Breath Stopping

Being There by Cattan2011

Being There by Cattan2011

Breath stopping came up on Transcending so I thought it worth breaking the points out into an article.

In a transcending meditation practice we quickly settle within. As we settle the mind, the body also settles. Oxygen consumption and other metabolic indicators drop. In a typical session, this can be 30-60%.

When we transcend the practice into samadhi (also called turiya or pure consciousness), we may notice a brief period of inner silence or no thoughts along with very deep relaxation.

But when we notice, the mind starts to think about it and the metabolism rises some again. Or the rest causes the body to purify which creates activity in the body, then the mind. In either case, we lift from the depths to complete a cycle.

We repeat this cycle of inward and outward strokes many, many times.

With experience, that inner pure consciousness begins to be maintained even while thoughts arise. They no longer disturb the silence as it has become clear and integrated enough.

Then consciousness shows even in daily activity. The sustaining of inner alertness becomes presence. We notice we’re “in” consciousness more than our mind or body.

We can then go deeper into silence in meditation. Then we may notice the breath pausing. The metabolism has become so settled that usual breath is not needed. There is no control whatsoever – this is arising spontaneously from a very low metabolism.

Then that deep rest allows purification to occur and activity resumes in the body and breath resumes.

We’re more likely to notice this when we’re well-rested and relaxed, like on a retreat. However, it can arise at any time.

Often, we’ll just notice coming out of a pause or blank period. Perhaps we’ll notice a wave of happiness as we rise through the bliss body.

So often, transcendence happens without us even noticing. Samadhi has no content for the mind to notice – it’s often recognized by absence. Once we establish a transcending practice, brief periods of transcending and breath stoppage are common but we may only notice them as moments when I wasn’t thinking.

In India, they sometimes describe unresolved stresses as sleeping elephants. When we meditate and settle within, we move through these elephants. But often, this wakes a few of them up and they stir and rumble around, kicking up dust.

Occasionally, we can sneak through the elephants and have a clear experience on the other side. More often, purification arises kicking up the dust. But this dust isn’t a bad thing. It’s an indication of clearing that brings deep long-term benefits. Thus, even a foggy meditation is of great benefit.

We shouldn’t judge the results of our effortless meditation by our subjective experience during it. Instead, look to the results in our life, in the world.

As we deepen still further, such as on a long retreat, we may get clear and settled enough that we can have long periods of transcendence. The breath will pause for 10, 20, 30 minutes or more. But when it does that, the lungs shift into a new mode and a fine vibration arises. Not an in and out breath.

That fine vibration seems to draw on prana (life force) rather than oxygen. Physical activity requires oxygen to burn fuel but if the body is in a pause, it’s not needed.

This takes a very clear experience and the ability to notice without disturbing or reacting to the experience.

Scientists have documented this breath stoppage in various studies. Note this differs greatly from yogis who have practiced body control and can stop the breath at will. What I describe happens spontaneously when breath is not required.

One term for transcending in the old texts is turiya, meaning the fourth. It is not a “altered state” but a distinct fourth state of consciousness along with waking, dreaming, and sleeping with its own specific measurable physiological markers. Effortless meditation restores it in our life.

In time the state becomes very familiar and spreads into activity and sleep. When we’re rested, the body automatically takes the opportunity to transcend and heal.

At some point, consciousness within becomes so clear and established that it becomes constant, an always present observer day and night. Breath stoppage becomes normal during sleep and even in quiet activity. For example, when I got a sleep test, the readout was full of breath stopping. Yet it was without the other symptoms of sleep apnea (breath blockage).

This deeply speeds up our progress. But not to worry if you have an effortless practice but are not noticing clear transcendence. As mentioned, it is an absence of experience, it is just pure being. It may only be obvious to measurement equipment. For many, progress may seem flat until they wake up. For others, there is greater sattva and thus clarity. Or witnessing may arise prior to awakening. In that case, that inner Self just has to recognize itself to wake up.
Davidya

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32 Responses to Breath Stopping

  1. Kevin says:

    Breath stoppage is also a common experience for those practising simple Buddhist breath awareness technique.

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Kevin

      Yes, breath stoppage can be a factor in any good practice designed to settle the body or the mind. The point of this specific article was the experience with an effortless meditation. Other practices may show up a little differently.
      .
      In fact, the overall process in the article is a general overview. There are lots of ways it can arise.

  2. Jeff says:

    On long retreats, while resting, I noticed that a half an hour slips by in an instance. I can’t tell if I am having a very clear experience of witnessing sleep or if I had just been lost in the transcendence. When I think about it, they really seem like the same thing.

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Jeff
      In some ways, they are very similar. But there are key distinctions.
      .
      Firstly though, it’s not a “clear experience of witnessing sleep” if you’re not sure. Sleep is a specific state of the physiology. It can arise in meditation if there is fatigue rising up. Fatigue is one type of “stress” to purify. But there is then the tendency to feel like waking up from a nap when we come out. It is sleep at a deep level but still sleep.
      .
      Transcendence will be without the grog. Just content coming back online, often with a bit of mind. Perhaps a wave of happiness as we come up through the bliss body.

      • Jeff says:

        I know what witnessing sleep is, there is no doubt. I fall into sleep, and also watch my senses unfold as I come into the waking state. I also have watched fatigue stream out of my body. My mind is very clear when I wake up. I have also watched stress in the body being released, which triggers the dream state. Once the stress is cleared, the dream ends.

        My experiences have always been very clear. So, how you have described witnessing has been is how I had described my everyday experience, in public settings, for many years.

        What I had described to you was just pure transcendence, beyond time and space. It was pure wakefulness. I thought I was wide awake, yet time flew by.

        • Davidya says:

          Hi Jeff
          Sorry – I just respond to everyone who might read it. Very cool to watch old junk stream out.
          .
          So yes, sleep and transcendence do get very similar when the witness is established. The lines blur. There are still distinct states of the physiology though.
          .
          For example, purification in deep transcendence can lead to a stream of thoughts like a dream. And dreaming when witnessing is also a stream from purification. But the context is a little different.
          .
          We can also have purification in waking state that creates a stream of thoughts but its not quite dreaming.
          .
          Yes, wide awake but timeless.

  3. Ron Whitaker says:

    Can breath stoppage be accompanied with time stoppage?

    • Davidya says:

      Very much, Ron. Breath stoppage happens when we’re on a deep level that goes beyond the constraints of space and time. So like Jeff above, time can just disappear or we can change our relationship with it. For example, the sense of being in the now or eternity.
      https://davidya.ca/2018/08/24/time-is-a-perspective/
      .
      Our sense of space can change dramatically also.

      • Ronson Whitaker says:

        Thanks Davidya. One further question based on the paragraph:

        Often, we’ll just notice coming out of a pause or blank period. Perhaps we’ll notice a wave of happiness as we rise through the bliss body.

        There used to be much bliss during meditation, in fact on many occasions through activities. Now silence and transcendence can float easily sometimes for an hour in morning meditation. The quiet seems present through the day as well.

        What happened to those periods of bliss and passing through the bliss body?

        • Davidya says:

          Hi Ron
          Everything in the field of experience comes and goes. There can be coarse elephants like emotions or very subtle ones that kick up finer dust.
          .
          Thus we can have periods of great bliss, then periods of silence alone. At some point, greater clarity will come again, bringing the waves back.
          .
          Even when the bliss becomes established, always present, it will sometimes be very background and sometimes very foreground with lots of variations in between.

        • Davidya says:

          Hi Ron
          To further this, there are times when the silence is so dominant that it silences even the bliss.
          .
          Later in the process, there can be times when the liveliness is so dominant, it overshadows the silence. Bliss, flow and love dominate over silence.
          .
          And then of course there can be any number of nuances between the polarities.

  4. Michael says:

    Hi David!

    Nice one!

    I would add that the breath stop has not necessarily to do with deep-rest. I reember a phase when my kundalini was very active, i was jumping on a rebounder and singing a song when the thought came “how can i do this rebounding and singing at the same time and have no oxygen shortage”?

    Turns out i wasn’t breathing at all! (then shifted to 1 breath a minute)…i felt euphoric and full of power. That state continued for some time after the rebounding. My body would take one breath per minute and it was fine (while doing normal daily activities) At a certain point this stopped and the body started breathing in normal mode again. 🙂

    I have also met alchemical masters who do not breath much at all (besides eating very little, almost no water consumption, no need for sleep etc.)….in that tradition it is said “the sage breathes through the heels” and it is seen as a sign of good progress in alchemical spiritual work to lessen the need for material substances. It should not be sought after but comes naturally with progression.

    Just wanted to broaden the horizon of this fascinating topic a little more.

    Much love
    Michael

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Michael
      .
      Yes, this article was specific to the experience in effortless meditation. I mentioned that more subtle than breath is prana or chi. If we shift how we’re being in the world, we have the potential to shift how we’re “fueling” the body.
      .
      Breathing through the feet would relate to how they’re tapping into energy. The sun, chakras, and space are other options.
      .
      But I can also note we’re at a time in history where tamas or inertia has been dominant. It takes a lot of work to refine that away. Most of us don’t live long enough to get there. To me, more effective is the development of consciousness. That goes beyond the boundaries of this life.

  5. Erin Smith says:

    Wonderful article! Thank you!

  6. Deborah says:

    When in deep stillness, i have experienced the very subtle need for a breath in my body. Your article helps because there is a wondering about what to do with this occasional need for a breath…just relax? There is no fear, but a subtle annoyance and then a thought ‘ i wish i did not have to breathe, its disturbing the stillness’. It feels like i need to drop something. Thanks for this David

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Deborah
      Yes, just allow the breath. Let the body do what it needs. If it’s uncomfortable, shift a bit.
      .
      At first, the breath may disturb the stillness so we may resist it. But better to breathe. If we try to hold on, we’re trying to control. That gets in the way of it.
      .
      So its the resisting, even quietly, to be dropped. 🙂
      .
      In time, the stillness will become unshakable and nothing will disturb it.

  7. Aaron says:

    Another great article. Thank you Davidya!

  8. Thank you David, I appreciate this information. There are many layers of understanding in it.

  9. Hi David,

    You wrote—’We may notice a brief period of inner silence or no thoughts along with very deep relaxation.’ And ‘In fact, the overall process in the article is a general overview. There are lots of ways it can arise.’

    *

    The extract below is from Lorne Hoff’s latest webcast which brought about the same response.

    *

    ‘Let go— allow this wholeness, this fullness of being itself that is right here in this space all around us to experience not only the boundlessness of itself but the divine exquisiteness of itself that it really is, and finds what it is doing within itself is really surrendering within-itself-everywhere (within itself) and that’s what it’s doing, that’s what is really there, and that is the ultimate cause of the energy of the power that creates the appearance of life and we can only bow to that and be grateful to that, and just have so much gratitude when we let go and be that.’

  10. Deborah says:

    Thanks David…this seems so obvious now…about the resistance. Resistance seems to be the source of all blocks ( dah!) To true opening and spaciousness.
    I laugh now. Thanks. I feel so fortunate to be plugged into this.

    • Davidya says:

      Yes, Deborah, we live in a culture that models resistance. Ego’s trying to control. We develop a lifetime(s) of habits around this.
      .
      Once we see through it, it seems silly. But it still takes time to let go of the habits.

  11. Terry Ferguson says:

    Hi David,
    Great thread here! Have you had the experience of being in deep silence and then suddenly being aware of the body being extremely hot? For me it’s happening quite often and often i notice that significant time has gone by with no awareness of it – 1/2 hour or even an hour.
    The deepest “nothingness” state (which isn’t really nothing, but really infinite potential), can, in my opinion be the “fullness of emptiness”, or the “Fullness of Fullness”, to quote Maharishi… or sometimes even the infinite potential just arising as the I Am is in Infinite Bliss and has always been That and will always be That, even as it extends into the relative world as this apparent person… 😉

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Terry
      Oh, yes. Heat can be an issue.
      .
      Essentially, most people are dominant in inertia, tamas. To transform that tamas into sattva (purity or clarity), the gunas use rajas, fire.
      .
      Fire can burn sattva to become inertia or can burn tamas to become clarity. Spiritual practices encourage the second.
      .
      On occasion, the heat of transformation can build quite a bit, apparently to clear something larger. Some traditions talk about energy buildups being required to pop certain caps in the kundalini channel. Every physiology is a bit different though. Some will have other sorts of shadows to roast.
      .
      Because of the association of breath, prana and fire, the transformation may also show up as altered breath.
      .
      If you’re also inclined to the Pitta dosha, this can aggravate it.
      .
      Occasionally you hear an amusing story about it, like someone who put yogurt on their head to cool it off during a transformation.
      .
      This isn’t a “necessary” experience but can certainly arise.
      .
      Yes, a lot of this can happen without us even noticing.

      • Jeff says:

        Your explanation of heat helps me to better understand an issue that I had as a young meditator in the 1970’s. After learning fast pranayama, I immediately developed a rash on my arms and legs. Western doctors never could resolve the issue. So, I happened to see Triiguna at TM retreat. He told me not to worry about it because it was just that my kundalini was very hot. Decades later, I saw another Ayurvedic physician who gave my a treated oil. The rash disappeared in a couple of weeks.

        • Davidya says:

          Yes, Jeff, fast pranayama can increase heat. And the skin is a common place for heat to express.
          .
          The Kundalini Vidya book I mention on the Recommended tab talks of 3 primary caps in the kundalini process. They don’t open until the energy builds enough. I think this is standard understanding. But I’d add there can be various knots that need heat and they can be in secondary places. Not to mention other styles of energy storage.
          .
          Happily we don’t have to know the details, just that heat sometimes builds and it can be moderated and the effects treated.
          .
          These days, I avoid spicy food, ginger and other heat sources to moderate it as I run warm all the time. A little less after panchakarma. 🙂

  12. Terry Ferguson says:

    Thanks David! My practice these days does involve activating the “Snow Mountain” area (the Taoist term for Kundalini), though the main channel has been quite wide open for about 3 decades now. There are always new things to learn and experience, though, and I haven’t heard of the “caps” you speak of. This heat experience seems like a precursor to going into the deep emptiness/fullness called “Kong”. There are also what seems to be “guardians” of sorts at the gate to distract and deter anyone who isn’t pure or otherwise ready enough to go there. Thanks for this forum – There aren’t many people you can talk to about some of these things! All the best to you! Cheers, Terry

    • Davidya says:

      Hi Terry
      In the Kundalini Vidya tradition, and I’ve seen similar in others, the first cap is on the root. The coiled kundalini can’t rise until its ready. The second cap is above the third, between the power center and the heart center. This prevents the lower, personal energies from invading the more universal heart space until ready. And the third is above the third eye, not opening to the crown and awakening until ready.
      .
      Makara is a point just above the third cap. If thats reached, the kundalini doesn’t rise and fall anymore and becomes stable, typically accompanied by full-time witnessing. Sometimes, it blows through there to awakening and sometimes it pauses there to let the crown purify more.
      .
      There can also be other knots that vary more by person, and sludge, repression and the host of other sorts of stresses that may impinge on the energy.
      .
      The main line is key but there are channels throughout the body. Resistance impinges on embodiment and expression.
      .
      You’re welcome, Terry. I do enjoy these explorations. Not being too well known helps me have the time. 🙂

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