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Learning from the Body

“Life is not just what you perceive. It’s that, but with you in it. If you leave yourself out, life comes and goes mechanically, but you’re not participating in it. We don’t know what ‘myself’ really means, but we can use our mind to connect to the body. That becomes our starting point.” ~ Jon Schreiber, First You Have to Be

 T he Breema Center has been in the Rockridge area of Oakland for over 35 years. Many people have seen our window display, or someone has recommended Breema to them, or they may have even visited our website, but they still have no idea what Breema really is, so they come in or call and ask: What is Breema? What is it good for? Why would I study it?

As a staff member and instructor, I am often the person who answers those questions. There are many different ways to answer it, because Breema is a comprehensive and many-faceted system. Here is an overview that addresses various ways of entering into what Breema is and what it can teach us.

What is Breema?

The first and simplest answer is that Breema consists of three components: two body-based elements—Breema bodywork and Self-Breema—integrated with a universal philosophy and principles. Practiced together, all the components connect us to a more essential aspect of ourselves as well as to the whole of existence.

Breema bodywork is done on the floor in comfortable clothing by two people, where one person gives and the other receives. Both the Breema bodywork and Self-Breema consist of a wide variety of movements, such as stretching, leaning, holding, brushing, and tapping. The movements range from dynamic or playful to quieting or grounding, but are always done with the comfort of both the giver and receiver’s body in the foreground. In this way, both participants benefit, so that in fact, giving Breema is as rewarding as receiving it.

Self-Breema exercises are movements done with one’s own body, in standing or sitting positions. Doing Self-Breema helps keep the body flexible, and done in the middle of a busy day it can help renew our energy, either energizing us or calming us down. More importantly, in doing Self-Breema, we are both giver and receiver, a unique experience that can support an entirely new sense of ourselves.

The third component, the Nine Principles of Harmony, distills the profound philosophy at the foundation of Breema into a set of practical guidelines for obtaining and maintaining inner balance. Each Principle—Body Comfortable, No Extra, Firmness and Gentleness, Full Participation, Mutual Support, No Judgment, Single Moment/Single Activity, No Hurry/No Pause, No Force—is directional, moving us, each time we actually apply one, toward more harmony within ourselves and in our relationships to everyone and everything around us. People can read about them in our books, but to really discover their meaning and usefulness in a tangible way, each Principle needs to be experienced first-hand. Applying the Principles in a class while doing the bodywork supports having those actual experiences. Then, bringing the Principles to the conditions of our daily lives deepens our relationship to and understanding of them, and increases the benefit we receive.

That brings us to a deeper answer to “What is Breema?” At its heart, Breema supplies us with a myriad of simple, practical, but transformative tools that allow us to have a palpable taste of being present, of actually experiencing our own existence. It uses connection to the body as a vehicle for cultivating that taste and truly participating in life, as part of a process of self-discovery in the direction of self-understanding.

What is Breema good for?

Both bodywork components support the vitality of the physical body, and give us ways to be active in self-care and deal with the stress arising from the events of life. But more significantly, practicing both the bodywork and the Principles is about becoming more unified within ourselves and finding more meaning in whatever we do, by giving us a new education about who we really are based on a new way of moving, thinking and feeling.

Most of us can recognize that our life energy is scattered a good deal of the time: our mind wanders aimlessly, our emotions are in turmoil, and our body—when we remember we have one—suffers from tension as a result and is not comfortable. This compromises our physiological health as well as our psychological health. Health, by its definition, is wholeness. By helping us to unify the body, mind and feelings, Breema moves us toward real health, which means experiencing the wholeness of our existence within connection to the wholeness of Existence.

One of the primary tools Breema uses is body-mind connection. Our mind and body are rarely truly connected, so we relate to our existence conceptually. In Breema we establish body-mind connection by, over and over, bringing our relaxed attention to the activity of the body, especially to the body breathing and having weight. By connecting to the body directly, while actualizing the Principles without expectations, we slowly become freer of concepts and judgments, and more available to participate fully in what we are doing, moment by moment. This sense of aliveness—expressed in the Principle of Full Participation—is what can bring more meaning to our lives, even to doing the simplest activities or those most disliked by our personality.

Breema’s movements and postures are totally natural, and ultimately often joyful, but because they are typically not the way we use our bodies in ordinary life, doing them is unfamiliar at first. This also has the benefit of challenging what we think about our bodies, and cutting through our identification with our perceived limitations. With practice, we become more flexible, and what we thought was difficult becomes easier and more familiar. This approach can be of benefit in many other arenas in life.

The other primary tools Breema offers are the Nine Principles of Harmony, any of which can offer new perspectives toward what life presents to us, and toward our ideas about ourselves.

Consider the Principle of No Judgment. We are constantly judging ourselves, everyone we meet, and everything our senses communicate to us, mostly in a negative way. By remembering No Judgment and putting it into practice, we may let go of at least some criticism. This can save a great amount of energy from being uselessly drained and make it available to be used more purposefully. By becoming less identified with what we think is “good” or “bad,” we open ourselves up to more choices, and become more open-minded and openhearted.

Why would I study Breema?

Jon Schreiber, director of the Breema Center, recently wrote, “Breema’s bodywork is beautiful and profound in and of itself, but its real purpose is to facilitate direct experience of Breema’s philosophy and principles. The purpose of Breema is to show us a new way of life—the way to be yourself in life, the way to participate in life, not in the reactive state but in the active state, with body and mind together. From there, you have a chance to come to the receptive state—body, mind, and feelings together. When you become receptive, your receptivity connects you to the entirety. Then you may, every now and then, have a glimpse of one whole Existence.”

People who relate to these words might be interested in taking a class—the first one is always free—to see if they resonate further with what Breema offers. The Center is the headquarters for teaching and certifying practitioners and instructors, but people from all walks of life come from around the world to benefit by studying every aspect of the teaching in the atmosphere of the Center, whether or not they wish to be certified.

The Breema Center also offers in-house wellness events at organizations, businesses, and educational institutions as a support for their team members. Continuing education is available for massage therapists, nurses, and LMFTs, LCSWs, and LPCCs.

Weekly classes, and Intensives three times a year with many attendance options, make exploring Breema possible for anyone who wishes to learn what their body can teach them.

For more information The Breema Center, 6076 Claremont Avenue, Oakland. Call (510) 428-0937, email Center@Breema.com or visit Breema.com.

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