Numbers won’t stay put

candlesMany people find that the number won’t stay put. It merges with the out-breath so that you’re sort of exhaling the numbers. I think that’s fine.

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.

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 think 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 outbreath (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.

2 Comments. Leave new

Hi Bodhipaksa,

Firstly i would like to re-iterate what has already been said and congratulate you on a very well organised, interesting and helpful website on meditation. I think the way you have tackled so many of the small issues on meditation, that are necessary to be understood, in order to progress shows real dedication. Well done and keep it up!

I am relatively new to meditation. This time around i have been practicing mindfulness of breathing for 3 weeks or so…previously i practiced dynamic meditation that involved physical movements creating energy in the body that was then the focus of the meditation…following this i practiced So hum mantra meditation for a while and now anapanasati. I am enjoying it and feel excited about this journey inside, as i have, only fleetingly, experienced the stillness that exists behind my thoughts. I have a question if you would be so kind: when i exhale through the nose i often feel a little uncomfortable in my abdomen where i assume the breathing process begins and ends…it feels as though i am slightly forcing the breath out and it carries a little bit of anxiety in this feeling..not easy to explain! Any idea what it is? Also i was keep hearing about when one is deeply in the meditation there should be only 3 breaths per this true as i often feel like my in breath and out breath and quite short and frequent…like i’m grasping a bit for air? Any thoughts very welcome


Hi, Tommy.

It sounds like you’re controlling your breathing, and that this is leading to that sense of gasping for air. I’d suggest that you spend more time at the beginning of meditation, scanning the body and allowing tension to fall away. Eventually you’ll find that you just “forget” to control the breath, and realize that it’s happening naturally and doesn’t need “you” to control it.

You might want to listen to the talk and guided meditation in “Calmness, Contentment, Concentration: Part 1,” over on my personal blog. This focuses on meditation methods that help us let go of the anxiety that leads us to controlling the breath.


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