Best way to handle the pauses

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Blake Barton 4 years, 7 months ago.

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    Hi guys,
    I am still a bit uncertain about how to handle the pauses between the out- and inbreath and I am not sure if the book has clarified it enough for me.

    As far as I am understanding it, our main meditation object is defined as “the sensations making up the breath, particularly at the nose”. Now after the outbreath, for me there is a clear frame of time where there simply are no such sensations, as there just isn’t any flow of air happening. So in these pauses, I have no other choice than to lose contact with my object and just “wait”. Sometimes this feels a little frustrating to me, since I have come to the belief that “good effects” will happen only if there is a strong continuity on the breath sensations (meaning a temporal densing or smaller and smaller pauses between separate events of knowing the object).

    The book talks about the techniques of connecting and following the breath in order to know every instant of breath sensation (which as I said above is not happening during the pauses) or knowing how the length of the pauses compare to each other or other phases of the breath. However, this already seems more like a meta-skill to me and doesn’t really tell me sensorially what to focus on during those breaks.

    I noticed for instance that a lot of the time my attention just slides from inside my nostrils to the sensations in my lips after the outbreath has ended. Not because there are any breath sensations left there, but because it’s the next best location where there are ANY kind of physical sensations to be detected.

    I wonder if I should make an effort to keep attention inside the nose (even if there isn’t anything to be detected there, especially nothing breath related), or somehow try to make the pause disappear by recognizing that in reality the last faintest traces of the outbreath directly connect to the beginning of the inbreath (even though doing so always seems very forced and contrived to me, not relaxed at all), or if there is something else that I’m still not seeing in regards to this problem of mine.

    Any kind of useful input from the more advanced meditators or any cool tips and tricks would be greatly appreciated 🙂

    Thanks, lemmefly

    P.S. the problem does not seem to be nearly as pronounced during the other pause between in- and outbreath, simply because it is quite a bit shorter for me


    Really great question, one I have been dealing with myself.

    I sometimes do the following: I follow the in-breath to the extreme limit of where it becomes the out-breath by noting like so, “In in in in in in in in, out out out out out” etc. This makes it obvious there are no real pauses, just very subtle sensations occurring. However, this can be very tiring and also create a lot of distraction and thought. It needs to be abandoned at some point, like any conceptual understanding of the breath. Arguably, the idea there are “pauses” in the breath is just a concept, and if you redefine your concept, you won’t see pauses as pauses.

    Where I’m at now is being ok if I’m perceiving pauses as “pauses” or “no sensations.” Because I take the sensation of no sensation to still be sensation. On a particularly good sit, I will experience the breath as a continuous sensation. In others, I have trouble with the “pauses.” I challenge myself (through intention) to note what sensations are occurring here, and use it as feedback to see where I’m at in my practice. Perhaps there are distractions I need to deal with, or my peripheral awareness needs to increase.

    Overall, it seems to me like a sign of progress and an opportunity. This is how I’m working with it, but I am curious what more advanced meditators do or have done.




    Not an expert, just my two cents. In the book, it’s mentioned to observe changes in temperature and pressure in the nose. So there another object to watch related to the breath cycle. Also, the book talks about comparing the lenght of breaths, and so the natural thing is to compare the lenght of pauses too.

    IME, the pauses are extremely useful, it’s when most thought arise. I just wait to see if each thought comes from a sub-mind or it’s a conscious thought. And I can notice if the arise of the thought shortens the pause, that is, if it accelerates the in-breath.

    As far as I understood the book, the goal of the practice isn’t just to have a smooth seamless breath cycle, but to develop mindfulness to the things that prevent it to happen.

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by  Pop.

    Ivan Ganza

    There is much value in the “pause”.

    The breath sensations are a temporary (but very useful) crutch/tool….some day you need to go beyond the concept of sensation…and even breath….



    Thanks for your answers guys.

    In one of the other threads, Blake Barton gave a reply to a slightly different question, which could also be applied here. He said to keep the attention in the same spot and keep looking for even the slightest tingle or movement of air, even if it feels like there is nothing there. I guess I’m just not able yet to detect these really subtle sensations.
    Hopefully I will get there just by applying myself diligently and that at some point my attention will also stop wandering to the lips all the time.

    Getting rid of abstractions like inbreath, outbreath, pause etc. is something I believe will come by itself once the practice has matured, not something which can be forced, at least not at the stage I’m currently at.


    Blake Barton

    Hi Lemmefly,

    I like the following advice from MasticatingBeast’s
    “Where I’m at now is being ok if I’m perceiving pauses as “pauses” or “no sensations.” Because I take the sensation of no sensation to still be sensation.”

    In this practice you don’t necessarily need a continuous stream of sensations. For the most part, as your clarity improves, you will notice a somewhat continuous group of sensations during the inhale and the exhale. During the pause, you can just know that you are feeling no sensations at the nostril, and attention is still where you intend for it to be. Directing and sustaining attention is the goal at this stage.

    Please don’t strain to feel any sensation. A lack of sensation is OK. If you keep your attention at the nostrils, and just wait for the next inhale or exhale that is perfectly OK. If your attention moves to the lips, just gently redirect it to the nostrils, and notice if you are frustrated because attention moved.

    However you may find that you do start feeling some sensation at the nostril during the pause. As an exercise just close your eyes and feel your hand. What sort of sensations do you feel, that make you think that you have a hand. There are probably fairly subtle vibratory type sensations. Your nostrils will have the same sort of sensations, although they may be more subtle.

    Once again if you don’t notice any sensation that is fine.

    Blake – Authorized Dharma Treasure Teacher

    • This reply was modified 4 years, 7 months ago by  Blake Barton.
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