facial tension too unbearable

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
nubbie111
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facial tension too unbearable

Post by nubbie111 »

This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
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Mkoll
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by Mkoll »

nubbie111 wrote:This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
If the discomfort persists even when you're not meditating, it could be a medical problem.

I've had sessions where it felt like all my skin was burning with the urge to get up. Sometimes I gave into the urge and sometimes I didn't. If I stayed sitting, sometimes the urge would come back and sometimes it wouldn't.

Don't torture yourself. If you can only do 20 minutes, do 20 minutes. If it's not a medical problem, you should be able to work back up to your longer times eventually because I think this will pass and/or you'll learn to work with it.

You could also try walking meditation instead or interspersed with sitting.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
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Goofaholix
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by Goofaholix »

If you are observing the breath at the nostrils try changing to observing it at the abdomen or chest.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah
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martinfrank
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by martinfrank »

nubbie111 wrote:This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
Please don't feel frustrated. Your problem is the kind of problem we encounter when we meditate seriously. A good teacher who knows you well could explain you the underlying conflict which is causing the facial tension.

How you do breath meditation? Are you controlling the breath or just watching the breath? I think somehow your attention wanders to the face muscles and nerves. Are you trying to sit totally still? Are you alone when you meditate? Do you feel watched? Does it get better when you meditate in the dark? Does it get better if you put a thin cloth over your head covering your face? Does it stop if you count your breath 1-1 2-2 3-3 etc?

You could try to break every 20 minutes for 3-5 minutes stretching your legs and touching your knees with your head / touching your feet with your hands... if possible without much thinking, just doing it and then resume your meditation.

When we run into a wall with meditation, focusing on morality and understanding will remove the obstacles.
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.
Thisperson
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by Thisperson »

nubbie111 wrote:This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
I think you may be confused about the idea of simply observing a sensation. What you are experiencing is aversion to the physical sensations that you are feeling. The aversion leads to thoughts which lead to even more aversion and suffering. Eventually this cycle gets to the point where you feel the need to stop meditation early.

Try to shift your perspective. Observing and letting go of a sensation does not mean "OK there's tension, so now it can go away!" It just means to simply feel the sensation without taking it personally, without grasping on to it. When you take the negative sensation personally, you have aversion (craving for it to stop). That aversion leads to the negative feelings that cause you mental distress. Try to bring awareness to the underlying aversion to the physical sensations.

It may also be to your benefit to relax and sit for less time. There's no need to meditate so much that you can't bear it. Think of it more as a marathon than a sprint.
nubbie111
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by nubbie111 »

martinfrank wrote:
nubbie111 wrote:This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
Please don't feel frustrated. Your problem is the kind of problem we encounter when we meditate seriously. A good teacher who knows you well could explain you the underlying conflict which is causing the facial tension.

How you do breath meditation? Are you controlling the breath or just watching the breath? I think somehow your attention wanders to the face muscles and nerves. Are you trying to sit totally still? Are you alone when you meditate? Do you feel watched? Does it get better when you meditate in the dark? Does it get better if you put a thin cloth over your head covering your face? Does it stop if you count your breath 1-1 2-2 3-3 etc?

You could try to break every 20 minutes for 3-5 minutes stretching your legs and touching your knees with your head / touching your feet with your hands... if possible without much thinking, just doing it and then resume your meditation.

When we run into a wall with meditation, focusing on morality and understanding will remove the obstacles.
I do have issues with controlling my breath. I know that I'm not supposed to, but I can't help it. So I watch myself controlling my breath and trying to stop controlling my breath, but watching it doesn't always make me let go of control. It gets better when I lie down for some reason. A thin cloth over my head sounds strange, but it might work...

What do you mean by focusing on morality and ill will?
Thisperson wrote:
nubbie111 wrote:This is about my 3rd week meditating with breath meditation. I started out 20 min twice a day, then after two weeks I bumped it up slowly until I'm at 1hour twice a day, with random sessions thrown in too. The past 3 days, I can't get a session past 20 minutes. I started noticing lots of discomfort in my sinuses and I got very restless and fidgety and a strong urge to end the session. Today, I could barely get to 20 minutes because I started feeling tension in my face, especially at my eyes that just won't go away.

I have done a lot of reading and I know the general advice is to simply observe the tension, let it be, and return to my object. But observing it, letting it go, and returning to the breath doesn't make the tension go away. It just stays there, getting stronger and more uncomfortable, and I know that if I persist with the meditation I'm going to end up with very sore eye muscles from straining my eyes too much. And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
I think you may be confused about the idea of simply observing a sensation. What you are experiencing is aversion to the physical sensations that you are feeling. The aversion leads to thoughts which lead to even more aversion and suffering. Eventually this cycle gets to the point where you feel the need to stop meditation early.

Try to shift your perspective. Observing and letting go of a sensation does not mean "OK there's tension, so now it can go away!" It just means to simply feel the sensation without taking it personally, without grasping on to it. When you take the negative sensation personally, you have aversion (craving for it to stop). That aversion leads to the negative feelings that cause you mental distress. Try to bring awareness to the underlying aversion to the physical sensations.

It may also be to your benefit to relax and sit for less time. There's no need to meditate so much that you can't bear it. Think of it more as a marathon than a sprint.
I do understand that I'm simply supposed to observe it.

This is the same concept as when I have a very strong itch and I try to simply observe it. Eventually the itch gets stronger and the urge to scratch gets stronger and no amount of observing will make me not scratch it.

So I keep observing the tension, and my aversion to my tension, but the tension is growing stronger and causing me pains and headaches and distracting my concentration on my object.

That's one of the issue I have about being told to just observe and don't judge an experience. Well, it's easy to say it, but from my experience it's not feasible when the sensation is either very strong or detrimental.
Thisperson
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by Thisperson »

nubbie111 wrote:I do understand that I'm simply supposed to observe it.
You understand the concept but have not yet seen it through direct insight.
This is the same concept as when I have a very strong itch and I try to simply observe it. Eventually the itch gets stronger and the urge to scratch gets stronger and no amount of observing will make me not scratch it.
If you simply observe an itch, it will (sooner or later) go away. If you observe an itch, take it personally and then have feelings of aversion towards that itch, you will suffer and then have to scratch it.
So I keep observing the tension, and my aversion to my tension, but the tension is growing stronger and causing me pains and headaches and distracting my concentration on my object.

That's one of the issue I have about being told to just observe and don't judge an experience. Well, it's easy to say it, but from my experience it's not feasible when the sensation is either very strong or detrimental.
Have you been introduced to the three characteristics?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theravada# ... cteristics

One of the concepts that lies within not-self, is that we do not own the feelings that occur in the body. This is partially what I speak of when I say not to take the feelings personally. There's a difference between itching and "my itching". It's a perspective that can be learned through direct observation. It takes practice, but it is fully possible. This is my reasoning for telling you in my last post to try to relax and see meditation more as a marathon rather than a sprint.
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martinfrank
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by martinfrank »

nubbie111 wrote: I do have issues with controlling my breath. I know that I'm not supposed to, but I can't help it. So I watch myself controlling my breath and trying to stop controlling my breath, but watching it doesn't always make me let go of control. It gets better when I lie down for some reason. A thin cloth over my head sounds strange, but it might work...

What do you mean by focusing on morality and ill will?
We probably all have this problem of controlling/not controlling the breath when we start anapanasati. It will go away after some time when following the breath cycle takes your attention off control. You might start your meditation with counting the breath in-out 1-1 2-2 3-3... focusing on the counting while you breath normally until you feel that you switch gear.... i.e. that the breathing becomes calm without control. If the facial tension gets better when you lie down then lie down for a few minutes every twenty minutes. You can continue anapanasati while you lie down. Hiding the face behind a veil has been done by serious meditators for centuries.

Oh! I didn't say "ill will"! I said...
When we run into a wall with meditation, focusing on morality and understanding will remove the obstacles.
A deeper understanding of morality or virtue - in plain English - trying to be a better human being, refining our observation of the precepts, being more serious in our taking refuge, will make us more receptive for meditation. If we study the discourses we become more ready to enter into the adventure of meditation, to see the world from meditation instead of seeing meditation from the world.
The Noble Eightfold Path: Proposed to all, imposed on none.
nubbie111
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by nubbie111 »

Well, I've played around with different methods and I think I will just meditate with my eyes open with something over my eyes to obscure my vision. That seems to help the most.

I have no idea wtf happened to me that I suddenly am not able to close my eyes without lots of tension. Perhaps I've been tensing my eyes the entire time for the past 3 weeks of meditating 2+ hours a day, and it's suddenly all catching up to me and my body can't handle it anymore? I don't know. It's the weirdest thing, but I guess I just won't close my eyes anymore. This won't hinder my path to higher concentration states, will it?

I know I do need to change my lifestyle. It's very ADHD inducing. I also need to get out and find some buddhist groups to hang around. I don't know, for some reason I thought I could just use willpower and discipline to push myself to meditate for many hours a day and then my life will naturally fall into place. But it looks like I'll have to put effort to changing my life so that I can meditate many hours a day in the first place, because I found that I don't have the resolve to put in that many hours or push myself through the difficult times...
troxet
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by troxet »

For me it helps not to focus on any part of the head, and intead to focus in other parts like the abdomen like someone has already said. Also trying not to control helps to alleviate the tension
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MrMonkey
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by MrMonkey »

I'm just a beginner, but I have had this issue and sometimes it still happen.
But I would try to give you some suggestions
nubbie111 wrote: But it looks like I'll have to put effort to changing my life so that I can meditate many hours a day in the first place...
I reached the same conclusion. You have 24h a day, you meditate 1h, but the others 23h obviously can influence your 1h meditation, so you firstly have to work on the 23h...

Ajahn Brahm in Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond explained that before start to work on breath you should realize the silent moment awareness. How? Find gaps between thoughts.
I found it very relaxing, you don't need to put effort (this for me is the issue) in focusing on something. You stay in a corner and observe, just look thoughts and try to find little gaps. When you reach a sufficient stillness then you start to focus your attention on the breath.

Shaila Catherine in Wisdom Wide and Deep explain how manage the effort, for me this is the main issue, I put too much effort in focussing. As a beginner you need to understand how to play with vitakka and vicāra.

Finally, I think, that when I'll be able to meditate without any aims I will not have any tensions...
philosopher
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by philosopher »

I encounter the same issue from time to time. A few things that have helped, as others have suggested are:

-cultivating an attitude of including the pain in my awareness / expanding my awareness to include the pain. i.e. "Can I suffer and still be free?" (Ajahn Munindo)
-yoga and massage to address the physical tension
-not focus on breath at nostrils, but rather at the abdomen or the entire body breathing
-different postures, such as walking and lying down
-sending metta to the parts of body experiencing tension or the tension itself; general metta meditation

For most problems that arise I've found recently that simultaneously cultivating an acceptance and compassionate holding of the "problem" while gently exploring solutions or alternative methods seems to help the most.

:anjali:
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khlawng
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by khlawng »

nubbie111 wrote:
... And no matter what I try, I can't get that area to relax either.

I feel frustrated that I'm stuck on something like this. I don't know what I'm supposed to do. Am I really supposed to push through the tension, headaches and pains be damned?
i believe you have come to a point where you have 2 choices.

1) Find a good meditation teacher who can help you ease the tension. You know you have the right teacher when he uses mental energy as a healing tool instead of giving you a bunch of instructions to relax or observe this and that etc. The result is almost instantaneous.

2) If you are unable to find someone to help you, then I recommend you stop meditating for a while. maybe even up to a month or more. In the meantime, go enjoy the wordly life and look at substituing meditation with other activity like chanting or just reading dhamma books. Likely, the problem will sort itself out with time. Then find someone competent who can guide and help you train your mind correctly.

We all have a tendancy to think too highly of ourselves (YES, me included).
We pick up bits and pieces of instructions from books and the internet and add in some guesswork hoping for the best.
Most people end up with a bunch of tension problem and headache.

Hope that helps and good luck.
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MrMonkey
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by MrMonkey »

khlawng wrote: 1) Find a good meditation teacher who can help you ease the tension. You know you have the right teacher when he uses mental energy as a healing tool instead of giving you a bunch of instructions to relax or observe this and that etc. The result is almost instantaneous.
So the solution is find a teacher that magically will solve our problems...
Sorry but I prefer to have issues, tensions and find a way to overcome them.
I think that find a solution to solve my tensions was an important piece of my journey, that lead me to study, experiment (within and without the meditation session), that changed my behaviours.
It's strange what these "simple tensions" were able to do...

I would say that tensions could be also a good teacher ;)

If a teacher magically had solved the problem, I would not change anything about me ...
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khlawng
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Re: facial tension too unbearable

Post by khlawng »

Hi MrMonkey,
MrMonkey wrote: So the solution is find a teacher that magically will solve our problems...
Our problems?
I certainly wasn't addressing your problem.
Given that TS was using words like too unbearable, tried relaxing and nothing works, I thought that the best thing to do was to recommend he/she finds someone cultivated enough to help him/her.
It certainly wasn't my "silver bullet" solution as I have posted other remedies in another similar thread.

http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=41&t=12866
MrMonkey wrote: Sorry but I prefer to have issues, tensions and find a way to overcome them.
I think that find a solution to solve my tensions was an important piece of my journey, that lead me to study, experiment (within and without the meditation session), that changed my behaviours.
But not all journeys are alike for everyone. And to suggest that your experience is duplicatable by someone who obviously had not had much success in dealing with tension on a individual level is merely rehashing majority of what other posters have already suggested.
In which case, you are helping how?
MrMonkey wrote: It's strange what these "simple tensions" were able to do...
I would say that tensions could be also a good teacher ;)
If a teacher magically had solved the problem, I would not change anything about me ...
Not every problem one encounters during meditation has dhamma values in them.
even if there were, the question remains if ones mind is cultivated and matured enough to figure problems out.
May I remind u that we are not talking about a strain muscle while weight lifting.
We are talking about a person's mind and mental health here.
so I posted what I thought was the most responsible thing to do in order to help another fellow buddhist meditator.
tension is anything but a good teacher. It is a good time waster and a hindence to many new yogis who have not been instructed in proper pre&post meditation techniques.
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