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Author Topic: Strange sensations while meditating...was that supposed to happen?  (Read 16965 times)
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« Topic Start: December 22, 2008, 02:34:35 pm »

I was meditating last night, and I started feeling really weird. It started out as feeling like I was floating through space, which was cool. But then it started feeling like a combination of floating through space, riding a roller coaster, being drunk, and having an asthma attack. (I have asthma, so I know how an attack feels.) I noticed my heart was beating quite a bit faster. I opened my eyes and it was gone immediately. I wanted to continue what I was doing, so I closed my eyes, and I immediately felt like I was in a meditative state again. But then within a few seconds, the strange sensation occured.

Is that what's supposed to happen. I was hoping to go into a trance, and it almost felt like one. Has anyone else ever had that happen, or did I just happen to have an asthma attack at an incovenient time?
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« Reply #1: December 22, 2008, 02:40:39 pm »

Is that what's supposed to happen. I was hoping to go into a trance, and it almost felt like one. Has anyone else ever had that happen, or did I just happen to have an asthma attack at an incovenient time?

Disclaimer:  I don't have much experience with meditation, especially not going so deep that you start to feel like you're floating.  However, in most situations like this, I tend to think that if there's a glaringly obvious mundane explanation, that's probably the explanation.  Which is to say, my guess would be "asthma attack at an inconvenient time".

If it happens again, maybe you could assess what you're doing to see if there's anything about the activity or your environment that might accidentally trigger an attack while you're meditating?
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« Reply #2: December 22, 2008, 02:45:44 pm »

Disclaimer:  I don't have much experience with meditation, especially not going so deep that you start to feel like you're floating.  However, in most situations like this, I tend to think that if there's a glaringly obvious mundane explanation, that's probably the explanation.  Which is to say, my guess would be "asthma attack at an inconvenient time".

If it happens again, maybe you could assess what you're doing to see if there's anything about the activity or your environment that might accidentally trigger an attack while you're meditating?

I have noticed I start getting short of breath sometimes when I try to do the rhythmic breathing. Maybe I need a better way to get my mind away from everyday life... I liked the floating part. I'd never had that before, but then I do not know much about meditation yet. But I never knew a person could have an asthma attack while doing something that's supposed to be restful (I was "normal" the first 25 years of my life, so I'm kind of new to the whole world of having a respiratory condition as well)
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« Reply #3: December 22, 2008, 02:51:36 pm »

I have noticed I start getting short of breath sometimes when I try to do the rhythmic breathing. Maybe I need a better way to get my mind away from everyday life... I liked the floating part. I'd never had that before, but then I do not know much about meditation yet. But I never knew a person could have an asthma attack while doing something that's supposed to be restful (I was "normal" the first 25 years of my life, so I'm kind of new to the whole world of having a respiratory condition as well)

I don't know much about asthma either, but as a non-medical person, it does seem pretty logical to me that messing with your breathing could cause issues with your respiratory system.  Especially if you've noticed that making the same change has the same effect at other times as well.
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« Reply #4: December 22, 2008, 04:35:59 pm »

I don't know much about asthma either, but as a non-medical person, it does seem pretty logical to me that messing with your breathing could cause issues with your respiratory system.  Especially if you've noticed that making the same change has the same effect at other times as well.

I agree with this, and know asthmatic people who have to be careful about how deep they are breathing and where they are when they are meditating. If you were sitting on the floor, for ex. and dust or cold is one of your asthma triggers, that could cause what you were experiencing. The floaty feeling, esp. if it is not accompanied by some kind of astral experience, could definitely be about either holding your breath, or breathing too deeply too quickly, or both.
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« Reply #5: December 22, 2008, 06:35:23 pm »

I have noticed I start getting short of breath sometimes when I try to do the rhythmic breathing. Maybe I need a better way to get my mind away from everyday life... I liked the floating part.

If you have asthma, rhythmic breathing can set it off, or at least that's what I've been told.
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« Reply #6: December 22, 2008, 06:42:59 pm »

The floaty feeling, esp. if it is not accompanied by some kind of astral experience, could definitely be about either holding your breath, or breathing too deeply too quickly, or both.

I know this probably sounds like a total noob question, but how do I know if I'm having an astral experience? Could the floating feeling come before the astral experience, and I could have had one if I'd just kept my head and not let it freak me out, or do you have to be better at meditation before you can have an astral experience?

If you have asthma, rhythmic breathing can set it off, or at least that's what I've been told.

Is there another way to get into a meditative state that doesn't involve rhythmic breathing?
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« Reply #7: December 22, 2008, 07:19:46 pm »

Is there another way to get into a meditative state that doesn't involve rhythmic breathing?

While most techniques are going to produce a calm, rhythmic breathing, there are definitely other ways to achieve a meditative state without using breathing as a primary focus.  My personal favorite is ambient music. 
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« Reply #8: December 22, 2008, 07:43:02 pm »

Is there another way to get into a meditative state that doesn't involve rhythmic breathing?

Most involve some sort of focus.  There are guided meditations, though they tend to work best if someone else is leading them or you read/narrate them into a recording and play it back so that you can just relax and follow along.  Some meditate on a candle flame or other object kept in visual focus.  Some use physical movement.  Yoga is more known, but also tends to involve controlling your breathing, so it's probably not a good option unless you're able to be taught by someone with experience working with asthmatics.  There's also a Buddhist form of meditation called Sati that uses rhythmic hand movements.  The precise movements aren't that important.  The monk who first taught me suggested just rubbing together the forefinger and thumb in small circles if the more elaborate hand movements were too distracting, which they were for me.

Dunno if any of those help, but I figured I'd toss them out there.  If nothing else, maybe they'll give you some other ideas to explore.
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« Reply #9: December 22, 2008, 09:37:58 pm »

I was meditating last night, and I started feeling really weird. It started out as feeling like I was floating through space, which was cool. But then it started feeling like a combination of floating through space, riding a roller coaster, being drunk, and having an asthma attack. (I have asthma, so I know how an attack feels.) I noticed my heart was beating quite a bit faster. I opened my eyes and it was gone immediately. I wanted to continue what I was doing, so I closed my eyes, and I immediately felt like I was in a meditative state again. But then within a few seconds, the strange sensation occured.

Is that what's supposed to happen. I was hoping to go into a trance, and it almost felt like one. Has anyone else ever had that happen, or did I just happen to have an asthma attack at an incovenient time?

That sounds like onset of sleep paralysis to me actually, the same thing tends to happen to me when meditating especially on my back at least the floating in space and riding a roller coaster parts. People who practice lucid dreaming often point to these sensations as signs that you're getting close to falling asleep consciously using a method called Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming or WILD. You probably had an asthma attack at an inconvenient time in addition.
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« Reply #10: December 22, 2008, 11:07:57 pm »

That sounds like onset of sleep paralysis to me actually, the same thing tends to happen to me when meditating especially on my back at least the floating in space and riding a roller coaster parts. People who practice lucid dreaming often point to these sensations as signs that you're getting close to falling asleep consciously using a method called Wake Initiated Lucid Dreaming or WILD. You probably had an asthma attack at an inconvenient time in addition.

So I may have been doing WILD without intending to? I've lucid dreamed before, as in I realized I was dreaming and took control of what happened, but I've never done it through WILD, so I wouldn't know what that would be like. It's something I've thought of trying, though. Anything involving dreams really interests me.
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« Reply #11: December 22, 2008, 11:41:14 pm »

I have noticed I start getting short of breath sometimes when I try to do the rhythmic breathing. Maybe I need a better way to get my mind away from everyday life... I liked the floating part. I'd never had that before, but then I do not know much about meditation yet. But I never knew a person could have an asthma attack while doing something that's supposed to be restful (I was "normal" the first 25 years of my life, so I'm kind of new to the whole world of having a respiratory condition as well)

I'm about to be offline for 2 days for retreat work (when I try very hard to ignore the existence of the internet), but wanted to reply, because oh, boy, do I have experience. (I will check in Thursday morning, though, if you have questions about any of this.)

I've got asthma - generally under very good control, but it's caused some blips in my formal ritual work over the years. I was diagnosed in college (when I was around 19, in the fall of 95), but it's flared several times since then. I started formal training in the tradition I am now a 3rd degree in late 2001, to give you some timescales.)

There's a caution I came across early in my teaching that there can be some risks for astral work (or other work that essentially disconnects your consciousness from ordinary body function) - basically, with people with existing lung issues, there's a slight chance more that things will be disrupted when you try to do astral work, and that your body will struggle with multitasking.

The advice I saw suggested that you have a spotter the first 3-5 times you try astral work or guided meditation (i.e. anything that has you focusing in meditation on something specific or a journey, or anything similar.) The spotter doesn't need to have any specific magical training - it can just be a good friend who you trust. What you really want them for is to keep an eye on your breathing patterns, to be able to help bring you back to consciousness more gently, and to be available just in case anything does go wonky. (i.e. to bring you your inhaler, make sure you're doing ok, etc.) After your first few tries, use good judgement - if you continue to have issues, get more help, obviously.

Now, what did this mean for me in practice?

1) Get the asthma under reasonable control, first.
If you're medicating, be comfortable with the meds and how (and when) to use them. Can you do things to reduce triggers in your environment? (like avoiding specific incense - or all incense, depending what you react to, pets, using an air filter in your ritual space, etc.) Are there positions you breathe more comfortably in? (I have some lung scarring due to bacterial pneumonia in my pre-teen years: there are times that lying on my back is a problem if I have a cold, for example, because stuff gets gunked up behind the scar tissue.)

(Seeing an herbalist has also been *the* best thing I've done for my lungs - it means I get far less damage when I do have a minor attack or get a nasty cold. Since lungs are painfully slow to heal, avoiding damage is a really good thing overall.)

2) Start by working on the basic steps separately.
Honestly, rhythmic breathing - in and of itself - hasn't been a big trigger for me, or for other asthmatics I've worked with. What *has* been a trigger is that if you're used to taking half-breaths, or not breathing fully into your lungs, breathing deeply *can* startle your body and make your body treat it like an attack.

The problem is, of course, that asthma inclines you to want to take shallow breaths, and to avoid breathing fully into the parts of your lungs where it's hard to get air. When you try to break through that, your body gets defensive and protective. Thing is, that shallow breathing, as it turns out, not very good for your lungs - getting full breaths in there is actually really important to both help them resist inflammation and problems, and to heal if you do have problems (or are getting over a cold or an asthma attack or anything else that causes problems.)

(My herbalist, from whom I'm also taking classes, said in our class on lungs that they just get grumpy when they're not working, and trying to make them go back to working just involves the lungs being really crabby until they sort themselves out. Ok, it's a little more complicated than that, but basically, crabbiness when you start getting down into the problematic areas is one of those things that just goes with the territory of asthma. Fortunately, mostly avoidable once you know about the issue.)

You may or may not know: one of the current theories about asthma is that it's not actually about not being able to breathe *in*, it's that inflammation causes the lungs to close around carbon dioxide, therefore keeping the space 'full', so you can't bring fresh air in. Therefore, the most useful breathing is breathing in which you inhale fully - and *exhale* fully. Both are really important.

So, start simple. Begin by consciously working on taking deep, full breaths all the way down to your diaphragm. Do this 5-10 times in a row, several times a day, and let your body get used to the feeling. As it gets easier, try doing it every time you hit a particular trigger (like reaching to open a door, sitting down in a chair, putting your hands on a computer keyboard, whatever - just get your body used to the feeling.

(If you need help with the breathing, any number of basic voice and theatre books will talk about it, and your local library will have some. Yoga books that talk about breathing will too - you want to look in particular at what's sometimes called the water breath, which is breathing in through the nose, and out through the mouth, since breathing through your nose has some other asthma benefits like moistening/warming air.)

Singing (and playing wind instruments) are excellent ways to develop these skills, too, and a lot more fun than just breathing on its own. Pick a solid and somewhat lengthy Pagan chant or something else that challenges you to breath deeply and hold notes at times, and then work on breathing fully at each phrase.  Even just picking a note and holding it, or exhaling a sound like "SSSSssssss" or "Zzzzzzzzz" for as a long as you can will help build your skills and strength.

2) Once you've got a good handle on inhaling and exhaling fully, try rhythmic breathing - but do it sitting up (assuming that's at all comfortable for you) and fully consciously. You're not trying to meditate - just breathe. (If sitting up really doesn't work for you, then try on your back with your knees gently bent to ease your back - the problem with this is that it's a lot easier to drift off.)

One thing books sometimes don't make clear is that rhythmic breathing depends a lot on your internal rhythm. The most common pattern is to inhale for a count, hold for a count, exhale for a count, and hold for a count. So, you inhale for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. (There are other patterns, that are felt to focus different kinds of energy - again, yoga books that talk about breath work will have lots of examples.)

The trick is that 4 is not the right number for everyone. For some people, it's 6. For a few people, it's 5. (For some reason, even numbers tend to be easiest for the majority of people.) 3 and 7 and 8 are not totally out of the ordinary, though it depends a bit how fast you count. Really, you're looking for consistency. Play around with it a bit. Try for a week or two, with different numbers, and see what works for you. The wrong numbers can make you feel like you're never getting enough air - a 6 count doesn't work for me, even though I can exhale for a very long time otherwise, because the pauses between the inhale and exhale leave me feeling a little constricted and panicked.)

(One of the annoying things about asthma, in my opinion, is that what was just fine the previous day is now horribly miserable the next, or you get a cold, or the weather changes, and your body reacts to that. So I've got the habit of trying anything that might be asthma-related - anything from lungs to brain function - multiple days when I'm trying new things out.)

3) Once you've got a pattern that works for you, then try it in a meditation position - and then try (with a spotter) something relatively simple (like a short guided/recorded meditation. Chances are, your body *won't* throw fits, because you've gotten it used to deep breathing, you've done some work to reduce any problems from existing inflammation or tension in your lungs, and you've gotten an idea of the optimal patterns for your body. If you are still having issues with ordinary deep breathing, or with mild but reasonable breathing patterns (like a basic 4 or 6 count breath), you may want to look at other ways to manage the asthma, because it suggests that something's still getting triggered.

One thing I do find is that if I'm having asthma issues, breathing deeply is tricky - I get part way down, hitch, and then can keep going sometimes - but at other times, going past that hitch triggers coughing fits. Depending on how I feel overall, and what I know from past experience, sometimes I'll push through it - but sometimes I won't. (If I'm in a group ritual where a few minutes of me coughing would put everyone off, I might vote for breathing shallowly, and getting what I can out of the experience. If I'm by myself, not such a big deal, and I'll push through it.)

Other stuff of note that may be helpful:
Several asthmatics I've talked to have gone "Oh, duh!" at this one when I mention it because it's not quite intuitive but very handy. I carry *tremendous* tension when I'm having issues in the back of my ribcage, such that it aches right between and under my shoulder blades. This makes lying on my back doing meditation painful at the best of times, and can trigger some feelings of other tension/constriction.

One thing that really helps me is based on a yoga pose - you stick a bolster/folded blankets under the back of your spine (down to the base of your spine: your butt is not on them) and lay back with it along your spine. Open your shoulders, and let your hands fall to the ground, stretching out the front of your  rib cage by gently opening down to the ground on both sides. (Basically, let gravity stretch everything downwards: don't fight it.) Stay there for 10-20 minutes or so for optimal benefit, but I usually find it helps a lot - both in getting me breathing better, and in reducing overall constriction and achiness.

Let's see: I have some incenses I react to, some I don't, and some I only occasionally react to. I have a cat (despite mild cat allergies) and am generally just fine with her, but I run an air filter at home constantly. I do have more trouble at particular times of year - fall mold season is reliably my worst. Winter, when it's miserably cold, is also tricky, because really cold air sucks moisture from the lungs.

I've found that overall, when I'm actually *in* ritual, I almost never have asthma issues, even if I'm dancing/around stuff that's normally a trigger. (Afterwards may be another situation, however.) This is no excuse to be careless - someone I'm working with always knows exactly where my inhaler is, and what to do if I have problems. But it does mean that - over the years - I've gotten less worried about ritual specific issues than I used to be. (The same has been true for asthmatics of my acquaintance - and other people with chronic issues. But it's not foolproof.)

Finally, lung issues tend to suck fat soluble vitamins (A and E) from your body - if you're already having issues, you may want to ask about/consider supplementation of these two. (I find that when I don't, I have immense cravings for fatty foods that contain them. When I supplement, those cravings go away. (Which reminds me to take mine for today, because it's been like that.)) Both help your lungs rebuild damaged tissue faster, and to make better use of moisture and oils in your system to keep tissue lubricated, all of which is important. (Drink plenty of water, too.)
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« Reply #12: December 23, 2008, 12:14:02 am »



Wow thanks! That was a lot of info, and I am sure a lot of that is stuff I can try. I am a classically trained singer, so I was already aware of some of the breathng exercises and the singing related stuff. I was used to breathing deeply before I got sick 10 months ago, so maybe I just have to get used to it again (tbh, I still don't know exactly what's wrong with me, but my doctor says he's going to treat it like mild asthma unless something else happens.)

I have an air purifier in my bedroom, but I usually do my rituals outside because there is more space and I don't have to worry about my parents walking in on me. (I am still in the closet and I live at home atm.) I also feel more connected with the natural world when I'm outside. The time I was referring to was the first time I'd tried it in a building. And I usually sit cross-legged on the ground when I meditate, since I think I'd fall asleep if I were to lie down.

I do have a question for you: what exactly do you mean by an herbalist? Is that someone trained in herbal medicine, or do they have magical training as well? There are plenty of people here who sell herbs and natural products, and they seem to know the products in their stores quite well, but I am not sure how much medical knowledge they actually have...What should I look for when I try to find an herbalist? What kind of training should they have had?
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« Reply #13: December 23, 2008, 12:12:30 pm »

I know this probably sounds like a total noob question, but how do I know if I'm having an astral experience? Could the floating feeling come before the astral experience, and I could have had one if I'd just kept my head and not let it freak me out, or do you have to be better at meditation before you can have an astral experience?

Is there another way to get into a meditative state that doesn't involve rhythmic breathing?

Knowing how and what astral is for you takes time and experience, mainly. It is pretty common during meditation, unless you are doing a form that discourages that, as some are specifically designed to do. I personally feel that it is best to start out with a guide of some kind, either a live person or a guided meditation, so you can understand what your own physical processes are, and get comfortable with that. And understanding your asthma is likely part of what you need to work on, as Jennett pointed out.
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« Reply #14: December 24, 2008, 04:50:48 pm »


It seems your question has been pretty well answered but I just wanted to add a couple of things from my own experience which could be useful.

When I meditate (and though I tried doing it regularly for a while I gradually stopped, so I'm definitely still a novice) I got/get these weird sensations. My head feels very heavy but pulled up, and I feel like the upper half of my body is a little up and to one side of the rest of my body and I get a strong pulsing and swaying sensation. Sometimes these feelings were so strong they became downright uncomfortable and a bit worrying. However I read a good book on meditating (from the library - don't remember the title - Doh!) which said that when new to meditating it is quite common to get bizarre sensations and that these would pass with practice. I think in your case you need to be very careful about the asthmatic sensations - best to be safe. But the other stuff, the floating etc, might just go away with practice.
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