2021-10-13-Breathing (3 of 5) Respect for Breathing
3:22PM Oct 13, 2021
So this week I'm teaching the five R's. Relax, recognize, today, it's respect. Tomorrow, it's B restore, and then release. And to meditate with mindfulness of breathing, to respect it, to offer our respect to our experience. And I like this word respect a lot, because it's, you know, in Latin, that means to look again, to respect something is to give it a second look, and to really see what it is in and of itself to observe it to see it. And it also is different, it has a similar effect as allowing something to be or accepting things to be there. But it has more body, and it has more accepting or allowing things to be is, sometimes it's quite profound. But it's also it's kind of like, Where, where we were absent in that picture, in some way, which has its advantages at times. But to have to see with respect to be present for the respect, there's something that we offer some kind of dignity or valuing that we've contributed, and, to come from a place of respect is to come from a place of a certain kind of inner strength, a certain kind of inner presence, or something that is quite a beautiful place to be, to be able to give the gift of respect to something. And so this idea of looking again, and so with the breathing, to watch it, to see it, and respect it enough to allow the breathing, to breathe itself. And, and it's quite something that if we can get out of the way of the breathing and but really be present for it, give it breathing room in a sense, to do its own thing, that generally we learn so much from the breathing, we learn about the big and the subtle ways in which we are contracted or anxious or, or agitated, or afraid, or depressed or sad, all these kinds of ways of being affect our breathing. And because it affects our breathing. As the breathing begins to be, it's allowed to be itself, it begins to kind of move through all these feelings and emotions and attitudes that affect breathing, and kind of like massages them. And when we leave that, when we watch the breathing and leave it alone, respecting it, it's an indirect way of respecting and leaving alone, so much of our psychology and something in the massage of breathing is not just a mechanical, physical thing. It it's intimately connected to our deeper psychological life. And if we can allow the breathing, some freedom to move and relax, just settle into open just by watching it and giving it lots of time to do it. As I said that, in massage is a psychology, it helps those things also come to equilibrium or come to, to unfold in the way that's appropriate for them. The gift of accompanying of watching or seeing respecting is really a profound thing. Some years ago, I met a woman who when many, many years ago, she had been a as researchers, you did research in psychology, human psychology, and in particular the relationship between mothers and their young children. And for about two or three years, she went to the home of mother who was raising a child, I don't know if she was single, but she was always home alone. And, and the researcher would simply show up, and would not talk to the woman, but simply be in the living room with her and watch as the woman interacted with her child. The child was you know, maybe, you know, just a little baby initially and until two or three years old, and she would do to take notes of what she saw the relationship between the two and that's what she was doing. The researcher was just studying that.
And, and after three years of doing that, it was time to stop. And the researcher finally you know, spoke to the to the mother and explained she was leaving, and the mother was deeply moved and said that having this retreat researcher come to her house and Watch her be with her child was the highlight of her week. And even though they didn't speak, simply needs to be watched, be watched and be attended to and be be treated as someone who's important enough and valuable enough to, to pay attention to is like, his great gifts like food for people. And, and so it can be for ourselves. I had this similar experience with my child when he was young, when I don't think he really spoke yet. But I was on the floor with him, and he was playing with blocks. And he was absorbed in playing with his blocks. And he was kind of humming along to himself clearly happy and delighted. And I was just there watching. And after a while, I got a little bored. And he doesn't need me anymore. He's absorbed in his blocks, he hardly knows he doesn't even know I'm here, really. So I started to get up. And as soon as I got out, started to get up, he stopped singing or humming. And I realized I saw what happened. And he clearly knew I was there that my accompanying and watching and seeing was a huge part of his happiness, his safety is everything was okay in the world. And I had important role, even though I wasn't doing anything, or involved in anything, just being present and watching. So this idea of doing the same thing for ourselves, and doing it through the medium of our breathing. Breathing is not a mechanical thing only. It's proof, it's an intersection, the meeting place a crossroads of so many different parts of our emotional, psychological, intentional, social, personal, physiological life that we have. That to be able to settle in and feel the breathing, see it respected, get out of its way and allow the breathing slowly to find its way is, is a is a profound thing to do for our whole being. What I do sometimes is if my breathing is constricted, and sometimes if I live, you know, active life doing a lot of things I produce a little bit of tension builds up in the upper part of my chest. And then when I sit down to meditate, I feel that that constriction, when I inhale, I can't inhale all the way. And what I've learned to do is not be bothered by it. In fact, what's more important is, instead of being bothered, what's important is to offer gentle, caring attention to just observe it. And every time I inhale, I make sure that I'm right there to feel and sense and observe the place of constriction, as if there's no problem, it's allowed to be there, I'm not trying to fix it or be upset by it, I just kind of like patiently as if it's forever, offer my attention to that place. And some point are there as something begins to release, let go. And, and kind of remarkable thing is oftentimes I don't see it, letting go and relaxing, it's either too slow, or maybe it happens on the exhale, and I didn't notice. And but this for me is allowing the breathing to breathe itself. And, and I'm calling this respect, to watch it to be present for it, to observe it. without interfering without judgment, without condemnation, for sure. But to do it with respect means that we do it as if it's important, it's valuable. When we practice just allowing things to be or accepting things as they are, they can come without any kind of inner feeling that this is important. This is valuable. And I like to consider that when we learn to meditate. We're learning to value everything. And nothing is not valuable. Even the smallest little detail is not valuable. It's one of the things I learned from my Zen practice. The School of Zen that I practiced, and one of their slogans was that there were Qi, one of the ways that characteristics of that school of Zen was called attention to detail. And that you respect every detail, no matter how small. And I'll end with a little story of what I was very inspired by this
in there a long time ago in the 1970s. I was there was a little bit informal. There was a gathering of the Zen masters in the United States. And it was kind of informal back then I think that maybe there were six of them about that. who were there at this little gathering of them, there weren't that many back then. And, and, and they were just mostly meeting among themselves. And then it's, but they had at one evening, they had a panel, where a sense students could kind of see them in the panel and, and, and ask questions to them or something, it was kind of a unique event. And they were sitting behind a table and, and someone would brought brought them drinks tea or something, we're bringing things that they're not to them. And what stood out to me was that all but one kind of didn't react didn't respond to the fact that someone brought them some tea, and put in front of them, they just kind of like, accepted it as normal. There was, there was no hostility, no who just to kind of a neutral thing. But remember, one of them took the time to turn to the person who brought tea, and about to them and express their thanks. And I was struck by that one Zen master who took the time to the person who was, you know, incidental, and it sends for the meeting and all that deserve their respect and met them and bow to them. And that inspired me. So attention to detail, everything is important. And to respect the breath, expressed, expressed, respect the in breath, the outbreath, that pause, to respect the beginning of the breath, the middle of at the end of it, to be present, to observe the beginning of the exhale, the middle of it, and the end of it. All these details are important. And as we kind of enter into this world of observing just the breathing, it becomes less kind of like looking up into the sky and watching the clouds go by. And more like almost like a most relaxing microscope, you can imagine, where you're just kind of zeroing in on just the details such as the subtlety of it. And to add doing so with respect with care with allowing things to be as they are, gift. Everything can be as it is, and with our respect, is one of the profound things to learn through meditation practice. Thank you very much.