The Practice of Breathing with a Patient
It is a method many have found to be remarkably useful.
Ask the patient if you can sit and breathe with them for a moment.
Explain that there is nothing they need to do but relax and breathe comfortably.
Watch the rise and fall of their abdomen so as to tune in to their breath rhythm.
Tune into that rise and fall and adjust your respiration rate to theirs, breathe their breath.
After a few mutual breaths have been established, as the patient breathes out, you allow an “Ahhhh” to escape with your simultaneous exhalation. Each time the patient breathes out you sigh a deep and audible “Ahhhh.” Each exhalation is accompanied by your “Ahhhh.”
The patient need do nothing, though they can join in if they wish. (How often do wholly pay attention to what patients say, let alone take on their breathing pattern?)
Often something quite unexpected occurs. The two beings meet in a oneness that is so deep and so simple it is surprising. This meditation may be maintained for minutes or an hour as one wishes, sharing the “Ahhhh,” melting together into the vastness.
“Ahhhh” is the great sound of letting go.
The relaxation that results dissolves tension and pain into a sense of oneness. After sharing this experience a few times, the patient then has a means of centering their own consciousness for themselves.
They may use it at four in the morning, when all seems desolate, when the pain seems greatest and sleep impossible, they might find their own breath and sigh out-loud “Ahhhh” with each exhalation, allowing tension to melt away and create more space in which to experience their situation.
Bless the Nurses
Quoted almost exactly from Stephen Levine’s book, Who Does? Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, 1982, pp 166-167.