Philip Powis
Wildmind (Meditation & Discussion) – Jan 21, 2013

Hello…I was hoping someone might help me make sense of a scary meditation session I had yesterday. It was in a group setting and we were doing the body scan laying down. As I was laying there the teacher was giving guided instruction on how to focus on the left leg. Shortly in to it, I felt an uncontrollable wave of extremely strong energy. It felt almost good , but in a sense too powerful – pure pleasure.. I tried to just experience it as is but then felt myself getting physically aroused which freaked me out because I was in public with a large group. I then tried to control it and found it very difficult to do so . I felt compelled to open my eyes and did so still while the teacher continued to guide the meditation. At this point I almost felt paralyzed by the waves of energy and my heart started beating faster than I’ve ever felt. It was just coursing throughout my entire body almost uncontrollably. I stayed with it, returned my attention to the breath, and after what seemed like an eternity I was able to settle back into body scanning. When the meditation was over I still felt rattled about what I had just experienced. I am still having residual feelings in my chest around my heart area – the best way to describe it is some jumbled up mix of both pleasure and pain – hard to discern which emotion state the feeling is most aligned with.

This experience has me a little shaken and was wondering anyone in the community has any insights they could share on hearing about/ experiencing something similar.


It’s called “piti” (or priti in Sanskrit). It happens when we’re becoming relaxed, alert, and are paying attention to our physical experience. It’s quite normal, and although it can be rather intense we can learn to relax and let it happen without tensing up. It can be a bit like being tickled — pleasure taken to the level where it’s actually uncomfortable. But it can also manifest more mildly.

It’s just a normal part of the meditative process, and it’s one of the jhana (meditative) factors that Buddhism talks about.

caroline hagermanJan 21, 20131

It happened to me when I was in vipashyana retreat. On day three an indescribable happiness bubbled up inside of me, strong and pure, and I was supposed to be quiet. Haha. It was very hard not to laugh out loud. It stayed for several hours, and I thought I had gone totally mad.

Excellent. Caroline. Joy is technically “sukha,” which is a bit different from piti. Piti is more physical, while sukha is more emotional. Both are jhana factors, and they tend to be related. Sometimes they’re run together as “piti-sukha.”

My experience was almost scary even though it felt good. The intensity was something I have not experienced before. I couldn’t tell whether to go with it or stop…next tie I will try to relax into it more.. Any recommendations on further reading about this subject?

2 Comments. Leave new

  • Would you say jhana is caused by resistance? I have the idea that it is a pleasure that comes from releasing tension by relaxing instead of reacting to resistance. The continuous resistance creates continuous tension to relax into. I base that idea on a few tiny experiences where I was able to stay present instead of reacting and experienced piti while doing so.

    • Hi, Scott.

      I think it would be a bit misleading to say that jhana is caused by resistance. It’s like saying that a car goes fast because of its brakes. (You have to release the brakes before it can move.)

      Moving toward jhana does mean letting go of physical resistance, and that leads to piti, but it’s the letting go that’s the causative factor.


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