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Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating

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I have been meditating for a few months now, around 2 hours a day in two sits. So far meditation has been focused on developing skill at Shamata Jhanas and I have been routinely getting as far as the 4th Jhana. Regularly through my sits I get points of itching on my face around my nose, usually its up to 3 distinct and different points. I usually ignore them and consider their impermanence and proof of suffering.

On Friday night, I had a particularly deep sit where I sat in 2nd Jhana for about half an hour rather than the usual skipping through to get to the cutting edge, then moved up to 3rd and onto 4th (where I didn't quite get it right - too much agitation etc - plenty of concentration but so much energy, I felt that I couldn't quieten down enough to really drop into it. Eventually I did. Part of the reason was that I was getting some really intense itching points on my face, one of which started so intensely, it was like a bolt running through me, I jolted at its intensity then tried to tolerate and ignore it. really hard. Eventually I had to really give my face a good scratch (noting the intention and action all the way).

This seemed more than a little sensitivity or normal body stuff - can anyone shed some light on this? Does it indicate anything? Is it helpful or just a hindrance? Is there anything I could do to eliminate it or work with it?

Thanks
Rod

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 12:31 PM as a reply to Rod C.
Rod C:
I have been meditating for a few months now, around 2 hours a day in two sits. So far meditation has been focused on developing skill at Shamata Jhanas and I have been routinely getting as far as the 4th Jhana. Regularly through my sits I get points of itching on my face around my nose, usually its up to 3 distinct and different points. I usually ignore them and consider their impermanence and proof of suffering.

On Friday night, I had a particularly deep sit where I sat in 2nd Jhana for about half an hour rather than the usual skipping through to get to the cutting edge, then moved up to 3rd and onto 4th (where I didn't quite get it right - too much agitation etc - plenty of concentration but so much energy, I felt that I couldn't quieten down enough to really drop into it. Eventually I did. Part of the reason was that I was getting some really intense itching points on my face, one of which started so intensely, it was like a bolt running through me, I jolted at its intensity then tried to tolerate and ignore it. really hard. Eventually I had to really give my face a good scratch (noting the intention and action all the way).

This seemed more than a little sensitivity or normal body stuff - can anyone shed some light on this? Does it indicate anything? Is it helpful or just a hindrance? Is there anything I could do to eliminate it or work with it?

Thanks
Rod


I have had similar occurrences of itching/biting sensations at different times and different places on the body throughout my practice. I have tried to "figure these things out" on multiple occasions with little success and much frustration. Thus, my practice advice would be to treat these kind of things like any other phenomenon and duly note them.

In turns of general health, I have had good success with yoga at certain times and currently have a practice of kind of spontaneous yoga/chi gong/tai chi combo that I do to help target tense muscle groups and to maintain good internal body balance. You could give something like this a try. Some other people find running helpful...just stay fit and healthy in the usual ways and try not to sweat the small stuff or map out esoteric theories about why this or that body part is doing what its doing (preaching to myself here).

Much love,

ADR

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 2:34 PM as a reply to Rod C.
I have this exact same experience.

For me it is a clear sign of the dukkha nanas. It can be mild, or so intense that my whole world becomes the tiny itchy sensation on the rim of my nostril! I also get them inside the ear. Sometimes they MOVE AROUND! Nasty little buggers...

As with head tension, I've found 2 things of use:

1. Mostly there isn't much you can do. But focusing on it / worrying on it certainly wo't help.
2. What can help a little is to emphasise the body as focus (rather than the sensations themselves)

Mostly it's just a case of seeing them as impermanent and not worthy of any more attention than any other sensation though.

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 4:47 PM as a reply to Bagpuss The Gnome.
Thanks both for your advice:

ADR: good points - I have been doing some yoga stretches and push-ups and then due to time constraints with work have backed off doing - seems like it would be of benefit to get back to doing them. Are there any particular yoga positions or styles you have found most useful?

BTG: Similar to you I also get these really itchy points in the ear as well and yes they all pop up in different places on face and ear each time but mainly around the nose. Pinpricks of intense itchiness. You connected them to the Dukkha Nanas which resonates with me as I have been trying to work out where I am progress-wise. If you are correct on this, and now I think of it that way, it certainly makes sense, then it has provided a reference point against which to determine my position.

Cut a long story short - I now can see that on a weekly basis I seem to have been getting into equanimity (typically by Sunday night) then enjoying that early in the week only to see it all go backwards (indicated by reducing concentration, increased irritation during meditation) so that by Friday I am experiencing more itchiness on the face and unsettled sits. This of course corresponds to the working week and stresses/distractions and fatigue associated with my job. So here I am on Monday morning again after improving sits since Friday night and I got into 4th Jhana last night and feeling very balanced for the 4th week in a row. So it appears cycling through the nanas is occurring even through Shamata Jhana practice and noting through the day (albeit patchy).

Is this similar to your experience?

Thanks and Best Wishes to you both!

Rodemoticon

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 5:59 PM as a reply to Rod C.
http://www.vipassanadhura.com/sixteen.html

Here is what it indicates:

9. Muncitukamayata nana
The ninth nana to be considered is muncitukamayata nana which can be translated as, "the knowledge of the desire for deliverance." This nana has the following characteristics:

1. The meditator itches all over his body. He feels as if he has been bitten by ants or small insects, or he feels as though they are climbing on his face and body.
2. The meditator becomes impatient and cannot make acknowledgements while standing, sitting, lying down or walking.
3. He cannot acknowledge other minor actions.
4. He feels uneasy, restless and bored.
5. He wishes to get away and give up meditation.
6. Some meditators think of returning home, because they feel that their parami (accumulated past merit) has been insufficient. As a result they start preparing their belongings to go home. In the early days this was termed, "the nana of rolling the mat."

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 6:00 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
Here is how it should be dealt with:

"Should an itching sensation be felt in any part of the body, keep the mind on that part and make a mental note, itching. Do this in a regulated manner, neither too fast nor too slow. When the itching sensation disappears in the course of full awareness, continue with the exercise of noticing the rising and falling of the abdomen. Should the itching continue and become too strong and you intend to rub the itching part, be sure to make a mental note, intending. Slowly lift the hand, simultaneously noting the action of lifting, and touching when the hand touches the part that itches. Rub slowly in complete awareness of rubbing. When the itching sensation has disappeared and you intend to discontinue the rubbing, be mindful by making the usual mental note of the action, withdrawing. When the hand rests in its usual place touching the leg, touching. Then again devote your time to observing the abdominal movements."

-Mahasi Sayadow

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/24/13 6:08 PM as a reply to Bailey ..
Hi Blue,

Thanks for this - the ninth nana eh? That description pretty much sums things up for me - as I said in my original post - mostly on the face but the feelings of frustration etc at basically the whole sit being a seemingly fruitless experience are pretty spot on. Its interesting because when I noted the scratching of the itches, they seemed to be unable to be really soothed by the scratching as it normally would - the itches seemed to be more nerve oriented than skin - just an observation.

Thanks again!

Rodemoticon

RE: Question - Intense Itching whilst meditating
Answer
2/25/13 6:56 AM as a reply to Rod C.
Rod C:
Thanks both for your advice:

ADR: good points - I have been doing some yoga stretches and push-ups and then due to time constraints with work have backed off doing - seems like it would be of benefit to get back to doing them. Are there any particular yoga positions or styles you have found most useful?

BTG: Similar to you I also get these really itchy points in the ear as well and yes they all pop up in different places on face and ear each time but mainly around the nose. Pinpricks of intense itchiness. You connected them to the Dukkha Nanas which resonates with me as I have been trying to work out where I am progress-wise. If you are correct on this, and now I think of it that way, it certainly makes sense, then it has provided a reference point against which to determine my position.

Cut a long story short - I now can see that on a weekly basis I seem to have been getting into equanimity (typically by Sunday night) then enjoying that early in the week only to see it all go backwards (indicated by reducing concentration, increased irritation during meditation) so that by Friday I am experiencing more itchiness on the face and unsettled sits. This of course corresponds to the working week and stresses/distractions and fatigue associated with my job. So here I am on Monday morning again after improving sits since Friday night and I got into 4th Jhana last night and feeling very balanced for the 4th week in a row. So it appears cycling through the nanas is occurring even through Shamata Jhana practice and noting through the day (albeit patchy).

Is this similar to your experience?

Thanks and Best Wishes to you both!

Rodemoticon


My cycles tend to be daily but what you write sounds reasonable. My practice is jhana, no noting at all.