Open letter 1
In 1974, my late wife Christina and I developed the holotropic breathwork during our stay at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA. In 1988, we started Grof Transpersonal Training (GTT), a school based on the theory of Transpersonal Psychology and on the practice of holotropic breathwork. After traveling worldwide for 25 years conducting holotropic breathwork, and leading training for 10 of those years, we had grown weary of the administrative aspects of the training program and wanted to concentrate more on writing and teaching.
In 1998, we sold GTT to Tav and Cary Sparks. In 2000, we transferred the trademark Holotropic Breathwork to the Sparks for free and without additional payment. After the payments agreed in the sale of GTT we did not receive any financial profit from GTT except compensation for our actual teaching. We agreed that these transactions were carried out for the purpose of “dissemination of the holotropic breathwork all over the world.”
I am very grateful for all the work that Tav and Cary Sparks, and the teachers, organizers and facilitators of GTT have done for the holotropic breathwork over the years. However there are also many experienced teachers of our work outside of GTT who have done skillful and heartful training for several decades and trained many facilitators, but did not become members of GTT because they did not want to pay for the trademark and for that reason had to give different names to holotropic breathwork, such as transpersonal breathwork etc. I am also very grateful for them; for me these people also belong to the holotropic community.
In June 2014 Christina Grof passed away. I am deeply grateful for her contributions to the work; together we co-created the method holotropic breathwork at Esalen where we lived 14 years, offered many workshops and co-led over 30 monthlong Esalen seminars. We also conduced numerous retreats with Jack Kornfield, combining holotropic breathwork with Vipassana Buddhist meditation, and organized many other holotropic breathwork workshops and seminars worldwide. Along with founding and leading the Spiritual Emergency Network (SEN), Christina worked in the field of addiction and organized together with me many International Transpersonal Association (ITA) conferences. Christina wrote two books and co-wrote four additional books that we created together. Christina’s legacy can be found at www.christinagrof.com.
In 2015 I started again traveling around the world doing workshops and lectures in Israel, China, Russia, France, South America and Czech Republic. Since April 2016, Brigitte Grof (née Ashauer) and I are happily married. Brigitte is an accomplished psychologist and artist, who started to learn holotropic breathwork with us at Esalen in 1986, before we had any formal training. Later Brigitte participated in several of the early trainings and we worked together for many years. Since 1990 she has been leading holotropic breathwork workshops and teaching my work in Europe (www.brigittegrof.com). Since our wedding, we have worked jointly in China, Latin America (Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Ecuador), USA, and Europe (France, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, and Czech Republic).
In August 2018 I had a stroke that has affected my speech center. Luckily my mind is completely clear and I am not paralyzed. During the stroke I had the feeling that I died and came back because of my love for Brigitte and my work. We have been living, working and creating together, and sharing our inner and outer journeys. Her love has been for me a source of inspiration, encouragement, emotional and physical support, and she is my partner for various projects. These recently included the Encyclopedia, The Way of the Psychonaut, and the documentary film with the same name, as well as our return to Esalen in the spring of 2018 and 2019. Brigitte is the person who knows me and my work best. Eventually I would like her to continue and lead my legacy.
After my stroke, it was time for me to decide what I should do with my work in the decades to come. I have discussed my hopes and concerns about my work with many friends and colleagues around the world and received much advice, enthusiasm and support. I have also received a great deal of feedback from many people about their own hopes and dreams for teaching and training. As much as I appreciate what GTT trainers, facilitators and participants have contributed in the past, I do not intend to play any role in GTT in the future. I have not been associated with GTT in any way for more than five years, even though it still carries my name. The most important reason for me in ceasing association with GTT is that over 20 years, GTT has not allowed a single independent holotropic breathwork training to be created, not in other countries of the world, nor in Europe or the US, although there are many experienced teachers and facilitators. GTT has been functioning as a monopoly and a family for-profit corporation. GTT and the Sparks own the trademark Holotropic Breathwork, that I gave them for free, but they don´t own my work holotropic breathwork. For me it cannot be limited to a family business, but it should belong to the world.
Because of my age, my stroke, and because of` the current pandemic that threatens humanity, I attempted to bring order to my professional legacy. Brigitte has been helping me with amazing love and support although she has nothing to do with the problems that are originally related to the situation. Together Brigitte and I created a broader platform for my work to acknowledge and support independent experienced teachers and facilitators outside of GTT who are outstanding carriers of the work to lead their own trainings.
On May 4, 2020, Brigitte and I launched a new training, called the GROF® Legacy Training. Besides training in holotropic breathwork (Grof® Breathwork) the new training will focus on the whole range of holotropic states of consciousness, including those brought about through psychedelics, spiritual emergency, and the dying process. All of these holotropic states have been extensively described in my work, along with techniques to support people in these processes. In addition to the holotropic breathwork developed by Christina and me, the teachers, facilitators, and trainees will learn the skills, techniques and relevant theory important for supporting psychedelic sessions and for participating in psychedelic journeys themselves through the emerging lawful programs, studies and clinics. Similar skills, techniques, and theory will be taught specifically for those people who will support others in spiritual emergency or in the dying process. In addition, archetypal astrology will be studied and taught for use as an adjunct to holotropic states.
GROF® Legacy Training will authorize qualified teachers in the various countries of the world to lead their own independent trainings. The two volumes of The Way of the Psychonaut have been specifically created to provide all the most important information for taking or guiding inner journeys, including psychedelic and holotropic breathwork sessions, as well as supporting Spiritual Emergencies. We believe it is important that students will have the opportunity to learn Transpersonal Psychology from a theoretical as well as practical perspective. We also strongly encourage learning and researching the connections between holotropic states of consciousness and archetypal astrology, the work of my close friend and colleague Richard Tarnas.
The main quality of the training will naturally depend on the experiences and theoretical and practical knowledge of the teachers guiding the courses. They will contribute their own talents and teachings in their trainings. Grof® Legacy Training will provide abundant resources for both teachers and students from my six decades of consciousness research. These resources include books, videos, Power Points, articles, paintings, films, audio recordings and telecourses; we also have permission to use telecourse modules for training.
The two volumes of The Way of the Psychonaut are the basic sources of the training. This two-volume encyclopedia has been specifically created to provide all the most important information for taking or guiding inner journeys (including psychedelic and holotropic breathwork sessions and in working with Spiritual Emergencies). The Psychonaut books will be accompanied by 90 minutes of the film bearing a similar name: The Way of the Psychonaut: Stan Grof’s Journey of Consciousness, produced by Susan Hess Logeais. We are in the process of translating the Psychonaut books into various languages (Spanish, Portuguese, German, French, Russian, Czech, and Mandarin Chinese). This will enable students to read these books at home and deepen all that they learn in their classes. We have also provided for the Psychonaut movie subtitles in several world languages.
In the GROF® Legacy Training we use the brand name Grof® Breathwork for holotropic breathwork for legal trademark reasons. We encourage all people associated with GTT to continue their training under the brand name Holotropic Breathwork® and we encourage everyone to participate in the workshops of their choice. Our goal in beginning GROF® Legacy Training is solely to support others who we believe are qualified to carry on and expand the legacy of my work.
Brigitte and I believe that owning the trademark Holotropic Breathwork® does not mean owning my work in holotropic breathwork or the work more broadly in holotropic studies. This work belongs to the world and we hope it will be taught for generations to come.
We will not receive any financial profit from our trademark Grof® or from the GROF® Legacy Training unless we are actually teaching in any of the programs. We are enthusiastically looking forward to supporting holotropic studies and working with many old and new friends (www.grof-legacy-training.com).
I have deep love, admiration and respect for everyone who is finding the courage to undertake these deep inner healing and transformative journeys! For me you are all part of one holotropic community.
Stanislav Grof Germany, April 2020 (www.stangrof.com)
Dear Holotropic Community,
We send our wishes for strength and healing to all of you in these times of deep pain, emerging transformation, and hope for the future. Before the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, USA, and the call to awakening brought about in the United States by his death, and now all around the world, we had begun drafting a final Open Letter in the hope to answer questions that were arising as to what has brought us to launch Grof®Legacy Training. At this point in world history, we were not sure it was even appropriate to share our thoughts, but we have also come to believe that our decision to empower a greater freedom around Stan’s legacy, including our good wishes to GTT in their continued work, might never have been more appropriate than at this moment.
These are times for speaking authentically with as much brevity as possible. For any of those in the holotropic community who feel distress over what has been called a “ridiculous split” through our creation of Grof® Legacy Training, we would like to offer a bit more explanation, with some clear boundaries that we will not engage in any further back and forth on the history of the issues Stan has experienced with GTT.
We would appreciate your trust in understanding that our goal in creating Grof® Legacy Training involves the long-term future of holotropic work in a world that rests at a precarious historical point. Most people who know Stan personally understand that he is a deeply loving and caring person. He is also carrying very powerful and high energy that is focused completely to service of bringing spirituality and raising consciousness into western society. Stan would appreciate everyone knowing that his late wife Christina and he created the original training program, and obtained the Holotropic Breathwork® trademark, at the request of people who had experienced holotropic breathwork and wanted to learn facilitation in the hope of expanding the work around the world. Stan’s goal has always been to make deep experiential understanding of the work available to all who are interested in service to deep need around the world.
Stan approached obtaining the trademark in Holotropic Breathwork® with some reluctance. This was because making a commodity out of precious things tends to breed greed and eventually trouble. In some situations, owning a trademark allows protection of the integrity of what is covered by the trademark while also encouraging healthy development. In other situations, the trademark is primarily a means to make money from a commodity.
In the two decades since Stan and Christina sold GTT to Tav and Cary Sparks for little money (and gave them the trademark Holotropic Breathwork® for free) they did not receive any profit from GTT or the trademark except when they were actually teaching there. GTT has not authorized any independent trainings without a level of compensation to GTT that we feel stifles the growth of the work. Along with some GTT facilitators, the Sparks have insisted on continued private ownership of the trademark in Holotropic Breathwork. In our view, based on what we have seen and been told by many people around the world, this insistence on private ownership, and payment of fees to GTT, has made it difficult, and sometimes impossible, for experienced trainers to establish economically feasible training programs. Unknown to many people, several experienced trainers have found themselves excluded from the Holotropic Breathwork community because they were unable to pay GTT the fees requested for continued designation as Grof trainers.
While the launch of Grof Legacy Training may seem like a sudden change to some people, please know this creation came about through years of heartfelt reflection, discussions with the Sparks, and consultation with many people. In a public communication, Cary Sparks wrote that the Sparks made suggestions for a joint way forward and asked Stan to come up with alternative proposals, but the parties were unable to discuss the matter successfully. Cary also stated that the Sparks suggested working with a mediator in finding a joint solution but Stan declined. We believe these statements do not leave a fair impression of the long process leading to the decision to begin a separate training program. There were several discussions, including meetings, with Stan, Cary, and others who were in a position to assist negotiations. Brigitte had several personal discussions with Cary, listened to her and discussed with her Stan´s ideas about possibilities for expanding the work. Lawyers for each party held discussions between themselves, exchanged letters, and considered specific proposals. In the end, many months passed and we felt there was no substantial indication from the Sparks that they would move from their assertion of global control over training in holotropic breathwork. Based on long consideration and discussion with several advisors, including an experienced mediator, we believed there was insufficient indication of change in the position of the Sparks to justify formal mediation.
More importantly, we believe the launching of Grof® Legacy Training is a birth that wanted to happen from a deeper than personal level and it creates the most appropriate situation for broadening the work, treating all trainers fairly, and protecting the ability of the Sparks to continue to train under the trademark Holotropic Breathwork®. For legal trademark reasons we will use the brand name Grof® Breathwork for holotropic breathwork in the Grof® Legacy Training, but it is actually holotropic breathwork as Stan wishes it to be taught. We created the trademark Grof® to protect the Grof legacy and work, but we will not receive any financial profit from it. The work is for the world.
Stan wants to conclude this message with personal words from his heart:
“I have been troubled to hear that some people, who don´t know us well, have suggested that the ‘split’ came about as a result of my marriage to Brigitte. This is completely untrue. The problems, with which we are dealing, began in the end of 1998 and involved Christina and myself and continued and increased after Christina’s death when I started travelling the world by myself and became aware of the actual situation with GTT. My problems with GTT existed a very long time before Brigitte and I got together. Brigitte has nothing to do with creating these problems. The opposite is the case; she has helped me with her love and support to make my dream come true to free and expand my work for the world.
“I hope that you will understand that the so-called ‘split’ happened on a structural level rather than on the level of all the wonderful people in the community who are doing holotropic breathwork. Sometimes it is necessary to move on and allow the birth to something new to happen. I want to make it clear to the breathwork community that I have not abandoned or left you. The opposite is true, you are all dear in my heart and I am always with you on your path. I and we are always happy to stay in touch with you! We both, Brigitte and I, have deep admiration and love for every one of you who is undertaking inner journeys, where ever you are doing it.”
“When the drastic pandemic subsides, we will need the help of experienced facilitators for inner journeys in the whole world. This is a big world and there is so much need for inner transformation. Again, we want a peaceful coexistence with GTT; please feel free to continue your work with them and of course you are all welcome to join our projects.
“We are very sorry to hear that Tav is not doing well and we wish him all the best from the depths of our hearts! Tav, we love you and I am grateful for the time we spent together all over the world.”
From both of us, we hope that everyone can look toward the future and all the exciting possibilities for holotropic work as we heal from the virus crisis. This is a good time for quiet reflection, safe inner journeys, and opening to transformation.
We wish you all the best and you are in our hearts!
Stan and Brigitte Grof 6/12/20