RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Joel Gomez, modified 1 Month ago.

Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/9/21 Recent Posts
Hello!

I'm new to the community and really thankful I found it. I began meditating about 2 and a half years ago and very early on in the practice discovered The Mind Illuminated. I took to it quite quickly and within about two months found myself working my way into Stage Four and experiencing quite blissful body buzzes & tranquil mind states, which I didn't have a name for at the time, but have to come to learn is probably Piti?

I had a moment during one these sessions about two years ago now where I felt an incredible flash of nerve pain in my face, and to this day - having meditated two to three hours a day every day without ever missing - I have just been lost in painful facial tension and undulations (sometimes making audible crackling noises, among other unpleasantries). They're there whether or not I'm meditating and my practice has just felt floundering ever since, as it's impossible to feel subtle (or any) breath sensations at the nostril behind the glaring pain. I wish I were exaggerating, but I unfortunately can't feel the breath sensations there at all as I used to. I've gone back and forth between looking for them (which ultimately felt useless after a while) and then surrending and using the undulatng pain and spasms as an object of meditation... however, it just.. hasn't been a very stable or pleasant object to meditate upon. So I haven't experienced that buzzy tranquil concentration sensation in years and I find myself mind-wandering so so much no matter how much I congratulate myself. I should also note that I believe this pain was there prior to beginning my meditation practice, though largely unnoticed. It affects almost my whole body, but my face is a hot spot for sure.

Should I keep struggling on with this? Is it possible to find that concentration level again without an easy breathing sensation to focus on? Should I stop samatha and just dig into vipassana?

I know there's very likely an obvious answer to all this. I think I'm just needing some encouragement as doubt creeps in that what I'm doing is fruitless, as I can barely concentrate anymore. Any tips or advice would be so much appreciated. Thank you!
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Try this Shinzen Young piece on "samadhi pain".

The problem is not the pain so much as the resistance. You're mind is telling you that it is pain, but do you notice it when you are doing something else? Is it the same kind of pain as if you had a toothache or something? Probably not. The problem is probably that on some level you are resisting it, wishing it would go away to you can get back to the blissful buzzy tranquility you had before. That's what makes it seem to bad. The solution is to accept it, then accept it deeper, then accept it even deeper. Actively look for the resistance, find the center of the pain and allow yourself to embrace and relax into that 100% with full awareness. Try to relax right through the center of the pain. Try to play the game 'how bad can this pain be?' It's not actually going to hurt you, so if you are not afraid of its strength then eventually it will peak and you will find that it has passed ...

​​​​​​​Hope some of that helps.

EDIT: Another way to look at it - the pain is from suppressed emotional experiences earlier in your life. There's only a finite amount of it and it has to come out one way or the other, so the more you accept it the easier it will be on yourself and quicker it will pass :-)

By the way, I'm assuming that there's not actually an underlying physical cause for the pain, but it's worth getting your teeth, sinuses, brain etc. checked out to put your mind at rest if you have serious concerns. I had very strong and "painful" undulating waves in my forehead for almost 2 years, dominating a lot of my meditation. I had 2 brain scans my headaches were so bad, and then one day it just stopped :-)
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Stefan R, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 70 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
G'day Joel, 

Do you experience the pain in any other circumstances, such as work, study, relaxation time? And where do you experience the pain in the face specifically?

The only reason I ask is that face pain can be caused by levator scapuli, trapezius, lattissimus dorsi, serratus, deltoid, bicep, tricep, and/or pectoralis minor trigger-points, which are being activated during certain postures. The other reason I ask is to boost George S's advice why also including some trigger point release with a foam roller. Mind and body are intimately connected, the mind can heal the body, and the body can heal the mind. 

If you aren't experiencing the pain at any other time than meditation, then I strongly back George's advice. 
Joel G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/9/21 Recent Posts
Thanks everyone for your advice! I appreciate it all.

Stefan, yes, the pain & spasms are there all the time no matter what I'm doing, meditating or not. Particularly more noticeable when I'm reading or having quiet time. And I have had issues with trigger points before.. in quite an array of places. The spasms aren't even localized to my face - they're just the most distracting when attempting to meditate on the breath. They occur in so many places at all times of the day & night - arms, neck, shoulders, diaphragm, hips, intestines, even rattles my lungs sometimes - which affects a lot of my body function to the point of what I'd say is fairly chronic disability these days. Early on got brain scans and everything came back clear, so intense trigger points are most likely the culprit.

However, as George mentioned, when I do somehow occassionally manage to settle into accepting it... I feel it all start to slowly pop and unravel and peel apart like cobwebs. This unravelling - I think - is what's previously kept me motivated all this time, and yet at the same time, I recognize that that motivation is just grasping / self-defeating and have more recently commited back to the wisdom path and not some tangent path of meditating to make my body feel healthy again. I realize that's a dead-end and yet... my little grasping mind falls into the pitfall from time to time on a level I don't even always immediately notice.

​​​​​​​Martin, only recently have I tried the belly - and it was a nice change of pace. I've found sometimes the face is a distraction even while placing the attention elsewhere, but the belly actually was easier than I thought it'd be.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
I'm sorry, I misjudged how much physical pain you are experiencing. You could potentially reconcile the two paths by considering that accepting pain is wisdom practice!
Joel G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/9/21 Recent Posts
Oh, no worries at all, George. Thanks for your advice. emoticon It's always helpful to hear and I do agree that all of this chronic body stuff is very likely a result of years of slow-burn long-running mild to moderate emotional traumas. I do find, when I am a bit clear and concentrated, noting "aversion" really diffuses some of the tension. Little by little. I still have faith that I can follow the path.
George S, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 1629 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
That's good. I'm always amazed how, even with the most seemingly intractable problems, eventually one sees that the aversion/resistance is where most of the suffering is ('this shouldn't be happening, it shouldn't be like this etc etc') Speaking to myself here as well :-)
Martin, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 294 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I'm sorry to hear about the pain. Pain sucks. I hope it gets better. 

Have you tried following the breath in the belly, instead of at the nose? I find that following at the nose often tends to bring up face/head discomfort/pain, but I don't get that when I am following the rise and fall of the belly, which is a much bigger part of the body. I've also tried following the breath throughout the body, and a lot of people are into that, but the belly is easier to see for me. 
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Stefan R, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 70 Join Date: 3/28/21 Recent Posts
Give a dual approach a burl. 

Focus on the mental aspects when you are meditating. It's a great lesson about accepting the pain in the moment. Outside of meditation, get yourself a foam roller, research trigger points, and perhaps get yourself to a physiotherapist. 
Joel G, modified 1 Month ago.

RE: Breath sensation hidden behind face pain

Posts: 4 Join Date: 4/9/21 Recent Posts
Absolutely. I just mentioned in a reply to George above that I've noticed when I am clear, just noting "aversion" really helps mitigate. Once the pandemic is over, I'll look back into getting some physical care (I've found in the past that a good osteopath has gently helped this stuff as well as accupuncture). And I'll definitely look into the form roller. Thank you for the advice!

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