Gero-Punk Meditation: Smile at the gap

shrineBreathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.) 1

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in and my breath is forced.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I smile at my forced out-breath.). 2

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am hearing a sound. What’s the sound? Let sound be sound.) 3

Breathe out.

(There’s that sound again. I think that I am hearing a song sparrow. Oh, wait: Let sound be sound.)

No breathing. Just the gap between breathing out and breathing in. 4

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I sort of know that I am breathing in. I also sort of know that I am beginning to think about things other than my breath.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I know for certain that I am thinking and what I am thinking about is my daughter Isobel.)

No breathing. Just the gap between breathing out and breathing in.

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am thinking about Isobel who is soon moving far away to New York to begin college.).

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I know that when I am thinking about Isobel moving far away I feel what is called “anxious” and “excited,” and also “ambivalent.”)

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I wonder what it will be like when it is time to say goodbye to each other. When we were having brunch the other day, I asked her what her thoughts were about our upcoming trip to get her moved to and settled at college. Isobel requested that we only say goodbye once and that we don’t draw out our farewells longer than necessary, as she’ll be feeling very tenderhearted. This means that after I help her move into her dorm room I will probably leave campus immediately, missing the parents’ reception and other events. This means that once I leave campus, I won’t see Isobel again for four months. This means that I will be missing Isobel.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I feel my mind slide to the side. I feel my cheeks flush. I feel my chest cave in.)

No breathing. Just the gap between breathing out and breathing in.

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am gulping for air. That was a big gap between out-breath and in-breath! But the big airless gap between out-breath and in-breath saved me. The gap urged me back from my story about saying goodbye to Isobel to the immediacy of my breath. I smile at the gap.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. And I giggle because I know that I replaced the story about Isobel with the story about the gap.)

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Wait: What’s that sound?)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I wonder, is that the sound of Isobel stirring? Is that sound the sound of Isobel waking up? Is that sound the sound of Isobel waking up on one of the last mornings she’ll be living here with me?)

No breathing. Just the gap between breathing out and breathing in.

Breathe in.

(Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Let sounds be sound. Let Isobel be Isobel.)

Breathe out.

(Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out. I smile at my out-breath. I smile at Isobel.)

 ***

1. This instruction — “As you breathe in, you can say to  yourself, ‘Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in.'” — comes from the Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hahn.

2. This instruction — smile at your out-breath — also comes from Thich Nhat Hahn.

3. The statement, “Let sound be sound,” is attributed to the Buddha. It is meant to remind us to practice being present and attending to our raw experiences rather than engaging in conceptualizations and stories about our experiences.

4. I learned about the significance of the “gap” or space in between an out-breath and the next in-breath from teachings by Chogyam Trungpa and Pema Chodron.

About Jenny Sasser

I am currently Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past fifteen years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (8th edition). I live in Portland, Oregon my dog Happy. My daughter Isobel is a Freshman at Bard College in New York state. I have been on the planet 47 years.
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3 Responses to Gero-Punk Meditation: Smile at the gap

  1. helenfern says:

    A brand new adventure in both of your journeys!

  2. mindfulbalancejim says:

    Thank you so much for this posting. I read it out loud as a guided meditation at my Meditation group the other night. It brings together the Four Foundations of Mindfulness in one reflection — which happens to summarize most of the material I tried to present to the students during the past two months. Your insightful sharing helped us integrate breath, body, feeling and thought in one evening — a primary goal of my presentations. Thanks again for doing my job so well.
    Jim

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