Breathing Together, Becoming One

This is a very simple Practice, and yet it is one of the most powerful in the entire Seishindo repertoire.

As usual I suggest reading through all of the instructions before actually beginning.

This Practice requires at least one partner. You can do this Practice with a friend, a spouse, your child, a colleague, a fellow student. This Practice is fantastic to do with anyone you are in a committed relationship with, personal or professional. It is an excellent way to help people better understand and appreciate each other, from a heartfelt sense of being somatically connected to another human being.

You can also do this Practice with multiple people. For the sake of simplicity I will explain the Practice as if you are doing it with just one person. After that feel free to improvise. I will describe a possible variation or two at the end.

Allow for at least five minutes for this Practice. You might want to go ahead and set an alarm so you won’t need to think about the time. Five minutes is a fine time period. Later as you feel fully comfortable with the Practice you can experiment for doing it ten minutes at a time.

1. You and your partner sit facing each other, certain to be at a distance that is definitely comfortable for the both of you. About the same distance as a usual conversation can be fine. Both of you with both feet on the floor, and your hands resting easily on each leg.

2. Take some time and look at each other. The idea is to be comfortable looking at the other person, without feeling that you need to stare, or that you are being stared at. A soft focus gaze usually works best. Have a sense that you can let all of your facial muscles relax, and that through your eyes, and through a relaxed face, you can really offer your partner a clear understanding of who you are.

3. Without saying which one of you will start out as the leader, one of you begins by breathing deeply through the nose, and then slowly exhaling through the nose. I normally suggest starting with a breath interval of four to five seconds in each direction. A bit more can be OK, if it seems that your partner is OK with a deep breath. As much as you can do so comfortably you are meant to breathe in and out for the same interval of time. So for instance, four seconds of inhale, and four seconds of exhale. If you switch to a five second inhale then you exhale for five seconds as well. I usually count my heartbeat and use my heartbeat as my clock, but you can also of course simply tick off the seconds in your head. If you start out as the leader, it is important to not hold onto being the leader. After three or four rounds of breathing, ease off just a bit and give your partner the chance to be the leader, with you adjusting to them. You can signify the changing of roles with a simple nod of your head. If you start out as the person following, there is no need to have to “all of a sudden” get in synch with your partner. Take your time to get in synch with them. Once you have both been the leader, then there is no longer a leader. You both take it as your job, to comfortably adjust to the other person as necessary. Inhaling and exhaling, inhaling and exhaling, while staying connected to your partner with your breath and your gaze. It is important that you both keep your eyes open and that you do not drift off into your own world and lose touch.

4. As you are breathing and staying connected with your partner, allow yourself to also notice all of the sounds in your local environment, all that you can see without moving your head or your eyes. and the motion and internal sensations you feel.

5. Debrief by telling your partner about your experience. Please be careful to not tell your partner the “opinions” of them you might have had as you looked at them. You do NOT want to say things like “You seemed scared.” Or “You looked angry.”
Mainly you want to talk about what you felt, and if you are careful to not denigrate or upset your partner in any way, you can share what you FELT as you were looking at them, with them. Being gentle with your discussion is crucial, because you might be surprised to discover just how vulnerable and or connected your partner feels when doing this Practice. The words you speak will often have a “bigger” meaning than in a more everyday context.

That’s it! Simple, yet most people report having a lovely, powerful experience.

Variations on a theme:
A. With an emotionally troubled or sick child you start out by breathing at the same pace as the child. At a certain point in time (Two, three, five minutes?), simply by being in synch with the breathing of the child you will notice that their breath slows down some and that they become emotionally more comfortable.

I have done this numerous times when on airplanes and a child who I have never met is acting up. Most often I will do this as their parent struggles to control them. It is usually important to get the child’s attention by making a funny face or something similar. It is quite fine for the child to stay with their parent (in fact this is almost always best.) I usually do not make a statement to the parent ahead of time, because I feel that what I am doing is quite non-invasive and definitely friendly. Up to you, though. When done correctly this form of joining with the child’s breathing can really create minor miracles. Even if the child is sitting a few rows up, no problem at all, as long as you get their attention every once and a while so that they know you are there. For me it is pretty usual that the child will be nice and mellow and perhaps even asleep, with five to ten minutes maximum.

With your own child, if they are sick, and comfortable with the idea of this Practice, you can put your hand on their stomach as they lay in bed. Start out by matching their breathing, as your hand rises and falls along with their stomach. When you feel you have a good match you can then use the pressure of your hand to indicate that they slow their breathing down a bit, if it is your intuition that this would help. In the beginning you do not want to explain the whole process to the child because you do not want them to be thinking about whether they are “doing it right” or not. They will intuitively understand what the various pressures coming from your hand mean. At this point my daughter knows all about all of this stuff and she will often ask me to breathe with her.

Simply breathing with your child, without even touching, can be an excellent way to help them to go to sleep.

B. As I stated up top, this is an excellent Practice to do with a life partner, especially if the two of you have been having some trouble in your relationship. In this case we suggest you do it as described in the instructions, and sitting in chairs.
No matter what, it is important to not turn this Practice into a sexual encounter, unless you take a break first, and only then begin in with something else. Why? Because people need to feel fully safe at a time like this, and even with a partner that you are getting along with, it is important that they do not feel like they might need to “perform.”

C. You can of course also do this Practice with any and all other adults. Whenever you touch anyone else, you want to be certain that they are comfortable with your touch, and that you are emotionally clear about what you are and are not doing. It would be a very serious mistake to do this Practice with someone that you are not currently intimate with and turn it into something sexual.

D. This is an excellent Practice to do as a member of a team. Especially a sports team. If you do it with more than one other person, you can start out by alternately looking at the other people and then going to a soft focus gaze to where you are not looking at either person. In this case you will want to adjust your seating so no one is sitting directly in front of you.

E. If you have an even number of people, you can also do this in rounds, first sitting opposite person 1 for a few minutes and gazing at them, then getting up and switching seats, and sitting in front of person 2.

F. This Practice is also great to do with pets. Especially if (a) Your pet is not feeling well. Or, (b) You are feeling a bit down.

Whatever works for you. There can be many variations on this theme.