Breathlessness In Meditation



I have been feeling breathless. It's almost impossible to meditate as focusing on the breath only takes me back into the fearful mind. I try to take my mind off being breathless, but the tight sensations and pressure around the chest only bring my attention back to these feelings. It's been like this for a few months now. The doctor puts it down to anxiety. I don't know what it is. I have tried to figure out what it is but I notice this only makes me worry more. 

I wonder if you have any advise or suggestions on how to accept the breathlessness, how to relax through it, as I notice if I focus on the breathlessness (for meditation) it always intensifies and goes straight into the fearful mind. 

I, of course do not want to worry about it, there is simply nothing I can do to change it, but accept, but it leaves me so irritable, unable to relax and feelings of stress. 

Any advice and suggestions will be gratefully appreciated.



Ok, I'm not sure.

So is the breathlessness arising only during a meditation where you focus on the breath? Obviously breathing is happening all day, so when you take attention to it specifically, only then does it create discomfort?

I will assume so for now.

If it creates a painful reaction, perhaps relax your attention from watching the breath. Perhaps just sit, with absolutely no intentions or even ideas of meditation. Then it may all start to feel more natural.

It is true that meditation can cause inner-flare ups to occur, but I am not sure exactly what the ones you describe are related to. It could be pent-up anxiety that begins to be released, and as it rises to the surface it feels intense and uncomfortable.

Perhaps you are trying to control your breath in some way? Making it deeper or slower? If so, there is no need for this, you can just let it go on by itself, as it does all hours of the day and night, and there is a simple noticing that it is spontaneously happening by itself

The truest acceptance is noticing that the experience already is at it is. There is no one to accept or reject it. Then there will be no intentions to overcome it or figure it out, and it is not even expected to leave.

The stress tends to come from wishing the reality or experience to be different to how it is. Notice that the stress over it all, the wish to relax, does not help alleviate anything. Noticing futility, without condemning anything, can help old energies to drop.

I feel it will work itself out, particularly after you become exhausted of trying to control it in any way. No need to turn it into a problem or an enemy, treat it with compassion, as if it is a response that is doing its best, doing what it thinks is right, but has become blind to the harm it causes itself.

You also don't have to manage it. It arises by itself, so it is not your responsibility to fix. Leave it to the intelligence of Life.

There are some alternative mediations that are not so breath-orientated. For example, simply feeling, dwelling in and allowing your attention to merge with the primal, impersonal sense of being, the sense that you exist, and allow this sense of "I AM" or beingness, to remain in itself, not connected to any ideas. Eg. not "I Am Mick" or "I Am Meditating" or "I Am Breathless" - just "I AM", without description.

There is also earthing/grounding meditation - feeling the connection of the body to the Earth beneath you, or first feeling the connection to your building, and then the Earth beneath, and allowing the sense of connection to strengthen and mature, perhaps by using things such as visualisations of roots connecting the body to the Earth.

Some of the videos and audios in the Meditation Section of this site may help you.

I'm not sure how much of this answer will help, but I hope it has somehow.

Thanks for your question, you can always ask follow-ups below if you wish,


Comments for Breathlessness In Meditation

(from previous website)

Mar 21, 2015
by: Mick

Thank you Adam. 

You mentioned the 'I Am' meditation. Can you elaborate what you mean? I like the idea of not focusing on the breath. 

I also take your advice about the breath. To answer your questions, I do not become breathless with meditation. I am breathless when I wake up, then all day, then before I go to sleep. It only seems to go away whenever I am distracted, basically, when I am not focused or obsessing about the breath. And it does make sense that when I am worrying about my breathing, of course anxiety comes into play. Breathlessness being an anxiety symptom arises, and I watch this all day, but just can't seem to get out of the mind. It only happens when I get so overwhelmed and I know this sounds strange, but burst into tears, I find my body goes back to equilibrium and I calm and relaxed again. 
The thing is though, I force myself to cry to release whatever tension is going on and it never works. It always has to get to the stage of being so overwhelmed all the time. 

This is when I tried meditation, but the meditations I tried all focus on the breath. Then my anxiety gets worse. I watch it and I know it's because I am holding my breath at times, or trying to control it, then I get chest pain and pressure. I try to stop it. Then I get into a mess. Then I give up. Try again. I simply cannot focus on the breath. 

But, this 'I Am' meditation sounds interesting. I hope you can explain further in detail what you mean. 

Thank you. And much appreciation for your reply.

Mar 22, 2015
by: Adam -

It is simply to be. To not do anything. 

Everyone feels as if they exist. What I mentioned was to just take attention to this, the sense of presence, or of being. 

What is it that makes you feel as if you exist? Be that. 

It is not something to be thought about, or even "practiced". 

Just rest with and as the sense of impersonal existence, which is not trying to be or do anything, and is the ground of all other experience. 

It is felt at first as if in the body, as the sensation of existence. 

It may feel difficult at first to remain with the sense of being, but don't bother about anything, take nothing as important other than the simple sense of being, the existence that you are. 

I hope that is sufficient for you. The "I AM" presence is intelligence itself, be loyal to it for ten minutes, and see how you get on. But do not search for any state to happen. 

To talk about it a lot can give too many words to something that is wordless, and is prior to any word. But if you wish to ask more, then that is fine. 


Mar 25, 2015
A thank you and one more question.NEW
by: Mick

Thank for elaborating and I fully understand what you say. So, thank you. 
I love to immerse myself in my writing. It's the only thing that I notice (not during my writing) after I have wrote that I have took my attention away from my anxiety, my breathlessness. Unfortunately I can end up writing for hours on end, to the detriment of not being able to sleep. I found responsibilities/family life would end up being neglected because of it. So I made the conscious decision to put an end to it. 

This of course made my symptoms much worse. So, my question is; When I write, is that being? Or is that more an auto-pilot thing? As if I fall back asleep. Because I know I am, I know I exist when I write for hours upon end. But the joy I find it brings me. . .I can basically do it forever until I breathe my last breath. It's when I come back to the conditioning of what Society tells me to do. Be this way with your family, don't be so selfish, etc. And I wonder if that sense of being is actually more of an auto-pilot way of thinking rather than actually being. 

Maybe I have completely misunderstood your guidance. I hope you understand what I mean. 


P.S I also found when I lay in my bed at night and I just stay with the sense of being there. Being in the I am, aware that I am aware of what is going on not only around me, but inside the body too. I found an incredible amount of energy inside my body, which leads me to get up and write more as the inspiration to write just comes from some source. I didn't mind the energy, though it didn't relax me to sleep. I just let it all happen. Is this also part of the practice you talk about too? 

Mar 26, 2015
Mick NEW
by: Adam -

Hi Mick, 

Well, "being" is itself the source of creativity. It is life itself, so it would make sense that when the attention sicks back into it, inspiration can come. You may not find it always like this. Sometimes it may release lots of creative energy, and other times it may just be a peace, or a stillness. Something like writing is very creative, so it flows out of being, or presence. You probably fall into it quite easily when you write, and so you don’t feel disturbed by anything. You also may notice there is a sense of oneness when you write - just writing happening, rather than "me doing the writing", there is just writing. Oneness. 

From here I would say its good to let it all flow. To try to put a stop to it will be very difficult, or at least very uncomfortable. 

I don’t think you’ve misunderstood anything, but you may find eventually, all intellectual understandings are no longer of use, and you can give up all concepts about it. 


Mar 27, 2015
Thank you NEW
by: Mick

Thank you for your reply, suggestions and information. Love the work you do, the site and once again thank you for your help. I have been less focused on the breath. I am very grateful.