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Twitching breaking my concentration

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Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/7/16 11:08 PM
I did a 10-day goenka retreat this is winter and right after reading the MTCB section on the second and third stages of insight I followed the instructions to note as fast as possible and almost immediately something changed and my head/neck began to twitch violently while I was meditating.

This twitching is violent enough to give me a headache and my meditation progress and practice have basically stopped dead since this twitch developed. I can no longer keep up a continuous awareness of all sensations, the twitching seems to constantly interupt my concentration. I have investigated this phenomena and found that it seems to occur directly after I am directly aware of a sensation, especially any sensation connected to a sense of observer or agent (so does not usually occur during daily life or concentration practice, thankfully). I have investigated it many times to determine if it is involuntary or if There is intention behind it but it seems to happen like clockwork no matter my intentions towards making it happen, stopping it, watching it, ignoring it, embracing it, etc...

It obviously seems to be 3rd stage... And the instructions are to note quickly and continuously... But the twitch seems specifically tailored to preventing that from happening and therefore preventing the progress which would presumably eliminate it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. The twitch has begun seeping into my daily life as well, and I'd very much like to get past this stage. 

Thanks!

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/7/16 11:40 PM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
Sheldon Frith Nicholson:
It obviously seems to be 3rd stage... And the instructions are to note quickly and continuously... But the twitch seems specifically tailored to preventing that from happening and therefore preventing the progress which would presumably eliminate it.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. The twitch has begun seeping into my daily life as well, and I'd very much like to get past this stage. 

Thanks!
Notice the twitching, then note "twitching"...you are assuming that you should be doing something other than what you can, and thus- are failing?
If you are in the Third Vipassana Jhana/Nanas 5-10 area then welcome to the sucky part. Are you miserable? Yes? Right on target. Do you feel like you can not progress? Right on target. Only be traversing this area over and over do you get comfortable with the knowledge that "this too shall pass"
You might try to figure out what Nana you are in.

The other option is to work strictly on Concentration practises and ease off the Insight for a while. Get your Concentration up and get some pleasant feeling going to help lubricate the bad ones.
Good luck,
~D

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 1:44 AM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
I have a thought on mindset/attitude, not technique.  When I was framing my practice around nana progression, I thought of stuck periods as 'treading water.'  You can imagine how these miserable effects are like the tide moving against you, yet you are slowly gaining ground anyway.  Another image is slowly wearing down a really hard object with a grind stone over time... inching away until a groove is formed.  

Another catch-phrase I would use is that I would be "paying my dues" within a given nana.  Eventually, there will most likely come a time when you will make fast progress, as a result of the struggle now.  

I think the Buddha indirectly advises using metaphors and imagery (i.e. the lute, the wet log, etc.) to spark motivation in this way.  

Edit:  On the technique side, you might consider gladdening the mind repeatedly instead of choiceless awareness.  You can breathe joy into the muscles of your neck, and then breathe out, relaxing that area.  If you do this many, many times, you could probably return to noting and be able to stop that twitching with intention.

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 2:42 AM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
Why do you have to have any intention towards it? There's no point trying to become aware of what is causing the twitching (because it's the mind chasing its own tail). But what can be noticed is that one who has ideas about the twitching and it being an obstacle to progression.

Just relax and let it happen. It probably hurts only because of the habit of trying to control it.

That twitching happens to me too at times and it's not a problem, it's an indication that something is opening up. Some repressed energy pattern is coming to the open to be burned so to speak. Usually right after, when there are no ideas about the whole phenomena, there is this peace and airiness that has opened up. Btw. Other people can somehow be affected by that open non-identified awareness (for a lack of a better term) and they start twitching too. So it's not uncommon. Although when something like that happens out of the blue, apparently, it can be scary due to the mind's interpretations and imaginations (alzheimer's, stroke, this is embarrassing etc.).

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 6:19 PM as a reply to Dream Walker.
Hi Dream Walker,

Thanks for your response.

Yes I note the twitching, and the sensations after it. I guess there's nothing for me to do but keep noting, its just much harder than I've ever experienced to keep noting in the face of constant (at least once per second) and very violent twitching. I was just hoping there was some other way I could approach it other than brute force. 


By 3rd stage I meant I am pretty sure I am in the "three characteristics". This doesn't feel like the dark night at all to me. 

Yes I'm sure your advice to concentrate on concentration for a bit is excellent! I have always struggled with concentration practice (I have a hard time establishing a daily sitting habit, so I prefer "noting" which I can do all the time even while doing other things). I'll try once more to establish a daily practice, maybe this time it will stick. 

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 6:21 PM as a reply to Noah.
Noah:
I have a thought on mindset/attitude, not technique.  When I was framing my practice around nana progression, I thought of stuck periods as 'treading water.'  You can imagine how these miserable effects are like the tide moving against you, yet you are slowly gaining ground anyway.  Another image is slowly wearing down a really hard object with a grind stone over time... inching away until a groove is formed.  

Another catch-phrase I would use is that I would be "paying my dues" within a given nana.  Eventually, there will most likely come a time when you will make fast progress, as a result of the struggle now.  

I think the Buddha indirectly advises using metaphors and imagery (i.e. the lute, the wet log, etc.) to spark motivation in this way.  

Edit:  On the technique side, you might consider gladdening the mind repeatedly instead of choiceless awareness.  You can breathe joy into the muscles of your neck, and then breathe out, relaxing that area.  If you do this many, many times, you could probably return to noting and be able to stop that twitching with intention.
Hi Noah,

Thanks so much for this advice. It is good. 

I will try that technique trick. Seems like it might work and allow me to once again build up decent continuity in my awareness. 

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 6:24 PM as a reply to Robert.
Robert:
Why do you have to have any intention towards it? There's no point trying to become aware of what is causing the twitching (because it's the mind chasing its own tail). But what can be noticed is that one who has ideas about the twitching and it being an obstacle to progression.

Just relax and let it happen. It probably hurts only because of the habit of trying to control it.

That twitching happens to me too at times and it's not a problem, it's an indication that something is opening up. Some repressed energy pattern is coming to the open to be burned so to speak. Usually right after, when there are no ideas about the whole phenomena, there is this peace and airiness that has opened up. Btw. Other people can somehow be affected by that open non-identified awareness (for a lack of a better term) and they start twitching too. So it's not uncommon. Although when something like that happens out of the blue, apparently, it can be scary due to the mind's interpretations and imaginations (alzheimer's, stroke, this is embarrassing etc.).
I usually do not have any intention towards it. I try to just note it, and all other sensations clearly and quickly. I was pointing out my experiments with intention to make it clear that I have no choice or concious influence on this twitching, except to stop meditating. 

And as for noticing who has ideas, etc. that is exactly the type of meditation (noticing self, agent, or observer) which brings on the most powerful twitching. 

As far as I am aware I do not try to control it while meditating, I think it hurts because my brain is bouncing all around inside my skull. 

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/8/16 8:27 PM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
Sheldon Frith Nicholson:
I was just hoping there was some other way I could approach it other than brute force. 
Well there is deconstruction of the sensations to the characteristics. Focus all your attention towards impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and egolessness or no-self. Spend time on just one at a time.
  1. Impermanence - notice the beginning middle and end of each twitch as well as the moments between. Break it down into as many slices as you can percieve.
  2. Unsatisfactoriness - You would think this one is a no brainer, but its not..we tend to avoid pain, to flich away from it...lean ito the discomfort...be intimate with it..know every detail of how it sucks, know the different sucky qualities of each moment of the twitch, tention, twitch pain, release pain dieing, releasing more, spasm, ouch, gone.
  3. Egolessness or no-self - Which of the sensations imply a self? Explore it locationally, where is it? where is it not? where are the boundaries? are you sure? check again with more detail, is there a center to each sensation? is it the same?what does it do to the sensations when observed this way? what is observing? notice the thinking going on too...

Sheldon Frith Nicholson:
By 3rd stage I meant I am pretty sure I am in the "three characteristics". This doesn't feel like the dark night at all to me. 
MCTB 3. The Three Characteristics
MCTB:
There may be odd bodily twistings, obsession with posture, and painful tensions or strange other sensations, particularly in the back, neck, jaw and shoulders. These tensions may persist when not meditating and be quite irritating and even debilitating. The rhomboid and trapezius muscles are the most common offenders. It is common to try to sit with good posture and then find one’s body twisting into some odd and painful position. You straighten out, and soon enough it does it again. That’s a very Three Characteristics sort of pattern. People sometimes describe these feelings as some powerful energy that is blocked and seems wants to get out or move through.
Sheldon Frith Nicholson:
Yes I'm sure your advice to concentrate on concentration for a bit is excellent! I have always struggled with concentration practice (I have a hard time establishing a daily sitting habit, so I prefer "noting" which I can do all the time even while doing other things). I'll try once more to establish a daily practice, maybe this time it will stick. 

Well unless you enjoy this half assery, I'd plant yer butt on a cushion and plow thru this phase and get to the A&P....assuming you wish to do so, cause after that is the dark night, where you will really want to have a sitting practice established.
Good Luck,
~D

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/9/16 2:49 AM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
Sheldon Frith Nicholson:

I usually do not have any intention towards it. I try to just note it, and all other sensations clearly and quickly. I was pointing out my experiments with intention to make it clear that I have no choice or concious influence on this twitching, except to stop meditating. 

And as for noticing who has ideas, etc. that is exactly the type of meditation (noticing self, agent, or observer) which brings on the most powerful twitching. 

As far as I am aware I do not try to control it while meditating, I think it hurts because my brain is bouncing all around inside my skull. 

When that twitching starts to occur you can forget about meditation. Trying to "meditate" at this point is just a needless superimposition of the mind that is trying to get somewhere with the practice. But that mind is being dissolved when the twitching happens. The one who is noting all the sensations etc. is being dissolved. So the only thing to do at this point is to forget about it all and just relax (with or without twitching). To sit/lay down without the idea of meditation or even noticing (noticing might still happen but you're not involved with any of it). Real meditation is having no active participation with meditation anyway and that "state of affairs" usually results when there is no trying to control anything or even trying consciously to note anything. Just falling into total and absolute non-phenomenal relaxation for periods of time which seem to increase in depth and apparent duration (only speaking from my own experience). And this doesn't imply that there actually is "a someone" experiencing this. The non-phenomenal relaxation doesn't have a perceiver or an experiencer to itself.

You can also take a break with meditation in general if it really seems that the twitching is causing the headaches. Usually headaches are a part of this apparent process of dissolving the mind-trance and isn't necessarily directly connected to the twitching though (might be directly linked too of course, not sure). I've had bad headaches at times (many other people too from what I've heard) and, for "me", there isn't this twitching involved with them. Not sure what can be done about them except to be in pain when pain happens. Without the thoughts "something's wrong, this shouldn't occur" etc. Of course if there is a method that reduces the pain why not reduce the pain then. But if nothing seems to work then it just has to be experienced as it is. No way around it.

RE: Twitching breaking my concentration
Answer
6/10/16 12:30 AM as a reply to Sheldon Frith Nicholson.
Hi Sheldon,

I'm in a quite similar situation. A few years ago I began  to have muscular contractions in my face. They would become stronger when my meditation became deeper. They also happen when I'm focusing on the passing part of the experience. However, in the last few days I remembered a meditation by Ajahn Sumedho called "Sound of Silence". You should google it. He has written a whole book on it which is freely available on the Amaravati website. It helps me to stay focused and deepen my meditation even when the muscular contractions are happening.

Hope it helps.