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So I thought I really need to ask this question about Buddhist meditation specifically, Anapanasati. Basically I sit cross legged and count breaths for 15 minutes as advised on the Internet for beginners. Correct me if I am wrong but I think I might be overdoing my breathing towards probably the last 5 minutes. The breathing becomes heavy and I work harder to take deeper breaths . And I feel some sort of stiffness in my mouth and neck. And at the end of 15 minutes, I wake? Or get up all giddy (probably due to the heavy breaths) and feeling something out of this world for a while like say a minute.

Is this the way you're supposed to feel after doing a Anapanasati? Because it feels so odd probably due to the processes the brain undergoes during heavy breathing or rather forced heavy breathing. Would like some insights from meditation practitioners.

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It is more gentle than that. Consider the first tetrad of anapanasati:

Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.'

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'

And the second:

He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to rapture.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to pleasure.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming mental fabrication.' He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming mental fabrication.'

Emphasis are mine. These are strong hints.

From my understanding, stiffness, rigidity, force should be absent -- only the minimum should be allowed so one doesn't fall on the ground, or sleep; any small amount of extra effort disturbs the mind.

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Cripes! Don't do that! Anapanasati isn't controlled breathing as in yoga or some forms of Taoist meditation. All you are supposed to be doing is watching the breath. Notice short breaths as short breaths, long breaths as long breaths. Experience breathing in and out. But by no means should you try to control your breath. Mindfulness is the exact opposite of control! Let breathing just be breathing.

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Just breath naturally. Controlling the breath is a different practice all together called Pranayama, and that is generally a Hindu practice. In Anapanasati, the breath shouldn't be controlled or forced but will slowly calm down all on its own. Eventually breathing becomes very slow and shallow, but in order to get there you have to learn to let go and let the breath 'do its own thing' and just watch.

Also, make sure that you are keeping your attention on the breathing rather than the counting. I personally recommend only using counting at the beginning of a meditation session and when the mind becomes distracted, but not the whole time.

  • The idea of using counting just as a focal starting point when beginning and when focus is lost and then letting the counting drift away is a really helpful tool - thank you Bakmoon for this suggestion. – Ejoso Sep 13 '15 at 22:39
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All these experiences you get are due to fabrications.

You should actively calm the fabrication. To do that:

  • If you have a pleasant / unpleasant sensation somewhere bring it to your attention for a while - initially just bringing it to your attention will not make it go away but later stages it will just pass away
  • When you mind wanders a way just before brining it to the subject asses the sensations around your head and body
  • When focused on the breath focus on all aspects of the breathing. Duration and start to stop
  • Focus on particular bodily sensation (expansion / contraction and oxygenating) with no imagination or verbalisation of sensations related to the breathing
  • Focus on the mind wondering and thinking and try to focus on the breath exclusively to reduce verbal fabrication
  • Focus on sensations resulting from metal states or content and sensations resulting from perception and outlook of the world you have. Note biggest source of misery is the perception of oneself.
  • Initially you will have gross solidified sensation in your body. By bringing them to your attention they will pass away. Then you will have pleasant sensations. By being attentive to them without missing any part of the body they also will pass away leaving neutral sensation.

Also note meditating 15 minutes may be inadequate. At least do 1 hour in the morning and 1 hour in the evening / night. If possible more.

This little plant of Dhamma requires service now. Protect it from the criticism of others by making a distinction between the theory, to which some might object, and the practice, which is acceptable to all. Don’t allow such criticism to stop your practice. Meditate one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening. This regular, daily practice is essential. At first it may seem a heavy burden to devote two hours a day to meditation, but you will soon find that much time will be saved that was wasted in the past. Firstly, you will need less time for sleep. Secondly, you will be able to complete your work more quickly, because your capacity for work will increase. When a problem arises you will remain balanced, and will be able immediately to find the correct solution. As you become established in the technique, you will find that having meditated in the morning, you are full of energy throughout the day, without any agitation.

...

When you go to bed at night, for five minutes be aware of sensations anywhere in the body before you fall asleep. Next morning, as soon as you wake up, again observe sensations within for five minutes. These few minutes of meditation immediately before falling asleep and after waking up will prove very helpful.

...

Daily meditation of two hours and yearly retreats of ten days are only the minimum necessary to maintain the practice. If you have more free time, you should use it for meditation. You may do short courses of a week, or a few days, even one day. In such short courses, devote the first one third of your time to the practice of Anapana, and the rest to Vipassana.

Source: The Discourse Summaries by S.N.Goenka

  • Okay I will try some more and pay attention. Thank you. – esh Dec 28 '14 at 10:59
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I apologize for making an answer that should be a comment but I don't have enough rep to comment. My teacher always says that, in general, you should feel good after practicing meditation. His rule of thumb is that if you feel good, clear-minded, and refreshed, you are probably doing it right. If you feel dull, sluggish, or worse than when you started, you are probably doing it wrong and may be causing insidious harm. It sounds to me like you need to work on following the three golden rules. Best of luck!

  • I'm not sure about insidious harm; about the worse that will happen is that you will over practice bad technique and maybe over oxygenate your blood. And while it is true that you will usually feel good afterwards, that is not always the rule. All the same, that is fairly sound advice. – user698 Oct 24 '14 at 13:15
  • Given the link to those "three golden rule", perhaps the "may be causing insidious harm" is from the perspective of Qigong beliefs/practice. – ChrisW Oct 24 '14 at 13:35
  • @ChrisW Yes, that is correct. There is much overlap between qigong and meditation as they are both a training of energy and mind. Practicing them incorrectly can cause insidious harm to these systems. If you do not believe in energy or mind, please feel free to ignore this. – sirdank Oct 24 '14 at 13:39
  • I like to practice a Tai Chi form, and I like breathing. And I liked your answer, that if the practice makes you feel worse then maybe you're doing it wrong. But I did want to mention that "insidious harm" is, really, something of a Qigong belief -- I learned a bit of what Wikipedia describes as "Chinese Medical Qigong" or "Daoist Qigong", and at least according to that IMO Qigong's focusing on benefit to the body needn't be confused with the OP's asking "about Buddhist meditation specifically". – ChrisW Oct 24 '14 at 14:02

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