04/28/2006 08:33 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Every Breath You Take

You can learn a lot about relationships by paying attention to other people's breathing. Breath awareness is a time-tested way of training attention, and most agree that tuning into their own breath is useful. But it is less well known that you might glean valuable information about others by paying attention to their breathing -- you might see a snapshot of your relationships in their breath.

Nowhere do relationships and breathing connect more literally than when rowing on a crew team. My daughter is on one and in the spring we travel to spectacular settings throughout California where high school rowing teams compete in regattas. The intensity of her physicality and focus is stunning. She and the seven other girls in her boat, through an almost otherworldly connection, synchronize their strokes and mental effort in a way that is palpable. Their breath powers both the boat and the communication among the crew. Yet, there is equal power in the effortless connection I feel with my son before waking him for school. My priorities become clear as I listen to the easy sound of his breathing while he sleeps.

The snapshot of a relationship may change from breath to breath and the information contained therein can harbor both good and bad news. I celebrated my children's first breaths and I grieved my mother's last breath, the beginning and the end of three of my strongest relationships. My most meaningful bond is with my husband. The depth and steadiness of his breathing is a metaphor for the depth and steadiness of his counsel and friendship.

Breath awareness is one way to train attention, and by paying close attention to others, just as they are, without an agenda, we forge, nurture, and better understand all relationships.