Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.

Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Miesco » Sat Dec 21, 2013 4:02 pm

See signature for my situation.
I have been trying lately to observe it and let it happen. I tried today and the tension got too great and had to stop. I feel like when I "concentrate" I am really just tensing something in my head. Does anyone have any suggestions of what I can do to learn to concentrate correctly again?
I went to a 10 day Vipassana retreat (while withdrawing from lorazapam, 2years ago). You are supposed to not react to pain but I was blocking it. I tensed something in my head and eventually I would not feel pain at all. I felt tension in my head for a couple days after. Now, every time I focus on my breath (in my nose) I get tension in my head (behind my forehead). It feels like I am subconsciously tensing a muscle or something in my head (behind my eyes). Sometimes the tension isn't as bad but I feel like I have conditioned myself to do something in my head every time I focus on my breath.
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Babadhari » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:31 pm

hi miesco
sorry to hear about your situation. could you go back and do another Vipassana retreat revisiting the problem at its source? are you off medication now?
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Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Miesco » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:40 pm

No, I have just withdrawn from the medication yesterday, I have been tapering for almost a year and just jumped off now. I tried going again last December (before I realized that I was addicted to this drug and the withdrawals can be worse then heroin withdrawals) and I left the first day because of the tension in my head and the withdrawals.

I want to get this sorted out outside of the course because last time I had no help from the teacher about the tension in my head, he just said "observe it" and thats it. But observing is the cause of the tension.
I went to a 10 day Vipassana retreat (while withdrawing from lorazapam, 2years ago). You are supposed to not react to pain but I was blocking it. I tensed something in my head and eventually I would not feel pain at all. I felt tension in my head for a couple days after. Now, every time I focus on my breath (in my nose) I get tension in my head (behind my forehead). It feels like I am subconsciously tensing a muscle or something in my head (behind my eyes). Sometimes the tension isn't as bad but I feel like I have conditioned myself to do something in my head every time I focus on my breath.
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Babadhari » Sat Dec 21, 2013 5:58 pm

ive had withdrawl periods from certain drugs also. sometimes i was able to meditate, othertimes i wasnt.
it will probably take time to get over the symptoms as your body and mind absorb the change.
try not to pressure yourself to meditate, perhaps some exercise would help you better at this stage.
keeping in touch with your doctor is a necessity too. every day should get a bit easier.
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Dec 21, 2013 6:15 pm

First of all, even if you don't take the medication, be sure to follow a good mental health professional, and check any advice here with that professional.

I don't know if the following is what is happening with you, but it's my guess. Examine if it has any worth.

When you are applying mindfulness, you can be doing it with an unwholesome emotion at the same time. For example, if you are very angry, the mindfulness of that anger is "coloured" by that same anger _ like pure water having a red colour due to some red paint. And it can have a perpetuating effect on the anger.

What seems to be happening here is something similar to what happens to many people. And, if I recall correctly, this is explicitly warned against on the retreat. I think you are practicing the equanimity and, at the same time, having aversion to sensations. That is, since you know equanimity protects you from suffering, you are using "equanimity" together with aversion to suffering. It results in repressing emotions that are difficult to deal with.

The way I deal with it may not be a great way. I hope someone more experienced can comment on this. But what I do is generate desire to feel the suffering underlying the unpleasant sensation. And it has to be dealt with in waves. I bring the underlying suffering to the surface and then, after a few seconds, I apply equanimous mindfulness. Sometimes, focusing narrowly on the sensations is not the best strategy. Sometimes you see the mental attachment to an idea, or situation, or person, and you just let go of it, like relaxing a muscle. Another good thing to do is to fix the "defective" equanimity. Try to find a genuine interest in feeling the sensations with objectivity. The motivation being that, not only it is healthier on a psychological level, but also that it is closer to the dhamma.

Don't forget metta bhavana! It softens the impact of difficult emotions surfacing. Some emotions are so difficult that, in my experience, it is best just to do metta for a few days and then go back to mindfulness.

Be well :)
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby kmath » Sat Dec 21, 2013 6:38 pm

My two cents:

Your energy or "chi" is all bunched up in your forehead. By observing the sensations there, your bringing even more chi to that location. You need to spread your attention throughout your body to help that bunched up energy release. I'd even recommend sound of silence meditation which can really open up something like the problem your describing.

Secondly, just relax, your probably trying too hard.

Whatever you do, in meditation or otherwise, DO NOT FOCUS ON YOUR FOREHEAD.

:anjali:
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Babadhari » Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:17 pm

kmath wrote:My two cents:

Your energy or "chi" is all bunched up in your forehead. By observing the sensations there, your bringing even more chi to that location. You need to spread your attention throughout your body to help that bunched up energy release. I'd even recommend sound of silence meditation which can really open up something like the problem your describing.

Secondly, just relax, your probably trying too hard.

Whatever you do, in meditation or otherwise, DO NOT FOCUS ON YOUR FOREHEAD.

:anjali:


:goodpost: best keep the awareness out of the head area
Aflame with the fire of passion, the fire of aversion, the fire of delusion.
Aflame, with birth, aging & death, with sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses, & despairs ......

Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Mkoll » Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:59 pm

Ajahn Lee was a meditation master of the Thai forest tradition. He had this to say. I hope it helps. Metta.

5. Become acquainted with the bases or focal points for the mind — the resting spots of the breath — and center your awareness on whichever one seems most comfortable. A few of these bases are:

a. the tip of the nose,
b. the middle of the head,
c. the palate,
d. the base of the throat,
e. the breastbone (the tip of the sternum),
f. the navel (or a point just above it).

If you suffer from frequent headaches or nervous problems, don't focus on any spot above the base of the throat. And don't try to force the breath or put yourself into a trance. Breathe freely and naturally. Let the mind be at ease with the breath — but not to the point where it slips away.
-Keeping the Breath in Mind

B. Focal points for the mind

These include: (1) the tip of the nose; (2) the middle of the head; (3) the palate; (4) the base of the throat; (5) the tip of the breastbone; (6) the "center," two inches above the navel. In centering the breath at any of these points, people who tend to have headaches shouldn't focus on any point above the base of the throat.
-Basic Themes
Peace,
James
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 8:20 pm

Hi Meisco,

Sorry to hear about your problems. I would echo the advice to pay attention to the advice of professionals regarding health issues.

I would try the other advice given here, such as trying focussing on something else (such as the rise and fall of the abdomen, rather than the breath at the nose). That may allow you build up enough calmness to be able to eventually observe the sensations that are troubling you without aversion.

I also recommend this talk by Bhikkhu Bodhi, who has been afflicted by headaches since the 1970s.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=17&t=8232

:anjali:
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Kumara » Sun Dec 22, 2013 12:36 am

Miesco wrote:No, I have just withdrawn from the medication yesterday, I have been tapering for almost a year and just jumped off now. I tried going again last December (before I realized that I was addicted to this drug and the withdrawals can be worse then heroin withdrawals) and I left the first day because of the tension in my head and the withdrawals.

I want to get this sorted out outside of the course because last time I had no help from the teacher about the tension in my head, he just said "observe it" and thats it. But observing is the cause of the tension.

I used to get this. Now I know it's because of wrong attitude, which is based on wrong ideas of the practice. This should help: http://sayadawutejaniya.org/wp-content/ ... points.pdf
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby manas » Sun Dec 22, 2013 4:15 am

Hi Miesco

I second the advice already given, to focus your attention lower in the body. The rise and fall of the abdomen, I find very grounding to begin with, followed by feeling your entire physical body as you breathe, and not limiting your awareness to just one spot. Here is a relevant section from the anapanasati sutta:

"[1] Breathing in long, he discerns, 'I am breathing in long'; or breathing out long, he discerns, 'I am breathing out long.' [2] Or breathing in short, he discerns, 'I am breathing in short'; or breathing out short, he discerns, 'I am breathing out short.' [3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in sensitive to the entire body.'[2] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out sensitive to the entire body.' [4] He trains himself, 'I will breathe in calming bodily fabrication.'[3] He trains himself, 'I will breathe out calming bodily fabrication.'
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html


Note that to begin with, no specific location is mentioned, not the nostrils nor any other specific location. But if you need to begin by focusing on a particular location - as many folks do, including myself also - then it might help to make that location lower down, away from the head.

metta
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Namkha » Mon Jan 06, 2014 8:07 pm

Hi Miesco,

I had a very similar sensation arise at a long retreat I did this summer. It was accompanied by some progress in concentration. At first it was quite noticeable, even keeping me up at night on the retreat. I spoke to the teacher and he said (as did Kmath) that it was probably "stuck chi" his advice was to exhale while imagining that the breath was leaving through this spot and pushing out the blockage. I can't say that this helped.

I think if it bothers you, try to "suffuse" the whole body with awareness. Maybe work less with your attention on the breath at the tip of the nose, but maybe in the rise and fall of the stomach. I have to say it lessened only a little in retreat and even now 8 months later I can still feel that pressure as I am becoming more concentrated or even when my mind turns toward contemplation of the dhamma in day to day life. I almost look at it as a positive sign now, and it doesn't hurt or cause distress.

Interesting topic.

Metta,
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby Kumara » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:46 pm

Did you also notice that thinking is a bit slower or hindered?
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Re: Tension in my head while I focus on my breath

Postby JohnWB » Mon Jan 27, 2014 12:17 am

This happens to me as well. It seems to occur when I get my breath in a very calm and stress free place. The "pain" or tension arises behind my eyes and lasts for several minutes. I've wondered at times if this was due to a bit of "oxygen starvation" since my breathing becomes very easy and slow. Fortunately, it does go away eventually and isn't too difficult to endure.
I wonder if a few deep breaths would help.
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