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Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem

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I've had a daily mindfulness of the breath meditation practice for a little over a year. About three months into the practice I started to develop a sensation of pressure or tension centered on the bridge of my nose and radiating out to my forehead, eyes, and cheeks. This sensation was first noticed outside of meditation, but seemed more intense during meditation. Over the past six months I've seen a doctor several times for the pressure, which he assumed was related to sinus congestion, and nothing has yet helped or even explained the problem. Then I discovered the following lecture on the Sattipatthana sutta by Bhante Vimalaramsi, https://youtu.be/lY77In3ZYGI  The revelation in the clip is its focus on the importance of relaxing the body as step between letting go of whatever has distracted you from the breath and returning to the breathe. I had not consciously practiced this step of relaxation and now suspect that I had unconsciously done the opposite, that is, I had unconsciously been tensing the muscles surrounding my eyes, nose, forehead, and cheeks. For over a week now I've been attempting to consciously relax my face and head when returning to the breathe, but I have yet to successfully release the tension that is consistently present all day. Of course, I'm still pursuing a western medicine explanation and solution to the tension in my head. However, I'm wondering if anyone else here has experienced similar tension in the head possibly as a result of tensing up while meditating? If so, were you able to overcome this problem and how? The tension is becoming fairly uncomfortable at this point and if it gets much worse I feel that I'll have to abandon the meditation. Meditation has been extremely useful for better emotional/mental health and I hate the idea of giving it up, but this constant pressure/tension in my head is really tiresome. Any help or advice with this problem would be greatly appreciated.

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/14/15 7:59 PM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Try moving your eyes rapidly in different, random directions. See if it helps loosen up the tension. Look up EMDR therapy for something similar to the sort of eye movement I am talking about.

Stop meditating for a while if you have to.

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/14/15 9:28 PM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Try dropping the jaw all the way and meditate with your mouth open for a while. This worked for me (I'm doing also Bh.V's stuff) with tension in that area. Also, check that you're not focusing the breath in that area. You may try breathing (to the sides) from the floating ribbs, in order to put attention elsewhere. But what works for me is using your head as the lungs, and so release tensions in both the inbreath and outbreath. The inbreath (outer expansion) can be in all directions or in a specific one you want to relax. The outbreath is the opposite, a contraction and downwards direction only. 

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 10:06 AM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Thanks for this post Ethan and thanks for the link

Oddly, i've been contemplating a similar post for a while.  I've had 5yrs of fairly serious meditation (daily sits, 1-2 weeks of retreat/yr) and mostly enjoyed the fruits in terms of better concentration, life satisfaction and dare i say wisdom.

But like you i've had tension in face, around eyes, in jaw.  Sometimes i can be rather horrible and i wonder if i'm about to have a heart attack or stoke.  Not because my heart is racing but moreso because i can feel everything going on in my face, all the gurglings and waviness.  i've been practicing a lot of concentration, zen and meditating eyes open for part of this year.  I wonder if that's what caused it.  

In june i talked to an experienced meditation teacher who suggested focus on the heart region (it was a metta retreat, after all).  

You could try Shinzen Young global relaxation techniques: just focus on the area that are feeling relaxed and spread that relaxation slowly.  You should start with the jaw. 

But right now i'm wondeing if this isnt just a result of good/excess concentration.  MCTB says to balance this with energy.  Isnt insight also recommended?  I've been noting a lot in daily life with good results though this doesnt stop the face from doing its thing

anyway, I'm not too worried.  When i'm distracted by something else i forget about these feelings.  And i can carry on in life like nothing's happened.  Isnt misery one the stages of insight that we have to pass through?
Alex

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 10:02 AM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Focus on drawing the energy down out of your head and into your body. I get pressure that can actually be painful during meditation at the area of the third eye. I also suffer from migraines. It really helps to gently and steadily inhale the excess energy down into your body and out of your head.

In addition, if you are doing breath meditation, be sure to choose a focus spot that is below the level of your head. For example, don't focus on the nostrils but instead on the abdomen.

When doing breath meditation, I use Ajahn Lee's Keeping the Breath in Mind, Method 2. It is fun. It is sort of a combination of breath and body scanning, as you draw and follow the breath energy to different parts of the body. And then you can do whole-body breathing through all your pores, which I found was a great entry to formless realms. Since he gives you something to do the whole time, there is little room for distraction to creep in.

Method 2:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 10:18 AM as a reply to Jenny.
Thanks Jenny!

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 10:56 AM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Thanks to everyone that so far responded and offered their thoughts and advice!  To summarize, the following is a list of ways of dealing with head tension from meditation taken from everything posted so far.

1. Stop meditating for a while
2. Actively work with eyes by "moving your eyes rapidly in different, random directions"
3. Relax the jaw and work with sensations of relaxation from the jaw
     3a. - "Shinzen Young global relaxation techniques: just focus on the area that are feeling relaxed and spread that relaxation slowly."
4. With breathing meditation shift focus of sensation from head/mouth/nose to somewhere else, usually suggesting abodmen or floating ribs area
5.  "using your head as the lungs, and so release tensions in both the inbreath and outbreath"
6. "Focus on drawing the energy down out of your head and into your body. ... gently and steadily inhale the excess energy down into your body and out of your head."

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 11:01 AM as a reply to Pablo CEG.
Pablo M+H:
Try dropping the jaw all the way and meditate with your mouth open for a while. This worked for me (I'm doing also Bh.V's stuff) with tension in that area. Also, check that you're not focusing the breath in that area. You may try breathing (to the sides) from the floating ribbs, in order to put attention elsewhere. But what works for me is using your head as the lungs, and so release tensions in both the inbreath and outbreath. The inbreath (outer expansion) can be in all directions or in a specific one you want to relax. The outbreath is the opposite, a contraction and downwards direction only. 

Thanks for your reply!  Could you try to describe in more detail what you mean by "using your head as the lungs" in order to release tension on the in and out breath?  This sounds useful, espeacially as I've had difficulty with relaxing on the in breathe, but I'm not sure how to do what you suggest.  I'm still very much a beginner who has a limited cobbled together understanding of mediation from books, youtube dharma talks, and personal practice.

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 11:17 AM as a reply to Jenny.
Jenny:
Focus on drawing the energy down out of your head and into your body. I get pressure that can actually be painful during meditation at the area of the third eye. I also suffer from migraines. It really helps to gently and steadily inhale the excess energy down into your body and out of your head.

In addition, if you are doing breath meditation, be sure to choose a focus spot that is below the level of your head. For example, don't focus on the nostrils but instead on the abdomen.

When doing breath meditation, I use Ajahn Lee's Keeping the Breath in Mind, Method 2. It is fun. It is sort of a combination of breath and body scanning, as you draw and follow the breath energy to different parts of the body. And then you can do whole-body breathing through all your pores, which I found was a great entry to formless realms. Since he gives you something to do the whole time, there is little room for distraction to creep in.

Method 2:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/inmind.html

Thanks for your reply and the link, Jenny!  Do you know of any guided meditations or more detailed descriptions on how to breathe energy out of the head?  This sounds like a promising method, but I don't know how to begin?  What does it feel like to breathe energy out of the head?

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 1:18 PM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Grrr! My little son touched a key and erased a long response... For the time being, check these links:

http://begintosee.blogspot.com.ar/2010/08/what-is-craving-by-rev-sister-khema.html

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/503138

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 2:53 PM as a reply to Pablo CEG.
thanks Pablo!  Some of those old conversations are pure gold

RE: Looking for Help with a Head Tension Problem
Answer
7/15/15 3:46 PM as a reply to Ethan Finley.
Actually, Daniel and I discussed this issue when I met him in Chapel Hill last Christmas. I already knew the trick, but he told me anyway, hahahahaha. Draft MCTB2 Part 1 gives his instructions for breath meditation that isn't focused just at the nostrils, so that is how the topic arose--that and the fact that I too get head pain.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu falls in line with Ajaan Lee's methods and offers versions of them in free ebooks and free talks. Check out this site, which is rich in free goodies. I also used his "Meditation 1-5" talks and his book With Each and Every Breath:

http://www.dhammatalks.org/

Jenny