To Breathe or not to breathe: Suffering with COPD


Your involuntary nervous system knows how to breath enough without any intervention from you.

It sounds like you have emotions coming up that are making you anxious, and perhaps stimulating your system to breath more.

I’m assuming you are getting proper medical care for your asthma.

About 5 years ago I got pounded by anxiety for the first time in my life. It made sitting very difficult.

I experimented with a lot of variations on the way I meditated and I experimented with different techniques to get me calm. None were magic bullets but all helped.

At the worst of it I found talk therapy, talking to people who cared about me, exercise, very very long walking meditations to be the most helpful.

I tried a number of other things and I am willing to throw those suggestions at you if you are interested and ready to take the emotions you are dealing with while sitting.

Good Luck either way.


Thanks, but I am certain that it is the other way around. I have no anxiety, and am generally calm.

I can’t walk more than fifty to one hundred yards without losing my breath. And thank you for sharing, but this is not about meditating but all the other times of exertion. So unfortunately I cannot do ‘walking meditation’.
I appreciate your help.


Does the anger seems to relate to loss of control?


A thought provoking question. Perhaps? Loss of control, inability to function…deep regret at…my life force ebbing away…feelings of inadequacy …feeling like I’m dying?

Yeah , maybe


:slight_smile: There is no inadequacy in dying; every life does it (even Buddhas, gods & devas!)
And there is also no inadequacy in not controlling that over which you have no control.

Functioning continues. So maybe examine it? Your body struggles - good job, body! How might mind support you? How might mind observe you & learn?
:slight_smile: Maybe worth some effort?


Hi Rosie,

I think you are seeing two important things here: 1) dependent origination (e.g. when shortness of breath arises, anger arises, too), 2) the not-self characteristic of phenomena (i.e. they aren’t under your direct control). It could be very profitable for you to contemplate these further.

Establishing right attitude is also very important: if we are trying to push something away, we are cultivating aversion; if we are trying to get something, we are cultivating greed. Shwe Oo Min Sayadaw would say:

“Don’t try to do anything,
don’t try to prevent anything,
but don’t forget what is happening”.

If we can learn to calmly observe the defilements, become interested in their nature, and understand them, their intensity and duration of expression is (typically) greatly reduced.

I hope I have understood your posts correctly and just offer these thoughts with mettā.


Thanks. I think you make a great point. But in terms of D.O., isn’t consciousness, and thus emotions dependent on breath which experiences decreased or limited function thereby diminishing one’s ability to be rational or to see these phenomenon clearly?

Thank you for your kind attempt to make breathing a philosophical issue, but I wonder if one can be calm while being strangled because that is what it feels like to not be able to acquire oxygen in a timely manner. Doesn’t everyone who can’t breathe experience panic at some level? For if breathe is life, then no-breathe feels a little like dying.

Thanks again, and to the extent that breathing is philosophical you have understood and offered excellent advice. I will keep practicing the ability to remain calm while being strangled. :smile:
Metta, My Friend :hugs:


I have found that sitting leads me to breathe less and less, which leads me to a struggle with drowsiness and sleep. It took me decades to recognize that oxygen might be a factor. I have since taken up more active forms of meditation which promote steady and and invigorating flows of oxygen. I still sit sometimes and I do notice that sitting meditation itself is improving as a side effect of that moving meditation.

I have also found moving meditation an excellent way to relinquish anger and resentment. Anger hardens as a call to action and moving meditation is action inclined towards emptiness and mindfulness. In this way, the impulse towards angry action is transformed into healing movement. If I try to sit with anger, it becomes a battle. If I walk with anger, it fades with each passing breeze.


Hi Rosie. I’m also an asthmatic and relate to the irritation you mentioned. So I hope you don’t mind me sharing my story incase it’s similar to to yours and to offer some relief if it is.

Up until 4 years ago I was using an inhaler and preventer daily along with antihystamenes and sinus sprays. I had constant itchy weeping rashes and bouts of severe anxiety and depression. Everytime I got a cold I would get an ear infection which since childhood has damaged my hearing leaving me with screaming tinnitus.

Then around six years ago I started eliminating things from my diet in case it was all down to food allergies. 4 years ago I finally isolated the cause to the food preservative ‘sulphite’ that was responsible for all my previous symptoms. Now with strict avoidance of sulphite I can breath freely through my nose which I’d never been able to do before. I no longer need use an inhaler or antihystamenes, except when I’ve been accidentally poisoned by sulphite, and my mood is relatively stable free from the sulphite induced depression and severe anxiety. If I consume it accidentally then within an hour I will have severe asthma along with all the previous symptoms. Then it takes 2 weeks for the sulphite to flush out of the body and symptoms to abate. During which time it is very difficult to still or settle the mind through meditation.