Strange pressure around the head

Stephen, modified 5 Years ago at 5/1/17 8:42 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/1/17 8:40 AM

Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 4 Join Date: 11/28/15 Recent Posts
There seems to be what can only be described as a pressure-field around the head area. It has a volume to it, in the sense that it envelops my entire head, but also extends outwards from my face by about 10cm. This space is filled with what seems like a pressure/gravitational force that pulls awareness into it. This force obscures awareness, like light passing through murky water. My awareness very much feels enveloped by it.When I close my eyes and attempt concentration practice, my awareness constantly feels as if it is being drawn up, into the head.A bit of background: I have suffered from depersonalization for about 10 years now (as a result of falling into emptiness/ (the void) during a highly traumatic part of my life). It was an unmistakable event where I fell into pure emptiness that extended in all directions, which resulted in extreme dread/fear/angst. Leigh Brasington describes this empty space as the seventh Jhana, and mentions that some people can inadvertently fall into it, even if they had no prior meditative practice. I dont know. I believe this pressure field around the head to be as a result of interacting with this emptiness, during which the ego recoiled and made a cocoon around itself. Paradoxically, only recently, through concentration practice on the breath (the last month or so), have I been able to firmly get a grasp on what this field is, energetically that is. The contrast between the meditation object and the head-space brought greater resolution to the issue. I hope I am articulating this in a efficient way. I find it very easy to make this pressure-field a subject of my concentration. Any advice on how to navigate this territory?

Kind regards,

Daniel - san, modified 5 Years ago at 5/1/17 5:28 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/1/17 5:22 PM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 308 Join Date: 9/9/14 Recent Posts
Hi Stephen,
I think it should be treated like any sense phenomenon and utterly and completely surrendered to with equanimity and awareness. Give up all effort, including both the effort to give up effort and also the effort to see anything as a object. Let it all go haywire if it wants. What sees what as an object outside of just bare sensation happening? Where is the line between observer and observed? Is it a real thing that stays consistent?
This letting go is also a good way to cultivate a deep sense of well being and fearlessness, along with insight 
Laurel Carrington, modified 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 1:18 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 1:18 AM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 440 Join Date: 4/7/14 Recent Posts
So what Daniel recommends is one direction you could take, but there is an alternative, which is to ground yourself, especially if it gets to be too much. It sounds like you are already working with these sensations, not freaking out over them, so you may want to push the awareness to your edge. If, however, you wish to back off, there are ways of doing that too. Years ago when I was on retreat with Leigh, I was having trouble with all the focus on head space, so he recommended limiting the seated meditation and mixing in some grounding practices. These include walking meditation, tai chi, and (one of my favorites) heavy food. Send your attention into the body; while sitting, anchor yourself through your feet on the floor and your butt on the cushion. Walking meditation with bare feet can be a beautiful experience of the exquisite sensitivity in the soles of your feet. Let yourself feel it. Keep us posted on how you are doing.
Alex Smith, modified 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 7:07 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 7:07 AM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 7 Join Date: 2/14/17 Recent Posts
I have this issue (pressure in the head) for around six months. It's getting worse with time, but I still hope it's a passing stage and will go away at some point. I tried a lot of things: grounding, moving energy down, relaxing, putting less force into practice, not resisting the sensations, spending more time in jhanas (hoping it's a form of piti), constantly widening field of awareness, doing more metta, etc. Nothing really helps. There's some trigger, whcih I can't figure out yet, that makes my face and scalp muscles very tense once I begin sitting. On the other hand, the sensations are somewhat helpful as they clearly exhibit all 3Cs. While I don't resist them and sometimes they become even enjoyable (pressure turns into wierdly pleasant vibrations), they are indeed annoying because they are too "loud" and it is difficult to bring awareness to anything more subtle. 
Rednaxela, modified 5 Years ago at 5/4/17 11:47 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 9:47 AM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 158 Join Date: 12/23/11 Recent Posts
Hi Alex,

i'm not sure that i understand exactly the depersonalization issues, but i have also being have a lot of facial pressure that feels almost brittle in the forehead and face, nose, between the eyes and top of head etc.  Sometimes heat and light are also present.  I had to stop meditating for about six months about a year ago but restarted in earnest in January with Mahasia noting, focusing on the adbdomen, just above the belly button.  I've also regularly move that focus into the heart and upper chest. 

The is has troubled me since I started a Jhanna practice in 2014.  I'm currently halfway the the Finders Course and working on body sweeping which i find better - but also somewhat challenging given then prominence of the head/face sensations.  

I've seen a few posters here complain of the same thing so i think this is relatively common.  I thought this was something Daniel was going to address in a subsequent or rewritten book.

With Metta 
Aaron Rice, modified 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 11:46 AM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/2/17 11:45 AM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 4 Join Date: 1/29/16 Recent Posts
 . . . I find it very easy to make this pressure-field a subject of my concentration. Any advice on how to navigate this territory?

I'm very familiar with this issue and am still trying to understand how to navigate it.  I started having daily tension headaches about 7 years ago.  The level of pain/tension and the associated fatigue varies from month to month, but it always gets worse while meditating, especially during the first 4-5 days on retreat.  Sometimes it seems like my head is being filled with more cement than it can possibly hold and I find it not just easy to keep my attention on the pressure, but nearly impossible not to.

I've been practicing TWIM (1), using the Brahma-viharas as the object of meditation for the past year of so, which has made things easier since the source of the Brahma-vihara is often centered around the heart.  But things get difficult in 4/5th jhana territory since the source will often move from the heart to the head.  It's at this point that I sometimes have a very hard time separating the Brahma-vihara from the tension as they almost seem to commingle.  This is where the tension really starts to build and seems to remain even as I move up into the 6th jhana and the feeling of the Brahma-vihara will shift back down to the heart.  Sometimes the tension seems all consuming and I find my attention continually drifting back to the tension.  Finding the right balance at this point - not keeping my attention on the tension while not pushing it away - is very tricky.  But once I start moving into high equanimity it ceases to be a problem and I find that the tension will often start to dissolve on it's own.    

Joe, modified 5 Years ago at 5/3/17 3:20 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/3/17 3:20 PM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 14 Join Date: 5/24/16 Recent Posts
Not much to add other than just to say I've experienced this a lot and still do to some extent. 

Actually I have kind of built up the idea that my sense of 'I-ness' that centers around my head is ultimately some kind of constriction, physically or energetically. That constriction coupled with the excess energy that tends to come with consistent meditation seems to pool something up there (rlung? qi? prana?) With a lot of work I've managed to move it down and drain it before - I remember vividly feeling the pressure go into my throat like a piece of food once. I reckon that until we sort out the identification or clinging or whatever it is this area will stay tangled and produce this affect. Just an idea.
christine A, modified 5 Years ago at 5/10/17 7:13 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/10/17 7:13 PM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/10/17 Recent Posts
Forgive that I am really bad at remembering names, which doesn't help with Pali.. Hahah but.... Some practical advice I heard from Ven Bhante Vimalaransi -- I have no idea how many syllables I left out of his name... Totally transformed head pressure, pain and oppressive sensations:  to remember to relax the body before recentralizing on breath.  

I notice whenever in meditation I go about on a side exploration of some spooky dark place, the breath has gone out of my control... Or... The pull to explore some suffering that seems. Problematic also involves inability to stay centered on breath. In meditation, the air element is ground.... Air becomes new earth... It is the ground. And medium and basis of observation.  I discovered my relationship to breath was not established in compassion.  So... When I reframed inquiry, I zoomed outward, not trying to apply any kind of will... Just releasingg will/strain/force by relaxing the body... Sent breath everywhere, especially the cranium and eyes and third eye area... Wow what a difference!!!

This monk's insight is that will... I.e., ego, desire, craving, creeps into meditation as tension. Releasing the tension, he was able to fly right past obstacles in his path.

this advice worked brilliantly for me too... Even if the body has seemingly disappeared, rerelax it. Just say peace when you are in that subtle space... Mental whisper ... Like have peace... And then just intend the breath to where there had been a head or eyes or crown or whatever... And let that circulate beautifully.... See what happens with this sensation and experience you had been investigating... You may find more equipoise... More ...balance in the state of observation... Less...attachment.  

Essentially it also helps to keep in mind that this is an aversion and a clinging to an illusion... and to laugh. This monks other advice. It is an illusion. Suffering over suffering is like a shadow to a shadow.  Hoping this is light and air... So helpful when we telescope into nitty gritty experience... To stand waaaay back and say... Oh yeah.... The reactions I am having are a shadow.  of a shadow...

finally... And again, not sure if this is sanctioned in buddhist practice, but I would do a separate mindfulness exercise on the phenomenon, say, where I begin with serious lovingkindness meditation. 20 min on that, just for this inquiry-- for a few days... A week.  Leave all else alone... Just the meta and put the mind in a very happy place. I listen to Tibetan chants because the vibe is high, it keeps a buoyancy up, and it is self kind.  I let all this marinate the mind --  this is my recipe for cooking up balance and equanimity -- then before a full blown Vipassana, I might do a self-guided imagery meditation where there is a TV set in the room, and I have a remote that can speed up, pause, slow down, and expand the view of what is on the TV set.  Then I instruct the mind to play there on the TV screen.  Whatever it wants. Nomatter how scary, mean, whatever, my committment is just to be there totally separate.  My remote also has a button that zooms out so there is screen within the screen.  As long as I am watching, no reaction, there is a healing.  The less resistance, the more healing happens.  When there is zero reactivity... When the breathing and BP stay rock solid with that, I would resume Vipassana.  

Very often, we get wobbly with hidden craving, or will, or a defilement we did not perceive.... And these defilements are fabulously handled with lovingkindness meditation, higher vibration energy states to offset environmental energies, and to remember that the ego is a sick, dying patient.  Just like we don't harrass people on their deathbeds, when the mind is still playing with ego energies, it is part of that dying patient in the hospital bed. And in a way... That is what suffering is!  The suffering is in a very real sense to the ego becuase it is constantly dying!!! Arising to pass... Arising to pass... So... Some Tenderness may be the very key to relaxation and equanimity... As the Ven. Bhante V... Points out. Forgive the typos and punctuation. Not very good with ipad. We all know this stuff intellectually, but sometimes perspective goes out the window... Or we doubt... But no doubt, this too, will be penetrated by you... No doubt... The path works! You are the dhamma ... Yeah... Pretty cool... Maybe hearing that will help too.  We get so hard on ourselves... Our culture is that way.  Very demanding.  And full of shame.  The dhamma is already realized... Breathe that thought and let this work its magic too:  we get hung up on hangups. 

Anyway... Maybe any of this is useful? Or none is? Offered in the hopes that it is... And with lovingkindness and compassion, as ... Well... Life has been mostly suffering for this body and mind in this incarnation... So... 'With you in spirit' as one may say... 

Joshua Bowles, modified 5 Years ago at 5/15/17 9:13 PM
Created 5 Years ago at 5/15/17 9:13 PM

RE: Strange pressure around the head

Posts: 2 Join Date: 5/15/17 Recent Posts
I have this same, well probably not exactly, pressure going on around the whole face area. It's been happening for months. At first I thought it was cool, to feel as if I was on to something. With more focus I was able to realize that I'm tensing my face muscles. 

So now I spend a few moments relaxing my eyes and a good tip for the forehead is to pull the ears back. I don't mean with your hands either.  Just flex your ears as if squeezing them and it will releasend tension on the front.  The sensation doesn't completely go away but it relieves the pressure of discomfort.

Wiggle the ears. But with the muscles around the ears and not the hands. Obviously because we don't move too much during our sits.