Sean Blackwell: Breathwork for Bipolar and Psychosis


Do bipolar and psychosis have a healing potential blocked by suppression, medications, and avoidance? What if we could help people safely and intentionally explore, express, and understand these frightening states? Can breathwork ceremonies open the doors of perception like psychedelics — but without the drugs or risks? Are journeys into altered states too dangerous for people with madness  – or just need to be tailored to individual needs?

Sean Blackwell had an overwhelming emotional crisis diagnosed as bipolar that emerged into a spiritual awakening that enriched his life. Today he facilitates and researches breathwork groups: intense focused breathing with blindfolds and music to discover the healing potential at the root of psychiatric crisis. His book and YouTube channel is Bipolar or Waking up. You can also listen to part two of the interview here.


Bipolar Awakenings

Bipolar or Waking Up – You Tube

International Integrators – Nita Gage


  1. Hi Will and Sean, Thanks for the great interview. I just came across it yesterday.

    In response to the initial question “Do bipolar and psychosis have a healing potential (that is) blocked by suppression, medications, and avoidance?”, I would say “most definitely”. Though I don’t care for either of those words — bipolar and psychosis — because they trigger so much fear.

    I came across Sean’s book last week and downloaded it. I haven’t read it yet. I went through an ego collapse / ego death / spiritual awakening / severe stress breakdown / breakout / breakthrough back in 1998.

    I was misdiagnosed as “bipolar” — which I knew would happen because I knew multiple people who had had similar experiences and were also diagnosed that way — which they also rejected.

    In fact, as I understand it, Sean is initially from Canada. My breakout happened while on a short vacation in Banff, Alberta, from the US. And while I was up there, as I realized that the Canadians call their one and two-dollar coins “loonies” and “toonies”, I thought, “Who is writing this?” At the time, I loved polar bears and I remember sitting in my motel room asking myself, “What is this?” (referring to what I was going through). Was this bipolar? Was this schizophrenia? I looked at a toonie and noticed a polar bear on the coin. I thought, “No. This coin is bipolar (a two-dollar coin with a polar bear on it), the planet is bipolar, magnets are bipolar. What I am experiencing is not bipolar. This is a breakdown due to all the stress that has built up by my crutching unhealthy systems around me.

    I made it through that process not with the help of the mental health industry, but rather despite their initial efforts, which was basically to shove, coerce and threaten me back into the very role that broke me.

    A year later, I found a counselor who helped me embrace the journey that I made and even laughed with me about the several synchronistic and mystical experiences I had. She actually listened to me and read some of my notes. It was that, along with the laughter, that truly helped me to heal.

    I noticed in the interview that there was discussion around resolving issues from a person’s birth experience. I consider the process that I went through a type of “spiritual birth”. One analogy I use is that what I experienced at the hands of the Employee’s Assistance Program and the mental health professionals was like a woman going into labor and the baby is crowning, but then the doctor tries to shove the baby back in.

    I have never been pregnant, but as I understand it, the process itself is messy, frightening (some women have even said terrifying), exhilarating, painful and miraculous. And if the process goes well, you end up with something truly beautiful and your life is changed forever.

    I also relate my type of experience to Joseph Campbell’s monomyth about the Hero’s Journey where the hero transitions from the known realm to the unknown realm. From what I can tell, the current mental health model is to try to shove and coerce a person back into the known world from the same path that they came. For some people, that might work. But for me, that never would have worked. There was no going back to the person I was. And in that attempt, they can actually push a person on a much more traumatic path through that unknown realm. A realm that they most likely don’t understand or in many cases don’t even acknowledge exists.

    I am so glad that I came across the interview. I hadn’t heard much of the breathing technique, but from what you guys described, I think there are probably many parallels between what a person experiences during that type of exercise and my type of unexpected Hero’s Journey.

    It has only been recently as I have started writing and speaking publicly about my experiences. I have spoken privately about it since 1998. It has only been in the last few months that I have truly come to embrace the mystical aspect of my type of experience. I have come to call it “A Journey to Mysticism: The Harder Path” (or something like that). 🙂

    Thanks and all the best to you!

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  2. Nice interview, both of you. I have read Sean Blackwell’s book recently: BiPolar Or Waking Up, which I accessed as a free download. I am following up by scheduling a $50 consultation with Sean because I really, really resonated with his book AND I have had a terrible time with bipolar depression in spite of unsuccessfully trying so many different medications, treatments and modalities. Maybe Sean is on to something. I intend to explore and find out. Peace to all. In the words to Seal’s song Crazy:
    “But we’re never gonna survive unless
    We get a little crazy
    No, we’re never gonna survive unless”

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