Samadhi causing extreme physical pain

Connor Black, modified 8 Years ago at 5/29/15 2:52 PM
Created 8 Years ago at 5/29/15 2:42 PM

Samadhi causing extreme physical pain

Post: 1 Join Date: 5/29/15 Recent Posts
In the last six months, concentration became the focus of my practice again. I am currently practicing the anapanasati suta's method, but spent some time on the brahmaviharas and a kasina.

Experiencing concentration has become easier, but I am finding a proportional relationship between the level of concentration experienced and the degree of intense pain felt in the shoulders. Some tension is apparent in normal consciousness; I become very aware of pain when the mind is watching the object of meditation; and there is excruciating, searing pain in the shoulders and neck after the mind is rested on the breath after the breath has become quite subtle and still. As the pain and the levels of concentration are so closely related, there seems to be no level of "pain" I can't sit through, but I shake a great deal and after I finish, find my gums aching as I've evidently literally been clenching my teeth throughout. I have tried using the attention and the breath to affect the area of pain, but these different practices seem to only change the level of pain expereinced by altering the amount of concentration generated.

Is this unusual? Might it be the result of adopting the wrong approach to samatha meditation, or of forming the wrong intentions about it before or during the practice of it? Are there any models that can be used to understand this or which would suggest some exercises whch might help? Is it worth continuing to sit through? 
Not Tao, modified 8 Years ago at 5/30/15 2:39 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 5/30/15 2:39 AM

RE: Samadhi causing extreme physical pain

Posts: 995 Join Date: 4/5/14 Recent Posts

This isn't uncommon, sadly, but it is a sign of improper practice.  Concentration should not be a forced activity, so if you feel the need to expend a lot of effort, this is probably a sign that you are attempting to suppress feelings and thoughts and force to mind to stay where you want.

Take a look around your mind when these things happen.  If you're anything like me, you will find some thoughts trying to surface.  Instead of pushing them away, take a look at them, see what they're saying, get the message, and then let go of them.  Letting go isn't pushing, it's allowing yourself to lose interest in the content.  For example, if I have neck pain, I might realize I am straining to reach a certain state.  When this happens, I find relief in letting go of that effort - in giving up on achieving the state I'm looking for.  Maybe I have facial tension.  This can be caused by thinkinf about the time - thinking about how I'd rather be doing some thing or another.  When this happens, I decide not to be interested in my hobbies at that moment.  I drop the idea that watching TV is something I'd rather be doing.

The general theme here is to lose interest in whatever is in your mind.  You don't have to push or strain at thoughts, and you don't have to rope yourself onto the object.  You can just see how boring your thoughts are and see how interesting your object is instead.  If you're using a kasina, don't just stare at it, explore it, consider it, examine it.  When thoughts come up, they aren't intrusions, they're just boring, not as interesting as that kasina.  See what I mean?

As a final note, nothing gets in the way of concentration more than watching how you feel.  "Do I feel good yet?!" can come up a lot.  When it does, instead of judging how you feel, it can be very helpful to do a little noting of sensations.  This breaks apart feelings into sensations so you lose interest in whether it's "good" or not and you can go back to focusing on the object.
Noah, modified 8 Years ago at 5/30/15 7:38 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 5/30/15 7:38 AM

RE: Samadhi causing extreme physical pain

Posts: 1467 Join Date: 7/6/13 Recent Posts
some exercises whch might help?

So, Samatha exercises are usually seeing things as a somewhat solid, continuous flow.  This pits the goal of the exercise (calmness) with the actual experience of getting there (agitation or pain), which in my experience causes even more negative feeling through dissonance.  The thing that helped me was doing a Vipassana ("seeing separate") exercise instead of a Samatha one.  Break up the pain into small sections (in terms of space), which you observe one-by-one, and small frames (in terms of time), which you observe moment-by-moment.  Shinzen calls this divide-and-conquer.
Lewis James, modified 8 Years ago at 6/4/15 10:13 AM
Created 8 Years ago at 6/4/15 10:13 AM

RE: Samadhi causing extreme physical pain

Posts: 155 Join Date: 5/13/15 Recent Posts
Ajahn Maha Bua talks about this in the book Arahattamagga:
Because it had already developed a good, strong foundation, the
citta easily entered into samãdhi. So long as the citta rested there
calmly, it remained unaware of external bodily feelings. But
when I withdrew from samãdhi many hours later I began to expe-
rience them in full. Eventually, my body was so racked by severe
pain that I could hardly cope. The citta was suddenly unnerved,
and its good, strong foundation completely collapsed. The entire
body was filled with such excruciating pain that it quivered all

Thus began the bout of hand-to-hand combat that gave me
insight into an important meditation technique. Until the un-
expected appearance that night of such severe pain, I had not
thought of trying to sit all night. I had never made a resolution of
that kind. I was simply practicing seated meditation as I normally
did, but when the pain began to overwhelm me, I thought: “Hey,
what’s going on here? I must make every effort to figure out this
pain tonight.” So I made the solemn resolve that no matter what
happened I would not get up from my seat until dawn of the next
day. I was determined to investigate the nature of pain until I
understood it clearly and distinctly. I would have to dig deep.
But, if need be, I was willing to die in order to find out the truth
about pain.

Wisdom began to tackle this problem in earnest. Before I
found myself cornered like that with no way out, I never imag-
ined that wisdom could be so sharp and incisive. It went to work,
relentlessly whirling around as it probed into the source of the
pain with the determination of a warrior who never retreats or
accepts defeat. This experience convinced me that in moments
of real crisis wisdom arises to meet the challenge. We are not
fated to be ignorant forever—when truly backed into a corner
we are bound to be able to find a way to help ourselves. It hap-
pened to me that night. When I was cornered and overwhelmed
by severe pain, mindfulness and wisdom just dug into the painful

The pain began as hot flashes along the backs of my hands
and feet, but that was really quite mild. When it arose in full
force, the entire body was ablaze with pain. All the bones, and
the joints connecting them, were like fuel feeding the fire that
engulfed the body. It felt as though every bone in my body was
breaking apart; as though my neck would snap and my head drop
to the floor. When all parts of the body hurt at once, the pain is
so intense that one doesn’t know how to begin stemming the tide
long enough just to breathe.

This crisis left mindfulness and wisdom with no alternative
but to dig down into the pain, searching for the exact spot where
it felt most severe. Mindfulness and wisdom probed and investi-
gated right where the pain was greatest, trying to isolate it so as
to see it clearly. “Where does this pain originate? Who suffers the
pain?” They asked these questions of each bodily part and found
that each one of them remained in keeping with its own intrinsic
nature. The skin was skin, the flesh was flesh, the tendons were
tendons, and so forth. They had been so from the day of birth.
Pain, on the other hand, is something that comes and goes peri-
odically; it’s not always there in the same way that flesh and skin
are. Ordinarily, the pain and the body appear to be all bound up
together. But are they really?

Focusing inward I could see that each part of the body was a
physical reality. What is real stays that way. As I searched the
mass of bodily pain, I saw that one point was more severe than
all the others. If pain and body are one, and all parts of the body
are equally real, then why was the pain stronger in one part than
in another? So I tried to separate out and isolate each aspect.
At that point in the investigation, mindfulness and wisdom were
indispensable. They had to sweep through the areas that hurt
and then whirl around the most intense ones, always working to
separate the feeling from the body. Having observed the body,
they quickly shifted their attention to the pain, then to the citta.
These three: body, pain and citta, are the major principles in this

Although the bodily pain was obviously very strong, I could
see that the citta was calm and unafflicted. No matter how much
discomfort the body suffered, the citta was not distressed or agi-
tated. This intrigued me. Normally the kilesas join forces with
pain, and this alliance causes the citta to be disturbed by the
body’s suffering. This prompted wisdom to probe into the nature
of the body, the nature of pain and the nature of the citta until all
three were perceived clearly as separate realities, each true in its
own natural sphere.

I saw clearly that it was the citta that defined feeling as be-
ing painful and unpleasant. Otherwise, pain was merely a natural
phenomenon that occurred. It was not an integral part of the
body, nor was it intrinsic to the citta. As soon as this principle
became absolutely clear, the pain vanished in an instant. At that
moment, the body was simply the body—a separate reality on its
own. Pain was simply feeling, and in a flash that feeling vanished
straight into the citta. As soon as the pain vanished into the citta,
the citta knew that the pain had disappeared. It just vanished
without a trace.