A few interesting questions on meditation


I have some questions which arise from numerous sources which seem to contradict each other and are keeping my mind in a knot about meditation. I appreciate all opinions but I would like to know what you base your opinions on. So here they are:

  1. Wheather to breathe deeply (expanding the abdomen fully then sucking it in) or to breathe shallow (but still through the stomach, I know not to breathe into the chest). The contrast is that breathing deeply requires focus to force it since you don’t actually need to breathe deeply in a very relaxed state. And focus is good. But I’ve also read that breathing should be natural and spontaneous rather than forced while maintaining focus on the manner, rhythm, etc. of your natural breath. So which is it?

  2. Related to the above when I force my breathing to be deep I often want to yawn since I also try to keep my breathing slow paced. Obviously yawning interrupts my focus etc. and makes it even harder for me to meditate (Im new to it the practice). So the question is what am I doing wrong and/or how to fix the issue. I suppose this could be answered by the previous question but I wanted to seperate the two to avoid confusion.

  3. Should I focus on breathing in the first place? From my knowledge meditation is achieved by focusing on almost anything simple which holds your attention. Yet focusing on breathing has many benefits (which I cannot recall right now, correct me if Im wrong). But I also read many texts, especially on self-hypnosis (which in my opinion is just meditation with a scientific label), which say to focus on relaxation - physical and mental. So what to focus on? Perhaps there’s a pattern of moving from one to the others like focusing on relaxation in the beginning, moving on to breathing and then… something. That’s been my idea but I’d like to hear some confirmation since I don’t have the experience or knowledge to confirm it, or other ideas regarding that.

  4. How can you check if you are in the alpha/meditative state? I assume there is way but the best thing I could find is something along the lines of focusing on your arm feeling very cold and if it does end up feeling very cold then you are in a highly suggestive state (alpha). The problem with that approach is suggestions are quite notorious for their inconsistency across infinite variables like fitness, diet, stress, etc. which change every day if not every hour. I can’t sit there thinking I’m getting somewhere while trying to meditate I have to know for certain. So does anyone have any ideas?

  5. This is again related to the first question. Should the breathing be continuous or spontaneous? This sounds a bit like the first question so allow me to clarify. Do you breathe in and out in a consistent rhythm with no pauses - so the end of an exhalation is the begining of an inhalation - or do you breathe in and breathe out when you feel you need/want to? The difference between this question and the first is here I assume all breathing is deep, the question is on timing, whilst in the first question I’m interested in the style of breathing - deep vs shallow.

Well that’s all. I suppose the title of this post should’ve read “A few long questions” but not many people would be interested in reading it then =).

Thanks in advance,


Welcome Pltonik.

Some basics to cover before getting to your list.
There are many different methods to meditation. These methods come from several different sources and some of them have different purposes. In this way the options cover the entire spectrum.

It is when we come to a point where we believe there is only one way that we live in dogma and not yoga. The progress of evolution that is yoga and meditation must germinate from a position where a myriad of possibilities exist; some of them contradictory (but complementary). It is this very holding of contradiction that stretches the brain.

As you are just getting in to meditation I am curious as to why. Some of what you cite is/are very common not just for beginners but for more experienced meditators too.

  1. breathing. If one is practicing a meditation style or being taught a style then the breathing would enjoin with that style. In my practice the breath is kept in the home of the breath which is the lungs so breathing falls between the collar bones and diphragm. Deep belly breathing may strain belly ligaments so “we” do not practice in that way.

We do not focus on the breath or watch it (though some may and do). The breathing should be smooth and regular with equinimity between inhalation and exhalation. Now, there are various manipulations or controls of the breath (pranayam) but we do not “do” pranayam in meditation, per se. When we are practicing pranayam one might say we are meditating or in a meditative state but these are different practices.

  1. Meditation comes with obstacles. There are many. For example in Vipassana meditation there are several hundred unwholesome conditions of the mind. One of these is sloth and torpor. I used to have my head nod forward in my meditation. It is one of the mind’s resistences to relinquishing control. It is not to be concerned over. Yawning may just be another obstacle. For some it’s the a smell of food. For others it’s the illusion of a bug on the cheek. All common. Intruption in your focus IS meditation. It is this call away and your commitment to not react or respond that is the retraining of the mind as aa server and not a master.

  2. Many meditations are guided. And it is not unreasonable to think a focus can shift. It can be the heart center, a mantra, the breath…again, it depends. But these things do not matter at this point. Just sit and see what comes up without expectations at all. Pick something and let go of any attachment to rationalize the choice. Focus on breath does have benefits. I think however that you are strongly rooted in mental energies and these ruminations are keeping you from sitting. Keep it simple. Make it only an observation about how YOU behave when you opt to sit in stilness and silence. Once you know that and continue to explore that you are well on the path.

  3. I don’t concern myself with what state I’m in. It simply does not matter if I’m in an alpha state.

  4. if you are NOT doing a meditation in which the focus is on breath awareness then the breath should be on it’s own without volition on your part. In the breath cycle there is a natural and brief pause at the end of both the inhalation and the exhalation. The breath should not be a source of disturbance to you. This too is mental obstacle. Since it is not your time to die the body will handle the breath on it’s own - on that you can be certain:-)

Last but not least, ENJOY the process my friend. Drink in the nectar. If there is no joy in it for you, stop.

Hello InnerAthlete,

First thank you for the detailed response. Much of what you say resonates with my own thoughts and perceptions. Let me respond to your comments per paragraph.

My interest and purpose in meditation is, well, to get all the benefits from it. But if I had to pick a single purpose then right now it would be to gain better access and control over my self and my minds resources/power.

I, too, believe there is no single way but a culmination of ways which build on each other. However, there is a big difference between the ways and how you walk them: would you prefer to swim across a lake or build a small raft and comfortably paddle? I can vote both ways but in the end, for many reasons, I’d prefer to spend time learning and then building a raft. Same with meditation; if there is a ‘better’ way of meditating to achieve my goals then I’d prefer it over the others. Certainly if all you want is a nice swim then you don’t need much - just relax and let the water be your raft. However when the goal is more demanding - in my case I want to effortlessly (efficiently) cross this and any other lake - swimming is just foolish and redundant in my opinion (I hate redundancy).
Lastly, I implement many things in my life which seem to contradict each other, however, I do them in a way where they work together towards my purpose. So I am quite happy to make use of all techniques (and I intend to as much as possible, hence why this is so complicated for me) as long as they do indeed work together rather than against. So any suggestions how to incorporate these things together are welcome.

Meditation to me is one of a few ways I have found to better myself and live to the fullest of my existance and do both in the most harmoneous way with the rest of the world and it’s laws.

The style of meditation I’m mainly focused on is more scientific rather than traditional - but that’s not to say I don’t believe in the other. Everyone has their approach which is more comfortable for them and this is mine. So much of my reasoning comes from the mentality of “what helps build and enhance the effect”.

How must the breath “be smooth and regular with equinimity between inhalation and exhalation”? In terms of time spent on each? I don’t fully understand. Further down you mention that if you do not focus on breathing then it “should be on it’s own without volition on your part”. Don’t the two contradict each other?

“It is this call away and your commitment to not react or respond that is the retraining of the mind as aa server and not a master” - I’m not sure I completely understand that sentence. Do you mean to say that by having the ability to maintain focus even when other things are trying to steal it that’s meditation? Isn’t that just a skill (a good one) which allows one to meditate/stay in a meditative state, rather than being a meditative state in itself? Furthermore, it takes a lot of physical effort to stop myself from yawning rather than mental effort/focus so I don’t see how overcoming my physical need to yawn helps the meditation in any way. Otherwise I agree with you on your other examples.

“Just sit and see what comes up without expectations at all. Pick something and let go of any attachment to rationalize the choice” - agreed, in fact I forgot about this approach, thank you for reminding me. However I must ask why “these things do not matter at this point” and what point are you refering to?
“I think however that you are strongly rooted in mental energies and these ruminations are keeping you from sitting. Keep it simple” - very true, I am very left-brained (safe to say 90%) which is one more reason why I want to practice meditation to regain some of my right-brain connection. However, I simply cannot do something simply =), it goes against everything in my nature which is why I’m forced to ask and discuss all of this to such great detail.
“Make it only an observation about how YOU behave when you opt to sit in stilness and silence” - another welcomed idea which greatly lessens the load on my overly critical mind about finally practicing more regularly, thank you.

My only concern about whether or not I’m in alpha or any other state is that it would again release me more from my skeptical mind which is constantly questioning whether the 30 minutes I spent “doing nothing” was worth it/did something. I realise that this shouldn’t even be an issue - the reason I want to keep meditating is because it does do something for me - but again I can’t let go of the idea that it’s not the most optimal and productive session.

“The breath should not be a source of disturbance to you. This too is mental obstacle” - agreed, though again the only reason it’s an obstacle is because of the possibility that I may be missing out on something.

I most certainly do enjoy meditating and want to enjoy it more hence why I’m here.

Lastly, it is almost meditative to be able to verbalise and share my thoughts with someone as the process itself has helped me understand these problems better. And the responses are even more far reaching. So thank you InnerAthlete.


Meditation has been practiced for thousands of years, and there are some definite benefits to it. One is that it clears your mind of distractions. It's a good way of getting rid of the unimportant things so you can concentrate on the important ones.

Another is that meditation can help you develop self-understanding. It can help you understand yourself better.

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