Noble Living, Noble Caring, Noble Dying

Power of The Pause: Three Minute Breathing Space

This is a perfect mindfulness practice for caregivers that can be practiced moment to moment. Before entering the room of one who is sick or dying take a moment to check in. You can repeat this practice as often as you need throughout your day—and it only takes about three minutes of time to bring yourself back to a place of awareness and compassion!

Begin by Asking Yourself These Questions

Are you present in your own body, mind and spirit? Is there an event in your life which is pulling your attention? Are there any triggers or reactions occurring from the external environment? Do you feel tensions in the body or discomfort?

Why We Need to Pause

We need to be aware of what we are bringing to the bedside.  Moreover, we should remember that the being who is actively dying or ill is fragile.

We must bring an acute awareness of gentleness, kindness, and quality of being which are life enhancing. Mood states, stress and judgement need to be left outside the door so that when we cross that threshold we are aware and receptive to what is presented—without imposing our opinions or demonstrating reactivity.

This practice is a wonderful alignment and preparation. No one needs to know we are even practicing—and if done correctly the patient and care team feel the difference. And as a result, they cooperate and welcome our presence which makes the task of care-giving easier and more joyful.

This practice also gives the caregiver little islands of rest. However short, these moments add up and assist us in recharging throughout the day. Thus this can be a very meaningful practice.

We begin the practice by tapping into our bodhicitta motivation. We remember that we care for others in order to benefit all beings.

Step 1: Pause of Awareness

Adopt an alert and upright posture and align your spine. Find the place of balance and ease in the body. Take a moment to acknowledge your experience—your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Notice without comment, opinion or judgement—just notice, resting in an attitude of acceptance.

Step 2: Pause of Gathering

Redirect your awareness, your full attention to the sensations of breathing. Notice how the breath feels as it enters the nostrils or mouth, then how it feels as it travels through the body. Notice the qualities of the breath: the temperature, the speed and strength of it. Allow the breath to descend into the body so that the belly begins to rise and fall with the breath. With the abdomen rising and falling with the breath notate each breath. Think, “Breathing in I know that I am breathing in, breathing out I know that I am breathing out.” Use the breath as an anchor on which to place your awareness. Your attention rests and returns to the breath without effort.

Step 3: Pause of Experiencing

Expand this awareness to the entire body and to the environment. Listen to all of the sounds around you. Return to the place where you are. As you enter this moment bring this more spacious awareness into the moment to moment experience of the day.

Refresh whenever possible throughout your day. This practice allows us to recalibrate and step back into grounded ease.

When entering the room or private space of an ill or dying person it is important to be sure you are free of agendas, plans,and be fully present. Before you cross the threshold take in all of the clues, information with beginner’s mind, what is taking place in the room?

Notice what presents itself in the room and compassionately respond with wisdom. Where are you most needed…?

Step 4: Pause of Conclusion

Remember to dedicate your compassionate care to the benefit of all beings.

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Suggested Reading

Dudjom Rinpoche, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, trans. and ed. by Gyurme Dorje and Matthew Kapstein (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1991), vol. 1, pages 468–474.

Ngawang Zangpo, Guru Rinpoche: His Life and Times, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2002.

Nyoshul Khenpo, A Marvelous Garland of Rare Gems: Biographies of Masters of Awareness in the Dzogchen Lineage, trans. Richard Barron (Junction City: Padma Publishing, 2005), pages 41–48.

Padmasambhava, Legend of the Great Stupa, Berkeley: Dharma Publishing, 1973

Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, trans. by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-1999), pages 43-47 & Appendix 5.

Taranatha, The Life of Padmasambhava, Shang Shung Edizioni, 2005

Tulku Thondup, Masters of Meditation and Miracles, Shambhala, 1996.

Yeshe Tsogyal, Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava, translated by Kenneth Douglas and Gwendolyn Bays (Emeryville: Dharma Publishing, 1978, republished 2008).

Yeshe Tsogyal, Lotus Born: The Life Story of Padmasambhava, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 2004.

‘The Life of Guru Padmasambhava’ in A Great Treasure of Blessings, The Tertön Sogyal Trust, 2004.