164: How Breathwork Has Helped My Creative Flow


“The space we want to get to that’s a great space to create from is a space of internal validation.”
Nick Onken

Hello once again, and welcome to ONKEN RADIO (previously NION radio), the podcast where we dive deep into the mind, body, soul, and process of the creative entrepreneur. I’m so glad you’re joining me today on this journey where it’s my goal to help you take your creativity, life, and business to the next level. 

I’ve got a fun little solo episode for you today, and I’m going to talk about some things that have really changed my life over the past years. Some of you may already be aware of the power of breathwork, but it is something that has really helped me gain perspective on my creative process and my life in general. 

Have you ever found yourself in a loop of negative thought patterns? 

It’s quite an unpleasant and dark experience when your brain continually bombards you with upsetting and hurtful negative thoughts about yourself. This is a common symptom of people with anxiety, and not only can it really affect your quality of life, but it can tear your creativity to shreds and leave you in a space where creating everything seems impossible. 

In today’s episode, I’m going to talk about a practice you can do that can actually lift you out of these patterns and reorient you to a more positive, creative space. Let’s get into it.

How My Experience with DMT Encouraged Me to Try More Breathwork

About a year and a half prior to the recording of this episode, I embarked on a psychedelic journey that really changed my life. 

DMT is a plant medicine that, when smoked, blasts you off to another dimension — into the cosmos. Your conscience quite literally gets transported somewhere else, and you have this otherworldly experience that really shifts your perspective on so many things. 

However, upon coming down from my crazy DMT trip, I had difficulty reintegrating back into normal, everyday life. I found myself in a deeply self-critical space where I came to a profound realization — much of my identity revolved around external validation from others. I had become totally comfortable, yet blissfully unaware, with the concept of basing my self-worth around validation from others. 

As a creative, I was getting a great deal of validation from my work and who I was shooting with over the past 10 years. When I began to realize what I was subconsciously doing, that’s when everything began to change. 

This pushed me to embark on a journey of self-discovery, or re-self-discovery if you will. Through the help of several mentors and books like A New Earth by Eckhart Tole, I began to rearrange how I validated my own creativity. Instead of receiving validation from others, I began to learn how to internally validate myself. 

We all are somewhat accustomed to external validation, especially in the world of social media. We’re constantly itching for that hit of dopamine we get when we get likes on a picture or engagement on a post on any social media platform. What you’re really doing is teaching your brain to rely on external validation rather than internal validation. 

Along this transformative journey, something that really helped me re-center myself was breathwork. 

The Anxiety-Defeating Benefits of Square Breathing

Maybe you’re thinking I’m crazy by placing such value on breathing — even though it’s the first thing we do when we enter the world and the very last — but I encourage you to stick with me on this because there are so many different ways in which you can utilize breathwork. 

One great example of effective breathwork is how you can use it to calm your nerves if you find yourself in a panic with a practice called squared breathing

When you suffer from a panic attack or intense anxiety, your brain is in fight-or-flight mode because it thinks you are in a life-threatening situation. Your brain floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, and it leaves you short of breath, sweating, and shaky. Not a good combination when you’re just trying to get through your work day. 

When you practice squared breathing, you are essentially tricking your nervous system into believing there is no longer any threat. 

After a few short minutes, you can literally feel the anxiety leave your body — it’s amazing! To try squared breathing, sit in a quiet space and take a deep breath for four seconds, then hold that breath for another four seconds. After that, let out your breath slowly for six seconds and repeat the process until you feel yourself calming down. 

Not only can this practice calm you down if you find yourself in a panic, but it can also help you get back to that creative space if you are caught in one of those looping negative thought patterns. Have you ever found yourself caught up in repeating negative thoughts that just wreck your creative process? I know I have, and breathwork is something that has really reshaped my life and allowed me to stay in that creative space I create for myself. 

If you’re like me and you’re having trouble reintegrating back into normal life after a psychedelic experience, breathwork can be immensely helpful. I’ve actually created a guiding track with soft music and a mantra that may be helpful to you if you’re in this situation that you can find here, as well as a video on breathwork I made here.

Unlock Identity Alchemy with Breathwork

I want to describe to you my personal favorite way to practice breathwork in the hopes that it will help you as much as it’s helped me. Again, if you’re still skeptical about the power of breathwork, I would encourage you to give this a try just to see all the benefits this practice holds. 

I’ve done this in a variety of places, but one of the most important factors in successfully practicing this form of breathwork is properly setting the stage. 

Find some headphones and play soft, calming music, and possibly get an eye mask or something to cover your eyes with. I’ve found that I have much more success in this process when I use an eye mask because it allows me to go even deeper and farther inward. You may also want to grab a blanket and throw that over yourself in case you get cold while you’re doing the breathwork. 

You essentially want to breathe in a circular motion through your mouth. Let the air fill up your chest and belly as deeply as you can before breathing out through your mouth again. After doing this for about two-and-a-half minutes, exhale all the air out and hold that for as long as you can. Since you had so much oxygen pulsing through your body, you’ll be surprised how long you could hold this breath. 

When you can’t hold your breath any longer, take a deep breath and hold it for about thirty seconds. Let that breath out and allow yourself to breathe normally until the next cycle, which I guide you through in the audio I linked above. 

The Benefits I’ve Experienced From Breathwork

I typically like to do about six rounds of this, and you would be amazed at the effect this simple process can have. 

Your body starts buzzing, and you begin to transcend into this beautiful, blissful space where you can actually feel yourself detaching from that default mode network in your brain. From there, you can access spaces of higher vibration and higher gratitude that can really help you live more creatively. 

You feel really joyful when you do this breathwork because you’re accessing plains of higher emotional vibrational states, and we know that when you do that, you’re attracting magic into your life. 

If you’re interested in learning more about vibrational states and attracting magic into your life, I highly recommend reading Becoming Supernatural by Joe Dispenza.

Always Be Creating Yourself

So that’s it for how breathwork has shaped my life over the past few years. I hope you got something from this episode and give breathwork a shot — you’ll be surprised at just how powerful it is. Both psychedelics and breathwork can unlock Identity Alchemy for you, which is something I think is absolutely critical for the mind of a creative. 

Alchemy is defined as the process of taking something ordinary and turning it into something extraordinary, sometimes in a way that cannot be explained.

With that being said, I define Identity Alchemy as the process of deconstructing who you don’t want to be in order to realize who you want to become. 

Through it, you’ll be able to identify your shadows or the things you don’t want to be true about you and shed them slowly. I believe that the deconstruction process of life and your inner world is such a huge piece of understanding who you are so that you can curate who you want to become. In general, I noticed for myself that the more inner work that I do — the deeper shadow work that I do to understand myself — the better life becomes towards the path of wholeness.

Don’t forget to check out my website! There, you can find a quick ten-question quiz designed and get some of my best free content to help you out on your creative journey.

Thank you so much for joining me today, guys! I hope you enjoyed this episode — if you did, please screenshot it and post it to Instagram and tag me, @nickonken. And if you’ve got time, leave me a review on Apple podcasts! I’d love to hear your feedback.

Now get out there and breathe! Until next time!

Nick Onken

You can Subscribe and Listen to the Podcast on Apple Podcasts. And please leave me a Rating and Review!


“I didn’t realize I didn’t have that awareness, so I’ve created it [with breathwork].”
Nick Onken

Some things we learn in this podcast:

  • What the ego needs and how it impairs your self-esteem [1:36]
  • The best space to be creating from [2:53]
  • How breathwork incorporates internal validation [4:18]
  • What breathwork has taught Nick [5:25]
  • Why we should be cognizant of our default node network and what we are setting it to [7:29]
  • What you should know that can amplify breathwork’s effects [9:21]
  • What Dr. Joe Dispenza means by “living in a higher spiritual and emotional state ” [11:56]

Links Mentioned:

A FREE email series to create a personal visual brand authentic to who you are.

  • Accelerate your personal brand growth through the Identity Alchemy Method
  • Discover the authentic stories you want to share with your audience
  • Build your personal brand vision and crystallize it with a photoshoot
  • Learn how to ideate and create storytelling visual assets to enhance and up-level your personal brand
  • .. PLUS! You’ll get access my brand building book recs and favorite resources

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