Breathing for Love

Breathing is our most immediate necessity of life. Without the breath, one would only survive for a couple of minutes. The breath in this way is the life-force, the vital energy, and our closest companion in order to function in this world, both consciously and unconsciously.

The Community Psychology health clinics were none other than incredible, life altering experiences.  On the first day I remember thinking “this is chaotic”, and it truly was.  There was so much happening in one place; children getting immunizations and running around everywhere, women breastfeeding as they shared their stories and dogs being neutered less than five feet away.  What was more incredible than the stimulation around us was the instant that all said distractions seized to exist.  It was the moment that someone sat down with me and the interpreter, ready to share their story.  Nothing else mattered as I stared into the eyes of complete strangers.  Each individual that shared their story touched my heart, and authentic listening was the method for this connection.  The combined power of connecting eyes and authentic listening is both unmistakable and necessary if we desire deeper, more meaningful relationships with ourselves and each other.  

The last day of the health clinics marked a bitter sweet day in my repertoire of memories.  It was the last clinic in relation to the trip, and in my heart I knew there was more listening to be done and connections to be developed.  On this specific day I was congested, with a head cold, and I felt ill.  In addition, the place that we were told people would be waiting for us was instead an abandoned house and it was pouring rain.  As we walked in search of a place to set up there was talk of going back to our hotel.  It was truly remarkable how this day came together.  All we had to do was continue to show up, willing to be space holders, and people would be eagerly waiting to share their stories and have their voices heard.  The concept of council, which includes storytelling and being heard, is a natural human archetype easily accessible with, simply, an open heart. 

On this last day a young man in his early 30’s sat down in front of me with overwhelming feelings about his current living situation.  As he shared, his daughter stood closely beside him with his arm wrapped around her.  He had a beautiful smile on his face that displayed a significant capacity to love and nurture.  Although he had feelings of despair his main concerns was to do right for his family that included a wife and four children.  As a result of the recent floods in Belen, this young man’s home was also occupied by his father and step-mother. This for him meant limited space and privacy. His main complaint was that he felt unable to control himself when he became frustrated and overwhelmed. This behavior was mainly directed toward his wife and young boys, with acts of aggression.  

This young man, so gentle and caring, came to speak with us in hopes of gaining the tools to be less reactive.  Since he wanted to find some peace in light of the frustration, I offered him a breathing meditation to use when these feelings arrived.  I ask him to practice this breath with me and the interpreter.  Immediately his body language shifted.  He sat upright as he inhaled and felt a relaxing sensation within the center of his chest as he exhaled. This feeling has been noted as coming into a relationship with the breath for the very first time. We continued to breathe together until he felt equipped to carry this breath into his daily life. Before he left, I offered him a sacred and blessed amulet of Lady Guadalupe.  To honor their relationship, the amulet was to be given to his wife, along with the breathing meditation that we shared together.  The young man left us, grinning from ear to ear, and feeling empowered to use his breath to shift his mental and physiologically state during those intense moments of frustration.  We held each other in a warm embrace as he thanked us and said goodbye. We (the interpreter and I) enthusiastically moved onto the next person waiting to share their story.

After speaking with a few more people I was told that a woman was waiting to speak with us. As she sat down we discovered that she was the wife of the young man who was reflected above.  The courage this young woman displayed in coming speak with us identified her commitment to her family, which offered a pristine opportunity for them to engage in a breathing meditation together.  I asked her if she loved her husband, and she proceeded to speak with the grandest smile saying, “si, mucho mucho, mucho.”  After practicing the breathing meditation she felt able to effectively incorporate this practice into her life and also become less reactive.  She was also offered an amulet to exchange with her husband, while engaging in the breathing mediation.  The instructions were to use the breath as a way to reflect their deep commitment to one another, to support one another, and to bring a sense of calmness and space into any situation.  With practice, this breath has the potential to become a conduit for communication, unity, and non-reactivity.  

For the opportunity to participate in this type of community development and wellness for Belen, I’d like to thank Gesundheit! and Amazon Promise.  A special thanks to Rosa Aranzabal and Carl Hammerschlag, your dedication and compassion is inspiring.  It was a great pleasure and an honor working with you. Thank you for being my teachers.