Stage 3: Mindfully Experiencing the Continuity of the Breathing

In the third stage of this meditation practice we let go of the counting and simply follow the breath as it flows in and out. This is the Mindfulness of Breathing proper, and if I were forced to introduce the Mindfulness of Breathing practice in two minutes then this is what I’d teach — simply paying attention to the sensations of the breath.

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However, by saying that I don’t want to devalue the earlier two stages, which are important aids in helping us to practice effectively in this stage of the practice and important practices in their own right.

Here’s an outline of the practice so far:

Stage Zero

Set up your posture, as described in the posture guidelines, developing awareness of the body and relaxing as best you can.

Stage One

Then, becoming aware of the breath as the central experience within the body, begin counting after each out-breath, counting in cycles of ten breaths. When you notice the mind wandering, gently bringing it back to the breath. Notice the gently relaxing quality of the out-breath.

Stage Two

Moving into the second stage of the practice, begin counting just before each in-breath, again counting ten breaths before starting over again at one. Notice the gently stimulating quality of the in-breath.

When you feel ready, move onto the third stage.

Stage Three

In the third stage of the practice, drop the counting, and just follow the breathing coming in and out. Pay particular attention to the transitions from an in-breath to an out-breath, since those are the places where you’re most likely to become distracted.

See if you can notice the breathing as a continuous process — not as a series of in-breaths and out-breaths, but as a never-ending stream of sensation connected with the movements of the body, and the sensations of the air flowing into and out of the body.

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

The “Gaining Idea” in Meditation

If you’ve been working methodically through this practice you know the score by now. Try doing all three stages for a few days. Practice them every day, if possible, and get to know them well.

Watch out for any tendency to want to skip over one stage (maybe because you don’t like it as much as the others). Each stage has its own special function, so remember to do them in the correct order.

You might want to make your meditation a little longer now, perhaps five minutes per stage, making fifteen minutes.

Shunryu Suzuki, the famous Zen teacher who founded the San Francisco Zen Center and who was a major influence on Western Buddhism, talked about “the gaining idea.” This rather awkward but incredibly useful phrase points to the problem that arises in our practice when we’re hungering for results. We want be enlightened right here and right now. Or we simply want to rush on to learn the whole practice so that we can check that off our list of things to do. The gaining idea is a major hindrance to developing skill in meditation.

As Suzuki Roshi said, “When a gaining idea arises in our practice, it is a sign that our practice is in trouble.” The reason for this is that we’ve actually incorporated our restless, grasping mind into our meditation practice. Our practice has been taken over by the mind that craves, yearns, and tries to appropriate results without following the path that leads to those results.

These attitudes of grasping, craving, and greedy hunger are the very things that cause us suffering in the first place. Because we suffer we want to meditate, because meditation is the antidote to craving and suffering. And then what happens? Our craving takes control of the meditation! It’s as if the antidote to the poison itself accidentally becomes contaminated with poison!

It’s useful if you learn to recognize this gaining idea, this notion that somehow your best interests will be served if you rush through the practice. That notion is false. Meditation is about letting go of grasping so that we can experience freedom. So start doing that now by deciding that you’ll pause where you are right now, and that you’ll explore the stages of the meditation practice and really get to know them before you move on to the next stage.

As part of that exploration come back to this section and read a bit more about the issues that can arise in this stage of the practice.

Remember to Check in With Your Body

Perhaps this is a good time to remind you of your body. I’ve emphasized that it’s important to set up your posture at the start of a period of practice. Doing this provides you with better conditions for meditating.

It’s like making sure, when you’re building a fire, that your kindling is stacked just right and that your matches are dry, so that you’ll end up with a good blaze instead of a pile of smoldering wood and a bad temper.

But when you take your attention away from your posture in order to be more aware of your breath, you’ll often find that your posture starts to drift. You might find that some parts of your body start to sag, while others become tense. And these changes lead to mental and emotional changes.

The tension in your shoulders might be related to some anger you’ve started to experience. The sagging in your spine might be related to a feeling of despair that’s crept in. If you relax your shoulders, the anger will start to disappear again. If you straighten your spine, you’ll start to feel more confident again.

As you become more proficient at meditation, you’ll learn that you can periodically take your attention away from your breath for a split second in order to check your posture and make minor corrections. You’ll get so good at doing this that you’ll be able to effectively keep a continuous awareness of your breath.

Remember learning to drive? You probably found that at first you’d take your attention off the road to change gears and when you took your attention back to the road (several long seconds later) you’d find that you’d drifted off towards one side or that a red traffic light had mysteriously appeared from nowhere. Later, you’ll have found that you were able to change gears without significantly taking your awareness from what was going on around you.

The same thing happens in meditation – we learn to deal with the seeming complexity of managing our posture and what we’re doing with the focus of our attention – elegantly and even effortlessly. A good way to start practicing this skill of monitoring your posture without disrupting your practice is to check and correct your posture in between stages.

You might want to do this every time you move from one stage to another. Later, you’ll find that you can integrate monitoring your posture into your practice in the way that I’ve described.

Balancing Alertness and Relaxation

While stage one of this meditation practice helps to develop more calm (by emphasizing the qualities of the out breath), and stage two helps to develop more energy and awareness (by emphasizing the qualities of the in breath), the third stage emphasizes both the in breath and the out breath equally. This helps us to blend the calm relaxation of the first stage with the energized awareness of the second stage.

In our meditation practice we are ideally developing a sense of energetic calm awareness, or a calmly energized awareness. While doing stage three you can be aware of the constant oscillation between the calming out breath and the energizing in breath, and allow the qualities of the out breath and of the in breath to permeate each other.

Modifying an analogy the Buddha himself used, you can think about making dough. When you’re making dough, what you’re doing is taking two contrasting substances – a wet one and a dry one – and combining them together in a perfectly balanced blend.

If you have too much water, then you’ll have a sticky mess, while if you have too much flour, you’ll have a dry, cracked ball.

Get the proportions just right, and you’ll have dough that is perfectly pliable and workable. (The Buddha’s analogy involved a “bathman or bathman’s apprentice) blending soap powder and water — presumably the Buddha was more familiar from his earlier life with bathing in luxury spas than he was with baking).

Just as the right balance of flour and water (or soap-powder and water) produces a pliable mixture that can be used appropriately, this stage of the mindfulness of breathing meditation practice helps us to develop pliability of mind; to get our minds into a calm and energetic state where we can work to develop a much greater degree of concentration.

Using Anchors in Stage Three

If the first two stages have gone really well, letting go of the numbers can allow us to develop a deeper and more balanced concentration. However, if we haven’t managed to develop enough calmness in the first two stages, then it’s easy to get lost in the third stage.

This often happens because the counting has been acting as an anchor for our awareness: it stops us from drifting too far away from the breath. So if we let go of the counting we can often float off into distraction.

One way to retain an anchor while letting go of the numbers is to use a physical sensation in the body as an anchor. I sometimes use the physical sensations in my hands in the same way as I use the numbers.

Sometimes at the end of every out-breath I take my awareness to my hands in order to keep me grounded. I use the sensations in my hands much as I’d use the numbers.

The physical anchor is a more refined anchor than the counting because it’s non-verbal — it cuts down on the amount of thinking, so that your mind can develop a deeper level of stillness.

Other times I maintain awareness of my hands throughout the cycle of each in-breath and out-breath. When I breathe in there’s a sensation of rising in the body and so I have a general sense of the gap between the hands and the breath widening. In each out-breath there’s a feeling that the body is sinking, and so I get a sense of the connection between the hands and the breath narrowing. So I notice the connection between the hands and the breath, and this helps keep the mind from wandering off.

Partly I think this works because it makes the practice more interesting. But partly I think it’s something to do with introducing a “stretch” into the practice. What I mean is that I’ve noticed that when my mind stretches to accommodate two separate sensations it seems to calm down very quickly. I can’t explain this, but I offer it as a tool that might be useful.

Other “stretches” involve being aware of the space outside my body while focusing on some inner sensation (like the breath), and being aware of sounds outside of myself while following some inner sensation.

You might want to play around with this idea of creating a stretch in your awareness and see what happens. Just notice two very different and geographically separate sensations, and pay attention to both simultaneously. And notice what the result is.

Thought Trains

We talk about “trains of thought.” You can think of these as being like real locomotive trains that pull into a busy station and then go rattling off. Most of them don’t go anywhere that we particularly want to go (most of them are to do with worrying, getting angry, running ourselves down, etc). But our mind is like a little kid that’s very restless and curious, and keeps going through the open doors into the carriages.

Before we know it we’re miles away from where we wanted to be (in dangerous territory, often!), and it takes us forever to get home.

By learning meditation you can learn just to watch the trains pulling up and pulling away, being aware of them and choosing not to get into them.

Are there any trains we want to get into? Yes. Some thoughts can be useful, if they are thoughts that guide us toward our immediate experience. For example, we can say to ourselves things like “Staying in the moment … there’s just this moment.” Thoughts like that take us deeper into our meditation.

One difference between useful thought trains and those that take us into distractions, is that when we’re reflecting (as opposed to being distracted), we know what we’re thinking and why, and what effect those thoughts are having). By contrast distracted thoughts are like dreams — we don’t know we’re in them until we “wake up.”

But it can take a while to recognize which thoughts are useful and at first it’s not a bad idea simply to treat all thoughts as distractions and to let them all depart from the station of the mind while you “just sit” on the platform.

Breathing, not breaths

There’s another way that the third stage of the mindfulness of breathing meditation, in which we drop the counting of the first two stages and simply follow the breath flowing in and out, is a progression from those two stages.

The progression consists in sensing the continuity of the breathing process, through having an unbroken awareness of the breathing rather than in having an awareness of individual breaths.

When we’re counting out-breaths (as in the first stage of the meditation practice) or counting in-breaths (as in the second stage) there’s an inevitable tendency to experience the process of the breathing as being chopped into bits. There’s an in-breath. Then an out-breath. Then another in-breath. Then another out-breath. We may acknowledge pauses between the in and out phases, so that we mentally chop the breathing into four parts: in / pause / out / pause.

Now actually the breathing process isn’t quite like that. It’s not really divided into discrete parts. When you watch the breathing closely in meditation you’ll see that the in-breath shades into a feeling of fullness, which then shades into the release of the out-breath. Then the increasing sense of emptiness at the end of the exhalation shades into the beginning of the next in-breath. There are no distinct beginnings or ends. There’s just one continuous process that changes its character over time. It’s much like looking at a rainbow. There are different colors, but when you look at where one color shades into another you’ll see there are no distinct transitions.

We’re practicing mindfulness of breathing, not mindfulness of breaths.

When we experience the breath as chopped up then there’s a tendency for our awareness itself to become discontinuous. We actively experience the in-breath, then the mind goes a bit floppy for a moment, then we pay attention to the out-breath, then the mind goes a bit squidgy again. Somewhere during the times when the mind is taking a little vacation from vividly noticing the breath it decides instead to get absorbed in some thought or fantasy, and we don’t have the mental sharpness to stop it from going on a little (or perhaps a long) wander.

When we get to the end of the second stage and stop counting we have the opportunity to experience the wholeness of the breathing rather than the chopped-up-ness of in-out-in-out. And so our awareness itself becomes more continuous. We’re less likely to get distracted. The mind becomes more attuned to the subtler sensations where the breath is changing from an inhalation to an exhalation, and vice versa. And we develop a very pleasant sense that we have a continuous thread of awareness running through our experience.

So practically, what this means is that we follow the sensations of the breath as it flows in, noticing the sensations of movement becoming subtler as the sensations of fullness are becoming stronger, noticing the “cresting” of the inhaling as it releases from fullness into the emptying of exhaling, noticing the sensations of exhaling becoming stronger as the body moves faster and as the exhaling happens more slowly, bottoming out into an increasing sense of emptiness, until the emptiness gives way to a sense of filling. And so on, and so on. It’s actually hard to put this in writing because for the sake of clarity in writing I have to use commas and periods, which suggests a succession of discrete experiences rather than an ever-evolving transition within one single experience, which is the process of breathing.

Another approach would be, next time you’re following the breathing (and maybe that’s right now) seeing if you can notice any absolute boundaries and discontinuities within the process of the breathing. I think you’ll find there are none, and that as your sense of the breathing becomes more continuous, so too does your sense of the continuity of your mindfulness.

Guiding, Not Controlling

The great hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson, told a story about how one day, when he was a boy, a riderless horse wandered into the farmyard outside his home. Milton had never seen this horse before, and had no idea where it lived, but very soon he had the horse back where it belonged. How did he do this?

Well, he sat on the horse’s back, got it to start walking, and then every time they came to a turn in the road, he paid attention to the almost imperceptible movements of the horse’s body that told him where it wanted to go. And once young Milton had sensed in which direction the horse wanted to head in, he encouraged it to do so. It turned out that the horse knew its own way home, and all Milton had to do was give it a little gentle guidance — or encouragement to trust its own instincts.

It’s similar with our breathing. I’ve said that in the mindfulness of breathing practice we’re not controlling our breath. On the other hand I’ve also suggested that you can use deep breathing, or breathing into the belly, or breathing into the upper chest, etc., as ways of altering your state of mind. This might sound contradictory, but it’s not really. When we change the pattern of our breathing, we don’t have to exert any control. We can gently guide the breath without controlling it, as Milton did.

Had Milton tried to tell the horse where to go, he’d never have got it home. Horses, after all, are trained to follow orders. Instead he used a more subtle technique of being aware of where the horse wanted to go, and then reinforced that desire with some gentle guidance. The horse soon got the idea.

We all are riders of horses, in a way. Our breathing is generally under the control of subconscious processes, and it has to be said that our subconscious, by and large, does a pretty good job of keeping breathing. The subconscious rarely fails to carry out its tasks, which is more than can be said for our conscious minds (how often do we go upstairs to get something and then forget by the time we get there what it was we wanted?). So let your subconscious do what it’s good at.

When you want to change your breathing, say by breathing into your belly more deeply, then all you really have to do is to take your awareness into your belly to give your subconscious a gentle hint, and then let it do the work. In this way, we gently guide our breath rather than control it.

What’s Next?

The fourth stage of this meditation practice helps us to have greater focused attention. You can learn about that here.

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

18 Comments. Leave new

  • Hi. When I was in my twenties I started meditating on my own and after about eight months I began to have involuntary profane and blasphemous thoughts about God and Jesus when I got into an aware but thought free state (Mindfulness). The first time it happened I decided to stop meditating until the next day. The next day the same thing happened. I stopped meditating completely after the second episode. About a year later I decided to take meditation up again and after a few months the same profanity laced thoughts crept back into my mind. I once again gave up meditating because these thoughts were so intrusive that it felt like I was actually being attacked. It is now about 17 years later and I’m now once again meditating. The thoughts haven’t come back but if they do I’ve decided to ignore them and to push forward with my meditation and not give up. My questions: what are these thoughts, where are they coming from, why was I having them, are they dangerous and was I somehow being harmed by them?

    Also I’ve been waking up at 3:33am for a few nights straight. Any idea why?

    • Hi, Marlow.

      I’d imagine that part of you is really pissed off by God, and that when you got into a more relaxed state and let your guard down, this part was able to make itself heard. I don’t know if there’s anything in your history that ties in with that theory…

      As for why you’re waking up at a certain time, I don’t know. When my daughter was a year old she used to wake up at 4 AM every day, give or take a couple of minutes. There was no getting back to sleep after that, so I hope you’re more fortunate :)

  • Wow. You are so right. I didn’t know it back then but I was very angry with God about being physically and verbally abused by my father. Back in my twenties when the intrusive thoughts came up I was very afraid of them because I thought that they were coming from outside of me by some blasphemous spirit. I didn’t know I was angry with God. The past few years I have come to know that I am very angry with Him. Now that you’ve answered my question I now not only know it but I own and accept it, if that makes any sense, and now maybe I can move forward. I never accepted being angry with Him because I felt it was wrong but whether it’s wrong or not the anger IS there. Thank you so much. I don’t know if you realize how much I needed to “know” this.

    • You’re welcome. You don’t necessarily have to “do” anything with these thoughts when they arise. It can be enough simply to “hear” them without judgment, recognizing that they come from a part of you that is hurting.

  • Hi. I’ve been meditating for some time now, but I’m still unsure I’m on the right path.
    I try to just watch my breath, and all I end up doing is trying to stop that chattering in my head. I feel like I’m only developing concentration. I don’t feel like I’m going into deeper concentration/ another state of being, nor do I have any unusual experiences (I’m not seeking them, but take their absence as a sign). I’m still very much aware of myself, so there’s no feeling of being selfless. I try to be non-striving, non-judgmental etc, but these are goals in themselves, so I end up striving even more. All in all, I enjoy meditating, but I don’t see much change in my practice or myself over time. I know, expectations are part of the problem, but simply letting go isn’t easy.
    Am I doing something wrong? Also, should this practice be even remotely trance-like? When I feel like I’m sliding into pleasant daze, I pull myself back into impartial observation, so maybe that’s my problem. Thank you!

    • Hi, Lorelei.

      Most of what people do when they trying to stopp the chattering in the head is a waste of time. You can’t forcibly stop the thoughts from arising, and in fact an aversion to having those thoughts arising is unhelpful. Aversion is one of the things we’re trying to let go of in meditation. So just accept the thoughts, as best you can. Let go of them when you notice you’ve become caught up in them, and just come back to your breathing, or to whatever meditation practice you’re doing.

      Here’s a thing to try, though. Most people, I find, simply plunge straight into paying attention to the breathing, without any preparation. I’d suggest that you start your meditation with four or five minutes of simply paying attention, with the eyes closed, to the space and light and sounds around you. Especially the sounds. And notice that there’s nothing you can do to control those sounds. The most sane thing you can do is to just let them be. And really notice the space that the sounds are arising in. Notice the space in front, behind, to the sides — even above and below you.

      And then start to notice the breathing.

      Give that a go, and see what happens to your level of inner chatter.

  • Hello, I started meditate on breathing yesterday. It’s not working yet, somehow its hard to get rid of thoughts. But my sister did it easily and achieved that state on her first meditation. The problem is that she feels ‘dull’, less interested in anyhing in life, after meditation. This worries me. I was looking to find an answer – is it ‘normal to have emotions almost dissapear? Thank you!

    • Hi, Elena.

      The comment “I started meditating yesterday — it’s not working yet” is a bit odd. It’s like saying “I started exercising yesterday — it’s not working yet.” Meditation is a training. It’s a process. And much of what happens is taking place below the threshold of consciousness. Did you know that when you meditate your brain actually rewires itself? Since you can’t actually feel your brain rewiring itself, you’re not going to notice this kind of change.

      Just keep on practicing!

      Your sister’s experience does not sound at all healthy. It sounds dissociative and alienated. I don’t know what she’s doing, or whether she has a teacher, but I’d suggest she stop whatever she’s doing and talk to someone with some experience.

  • Hi, thank you very much for your reply!
    i myself was worried about my sisters experience, i felt something must be wrong, i will talk to her
    as for me, i didnd’ go through the stages you described here, because i just found your blod yesterday. What i do is this: i sit and catch the calm, i close my eyes and i watch my breathing, my body movements, how i feel my body inside during the breathing and i try put my thought away, but they are coming intermittently. Yesterday, i meditated two times and the last one was the worse – thought were just coming and coming, i got tired of them and went to bed. But in my dreams i was flying all night long! i didn’t fly in my dreams for long time with all that stress in life. i guess, my brain did rewire itself!

    • Well, your brain rewiring itself is not like flicking a switch. It’s more like building muscles. You have to repeatedly do the work. But as you’ve seen, some changes can take place quite quickly.

  • Thank you for your excellent website. I’m very interested in your comments on thought trains as there is a question I’ve been wondering about for a while. I very much appreciate the benefits of mindfulness in reducing harmful thought trains – the anxious, ruminating type. However I find that some thought trains – what you might call ‘daydreaming’ – can be enjoyable and delightful. They certainly meet your definition of ‘distracted thoughts’ however. Is daydreaming something we should try to avoid or can it be a positive experience?

    • Hi Catriona.

      It all depends on whether daydreaming is appropriate or not. If you’re in the middle of a conversation or driving in busy traffic then perhaps daydreaming isn’t so useful. If you’re resting, then often it is useful. If you’re meditating — well, if your intention is to be mindful, then just notice the daydreaming and let go of it. That’ll help you have the ability to daydream with it’s appropriate and not daydream when it’s not!

  • Hi! Bodhipaksa,
    I have been meditating for one month, but with Deepak, where there is background noise. I have been told silent meditation is better. Then, I found your website. I am so greatful, because I really like it. I am at stage 3 of the breathing techniques and seem to think, I am doing fine as I feel I am able to focus on my breathing and body and become relaxed. During the meditation, I feel tingling in my hands and feet. Is this normal? Also, I suffer from anxiety and depression, but it is not severe. Do you think think I am on the right track with Mindful meditation and do you think if I continue doing it, I will begin to see positive changes in my thoughts and my well being?
    Thank you

    • Hi, Anne-Marie.

      It sounds like things are going well. That tingling is what we call pīti, or prīti in Sanskrit, and it’s a good sign. When that appears in the hands, try relaxing your focus a little so that you’re aware of the whole body, and notice how the sensations in the body change with the energy of the in-breathing and the relaxation of the out-breathing.

  • Hi,

    I was wondering if you could offer some advice, whenever I start to relax and meditate, even trying to get to sleep, as soon as I close my eyes I get these grotesque faces flash in my mind’s eyes. It’s like they rush at me, mouths open, biting, laughing, eyes wide open and their everywhere I turn.
    I have to bring myself out of it, and try again and again, usually if it’s just relaxation I give up but getting to sleep can be a nightmare.
    It’s been happening for about 6 months now.

    • Hi, Shannon.

      This is just part of your mind playing tricks on you. Sometimes as people (usually relative beginners) are starting to become more relaxed and calmer, the mind gets “creative” and produces unusual images or sensations in the body. These are nothing to be worried about. I’d suggest that you first just smile at them and accept their presence. They’re just thoughts, like any other, and we don’t want to get caught up in them. Getting anxious about them is a way of getting caught up in them, so we just smile to remind ourselves that this is OK.

      And then just keep going back to the breathing. Try being aware of several different sensations of the breathing, and not just one. My guess is that you’re only observing a very small part of the breathing, and so there’s “mental bandwidth” going unused — until your mind finds a way to fill the vacuum by creating these images. They’ll pass.

      Smiling can also help you feel happier, and the sensations of happiness are something else that can fill your inner bandwidth. As you feel happier, the images will subside.

  • Hello,

    I have begun to attempt to practice meditation. I find that it is way easier for me to focus on my breaths and nothing else then it supposedly should be from everything I am reading. My mind does not “wander” very often at all… I just count the entire time, counting each breath. All i think about is the counting, and how I want to stop counting but I cannot, my mind just counts and counts and counts. When researching on how to stop this, all I am finding is advice that is telling people to count their breaths to begin meditating, then that when they notice they stop counting and focus on something else, to begin counting again. This is a problem for me because the counting itself is what my mind only focuses on, and I can’t stop counting. For me counting seems to be a problem, but everything I am finding online treats it as a solution. I can sit there and count my breaths for seemingly eternity with my only thoughts on the fact that I can’t stop counting. I try to stop counting, and its like a sub-concious part below the surface continues the count in the background of nothingness. It feels like a self sabotage to me. Like I will just relentlessly count no matter how bad I wan’t to stop.

    Pls help

    • Please don’t think of this as “self-sabotage.” Part of your mind has found that counting your breathing helps you, and hasn’t been able to let go. After all, why stop doing something that help you? It’s just a habit you’ve latched onto.

      It’s probably caught up with a bunch of other habits you have with regard to your meditation practice, so I’d suggest shaking things up a bit. Try being aware of the breathing more fully, noticing more of the sensations than you currently do. I wrote a blog post about how people tend to have a very narrow idea of what they should be paying attention to, and you might find that useful. I suspect that if you do pay attention to more of the breathing you’ll find that you eventually “forget” to count.

  • Hi!
    I used to meditate regularly a few years ago, but stopped as I just didnt have enough time, and then forgot…I have now started to make a real effort to reintroduce it into my daily routine, and am spending a good 20 minutes a day doing it. On the very first session a week or so ago, I had this sensation that the top of my head was opening up into this sort of expanse of space. I felt so calm and truely joyful when this happened, and as though I was at complete peace inside. This feeling lingered for about 2 hours afterwards. I have not experienced anything like this since. I just wondered what this is? Is it a state I should be aiming to be in? Is this normal?

    • Hi, Rach.

      Yes, this is normal. And it is something that you can, sort of, aim at. The thing is, how do you aim? You didn’t get there by trying to get there. If you try to get there you’ll be doing something entirely different from what you did last time and so you’ll end up in an entirely different place! So it’s not a good idea to strive to attain this state. It may recur spontaneously, or you may not experience it again for years. Just do the practice!

  • Hi,

    I want to know this,

    ** Can I do few meditation methods daily??
    can I collect all benefits from those all ??

    (for example 2 hours mindfulness and 1 hour mantra meditation and 1 hour imagination meditation)

    please tell me answer to this.

    ** What happen if I am not able to do meditation for some days?? All the benefits lost what I have done already??

    ** Is it normal to pushing sensation in head while meditating and even after doing it ?? (not painful)

    Im.sorry if the section is wrong, but i want to know those ..please tell me…very important to me. please.

    • You can certainly do several different kinds of meditation in one day and experience benefits from them all. Four hours of meditation is a lot, though, especially if you’re just starting out.

      If you don’t meditate for a few days you won’t lose all the benefits, but it really depends on how long you’ve been meditating and how often you take breaks. When you meditate you rewire your brain. Quite literally you are developing new pathways, just like you build muscles when you exercise. When you stop meditating, you’ll lose some of this, but find that you get back “in the groove” fairly quickly afterwards. If you keep stopping and starting you’ll only see a fraction of the benefits of regular practice.

      The pushing sensation may be a sign you’re trying too hard. But it may be something else. Lots of people have reported similar sensations, and it’s normal.

  • Thank you very much for your clear and kind answer. I really appreciate it.

    Yes, Im Science student, Your new paths is called as Neuro Plasticity. It means new paths developing and change structure to good side.

    Im having terrible mental problems since more than 5 years, such as major depression (I am native Buddhist, killing ourselves is next hell,im afraid of hell) , Anxiety, negative thoughts, Phobias such as afraid to blonde hair,white race skin, and many. live in future (sometimes next reincarnation)

    I did mantra meditation for a week..and I was extremely happy (compare with before), and i wanted to cure mind cure depression, so I turned to Mindfulness.To yesterday it is 75+ hours and I feel better, specially not live in future like before and happy. and looks memory also improving.

    Im really glad wonderful website like this and kind intelligent people like you helping people.

    Best wishes.

  • Good day! I have been meditating for about a year now… I practice several different methods, from Tonglin, to contemplation, to breath awareness… however, recently I have focused most on Tonglin. Now, in doing any of my meditations, I always invite the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to sit with me. I invite them to breath in unison with me, and to exchange energy with me… and “visually” they appear. They always come. I have noticed that I get quite hot, develop damp skin, and recently have felt a pressure in the top of my head, as though something is trying to burst out. It is not painful, just unusual, and not a serious distraction. I have read in prior comments about third eyes, etc. I know little about this aspect. I have been through the seeing of colors (brilliant golds were the most recent) and quite enjoyed watching the color morph into Buddhas, skulls, faces, etc. and used whatever images appeared to contemplate their meaning, and learn from them… but that seems to have passed. I attend a VietNamese Mahayana Temple, but clearly am drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. I am not concerned as much about the pressure in my head, nor the body emanating so much heat, as much as understanding if there is any spiritual significance to this at all? I thank you for your time… and send you much merit and gratitude for the work you are doing here. Be happy, peaceful and well….

    • Hi, Pamela.

      There’s no enormous spiritual significance in these experiences. The shape-changing colors and patterns are fairly common when people are first learning meditation, and sometimes when people are doing more meditation than usual. It’s not helpful to pay attention to these, and they should be noted and ignored in favor of the object of the meditation practice.

      The heat in the body is arising because you’re relaxing and experiencing arousal of the parasympathetic nervous system, which allows more blood to flow to the skin. It might be that you need to have some mild sympathetic nervous system arousal, which comes about when we have a more vivid focus in our meditation practice or are otherwise alert.

      The pressure in the head is something I’m not familiar with personally, although it seems to be quite common, particularly between the eyebrows. Again it’s a sign your becoming more calm and relaxed. Just keep on accepting the sensations, neither getting anxious about them or getting excited about them.

      Everything that’s going on is a sign you’re moving in the right direction. Just keep on going!

  • Melanie Eden
    May 16, 2013 6:41 pm

    im not sure you’ve answered this as i haven’t read all the comments (there’s a lot of them :) , but i have been meditating for 9 months now and have come to state of silence or peace that has had magical illuminations in my practise and life. I am curious as of late, during my meditation, i have been experiencing what i think is scene’s or snippets of other people’s lives, i can hear talking – and i am not familiar with the voices sometimes these are from completely different worlds to mine i.e. a man talking about the council and his right to land (i’m an mid 20s female artist living on the beach). Other times i feel i vaguely even watch scene’s. I remember when i first started meditating at vipassana introductory course i had sort of flashback replays of past memories but these are definitely not my own. I’d like to know more about this- if other’s share this experience. I’m not worried if it is a progress or not. Happy to just go with it and thought i’d share.

    • Hi, Melanie.

      Our minds are full of scenes and snippets of other people’s lives — things we’ve heard, seen, read.

      And our minds are capable of running “simulations” of other people — including people we don’t know. You can imagine having conversations with them and hear them talking back to you. And every night when you dream, you lose any awareness that this is something you’re imagining, and you believe that the images and voices are real people.

      So this is what’s happening in your meditation. You’ll tapping into the part of your brain that creates dream-like imagery. So this isn’t of any real significance, although it is a sign that you’re getting relaxed. Maybe you need a bit more alertness to balance up the relaxation. It’s just a guess.

      All the best,

  • Sincere seeker
    June 15, 2013 4:34 pm

    I have recently started trying doing meta & only trying meta for self. I have been very conscious of not hurting someone whom I have had a really major fallout with. But I still get sucked into thoughts & arguments which just cause me immense pain. Sometimes I feel like a fraud as I try hard to avoid really saying the harsh things I really want to say to that person but deep inside I know they are boiling & am fearful I may fall to that temptation/ urge one day . I really don’t want to hurt anyone as I know the pain of hurting & am just feeling completely lost of how to deal with this. How long will I have to do meta to myself as I am not strong enough to send meta to that person as the mere thought causes traumatic stress. Or my entire approach is wrong. I have tried to reconcile with that person without any success & it is a person whom I can’t avoid contact for various reasons & the friction doesn’t seem to end. So just caught in a real catch 22.

    • Mainly it takes time, so just keep doing the practice. Thoughts and arguments are always going to come up, so we just keep letting go of them and returning to the practice. Every time you notice that you’re caught up in an inner argument and let go of it, the practice is working.

      I can’t really comment specifically on your situation, but not wanting to hurt someone is generally a good thing. You say you “fear” hurting someone and I’m not sure how seriously to take the word fear, but fear’s not a great motivation. It’s better to want not to hurt someone out of compassion, rather than fear. Because sometimes we need to say things to people that will hurt them, even when they’re true and said kindly. And fearing hurting someone in those situations can lead to us doing the wrong thing.

      So if you’re troubled by keeping things bottled up inside you, it would be best to find a way to express them that’s true and compassionate.

  • Hi,
    since I am meditating daily for 2 years I am feeling calmer and settled with a smooth mind; awareness and gratitude for the given now arises more and more ….BUT I am also missing the thrilling feelings, the joy of buying something beautiful, the heartbeats when planning for the future or just when I see a beautiful woman… … and could it be that my memory about past is going worse as I am living in the very moment? also time goes faster than ever…
    The thrilling involvement in a lively world of joy and sorrow is missing.
    Whats going wrong, are these common side effects of right or wrong meditation or am I just getting old? Thank you for your help!

    • Hi, Georg.

      Well, I’ve been meditating for 30 years, and I still feel joy when I buy something beautiful, feel excited about the future, and experience pleasure when I see a beautiful woman. I don’t know what you’re doing in your meditation practice, but you may be cutting yourself off from parts of your experience. There’s really very little else I can say, I’m afraid, since I don’t know anything about your meditation practice or about your life.

      All the best,

  • hello Bodhipaksa

    really nice to wander to this website where i can so easily submit a question!

    i have been meditating for about 11 years . mostly it was zenlike, with an open consciousness, but i got to a point where I am needing focused meditation (mantra in this case) to keep enough focusing capability to be able to keep connect with ‘objects’ within my awareness (words on a paper, people that i talk to… etc)

    i came to this helpfull effect of focused meditation by accident, just by experimenting, and now i alter between zazen and mantra, in order to keep some balance

    I actually ‘do’ zazen during all waking hours, i am not capable anymore to be not in zazen, it became my natural way of being

    My question: is where i am still healthy? and where am i going?

    the zazen is not a practice anymore, it is natural, but i can do, and i do, mantra as a practice

    am i going good or am i in some kind of a deviating state?

    your answer is extremely appreciated as i do not regularely walk into people that can answer me on this one!



    • Hi, Ananda.

      Without knowing you I can’t really comment on whether what you’re doing is healthy or not. I think the practices you’re doing are fine, but how that’s manifesting in your life and impacting those around you I, just can’t say.

      I would recommend taking up lovingkindness practice. It’s a necessary complement to both open awareness and focused attention.

      All the best,

  • I started meditating a few weeks ago, using guided meditation on the internet as I could not find a local group. One meditation asked me to open a door and whatever was beyond that door was my happy place. Yesterday I decided to try meditation without any guidance, just silence. After a short time I found I was no longer noticing my breath. I saw my face looking back at me, lots of light and aqua around my face and I was holding a turquoise stone. I’m not sure if this means the meditation worked though I felt wonderful afterwards. I actually felt truly happy and I haven’t felt like that for a long time. Not sure what to make of the colours or the stone?

    • I really need to create a post or page for this, since I get asked this question over and over again. And in fact there are several comments above that describe similar experiences. So I’d suggest reading through the previous comments and then getting back to me if you still have any questions.

  • I have been trying to meditate for quite some time now. When I feel Im getting deep I can see bright purple colors swirling about. Ive tried for a long time to find out if there is a meaning to this. Do you know?

    Also, ive tried many times to either astral travel or see some other things. Once when i felt I was getting close I felt a dark evil “face” right up next to my face just waiting for me to get out of myself so that he/it would be right there terrorizing me. Right at that point I felt or sensed my grandmother (deceased) slam closed my meditation and then I couldnt meditate any more that night. Should I be worried?

    • I’d suggest reading the comments above, Jennifer. This kind of question has been asked and answered many times on this site…

  • I’m afraid I don’t have any insight into why you would feel head pain, or whether it would relate to whatever it was you were doing on Hulu.

  • I have just started meditating. Yesterday session was scary I blacked out, soon as I came back around I stopped at once.
    But ever since then I felt dizzy and faint. I google this stuff and was advised that I needed to be grounded. So I walked in the garden hugged a tree and did some grounding exercises from you tube. I woke up this morning and feel completely disconnected. I just sit down and keep forgetting things. I can not focus on anything. And am quite concerned. Can anyone help

    • Well, who knows? You don’t say what you were doing when you were “meditating.” Maybe you were hyperventilating or holding your breath. Maybe you need to talk to the person who taught you meditation, or if you tried to teach yourself then perhaps you need to get yourself to a class. Or maybe you need to see a doctor.

  • So today i felt like i HAD to meditate and as soon as I relaxed, I felt the third eye opening almost immedietly, and really powerfully like never before.. Then, while I still had my eyes closed, i saw a light in all this black background, right in the middle. I usually see this thing but today I decided to keep seing it while I open my eyes. This thing came flippin alive and it was moving around! After that, i tried to create one in my palm, I did, and after that I closed my eyes again and tried to make it move on my own will! Once I mastered that, i opened my eyes and after a few tries I made it! But then i lost all focus while trying to keep doing it and i quit after a while. Is that what you meant by “A common example is seeing patterns of moving lights. This is a good sign, in that you are moving into a deeper state of concentration. But it’s best not to pay much attention to those lights or they will turn into a distraction and slow your progress.” ???

  • Today was my second day of meditation. I was taught to count to ten and start over again which I’m able to do. At times I had a little distraction but kept trying to count and concentrate on breaths. At one point of my meditation I found myself zoning out and it felt as if i was having an outer body experience so to say. It felt like I was actually stepping out of my body. I seemed to realize that and all of a sudden my heart dropped, I felt scared, and immediately stopped meditation. Any insight on what happened?

    • Hi, Tiffany.

      It’s no big deal. “Zoning out” is not what we’re aiming to do in meditation — we’re going for clarity and attentiveness — but it’s going to happen, so that’s OK. And when you get into a dreamy state, dream-like experiences will happen. What would have helped is if you’d tried to experience the breathing more vividly (I assume it was your breathing you were counting). BUt instead you became anxious. Again, that’s going to happen. It’s no big deal. Just keep doing the practice, and keep bringing your attention back to the physical sensations of the breathing. (The expression, by the way, is “out of body experience” not “outer body experience.”)

  • While meditating i experience alot of energy along with tension but i do feel relaxed after my meditation, its just unpleasant whilst it possible im doing something wrong to course this tension?

    Much gratitude

  • Thank you so much for keeping up with all of our questions about meditation for almost 5 years! That is so awesome of you. I understand if this is too long, so if you’d like to edit any part, feel free.

    I’ve been mediating since January and just came across your website. I have gone through similar challenges to some commenters and I thought maybe my story might help:

    1) I wanted to start meditating January 1. I tried then, and every day for another 15 days, but it was a no go: my mind was too restless and I was trying to force an experience I had never had. Then after two full weeks, two things happened, 1) I read this awesome thing about when thoughts come up, take note and observe them for an instant, then say in your head, “Huh, I was just thinking about that…interesting.” Then go back to focusing on the nothing behind your eye lids. It said not to care when your mind throws thoughts at you, pretty soon they’ll subside; And 2) I found a frequency thingy in YouTube that worked for me.

    2) I was lucky (and unlucky) enough to have a vision the first time my mediation hit home. I saw light flickers, then a galaxy. To this day I can’t hold those experiences: every time one comes up, I instinctively turn my consciousness toward it, then it disappears. Like an eye-floaty you try to stare at directly. Then, at the end of the first time, I saw what I knew was the horizon of the earth from 400 miles up, over the Aegean Sea. I didn’t know why I knew it was that area of the earth as I had never it like that before. I soon looked it up on Google earth and there it was.

    3) I was hooked. I began to have several instances of visions, where I knew where it was, but I had never seen it before. I saw the Pyramid of Giza from about 200 meters up and at its side – an angle I had never seen. I saw some pretty literally, out of this world stuff. Then, I told a friend I thought I may be remote viewing, and I think my mind convinced me I broke a rule, and it stopped all together. I couldn’t even get close to a meditative state, I wanted to see them and was forcing the issue. I began to get frustrated, so at that point I had to take a break.

    4) After a two month break, the meditation started slow, but then the visions started again; instead of visions from far away, they were of mundane things, but out of time. Most notably, one night, I began mediating, and I saw what I knew was the sun surrounded by clouds, making it appear like a white orb or the moon. I forgot about it and went to sleep. The next morning I went to meditate in my chair, and remembered the meditation from the night before. I shifted two inches to look up and see the vision from the night before that made me look in the first place.

    6) Now, I’m experiencing something different. I’ve caught myself in my own eye once, looking up close at the inside of my lower eyelid (weird), like I was a cell in my eye. And just an hour ago, I’m pretty sure I was in a blood vessel. Though, it was dark, so it may have just been a tunnel effect. This was accompanied by tingling up and down my body, and a feeling that I was lifting from my bed. And my blankets even rustled a bit like I was actually lifting, which was a bit odd. That’s how I found you. I googled “vision inside Blood Vessel meditation.” Believe it or not, you are first on google with that phrase.

    Q) Though, still after all these amazing experiences, sometimes I feel nervous or afraid, like I’m crossing a threshold and there is a guard who is insistant on frightening me back. I’ve felt it throughout my mediation every few weeks. It started as a demon face. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about experiencing something similar. I saw a documentary on The Buddha and the demon he faces at the end is a lot like what I saw for awhile. Then it moved it creepy imagery: butterfly shadows that turn into bats and the like. Then sometimes the feeling appears as grotesque faces, or my puppy that turns into a rabid zombie dog… Ug that one is awful. When the eye or face comes back, I sent it love and ask if it wanted to talk or join me in peace, and it usually subsides. But when zombie dog or demon puppets come up I have to stop. It doesn’t happen that often, but I wonder what it is. Any thoughts?

  • I also see that you answered a similar question above now as I cull through the voluminous quandaries. Thank you, you are very helpful. I haven’t shared since I began, so it was nice to recount, but feel free to disprove the message if you think it’s a bit long winded.

    Thank you for your wonderful service. Kate.

    • Hi, Kate.

      I’m glad you did the work to find the answer to your question.

      And thank you for your kind words.

      All the best,

  • One more Question: is it counterproductive to share stories about meditation experiences?

  • I was incarcerated for the past 11 months and I started meditation when I first got locked up because I couldn’t figure out my own thoughts about anything. I had been so fake from trying to be who people wanted me to be that I had multiple personalities and I felt as if I was basically schizophrenic. I could barely tell the difference between right and wrong.

    During the past 11 months I have been self taught and I had many experiences I cannot explain.

    #1 When I first started I tried for hours at a time and a few times I got into a state where my eyes fluttered faster than I could move them basically REM while conscious, but I saw images followed by videos of many random objects such as black and white tv than 70’s dancers and even a ship in the ocean traveling onto the beach and floating through the sand. I had a shorter, but similar experience the following night, but not since…

    #2 I started praying with meditation and I reached it much quicker (20-30 min) after like 3 times I could start in minutes. I would have goosebumps and received great peace of mind and clarity sometimes using mantras.

    #3 I started seeing flashes of light which almost seem like a circle of light around my eyes which I cannot focus on. I have random times of unexplainable happiness in strange situations which may have caused me stress before. I would actually feel the air getting lighter as I changed my perception in hard situations.

    #4 Many times I meditate by focusing on my breath but not even close my eyes like in the middle of conversations is that common?

    #5 Dreams: I used to not remember any of them. It has grown where I remember as many as 5 dreams in one night with many messages I can gain understanding from. I have had lucid dreams several times where I can do many physical impossibilities. I have even been surrounded by black and I imagined a room and it appeared than I thought of a bread box it appeared. I thought to myself if I believe it there is a rabbit in that box… as I walked over I thought I don’t really like rabbits what if it bites me… Sure enough it attacked me and I woke up.

    #6 I have had multiple dreams in which it comes true within a few weeks along with a large increase in synchronicity… Sometimes more than once a day.

    I can make myself have goosebumps and feel my own energy within seconds now and it feels good I feel as if I have given up most of my habitual actions. I have lots of space between thoughts and actions.

    I have tried to explain it to a few people some can follow me a little bit, but I feel as if I’m speaking a different language. As I progress I don’t know what any of it really means. I feel much better than I ever have, but I still feel as if something large is missing. I need to channel it somewhere.

    Any insight into any of these occurrences would be appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Hi, Marc.

      I’d suggest that you do find some instruction and stay in touch with a teacher as best you can. It’s unlikely that anything “bad” is going to happen because of your meditation practice, but you may end up wasting time and opportunity by getting caught up in ways of meditating that aren’t useful, and you are obviously concerned and confused by some of the experiences you’re having. I’m glad you’ve asked about these things.

      It really would take me far too long to comment on each of your points, especially since some of them (like #3) are actually multiple points. I’d suggest reading through the previous comments, where you’ll find that at least some of the things you’re asking about have already been addressed.

      Feel free to get back to me with anything you think hasn’t been addressed.

      All the best,

  • Jason Jackson Johnson Smith
    October 29, 2013 12:15 pm

    What do you mean by “when your meditation starts to “bite””?

    What do you mean by “bite”?

    • By “bite” I mean that your practice has effects that you perhaps hadn’t anticipated. In that particular context, “stuff” can be going on in your subconscious, bringing about strong dreams.

  • I have been meditating for about a month I see people and I see colors floating when my eyes are closed right when I start I have like no breathing sounds and sometimes I hear things going on in the house up stairs and it is not with my ears it is like in my head I hear them but now I see metallic tiny lights of diferent colors and still see faces but I’m still and my mind is quiet . Is this normal I heard some one talk but couldn’t hear her what she was saying to quiet for me to hear I let myself just be and see what will come next! I did close my eyes owns relaxed and then I saw a man in white metallic lining of his face the I saw a red image of the devil. I see in metallic now what does that mean all colors. But the face I see are like images like us. Any insight would be helpful. I statred to do this because some one said I should because what was going on with me ! They said I was wakening up don’t know what that means I know at the time I culdnt think and I was lost . Thank you for any insight ! Oh one more thing I mess up lights and computers and my phone sometimes I can’t explain it I just do if I get up set everything goes weird and don’t work. I have weird feeling in my head chest stomach .like it is humming you know that feeling you get when you hum on your lips. Again thank you

    • Just regard these things as tricks your mind is playing on you to prevent you from going deeper into meditation, Jennifer. Just keep doing the practice (whatever that is — you said you’d been meditating, but didn’t say what you’d been doing). These things are most definitely not a sign of “waking up.”

  • For there to be no reply, does that mean its not acceptable. and secondly, you could reply to me at the email address?

    • Sometimes questions that are posted seem to have little apparent connection with Buddhist meditation, and in such cases I choose not to post or reply to them. But I wish you well…

  • hello sir, i am very much new to this blog, but i am doing this type of meditation at alternative days for few minutes. But doing so i am getting a little pain sense at middle of forehead. Is it normal? Actually i didn’t made counts of breath, but i just relaxed in peace while making slow and long breathing. Your suggestion will help me more. And now i just changing my style as per your blog. Thank-you :)

    • A few people experience a kind of pressure in the middle of the forehead while meditating. I’ve no idea why. But it seems to be quite normal, so I’d suggest that you just notice it as another sensation and let go of any anxieties about it.

  • […] I try to meditate and actually happened the first time I tried. You might be interested in reading this article on what constitutes progress in meditation. What you may be looking for, in addition to a greater […]

  • Hi.. I been meditating here and there and some days I mediate for an hour… but one day I mediated for an hour and 30 minutes.. as my body relax more and more I started to feel as if my body was been scanned and the air I was breathing became very light and minty as if I was breathing a different type of air.. then as my body was feeling as it was been scanned from my head to my toes my body felt as if my poors were been open to ever sensation.. by time I was done meditating and lay down and close my eyes my body sensation was very very high… I couldnt sleep because every sound that was made through out the house made my body sensations very aware as if I was feeling high energy from my hole surroundings.. it scared me because I didnt know what was going on… so I would like to know if that is normal…

  • Hi there, my husband usually meditates and encouraged me to join him. I did, and had a very wierd experience as I sat comfortably on the floor after doing some stretches, I got into breathing and suddenly tears flowed from my eyes and also I felt and saw my body was split into two and I could see it shaking as well as moving around me then it was reunited. I felt so strange. I don’t know how else to describe this. Is this bizarre.

    • It’s just your mind doing stuff, Nariman. Just keep going with your practice, and don’t dwell upon it.

  • Hi, Eric.

    Sorry for the long delay in replying. That’s not abnormal. It’s the kind of experience that happens to some people when they’re doing more meditation than normal — for example when they’re on retreat. It’s just a heightened state of awareness. It’s certainly nothing to worry about, and as I’m sure you’ve already found out it’s not permanent.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa
    I just went through your site and you actually answered almost everyone’s question I have a question about meditation, After meditating for 30 to 40 mins first time i felt that i was in some one’s body? Any ideas or any one experienced this kind of situation

  • I’ve recently started up on meditating again. I try to do it three times a day. Today while meditating, I experienced something very unusual. I got very deep into it, and then the whole room felt like it was shaking as if there was an earthquake. Is this good, bad, or does it mean anything? Thanks for any help!

    • Hi, Jessica. I’d say it’s neither good nor bad, but is just an experience. Just keep on with the practice, and regard the experience as just one of those things that happens from time to time, without obsessing about it.

  • I’m back with another question. During a recent meditation, I experienced this humming sound. Sort of a vibration, which was pretty loud. It startled me at first, but I accepted it. The odd part is that I started hearing it randomly outside of meditation. Comes and goes for no apparent reason. Do you know what this might be?

    • Hi, Kym.

      There’s a good chance that it’s just sounds being produced in your ears — not necessarily tinnitus, but a more “normal” kid of internal noise. I’ve had similar sounds at times, although for me it’s a high whistle. I generally just ignore it as part of the background. In fact I’m becoming aware that I can hear the whistle now, and that I hadn’t been paying attention to it.

  • Thank you for the response. It’s a sound I’ve never heard before. Maybe it will pass.

  • Hi
    I’ve been meditating for more than a year (Mindfulness)and I’m now experiencing shallow breathing and able to quickly get into a peaceful state (not feeling my feet, hands etc). I say, that I am a peaceful soul, and have been saying this for sometime, only to notice that in my actual life, it is not the case. I find myself irritable, at times, angry and not happy. Am I doing something wrong.

    • Hi, Maggs.

      Well, on the positive side it does sound like you’re managing to calm your mind in meditation, so that’s good. You don’t say anything about doing lovingkindness meditation, which is something I’d recommend taking up. It really is an indispensable complement to mindfulness of breathing.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    I think you are doing a real service by replying so carefully to everyone’s questions about meditation. So I have one of my own. I have been meditating for about 15 years, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. For the past 9 years, I have been doing Mahamudra meditation in particular, an approach which involves quite a number of different stages (though roughly it breaks down to preliminary practices, shamatha and vipassana, as these are interpreted by this tradition). I try to do about 2 hours of meditation a day; sometimes it’s more, sometimes a little less. Basically, it all seems to be going well, though of course with lots of ups and downs.

    In the last 3 years, though, perhaps coinciding more or less with focusing on vipassana, I have developed a feeling of pressure in my head–sometimes in my forehead or scalp, sometimes more in my face. At times it is quite strong and unpleasant. At first it seemed to occur only when I meditated, then it began to be pretty much all the time. There was a period where I was quite worried about it, and it certainly interfered with my ability to do long meditation sessions.

    Now I do have a teacher, but he is in India, so I cannot just see him whenever I like. However, at one point I was able to meet with him and he advised me to go a doctor and make sure there was nothing wrong physically. Well I did that, and in fact saw multiple doctors, various healers and so forth. The doctors never found anything, while the healers, of course, always did, but no program seemed to clearly help. I have also spoken with other Tibetan lamas since, but all of them found my situation a little odd.

    Ironically–since I am now asking you this question–I appear to be getting better at this point; certainly it’s a lot better than it was at the worst of it a couple years ago. I have learned to relax about the situation, and am no longer in a state of worry about it. But how to understand it? The best hypothesis I could come up with (based on all the people I saw) is that I have too much chi/prana/lung in my head, as a result of my practice–that it is somehow not circulating properly. Now I have started doing chi gong about a month ago and it very well may be making a difference (yoga and exercise also seem to be helpful). I still have the feeling of pressure, but either it is not as intense or somehow it doesn’t bother me as much. I certainly don’t feel vaguely “sick” in the way I did and there is a good deal more fluctuation in my feeling of pressure than there had been. But still I would obviously like not to have any pressure at all, and would be able to do more meditation if that were the case–which is my aim. Interestingly, my meditation does seem to be deepening through all of this; there is generally a lot of clarity and stillness, as well as a certain kind of intensity. Sometimes the head pressure seems to morph into a deeper state of meditation in an odd, hard-to-explain sort of way. But the pressure usually does not go away altogether.

    So my question is whether you are at all familiar with what I am describing and, of course, whether you can offer any advice as to what to do. Thank you for listening.

    • Hi, Matt.

      I’ve heard from several people of a similar sense of pressure, often on the forehead. So far no one’s experienced any ill effects that I’ve heard of, so I don’t think it’s harmful at all.

      it strikes me that this is similar in many ways to other sensations that can sometimes arise in meditation, especially where the mind is starting to settle down. Sometimes normal sensations can be perceived in an exaggerated way — as if the mind is taking a magnifying glass to them. So sometimes people find that the hands feel very large, for example. I suspect that that’s all that’s going on here: your mind is noticing normal sensations, but magnifying them.

      The general principles I suggest for these kinds of experiences are 1) just to accept the sensations (don’t worry about them, and don’t get elated) and 2) just keep on with the practice. You’re not quite ignoring them — more acknowledging them and moving on.

      But if the sensation of pressure is very prominent, to the point where you don’t find that you can do that, then feel free to pay attention to it, taking a kindly interest. I’d suggest noticing and naming the various “sub-components” of the sensation: pulsing, tingling, pressure, pain, etc. And then notice that each of those sensations is continually changing — coming into being and passing away — and really notice the quality of change that’s taking place. If you focus more on the fact of change, then the sensation itself becomes less troublesome.

      Lastly, if the pressure is causing you suffering, then wish the suffering well, with the usual lovingkindness phrases: “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be free from suffering.”

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,
    i am having some very bad consequences from meditation and i dont know what to do. I started to meditate in jan. When i meditated, i watched my chest a lot and all the emotions that were there and i pushed them down to my belly and to my genital area. (i have no idea why i have done this)
    After less then 2 weeks, I woke up one day with a strange feeling inside of me. I started to get really scared, anxious, and i had a very poor sleep for almost a week. I was feeling like my chest was almost opened and i was feeling quite vulnerable and every sound or emotion would be to big for me.. I started to take some pills and the sleep got better. the anxious feeling are gone now (almoste 2 month after) but i am still having the strange sensation of having the chest vulnerable and everytime i breath, I feel like the breathing is travelling from my chest to my genital organs. also, i started to be very sexual arroused. I have read on the internet some stuff and i have found something very distrubing regarding the awaikaning of kundalini. i really dont think this is the case, as i have just meditated for 30 minutes/ for less than 2 weeks. I was really a positive and happy person before this meditation started and now i am a mess. i have stoped meditation for 2 month and i am still having this open chest sensation and i almost can watch the breathing when it moves in my body from my chest, down. it is really scarry and i really hope it will go away and i could come back to my lfe as it was.

    i would really appreciate your advice on this.

    thanks so much


    • Hi, Ana.

      I’d certainly agree it’s a good idea for you to stop meditating until you get some proper guidance.

      I don’t think you can really push emotions down to the genital area. Your emotions manifest as sensations in the heart and solar plexus, for sure (there are major nerves in that area) and you probably tensed up in that area to make those sensations harder to detect, and at the same time took more awareness to the sensations arising lower down in the body. That suppression of emotion is an odd thing to do, as you acknowledge. I’m sure you had what seemed like good reasons for doing this, even if you’re not clear at the moment what those were.

      Feeling like the chest is opening and having a feeling of vulnerability are both very normal and healthy experiences to have in meditation. There is a major nerve running through the chest, called the vagus, and it can become very active during meditation — especially during lovingkindness and compassion meditation, but this can happen during any form of practice. This vagal activation can produce a feeling of liquid warmth and openness. Now for some reason you’re interpreting those sensations as something threatening, although as I said they’re normal and healthy. So I’d suggest just accepting them and seeing them as signs of emotional health.

      You’re probably also just becoming more aware of the body generally — hence the sense of physical arousal — but the vagus also runs down to the uterus and cervix, so again the sensations you’re experiencing are probably a sign of vagal health.

      A healthy and active vagus is a good thing. People with an active vagus are more friendly and compassionate, and more likely to help others. I do wonder, though, if there are psychological reasons why you might be afraid of having an “open heart.” If you have reasons to distrust people, for example, then that could lead to fear arising in response to signs of compassion. Any thoughts?

  • hello
    im doing from 15 start i did rose meditation for month then i start blue light meditation.In start i stated to see images mostly girls face and one or 2 times horror faces.2 months ago i was having strange feeling like someone is sitting in front of me.that thing really scare me and its happened to me all the time when i meditate then i stop meditation and that thing gone sometimes i feel that thing when im alone.then after few week start meditation again and i started to heard.once i just finished my mediation and i was about to sleep.i was half awake and i heard a very loud and clear voice of spark and i woke up start looking around i was just near my ears then i slept.i ofen hear that some one is whispering in my ear.i was so scared and confuse with these things so i stop my meditation now from almost 1 month i m focusing on my breath and nothing happened.

    • Hi, Aaron.

      I confess I’ve no idea what the “rose meditation” or “blue light meditation” are. You don’t say who taught you those practices or whether you’ve asked that person for advice, or whether in fact you made the practices up yourself.

      Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you’re focusing on your breath — at least I know that’s a real meditation practice — and that you’ve stopped having these mild hallucinations. They almost certainly weren’t harmful at all, but were just dream-like thoughts arising in a semi-focused state of mind. But whatever you were doing in these two “meditation” practices probably wasn’t benefiting you very much if you were in such a dream-like state, and so it’s no doubt a good thing that you’ve given them up.

  • Many thanks. I will try this and let you know how I get on.

  • Thanks a lot Bodhipaksa,

    It really helps a lot to see that what I am going through is normal and that it’s nothing to be afraid of. When I have started to google this, I have found a lot of strange responses and things that increased my anxiety (as kundalini and other odd things). But you know, sometimes if you google a small symptom, some forums will tell you have cancer I stopped meditation and I am trying to focus on my everyday life and my friends as for some reason this whole experience made me very anxious. Perhaps, this is because I have just lost a pregnancy, I don’t know. Anyhow, you have helped a lot and it is really very nice that you are taking time to respond to all the questions. Have a nice day, Ana

  • My meditation started in the 70’s with TM, but then recently I started Christian Meditation in my church (2012), and while the mechanics is the same, the goal became different. I stopped monitoring my “progress” and paid no attention to it. While not regular morning and night, since I haven’t been to develop the discipline, I catch myself doing it at odd times, when I’m bored, when waiting for the bus, when waiting for anything, when I try to stay alert – to keep from falling asleep (when my son as a baby had colic all night I used it to stay awake). I have a very keen alert sensation in meditation, and I find I can bring this on at will. Even more recently, I dreamed that I was posing questions (to what I don’t know, maybe a computer?) and all I had to do was think the question, as hitting the Enter key on a search engine, and the answer would be there almost simultaneously; all the set of questions that arose as a result of the answer were also instantly submitted and their answers were immediately (simultaneously, almost) retrieved. This went on until the pace slackened, and then started up again; a very weird dream, but amazingly interesting and exciting.

  • I started meditating for a few months with eyes wide open. I am starting to feel the energy flow in my head during the meditation and goes away when I finish meditating. (Normally I will meditate approx. 45 minutes). Please advise whether I am meditating in the correct manner. Thank you.

    • Hi, Melvin.

      It’s simply not possible to tell from this brief description whether you’re meditation practice is heading in the right direction. If you have a meditation teacher, then it would be a good idea to talk to him or her. Or perhaps you could find a teacher, or join an online community like the one Wildmind has on Google Plus.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    Thanks for your prompt reply.How do I join the online community? Meanwhile, I have forgotten to tell you the method of my meditation is by focussing on the breathing of in and out where I felt the energy converging in my head during the meditation.

    • Hi, Melvin.

      Follow the link and, if necessary, open a Google Plus account. That should take care of it.

      All the best,

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    Thanks for your reply.


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