Author Topic: Headache while meditating  (Read 5679 times)

Miesco

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Headache while meditating
« on: June 03, 2013, 04:20:21 AM »
Hi,
I went to a Vipassana 10 day course taught by Goenka 5 months ago (Dec 2012) and I did it wrong and had to leave on day 9 due to intense hypocondria.
I had just went off about 100mg of Zoloft and 1mg of Lorazpam cold turkey before the retreat.

Instead of not reacting to pain, I was blocking it.  I would tense some kind of muscle in my head (near forehead) and I would not feel any pain (while meditated), any discomfort in my chest would go away, I even had a panic attack and blocked the whole thing and was calm for an hour and a half.  I would scratch my arm without activing it and feel it, then active it and I would feel nothing.  I could of put my hand on a hot stove and felt nothing.

After I blocked the panic attack I started to get hypocondria and got scared so I stopped doing this, esspecially when I found out I was blocking sensations instead of not reacting.  When I tried to meditate it would feel like I was tensing that muscle near my forehead inside my head, or a similar one, subconciously.  I felt like it would be fatal if I continued to tense it.

I left on day 9 and felt all kinds of pressure headaches.  I didn't meditate really until May 29th 2013.

I went again on May 29th, this time off my Zoloft for three months before going (Not lorazapam though, I take lorazapam as needed so I had it if I needed it.  The teacher this time said I should be taking it while meditating as I would be going off cold turkey)

The course started alright, but in the second group session on day 1 I started to just feel a headache as soon as I started concentrating on my breath, I felt like as I was concentrating on my breath I was subconsciously tensing a muscle similar to the one from before (in my forehead).  I started getting anxiety, asked the teacher about the headache.  He said just accept it, but that was impossible, I asked if I could go to my room to meditate on the break after the 2nd group sitting, he said no, I started to get anxiety, I paced outside the hall for the hour and a half session with anxiety as i couldn't go inside.  After the session he basically said I should leave the course as I missed a session.  I left, if I stayed the headaches would of got worse like before.  Even now, just returned home yesterday, I cant concentrate on my breath without that headache.   I still am very unsure if im tensing something in my head like last time that could be killing me, so its very frightening to me.

I would really like to complete the course but I can't if I get headaches and feel like im triggering something horrible subconsciously whenever I try to meditate.
Does anyone know anything about this kind of thing?  About headaches, forehead tension while meditating, and blocking pain?
« Last Edit: June 03, 2013, 04:25:29 AM by Miesco »

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2013, 04:32:43 AM »
I've had a lot of tension in my head, mainly in the forehead and temples. I stopped consuming dairy which helped, as did letting go and going with the tension. Getting uptight at physical quirks only amplifies them.

redalert

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2013, 12:38:13 AM »
I'm not a medical doctor and don't feel qualified to give you any advice about meditation practice, with possible conditions that require medications. I know that some forms of medical conditions are not compatable with vipassana meditation as taught by s.n. goenka ie; bipolar disorders.

Most of the centers staff that process applications are familiar with these conditions that are not compatable with this technique, it is best to be honest when filling out the applications and notify them of any and all past or present illnesses or medications you are taking. It is better to be refused admission to a course then further aggrivate and complicate any illnesses. If you are accepted then the teachers will know to help and watch out for you when difficulties arise. They may prescribe a less intensive environment and ask that you work in a relaxed fashion either with a back support or a in a chair and may ask you to work more in your room in a comfortable position. They could preschedule interviews and keep track that one is taking any prescribed medications.

Without a complete open and honest approach, you are tying the hands of the staff, and will get the standard vipassana answers of just observe these sensations or ignore them and remain equanimous, which may be to intensive for some.

I'm not sure if this is helpful but it is really important that we fill out the applications as honestly as possible so the staff knows exactly who they are dealing with and can help them to successfully navigate the course.

I wish you success in the future, and don't hesitate to re-apply

metta :)

Downtown CM

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2013, 02:29:40 AM »
I too am experiencing forehead tension when meditating. I took the 10 day Vipassana course in early May at a retreat in northern Thailand as taught by Goenka. For me these tension problems began about a year and a half ago, well before any attempts at mediation were undertaken. I found that any time I began to relax, when going to sleep at night, the tension would begin. This interfered quite strongly in my ability to go to sleep and would occasionally wake me at night. I found that applying pressure, ie a pillow or rolled up towel, pushed directly against my forehead, would relieve the ever increasing tension. There is no pain involved, just a steadily increasing tension. After about six months of this I began to learn how to control it. If fact, it was less control than it became acceptance (sort of a precognition for eventual meditation training?). As I grew to accept this tension I weaned myself off applying external pressure and learned to sleep without aid of any sort. Just a clear mind and sleep would come without tension. That was until about a two weeks after returning from my Vipassana course. Over the last week this forehead tension has returned with a vengeance. Not only has it returned to interfere with my going to sleep, it has now begun to appear in my day-to-day life. To say I'm concerned is an understatement.

However, I do believe it's an internal function on my part, almost a self-created problem reacting to some internal stimulus. The process is as follows: I set myself in as close to a proper posture as I can. I'm 64 so comfort is a relative thing for me. I use floor mats and pillows, sit relatively straight with hands folded in front of me in a quiet room. I close my eyes and begin anapana. About 30 seconds in I feel a sensation at the upper left lobe of my forehead that trickles down toward the brow. Once this has begun the opposite side, on the right lobe of the forehead, a pressure builds. It too trickles down toward the brow. Once both of these sensations have reached the brow a tension connecting the two sensations forms across the brow and continues to intensify to the point where I can no longer feel any other sensations. At its worst, I cannot focus my awareness on my breathing or scan (sweep) any other part of the body since I cannot move my awareness below the pressure across my brow. At best I seem to be able to struggle passed the tension to scan the body but, it is a struggle and only increases stress and powerfully interferes with my meditation. I have had some minor successes but, I feel I have been pushed backwards and am now hanging onto the low rung again.

I have tried several techniques to alleviate this problem while practising, all of which break any focus I might have attained. I have simply allowed the tension to be what it is and to accept it as it is but, with the ever increasing nature of the tension, I have not been successful. I find it necessary to break the tension on a regular basis by stopping the meditation process completely. I have tried a short, light sweeping movement of a finger across the centre of my forehead from right to left. That breaks the tension for anything from a few minutes to a few seconds. I have tried taking a quick peek to realign the direction my eyes are pointing in, again, that works for a few minutes to a few seconds. There seems to be no way that I can find to accept this tension since it continues to increase without abatement. I am very concerned that the hard work I have put into this technique will be lost and that it has in fact begun to interfere in my day-to-day life.

As of this morning I have stopped meditating completely hoping for relief after some rest. BTW – I have been practising for about 2 hours a day since my return from the Dhamma Simanta Center. I am healthy, don't drink much, do not smoke, do not take drugs either recreational or medicinal but do read a lot of news, watch movies and surf a lot on my computer etc. I did not experience this tension while taking the course. Please, do not disparage me for my normal living habits and hobbies. I mention this due to a forum thread where others demeaned the use of Facebook or other surfing habits in a pretentious and derogatory way. Negativity will not help.

Any helpful advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for you time.

floyd

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2013, 10:02:38 AM »
HI DCM

Have you discounted a physical reason for your tension - blocked sinuses for example, in which case Dharmic Tui's suggestion of reducing dairy could help with reducing mucus? Migraines can manifest in ways other than pain too.

More likely though, I suspect that you are pushing too hard. Get up if this tension is too distracting for meditation. Do something else for a few minutes and start again. It will pass sooner or later.

And if your focus is on your nose or nasal cavity, try your chest or belly instead - a point well away from the tension.

Cheers
Floyd
« Last Edit: June 14, 2013, 12:06:12 PM by floyd »

redalert

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #5 on: June 14, 2013, 11:11:41 AM »
Hi downtown CM,

It sounds like you are focusing your concentration on the point between the eyebrows, there is the possibility that your eyes are moving to this area and that this may be causing this tension to build. The eyes do not need to move as we focus our awareness on different parts of the body, we just need to feel the area we wish to experience.

I too experienced this tension you are experiencing but with some time this has passed, try working in some more relaxed postures and trying to feel multiple areas at the same time. For example try to feel both legs at the same time, or both arms instead of focusing on such small parts. When these areas become full of sensations then focus on smaller areas.

We don't want to become relaxed and fall asleep, but we do need to be gentle and patient when learning to do this practice. 

Downtown CM

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2013, 02:06:54 AM »
Thank you for your responses. As far as sinus blockage, I have paid attention to that and find no problems there. I am also sadly aware of how migraines feel, I tend to lose much of my vision when experiencing one, sometimes there is very little in the way of headache just other phenomenon. That aside, I am encouraged by those who have experienced this forehead tension and overcome it. I know a guy locally who has taken the course in Lamphun twice and we discussed eye movement and sinus possibilities.

I am going to try much shorter sessions to see if I can learn to either overcome or simply, as Vipassana suggests, learn to accept it. It is hard to accept something that takes so much attention away from all other tasks.

Thanks again,
Allan

Downtown CM

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #7 on: June 22, 2013, 07:52:42 AM »
Sad to say but I think I'll just admit defeat and look elsewhere for some sort of internal enlightenment. Practising Vipassana over the last month has been an exercise is frustration. The forehead tension I  feel shortly after beginning has continued to be the primary focus of my awareness and has increased in strength. The best I've achieved over this period is some very superficial scanning of the body with my focus being constantly drawn back to the knot in my forehead. I have tried focusing on different parts of the body to no avail, shortening my sessions, allowing eyes to open, and other physical shifts but, the gross sensation on my forehead overwhelms. I realize it is my reality and it is a choice I make to accept this situation and allow it to dissipate in importance but, that has not happened. It has in fact gotten stronger and more invasive. I no longer look forward to mediation, it has become a chore that is no longer welcome. I hope you all have better luck and success.  :(

Matthew

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #8 on: June 22, 2013, 09:48:45 AM »
Before you give up would you like the chance to chat about it using Skype? I have some suggestions of taking a modified approach to practice that may help - don't just want to throw them out there but better given via video or voice chat. Shoot me a pm if you feel it's worth a shot.

Warmest regards,

Matthew
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Lokuttara

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #9 on: June 24, 2013, 04:31:26 PM »
Just back from a recent course in Dhamma Padhana, UK. Lovely centre!

The headache issue came up for me this time, and it also happened with a lot of other students. The teacher was very helpful, and asked us to find out if our eyes were moving around as we were scanning the body. And lo and behold, for most of us they were (although I'm not saying this is the cause of your issue)!

Upon checking the eyes, first by opening them during scanning at various intervals, and secondly by noticing the sensation in the eye sockets, a few of us realised that we were either a) Moving the eyes up and down as we scanned the body up and down or b) going cross-eyed during highly concentrated meditation.

Two years ago I solved the "eyes moving up and down while scanning" problem, but I realised that on this course the headaches I was experiencing were due to going cross-eyed during sitting. A new hurdle to overcome! It was a challenge to stop it, but I just brought more awareness to my eyes, and gently opened them (just a little bit) during some meditation sessions so I could see when / how they were being caused to move about. I realised that my left eye would move towards my nose (thus going cross-eyed) whenever I tried to piece/penetrate through the body from one side to the other. So I asked it to relax and settle back into a neutral position every time it did this. It wasn't easy to break the habit :) Got there eventually tho... patience and persistence! Every now and then I still do a "check", and I'll open my eyes at random times to make sure nothing weird is happening with them.

These things come up on 10-day courses, but you have to work with them and remain equanimous.  They are also sankaras, so use them as a tool to develop equanimity and just accept the reality that is manifesting.
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

Miesco

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #10 on: June 24, 2013, 06:36:24 PM »
Lokuttara, I'll try your suggestion with the eye movement.  I think that "subconcious movement" I was doing might of been eye movement (or something similar).  I tried anapana for an hour and I didn't get a headache, I noticed I that the "subconcious movement" wasn't happening when I opened my eyes.  So i'll give this a try for a while and report back the results.

Lokuttara

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Re: Headache while meditating
« Reply #11 on: June 28, 2013, 09:09:39 AM »
Yes, I don't think Anapana produces so much eye movement so it's good to use it to relax the eyes (if you are having the headaches).
"One may be surrounded by great beauty, by mountains and fields and rivers, but unless one is alive to it all one might just as well be dead." Krishnamurti

 

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