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Breathing problem
mindfullness of breathing vipasana breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 5:20 PM
Hi all, I am new to this forum and benefited a lot from all the disucssions here and thank you all for that.  I have been practising concentration meditation for 2 months now and started to see results in terms of sustained concentration, less stress and calmness within. When I start to sit and focus on my breath, my heart beat instantly starts to race within 2 or 3 minutes and that makes me to physically breath and take short breaths and discomfort in the throat. I can attain the stage where my mind is still like a blank space with a buzz sound in my ear but couldn't proceed further because of my concentration on breathing. If I just try to ignore breathing and let it go by itself, it makes me suffocate or makes me take forceful breaths. Did any one encounter this difficulty? Any suggestions? 

I have tried meditating at different times and still it happens. 

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 6:38 PM as a reply to Buddha 08.
Hello and welcome emoticon

It is common. You are probably a bit too anxious. Do not pay attention to your heartbeat. As for the breath, you cannot suffocate yourself by meditating: if that were a possibility, you'd have certainly read about it in the news, with meditation and "mindfulness" becoming more and more mainstream, right? It can be weird to let go of the breath and trust that, when you stop controlling it, your autopilot will take over and breathe for you, so to speak.

What are your goals with meditation at the moment? What meditation technique are you using at the moment? Depending on your answer, one option is switching your attention to what you call the "blank space", leaving the breath in the background of attention. You will eventually either stop noticing your breath, or it will get so faint that it will seem like you are not breathing anymore (but you actually are: the breath falls below the "turbulence threshold" and it stops producing wind-sensations in your nose and trachea).

Enjoy emoticon

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 7:37 PM as a reply to Buddha 08.
Hi Benjamin,

I suspect this phenomena of "suffocating" when you "ignore" the breath will pass and change with time and continued practice.  It is often suggested to attend to particular aspects of the breath including sensations of rest, calm, peace, and joy during concentration practice or anapanasati(e.g. mindfulness of breathing).  Perhaps the aforementioned sensations are present in the breath if you continue to investigate despite the unpleasant sensations (e.g. suffocating). It's definitely ok to breath intentionally (e.g. controlling the breath)  if the unpleasantness gets too intense. You use the term "ignore" when refering to letting go of control of the breath.  This term seems to be a turning away from the breath as apposed to observing it with mindful awareness. Might this subtle aversive relationship, or ignoring the breath, be feeding this suffocating feeling? Your post has a flavor of difficulty with letting go of controlling the breath and potentially a strong desire to become the one who is breathing, or the one who is controlling the breath, as if the imagined Self is greedily trying to possess the breath and consume it rapidly. This is just speculation though based on little information from your post.  Maybe if you elaborated a bit on the experience we might be able to understand better?

Metta,

Drew

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 8:49 PM as a reply to Drew Miller.
Hi Drew, I too hope practise will make me overcome it, Hopefully. You have mentioned of ignoring the temptation. I have read a lot on ignoring thoughts but it will definitely be helpful if you can elaborate a little more on that aspect for me. Just trying to learn things. emoticon 

Thanks

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 8:49 PM as a reply to neko.
Hi Neko, thanks for the suggestions. I currently practise concentration meditation focusing on the sensation of the breath sitting on the floor erect. Its been close to 2 months now and I don't have a specific goal and just wanted to flow along the meditation. I am happy on the results I see as it very progressive in every aspect of my life. Well may be I have to shift my focus to the blank space and let the breath subside on its own. The weird part is I feel very normal till the moment I close my eyes. While meditating, I don't have jitters or nervousness, tension or sweat except for racing heart beat. It beats like I had ran a sprint which I find weird that makes me take short breaths or forceful breaths !.    

Thanks

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 8:54 PM as a reply to Buddha 08.
Hi Benjamin,  

I was reflecting back the terminology that you had used in your original post. You stated "If I just try to ignore breathing and let it go by itself, it makes me suffocate and makes me take forceful breaths."  This statement seems to imply a particular relationship with the breath. What might that relationship be? What is the relationship you are attempting to cultivate with the breath? It can be challenging to allow the breath to rise and fall on its own, without controlling it, at first. In my experience, over time, the desire to control the breath decreases, as the sense of a separate controlling self decreases, or insight into the characteristic of annata is deepened.  I hope this helps. 

Drew

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 9:28 PM as a reply to Drew Miller.
Thanks Drew. That gave a better insight on how to approach this issue. Will update on things after a little experimentation. 

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/21/16 9:50 PM as a reply to Buddha 08.
It does happen sometimes and like all phenomena it does pass.  The second time I tried breathing meditation I had to pass through a phenomena of asphyxiation, but it did pass.  The first time I tried Vipassana something much worse turned up and scared me off Vipassana for several years :-) It's great to have such a good support group here..

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/22/16 7:22 PM as a reply to Buddha 08.
I meditate with eyes open....if your finding closing a problem, try open, but you'd need to get used to using a soft focus and learn to "unsee"

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/22/16 9:45 PM as a reply to Colleen Peltomaa.
Hi Colleen, it's quite interesting how each of us had different issues. I am gonna stick with my practice and may be it should subside on its own. Mind sharing how you overcome your condition? I'll keep you guys updated on my progress. emoticon

RE: Breathing problem
Answer
3/23/16 10:58 PM as a reply to Drew Miller.
Drew Miller:
Hi Benjamin,

I suspect this phenomena of "suffocating" when you "ignore" the breath will pass and change with time and continued practice.  It is often suggested to attend to particular aspects of the breath including sensations of rest, calm, peace, and joy during concentration practice or anapanasati(e.g. mindfulness of breathing).  Perhaps the aforementioned sensations are present in the breath if you continue to investigate despite the unpleasant sensations (e.g. suffocating). It's definitely ok to breath intentionally (e.g. controlling the breath)  if the unpleasantness gets too intense.

This sounds very similar to some pre OBE phenomenon as well as the classic 'old hag syndrome' where  people feel like they are paralyzed and suffocating to death.  People feel this suffocating but yet no one ever dies or even wakes up blue and near death.  That's because even though you may feel suffocating feelings, you are in reality still getting plenty of air.  Claustrophobics will attest to the fact that you can feel suffocation even when you are intaking plenty of air.  The feeling of suffocation, although often paired with lack of air, is not dependent on it, it's a separate phenomenon of feeling. 

What happen is if your awareness shifts just a tad further away from your body than normal, you may no longer be able to feel your lungs breathing as well as you usually do or maybe not even feel them at all.  But there is a part of the mind that is programmed to think that lack of breathing sensation means impending death so that part may sound the alarm big time!  Then the more you worry about not breathing, the more you notice if you don't feel any breathing, it becomes a viscious cycle.  Thoughts have power and if they are leading you in a spiral, then the way out is to find thoughts that lead  you out of the spiral.  Believing many of the things that others have said would lead you out, like remind yourself you are in reality getting plenty of air so don't worry.  If you believe that , it will work.  Also if you tell yourself it is a passing phase, and believe it, that will also work.  Or you can tell yourself you are getting plenty of air, or tell yourself that your body knows how to breath by itself even if you don't feel it, or tell yourself when you are disconnected from your body, you don't need to breath.  Or you could remember all the other times when you felt that but were in fact fine.  I went through this same hassle when learning OBEs.  I would get 'out' and then feel like I was suffocating ot death.  But I got tired of getting defeated by the feeling and found one of two methods worked for me.  First I just told myself that I didn't need air since I was not in a body anymore.  That worked but I still felt a bit uneasy.  So later I tried telling myself to simulate the feeling of breathing when out of body, that worked best for me.  When in a lucid dream or OBE, you can have a lot power over sensations.  So if I felt suffocating, I told myself to simulate the feeling and then I would take a few big huge breaths of (simulated) air and forget all about the problem and move on with whatever other projects I had in mind.  This killed the fear and after a while, I forget to notice when I lost contact with my lungs.  It was a phase and once I learned the way out, it no longer bothered me. 

Once you snap out of it once, it gets easier the next time becuase you remember the success from the last time and it makes it easier to believe you can do it.  It's a matter of mental discipline to work on thinking the kinds of thoughts that are useful and not the kind that aren't.  You are not really going to suffocate so the game from after that is you in a contest with your own insecurities.  That may sound like I am belittling your problem, but IMO, one's own mind is always the hardest opponent any of us will ever have.  ;-P  Many meditators of great experience have said they have had OBEs during meditation so I dont' think it's really a stretch that many of the experiences in med. and OBE would be similar. But Ive never heard of anyone stuck in the suffocation prob for years and years so apparently you either quite or eventually get past it.  Maybe if it goes on long enough, it just loses it's power to bother you and once that happens, it will extinguish by itself anyway.  
-Eva