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  • Jim Gilkeson

Breathing Together: My Conspiracy with a Tibetan Lama (EHV-1)

Part of The Inner Pilgrim and Healer Blog is storytelling. I feel it is an important doorway into our subject of energy healing. There will be at least one more episode in the series on the communication task of energy healing, but here, we'll take a break from all that. It’s time now for a little story about how I learned something that I now use regularly in energywork. I call it my “conspiracy” because of the interesting Latin derivation of that word. To “conspire” comes from the Latin word conspirare, which is made up of com-, together + spirare, to breathe. I hope you will enjoy it.

In 1980 I visited a friend in Sweden who had been selected by the Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Stockholm to be the official doctor for a three year, three month, three week, three day retreat which would be starting soon. Although Meri herself was not a retreatant, she had to be initiated into the retreat so that she could be among those few persons from the outside world allowed to enter the hermitage while it was closed.

I was invited to visit the temple with her. While I meditated in the puja room with its wild array of benevolent and scary faces on the wall, a temple resident tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I would like to meet Lama Nawang. I said I definitely would.

The little Lama led me up a ladder to an attic loft which was his quarters. We had no common language. I spoke no Tibetan and he spoke no more than a few words in any Western language that I knew. So there we sat, I on a creaky chair, he in a lotus position on his army cot, between us a tiny Salvation Army coffee table with a pot of tea and a couple of cookies. We stared at each other until he broke the silence.

“Drink Tibetan tea!”

I did. It had butter in it and smelled of goat. Later I was told it was yak butter. When I stopped, he repeated, louder, “DRINK TIBETAN TEA!” He repeated this a number of times. Each time he said it, I jumped, startled by the penetration of his voice.

“DRINK TIBETAN TEA!!” The way he said it seemed to have nothing to do with drinking tea.

Then we stopped drinking Tibetan tea and stared at each other. I had no idea what was coming. Lama Nawang’s eyes became intense. He took a sudden deep breath through his nose and held it. Reflexively, so did I. He let it out though his mouth and I followed him. Another breath, deep and intense, and then another. Some were loud, some released with a burst of air. Each time I copied him.

This continued. At some point, I stopped copying. It seemed he was still initiating the breath each time, but there was no more lag between his breathing and mine. This simultaneous, identical breathing was suddenly an intense communication between us. At first, Lama Nawang was “breathing” me, so to speak, but as this progressed, it was as if we were both being “breathed.”


I now use this idea of “breathing” another person in healing work. Often in bodywork, when consciously re-connecting with injury or trauma in the body, a person will stop breathing. Quite literally, a part of their body has become “frightened.” The response, almost universally, is the same as when any of us are startled: we—in this case, a part of our body—hold our breath. The release of such a pattern includes a release of the patterned response of stopping breathing. What I do is encourage the person I am treating to keep breathing. Often they are not even conscious that they had stopped. I underline the new pattern by breathing slightly audibly with them, following Lama Nawang’s lesson to me in Stockholm. Just as women who live close together will tend to fall into the same menstrual cycle, the effect of my “modeling” is that my partner will spontaneously match my rhythm and shift into another breathing pattern.

"Breathing Together: My Conspiracy with a Tibetan Lama" is adapted from my book Energy Healing: A Pathway to Inner Growth

The "Wizard's Hat" illustration is by Aimee Eldridge. Used with permission.

Copyright ©, 2017 by Jim Gilkeson. All rights reserved.

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