Minda Garr, a psychotherapist specializing in holistic psychotherapy, recently gave a talk about her work to the group of English-speaking women to which I belong. By being aware of our breathing, ‘breathing into your heart,’ as our speaker put it, the individual can attain a sense of inner peace, gain a higher level of consciousness, and even achieve mental and physical healing.  The basic concept underlying holistic psychotherapy is that mind, body and spirit must be regarded as parts of the whole, and that by relating to them concurrently the individual can attain serenity and greater self-understanding. Ms. Garr has taught at the Hebrew University’s School of Social Work for many years, and her approach to her work has gradually evolved from the pragmatic to the holistic. In her clinical work she places great emphasis on connecting with the client as well as with something greater than the self, something outside our everyday life, whether one calls it God, the soul, the spirit, or anything else. This view is in stark contrast with the detached, non-empathetic method used in Freudian and other psychoanalytical approaches.

Without disclosing personal details of the individuals concerned, Ms. Garr told us about her experiences with clients, and how her approach succeeded in enabling them to overcome childhood traumas and present-day phobias after other methods had failed to help. Individuals who were in denial over certain experiences or unable to correct unwanted character-traits were enabled to better understand what lay behind them, and to cope with them. In some cases clients were even able to overcome the results of ‘birth trauma,’ i.e., the distress caused to the baby by the process of being born. Ms. Garr is a firm believer in the view that the pre-birth, and even pre-conception experience affects the individual in adult life.

The sense of focus that we achieve by closing our eyes and concentrating on our breathing enables us to screen out the ‘chatter’ and ‘clutter’ that tend to occupy our minds, and thus to attain a ‘trance-like’ state. Ms. Garr ended her talk by getting all those present to engage in a ‘gratitude exercise,’ which enabled each one of us to imagine her heart filled with light, which then spread to our whole body, and then further and further outward. That was a truly remarkable experience.

I tried this at the concert I attended on the same evening and found that it enhanced my ability to enjoy the music. My mind was clear, as if it were some kind of reflecting pool, enabling the music to fill it and provide my soul with the sustenance it craved. It was certainly better than being distracted by the irrelevant stimuli created by other members of the audience, or the thoughts that tend to crowd in on me when my mind is not engaged in creative activity.

It appears to be beneficial to be able to clear one’s mind of extraneous matter from time to time and enter a state that is something like a trance, but one that does not remove the individual from his or her surroundings. The various forms of meditation achieve this for some people, as does prayer for others. But this particular mental exercise requires no religious belief or affiliation to a group of any kind. It’s something that anyone can do anywhere, at any time, and so seems to offer a universal panacea to the psychological pressure that everyone feels at one point or another.