Jim Leonard (Vivation)

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Jim Leonard
Jim Leonard
Born (1955-06-02)June 2, 1955
San Bernardino, California
Died September 23, 2008(2008-09-23) (aged 53)
Tacoma, Washington
Nationality American United States
Spouse(s) Anne Jill Leonard (divorced)

Jim Leonard (June 2, 1955 – September 23, 2008) was an American teacher, author and an early pioneer of modern day Breathwork. He was the originator of Vivation and author of three books and numerous articles on human potential. Jim did not consider Vivation "Breathwork," although others have classified it as such. Jim considered Vivation a form of yoga. The focus of Vivation is on maintaining an attitude of curiosity and enjoyment of the sensations in the body, rather than a judgment of the sensations or suppression of the sensations in the body. Like with yoga, it is important in Vivation to not hold the breath as you monitor the sensations in the body. Like yoga, paying attention to the sensations in the body in an open, interested gentle way will lead your body to heal many physical and emotional wounds and connect you to peaceful, deep places inside yourself often referred to as spiritual. Yoga focuses on noticing the sensations that happen in the body when muscles are engaged and the body is put through its range of motion. In Vivation, the muscles of the body are totally relaxed. The focus in yoga is keeping the breath comfortable and relaxed and not forced or suppressed. It is the rate of the breath is flexible in Vivation, not the body. In both Vivation and yoga, it is important to not hold the breath. In yoga holding the breath makes the physical activity hard so that you can't focus on sensations in the body. In Vivation holding the breath makes it impossible to notice the sensations which is the goal for tapping into the healing properties of both yoga and Vivation. This is why deep slow breathing to relax in some circumstances has a paradoxical affect on some emotionally stressed people. It causes unpleasant emotional sensation (emotions) to become stronger and thus they become overwhelmed. The only requirement for the breath in Vivation is that you don't hold your breath and you focus on breathing in. This means the in breath and the out breath are continuous without pauses. Faster and deeper breathing increases the strength of sensations, and slower and deeper breathing increases the strength of sensations, and faster and shallower breathing decreases the strength of the sensations to make them more tolerable if they are uncomfortable. We all know that we intuitively breath deep and slow in order to take in beautiful scenery and feel the wonderful sensations in our body. People with anxiety hyperventilate in order to avoid feeling. Their rapid breathing and focus on the exhale, causes their carbon dioxide in their blood to fall below normal, their body gets numb and hurts, and eventually if they don't stop this breathing pattern, they just pass out and the body takes over the breath and they stop hyperventilating.

Focusing on expiration in Vivation, and ordinary life, or while doing yoga, leads to suppression of sensations. In normal life, our left brain judges sensation and comes up with conclusions about whether they are safe or not to feel with the help of mirror neurons and other places and systems in the brain. If the sensation is suppressed and not felt completely, the left brain makes up the best reasons to not feel the sensations it can think of and those made up reasons come back to us as unwanted negative cognitions. The way that the most advanced mind keeps these unwanted negative cognitions in our unconscious is with the breath. When we want to suppress sensations that are felt in response to an unpleasant stimulus, either internal or external, we unconsciously shift into unconscious breath which is mostly expiration leading to a holding of the breath with minimal sips of breath in until we feel safe enough to begin breathing in feeling sensations again. In unconscious breathing the focus is on expiration, and not inspiration. Vivation uses conscious breathing focusing on inspiration. To test this hypothosis, all you have to do is to try to continuously focus on consciously breathing in at any rate and depth, except slow and shallow, and you will find yourself shifting into unconscious breathing in order to avoid the sensations that come up that your left brain does not want you to feel. If you force yourself to do it, you will start to feel more and more uncomfortable body sensations that will force you to go into unconscious breathing, unless you know how to shift out of the left brain and into the right brain and that is what Vivation does by teaching you to focus on inhale, relax, feel sensations, focus on some truth that brings a positive sensation in the body that the left brain will eventually recognize and then integration will occur. A neuro-pathway will occur with the integration from the suppressed sensation to the sensation that the left brain recognized as true and with that integration the suppressed sensation will be felt and endorphins somehow are released, a real truth is discovered by the mind, and the session ends with laughter, feelings of well being, and joy. The Viver will be unaware of the truth discovered by the mind, because Vivation is not about paying attention to the thoughts of the mind. Vivation is about paying attention and making peace with feelings in the body. When that happens there is a positive shift in the way the Viver feels about the sensations in their body. Integrations feels great. In Vivation, we don't need to know what it is about, but we change in positive ways as we relate to life in different ways with every integration that occurs.

The purpose of the "breathwork" of Vivation is to help us feel sensations more completely.


Jim Leonard was born in San Bernardino, California, on June 2, 1955. After discovering a book on yoga when he was 8, Leonard began his lifelong quest for spiritual enlightenment and how to teach it to others. He spent his adolescence learning everything he could about how to permanently reach higher states of consciousness.

In 1977 he left San Bernardino for San Francisco to study Rebirthing with Leonard Orr at the Theta House.

In 1979, Leonard Orr and others traveled to India looking for the most adept spiritual masters they could find, one of which was Haidakhan Babaji. who went on to have great influence on all of them. Leonard Orr was visiting Babaji at the time that Jim arrived, but they did not travel together.

Jim had not intended to go to India, but one night he had a dream and when he woke up, he knew that he had to go to meet Babaji. A friend of his was supposed to wire him some money when he got to London, but the money didn't come, and without the expected money, it was a great struggle for Jim to continue on, but he persevered. When he arrived, the first thing that impressed Jim about Babaji was that he seemed to be able to speak the language of every person who spoke to him and there were many different people speaking many different languages. Babaji met with Jim and asked him to cut his long red hair and shave, to get up early, and work in the garden. Jim said that he did none of these things, and he expected that he would be reprimanded by Babaji, but to his surprise, he was treated kindly with complete acceptance and unconditional love. Jim said that this was the only time in his life that he had ever experienced such powerful unconditional love in this way from another person. Jim stayed only a few days, because he had no funds. A female companion from New York City rescued him and gave him airfare to London. Somehow his clothes were stolen and the only thing he had to wear was an Indian sari. He was deported by the British government on a plane. His father wired him money for a bus home to San Bernardino, CA and was quite perturbed with him and immediately burned the sari when he took it off, so the family story goes.

After returning from India, Jim was highly influenced by his meeting with Babaji and continued to be enthusiastic about learning how to help people be happy and deal with strong emotions. On July 13, 1979, Jim hiked up a mountain outside of San Bernardino and for the first time was able to successfully integrate strong emotion using the skills that he would later call the Five Elements of Vivation. Initially, he called his process Integrative Rebirthing, but later changed it to Vivation because of key differences between his process and Rebirthing. Jim conducted more than 45,000 sessions of this process in 22 countries during his life. During the 1980s, he conducted Integrative Rebirthing and Vivation seminars jointly with his wife, Anne Jill Leonard. Jim had an exceptional respect for Anne as a teacher of Vivation. They later divorced. Jim met Lans Peterson who had had an extraordinary healing of pain with Vivation before meeting Jim, they fell in love, and together they traveled around the world teaching together for several years. They did not continue their relationship, but parted as friends. Jim spent many years teaching Vivation in Italy and other European countries. To his delight, Jim learned to speak fluent Italian. Jim especially loved Italy and the Italian people. Eventually Jim then moved back to San Bernardino to help care for his mother. He started a business, Vivation, Inc. and worked with two talented, and amazing, Vivation Professionals, Paul Hughes and Patricia Bacall. After his sisters took over helping his mother, Jim began traveling again teaching Vivation. In 2002, Jim met Janet Kurz in Boston. They became friends and both ended up going to Oregon, falling in love and moving in with each other in Tacoma. Jim briefly had an office for Vivation, Inc. in Tacoma, but became too ill to continue. In 2004, Alessandra Paliorini, another extremely talented Vivation Professional, came to study with Jim in Tacoma for a month or so. She returned again the next year. Jim and Alessandra developed the Keys for Vivation which added to the effectiveness of the methodology. In 2005, Jim made a final trip to his beloved Italy with Janet. He and Alessandra gave a series of sessions and lectures together, and Jim was able to visit his longtime friend, Ivano Tivioli, who teaches Vivation in Italy, for the last time. A few months before he died, Jim asked Paul Hughes to take over Vivation, Inc. for him. Paul changed the name to Vivation International. Patricia Bacall is together again with Paul teaching Vivation. Patricia has expertise dealing with weight and eating disorders and likes to work with organizations. Paul also has an excellent program for training future Vivation Professionals and teaching couples Vivation and travels extensively teaching Vivation.

According to the official Vivation website, Jim's books on Vivation sold more than 250,000 copies and were translated into a dozen languages. Jim taught hundreds of people to be Vivation Professionals and founded Associated Vivation Professionals, the worldwide professional organization for Vivation.

Jim Leonard lived with Janet Kurz in Tacoma, WA from 2004 until his death. He died from rectal cancer at the Franciscan Hospice House in Tacoma, Washington, on September 23, 2008 in the presence of his sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Ben Nathan.


Jim Leonard was best known for his creation of Vivation, a type of meditation and breathwork used to resolve negative emotions and attachments. First known as Integrative Rebirthing, Vivation is a form of meditation whose primary aim is the permanent and pleasurable resolution of suppressed negative emotions. The word "Vivation" comes from the Latin word vivé (to fully embrace life).

Vivation integrates the essential principles found in yoga (an awareness of the body and the breath) and meditation into a unified process of healing and personal transformation. It has roots in kriya yoga, Vipassanā and modern breathwork. The teaching of Vivation places strong emphasis on facilitating the emotional autonomy and self-realization of its practitioners. According to their official website, more than 100,000 people have learned the process, with hundreds of professionals teaching Vivation worldwide.


  • Jim Leonard, Vivation: The Science of Enjoying All Your Life written with Phil Laut, Vivation Publishing Company, May 1991.
  • Jim Leonard, Your Fondest Dream: How To Master the Power of Creativity, Vivation Publishing Company, February 1990.
  • Jim Leonard, Vivation: The Skill of Happiness, March, 2001.

Articles (available online)[edit]

  • Jim Leonard. “Heal All Your Negative Emotions”, March 1999

External links[edit]