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Thank you, Ilse Middendorf,

for making a way possible for me to more deeply heal from the trauma of infant surgery. Because of your understanding of breath and your work teaching others, I am able to come to terms with the trauma within my body, move through it more effectively and ultimately, resolve it. Through this somatic work–breathexperience–I am able to live a life informed more by joy and less by fear. You’ve helped me see that the body, my body, is not to be feared but celebrated. My body is a place of trust where comfort and acceptance are found. My body is not a danger zone, and I do not have to injure myself constantly as a reenactment of that early wounding. My relationship with my body can be one of harmony and pleasure, where discovery is a constant and opportunities abound. My breath is a dear friend.

Ilse Middendorf died Saturday, May 2 in Germany after almost a century of life. She was dedicated to helping the individual realize that one’s relationship with oneself can be one of profound peace and deep joy. Breathexperience teaches not only a gentle and effective way to work through early trauma but shows us that when peace resides within us at the deepest levels, life is lived as an expression of that peace. The world would be a more wonderful place if more people allowed breath to teach them how to live.

I have come so far since I took my first workshop with Ilse about five years ago. At one point, she suggested that we do what is called “free work.” Through the freedom I experienced from the breath, I felt myself as a sponge in warm coral reef waters, my surfaces lifting and lowering with the currents. I began turning gently left then right, my arms spread wide. Life was far-reaching and limitless. My body could be supported by the medium around it. I sensed what living a large life felt like. This experience was the beginning my understanding that living largely was possible.

In breathwork, one does not will the breath, nor does one change the autonomic breath, but participants allow themselves to become aware of breath coming and going on its own without controlling it. We sense the presence of breath in our bodies and how it moves us. (Put your hand on your belly and feel it rise with breath. Well, breath movement also is in the hands, the thighs, the feet, etc.)

At the memorial Sunday, May 17th at the Middendorf Institute for Breathexperience (MIBE) in Berkeley, California, many breath students gathered to mourn and celebrate Ilse’s life. After breath meditation, we began to do free work. I felt as if I had become that sponge that I had sensed years ago; my life had taken on that largeness. Understandings rose from my core: I am whole and beautiful; I am at peace with my body. Breath– the movement of breath–invited me into my body, and I was in it–a large barrel sponge, filtering the fluid around me effortlessly and taking up lots of space. It felt good. This dance, if you will, was a tribute to Ilse Middendorf. My life has truly integrated that freedom and largeness that I sensed years ago in her workshop. How happy I am to have been able to show this to her!

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