Message Boards Message Boards

Dharma Diagnostic Clinic, aka "What was that?"

Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head

Toggle
Author: pittr
Forum: Dharma Overground Discussion Forum

Hi all,

I was wondering if someone has experienced a similar problem related to meditation practice and perhaps knows the solution:

I’ve been meditating regularly for about 6 months now, usually about 90 minutes before sleep and after waking up – pretty much straight samatha meditation with breath as the object. The meditation sessions have been getting progressively better – more calm, concentration, etc.

My problem generally occurs during the day (so outside of meditation sessions) – a kind of heaviness starts increasing at the top of my head. It’s not a headache or pain, but more like a pressure – like wearing something heavy on the head. It usually lasts for about 4-6 hours and then disappears, but during these 6 hours I feel almost disabled because it’s hard to do anything productive due to heaviness.

I went for a medical check up – everything is fine. When I stop meditation for a couple of weeks, the problem stops completely. But as soon as I resume regular meditation, the problem returns. One of my friends who does tai chi explained me that my energy is getting trapped at the top of my head as a result of meditation and that I should visualize it flowing out of my head. I tried this and it provides some relief, but it doesn’t seem to solve the actual problem. I mean what needs to be done differently so that this problem doesn’t happen at all?

Thanks you for your help
Pit

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
8/31/09 2:10 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi pittr

I know you said it's not a headache or pain but it sounds like it would be possible to induce stress headaches - which do feel different to "normal headaches" - by doing too much concentration work. Do you find yourself straining at all when meditating?

Have you tried any other forms of meditation such as vipassana noting or dzogchen, does that cause the pressure too?

Craig

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
8/31/09 5:23 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: AlexWeith

Hi Pit,

I know that very well. You problem is that chi (or prana) rises to your head.
I don't know if it will work with you, but it works for me:

Old Taoist trick. Imagine that your body is made of glass, filled with water. Then see the water going down your head, shoulders, arms, upper chest, etc. down to the ground. Now you are totally empty, like a pure crystal vessel. This will not only ground you but purify your "chi".

Then, try gently abdominal breathing to allow the "chi" move down and settle below the navel in the tantien (or hara in japanese).

In general, try to be very gentle and to observe the breath in the navel area instead of around the nose and don't make any effort to control the breath. Try to be a super passive observer.

Tell me if it helps.

If it doesn't help, tai chi will. It is great to get the energy grounded. You don't need to become an expert. Your friend can teach you a few movements.

Keep in mind also that these energy problems are normal. The system is actually getting cleaned down. Most Zen masters went through terrible headaches at a certain stage of their practice.

Alex

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
8/31/09 8:11 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi Pit,
Energy follows attention. When meditation practices have caused too much energy to pool in the head, we can re-establish proper flow by putting attention on the breath and then breathing the energy down according to our attention-intention.

Breathe the energy down in stages.

First, breathe it down from the head into the throat.

Second, breathe it down from the throat into the chest including the lung area but not beyond the solar plexus.

Third, breathe it down from the chest into the abdomen with particular attention to the area just below the navel.

Fourth, let the breathed energy sink from the lower abdomen to the bodily base at the perineum. It will do this on its own if you allow it.

The energy should then rise on its own from the bodily base, either up the spine or into the central channel in the middle of the body. You will know if you have succeeded if you feel the energy re-appear at the crown of the head.

Please let me know how this works for you.

Gassho,
Gozen

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/1/09 4:40 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi pittr,
A very common problem. Lots of good answers. One other trick is to slowly pass your hand down the front of your body (palm facing in) starting at the top of your head and imagine pulling the energy down to the lower abdomen. Repeat as needed. The problem will subside is the channels get cleaned out a bit.

-Chuck

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/1/09 7:49 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: pittr

Hi Craig,

Thanks for your interest.

"I know you said it's not a headache or pain but it sounds like it would be possible to induce stress headaches - which do feel different to "normal headaches" - by doing too much concentration work. Do you find yourself straining at all when meditating?"

It doesn’t seem like it. I mean, overexertion (and resulting headaches) were one of the first mistakes I made as a beginner, and since then it became clear that samatha is more about letting go, being relaxed and knowing what’s the attention doing at the moment rather than trying to force it to concentrate on the breath. So, during meditation and immediately afterwards, I generally feel great – refreshed, relaxed, light, alert, etc.

Another good description of my problem would also be that it’s sort of like nausea, but in the head. I mean, when just starting out with meditation, there appeared a similar sort of nausea in the stomach, but it disappeared after a week or two. Then a similar thing happened in the chest area, but it also disappeared after a few weeks. So now, the nausea is confined to the head, but it won’t go away for months now.

"Have you tried any other forms of meditation such as vipassana noting or dzogchen, does that cause the pressure too?"

I sometimes do objectless meditation, where the idea is to be aware of what’s going on in the mind at the moment, without concentrating on a specific object of meditation. The same problem occurs though.

Hope this clarifies the issue somewhat
Pit

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/1/09 8:23 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: pittr

Hi Alex, Gozen and Chuck,

Thank you for your kind replies. I’m happy to hear that this is a normal problem. I’ve tried out the suggestions you gave, they do seem to work a little, so I guess as I get better with them they will also work better.

I’d also like to ask the following, since you all seem much more experienced than me – do you find it necessary to do some sort of energy practice (tai chi and other energy exercises like the ones you suggested) in parallel to your meditation practice, or does there come a time when the energy system cleans out so much that the meditation alone takes care of it all, so no more need for energy practices?

If you do energy practices, could you please advise which theoretical explanation of the energy system you find more relevant to your meditation practice? At the moment, it seems like a good idea to start studying about energy, but there seem to be at least two main theoretical approaches – Indian (ayurveda, yoga, kundalini, etc) and East-Asian (Zen, tai chi, acupuncture, Taoism, etc). I guess that both are talking about the same thing, but they seem to use different terminology, so I’m wondering which one do you find more relevant?

Thanks again,
Pit

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/1/09 10:39 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: AlexWeith

Hi Pit,

I know very well what you are talking about, since I had the same problem for years. In order to try to solve it, I tried all kind of energy practice. These eventually added more problems or distracted from my initial meditation practice. My advice is therefore to stick to what you are doing (namely samatha through mindfulness of breathing – Anapanasati). One day the blockage will just melt away and you will be filled with gentle cool energy.

However, if you are interested in energy development, I found that one of the best books is “Energy Work: The Secret of Healing and Spiritual Development” by Robert Bruce. It is non denominational and might seem a bit New Age, but is it not. And it works better than other methods, at least for me. Furthermore, it is compatible with Anapansati, as well as with yoga, qi gong and any other similar traditional system. Finally, it also deals with energy and kundalini related problems in a simple common sense manner. The author is an Australian mystic and psychic explorer who’s been through the worst problems you can think of. I guess he acquired wisdom on the way. If you follow his method, within a few days you will be able to clearly feel the chi or prana flowing through your body. You will then be able to move it wherever you want, circling it around (microcosmic orbit), activating chakras an all that.

But again my advice is not to get distracted. Sometime we lose years trying to solve one particular problem, getting into more problems through new techniques, while sticking to our initial practice would have solved all problems long time ago.

Kind regards,

Alex

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/2/09 2:28 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi pittr,

I can certainly identify with what you are experiencing. From what I've seen and read from other meditators and from my personal experience, this is not at all unusual. For about a year or so I've had very similar experiences. While I initially considered these phenomena to be "problems", I have since learned to accept them and use them as objects for meditation, watching the ebb and flow of their vibrations, contractions, expansions, etc.

This has helped tremendously. As long as I considered them to be "problems" and tried to resist or "solve" them they tended to become more intense. I find that simply noticing and observing them (and noticing the 3 Cs), and accepting them as they are while allowing them to run their course helps to reduce any perceived pain or annoyance they may cause.
I believe this is what Shinzen Young refers to as "Flow" which he describes as the movement, change,energy, or force present within a sensory experience. He uses the terms Flow and Vanishing to describe impermanence (anicca), and considers Flow to be a purification process that can clear blockages and remove impurities. Here's a link to one of his articles that I found useful: http://www.shinzen.org/Retreat%20Reading/Flow.pdf.

I recently discovered this site: http://biologyofkundalini.com/article.php?story=Preface, which I am finding extremely valuable in understanding the role of kundalini energy in different phases along the Path. For over a year I experienced issues with tightness and spasms in my chest and solar plexus region. From reading on this site, I learned that the likely cause had some connection to the vagus nerve. I tried the solar plexus breathing described in the kundalini skills section and so far the results have been astounding. I hope you find some of this useful.

John

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/2/09 4:06 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
I'm gratified to see this thread. I've been experiencing odd sensations in my head (though not painful or debilitating) for the last few weeks; sensations that I never had prior to beginning a daily samatha routine. Thank you for the helpful info!

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/2/09 4:28 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Over time, the importance of energy work has become more and more important to me. I don't see it as a separate practice from meditation but rather it is my meditation. I think if you take a look at Shinzen Young, Reggie Ray (dharmaocean.org), Thanissaro Bhikkhu (dhammatalks.org) teachings you will see that the energy work can be a seamless part of your practice.

As far as models, the Daoist and Vajrayana views appeal to me. I wouldn't actually spend too much time trying to investigate them from an intellectual perspective. Get some basics down (Robert Bruce has a good set of starting practices as does Reggie Ray (see below) and others). Do the practice and investigate from your experience. That way it will be yours.

Suggested listening:
http://www.dharmaocean.org/default/index.cfm/teachings/audio1/audio-teachings

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/4/09 3:21 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Author: pittr

Thank you Alex, John and Chuck for your advices, it's really great to hear from experienced people.

Best wishes
Pit

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
9/8/09 2:14 AM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Thanks CheleK for this one.
A question, in one of the meditations where you are letting your awareness fall (lying down) and expand (sitting), Ray talks about a point where the mind's resistance to this expansion /falling / connecting stops. What would that be in DhO terms?

RE: Meditation causes a disabling heaviness on the top of the head
Answer
11/23/13 6:54 PM as a reply to Wet Paint.
Hi Pirt,

Did your problem get solved ? If so which of the techniques worked for you. I have a similar problem and I've tried most the techniques mentioned in this thread but they seem to increase my headaches.

If I don't meditate I don't get headahces but I feel miserable for most part of the day. If I meditate I feel good for few hours and then these headaches start. This has been happening for two to three years now...