Very subtle breath

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.

Very subtle breath

Postby powerhawk » Mon Aug 27, 2012 3:47 pm

Hello,
I've been practicing mindfulness of the breath in my abdomen for roughly 8 months, and recently realized that, while almost all instruction I have been given has said not to control the breathing in any way, I was still, in a subtle way, making my breath deeper.
After making attempts to just let my breath proceed completely naturally, I have noticed that my breath becomes very light, and I hardly feel any overt sensations in my abdomen at all. There is some element of sensation but it is not nearly as strong as typical sensations of touch. This makes it a lot more difficult to place my attention directly on the breath (but nevertheless I feel my meditation is better now that I am not controlling the breath than it was previously).

If I am wearing a shirt that is right against my abdomen, I can focus on the sensation of my abdomen hitting my shirt as I breathe, which helps. The sensations in my nostrils are also rather weak unless I am breathing with some vigor.

Is this common? I don't know what to do when this happens.
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Aug 28, 2012 4:57 am

powerhawk wrote:Hello,
I've been practicing mindfulness of the breath in my abdomen for roughly 8 months, and recently realized that, while almost all instruction I have been given has said not to control the breathing in any way, I was still, in a subtle way, making my breath deeper.
After making attempts to just let my breath proceed completely naturally, I have noticed that my breath becomes very light, and I hardly feel any overt sensations in my abdomen at all. There is some element of sensation but it is not nearly as strong as typical sensations of touch. This makes it a lot more difficult to place my attention directly on the breath (but nevertheless I feel my meditation is better now that I am not controlling the breath than it was previously).

If I am wearing a shirt that is right against my abdomen, I can focus on the sensation of my abdomen hitting my shirt as I breathe, which helps. The sensations in my nostrils are also rather weak unless I am breathing with some vigor.

Is this common? I don't know what to do when this happens.


A lot of time people breathe so calmly during meditation that at first it can be a little startling. One might suppose that one could easily stop breathing altogether. But this doesn't happen. Actually, (unless you have sleep apnea) people tend to breathe very lightly like this during a lot of the time they sleep.
Anyway...
The purpose in meditation on watching the breath is to calm the mind.
If your mind is calm, you can begin to just let it rest in its natural state.

Does that make sense?
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby TaTa » Wed Aug 29, 2012 6:22 pm

The same thing happends to me and i have almost the same amount of time meditating as you. What i do basicly is focus on that kind of "void" sensation when de breath becomes lighter. After a while it seems that you start to become more aware of subtle things and the breath appears again (or not). One analogy that iv heard from ajahn brahm is that its the same as when you turn off the lights. At first you dont see anything but then your eyes start to function better in the dark.
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby catmoon » Thu Aug 30, 2012 7:48 am

Sometimes, great relaxation plus intense concentration on a non-breath object, like a nimitta, can result in a startling event. After a number of minutes one snaps alert thinking "OMG I'm not breathing!". It's alarming at first. I think what is happening is that the breath has become exceedingly fine and lengthy gaps in the breathing cycle are occurring. I've never suffered any ill effects from this sort of thing.

It's such a strong effect it really does get you wondering just how long one can go without breathing at all...
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Aug 30, 2012 11:04 am

catmoon wrote:
It's such a strong effect it really does get you wondering just how long one can go without breathing at all...


Apparently, for quite a long time after you die. :tongue:
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby lobster » Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:12 am

The sensations in my nostrils are also rather weak unless I am breathing with some vigor.


Excellent. :twothumbsup:
I had a great deal of tension, this light breathing has alluded me most of my life.
It does come though . . . usually after 20 minutes of meditation, I move into ultralight breathing . . .
Would you like to know how many years it took? Probably best not to mention . . .

What is interesting is one part of the being may be at rest but we still have internal and external karmic arisings. For example you would now seem in an ideal place to do metta bhavna or vajarayana practices. However they may not be to your liking . . .

Maybe the 'directed breath'. I very often go through the lotus seated body in a nidra type breath sequence, breathing softness into any tension or awareness I find the body makes me aware of . . .

:smile:
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby Mal » Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:52 pm

catmoon wrote:Sometimes, great relaxation plus intense concentration on a non-breath object, like a nimitta, can result in a startling event. After a number of minutes one snaps alert thinking "OMG I'm not breathing!"...


*One* doesn't, *you* might! Relax... let it go...
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Re: Very subtle breath

Postby catmoon » Sun Sep 23, 2012 3:07 am

Mal wrote:
catmoon wrote:Sometimes, great relaxation plus intense concentration on a non-breath object, like a nimitta, can result in a startling event. After a number of minutes one snaps alert thinking "OMG I'm not breathing!"...


*One* doesn't, *you* might! Relax... let it go...


Two points. First, I said it's something that can happen, not something that will happen. K?

Second, it's something I let go of like ten or twenty years ago. Doesn't bother me at all any more.
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