Odd experiences in meditation

I get a lot of people writing and asking about unusual experiences they’ve had, often on a consistent basis, in meditation. Sometimes they’re worried, and sometimes I think they’re hoping that these are signs that they’re enlightened, or close to it, or that they have meditation superpowers. Those hopes and fears are quite understandable.

Here’s a selection of some of the things people have described. I’ve put them into groups, and I’ll discuss each type separately. I’ll say upfront, though, that I can never be 100% confident I’ve categorized these experiences correctly. After all I’m having to interpret other people’s experiences, often from descriptions that are unclear.

Swirling lights, etc.

  • During my sit I saw a bright white/yellow circle shape flash of light in between my eyebrows (closed eye meditation). The light came rushing at me and filled my vision then vanished. While very interesting, it actually freaked me out a bit.
  • I’ve had noises so loud in one ear they made me jump, lights, weird visual things, feelings of floating or expanding or shrinking – just every now and then.
  • While i meditate in complete darkness i notice swirling of lights. The longer or deeper the meditation the color changes. I noticed it would go from a red, to orange, up to indigo.
  • When I feel Im getting deep I can see bright purple colors swirling about. Ive tried for a long time to find out if there is a meaning to this.
  • I have had a recurrent experience during meditation. These involve being completely absorbed by an intense yellow vibrating light, qualitatively ecstatic or electric.
  • i meditate in the dark. when i open my eyes and i look at my hands i can see like smoke coming out at the tip of my fingers.it look like when you get out of a really hot bath and you got steam on your skin
  • I have experienced a similar meditation twice where I am going deep…seeing stars/universes… colors…then silence…and stillness (void?) and then I am aware of a medallion that looks like it is made of stone with low and high relief with a face on it.

The swirling lights are quite common, especially in people who are relatively new to meditation, and sometimes when people do more meditation than usual. The term I was taught for these is a “sam?patti.” This term is not used in the way it is in Theravadin Buddhism, and I believe it comes from a Chinese Chan tradition. Anyway, the name doesn’t matter too much.

These experiences tend to arise when people are starting to get a bit more concentrated and they are thinking less. They’re nothing to worry about. You’re not going crazy if you see swirling lights. They’re also nothing to get excited about either. No, you’re not on the verge of enlightenment.

What I think is going on is that there’s a kind of dreamy state of mind combined with mild sensory deprivation. People in sensory deprivation tanks tend to have similar experiences. So what’s probably happening here is that the mind is becoming quiet, but it’s not used to being quiet, and it creates these odd sensations. They’re mild hallucinations, in other words — although don’t be alarmed by that word. We all hallucinate every night, when we’re dreaming, and most of us hallucinate during the day as well, when we’re having conversations with other people in our heads. The good thing is that we don’t believe these hallucinations are real.

What to do about these odd sensations? Just note them, and keep going with the practice. See if you can notice the sensations of the body and the breathing more clearly, so that your mind is filled with sensory experience rather than deprived of it.

If you let your mind get absorbed in these sensations it’ll stop you going deeper into meditation.

Symbols and Synesthesia

  • The breath became a shiny reflective surface, a cold metallic grey colour. Then faded after 5 minutes or so.
  • Sometimes it happens that there is a moment during a sit, when the type of experience changes in a way that can be hard to describe (but I’ll try anyway). It’s as if one sinks a fraction deeper into the seat, and is surrounded by a bubble. There is no desire to finish the sit.
  • Today, and I have noticed on previous occasions, when the allotted time for meditation has expired, I sometimes get “stuck”, in a nice way. I feel the urge to move, but it passes just like an urge to itch. Eventually, I “decide” that it is time to move on. But it has a different quality to it than the urge that comes from a timer.
  • Becoming aware of the continuity of the breath created an infinity symbol for me to flow along, never ending. … I feel like my whole body is breathing.
  • I reach a certain point where it feels like I’m acutely aware of my body while being outside of it, like I’m watching it from physically far away.
  • After about 10 minutes or so I flowed into self metta and when the gong rang I felt/saw golden light in and around me.
  • [I saw] some teal and purple circular coloring that I think has to do with retinal pressure. It responds to my movements, mostly breathing and pulse, generally as shrinking concentric blobs alternating between the two colors … it lets me know that I’ve found a good relaxed alertness balance and that my focus is refined enough to notice it.

Some of these might sound similar to the sam?pattis above (and in fact it can be hard to know what’s going on in someone else’s experience) but I think these are all what we call nimittas. The word nimitta means “sign” or “hint” and these experiences are all signs that we’re getting deeper into meditation. In contrast to sam?pattis, you should pay attention to these sensations, because they’ll take you deeper into meditation. They’re “signs” in the same way that a glimmer of light in a dark cave is a sign showing you where the exit is; more toward the glimmer of light and it takes you closer to the exit, which in the case of meditation is jh?na, or absorption. The Buddha actually described jh?na as the “escape from a confined space.”

In some of these cases it’s not hard to see that the nimitta is connected with the object of the meditation, or some other positive quality that’s emerging in the meditation. For example a feeling of love is perceived as a golden light, or stillness is perceived as a sinking into the seat or as an inability to move. The continuous flow of the breathing is perceived as a visual or tactile infinity symbol.

These experiences seem to be to be similar to synesthesia. Synesthesia is a state where sensory information in one form is perceived in another. A common type is where people sense words of numbers as having colors attached to them. Estimates of the incidence of synesthesia vary from 1 in 23 to 1 in 2,000 (thanks, Wikipedia). I think many of us have weak synesthetic tendencies, but that the synesthetic signals, being weak, are drowned out by other, stronger experiences (thoughts, feelings, etc.). It’s only when we’re still, and the mind is calm, that these experiences emerge.

Synesthetic nimittas are useful because they are a form of feedback. Paying more attention to a subtle synesthetic signal that arises in our experience as the mind is calming encourages the mind to become even calmer, and so the synesthetic signal becomes stronger. It’s like walking toward the glimmer of light in the cave, and seeing it get brighter.

Sometimes nimittas can take the form of visual symbols. Unlike the swirling lights they’re stable and very, very clear. They can seem more vivid than your experience of the outside world.

So pay attention to nimittas (and learn to distinguish them from samapattis).

One last thing: People who are prone to having samapattis when they first take up meditation are also prone to experiencing vivid nimittas once their meditation is a bit more established.

Distorted Body Sensations

  • 26 minute sit. Feeling of extreme spaciousness in the beginning and like my hands were infinitely small.
  • Notable sensations: being very small and yet infinite, as if pulled 35 degrees up to the right 4 feet away.
  • I had that strange sensation of body distortion again. This time, it felt as if my legs were huge and the rest of my body very small. I got a very funny image of what I looked like according to my distorted perception. Then the sensation faded after a few minutes and I moved on to Metta Bhavana.
  • I don’t know how long I sat, but it was very peaceful and I felt myself expand a little beyond my normal sense of where my body boundaries are. At a certain point my hands and lips felt like they were growing very fat, which was interesting to observe (for example the thought really crossed my mind, unconvincingly, that maybe my lips really were swelling up).
  • I have had the “swelling sensation” in my hands before during meditation and I always find it fascinating. It feels very real, like my body is expanding beyond itself and sometimes I feel tempted to open my eyes and double check.
  • A few years ago when I was first learning to meditate I had an a experience doing mindfulness of breathing where I felt my legs begin to melt. It totally freaked me out causing me to open my eyes and stop the meditation. When I did that, the feeling immediately stopped and I’ve never had anything like that since.

These are also nimittas, but I’ve singled them out because I think they arise a bit differently. Mostly these involve a loss of the normal boundaries of the body. This might actually involve the loss of perceptual “filters.” Some parts of the body, like the hands and lips, have vastly more nerve endings than other body parts. In fact if your sense of how big various body parts are was proportional to the amount of sensory information being received in the brain from each part you’d feel like your body was like this:


Cortical homunculus by stormthor on deviantART

Which is pretty much how the body can feel sometimes in meditation. Why don’t we feel that the hands and lips are huge all the time? I think it’s because there’s a “correction filter” in the brain that “scales” body parts and makes the internal feeling of the body correspond more closely to the external visual appearance that we see. In meditation it seems that these filters are dropped, and we experience the body more as it is. And so the lips and hands feel large, for example.

Another (possibly related) mechanism is that there is a part of the brain (the parietal lobes) that keep track of the spatial orientation of the body and of parts of the body relative to each other. It’s been observed by neuroscientists that in some forms of meditation the parietal lobes become less active, and so our perception of the body changes. The nimittas that these changes are associated with don’t lead directly to jh?na, however, but to what are called in the scriptures the “formless spheres” (?yatanas). You’ve probably heard them called the “formless jh?nas” or “higher jh?nas” but that’s not a term the Buddha used, and they’re distinct experiences from the jh?nas proper.

At the point these distorted bodily sensations emerge, you can choose to ignore them and head instead for the jh?nas by focusing more intently on the breathing, or you can stick with them and see what happens. (It can take you into some really weird experiences that mess with your sense of self — in a good way!)

I feel pr?ti, oh, so pr?ti

  • After the counting was done and Bodhi’s voice was telling me to observe how I felt I noticed that my mind was calm, there were lights around me and my body felt energised so all-in-all it was a positive experience.
  • Perhaps it was my particular state of mind tonight, but I dissolved easily into simply being aware of my breathing. Hands and feet felt quite warm.
  • During the counting of the in-breaths I was getting real rushes of energy to the point where it was a little uncomfortable. At one point ( not sure which stage ) I had the strange sensation of my mind being stuck/jammed.
  • 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.
  • During the meditation, I feel tingling in my hands and feet. Is this normal?
  • Certainly I’ve felt a tingling sensation that generally starts in my lower spine and spreads over my whole body

We call this energy p?ti (P?li) or pr?ti (Sanskrit). It’s one of the factors of jh?na, and it’s a good thing! This kind of energy arises when we’re becoming more sensitized to the sensations of the body because the mind is becoming calmer. Also, because the body is relaxing, there’s a release of tension. The effect can be of tingling, or of rushing energy. Sometimes the p?ti manifests as warmth. It can be very pleasant. But it can also be a bit much. If the p?ti does get too intense, then focus more on the experience of joy, which will almost certainly be present as well.

P?ti is, in a way, another nimitta, but a very specific one.

Sensations of Pressure

  • Another strange sensation I had during today’s meditation was pressure on the eye balls, just like fingers pressing. It was near the start of the meditation and only lasted 30 seconds or so. Another new sensation. In the end I found myself feeling pretty relaxed.
  • I have developed a feeling of pressure in my head–sometimes in my forehead or scalp, sometimes more in my face. At times it is quite strong and unpleasant.
  • I have noticed that I get quite hot, develop damp skin, and recently have felt a pressure in the top of my head, as though something is trying to burst out. It is not painful, just unusual, and not a serious distraction.
  • I have physical sensation in my body, rising pressure in stomach, sometimes shaking, right now I always notice that and let that sensations to pass.
  • i also was feeling 2 points of pressure on my chest (i cant think of another word to describe it)
  • I feel pressure, not pleasurable or painful, just pressure, on the middle of my forehead. I this normal, or is it something I should be worried about?

This is something I’ve never experienced myself. I suspect that these are nimittas, and that the only problem with them is freaking out about them. If you experience these, please relax and be aware that the sensation of pressure is just a sensation like any other. It’s not going to hurt you. I’m told that relaxing the muscles in the head helps, and that the sense of pressure can have a stabilizing effect on your attention, as with any other nimitta.

If you found this article useful or interesting, be sure to check out out blog, where we regularly share practical information on how to get more out of your meditation practice.

317 Comments. Leave new

  • I came across this article after having a very strange sensation during a yoga nidra. The only time I’ve ever felt anything similar to this was as a child. I used to have night terrors, and I distinctly remember my tongue feeling too big for my body. I’d try to scream but couldn’t speak or move. I also had this sensation in my hands, as a feeling of expanding or growing, but I was terrified because there were walls constraining me. So in effect, like the walls were closing in on me and I was being crushed.

    During the yoga nidra, again the feeling started in my hands and tongue with a sensation of growing, swelling. Somehow this time it didn’t feel scary, so I followed the feeling and allowed it to spread. Gradually it spread to my whole body and I began to feel as though I was expanding, beyond my body, beyond my container. I felt expansive, it’s hard to explain! But like the size of me was infinite.

    I’m a qualified yoga teacher so I understood that it may have been something to do with homunculus, or sensory perception. But it still had me reeling for a while afterwards! I find that yoga nidra affects me so much more profoundly than regular meditation. I am also highly susceptible to hypnosis!

    Do you think this may have been a nimitta or simply a distorted sensory perception sensation as my body relaxes?

    Reply
    • Hi, Jordan.

      When I was a kid lying in bed, I would have the feeling that the bed was levitating. It was fun until it felt like the bed was tipping over :)

      Anyway, you ask whether your experience may have been a nimitta or simply a distorted sensory perception sensation as your body was relaxing. But that’s probably a false dichotomy and I’d suggest that it’s both. It’s not just your body relaxing, though. It’s your mind becoming calmer and more in touch with the sensations of the body as they actually are.

      Reply
  • Patri Friedman
    March 7, 2021 4:23 pm

    Thanks so much for collecting these! It’s wonderful to have these experiences not only normalized but also explained in the context of the path.

    Reply
  • Hello there. I have been meditating for almost 2 weeks now and I would like to get a feedback or explanations on my experiences. On my 1st week, I usually focus trying to breathe thru my spine, then I always feel a sensation first on around my forehead then at the top of my head and at the back of my neck. The sensations always make my head (from bowing down position) move upwards on its own and I feel my hands and back neck getting stiff and my eyes are moving rapidly although it is closed. It’s freaking me out and I wonder if I’m doing something wrong. The first week I also, I experienced a very bright white light, it started very dim and became stronger and stronger and I freaked out so I stopped. Afterwards, my hands and feet were sweating I wonder maybe because I got scared a little. Thank you I hope I’ll get a feedback.?

    Reply
    • Hi, Grace. If you feel uncomfortable then it’s probably best to stop. I think it’s best to meditate (especially early on) by paying attention to the actual physical experiences arising in the body rather than trying an “imaginative” approach that’s essentially taking you away from your immediate experience. But you really ought to talk to whoever is teaching you to meditate in this way. If you’re just making it up as you go along then I’d suggest finding a reputable teacher.

      Reply
  • Hi, I wanted to write a follow up from the advice you gave me on practicing Metta meditation it may benefit someone who reads this:

    I was struggling with a kind of ’emptiness sickness’ and with strong uncomfortable Piti energy. Metta practice was given as the antidote, and I have been practicing it in earnest for some weeks.

    I am a person who has lived in my head for so long, away from the hurt in my heart , spiritually I had hit a brick-wall, I was getting nowhere. The only path left was to go down- down deep inside the place that has stored all the hurt, to sit in silence in the heart and meet the pain with the light of attention that for what ever reason I could not give at the time. I have to love the hurt. I have to give compassion to myself so I can love the world again. There is no separation, as I love my pain, I love the world’s pain, as I love, I am love, it arises from a wellspring so deep it feels inexhaustible, how wrong I was to assume I only deserved a teaspoon. I can’t feed the world with a teaspoon of love.

    Now when my guard is down, when my mind is quieter. When the wall of thoughts are thin ‘I am that’, the god, the everything, the love. And now I know it’s possible to be whole. For someone who has experienced the numb and isolation of depression for decades, I can offer hope. Go visit your pain when you are ready, bathe it in the love and careful attention that it never received, it is the door way. Such is the gift, love and compassion are not outside to be found, I can not think my way through, I have to feel it with the filter of my heart and being….the only way out is through feeling, it will be there on the other side…emanating from within.

    As a side note: at first when I practiced I only watched the pain..I could not feel love at all, so deep was my numbness and fear. But I contemplated, ‘may I be safe’, ‘may I be a peace’, ‘may I be ease’, ‘may I be well’, ‘may I be happy’..one by one, day after day to calm my nervous system to a point where I could hold my own pain. Love is a confusing word for me. What arises is a unity. The pain is no longer separate from a ‘me’ but unified in an embrace that does not expect change. It doesn’t need to be gone to be worthy of my attention it can be allowed to just ‘be’. That is love. deep abiding acceptance of what is. Warmth, softness and light sometimes arise in tandem, I can’t conjure it, it arises by itself as grace, I aim to be humble in it’s presence.

    Thank you so much for your guidance, you have pointed me back in the direction of home. With love,
    Beth

    Reply
  • Thank you for this post. I have a question, I don’t know where else to ask..I am a regular meditator and seeker. For the past months I have this uncomfortable intense ‘electric’ ‘pins and needles’ sensation through out my body (both on and off the cushion). Often to the point I cant sleep (have been medically checked over nothing wrong). When my mind rests in awareness I can detach from this sensation and feel it both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ my body, both at once or separately. My ‘awareness’ has no sensation whatsoever, it is neutral, empty, Teflon. The discomfort seems to grow the more I tap into being the aware empty self. What is going on? How do I release or understand what is happening, it’s very intense. My practice is not strong enough to remain in awareness through the heights of the sensation. Can you recommend any strategy?

    Reply
    • Hi, Beth.

      It sounds like you’re experiencing a lot of piti (priti in Sanskrit) which is a perfectly normal and actually helpful experience to have in meditation. It’s something that happens when we’re in touch with the body and it’s relaxed and energized. I think the core difficulty you’re experiencing is that you’re assuming that there is something wrong.

      Piti can sometimes be so intense that it becomes uncomfortable. At those times it’s best to move our attention toward the heart, and to be aware of any joy (or any other emotion) that’s present. That shifts our focus away from the body a little, so that we begin to “tune out” a little of the piti sensation.

      You don’t say anything about what kind of meditation you do. For some reason hardly anybody does. But if you’re not doing a lot of metta/compassion practice I’d suggest starting. Do it a lot. Having a neutral, affectless awareness is not healthy. In fact it can become very damaging in the long term. I don’t mean to freak you out; it’s just that the development of warm emotional qualities is essential, even though a lot of people tend to neglect this.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

      Reply
      • Thank you so much, your advice is absolutely spot on. My practice is sitting still, getting in touch with the ‘I am’ and opening to being aware of what is present, I also do a very constant self inquiry practice when I am off the cushion. I think however since my ‘awakening’ into affectless/void I have been rather stuck there. I have however noticed that from neutral awareness the first response to a situation is always the most kind and compassionate (however I don’t always follow pure awareness’s great advice -much growing to be done). Metta practice therefore is the perfect antidote. I do notice that the Piti? has also affected my eyesight. I see pixillated energy, everything I look at vibrates in this same ‘electric’ way. I have been in a kind of subtle-stalemate resistance both to the bodily sensations and appearances, as it can be at times quite ‘overwhelming’, but the overwhelm when I sense into it is actually my labelling that something is ‘wrong’, or I feel that I must be blocked. Thank you so much for pointing to love. Strange as it seems I’m worried I will fall in love with the world and loose ‘myself’ :) It therefore makes sense that love is the next unfolding of ‘awakening’. I hope I have understood correctly your advice. With deep gratitude for your time and wisdom, Beth

        Reply
        • Hi, Beth.

          I think you understood me perfectly, and I’m glad you were open to the suggestion. I’d suggest that it’s not your eyesight itself that’s been affected, but the way you perceive your visual field. Most people assume that things are more solid and stable than they actually are. In fact they want things to be more solid and stable than they actually are. And so they tune out the fact that there is a certain amount of instability and “pixelation” in what we see. It’s there all along, but they just don’t see it.

          The experience of piti can open us up to the fact that within the body there is no such thing as a stable unchanging sensation. The experience of the body is pixelated as well. As are feelings. As are mental representations. The question arises, where, in all this ever-changing experience, can a stable and permanent self lie?

          Anyway, these days there’s a tendency to think that the goal of Buddhism is having an insight experience. Actually it’s to become an all-round, excellent, patient, kind, modest, and compassionate human being. Insight without those other qualities can, for some people, be devastating.

          Reply
  • I have been practicing meditation for the past one year. Recently I noticed that soon after meditation their is a point in my lower back which hurts ( though slightly) for some time before vanishing away. And I don’t have any back pain issues. I do hatha yoga so other than a little bit of knee pain( because of my osteopenia) I am fine sitting in meditation. Could you shed light on this? Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi, Geetanjali.

      I’m afraid that without seeing how you sit I wouldn’t be in a position to comment.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

      Reply
  • I just started meditating and I have experienced spasms in my body , my finger tips tingle during hours after. I also have this pressure across my head in the middle of my forehead and behind my eyes. I see colors like purple, white orange, green and it is just beautiful but I don’t understand what is happening.

    Reply
  • Hi, I’d like you to explain me about an experience that I had while doing my meditation that I had done with the shamanic meditational trance. I was into deep meditation and I felt goosebumps all over with constant throbbing around my body while I kept concentrating on my breathing. Suddenly the music I was meditating on went mute to me it started feeling wierd I looked at my phone and the music was still playing but I just couldn’t hear it it was all still and weirdly peaceful awfully quite. I felt like I was seeing thing through my forehead I couldn’t feel any emotion, no feeling of spirituality or sensation. It was all a questions in my mind like I felt trapped in this body constant raise of questions like why this why that and when I turned on the TV I understood nothing that kept playing i switched to a channel I often watched but it gave me no meaning I couldn’t understand them no entertainment nothing. Can you explain what this experience meant?

    Reply
    • Hi there. I’d suggest talking to the person who taught you the shamanic meditation you’ve been doing. I’m afraid it’s not an approach to meditation I know anything about.

      Reply
  • Sometimes when I meditate I get a feeling in my spine, like a little massage from my tailbone to the middle if my back and back down again. And I see faces and objects out of know where? I almost feel like I’m in space flying but I’m still and things are flying at me?

    Reply
    • Tingling feelings in the body, and up and down the back specifically, are quite common as the muscles relax. The technical term for this is “piti” or “priti,” depending on whether you’re using Pali or Sanskrit. The rest of what you describe is you being in a semi-dream state. I’d suggest paying more attention to the physical sensations of the breathing, so that you stay more rooted in sensory reality rather than in imagination.

      Reply
  • So I accidentally meditating too much in one day I wanted to explore more of my third eye and I think I messed up ever since I been having I think energy waves in my body and it hurts my chest and I got cramps in my stomach and neck and I feel the energy my mom keeps saying it’s in my head when I actually physical feel it how long does this last it’s almost been a week and I don’t feel like my self

    Reply
    • Hi, Jordan.

      Those “energy waves” are harmless. If you just accept them then they’ll subside. I can’t tell you how long that will take, though.

      You may find that there’s some point of focus in your body, that if you pay attention to it will help make the energy waves easier to handle. Try paying attention to the movements of the breathing in the belly, for example. The cramps are due to you resisting what’s going on, so the more you practice acceptance the quicker that will pass.

      Lastly, if you’re going to practice meditation, start with a reputable teacher. I get a lot of people writing to me who have weird experiences after meditating to random YouTube videos!

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

      Reply
  • I scanned through the article but I dont think it mentions what i experienced.
    I dont meditate much nor regularly. I tried it in the past but couldnt stick to it.
    But once a month or so, when I wake up early in the morning – 2 or 3am I sometimes feel an urge to do some slow breathing. I dont really have to do too much, I just let my body do it. After a certain time of this slow breathing my body seems to do some movements independetly. I feel I could stop all that process but I am just curious and wanna know what will happen. It s like my body is correcting its posture, my head leans back, my eyes move randomly, sometimes my lips are mouthing “words”. It kinda feels as if something/someone took over my body. But not in negative way and not without my control. But it s strange and i wonder what is happening.

    Reply
    • Hi, Olla.

      Well, it’s not at all uncommon to feel an urge come from somewhere to slow down your breathing or relax. The way everybody’s mind works is that we’re unaware of volitions until they begin to arise in conscious awareness. Mostly we just accept this, but sometimes those volitions take us by surprise.

      It’s less common for the body to want to make movements, but it’s not exactly rare. I’ve had it happen many times myself. Sometimes the movements can be an attempt to meditate more effectively, or an attempt to adjust the body so that it’s more balanced. You can just trust that there’s a part of you that knows what you need and is helping you to bring it about.

      Actually, if you catch yourself in the midst of doing things like walking, driving, or washing the dishes, you’ll recognize that your body is moving all the time without you consciously controlling it. It’s a normal part of life. We’re simply blind to it most of the time!

      Reply
      • Thank you for your time and the reply. I really appreciate it.
        It s funny that there is so much to explore about ourselves and it s like neverending process.

        All the best!

        Reply
  • Hi! I just read your article about certain feeling we can get while meditating. I never meditate but I am experiencing something really strange since an online reiki session this past Wednesday. The session went well as I was laying down on my bed. But the day after and since, I have these horrible feelings on the left side of the chest, like a ball of pressure inside that moves around and doesn’t leave me alone. It comes back and forth. It is bothering me. It is very veru present and keeps me away to do things sometimes. Sometimes it is in the stomach area, sometimes the breast area and sometimes just up the Brest. I don’t know what is it. It comes without warning. I don’t know anything about energy work. Does this sounds like I have some work to do on releasing energy? I have never experienced this in my entire life, I am lost. Any help would be more than appreciated. Thank you so much

    Reply
    • Hi, Lee.

      For me the term “energy work” and talk of “releasing energy” are just metaphors. From my point of view as a meditation teacher you’re simply experiencing unpleasant feelings. Feelings are simply internally generated sensations that are an attempt by one part of your brain to communicate with another. The problem is that the part of your brain that’s meant to respond to these feelings hasn’t been able to figure out what they’re about, and so it can’t do anything with the communication. And the part that’s trying to communicate is stuck in a loop, like a person abroad who doesn’t speak the local language, so they just SHOUT in their own language, which of course doesn’t help. So you’re in the situation of someone being yelled at by a foreigner, which can be scary.

      Bear with me for a moment… A friend of mine, who uses a wheelchair, was visiting Italy with a friend. Neither of them spoke Italian. They were outside a museum that could only be entered by mounting step stone stairs. With assistance, that’s possible in a wheelchair, although it’s daunting. A museum guard came down and started talking excitedly to my friend, who of course had no idea what was being said to him. The guard kept talking, but getting louder and louder, and gesticulating wildly. The more he talked, and the louder he talked, the more confused my friend became. But fortunately he wasn’t alone. His companion said, “He’s telling us there’s another entrance around the corner.” So they headed off in that direction and the guard smiled and nodded. My friend was puzzled how his traveling companion knew what the guard had been saying. What he’s done was put a few clues together: they’d obviously been trying to see how they could get up the stairs, the guard seemed like he was trying to be helpful, and some of his hand gestures seemed to be pointing in one direction. The companion was in the situation where he felt less pressured (he wasn’t the one being yelled at) and so he was in a more relaxed state, and was able to observe the whole of the interaction. My friend, on the other hand, felt anxious and was trying to focus on the guard’s words, meaning that he wasn’t paying as much attention to his body language.

      Anyway, you can figure out what these feelings/communications are saying to you, but, like my friend, you’re not allowing yourself to be in the best state for doing that. You’re busy focusing on how you don’t like having these feelings, and wishing they’d stop. You’re busy resisting them.

      In being mindful of feelings we adopt the view that they’re simply sensations, like any other. So try seeing if you can accept them. They’re communications from a part of you that, like the museum guard, is trying to help. They’re not your enemy. So just allow them to be there. Don’t try to shut out the communication.

      And spend some time relaxing with these feelings, and even when they’re not present. Just try lying on the bed, letting your body’s muscles relax. Let your mind unwind, so that you’re in a slightly more “floaty” state of mind. To help with this, let the muscles around your eyes, and the focus in your eyes, be soft, like when you’re staring into space. That’s the ideal state (relaxed but aware) for making creative leaps of understanding.

      You might even want to drop in a question from time to time. It might be something like “Is there anything I’m holding on to?” or “Is there anything in my life I’m resisting?” (Holding on or resisting are probably the two main things we do that cause us problems.) You’re not trying to work this out for yourself, so don’t try to answer these questions. You’re asking a stranger (a non-verbal part of your brain) to communicate with you. You can’t answer your own question because only the stranger knows what the answer is. When the answer comes it might well be in the form of a hunch or an image. And once you have the answer it’ll start to unfold itself.

      Anyway, I hope this is reassuring and helpful. I’d be interested to know how you get on.

      All the best,
      Bodhipaksa

      Reply

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