How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

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Doctor Avocado, modified 5 Years ago at 11/3/16 10:29 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/3/16 10:26 PM

How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 50 Join Date: 11/2/16 Recent Posts
I've been practising for several years, but specifically Goenka-style Vipassana for the past last year. I've sat 5 retreats and currently have time to sit 3+ hours per day. 


I've been dealing with a very very persistent unpleasent tension in the left-centre of my chest. Approximately my heart area. It feels like a hollow centre, surrounded by a boundary of muscular tension. A feeling of heavy/tightness then radiates out from this area towards my upper chest and sides. There is some moderate fluctuation in size, sometimes the total area of unpleasantness is about 5cm radius, but other times in seems to consume most of my upper left chest area. Occasionally the seat of contraction will move toward my neck, and then back to my chest. There also seem to be tributaries or channels radiating out from this central area. Some seem to run into my lower belly, some into my neck and others into my left-side. Sometimes a ripple of contraction/heaviness is felt, although sometimes sensations like tingles. Sometimes if there's a loss of concentration then a snapping back to this area, there can also be a rapid expanded boundary of a fear contraction/tightness nearer the periphery of the body.



I've tried to remain equanimous, aware and investigate this area in a number of ways:
  • Sometimes I work inward, starting with what seems like the finer branches of the tributaries, then working inward to the central area, making sure I have total equanimity as I move closer to the area of intensity. I feel like reaction has largely ended. 
  • Sometimes I scan the area as a whole, like a halo moving up and down quickly. Sometimes this causes the entire area to dissolve into subtle vibrations. 
  • Sometimes I concentrate on the difference between the fundamental tension (experienced as tightness/pain) and the following fear contraction, until I am able to clearly distinguish them and let them flow through eachother without multiplication. 
  • Other times, I have noted all aspects of the area at high rates.
  • Thinking it might have some emotional root, I have also experimented with shaking and breathing techniques, but have experienced only temporary relief. 

In terms of results/progress:
  • Sometimes during insight practise, I have dissolved the area entirely into a feeling of very sutble vibrations and warmth, but the contraction tends to return within hours/days or will return after a nights sleep. 
  • I hit equanimity and stayed there for 1.5 weeks, but this area was the first to re-emerge as unpleasant when I dropped back down. 
  • Approximately a year ago, I had an experience talking to a spiritual friend when this area seemed to spontaneously explode in warmth and love, that pervaded the whole body and outside it (like a very strong metta). It was very blissful, but only lasted 1/2 hours. 
Overall, it's reasonably constant and has been for several months. It feels like some major spiritual/emotional block that I'm not sure how to work through. I sit at my desk and it's there. It's often there immediately upon waking up, even if it dissolved prior to falling asleep. 


What would be the best way to deal with this? I feel like I've been investigating it a long time without significant progress, so any practises, general advice or similar past experiences would be greatly appreciated. 
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Incandescent Flower, modified 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 12:54 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 12:54 AM

RE: How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 87 Join Date: 10/27/14 Recent Posts
If you're open to trying out new practices, I would recommend giving Reggie Ray's 10 points practice audio walkthrough a listen, which you can find here:

https://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/learn-to-meditate/learn-to-meditate-foundational-practices/

And in general, integrating more relaxation-oriented practices, even something you make up that feels intuitive to you, that eventually you will be able to fall back on whenever these tensions get in the least bit extreme. Just forgetting about the insight scramble for a time. After all, how well can you really hope to gain understanding when there's a shouting match going on between the body and mind?

Since you asked for relevant stories, I will relate that for a time I practiced Goenka's technique, with some devotion, but found eventually that it wasn't right for me. I was experiencing a lot of pains coupled with mental strife (similar to what you describe) that at the time I figured were essential to making progress. This snowballed into a whole slew of misconceptions about the nature of the path. What I found I needed was a more holistic approach, applying different practices when the time (and intuition) called for them, rather than the rigidity that his method demanded. There may be something to sticking with one technique until you make a breakthrough, I can't say for sure. But remember that this is ultimately a journey that you must make yourself and that there's no virtue in imagining that you are being forced one way or another.

Best of luck,
Kyle
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Noah D, modified 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 7:59 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 7:58 AM

RE: How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 1198 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
3 words: gladden the mind

"breathe in joy, breathe out letting go"

key is repetition, same way you had to develop your Vipassana goggles, this too requires persistence.  But eventually, when these symptoms come up, you can counter them quickly with joy, and then keep investigating.
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Doctor Avocado, modified 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 8:53 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 8:53 AM

RE: How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 50 Join Date: 11/2/16 Recent Posts
Incandescent Flower:
If you're open to trying out new practices, I would recommend giving Reggie Ray's 10 points practice audio walkthrough a listen, which you can find here:

https://www.dharmaocean.org/meditation/learn-to-meditate/learn-to-meditate-foundational-practices/

And in general, integrating more relaxation-oriented practices, even something you make up that feels intuitive to you, that eventually you will be able to fall back on whenever these tensions get in the least bit extreme. Just forgetting about the insight scramble for a time. After all, how well can you really hope to gain understanding when there's a shouting match going on between the body and mind?

Since you asked for relevant stories, I will relate that for a time I practiced Goenka's technique, with some devotion, but found eventually that it wasn't right for me. I was experiencing a lot of pains coupled with mental strife (similar to what you describe) that at the time I figured were essential to making progress. This snowballed into a whole slew of misconceptions about the nature of the path. What I found I needed was a more holistic approach, applying different practices when the time (and intuition) called for them, rather than the rigidity that his method demanded. There may be something to sticking with one technique until you make a breakthrough, I can't say for sure. But remember that this is ultimately a journey that you must make yourself and that there's no virtue in imagining that you are being forced one way or another.

Best of luck,
Kyle

Thank you. I just tried the recorded practise and felt much more relaxed, although I perceive that I have many deep layers of tension to work through. I will definitely put more of a focus on relaxation and intuitive letting go type practises. Another I'm experimenting with right now is Shinzen's "do nothing" meditation.  

Noah D:
3 words: gladden the mind

"breathe in joy, breathe out letting go"

key is repetition, same way you had to develop your Vipassana goggles, this too requires persistence.  But eventually, when these symptoms come up, you can counter them quickly with joy, and then keep investigating.

It make sense. But how to breathe in joy at a time where there is only discomfort in the body?

Is it enough to intend it?
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Noah D, modified 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 11:33 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 11:33 AM

RE: How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 1198 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
Wing:
It make sense. But how to breathe in joy at a time where there is only discomfort in the body?

Is it enough to intend it?

Imagine that you were drowning, and you finally surfaced for air.  What joy you would feel at that first in-breath!  Have this type of experience each time.  Its more bio-chemical than it is mental.  Breathing out the crappy chemicals, breathing in that purifying oxygen.  Besides, the mind is quick and malleable, as Uncle Sid loved to remind us.  So even if it were purely intention, that would make sense too.

But ultimately, just do whatever works.  Reggie Ray is awesome, and if his stuff helps you get past it, then there's your answer.  Either way, its a path of experimentation (but with Right Persistence within your experiments).  
mla7, modified 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 5:56 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 11/4/16 5:53 PM

RE: How to deal with super persistent unpleasant sensations?

Posts: 11 Join Date: 10/16/13 Recent Posts
Hi,

I had the symptoms you are describing for about 6 months or so.  I still have it a little bit here and there but it is no longer really a problem.


I'm into Qigong and got into meditation through Daoist stuff so I tend to have a very physical "energy body" type way of thinking about things which might be a bit different from the typical Vipassana which feels (to me) to be much more mental.

Anyways, when my chest discomfort symptoms got really strong  I went to a doctor who found nothing wrong with me.  

I then went to an acupuncurist who diagnosed me as having "dampness and liver qi stagnation" resulting in an energetic blockage in the lung or something like that.  I don't think her treatment was very succesful BUT I followed the dietary guidelines she provided (less phlegm producing foods basically) and it seemed to make my symptoms gradually better.  Also changes in meditation posture seemed to help alot.  For example: allowing the body to really hang from the head and relax seemed to "sink" the qi from the chest into the abdomen.  (hard to describe this stuff online)

I guess my recomendation though would be to consider seeking medical attention (starting with a standard M.D.) to look for organic or energetic (if you get into Chinese medicine) causes before trying to Vipassanize your way out of it.  I'm no doctor, but I get the sense that chest pain is no joke and can indicate some pretty serious stuff that is best if caught early.  

Anyways, hope you feel better soon...


  Mike

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