Uncomfortable Sensations During Meditation
I have been meditating (anapanasati) for a year. But form past two months I am feeling tickling feelings between my eyebrows. And I am not able to focus on breathing. Feeling intensifies when I try to follow the breath, my stomach contracts and not able to breath from diaphragm, that feels very uncomfortable. I even tried to focus between eyebrows, but that worsen the condition and I feel breathless. Even I have become irritable and frustrated. What should I do? Should I stop meditation?
—Gurmit Singh, India
It is traditional to focus at the point between the eyebrows during meditation. This is the sixth chakra as taught in yoga traditions. According to modern medical science, it is the region of the brain that is activated during higher human functioning (concentration, creativity, idealism, etc).
You didn’t say whether in your anapanasati practice you are instructed to focus your attention at the forehead, but as I’ve indicated above, this is the common instruction to be given.
If, therefore, you are intentionally concentrating at that point, you may be concentrating with too much tension and with too much physical involvement of the muscles of the face and head.
Concentration there should be “light,” just as if, with eyes open, you hear a sound above you (slightly) and you look up with curiosity (but with no tension).
Sometimes the autonomic (sub-conscious) nervous system responds to the quieting of breath and heart rate caused by meditation with an anxiety or even panic response. This self-protective response (as in “Gee, I’ve just stopped breathing!”) is gradually overcome as you practice.
The quietness of breath caused organically by meditation cannot cause harm to the body, brain or nervous system.
There is even a kind of existential response to the cessation of active thoughts and movement. This is analagous to the infant or toddler who plays peekaboo, “hiding” behind his blanket or hands, in an effort to determine whether you stop existing when you cannot be seen!
I recommend, therefore, that you re-direct your attention from the forehead to your breath; consciously relax your face, eyes, and upper body during your meditation. Let your attention upon the breath bring you relaxation and calmness.
Then, you can re-focus awareness to the sixth chakra (Kutastha Chaitanya) if you feel ready to do so.
If the symptoms happen again, open your eyes, look around, gently tense the body with a breath, relax for a minute or two and if you feel better, resume your meditation. If needed, stand up and stretch before continuing.
In general, and with calm persistence, I believe these symptoms will disappear on their own.
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