Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditation

Discussion of Samatha bhavana and Jhana bhavana.
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Sati1
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Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditation

Postby Sati1 » Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:53 pm

Hello,

Recently, three strange and distracting things started to happen as I go deeper into meditation: my head slowly drops forward, I start to drool (slobber), and, as saliva builds up in the mouth, a strong urge to swallow arises. All three events are irrelevant at the beginning, but become somewhat of a distraction when they intensify: I lift my head back to straight posture in order not to hurt my neck, I feel the dripping of saliva on my shirt, and I swallow. Throughout the process I am well concentrated and fully aware of what is happening.

Has anybody had similar experiences, and do you have suggestions on what to do about this?

Many thanks for your help,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:55 pm

As soon as your head goes forwards, any saliva in your mouth runs towards the front of your mouth instead of automatically being cleared down your throat, and if you don't get rid of it by swallowing it will dribble over your bottom lip. That's basic physiology and physics, and its true whether you're dozing in front of the TV or meditating. In the interests of full disclosure, I will admit it happens to me when I get drowsy in meditation. :tongue:
The only solution, afaik, is maintaining better posture. Altering the way you sit (hips a bit higher?) may help. Maintaining a bit more body awareness during your meditation could be good, at least until better posture is as automatic as breathing.

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby santa100 » Mon Jul 07, 2014 9:57 pm

try to keep the mouth closed and place your tongue on the roof of the mouth and see if it helps preventing the drooling. Keeping your back straight all the time would help preventing the head from dropping forward..

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kenshou » Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:10 pm

I definitely deal with too much saliva/annoying need to swallow as well. I seem to simply generate a lot of the stuff. So I can give you a couple suggestions.

First, which relates to head-drooping, watch your posture. Not letting your posture slump forward will better prevent saliva pooling in your mouth, and keeping upright is generally beneficial to maintaining energy and mindfulness anyway.

Try different tongue positions, or consider what you are doing with your tongue if you aren't doing anything specific. You might be doing something that makes it easier for stuff to gather and sit there in your mouth.

Finally, observing the reflex to swallow can be a perfectly good object of contemplation. The feeling of a spitty mouth causes irritance, which leads to swallowing, and then the relief from that irritance. But, if the sensation is observed impartially, the annoyance will not arise. A tiny lesson on the origination of suffering.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Mkoll » Mon Jul 07, 2014 10:40 pm

I can relate to the saliva building up. But it can be kept at the back of the throat as long as the back, neck, and head are straight enough in my experience. The sensation is awkward but I've never found it painful. Eventually the sensation becomes less bothersome if it isn't attended to with craving. It's a good way to see how suffering and craving in works for such a mundane thing.
Peace,
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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby SarathW » Mon Jul 07, 2014 11:14 pm

Sati1 wrote:Hello,

Recently, three strange and distracting things started to happen as I go deeper into meditation: my head slowly drops forward, I start to drool (slobber), and, as saliva builds up in the mouth, a strong urge to swallow arises. All three events are irrelevant at the beginning, but become somewhat of a distraction when they intensify: I lift my head back to straight posture in order not to hurt my neck, I feel the dripping of saliva on my shirt, and I swallow. Throughout the process I am well concentrated and fully aware of what is happening.

Has anybody had similar experiences, and do you have suggestions on what to do about this?

Many thanks for your help,


Keep your eyes slightly open and look say one meter ahead of your sitting position.
When I meditate I start keeping my eyes wide open and gradually it comes to closed position.

:o
It is more interesting when you experience Jhana with your eyes open!
:)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Sati1 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 2:38 am

Hello,

Thank you all for the answers. It is reassuring to hear the srrong consensus about maintaining posture. I will work on that and also test maintaining the tongue towards the roof of the mouth and treating the arising of the "spit nuissance" as an object of contemplation. I actually tried that contemplation a while ago and found it interesting to notice how the urge to swallow intensifies to the extreme ("you must swallow now!") even though rationally I knew that nothing dangerous would happen if I did not swallow. With enough practice it should be possible to watch it long enough for it to arise and subside without swallowing. A good lesson in nonself, for sure!
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Tue Jul 08, 2014 3:09 am

Sati1 wrote:Recently, three strange and distracting things started to happen as I go deeper into meditation: my head slowly drops forward, I start to drool (slobber), and, as saliva builds up in the mouth, a strong urge to swallow arises. All three events are irrelevant at the beginning, but become somewhat of a distraction when they intensify: I lift my head back to straight posture in order not to hurt my neck, I feel the dripping of saliva on my shirt, and I swallow. Throughout the process I am well concentrated and fully aware of what is happening.

Has anybody had similar experiences, and do you have suggestions on what to do about this?

Yes, I have (minus the head drooping). I wondered about it too. Then I got a better understanding when I practiced with Sayadaw U Tejaniya. It's because we were tensed (esp at the head) before that, then when we relax, salivation happens. It can happen when we sleep too.

Just go ahead and swallow. What's wrong with swallowing anyway? I don't see anything in the Buddha's teaching saying one is not to swallow saliva. It's good to notice the impulse and reason for swallowing though. Then our awareness is greater.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Sati1 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:44 am

Hi Kumara,

I think swallowing might be ok if it's done with total mindfulness. In the first jhana this is still ok, but I wonder whether one could also swallow in the higher jhanas.
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Tue Jul 08, 2014 7:58 am

Sati1 wrote:I think swallowing might be ok if it's done with total mindfulness. In the first jhana this is still ok, but I wonder whether one could also swallow in the higher jhanas.

By then, the over-salivation wouldn't be happening.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Tue Jul 08, 2014 8:34 am

Sati1 wrote:Hello,

Recently, three strange and distracting things started to happen as I go deeper into meditation: my head slowly drops forward, I start to drool (slobber), and, as saliva builds up in the mouth, a strong urge to swallow arises. All three events are irrelevant at the beginning, but become somewhat of a distraction when they intensify: I lift my head back to straight posture in order not to hurt my neck, I feel the dripping of saliva on my shirt, and I swallow. Throughout the process I am well concentrated and fully aware of what is happening.

Has anybody had similar experiences, and do you have suggestions on what to do about this?

Many thanks for your help,


You're falling asleep.
Wear one of these - I guarantee it will stop happening.

And no, I am not joking.
A Zen Monk leading regular meditation practice in a Temple I once attended, recommended it as a viable aid to promote Mindful practice.

No kidding intended at all.
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Tue Jul 08, 2014 10:42 am

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:You're falling asleep.

Ahh... That explains it.

I wondered why I didn't think of it. Then I realise I haven't had that kind of sleepiness during sitting for a long time. I also don't notice this among my students. I believe it's mainly because they don't close the eyes while still trying to be aware of themselves. (Notice that the Suttas say sit upright, but not close the eyes?)

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:Wear one of these - I guarantee it will stop happening.

Yikes!

Opening the eyes is safer and free.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby daverupa » Tue Jul 08, 2014 1:23 pm

Kumara wrote:(Notice that the Suttas say sit upright, but not close the eyes?)


Maybe, using the large third robe as a mosquito/bug screen, they had open eyes but were mostly staring gently, perhaps with half-lidded eyes, at a muted yellow field of vision. Sort of like sitting awake in a tent.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Sati1 » Tue Jul 08, 2014 6:04 pm

Dear TheNoBSBuddhist,

I am sure that I am not falling asleep, as I can clearly review the five hindrances and detect no sloth and torpor whatsoever. My awareness is bright and I remain well-focused on the breath throughout. think it's more a state of extreme relaxation of the muscles than any dozzing-off or falling asleep.

Metta,
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Wed Jul 09, 2014 4:08 am

daverupa wrote:
Kumara wrote:(Notice that the Suttas say sit upright, but not close the eyes?)


Maybe, using the large third robe as a mosquito/bug screen, they had open eyes but were mostly staring gently, perhaps with half-lidded eyes, at a muted yellow field of vision. Sort of like sitting awake in a tent.

Don't know if any monk who does that. It'll be pretty warm in a tropical climate. Besides, you may have come across suttas that mentions the sanghati being folded and laid on the ground to be sat on.

Besides, if shutting or muting the eyes is the way to go, how is one to understand the eye, the (visual) form, the eye-consciousness, the eye-contact, the fetters connected with the eye, the gratification, the danger, the escape, etc.? Is the common idea of meditation aligned with what the Buddha taught?

"Bhikkhus, without directly knowing and fully understanding the eye, without developing dispassion towards it and abandoning it, one is incapable of destroying suffering." (SN35.111)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Wed Jul 09, 2014 5:52 am

Sati1 wrote:Dear TheNoBSBuddhist,

I am sure that I am not falling asleep, as I can clearly review the five hindrances and detect no sloth and torpor whatsoever. My awareness is bright and I remain well-focused on the breath throughout. think it's more a state of extreme relaxation of the muscles than any dozzing-off or falling asleep.

Metta,


If you are becoming so physically relaxed that you 'lose' control of functions in your body, then your Attention is either faulty or incomplete.
One teacher I had advised his pupils that meditation is a state of heightened attentive Mindfulness, or heightened Mindful Attention. In other words, completely still and present, yet ready to leap and stand t attention as required.
Meditation is complete discipline and Being Present, both physically and mentally.

If you were to ask accomplished teachers if this happens to them, i would dare or venture to suggest they would say no.

Therefore, there is an extreme relaxation in you which is unguarded and non-Mindful.


This is after all though, merely my observation, so please feel free to totally ignore my input.
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Wed Jul 09, 2014 8:38 am

Sati1 wrote:I am sure that I am not falling asleep, as I can clearly review the five hindrances and detect no sloth and torpor whatsoever. My awareness is bright and I remain well-focused on the breath throughout. think it's more a state of extreme relaxation of the muscles than any dozzing-off or falling asleep.

Do you think you might be overdoing the relaxation bit?

In a proper state of samadhi (composure/collectedness), the body is energetic, thus naturally and relaxingly upright.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Sati1 » Thu Jul 10, 2014 10:38 am

Hello,

Yes, I probably have developed a bad habit of "letting myself go" when the body relaxes. I shall condition the body to remain upright even when it is relaxed.

Metta,

Andy
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Kumara » Fri Jul 11, 2014 2:57 am

Sati1 wrote:Yes, I probably have developed a bad habit of "letting myself go" when the body relaxes. I shall condition the body to remain upright even when it is relaxed.

Good that you notice that. When the awareness is bright with discernment, things naturally fall into place.

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Re: Dropping head, drooling and swallowing reflex in meditat

Postby Sati1 » Sat Jul 19, 2014 6:52 am

Hello,

Since I first wrote the original post, I have implemented several of the suggestions, which have worked out well:

-dropping head can be prevented by repeatedly returning the head to an upright position until, through conditioning, it ceases to drop forward. Not only is this helpful for the meditation, but it is probably also healthier on the long run for neck and spine.
-when the swallowing reflex arises, one can either avoid swallowing and focus on the intensifying reflex as an object of meditation, or else swallow mindfully and quickly without much loss of concentration. The latter approach is the one I have mostly been employing.
-drooling is no longer a problem when the head stops dropping and one prevents saliva from accumulating in the mouth.

Thank you again for your advice.

Metta,
Last edited by Sati1 on Sat Jul 19, 2014 10:10 am, edited 1 time in total.
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)


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