I have practiced anapanasati for a while and encountered some difficulties. I can easily find my breath in front of nostril. Then I started to pay attention to the in-and-out of the breath continuously. But after a while, pain raised in my chest around heart. As I tried to focus more on the breath, the pain increased. In addition, if I suddenly stopped paying attention to the breath, I found my neck and shoulder very rigid and uncomfortable. I also felt exhausted after the meditation.

I’m wondering if I focus too much. Before I know anapanasati, I used to practice simple meditation like just relaxing and checking any thoughts if they arise. I felt much better by not paying attention to any object.

So my question is: what is a good “attention” to breath? Thanks!

  • In some sittings I deliberately asked myself not to focus on the breath too much and stay relaxed. When I found I’m too focused on the breath, I “told” myself to stop that and became aware of other things. But I’m not sure this is the correct way either.
    – wez
    Aug 28, 2019 at 4:11
  • 1
    Oh, I forgot, one of the special features of "Mindfulness of the Breathing" practice , is that when we start really calming down, one's breath becomes more subtle. This is where Dharma cultivation becomes more important. Ideally your mind becomes more subtle, too. more inward. Eventually , your breath will stop and you will go into Nirodha , which is True cessation. That is one of the major goals of meditation. Keep studying. So what happens when the breath is too subtle for you to be aware . You must develop more focused awareness.Still being relaxed and attentive. G.L. Ask me any question.
    – Pasquale
    Aug 29, 2019 at 2:16
  • Finally, be mindful of the breath where ever your awareness naturally goes.I am not of the school that "puts one's attention at such and such place. This is Samadhi practice. Remember the four foundations. When sitting , just be yourself, and become aware of the entire breath body. Just accept what arises. This is a process...
    – Pasquale
    Aug 29, 2019 at 2:19

4 Answers 4


There is no need to focus on the breath.

The practise of the Buddha is to keep the mind without craving, without attachment, without past, without future. Silent still mind.

When the mind is quiet, it will connect with the breath, itself, automatically.

Experiencing the breath is merely the "sign" the mind is without craving.

And what is the faculty of concentration? There is the case where a monk, a disciple of the noble ones, making it his object to let go, attains concentration, attains singleness of mind.

Indriya-vibhanga Sutta

  • Thanks! I’m a bit confused. If I let it go, why would it “automatically” connect to breath but not anything else? I understand letting it go practice and not think about past and future. Then how does “experiencing” breath take place here? Is this effortless or require paying attention to?
    – wez
    Aug 28, 2019 at 4:41
  • 2
    The mind must be quiet. When the mind is quiet, the breath becomes the grossest sense object (apart from sounds). Aug 28, 2019 at 5:19
  • 1
    How does it take place? It is the same as hearing a sound or smelling a smell. You do not make a decision to hear a sound or smell a smell. It happens automatically. Similarly, if you place your trust in the Dhamma, the quiet mind will connect with the breathing. One must trust. One must have faith. One must know how to surrender and surrender all ambition. Aug 28, 2019 at 5:20
  • thanks! I’ll mark your answer accepted. There appears to be a big difference between “concentration/focus/attention” and “mindfulness/awareness”. One should not pay attention to the breath. I found other links useful: dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=34926
    – wez
    Aug 29, 2019 at 3:19
  • Also, I found this discussion is useful: bswa.org/forum/forum/discussion/meditation/…
    – wez
    Aug 29, 2019 at 3:22

Due to past Sanhkara when one practices meditation one may get different sensations which can be pleasant or unpleasant. Don't give too much importance to this and continue the practice.

The focus of breath meditation should be in the area from the top of the nose to the base of the upper lip. The areas should be widened this full area or narrowed to based on one's sensitivity to feeling the breath and concentration.


There are different ways to do the anapanasati. If I were you, I would read the Sutta at least once a week, to get the spirit of the practice. You see, what happened , over the years was that the teachers started using the breath practice as just a concentration practice. To answer your question, be fully and completely aware of the body breathing. Each moment is a new moment, and new consciousness. Most of us are confused about the goal, because we haven't really seen any Arhants , or even Never returners. I don't recommend the Nimita , sign , after image, practice, but this does happen naturally. Usually at retreats. Find a good teacher. Do Soto Zen. So , let me ask you, Do you have a very clear, comprehensive view of the goal? That is why we study. Find what the 10 taints are , they are removed when one has reached full awakening. Here , read this for fun and benefit https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.022.nypo.html So , to condense. Trust yourself, Seeking the truth is natural, but not easy. We really have a natural tendency to go into samadhi, learn to work with that. When you are more peaceful, relaxed patient, etc, you are going in the right direction. In short all the 37 limbs of awakening need to be developed in one's practice. I hope this helps. Remember, Buddha Loves you, really.

  • What does Soto Zen have to do with it. Granted "Zen Mind" starts with the breath, but Soto Zen ultimately goes to shikantaza.
    – user20360
    Mar 7, 2021 at 21:50

When I first started anapanasati meditation two years ago I was making the breaths and that hurts! Now I'm just happy to keep returning my attention to what's happening at the nostril tip - for example warm air out, cooler air in. I have no other reason to do this other than to see what's happening there - and then, for me, gradually the inexplicable happens :-)

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