Stage 1: Relaxing and Calming With the Out-Breathing

Stage One of this practice involves counting our out-breaths. The reason for doing this is that counting our exhalations subtly brings our attention to the out-breathing, helping to accentuate the natural relaxing and calming effects of this phase of the breathing.  We count silently, just after the end of the exhalation, ten breaths at a time. I’ll say more about that in a moment.

Before we start on Stage 1, it’s helpful to do some preparation — what I call “Stage Zero,” which you can read about here. Stage Zero involves setting up and settling into your meditation posture, then taking your awareness through your body, letting go of any tensions as best you can. To help you do that most effectively, you might want to check out our posture guidelines, then come back and read what’s next.

Okay, now we’re sitting comfortably, we’ll begin…

Sometimes it can be beneficial to take a few deep, long, breaths, or to breath more fully using the abdomen. This is done to encourage the body and mind to slow down. But if this is done it’s just for a few breaths, after which we let the breathing return to a natural rhythm. This is the only time we control the breathing. After these initial conscious breaths, we let the breathing follow its own pace.

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Once you’ve taken a tour of your whole body, begin to notice in particular the physical sensations of your breathing. Let yourself become absorbed in the sensations of the breathing that accompany the breath flowing in and out of your body.

This includes not just the experience of the breath — the contact your body makes with the air flowing in your passageways — but any sensation anywhere that’s related to this. That includes the movements of muscles, joints, and bones, the build and release of pressure in the abdomen, the touch of your skin moving against your clothing. Absolutely any sensation connected with the process of breathing.

Notice how the sensations are always changing.

This meditation is not a breathing exercise, and we don’t control the breath in any way, simply letting it flow naturally in and out. Generally we inhale and exhale through the nose, unless perhaps the nose is blocked.

It’s natural for there to be a slight pause between the end of the in breath and the start of the exhalation, and a slightly longer pause between the end of the out breath and the start of the in breath. Again, we allow the breath to flow naturally, and there’s no question of deliberately holding the breath or controlling it in any way.

Then begin counting (internally) after every out-breath:

Breathe in – breathe out – 1
Breathe in – breathe out – 2
Breathe in – breathe out – 3
Breathe in – breathe out – 4
Breathe in – breathe out – 5

… and so on until you reach ten. If you get to ten, start again at one.

If your mind wanders, just come back to experiencing the physical sensations of the breath, and begin counting again.

Keep following the breath, and counting, for at least five minutes.

Really notice the qualities of the out-breathing. Notice the sense of letting go, the downward movement in the body, the feeling of relaxation as your body releases, and perhaps even a sense of mental calming. The exhalation phase of the breathing has a natural relaxing and calming effect.

Bring as much patience into the process as possible. It’s normal for a lot of thoughts to arise, and from time to time you’ll completely forget you’re supposed to be following your breath. Distraction is a normal part of the meditation process.

You can listen to an MP3 guided meditation that will lead you through the First Stage of the practice by clicking on the player below:

Exploring the Relaxing and Calming Effect of Stage 1

Just tried the first stage of the Mindfulness of Breathing?

Kind of anxious about getting on to stage two?

Okay. Why not consolidate what you’ve already learned, rather than rushing on to do the whole practice as quickly as possible? Heck, the chances are you want to learn to meditate because life is so rushed and hectic, so why not start to relax. What’s the rush? Hang loose!

Try doing the first stage of the practice for a few days. Maybe even try to do it more than once every day. Why not take a few minutes now to plan exactly when you’re going to do it?

I suggest you try five to ten minutes in the morning, and the same in the evening, just before you go to bed. Or maybe a few minutes on your lunch-break? There’s no right or wrong time to meditate, so see what suits you.

Remember that this isn’t an exercise in counting. Counting your out-breaths, specifically, is a way to pay attention to the exhalation phase of the breathing, which has a relaxing and calming effect on the body and mind. There are other reasons for counting our breaths, which you can learn about below.

So try that for maybe three days, and then come back and learn the second stage. Give that a few days (doing both stages) and then come back again. And so on.

You can also think about touching base with your breathing at various times throughout the day. This could be as simple as taking one full, mindful breath in between activities. Or you might stay in touch with your breathing while you’re having a conversation or listening to a presentation. Instead of sitting on the train or bus, letting your mind wander, or (since we don’t like inactivity these days) checking your text messages, try just paying attention to your breathing. If you’re walking — even if it’s just from the car to the building in which you work, or from your office desk to the bathroom — pay attention to your breathing. The breathing is always there for you to notice. And noticing it will always help calm your mind, at least a little.

Play around with the out-breath. Any time you become aware of the breathing during the day, explore the relaxing and calming qualities of the out-breathing. Notice how the body lets go every time you exhale. Notice how emotions like relief and contentment relate to exhaling.

While you’re exploring stage one, you can try to answer any questions you have by exploring the site, and explore the links on this page that deal with stage one.

What Does This Practice Do?

In the short term, the Mindfulness of Breathing practice helps us to become calmer and also to become more energized, refreshed, and alert.

It’s not just about inducing a temporary calming and relaxing effect, though. In the long term, it helps us to develop more awareness so that we have more freedom to choose what our responses are going to be in any given situation. This means, for example, that we can find ourselves in a situation that would normally make us anxious, but we can choose instead to cultivate patience and calmness.

Practicing mindfulness is enormously enriching. Instead of being half-aware of what we’re doing, we can fully and richly experience every moment of our lives. The mindfulness that we develop in this practice will help us to enjoy our food more, will help us to concentrate better at work, and will help us to be more present when we’re talking to our friends. And many people who do this practice last thing at night say that it helps them to sleep and that their dreams are richer.

Mindfulness helps us develop the ability to pay sustained attention, and this is valuable in many ways. Ultimately it’s because we’re able to pay sustained attention to our experience that we’re able to gain spiritual insight. Without this ability we simply skim over the surface of our experience without really learning anything. With it we learn more and more about how to become happier and more fulfilled.

What’s the Counting For?

Flowers have a calming and relaxing effect on the mind

The counting has a number of really useful functions (almost as useful as the breathing, really!).

It’s very easy just to “space out” instead of actually meditating. When we space out we get distracted without realizing it. The counting helps to give us a more objective sense of how much of the time we’re distracted, and how much we’re remaining aware.

Counting allows us to “measure” how long we’re maintaining our awareness. Sometimes it’s hard to stay focused on the breath even for three breaths. Other times we can be aware for several cycles of ten breaths.  In this way, counting gives you a more objective measure of how your mind is, so that you can tell if it’s a “good day” or a “bad day.”

Counting gives us something to aim for. It’s good to have goals. If you keep getting distracted before getting to the tenth breath then you can make a little more effort to reach ten. If you make it that far then you can try to get to ten again. Without the counting it’s hard to have any sense of what you’re working towards.

Often you’ll find that you get distracted at exactly the same point in the counting, over and over again. Maybe it’ll be after the third breath, maybe after the fifth or sixth. It varies. But knowing this, you can prepare yourself by really paying attention to what goes on in the mind and body as you approach the point where you tend to get distracted. Once you’ve made it past the “danger zone” once, you’ll find it starts happening naturally afterwards.

The numbers help us to see if we’re making progress. If you put the effort into your meditation practice then you’ll see results. But how can you see results if there’s nothing to measure them by?

The numbers subtly alter your perception of the breath. When you count after the out-breath then that’s the part of the breathing process that you’re most aware of. So in the first stage of the practice you’re more aware of breathing out, which has a calming and relaxing effect on your being. In the second stage of the practice our attention is moved more to the in-breathing. We’ll talk more about this after you’ve done the second stage of the practice.

Keep Getting Distracted?

Everyone gets distracted during meditation — even people who’ve been meditating for years. You’re in good company.

The first stage in creating a beautiful garden is to realize how many weeds there are to be cleared up. If you feel a bit daunted by the sheer volume of trivia that your mind seems capable of creating then it’s good to remember that you need to know it’s there before you can do anything about it. Also bear in mind that dealing with it will bring you happiness.

It’s as if you’ve just inherited a beautiful garden, which is full of weeds. You can’t just pretend that the weeds aren’t there — you have to do something about it. With a real garden you could always just get rid of it or hire someone to look after it. With your mind you don’t have that luxury. Leave it alone and it will just get worse. The best thing to do is get started as soon as possible on clearing those mind-weeds.

If you ever feel frustration with your distractions, then remember that when you realize you’ve been distracted in meditation you have a choice — you can choose to exercise patience and gentleness with yourself. Getting mad or getting despondent will only make things worse. It’s a bit like kicking the dandelions because you’re annoyed with them; all you’re doing is spreading the seeds even further.

So chill, and patiently continue working at clearing the weeds from your wild mind.

The moment that you realize you’ve been distracted is actually a very valuable one. This is the point at which our natural tendency may be to get annoyed, or despondent, or frustrated. But it’s also an opportunity for us to practice patience, and to be accepting of imperfection, and to be kind to ourselves. And it’s bringing those qualities into being that’s as important, in the long run, as returning to the object of the meditation practice.

It can be reassuring as well to know that there are tools that help us reduce the level of distraction we experience. Simply returning our attention to the breath every time we realize the mind has wandered is very effective in the long term. Counting the breaths is another way to bring more stability to the mind in meditation. Knowing that the out-breathing has a natural calming and relaxing effect on your body and mind helps to accentuate those effects. We’re not helpless. We have all we need in order to calm the mind. We just need to keep making a gentle effort, intelligently using the tools we have available to us.

If the Numbers Won’t Stay Put

Many people find that the numbers won’t stay put. They merge with the out-breath so that you’re sort of exhaling the numbers. This can be a source of worry, but I think that’s fine when this happens with the counting.

The first stage is more connected with the out-breath anyway, and the fact that the number has a way of integrating itself into the exhalation just reinforces that association. The number sliding into the exhale may even accentuate the calming and relaxing effect that naturally accompanies that phase of the breathing.

It’s all too easy, especially when first learning meditation, to find that we get caught up in wanting to do things “perfectly.” We look at our current experience and compare it unfavorably to some imagined state that we tell ourselves we “should” be experiencing, and of course we feel unhappy. There’s no quicker way to make ourselves miserable than to make unfavorable comparisons between how we are and how we think we should be.

So we need to learn to let go and to accept that sometimes things don’t happen the way we expect them to.

In fact it’s probably a good idea, when something like this happens — the numbers not going where we expect them to go — to take a sense of gentle curiosity into the experience. Perhaps the fact that the numbers are merging into the relaxing, calming out-breath (which is all about letting go) is helping us to meet a need to let go more.

Having said that, I think it’s good to work gently at getting the number to go where it’s “supposed” to go — in the space between the out-breath and the in-breath. There are good reasons for this that we’ve gone into elsewhere. But don’t force it. Be gentle. Be patient. And in the meantime, enjoy the calming and relaxing effect of observing your exhalations — wherever the number ends up.

Timing the Stages

Beginners often assume that timing how long they are meditating for will be very distracting. They sometimes wonder if they should use an alarm clock, or some other mechanical method.

Actually, an alarm clock or beeper might be rather jarring and unpleasant, undoing the any calming and relaxing effect the meditation practice may have had. But timing the meditation is not that hard: most meditators just have a clock or watch sitting in front of them. They’ll open their eyes from time to time and see how long they’ve been sitting.

It really isn’t a great distraction. Just make sure to place your clock or watch somewhere that you can see it without having to change the angle of your head or move your eyes. Also choose a device that doesn’t tick, and that has a face large enough for you to see without straining.

If you find that you keep wanting to open your eyes to check the time to an excessive degree, then start observing that urge without opening your eyes. Notice the breathing, and the desire to open your eyes. What happens to that urge as you continue to observe your breathing for four or five more breaths? Probably it loses some of its strength, and so when you do open your eyes to check the time it feels more conscious and deliberate.

There are many specialist timers and apps available that make it even easier to keep track of the time without having even to open your eyes. Often those can be set to ring the stages (if you’re meditating in stages) and mark the end of your chosen time period using a pleasant recording of a bell or chime.

Often I just use my phone’s clock app (with no audible alert). I just have to remember beforehand to change the length of time after which my phone’s screen turns off, and then to set it back afterward.

When You Find You’re Controlling Your Breathing

I recently received an email from a visitor to the Wildmind website. Ken asked:

When practicing breathing, I find that I can not seem to *not* control it to some extent. How can I feel more comfortable with the breath and prevent myself from controlling it? Should I just be aware of the fact that I am doing this and continue on?

This is a very common experience. We get so used to being in control, or thinking that we’re in control, or simply thinking that we ought to be in control, that the conscious mind starts to interfere with the act of breathing — something that’s normally handled unconsciously by the autonomic nervous system.

For most animals the breath is controlled entirely by unconscious parts of the brain. Dogs and cats don’t think about their breathing as far as we know. In a few creatures — such as whales and dolphins — breathing is entirely under conscious control and they have to take each breath as a deliberate action. These animals have a clever way of sleeping with only one half of the brain at a time so that they don’t drown. In humans breathing mostly takes place unconsciously (we don’t stop breathing when we fall asleep) but we can also take conscious control of our breathing when we need to. This is a handy talent — it means for example that we can hold the breath when we’re submerging ourselves in water or walking past an obnoxious odor, and that we can consciously take deep breaths when necessary.

In mindfulness meditation we don’t generally aim to control the breath consciously. Certainly there are times when we may wish to do this for short periods — for example taking a few deep breaths at the start of the practice in order to settle the mind, or slowing the breath when we realize that we’ve become excited — but the words to emphasize here are “short periods.” We only control the breath for a specific purpose and for few breaths, and then we let the breathing return to autonomic control.

Ideally we simply let the breath flow in and out of the body at its own pace, and the job of the conscious mind is to observe the sensations of the breath. Ideally. This doesn’t always work out as we’ve planned, and sometimes beginners to meditation find that they’re controlling the breath. In its mildest forms there may be a slight sense of stiffness or awkwardness about the breathing, but in more extreme cases the muscles involved in the breathing, such as the intercostals (the muscles between the ribs) may become very sore indeed. People sometimes hyperventilate and feel dizzy. None of this is particularly dangerous, but it certainly doesn’t help our meditation practice and can cause distress. So much for meditation being calming and relaxing when that happens!

So what can we do if we find that we develop a habit of controlling the breath?

As Ken suggested in his email, we can just be aware of the fact that we are controlling the breath and simply carry on with the practice. Eventually if we do this we’re likely to find that we’ve forgotten to control the breath consciously. But this can take a long time and this isn’t a very effective approach.

One time, when I was very new to meditation, I found that I was controlling my breathing. The more I noticed that I was controlling the movements of my rib cage and abdomen, the harder it was to let go and simply breathe. My chest muscles were working against each other and as a result they became very sore. The more sore they became the harder it was to just let go and breathe. I was caught in a vicious cycle.

Luckily I had a creative realization that I didn’t need to focus on my chest at all, and I started to pay more attention to the breath in the nostrils, and particularly to the sensation of the breath as it passed over the rims of the nostrils. It occurs to me now that it’s possibly to be aware of the breath in the nostrils but not to control it there. Anyway, I noticed that the more I directed my attention to the nostrils, the less I noticed the pain in my chest. From time to time my focus would slip down to my aching rib cage and I’d sense the discomfort there, and this experience became an incentive to notice the nostrils even more keenly. Eventually I became very concentrated indeed and my chest muscles began to relax and return to unconscious control.

Another approach that can be very useful is to lighten up by bringing more of a sense of playfulness into our experience. One way to do this is to imagine that you’re floating on warm, buoyant water that’s rising and falling in time with the breath. You can really enjoy the rhythm of the waves as they rise and fall.

A similar approach is to imagine that you’re sitting on a swing that’s moving in time with the breathing. You can call to mind the enjoyable, but calming and relaxing sense of enjoyment that you may have got from this activity when you were a child, and get a sense of pleasure from the rise and fall.

One thing that’s going on here is that we’re allowing a sense of enjoyment and playfulness to arise in the practice. This can be very helpful if we tend to take a dry, dutiful, and willful approach to meditation. Another thing that’s happening is that the driving force for the breath is being imaginatively located outside of ourselves, in the waves or in the motion of the swing, and so we’re learning that we don’t have to have conscious control of the breath. Just as the motion of the water or swing is outside ourselves, so the control of the breathing is outside of the conscious mind.

So these are a few approaches to dealing with the difficulty of simply observing the breath without consciously controlling it. There are no doubt other approaches but these are ones that my students have found to be most useful.

Dealing With Ups and Downs

Diane, one of my students, reported the following:

“This morning it was not as easy to concentrate; I had to make more of an effort to keep myself on track. I handled the situation quite easily, noticing that I was more distracted and being aware that it would take a bit more work today to keep myself out of distraction. I did not judge myself or get scared that my practice is falling apart, just acknowledged that it was not one of my better days and went on from there.”

Your meditation practice will always have its ups and downs. This is inevitable in developing any skill. You’ll have good days and bad days, and at first both good and bad experiences may seem to arrive randomly, as gifts – welcome or unwelcome – of the gods. At first this can be dispiriting. You think you’re doing so well; your meditation was so enjoyable, calming, and relaxing yesterday, and here you are today struggling to count to three and feeling that it’s all hopeless.

Diane’s approach to her ups and downs is exemplary. Instead of getting lost in the distracted, reactive states of self-pity or fear, she simply observed what was happening, realizing that the conditions in her mind, for whatever reason, had changed, and that the kind of effort she would have to make had also changed. Change is unavoidable. Life gives us that challenge. And it isn’t helpful to us to mourn the inevitable or to fight change. We have to learn to embrace change, accept that it is a part of our lives, and then respond as creatively as we can: no condemnation, no self-recriminations, just a patient sense of working with whatever comes up.

As Diane went on to say: “I guess I always got the good and the bad, and perhaps now just have more awareness of my state of mind whatever it may be. I remind myself to be especially gentle with myself, that the ‘bad’ is really no different than the ‘good’, it just is.”

This is an excellent observation. Meditation is, above all, the art of dealing with what is.

What’s Next?

If you’ve explored the first stage of the Mindfulness of Breathing, experiencing the relaxing and calming effects of the out-breathing, you may want to start exploring Stage 2. It’s similar to Stage 1 in that it too involves counting our breaths. Yet it feels very different and has a different effect. You can learn more about Stage 2 of the Mindfulness of Breathing practice by clicking here.

You can also learn more about this meditation practice in my book, Wildmind: A Step-by-Step Guide to Meditation.

362 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi Bodhi,

    Thanks a lot for this amazing resource online. I was wondering what you felt about using words along with mindfulness of breath, like what Thich Nhat Hanh suggests. one very beautiful set i came across was radiant (inbreath) peace (outbreath) for me this was what i was working towards a luminacent still quality of mind. Is this helpful in meditation or does it side track the practice. If its helpful are there any particular words you have found to be very useful. Thanks for you kind attention.


    • Hi, Sri.

      I think using words (as opposed to numbers, although they’re words too!) is fine. I love TNH’s

      In, out.
      Deep, slow.
      Calm, ease.
      Smile, release.
      Perfect moment, wonderful moment.

      I sometimes do this myself and encourage my students to do it — not as a regular practice but as a tool to be called on when needed. It’s very evocative of calm, alertness, and joy.

  • thanks a lot for that bodhi :)
    so for the regular practice do you feel that these words might kind of become a distraction & get in the way?


    • Well, silence is good, isn’t it? We need to take a break from thinking, even from the kind of helpful, poetic, evocative thinking represented in that gatha. In the four-stage mindfulness of breathing we abandon the counting after stage two so that we can allow a deeper state of stillness to arise. So I’d say that even the most helpful words and phrases can become a distraction at some point.

  • Hi bodhi,

    thanks a lot for that..that was very helpful..

  • Dear Bodhipaksa
    Good day!!!!
    I am practicing vipasana since 5 months and I am able sit calm and without any distractions for almost 30 min. But, while doing the in-hale my full attention is with in-hale breathe and while exhaling I can feel the (air ) going through out of my nostrils. When I give my full attention attached with in-hale breath ( i can feel/sense) my mind is almost empty or are fully concentrated on the in-hale. Am I doing correct?? is this right step?

  • Dear Bodgipaksa!

    I have a similar problem with controling breath but this is actually happening now for 2 years. And I suspect that I have psychosomatic dissorder because of this… I have a pain in diaphragma, loungs, and headache, even weird feelings on throat and face.. i think i have a blocade in diaphragma.. i try to relax it with spontaneous breathing but it gets on my nerves because I cant get rid of controling my breathing. This pain is sometimes really unbearable and because of this i also cant do things during the day. And i’m really worried about and it makes me depressed.
    What do you suggest? practicing your techniques?

  • Does it matter when meditating that one breaths in & out through the nose, or should one breath in through the nose & out through the mouth? Thank you

    • It’s normal to breath in and out through the nose. I’m not clear why anyone would want to breath out through the mouth, unless perhaps the nose is blocked in such a way that exhaling is restricted. And if that’s the case, then breathing out through the mouth is a necessity.

  • Thank you so much, I’ve come a long way with not trying and gotten some great experiences, however you say that unlearning this habit can take a lot of time. Have you come across this before?

    • I suspect most people have gone through a phase of finding that they control their breathing. Only a few people seem to get “stuck” doing so, though.

  • hey bodhipaksa,

    i have started and following your advice fully. i am building patience and gentleness with myself. As i treat myself roughly. During the body awareness phase i always think i cannot be aware or how do i feel my feet or other body parts. its always a thought. how can i just relax and focus, or how can i be aware? and i do see myself jumping and jumping. I always predict what you will say next….and its kind of uncomfortable. I have also learned that i do this everywhere in life. Even when playing basketball or talking to someone.

    Thank you :)
    With much gratitude

    • Hi, Vrajesh.

      I’m glad to hear that you are building patience and gentleness with yourself. This takes time, of course, and accepting that is one way to practice patience and gentleness.

      I’m not quite sure I understand your question. Are you saying that you think about body parts rather than simply experience them? We definitely need to simply notice the sensations as much as we can. You can try gently moving parts of the body as you notice the sensations. You can also start with the clearest sensations, such as pressure.

      As far as all the predicting goes, just notice that you’re doing this, and try to let go of the habit of judging this. It takes time to let go of these habits, but the great thin is that you’re noticing it. This may be uncomfortable, but it’s a necessary first step, and a good one.

  • To Bodhipaksha,

    To be clear: i listen to your guided audio for stage 1. That aside i will try my best to explain to you what i experience during this stage. I have only done this stage twice. Therefore my lack of experience or practice may be the best answer to my concerns below. I wanted to run them by you first.

    As soon as i have set up my posture, i begin at body awareness as the audio goes. i do not notice anything except, my feet touching the ground or my socks touching against my toes. When going further up my feet i cannot really feel my calves, or my thighs. i have to REALLY try. Does being aware involve your mind or in other words, do i have to consciously feel my feet or imagine them? because this is what it seems like i am doing. I am still experimenting with my posture as i take a few minutes to make some changes as needed right before i start.

    Other things i do feel during is some tightness in my chest that develops maybe from forced breathing or my posture. I also feel myself sitting on the chair along with my shoulders that feel a little heavy and my hands in the “dhyana mudra” position.

    Within a few minutes into the audio, i do start to calm down, breathing does tend to slightly become natural. As i take this to be a good sign.

    My Goals for practicing meditation are as follows:
    1) Enjoy the practice.
    2) Develop clearer/calmer mind.
    3) Anything else that comes with it. :)

    My sense of purpose are as follows:
    1) Set up conditions so that love/joy/happiness naturally arise in my life.
    2) Cultivate kindness towards myself and others.
    3) Learn what thought patterns cause my anxiety.

    Am i planning too much? I want things to be simple and effortless effort.

    “you cannot add simplicity, you can only remove complexity.”

    Let me know what you think.

    Thank you :)
    With gratitude

    • Hi, Vrajesh.

      There’s a lot of wisdom in your goals and purpose. The important thing is not to cling to the idea of achieving these goals, and to be content to work from where you are. Where else can you start? And along those lines, if you don’t have much sensation in the calves, thighs, or any other part of the body, that’s just what you’re experiencing right now. That’ll change with practice. You can also gently tense and relax those parts of the body in order to get your mind used to noticing the sensations there.

  • I can see what matt is saying Bodhipaksha, because i have experienced it also. Matt i feel that now you have choice to engage in the conversation that you wish/choose to be in. Rather than always being in a conversation despite the fact if you are forcing yourself or not. You can now choose to direct the conversation the way it would seem natural to you i think.

    What do you think?

  • This website is Awesome :)

  • I have found a brilliant smartphone app for timing meditation called ‘Meditation Timer’ – it allows you to set a start & rest period & interval period. You can pick different sounds as well, although i’d recommend the bell as others can be quite jarring.

  • I have been meditating for almost 2 months now, and in the last 2 weeks I have been having a lot of difficulty staying focused and I feel as though have to force my breath again , everyday I have been practicing this week. I think it is probably because I am expecting to have a good meditation every time . What can I do about this? And how can I let go of this expectation?

    • You could try dropping a phrase into your mind from time to time during meditation: “It is what it is.” Just drop that phrase in once in a while, but especially when you have a sense that there’s any expectation. Or when your mind starts turning toward what you expect to happen in the future, drop in the phrase “But right now … right now…” and return your focus to your present moment experience. Take care of the present moment with care and attention, and your future experience will take care of itself.

  • I have great difficulty with this – I have an anxiety disorder and find that I am controlling my breathing not just when meditating but all the time. My diaphragm is tight, I feel that I am not taking in enough air, I can’t breathe out fully without forcing it, I usually try to breathe ‘normally’ for a while but end up leaning forwards and taking big gulping breaths or yawning. I end up feeling dizzy and very distressed and it is generally a nightmare. I have been practising meditation on my own for several months and still very much struggle with this. I use a guided meditation which always says ‘your body knows how to breathe itself’ but I’ve never managed to let it do so! I have read a lot of confusing information about the best ways to breathe, and am practising yoga using a DVD, which has more information still, and I end up very confused about where I should be breathing from. My belly, diaphragm and chest all feel restricted when I try to breathe in, and to breathe out fully I feel the need to consciously tense my stomach muscles. When I try not to control my breath, I just seem to stop breathing entirely and hold my breath. I have tried just allowing this to happen, but I will then seem to breathe in an extremely shallow manner until I start to feel very dizzy and faint, and will need to take a big, conscious breath again.

    It does seem a little easier when lying on the floor, so maybe I should just stick to that for a while?

    I found your post very helpful though, and am looking forward to trying those things out. I just closed my eyes for a while and tried a combination of focussing on the breath in my nose, and imagining that I am floating on waves in the sea, and it did seem to help, and it was very useful to read some of the comments here. Thank you!

    • Hi, Sarah.

      I think you may be pursuing a practice that you’re not quite ready for. I’d recommend that you focus on lovingkindness meditation rather than on anything involving focusing on the breathing, for now at least. It strikes me that you’re exploring “the best way to breathe” and also trying to be mindful of your breathing (which essentially just lets the breathing take care of itself — and these two things are doing very different things and are in a sense contradictory. So I’d suggest laying these practices to one side for now, focusing on a completely different practice, and then when you come back to paying more attention to your breathing pick mindfulness breathing meditation (with the aim of having no control) and not try to combine this with notions of “proper breathing” or yogic pranayama exercises.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    I wonder why the breath is the most popular object in meditation. After about 2 years of meditation I started focusing on different objects (I start with the sounds, and then later the whole body) rather than the breath, and my meditation practice became more natural and relaxed. I still feel my breath when I focus on my body (probably better than before), but now I can be neutral, there is no controlling or anxiety.

    So my guess is that there are traditional reasons to focus on the breath and not practical ones -or am I wrong?


    • Well, there are different approaches to mindfulness of breathing, some of which (including the approach I most often teach these days) start with an awareness of sounds and space, and then move more into a general sense of the breathing in the body. In the Buddha’s anapanasati instructions, there’s “I breathe in sensitive to the whole body … I breathe out sensitive to the whole body.” So we’re not being mindful of “the breath” (which is the term you used, and one I used to use a lot although I’m trying not to!) but of the “breathing” and (at least at times) how the experience of the breathing relates to the body.

      “The breathing” as an object allows us to pay attention in a very general way (“the whole body”) or in a very specific and focused way (for example being aware of air touching the rims of the nostrils). This flexibility makes mindfulness of breathing a good vehicle not just for calming the mind, but also for cultivating jhana, which in turn helps us cultivate insight.

  • Thank you for the clarification!


  • There seems to be something a miss with the mp3 on this page. I have tried it on several computers and found issue with it on each. The player is missing entirely most of the time and the one time I was able to see it, it was not functional.

    Thank you so much,

  • Sincere seeker
    May 31, 2013 6:35 am

    I have only started to meditate . Your website is very helpful. My question is relatd to the stages 1234. Do we pass through all stages in one sitting each day or we move through them sequentially as meditation makes progresss over months?
    Also quite alot of times I am not aware of things in day to day to day lifebut just drift with time but have to make myself aware consiously. So is bare awareness or noting used in the latter or the former drifting mode?
    Also I have aproblem with ruminating about past mistakes which I find the most disturbing. I momentarily can let it go but it comes back again on a daily basis with a vengeance. Any suggestions??

    • There’s no harm in taking your time to explore the practice, but most people will go through all four stages in one sit, each day.

      I think active self-forgiveness is essential for the kind of recurring embarrassment you’re talking about. When the memory comes up, notice the unpleasant sensations in your body, and send them lovingkindness: “May you be well; may you be free from suffering.”

      I’m afraid I didn’t understand what you were asking in the middle part…

  • Sincere seeker
    June 4, 2013 6:16 am

    Sorry for not making clear- I meant as sometimes I only realised I am sucked into mental fabrication/ day dream when I am really deep into it. And then it takes some voluntarily directed effort to be mindful of it & work my way out of it. Is it possible to become aware of those very early on before they get a grip on you & how. This is more of a problem in day to day life.

    • Thanks for the clarification.

      I’ve been meditating for 30 years, and I still get sucked into daydreams. The quality of my daydreams has improved, however, and that’s no small thing; much of our distractedness causes us unhappiness because it’s based on ill will, anxiety, etc., and it’s good to do less of that crappy thinking. And I do notice in meditation that I catch my distractions earlier, so that they often don’t take a hold of the mind at all, but are just thoughts that arise into a mindful awareness.

  • Thankyou so much. I found the nostril excercises helpful and the accepting this controlled breathing as a thing As something I can live with. And not to worry about it and blow it out of proportion has helped me. I havn’t controlled my breathing much for over half an hour, this is an achievement as i’ve been conscious of my breathing all day non stop even during my exam. the muscle pain goes away really quickly once you stop doing it. you also need to be optimistic, it will go away eventually in the meantime just carry on with your life

  • Walter Graham Rice III
    June 18, 2013 10:13 pm

    What a wonderful wealth of wisdom. Thanx to all the questioners and answerers. You brighten and lighten my life. I can’t wait to try some of the don’t try ideas.

  • Do you have to count? I’ve been meditating without counting for awhile and now in questioning if it was in vein.

    • It certainly wasn’t in vain! The counting can be a useful tool, but it’s not essential. In fact in this progressive form of the practice we give up the counting after the second stage.

  • please help me or otherwise i think i will die. i am controlling my breathing all day long.
    the problem is that my chest is paining a lot and i am unable to sleep at night. the moment i try to sleep i start thinking about my breathing and controls it. sometimes i feel that there is lack of air for breathing inside me. i am unable to find my natural breathing.
    i have tried lovekindness meditation but nothing happened. please solve my problem. please i am in great pain

    • Hi Raj.

      I’m glad you reached out for help, but you might want to try something like hypnosis. It sounds like you’ve got yourself into a cycle where controlling your breathing causes pain, which makes you notice your breathing, which makes you control it. I don’t think I’m in a good position to help you.

      All the best,

    • Also, Raj, there are several suggestions in the article above. You didn’t say that you’d tried any of them, so I’m assuming you didn’t. And then the question becomes, is asking for help just a way of distracting yourself from actually making changes?

  • Have you tried breathing from your mouth? Open your mouth wide and inhale as deeply as you can. And than exhale as deeply as you can. Do this a few times until you notice your breath calming down. Focus on the naval chakra the whole time. It sounds like you actually have a lot of pent up energies from focusing on your breath in one spot for too long, for instance, someone who inhales through the nose will find that they are now chest breathing too much, which is a shallow breath focused in the head winds. Deeper breathing loosens up the winds of the body.

  • It’s like saying “ah” for a doctor, don’t force your mouth to wide, just be relaxed when doing it.

  • Hello I’m just wondering what i should do if I constantly think about my breathing and feel like if I don’t manually breathe I stop breathing? This feeling occurred about five days ago when I felt like I couldn’t take a deep breath and ever since I’ve been controlling my breath. I got my lungs examined and everything’s fine but I can’t get the idea out of my mind that I can’t breathe automatically. I know I do so when I’m sleeping or else I would die but my whole day is consumed by my breathing. It’s taking a toll on my family and i and I feel like I’m going to be this way forever. As I’m typing I’m manually breathing . It’s almost like I forgot how to let go and let nature take it’s course. Is is ocd? Or anxiety? I’m going to seek a therapists help because I’m afraid I will be this way forever and it scares me greatly. Please any help would be appreciated.

    • Hi, Angela.

      This really isn’t about your breathing. It’s about feeling anxious. So try noticing the sensations of anxiety that arise in the body, and pay mindful attention to them. Tell yourself “It’s OK to feel this.” Notice any thoughts that arise from your anxious state, let go of them, and return your awareness to the sensations of anxiety. Notice where your anxiety is located. What size and shape is it? Does it change over time?

      Try placing a hand on the part of the body where the anxiety seems to be centered. You can rub your hand in reassuring circles, and say to your anxiety, “I love you, and I want you to be happy and at peace.” If your mind rebels at the thought of wishing your anxiety well, remember that it’s just like soothing a frightened baby. You don’t want to get rid of the baby; you want to give it love and reassurance so that it’s no longer anxious. In wishing your anxiety well you’re encouraging your own mind to be at peace.

  • I’ve been mediating for the months now and my eyes are a distraction. They focus, get blurry, refocus, and then begin to play tricks of perception. The pattern on the rug begins to shift.

    I will close my eyes to focus on my breathing but then quickly daydream. So opening my eyes is more helpful. I do the 1/3rd opening of my eyes but then my focus is on the stain of my eyelids. Any suggestions on how to move past this?

    • I very rarely meditate with my eyes open. I’d suggest that if you practice having your eyes closed during meditation you’ll find that you adapt and become less prone to daydreams.

  • Dear Bodhipaksa,

    Thank you so much for sharing all your wisdom and knowledge with all of us. And being compassionate towards us beginning meditators too. Although I do not use your website for meditating, i do read it and especially read all the question answers. They help when I am in trouble/confusion and am seeking some sort of clarification. That in itself is a great help. I cant thank you enough for this great service.
    I did find my answer online today. I am also following most of the advice you are giving beginners. I am a beginner and follow Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings. I meditate with my eyes open and basically watch my (try to) thoughts. I sometimes alternate with breathing meditation. Their path stresses on Open Awareness. Which I really love and enjoy. I am happy to have found this great medicine.
    Thanks again,

  • Good evening,

    I have a question about the breath, not only during meditation but also outside of it. Some history of me, I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder/ panic for about 4 years, and depersonalization for this past year. But I can happily announce that I am almost fully recovered without medication.

    Anyway, meditation has helped me have these creative insights which stay with me and helped me recover. A few days ago, I noticed when I settle into a deep meditative state after about 30 minutes, my breathing finally becomes very subtle and automatic. I reached that stage enough that now I can tap into it almost 24/7, and the fact that I am (this will sound oxymoronic) willfully not controlling my breath has brought my anxiety symptoms to almost zero.

    So, there is only one problem/ question. When I let my body take over the breath, I feel almost like a slight suffocating sensation, like I am not getting enough air. My reaction used to be to start controlling the breath again. But now I let it be, but it stays with me about 50% of my day. Might this be my body readjusting to me finally letting go of controlling my breath after years? Or is it something else?

    • Hi, Joseph.

      It can be very hard to comment on this sort of thing.

      If you truly are just letting your body get on with the breathing, and you’re having this feeling that you’re not getting enough air, then I wonder if perhaps there might be something going on with your posture that’s inhibiting your breathing. I can imagine that a degree of hunching or being closed in the chest might be enough to stop your body from inhaling as much as it would like to. It’s extremely unlikely, I would have thought, that you’re actually not breathing enough. My guess — and that’s all it is — is that you’re not feeling an absence of air but your body fighting against resistance as it breathes in.

      You might want to have your posture checked out by someone who is experienced in such things. A yoga teacher, chiropractor, physical therapist, or Alexander Technique teacher may be able to give you better advice.

  • Hello.

    So I’ve done a lot of research lately and I’ve found that most people think that breathing with the belly or diaphragm is the best ways for humans since it is alot deeper and more relaxing.

    I am normally a chest breather tho and when I’ve meditated in the passed I’ve been focusing on the chest instead of the belly.

    Now I find myself being pulled between chest breathing or belly breathing, I can’t make up my mind what is best. Is it worth putting effort into learning belly breathing? To try to focus the breath more inside the abdominal wall instead of the chest?

    I’ve encountered the same problem as Angela, because of the unsecurity I find myself breathing manually instead which creates a lot of stress. I just can’t make up my mind what I should do.

    Any advice would be great, thank you!

    • For now I’d suggest that you just observe your breathing wherever it happens to be taking place, and that you don’t try to force yourself to breath with the abdomen. Once your system slows down a bit, it may be that you spontaneously start to breathe using the abdominal muscles. But if that doesn’t happen, then you could experiment with taking a few abdominal breaths before letting your breathing fall back into its habitual pattern, or just keep some of your awareness on your belly and see what happens.

  • Everytime I meditate I yawn a lot,my hands move, and I feel tingly all over. Is this normal? I am a beginner.

    • None of that is terribly unusual. It’s hard to say why you’re yawning — it could just be that you’re tired, or perhaps there’s something about your posture that’s cramping the free movement of your breathing. With the hands I’d suggest you just let them be still, as best you can. Sometimes movements are involuntary, in which case just notice them moving, and don’t worry about it. A feeling of tingling is a good sign, though, so I’m guessing that on the whole your meditation practice is moving in the right direction.

  • Hi,

    I’ve been meditating for years and have found it very beneficial. Nevertheless i still cant stop control the breathing, which gives a bad feeling in my ribcage. You adviced paying attetion on the breathing in the nostrils. Here i dont really feel it. Now my question is: is it okay to pay attention to the breath anywhere in the body? For example at the shoulders or the point of contact with the ground? Here i do feel it. And if so, is it the same kind of practice with the same benefits?

    Another related question: is paying attention to sounds the same kind of practice with same benefits?

    thanks in advance

    • Hi, Sak.

      I’d suggest persevering with noticing the breathing in the nostrils (or in any of the passageways in the head). As you continue to work at this your brain will actually change, and you’ll develop more neurons devoted to monitoring those sensations.

      But it’s also fine to notice any sensations connected with the breathing. In essence you can notice sensations over the entire body that are connected with your breathing — even in the feet and hands, although it may take some practice to notice these. The benefits of this are a bit different compared to forms of mindfulness of breathing where we develop a narrower and more intense focus. It’s not better or worse, just different. Both approaches are actually valid and complementary. It’s best to do both.

      Listening to sounds can be a good practice, but again the benefits are different. Your attention is more directed outward, and you’re not paying as much attention to the body. Mindfulness of the body is a very important quality to develop, since a deeper appreciation of the body leads to a deeper appreciation of our feelings, the mind, and how the mind works.

  • hi,
    First of all thank you very much for your answer, it’s nice that there is somebody that can answer such questions (god bless the internet! :) ).

    You said that it is a possibility to experience the breath through the nostrils and i will try this. But now my question is, is there a prefered place to notice the breath. The reason is that i have read so many things: 1) notice your breath in your abdomen, 2) notice the breath where it is most obvious(if it is in the chest feel it in your chest)3)Just choose a spot on your body and stick with it throughout the practice and 4)notice the breath in your nostrils.
    The reason i ask this, is that i have some doubts lately about my practice (it’s been a long time since i learned it and was able to ask questions) And now i would like to have a clear guideline and continue :)

    What i am doing now is focusing on the abdomen although i’m someone who breaths mainly via my chest(what i first learned). Often this doesn’t feel comfortable, but i’m not considering this a very big problem. The reason why this isn’t a big problem is that throughout my years of meditating there has always something bothering me. And i’ve always tried to mindfully accept this. In the beginning the object bothering me was being always distracted, now it is controlling the breath. This has always made my meditation uncomfortable and not relaxing as most people experience it. HOWEVER, i’ve really benefitted greatly from meditating and became less stressed, more relaxed and stable. But not during my practice.

    A long explanation to ask if i should start noticing the breath in the nostrils or continue in the stomach. Or maybe where it is the most obvious.

    Sorry for the bad english, i’m not a native speaker. And for the long read, finally it’s possible to out some doubts :)

    • Hi, Sak.

      Your English is excellent. As you’ve noticed, there are varying instructions on where to pay attention to the breathing. I tend to suggest starting with noticing the breathing where it’s most prominent. But I always think that the real benefits of the practice come where you notice the breathing where it’s not so prominent. For example, if you’re paying attention to the abdomen, are you experiencing all of the skin covering the abdomen? After all, it’s constantly in motion, and there’s a changing patten of sensations as the contact with your clothing changes. So do you notice that not just on the front, but on the sides and the lower back as well? Do you similarly notice the movements of the muscles all around the abdomen — all the way to the spine? Do you notice the sensations deep inside the abdomen, including the diaphragm?

      It’s also interesting when we notice the breathing in more than one place at one time. For example if you notice the breathing in the abdomen and also in the nose, what happens?

      These things I’m suggesting can lead to the mind becoming calm very quickly. And once you’ve done that you can refine your focus and pay attention to just one part of the breathing, with full attention.

      Sorry for the delayed reply, by the way. I had a busy week, and then was on holiday with my children. I’m only just starting to catch up.

  • Hello,

    I’ve been interested in meditation and mindfulness for quite a few years. I’ve struggled with anxiety and have found mindfulness and breathing excersizes to be helpful. Recently I was hit with a bout that was more intense than I have ever experienced before. I became “locked in”, as some have referred to it, to controlling the breath. I realize that if I became relaxed enough my breathing would settle back to normal, however I have been unable to reach that point for some months. I’ve recently found that if I block out/let go of the string of negative thoughts that accompanies the anxiety I am able to become quite a bit more present and my breathing becomes more in the background, although still not effortless. I’ve also noticed that if I take full, conscious deeper breaths I go to a place where I feel much more relaxed, but the breaths feel somewhat forced and the relaxation fades shortly after. My question is should I practice these deeper breaths during meditation although they feel somewhat forced or should I try to focus on some other sensation altogether?

    Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks!

    • I don’t think that in general there’s anything wrong with consciously taking a few deep, full breaths at the start of meditation. In fact I often suggest it.

      The main thing is your belief that you’re consciously controlling your breathing, which isn’t, I suspect, what’s actually going on. I think that what happens in these cases is that two unconscious mechanisms are warring over which controls the breathing.

      I had three thoughts. The third one was that it might be helpful if you tried hypnotherapy, which can be an excellent way to change how your unconscious mind operates. That way you might be able to persuade that extra “module” that it doesn’t need to try to control your breathing.

      The second was to wonder whether you’ve tried any of the advice above. (A surprising number of people glance at advice, don’t practice any of it, and then ask for advice. Humans are funny!)

      But the first thought I had was for you to notice how other movements of the body function perfectly well without so-called conscious intervention. For example, catch yourself in the act of walking, and notice that there is no sense of conscious control being sent to the feet, calves, thighs, and hips. It all just happens, smoothly and elegantly, under unconscious control. Notice your hands as you type. Notice your hands picking things up. Notice your jaws and tongue and throat functioning in a coordinated way as you eat and swallow. Notice your body moving around as you work or cook. It’s all beautifully and elegantly happening without conscious control. Trust your body. It knows how to do stuff like breathe.

  • Hi,

    I’ve been meditating for some time now, but at the moment I’m in a difficult place in my life and meditation makes me angry. It’s not like I’m becoming more aware of my emotions, meditation is actually making me more frustrated/restless than I already am. I’ve been trying to “let it go”, to observe my emotions, to send metta to angry and sad parts of me. I know that striving is the problem, but not striving in itself becomes striving for me now. Could you please recommend me something?


    • Hi, Lorelei.

      Are you just doing mindfulness of breathing, or are you also doing lovingkindness meditation? Lovingkindness can help a lot with frustration, once you’ve found your way into regarding painful feelings with compassion.

      Sometimes being more mindful of feelings that arise in the body does lead to increased surges of anger and frustration. It’s as if the attention we’re taking to our feelings magnifies them, and so we’re prone to over-react. In the last few years I’ve given lovingkindness meditation (and the practice of lovingkindness in daily life) a higher profile in my own life in order to counteract that effect. I’d found that a couple of times, to my shame, I’d lost my temper quite badly, and I needed lovingkindess to be a more constant force in my life.

  • Hi,

    Thank you for your answer. Yes, I’ve been doing both LK and MB (one in the morning, one in the evening). After I wrote my comment, I decided to try to do the self-hatred meditation for a little bit before mindful breathing. Trying to be more compassionate of the pain I’m experiencing. It has helped me a lot, actually, like the effort of resisting this pain could now be channeled into mindfulness.

  • Thank you for your answer it is very usefull.

    I have to say i have found my biggest help in a different section of your website. Last couple of months i had an unpleasant feeling during meditation because of breathing through my chest. A week ago i read the need to sit very straight, something i forgot through the years. Since i make sure i sit straight, i breath with my abdomen again and the unpleasant feeling is gone.

    no question here :)

  • Hi,

    For a while now i have been meditating just watching my breathing, going in and coming out.
    During this, mostly, i find myself unable to feel my breathe even. Its very heavy and i have a difficulty focusing. Here are few doubts i had in my mind, it will be great if you could put some light on it.
    1) So if im watching my breathe going in, do i follow it going through my nose, abdomen, stomach, basically till i can(its mostly till my stomach)OR there is a certain path of the breathe i need to follow??
    2) Do i forcefully breathe if i loose track of my breathe? Most of the times i do since i am really struggling to even find my breath. If not then how do i go about this because i feel i dont breathe enough:-)
    3) if i try to focus on my breath then my mind wanders and wanders. It feels like the breath is running from left to right, never calm. Thats normal distraction to happen right? how do i deal with this?

    Thank you for your time

    • Hi, Shishir.

      i find myself unable to feel my breath even.

      Try noticing the breathing, not the breath. Half of your body (at least) is directly involved in the breathing process, so there’s plenty to notice.

      Have you tried listening to any of my guided meditations, like this one? You might find that helpful.

      All the best,

  • I m finding that I consciously control my breathing all the time means whole day. I am not able to concentrate on anything. Give me some idea and.suggestion how to get away with it.

    • There are several suggestions in the article you’ve commented on, Kaushal. You don’t say anywhere that you’ve tried putting any of them into practice.

  • Dear sir,

    Am practising meditation. on the course sometimes i feel a very gud control over my thoughts. somedays i vl b completely in present, living moment by moment. when i think of some situation whr i culd not talk to people n feel shy i get entagled in tht. i again land up in shy nature. plz suggest me wht i can do about it.

    • Hi, Kavya.

      I’d suggest you read this comment that I wrote just a few minutes ago. It was written to someone in a different situation — she was experiencing sadness rather than shyness (I’m assuming you’ve been feeling anxious?) but the approach I’d suggest is just the same.

  • Hi
    Thnx for responding. I tried one of ur above technique nearly from last 5 days. But still I m finding difficulty to let go breathing consciously. My mind always breath consciously except at the time of sleep. I feel like my head always carry a weight and it is very heavy and in a States where no thoughts came into my mind and I am not able to concentrate on anything. I am not able to relax my body and mind. It is nearly happening from 1.5 years when I first started to meditate. So please suggest me what I can do to let go concious breathing and can meditate properly.

    • I’d suggest that you find a good hypnotherapist, Kaushal. It may be that using your own resources you’re not easily going to find a way to “forget” to control your breathing.

  • I have been meditating for a long time, and I have never had a problem with not able to stop controlling my breath. Recently this month though, I don’t seem to be able to breathe naturally. I find that I’m stopping my breath flow unintentionally. If I meditate for 10 minutes only, I find that I have stopped breathing normally and have to start gasping for air for several minutes. I even have to consciously take very deep breaths for a while after my meditation practice to get enough air. Before I usually meditated 20 to 30 minutes and I never had any problems with not able to breathe naturally. Now, this is happening. Also, these breathing problems don’t just stop with meditation. When I am sleeping, I sometimes wake up with a painful throat and have to breath in and out continuously to fell good again and go back to sleep. Also, when I’m awake, I occasionally start to unintentionally start noticing and stopping my breath 4 or 5 times each day. I have to then take some conscious breaths to fell normal again. When I meditate, I actually fell bad. My throat starts hurting so much. Do you know how to fix this so that I can naturally breath throughout my meditation practice?

    • Hi, Dev.

      I’m afraid that I don’t have any easy answer for you. I’d suggest, though, that you switch from mindfulness of breathing to lovingkindness meditation. You might also want to explore this issue with a skilled hypnotherapist, who might be able to help you train your mind to allow the breathing to happen naturally.

  • I investigated about Buddhism and meditation when I started having these uncontrollable experiences at bedtime on a regular basis right before falling asleep, where I could feel my body go into sleep while my mind was fully awake. As a result, I would enter this state where I felt fully paralyzed and not feeling any senses as if my body was not even there. Then, I would notice a strong sense of vibration throughout the body. Sometimes it would follow by a sensation of floating in the air which was a quite interesting experience. It sure was very frightening at the beginning due to not being able to move or snap out of it at will and hearing whispers which freaked me out the most. Over time, I got used to the sensation and how to deal with it by not paying attention to it.

    Is this what you are supposed to experience meditating? If so, I can’t even come close to that sensation while sitting. . At least not yet, after 10 months of daily meditation. I can often induce that experience laying down concentrating for a long time. Problem is, once I enter that state, it usually does not last very long, as I eventually fall asleep. I have not experienced it at night for a while now. Not sure why it stopped all of the sudden. Also, I keep reading how you will feel an enormous sense of joy during mediation. I can’t recall feeling joy during all those experiences.
    Is anyone able to comment a bit on all this.

    • Hi Sam.

      All kinds of experiences can arise in meditation, including things rather similar to what you’re describing. But they’re not the point of meditation. Meditating isn’t about “getting” experiences, but about changing the way that the mind works. Gradually we’re training the mind to be more present and less reactive to our experience.

      Even when the kinds of experience you describe arise in meditation, we just acknowledge them and carry on with the practice.

      Joy can certainly arise in meditation, and it’s very welcome when it does. Paradoxically, it’s more likely to arise in the relaxed state of mind in which we’re not focused on experiencing joy than it is in the slightly anxious and grasping state in which we want to be happy.

  • Thank you for the response. So let me see if I understood this correctly . When meditating, one should just establish one pointed concentration at all times and let the concentration deepen as far as it can. Am I supposed to do anything once in deep meditation? Should I just observe the sensation without labeling it? Or should I contemplate with certain thoughts/ideas since the relaxed mind is capable of understanding the truth better?

    • I don’t know enough about what’s going on in your meditation to be able to say anything very specific. There is a process of deepening, but that process can be rather different depending on which states are arising, and that’s where I don’t know enough about what you’re experiencing. In general, though, I’d suggest just “hanging out” with whatever state arises, and letting it naturally progress to deeper levels. Trying to push on willfully can be very unhelpful.

  • Its a problema just trying to notice the fisic sensations of breath in the nose, without the counting thing?

    PS – Sorry for my english.

    • It’s not a problem at all. The counting is just a tool. You can use it or not, depending on whether you find it helpful.

  • So ive been meditating every day for almost a month now and I feel great. The weirdest thing that happens now is strange but oddly interesting. I have always had this ringing sound in my ears from a young age and I don’t have any hearing problems that I know of. Since i started meditating its sounds like someone is moving the antenna of an old tv while its on a static channel with the volume down (the best I can describe it lol) like I’m super close to it or something. Now when meditate it gets weirder with every breath until the point it feels like someone is standing next to me, if im not meditating but just focusing on the sound it sounds like its “tuning”. It’s pretty cool. Has anyone else experienced this?

    • Hi, Jay.

      Sorry for the long delay in my replying, but I’ve had a very busy summer and couldn’t keep up with the comments on the blog. It could be that you have mild tinnitus, but I really don’t know, I’m afraid. I know that the kind of thing you’re trying to convey is very hard to communicate, and I’m not entirely clear what it is you’re experiencing. Generally, though, I’d suggest acknowledging and accepting the sounds as part of your experience, but not paying any special attention to them. In other words, just keep on with the practice!

  • Hi – I have asthma, so I do not like…at all….focusing on my breathing during meditation attempts. I start to feel very tense and panicky. Can you please suggest the next best thing?

    • I can see how that could be a problem, Chris. The next best thing would probably be a body scan…

  • now i don’t unintentionally stop my breathing anymore
    however, i do still do this when i try to do meditation
    you know deep breathing in and out
    i am looking into loving kindness meditation
    I’ve read about it and think it would be helpful
    for some time i had quit meditation for a while
    but now i think loving kindness will help

  • Do you think its possible to reset the body’s amygdala by sleeping for extended periods of time to induce large portions of uninterrupted uncontrolled breathing?

    • I’m guessing, of course, because if this has been researched then I haven’t heard of it, but I’d imagine that getting sufficient sleep would help in regulating the amygdala. I certainly find that a lack of sleep leaves me feeling raw and exposed, and makes it hard for me to regulate my emotions. But I don’t think you’re going to be able to “reset” the amygdala just by sleeping. I think it takes ongoing emotional reassurance in daily life to help quiet down the activity of the amygdala, so that in the long term it becomes less active.

  • Hi, I am doing meditation from last 2 weeks on breaths. I need a small help in understanding the deep meditation. In deep meditation, if you are observing your breath and any sensations,sounds then how it can be thoughtless or deep stage? Can you please guide me?

    • In very deep meditation, thought can indeed cease. But the things you talk about — observing the breathing and other sensations — are not thoughts. Thoughts are where we have internal speech about our past, present, or future experience, often accompanied by images. That’s what stops. Sensations aren’t thoughts.


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