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involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 7:57 AM
Hello,
I'm sorry if I'm posting this in the wrong place but I was wondering if you may be able to help. I've been meditating on and off for three years. At my best, I reached three hours of a morning (doing TM). Then I stopped. Now i've started up again and I'm doing 90 mins a day. I focus on the sensation of cool air hitting my nostrils when I breath in. I also mentally count each breath to  stay focus. I've never reached jhana (sic). Not even close. But occasionally I do feel, what I can only describe as rushes of energy(?) which I then involuntary clench or spasm and I'm unsure what this is (pins and needles?). This morning I tried to let the sensation build withouth clenching but to no avail. Any ideas what this could? What more I can do to get on the path. I feel like I'm floudering a wee bit. Any advice would be very gratefully recieved and apologies in advance if this is a stupid/unaswerable questions. Best wishes.

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 8:49 AM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
A curious interpretation of these involuntary physical motions that many report was offered on a recent retreat. U Jagara mentioned that Pa Auk Sayadaw (the Burmese master famous in the West for his jhana methods) thinks that such phenomena often result from improper perception of the breath along the lines of the wind / air element, rather than as just a subtle sensation of touch. That somehow evokes "wind" (motion) in the mind-body.

Touch, in the Abhidhamma literature, has a unique character among the 5 (physical) sense-doors, in that is consists of earth, heat, and air/wind qualitites (but not those of the water element). Touch also pervades the whole body, not only in the sense of proprioception basic to the mind's (awareness) role in helping regulate life functions, but also even touch sensation of "external" agents is in a sense an awareness of bodily reaction to the stimulus. The other 4 sense doors (vision, hearing, smell, taste) relate more directly to the external stimuli. So the touch sense is uniquely suited to meditation as secluded, internal mental work.

Jagara didn't go into a lot of detail, but indicated that the phenomenon often is the result of lack of, or improper training, rather than something wrong with the individual or meditation itself.

The elements (Maha-Dhatu) aren't that well known in Western circles, but are important meditative objects in both the Pa Auk and Mahasi Burmese traditions. After "noting" or concentration are well established, then it's used to discern how perception is made-up of (or "deconstructed" into) the various particular elemental qualities, and how the mind associates specific groupings of these micro-qualities of perception in recurrent patterns, and gives these patterns names or concepts, e.g. "tree", "pig", etc.

Maybe a combination of shaping the breath object as moving air, and the mental-physical tension of "trying", or striving builds into such involuntary, often distressing, bodily movements. It probably would take the direct (personal) help of a skilled teacher to diagnosis it more exactly, and suggest corrective action suited to the individual case. Overall, there might be an exploring the smooth, quiet, calming aspects of breath, building pleasant sensations and spreading a kind of tranquility throughout the body, which also can serve to help uncover and unwind those little tensions that most people carry around in their musculo-skeletal system unconciously most of the time.

Thanissaro Bhikkhu's recorded guided meditations (at audiodharma.org or dharmaseed.org) often focus on this kind of body-scanning for starting up meditation and building a good basis for concentration. As he puts it, first get the body into position to meditate, only then can the mind get into position to meditate. (Otherwise the mind will be distracted by bodily issues that intrude.)

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 9:38 AM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
hi and welcome.
these things are a common experience and are a sign of progress as are things like swaying involuntarily, itching and some aches and pains.

a lot of the people on this forum have used daniel ingram's book , 'mastering the  core teachings of the buddha' as a framework for their practice, have you read it?  if so you will see a much more detailed take on this and many other stages as well as guidance on where to focus, and how to move forward.

your sitting time is impressive.  it should not be wasted, not that i am suggesting that you are doing this.  one aspect of wisdom though is knowing what techniques to apply when as well as having a stable understanding of your goals and the path that will theoretically get you there.

cheers

tom

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 9:43 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Thank you so much for this and yes I worry that I'm sitting wasting my time so your comments are incredibly helpful. I've not had the chance to read Daniel's book but I will do. I stopped doing TM (because it was hard to remain focus) but I think I may return to mantra mediation since I know that I'm doing it relatively "correctly". Until I feel more confident doing breath mediationou . In terms of paths and goals and maps. I have no clue but will keep reading and learning till I feel like I can make a proper plan. For now, I will remain with my 90 mins and see where it takes me. I also feel slightly better after. Thank you again for your kind message both.

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 10:10 AM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
excellent.  its really important to find a practice that fits your paradigm.  one thing to note is that you stopped doing TM because it was 'difficult to hold focus' (paraphrase).  this can also be a sign of progress!  i stress can. 

sometimes boredom is conflated with lack of focus, or is the cause of it.  mixing up practice can help this.

mantry is a great way to get concentrated fast.  if that alone is your goal then hum away.  seeing through the illusory nature of things is ( n th ebuddhist view) is the job of vipassana which means seeing clearly.  concentration works hand in hand with vipassana to move along the development trail.  this is not a universal view however and not given emphasis in other traditions.

in any case, have fun.

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 10:17 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Thank you so much. I'm incredibly grateful. Diana

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/11/15 10:37 AM as a reply to tom moylan.
Hello - sorry quick question. I sometimes feel that doing TM/Mantra meditaion isnt "proper" or rather won't really help you on the path. Is this correct do you believe or is a valid way to progress?

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/13/15 4:07 PM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
I believe these are spontaneous kundalini kriyas, which are absolutely normal and a good sign of progress. It is essentially an indication that your subtle body is being purified a bit.

Here is a video of someone else having them:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6gZfKGVsw8

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/14/15 4:46 AM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
I don't know TM's method specifically but I made a lot of progress using the mantra 'buddho' after reading one of Ajahn Maha Boowa's books. It certainly can work. I don't know if the type or sound of the mantra makes a difference. Like all aspects of the path, it's about remaining vigilant and paying close attention to your mind to see what's working for you and what isn't. 

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/29/15 10:13 AM as a reply to Diana Yeboah.
Hello,
    I've had these off and on for years. At first it was wierd and I couldn't tell what it was or see the connection to development. I just went with them. Later I learned about Kriyas or "cleansing action's" from the yoga traditions which is what these are. Much later in my path I had the clarity and depth of seeing, to notice the direct connection between when one of these would happen and some liberating insight or beneficial adjustment would occur sometime later. It's like ingrained physical tension stored in the body that gets broken up from good practice. I'm always glad to see them come but they are rare now. They probably happened often for about 5 years for me. Not everybody responds this way though. Cheers.

RE: involuntary spasms
Answer
12/29/15 9:03 PM as a reply to green tea.
[quote=
]Yes!  Was going to say the same thing.  The term 'kriya' is used for a type of yoga but also for these kind of involunatary muscle spasms or postures that are associated with kundalini activity.  That plus other elements of your description like the rushing feeling are just absolute classic symptoms of kundalini in those circles that focus more in the direction of the body instead of just the mind.  I know that here on this board and with 'Buddhism,' almost all focus is on mind and not body but in those circles that focus on body, the descriptions you've given are just classic symptoms and are not considered bad at all, just natural side effects of a natural process.  Personally I would not worry about them, they are not a big deal.  I used to get those sometimes, then eventually I got past it and rarely do now.  They are not considered cause for concern at all in yoga circles. 
-Eva
[quote=
green tea]I believe these are spontaneous kundalini kriyas, which are absolutely normal and a good sign of progress. It is essentially an indication that your subtle body is being purified a bit.

Here is a video of someone else having them:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6gZfKGVsw8