Being outside of the norm

community Feb 25, 2017
“It wasn’t until later years that I understood that being an outsider had saved me from the conditioning that many of my peers succumbed to all too eagerly,” writes breathwork healer Anthony Abbagnano.

By Anthony Abbagnano


A couple of months ago during a breath work class, I asked how many people felt they were ‘outsiders’. Everyone put their hands up, and we laughed with recognition.

Many people who are interested in the healing arts have felt like an outsider. When you look at the world and the huge proportion of people that are dis-eased and the tiny amount that are trying to do something to help, it suggests that feeling like an outsider is almost a qualification.

It felt awful at the time

Being outside of the norm is not easy sometimes. I remember as a youngster wanting to belong so much that conforming seemed like the only option. It felt awful at the time. The more I tried to be one of the group, the more it felt strange to be pushed away. But now I can finally say that I’m grateful, because although I didn’t ‘belong’, I did have the chance to watch life in a different way. Because I was outside I was largely unaffected by the common view of what life should be like.

It wasn’t until later years that I understood that not belonging had saved me from the conditioning that many of my peers succumbed to all too eagerly. Today I see so many colleagues and co-practitioners who have endured a similar story to my own, marginalized or ostracized for being different.

The family challenge

One of the greatest tests was going home to meet my family. It felt like any progress I had made in my spiritual life had no meaning to them at all. The tender spaces I enjoyed were considered at the least self-indulgent, and often irrelevant to what they knew to be the pulse of life.

Yet it’s from these challenges that a new strength is born – the strength to be different and okay with it. It’s not defiance, nor is it a reaction to the restrictions that others may wish upon you. It is simply the ability to carve out your own existence because you understand that no one else is going to do it for you.

“I remember as a youngster wanting to belong so much that conforming seemed like the only option. It felt awful at the time,” writes Anthony Abbagnano.

When the outsider becomes the leader

Just as the first man up the mountain has to plan the route, hammer in the spikes and set the ropes for the rest of the team, you – who are the outsider – have turned into the leader. The agony of loneliness has now become a choice to stand aside from mass opinion.

In fact, what felt like inadequacy was really a process of building the muscle to strike forth as an example. Now people come to you for your support and guidance, because they know that you used your own suffering – not to wallow, but to grow.

Sometimes we do have to pass through the fire to reach that deep part inside that guides us. It’s not a voice but a whisper, and it takes courage to surrender as the veneer cracks and splinters to reveal the truth that lies underneath.

For those that see you standing tall, you are a beacon, for if you can do it, then it’s possible for them to do it too. You are the mountaineer that’s led the way.

Antonio Abbagnano


Anthony Abbagnano is the founder of The Alchemy of Breath. He is also the founder of the Ark in Bali Indonesia, a retreat center dedicated to community health and emerging consciousness. With 11 years of personal daily breathing practice, Anthony has explored many different styles of the breath, including Rebirthing, LeBoyer, Holotropic, Transformational, Sufi Breathing, and Pranayama. Now he brings his life experience of Motivational Speaking, Shamanic studies, Clinical Hypnotherapy, Bodytalk Therapy, Conscious Loving Coaching (Hendricks Institute), Sound Healing and Medicine and Aromatherapy to his Breathwork Practice.

As a result of his own healing journey, including the survival and transformation from a near-death health crisis, Anthony is experienced in holding a tender space for the depth of journey some need in their own healing path, as well as supporting the celebration of joy and ecstasy that a breathwork practice promotes. Follow him at:



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