it's as rigid as anything else. So for a spiritual community of any kind to stay open is a tremendous virtue. The more efficiently, or the more powerful, the stuff that you work with is more people have the tendency is to get rigid. I have this problem in the rebirthing community because it's so powerful sometimes I get thrown out because people want to do things a certain way and they are just not open to new ideas, so they don't want me to come around. It is also interesting that when people achieve a certain level of success, if they haven't healed that core fear, then they don't want anybody to rock the boat because they are afraid of losing the little success that they have. They don't realize that if they would just open the door and expand a little bit they could have twice as much success with less struggle and effort, but people are addicted to struggle.

Thresholds: Thank you.

Orr: My pleasure..

More of this interview will appear in the November 2000 issue of Thresholds Quarterly. School of Metaphysics Associates (SOMA members) receive this journal four times a year.

From Mike:

Well done Jane. What a treat to get a sense of Leonard as he is today. He has reorganized and modernized a masterful spiritual process and is clearly walking his spiritual talk..

In Leonard's and Rebirthing's support, and due partly to MY Rebirthing Training, I HAVE guided people into their own ability to breathe fully through stress and trauma and I know full well that it is possible, on their own. That it can take only ten sessions is to me rather optimistic. But at least it IS possible for some measurable issue resolution in important personal areas. Sometimes one breathing session works and sometimes hundreds are needed as with ongoing suppression, repeated molestation, rape, near death and war oriented PSTD victims. But each session can often act as an awakening or adjustment in life direction just as a computer in a spaceship constantly adjusts its direction to remain on its chosen course. The course being one of spiritual development.

"Breathing free" is my metaphor for Leonard’s "staying open". When Rebirthers work "a certain way" with the breath they actually eventually cause it to be somewhat limited in the way that it responds to outside stimulus. Anything you do with the breath the same way over and over again is going to restrict or limit it and along with that restrict the ways you think and feel. This has both positive and negative expressions. for example, dogma is one bad one. Singing and expressing through vocal sound is one good one.

I could not help notice that the spiritual communities that he originally envisioned, have not developed. I sympathize with Leonard’s comment about "So for a spiritual community of any kind to stay open is a tremendous virtue." because the high intensity energy many Rebirthers work with often takes them into a fundamentalist orthodoxy of them believing they know better than others about the way and the truth and so on: hyperbole often runs rampant and they too often succumb to believing our own pumped-up full of "hot air". reality.

Though it was not by Rebirthing, I personally was opened up via breathwork and then essentially abandoned. I felt very lost for over seven years. Even with licensing’s propensity for putting something "in a box" I have to say though that I am in favor of only licensed professionals administering Rebirthing sessions. To me, a strong supportive environment is ALMOST mandatory. People experiencing Kundalini and sometimes awesome emotional processes often need a support system for healthy, safe, ethical handling that also teaches non dogmatic generic spiritual principles. A place to breathe and be free to grow and reconnect with God as they alone can see God. Now when the insurance companies get the massage of the power of the breath and start paying for private sessions we will really have come a long way.

In our western culture, the most likely licensed population for that is the Professional Psychotherapy and or fully accredited ministerial community. (I am NOT a psychotherapist) Sadly, due probably to Religious taboos and Victorian age paranoia hangovers, most psychotherapists can not, in the USA anyway, legally and or safely in session touch another human and so a larger stronger Somatic Psychotherapy community is very much in need (Marion Rosen’s work comes to mind). One with stringent guidelines, clear boundaries and rules of conduct in the physical touching relationship.

I was inspired by that fact and that there was no replicate aspect of the breath that one can be trained in without fear of spiritual emergency or opening up issues that do NOT resolve and frighten people away from their true selves or the way they want to be ie. more work with the breath and breathing. So I developed ways to accelerate the personal growth and optimal health process without causing dangerous energy increases that challenge one's balance and stability in a too often unfriendly world. It also works for people with no apparent trauma history that just want to get more personal power from life (more of the right quality of breathing) and or change the way they think and feel about important areas in their lives.

As I believe Leonard has said before, be it birth or whatever, "you don’t need the drama to work through the trauma". One can SAFELY accelerate opening up the breath, gently balance and safely defuse many emotional aspects while often resolving them without fear or pain. As a colleague Dennis Lewis says "breathing really IS a metaphor for living". When your breath becomes larger, greater, fuller, deeper, easier, stronger and coordinated, you will become healthier, stronger, more clear headed, relaxed, and energetic. You will also be more able to access your inner resources and if you wish, apply them directly towards emotional, practical and spiritual living.

I have created an accelerated breathing, voice and personal power development that I introduce in a weekend training. Because it addresses generic aspects of the way we all breathe, this process is adjunctive to ALL health, spiritual or personal growth modalities including of course Rebirthing. I am training people in this process world wide and several times yearly near Asheville, NC. Those interested in Optimal Breathing can contact me at my web site   Deepest Calm is mandatory

Blessings,

Mike

 

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