What does Somato Respiratory Integration have to do with Buddhism?

“God’s delay is not God’s denial.” I have heard those words over and over, more frequently, in the past several years.  It seems as if no matter how hard I try, if I do start to get ahead, something always seems to happen and I end up in worse shape than I was before.   And, with the situation I was currently being challenged with, I began to think that god, goddess, universe, buddha, or whatever you want to call it, had a vengeance against me.  It was utterly depressing. And I would do anything rather than feel that degree of hopelessness.

So, I decided to seek out guidance from those people I respected within my Buddhist community. The Buddhism I practice was reintroduced to the world in 13th century Japan, by a monk named Nichiren Daishonin. Nichiren had many severe hardships in his life (he was almost beheaded, exiled, etc) and got thru them by chanting the title of the Lotus Sutra, Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. The Nichiren Buddhist community focuses heavily on the fact that we are all inherently buddhas and therefore no matter what obstacles we encounter, it is our manifestation of that buddha-hood, our determination to win, no matter what the odds that develops a strong sense of self and the illumination of our buddha nature, thus, thereby helping others to remember their buddha nature. Everywhere I turned within the community I heard people exclaiming how their lives had magically changed and how wonderfully they are doing now all because of chanting Nam Myoho Renge Kyo.

Well, if that was the case, I wondered, why do I seem to be facing challenge after obstacle after difficulty with no respite? And, moreover, I have been chanting for several years now and I still feel as if I am pushing a boulder made of razor blades uphill. I was told “now, all you need to do is chant more,” or “you need to participate more in Buddhist activities and then all your problems will be solved,” or “you probably are not chanting with ‘enough determination’ to overcome the obstacles in your life.”  Enough determination? I didn’t know you could have only a little determination, and that more was desirable. This was advice?! It was garbage! And, it did nothing except further cement me into the thoughts that the entire universe was out for my blood…actually, if I am being really honest, my life. So I stopped attending meetings and while I continued to chant on my own, it was lackluster at best.

I found myself slipping deeper and faster into what seemed like an endless pit of suffering. The chanting didn’t seem to help. The more I tried to chant the more I would have these overwhelming panic attacks that I desperately tried to hold at bay. My inner voice kept saying “You know how to get out of this, you help your clients everyday reorganize from things worse than this.” Yet, all I could do was tell my inner voice to shut up. I wasn’t interested in hearing what it had to say. And, the times I did listen I quickly dismissed what it was telling me because the suffering I was in felt so familiar.

I was alone.

I was the only one going through something like this.

It’s been like this my whole life, it was never, ever going to end.

Really, it was never going to end.


This went on for a period of weeks. I got to the point where there was no way out. So, I did the only thing I knew would help.

I surrendered.

I let go of the need to stop the suffering.

I stood still and said ‘eat me up, I am not running away anymore, I feel like I am going to die anyway so just kill me get it over with.’ I let the panic, the anxiety, and the dread wash over me. I felt like I was as big as a grain of sand on the beach watching the tsunami wave approach, looming larger and more terrifying until it crashed on my head tossing me around. At first the need was to right myself, find the surface and take a big gulp of air. I fought that instinct and instead I relaxed every muscle of my body, let the air out of my lungs and observed the inky stillness that entombed me.

Deep sobs began to roll out of me, slowly at first and then more quickly and with greater intensity. In between them, I started to see my life flash before me. I saw all the times of deep suffering and the times when I wanted to just run away from feeling hopeless. I also then saw how I would blame anyone and everything I could think of (including myself and my perceived shortcomings) to really avoid how and what I was feeling. Blaming felt good!  Yet, the more I blamed, the less it felt satisfying because all of a sudden there was a nagging voice in the back of my head saying ‘hey buddy—the only common denominator in all of these situations is you.’

Once I recognized that, I looked at my current situation and felt a single-mindedness, a resolve, like I have never felt before. One so deeply rooted in a sense of self that was committed to win, no matter what it took, that the energy seemed to come rocketing through my body.  The energy carried with it a sense of winning at life—at all costs, one that would illuminate the world and igniting the buddha spark deep inside me. This energy is a resource that I never knew existed—well, at least not at this level.

I have moved through the Sacred Seasons of Discover, through Stages 1-3 of Somato Respiratory Integration (SRI) many times over the past 20 years. I have been immersed in the suffering and then wanted to blame. I have even recognized my role in my own suffering. Yet, this time was different. In the past when I would make that sacred journey I picked up pieces, and conceptualized the rest. This time it was a purely experiential journey without any concepts.  This time it was fully embodied. And, this was the first time I knew what my fellow buddhists were all talking about. The chanting is not a magic mantra that will make all your dreams come true anymore than getting entrained or doing a particular stage in SRI is a magic key to solving all your ills. They both allow you to discover the energetic resources you have available to you, transform the patterns that have kept those resources at bay while reorganizing your life.  At the same time you are reorganizing your life you are awakening others to their own light, their own buddha nature, their own connection to themselves and the perfection of their incarnation.