Odd experiences in meditation

odd and weird experiences in meditation

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

These hopes and fears are quite understandable. I hate to disappoint, but these kinds of unusual experiences are usually pretty common. Most weird experiences in meditation are not of any great significance. Sometimes they are good signs, though, so I’ve tried to clarify that where possible.

Below I’ve categorized into some of the things people have described. I’ve put them into six groups, and I’ll discuss each type separately.

The six groups are:

  1. Swirling lights and dreamlike images
  2. Helpful signs
  3. Distorted body sensations
  4. Tingling and energy
  5. Involuntary twitching and spontaneous movements
  6. Sensations of pressure

I’ll say upfront, though, that I can never be 100% confident I’ve categorized these odd experiences correctly. After all I’m having to interpret other people’s experiences, often from descriptions that are unclear.

1. Swirling Lights and Dreamlike Images

People get really excited about the swirling lights! And sometimes they get freaked out by seeing faces or other images appearing in the mind’s eye. Here are some real-life descriptions.

  • 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 I’m getting deep I can see bright purple colors swirling about. I’ve 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.

I’m going to include with the above other dream-like experiences, such as hearing voices, having images of faces appearing, and so on.

These experiences are 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. In fact they’re not even helpful, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The swirling lights are quite common, especially in people who are relatively new to meditation, and sometimes when people do more meditation than usual. They tend to arise when people are starting to get a bit calmer and they are thinking less.

The nearest thing to an official term for these phenomena — that I know of at least — would be an “unhelpful sign.”  Nimittas are unusual experiences that happen in meditation. The Pali word “nimitta” can be translated as a “sign” or “hint.”

  • These unusual experiences (nimittas) can be helpful, in that they are signs that there is something we should pay attention to in order to become more absorbed in our meditation practice.
  • But they can be unhelpful, in that they disturb or distract us, and in that case they are signs or hints that there’s something unbalanced about what we’re doing on our meditation practice.

With swirling lights, dream-like images, and imagined sound that arise in meditation, we’re in the territory of unhelpful nimittas, or unhelpful signs.

This distinction between helpful and unhelpful nimittas comes from a first century meditation text called the “Path of Liberation,” or Vimuttimagga. Although the author, Upatissa, doesn’t use the terms “helpful” and “unhelpful,” that’s clearly what he means. Describing unhelpful nimittas, Upatissa says that a meditator,

…sees various forms such as smoke, mist, dust, sand of gold, or he experiences something similar to the pricking of a needle or to an ant’s bite. If his mind does not become clear regarding these different images, he will be confused.

Because some nimittas are helpful and some are unhelpful, it’s important to recognize the difference. Swirling lights aren’t helpful because they aren’t still or calming. They’re fascinating, yes, but they’re dreamlike.

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 very similar experiences to these. 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.

The word nimitta means “sign” or even “hint.” In the case of these unhelpful nimittas, they’re a hint that we’re making some progress — the mind is thinking less and calmer than usual — but they’re also a hint that we need to ground ourselves in the actual sensory experience arising from the body.

So if these odd sensations arise, just note them, but be aware that they’re not helpful and they’re not something you should get absorbed in.

Instead, see if you can notice the actually sensations of the body and the breathing more clearly and vividly. Perhaps you can start with the sensations of contact that the body is making with the floor and with your seat. Notice vivid sensations, such as the air in the nostrils. Notice concrete sensations such as the movement of the diaphragm and the rib cage.

These are the kinds of things you need to do that your mind is a) filled with sensory experience rather than deprived of it, and b) kept absorbed in vivid sensory experience that prevents you slipping into a dream-like state..

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

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2. Helpful Signs (Symbols and Synesthesia)

There’s another kind of nimitta (sign) — helpful nimittas that will actually help you become more absorbed in your meditation practice. Here are some descriptions that students have shared with me.

  • The breath became a shiny reflective surface, a cold metallic grey colour.
  • 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.
  • It’s as if I’ve wandered into a bright part of my mind. There’s a shift of my awareness and suddenly there’s a sense of inner light, which is soft and white. I’m free to move my awareness in and out of this area of light, but when I’m in it I feel very calm.
  • 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 unhelpful nimittas above. In fact it can be hard to know what’s going on in someone else’s experience, and it’s possible that I’ve mis-categorized some of these.

But I think these are all what we call helpful nimittas.

As I explained above, the word nimitta means “sign” or “hint” and these experiences are all signs that we’re getting deeper into meditation. In fact, it’s pretty much guaranteed that if someone uses the term nimitta without the qualifications “helpful” or “unhelpful” (or something similar) they’re talking about the helpful kind.

Usually meditators talk about nimittas in relation to jhana, which is a Pali word meaning “meditative absorption.” The Sanskrit equivalent is dhyana. Jhana is an experience of “flow” in meditation. It’s an experience (or series of experiences) where our meditation shifts gear, and we’re able to be effortlessly mindful. Distractions fall away, and we’re left experiencing calm and joy.

In contrast to unhelpful nimittas, which you shouldn’t get caught up in, it’s a good idea to 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. If you move toward the glimmer of light it takes you closer to the exit, which in the case of meditation is jhana.  (The Buddha actually described jhana as the “escape from a confined space.”) And as you move closer to the exit, the “hint” becomes stronger.What we have here is a positive-feedback loop, which is why this kind of nimitta is helpful.

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. The smooth contact with the breath is experienced as having a shiny, metallic quality.

   Jhana is an experience of “flow” in meditation. It’s an experience (or series of experiences) where our meditation shifts gear, and we’re able to be effortlessly mindful. Distractions fall away, and we’re left experiencing calm and joy.

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. Meditation, in other words, can unleash our hidden synesthetic potential.

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; seeing the light get brighter makes it easier to move toward the source.

Sometimes helpful nimittas can take the form of visual symbols. Unlike the swirling lights they’re relatively stable and very, very clear. They can seem more vivid than your experience of the outside world. I’ve sometimes experienced nimittas as images of water – very clear and lucid. For example I might find I’m seeing stones under the shallow water of a pond.

So pay attention to helpful, synesthetic nimittas, and learn to distinguish them from unhelpful, dream-like nimittas.

One last thing: People who are prone to having unhelpful nimittas are often prone to experiencing helpful nimittas as well. Often when people are starting out meditation they haven’t yet learned how to pay attention to the body’s rich pallete of sensations. But they do manage to calm the mind. A slightly dream-like state arises as some kind of unhelpful nimitta.

Once their meditation is a bit more established and they’re able to be more mindful of the body, then helpful nimittas start happening.

The same people seem to have both. It’s quite possible that some people don’t experience either kind.

3. Distorted Body Sensations

Another kind of unusual experience is when the body seems to have changed in some way. Here are some examples my meditation students have shared with me over the years:

  • 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 [lovingkindness meditation].
  • 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. Are they helpful or unhelpful? It’s hard to say. I’d suggest that mostly they’re not helpful.

I think they arise a bit differently from either the dream-like kind of unhelpful nimitta or the synesthetic kind of helpful nimitta I’ve described above.

Mostly these changes in body perception involve a loss of the normal boundaries of the body.  Now, 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. I don’t think this is a coincidence.

Given that they have so many nerve endings, 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 jhana, however, but to what are called in the scriptures the “formless spheres” (ayatanas). You’ve probably heard them called the “formless jhanas” or “higher jhanas” but that’s not a term the Buddha used, and they’re distinct experiences from the jhanas proper.

At the point these distorted bodily sensations emerge, you can choose to ignore them and head instead for the jhanas 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!)

So this kind of nimitta seems to be different from either that I’ve described above. They’re signs, all right, but they’re signs that you’re heading to a different set of experiences than the kind of absorption that’s called jhana. They’re signs that you’re headed toward formless experiences. So whether they’re helpful or not depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

Some kinds of physical experiences are not helpful.  For example I had a friend in Glasgow, Scotland, who had an interesting distorted body-perception experience that was definitely unhelpful. He meditated on a kneeling bench, and, as you might know, those benches slope down toward the front. He’d been sitting for a while and felt increasingly uncomfortable. In fact he realized that he was sitting on his meditation bench backwards, with it sloping to the rear. This caused him to lean backward, and he had to put an enormous amount of effort into keeping his back straight. He tried to endure the discomfort, but eventually it became too much to bear, and so he stood up — only to find that his bench had been the right way around all along! The whole experience of the bench being backwards and of being thrown out of alignment was nothing more than an unhelpful nimitta.

A similar feeling is that you’re leaning to one side. Generally, if you’re having the experience of your body being out of alignment, even when it’s definitely not, this is probably an unhelpful nimitta. Just carry on!

One final distorted body sensation I’ll discuss is when you feel the body is floating. This is something I used to induce as a kid. I’d lie in bed, let myself relax, and just lie there, being aware of my body under the sheets. As I relaxed more and more, I’d start to feel that the whole bed was floating higher and higher toward the ceiling. At some point I’d have the feeling that the bed was starting to tip over and I’d panic and come abck to my normal perceptions. I hadn’t been asleep, but clearly there’s something dream-like about this, so we’re back in the territory of those dreamy, unhelpful signs.

I’ve never had this happen to me in meditation, but I know it has happened to some folks. So, sorry, but you’re not developing psychic powers. You’re just having a dream-like experience.

4. Tingling and Energy

Feelings of tingling, warmth, and energy are quite common in meditation. Sometimes people will describe this as an “electric feeling” or like “currents of electricity.” But this phenomenon can take various forms, as you can see from some of the descriptions that I’ve collected from my students over the years.

  • 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 energized 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.
  • Sometimes I’ve felt a tingling in the spine during meditation, and I’m curious what that’s about.
  • 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 piti (Pali) or priti (Sanskrit). It’s one of the characteristic signs that we’re near or are having an experience of jhana. So piti is 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 piti manifests as warmth. It can be very pleasant.

But it can also be a bit much. If the piti does get too intense, then focus more on the experience of joy, which will almost certainly be present as well.

Piti is, in a way, another nimitta (or the helpful kind), but a very specific one. It’s not traditionally described as a nimitta, but it’s an experience that gives us a “hint” that jhana is near, so it performs the same function.

5. Involuntary Twitching and Spontaneous Body Movements

A lot of people report involuntary jerks, switches, and movements during meditation. Sometimes it’s the head jerking. Sometimes it’s the arms and hands. Sometimes it’s the back.

First, we have to distinguish this from the jerking that happens when we are falling asleep in meditation. When you start to fall asleep – and you might not even realize this is happening, because sleep can sneak up on us — the body starts to relax. And then some part of your brain realizes that you’re starting to fall, and jerks you awake. This can involve just the head. Sometimes I’ve heard this called “the noddies.” One of my students used to call this “having the woody woodpeckers.” Sometimes it’s the whole upper body. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time this is what is going on when people experience involuntary jerks in meditation.

Obviously it’s normal to fall asleep in meditation. You’re sitting with your eye closed. You’re in a low stimulation environment. And you’re probably tireder than you realize, since many of us are sleep-deprived, even if we’re in denial about it.

There are other kinds of jerks and twitches, though. Here are some examples:

  • I was breathing, but only a teeny speckle of attention to each breath. Then my leg muscles started jerking which I felt disappointed about. Then I just got into a rhythm of moving and said ‘ok, ok, it’s ok’.
  • Yesterday’s meditation was short. I had the “twitchies” and just tried to notice them and be kind to them.
  • My muscles started twitching. I tried to ignore it, but then realized I was pushing the experience away. I tried to just stay aware, but on an impulse was out of the chair before I even knew it.
  • Tried to follow the wave of relaxation on the out breath. Lots of twitching by different muscles. By the end of the day, I felt more peace in my body.
  • Lots of twitching as my body settled in to the longer sit. Then came the memories of unskillful behavior (from yesterday). Back to breath. I kept returning to thoughts, judgments, stories. Finally, I became aware of the message….. Own my behavior and make amends.
  • Fairly quiet mind during the sit. Some twitching of my body in the beginning…think that was tension releasing.

Related to this is when the body spontaneously relaxes, which happens a lot. You’ll just be sitting there and suddenly your shoulders will drop, for example. It’s spontaneous because you didn’t decide to do this. In fact you probably didn’t even notice that the shoulders were tense. As far a spontaneous relaxation goes, pretty much everyone is going to welcome it, and it’s hard to imagine it being of concern. But the movements people are describing above as just as spontaneous!

Involuntary movements are things I’ve experienced myself. Many years ago I developed a twitch in my back that would kick in whenever I got to a certain level of relaxation, which didn’t take long to happen in meditation. This twitch would throw my entire upper back and head backward. More recently I realized that what my back was trying to do was realign a vertebra that was out of place and causing me pain. I was on retreat and starting to experience a lot of back pain. And then one night in meditation my back started to spontaneously twist, hold, and release. I knew enough to let it do this, and after a few minutes the movements spontaneously stopped. And when they did, the pain was gone. Somehow my body had figured out how to do chiropractic adjustments on itself.

So this may be a part of some movements. The body wants to adjust itself. Maybe it wants to straighten up, for example. Or maybe, as someone suggested in their comment on spontaneous twitching, it’s the body releasing tension.

One person above described how she experienced remorse about previous actions just after a bout of twitching. I imagine that the part of her brain that was trying to bring those memories to mind was in some kind of tussle with a part of the brain that wanted very much not to think about these things. Net result: physical twitching.

Spontaneous bodily movements can be expressive of other emotions as well. I’ve known people who have experienced physical movements, like the arms flying in the air, associated with joy or devotion.

Going back to piti, which is described above. Not all piti is sensed as tingling or energy. One kind of piti that’s traditionally described as “momentary piti” may well be a kind of twitching more along the lines of an “energy release” than an actual experience of energy.

So there’s probably not just one cause behind spontaneous jerking and twitching in meditation. It can result from the body adjusting itself, from suppressed emotion, from up-welling positive emotion, and maybe for other reasons as well.

If you have spontaneous twitches or body movements I’d suggest just accepting them. Let them happen. There’s almost certainly nothing to worry about. The brain is very complex, and most of the movements your body makes are not under conscious control. Next time you’re walking, for example, notice that you aren’t consciously giving commands to the dozens of muscles involved in that action. They’re acting spontaneously, and in a very complex way. And no one thinks anything of it.

6. Sensations of Pressure

Having sensations of pressure in meditation is not a type of experience I’ve had myself, but it seems to be quite common. Certainly lots of people have written to me describing feeling pressure. Here are some examples:

  • 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 two points of pressure (i cant think of another word to describe it) on my chest
  • 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?

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 our blog, where we regularly share practical information on how to get more out of your meditation practice.

356 Comments. Leave new

  • Hello, I just found this article and have my own uncomfortable-but-probably-entirely-normal experience and question to add to the pile.

    As a child I had what I assume were night terrors. Visually, they were quite weird and not scary at all. They would manifest as patterns or small objects that would move in an increasingly agitated manner until the panic was unbearable and I’d wake up irrationally panicked. How do objects or patterns move in a scary way? I don’t know, but it was terrifying.

    Fast forward to this year, when at 26 years old I started meditating. Whenever I sink really deep, it feels really good and light and I’m completely detached. But sometimes if I keep going, I feel some of that old panic rise up again. But it’s not just a feeling, there’s some sort of sensory component I can’t describe. Like someone screaming or things moving, except I can’t actually hear or see anything- not like the experiences described here. It’s what happened to me during sleep when I was a child, and I’ve had to open my eyes and continue meditating that way because I’m honestly not sure if something will drive me mad if I keep my eyes closed. And I’m completely aware the whole time – not dreaming or imagining things.

    Is it likely that I have some sort of illness and my brain is trying to tell me? Why do I get to a scary “layer” when my meditation is successful? Am I reopening some sort of trauma (I did have a stressful childhood due to geopolitical factors).

    • Hi, KT.

      Thanks for writing.

      It was probably your fear that was producing the shapes, rather than the other way around.

      “Is it likely that I have some sort of illness and my brain is trying to tell me?”

      That’s extremely unlikely :)

      “Why do I get to a scary “layer” when my meditation is successful?”

      I don’t know, but I have a few guesses.

      At any given moment, part of our experience present in conscious awareness, but the vast majority of it isn’t, including memories, subconscious processing, etc. There can be all kinds of “thinking” going on that we normally are only distantly aware of, or aren’t aware of at all. When we meditate, the conscious mind shuts up a bit more, and it becomes easier to get a sense of what’s going on in less conscious parts of our minds. It’s a bit like how when water is whipped up by the wind we can’t see into it very well, but when it calms down we can look into the depths more easily.

      So possibly this is what’s happening. Your mind is stilling, and you’re becoming more conscious of fear. It might be that the fear is there a lot of the time and you’re just not aware of it.

      On the other hand, maybe part of your mind is freaked out by quietness. It’s quite common for people to experience some resistance to meditation after having had a particularly good (i.e. calm and joyful) sit. It’s as if parts of the mind that are going to be transformed kick up a fuss, because they don’t want to “die.” So it might be that you’re experiencing fear of that sort, but it’s happening while you’re sitting.

      “Am I reopening some sort of trauma (I did have a stressful childhood due to geopolitical factors).”

      That’s a possibility — it’s a form of what I talked about above. The patterns you talk about seeing as a child (and that are associated with fear) are very similar to what some people experience in meditation. Perhaps those patterns are beginning to arise, but haven’t quite reached conscious awareness, and part of your mind, recognizing the similarity to your childhood experiences, is freaking out.

      You might want to talk with a therapist about this — someone who can help you become clearer what your fear is about. Or you might want to get into a relaxed state and ask the frightened parts of your mind what it is they’re afraid of. They may be able to tell you, but have never been given the opportunity to do so!

  • Hi. I found your blog while searching about an experience I’ve been having similar to your body distortions, but it’s more like energetic distortion, where my energy feels simultaneously microscopic, yet infinite (it’s overwhelming, btw). And I also feel a lot of other “stuff” like patterns surrounding me (also overwhelming). It seems to morph and change and actually has happened totally unprovoked, like just from lying down to rest, apart from through meditation. Any insights? Thank you.

    • Sorry, I don’t know! The language of energy/stuff/patterns is open to wide interpretation, and I just don’t know enough to be able to match your experience up with the model of meditative experience I’m familiar with — that’s assuming that it actually matches up at all! Apologies for not being able to be of greater help.

  • Akhila Errabelly
    April 9, 2017 8:26 pm

    Hi, I found this blog while looking for answers. For the first time I was doing meditation and within 5 minutes of me closing my eyes, I saw a big blue eye. I was so scared and opened my eyes. Since then I having a headache on/off. Is there any explanation for this or is it normal before meditating?.

    • Images appear in the mind all the time, Akhila. You were just in a near dream-like state, which is of no significance. Just carry on!

  • Swirling lights, especially those which are purple in colour are called “phosphenes”. it’s caused by random firing of neurons in the visual processing centre of the brain, connected to the optic nerve, and the effect is noticed when in the absence of visual stimuli.


    • A similar thing also happens when the brain and sensory organs become deprived of Oxygen – such as during fainting. I’ve experienced several times, bright lights, multicoloured lights and strange noises when about to faint. This is caused by the fact that a lack of oxygen in the areas of the brain that interpret our vision/hearing result in the things we see and hear becoming distorted and nonsensical. I have yet to see any evidence that there is anything metaphysical/spiritual about any of this.

      • Yes, there’s no spiritual significance in these patterns, except in that they’re not generally detected unless the amount of “noise” in the mind has begun to quiet down. That quieting is a good sign in terms of meditation. The phosphenes themselves are not significant, and in fact their appearance tends to happen when we haven’t yet learned how to be more fully mindful of our experience. People do tend to get excited by them, however. Sigh.

    • Thanks for this. The Wikipedia article on phosphenes mentions meditation.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,
    I started practicing meditation around two month ago and Ive recently noticed that every time I finish the meditation I feel cold and I need a jumper or something that makes me feel better. Is this normal? Im really curious about this particularly because it makes me think of the effects of meditation.
    Thank you!
    p.s sorry my english it’s not my native language

    • Yes, that’s quite common, Eugenia. I used to notice this a lot when I first started meditating, but it hasn’t bothered me in a long time, so perhaps it’s just a passing phase. In the meantime, you might want to wrap a blanket around your legs while you meditate.

  • Hi Bodhipaksa,

    I really appreciate your work on this website! I recently started meditating and had a rather strange experience, I would be grateful to hear your take on it.

    I started experiencing sensations of tingling/cold shivers during meditation. This is not a new feeling to me, as I had these kinds of shivers at specific times for example in church (though I rarely go), or moments of clarity when I was struggling with a decision. I believe in God, but I don’t adhere to a specific religion. I’ve had this feeling since I was a kid, that I could sometimes ask God for something and I would get it (not something material, per se). Some of the answers would be getting just the right kind of experience at just the right kind of moment, or just the right kind of people coming into my life. While these experiences could certainly be chalked up to coincidences, they have been repeatedly “tested” and I’d like to think they’re true.

    Getting back to the matter at hand, after the latest meditation session, I started asking myself some yes/no existential questions with regards to my life. I was surprised to realize I was getting yes/no answers in the form of tingles through my whole body. After experimenting a bit, I could discern two specific types of “presences”. The cold tingles I attributed to a “wise, calm entity” and the hot tingles to a “emotional, somewhat chaotic, feelings-oriented entity”. I also realised I can get them to “collaborate” by merging the feelings together.

    I know this sounds like a load of bullshit and as I have a rather logical mind, I’m struggling with these experiences. I would much rather believe these are just ways my subconscious mind is “answering” to my questions. Some placebo effect can definitely be taking place as when you look up experiences such as mine you find loads of bullshit websites describing magical entities and such.

    My questions are: Do you think there is any possibility to communicate with God in such a manner? Do you believe in the existence of entities/guides/angels that can guide our path in we are attuned to their presence (including through meditation)? Do you think it’s all a bunch of crap?

    Thank you very much for taking the time to answer all the questions people such as myself are having. Have a great day!

    • Hi, Mike. I don’t believe in god and I’m very skeptical about the existence of non-physical beings of the type you describe, but I don’t think that what you described is “bullshit” at all. I think you’re simply communicating with different parts of yourself. Feelings of any sort are a form of internal communication where a non-verbal part of the brain that nonetheless has some form of intelligence is trying to get the attention of other parts of the brain. Paying mindful attention to our feelings has an integrating effect, since we now have a chance to respond to some situation as a whole. Sometimes people are unaware of or ignore feelings and thus cut off from one intelligent part of themselves, and sometimes they are over-trusting of their feelings and in effect cut themselves off from their rationality (another intelligent part of themselves). In truth no part of ourselves is right all the time, and the more we can allow for cooperation, a kind of inner dialog, and even one part of us educating another, the more likely we are to live wisely — i.e. in a way that benefits ourselves and others in the long term.

  • I was home alone today and I decided to do a little meditation before I get to working on my dissertation. I meditated for close to an hour, when suddenly I heard the sound of pots banging onto each other in the Kitchen so I figured someone had entered the house and decided to wake up to see who it was, I opened my eyes but couldn’t move my body for about 2 to 3 minutes. Is this normal. And it turns out the pots banging were from my neighbours place but they sounded very close.

    • Hi Kay.

      You describe what you did at the end of your meditation as “deciding to wake up.” It’s possible that you were partly asleep. Or it may be that some part of you was enjoying the stillness and didn’t want to move. I wouldn’t say that not being able to move at the end of meditation is common, but I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about.

      All the best,

  • Hi,
    I went to a 10 day meditation course and I have a sense of pressure on my nose and on my forehead since then. In addition to that I have headaches and mental confusion. What should I do to get out of this pressure and get back to normal.

    • Hi, Viky. I don’t know what the people who ran the 10-day meditation course taught you, and so it might be a good idea to talk to them.

      • Hi,
        Thanks for the reply. I went to a 10 day Vipassana course by S.N Goenka. They said that it will automatically go away but it’s been 2 months and that pressure is still there. It is called as a stone head symptom in traditional meditation circles.

        • I’ve heard very mixed reports about Goenka-style retreats. I’ve never participated in one myself, and so I don’t really know what they teach or hoe it might lead to symptoms like this. I’ve been teaching meditation for close to 40 years and I’ve never come across someone that I’ve taught (or who has been a student of the many teachers I know) who has had similar experiences.

          I’ve just sent you an invitation to a closed Facebook group I participated in last year, where I shared some short meditations. I’d suggest trying those out and seeing if anything changes. It’s possible that approaching meditation in a different way might shake things up and change things for you. But, as I’m sure you’ve been told, as best you can simply accept the presence of these symptoms, and explore them mindfully. (With the caveat that if you think there’s something medically wrong, then talk to a doctor. It may be a coincidence that this started with or after the retreat.)

  • I have been doing yoga on and off for years because I’ve difficulties concentrating during meditation. Now, I’ve noticed during Savasina, I am lucid dreaming beautiful dreams. I’m flying on the wings of an eagle, I running with the wolves , chasing foxes, while they nip at me playfully, sitting on the back of a centaur while he aimed his arrows at the stars to make them twinkle. The dreams are so beautiful that I cry. I’ve noticed that I cry over beautiful things more often art, sculpture and singing. Beauty makes me cry. It’s slightly embarrassing. What is going on?

    • I really don’t know, Skyla. I’ve had periods when my dreams have been very vivid and clearly symbolic as well. Usually these are times when my spiritual practice has felt particularly alive, and I’ve felt that I was on a quest. I don’t have those dreams so much any more, which seems fine. I guess it’s like the steadiness of being in love compared to the rush of falling in love.

  • When my mind become calm I feel water droplets on my face its random some time on nose and on cheeks. First it annoyed me when saw in mirror there was no water only feeling. I don’t bother now but i am curious to know if anyone has the same feeling.

  • Hi i did a first meditatation today.
    Start was relaxing same thing felt warm energy feeling through my body.
    Towards the end i started shaking and crying is this normal

    • Hey, Lily.

      It’s not unusual to have this kind of thing happening. The warm feeling of energy in the body is quite common, and as for the shaking and crying — less so, but meditating can be a very emotional experience for all kinds of reasons. This might happen again, or it might never happen again. But it’s not a big deal.

  • Rebecca Abbott
    January 6, 2019 4:02 pm

    During a third eye opening guided meditation today, i felt this nagging rubbing at my temple, and when I looked over (in my mind) I saw a bubble and inside was me, rocking back and forth as if that was the rubbing I was feeling on my temple. My body was fully relaxed and trying to focussing on the meditation. Is this an experience that happens often, the minds coping mechanism to rid the body of anxiety during meditation? I am wondering if I couldn’t use this technique through the day.

    • This sounds very much just like a semi-dream state, Rebecca. But you’d be best asking whoever it was that taught you the meditation you said you were practicing. It’s not something I’m at all familiar with, so writing to me is like asking a tennis coach for advice about your golf swing :)

  • Clayton LeBeau
    January 8, 2019 11:22 am

    I am new to meditating, and i struggle, that when i begin to relax and quiet the mind fully, that i have the extreme urge to urinate. It feels like a strong stabbing sensation around my belly button, as soon as i loose focus it goes away, and once i begin to drift out again it returns. I have ventured to the toilet but have learned its not an actual need. Any help would be much appreciated

    • Just pay mindful attention to that sensation, in the same way that you would pay attention to your breathing. Notice the feelings and urges that arise as well, but don’t buy into them. Observe them. It’s all just stuff to practice being mindful of.

  • Hi. I wanted to thank you for posting this information. I have experienced hearing music not only during meditation but at times when I am not meditating. I experienced smoke coming from my nose and mouth once also

    • I wanted to update my first reply. I meant to say that I have experienced music when none was playing

  • Thanks for this post so long ago. I attend a Zen sangha and have been sitting for an hour per day or more for months. I am reading The Mind Illumined by Yates in the Vipassana tradition and following his advice/ instructions. My question is about body swaying/rocking. I don’t help or hinder it. I notice it. Sometimes though it is quite strong and it helps to simply observe it like I would the breath. Is swaying common? Is how I’m handling the most helpful way?

    • It’s fairly common, I think, and I think you’re handling it the right way, just noticing it.

      • I wrap my bare feet crossed at ankles in a blanket on ceramic tile floor during 30 minute meditations and afterwards find the blanket damp. Have tried this different places in my house, at satsang in library and at indoor mall where I regularly meditate. Blanket not damp where it touches my feet just where it touches tile. All these tiles are very dry before meditation. Am I drawing earths energy?

        • Hi, Nikki.

          Apologies if this is disappointing, but I’d imagine there’s a straightforward physical explanation for this. It’s probably moisture from your body wicking through the fabric of the blanket and condensing against the relative coolness of the tiles.

          All the best,

  • Thank you. I noticed it arise today in relation to body tension in relation to a painful experience. I think I’m going to seek out a face to face teacher. It’s clear to me now this is best done with some mature guidance. Thank you again.

  • Im curious to know about an experience I had on the final meditation of a vipassana retreat yrs ago. What I experienced was what seemed to feel like puffs of smoke rising from my heart.

    • There really isn’t much I can tell you about an experience like that, Julia. It sounds like the less helpful kind of nimitta experience, where the mind is conjuring up dream-like imagery. But on the other hand maybe it was of the more helpful type. They’re a kind of side-effect of (in the first case) getting a bit dreamy, or (in the second case) starting to get more concentrated. Apart from that they don’t really “mean anything” spiritually speaking.

  • Gretchen Stribling
    July 3, 2019 6:40 pm

    I was in deep meditation and I felt a ripple like a sound wave …. The ripple came out of my body from deep inside between my first and second chakra. It was a very interesting experience. Not sure what it was, but I am sure I let go of something deep.

  • Hello Bodhi, you are doing the best and would like to thank you a lot. Well, its been quite a while that I have been meditating and trying to be mindful in my every actions. Last week during my breath meditation I experienced that after few minutes my breath slowly faded away and eventually disappeared and I experienced complete silence. I felt really great and peaceful. But suddenly after 2 days it was quite hard for me to come back to the same stage of stillness that I experienced. I tried a lot to be aware of my breath but could not succeed. Now I am worried that I will never experience such stillness again. Please help me, Bodhi. Thank you.

    • It’s very common for people to have the best meditation of their life followed by the worst, because they desperately crave to repeat the experience. The problem is that the experience arose from an absence of clinging, and so trying to get back there is self-defeating. Just let yourself be in the moment, and appreciate your experience for what it is, rather than trying to make it into something else.

  • One thing you haven’t mentioned here is a sensation of traveling; as though the mind is moving along a tunnel and going somewhere. If I focus on the breath it sort of anchors me and acts as a vessel. If I don’t use the breath it’s more overwhelming and fear emerges.

    Where is this travelling feeling taking me?

    • Hi, Laura.

      This sounds like the unhelpful, dream-like kind of nimitta, so it’s probably not taking you anywhere, but is just mildly distracting. A more helpful nimitta would bring a sense of groundedness and stillness. I’d suggest paying a bit more attention to the sensory reality of the body, and seeing if that brings a bit more of a sense of being at rest. People who are prone to the unhelpful kinds of nimittas also seem to be prone to the helpful kind, so you might notice a shift into a different kind of unusual experience taking place.

      All the best,

  • its my second week of meditation, i feel like something wants to burst out of my head and sometimes a tingling sensation. since i started i have also noticed my skin has changed, its smooth with no spots. i would like to do it for longer but i experience migraines time to time. what should do?

    • Hi, Lawrence.

      It’s very unlikely that meditation is going to lead to migraines. The most important thing is just to accept the sensations you’re experiencing. Right now you’re creating a story about them. I assume you don’t really believe that something wants to burst out of your head, but even imagining that will create fear, tension, and resistance. So notice what the sensations actually are. Tension? Pressure? Look very closely and see whether the sensations that are present have a sharp boundary, or are their edges blurry? Treat them just as if they were any other sensation, and be curious about them.

  • Hi! Lately I’ve been getting deeper into meditation and what has been happening is in the middle of a sensation of stillness and spaciousness, and silencing of the mind, a strong visual memory from past places of my life appears. I might be moving around in a childhood home, seeing the environment in great detail. It’s like I’m accessing some forgotten lockers of memory. It’s tempting to follow. Is this a form the dreamy state not to give attention too, or can there be another meaning?

    • Sometimes these memories are connected with emotional experiences that we need to reconnect with, but if you don’t have a sense that there’s something significant like that going on then, yes, I’d suggest regarding them as dream-like states that can safely be ignored.

  • Hi, I’m kind of new in meditation. I started like two months ago and I had a very weird experience today during the last part of the meditation. I felt like a lot of energy in my head getting stronger, pulling me up, like warmer and the respiration was more difficult because the energy was too strong. It felt good, like pleasure, but I was kind of too strong. When stopped I felt very scared and curious as well.
    What was that? I’m doing guided meditations, should I continue doing the same one to try to repeat it?

    • Hi, Pete.

      This sounds like the experience we call piti (Pali) or priti (Sanskrit). It’s a normal pleasurable experience to have in meditation. It’s nothing at all to be worried about. It’s also best not to get excited about it, since that’s not helpful. When it happens, just let it be. I’d strongly suggest that you don’t try to repeat it — not that there’s anything wrong with the experience of piti, but that trying to make it happen is a form of grasping that will actually prevent it from happening! Piti arises from letting go. Grasping kills it. If you try to make it happen you’ll fail, and you’ll probably be as unhappy as a small child who’s just dropped his ice cream cone on the ground. So just keep practicing, and whatever happens, just notice it.

      All the best!

  • I’ve had this feeling where my body was being pushed and rather fighting it I like went with where I was being pushed.
    Eventually after 20 minutes of that I opened my eyes for no reason and saw myself (I was in the corner of the room) in the other corner on my bed. Should I be worried becuase I freaked out

    • I don’t think there’s anything to worry about, Cheyenne. The feeling of being pushed was just a feeling — an experience you were producing for yourself. And you somehow moved yourself in response to this feeling. Nothing bad was happening…

  • I started getting big red dots on my upperbody while meditating for about 10 minutes. (also my feet always fall asleep while I’m meditating, is there something I can do about it?)

    • Your feet falling asleep is almost certainly due to the way you’re sitting or the clothing you’re wearing causing pressure on the backs of the knees or on the ankles. I’m afraid I’ve no idea what would be causing the red spots, though.

  • I just started meditation 1 month ago and I have had all of the 5 types of symptoms listed above. I have almost all of them every time I meditate. The newest experience I’ve had was, while I was keeping my awareness on the black space just behind my eyes, the purple lights that were dancing, formed a walk way to what appeared to be a small door made out of the purple light as well. What I’m wondering is if this is all happening fast for me or is it normal to experience so much right away? I’m enjoying it, and it makes me crave meditating. I don’t have anyone to talk to about these things, as no one in my life meditates or knows much about it.

    • It’s quite common to experience these sorts of things early on, Amy. The purple lights and imagery that you’re describing aren’t spiritually useful, however, and becoming fascinated by them (as seems to be happening) isn’t helpful, since this keeps you in a semi—dream like state, rather than bringing about a clear state of mindfulness. So I’d suggest that let go of them when they arise, and instead turn your attention to the sensory reality of the body. You might find the clarity of the in-breath helpful in bringing about a more “wakeful” state.

  • I used to meditate quite often. Usually envisioning a white screen in front of me and slightly moving my eyes backwards. Counting numbers slowly. One day, something evil tried to cross over. It was a very powerful presence. I never meditated again.

    • Nothing evil tried to cross over from anywhere, Dan. You simply had a strong experience of fear, and your mind created a story around it. I’ve had similar experiences of hypnogogic states while I’ve been in the process of waking up, where I’ve been convinced there was an evil entity in the room. There was of course no entity. These things are simply bad dreams that we have while we’re not quite awake, not quite asleep. Still, I don’t blame you for not meditating again!

  • Love your website, its very informative, i didnt think information like this existed in the westside of the world. thank you

  • I have a Question
    Been meditating for around 1 year, many of the things you wrote here i have experience and now im experiencing something similar but in a way different, let me try to explain:

    it started happening like 2 weeks ago, i was playing with my son and then i thought something very normal but i saw myself thinking this thought then right after this i experience a form of separation my mind was not me for a few seconds i just stood there watching my mind and then i got a really scary feeling coming from my body, as if my mind is going away and it was desperate, i fell for it because i went back to identifying as me, ever since then it’s been happening often. can you point me to what this experience may be.

    • Hi, Alan.

      What you’re describing isn’t a meditative experience, but it’s something that could happen in meditation and I’m happy to address it. You saw something quite significant. You aren’t your mind, which is just a bunch of mental processes (thoughts, feelings, inner voices and images) arising and passing away. You’re not your body either. In fact there’s nothing you can point to that is the essence of who you are—not even the part of you that’s observing your mind from a distance. That’s just how things are.

      Seeing this was obviously a scary experience for you. It doesn’t have to be. It can be see as just a fact. It can be seen as a positive and liberating experience.

      I’d suggest two things: First, that you don’t actively try to recreate this experience. It’s the kind of thing that’s best left to its own devices. Second, I don’t know what kind of meditation you’re doing, but I’d suggest that you have at least half of your sits be some form of lovingkindness practice. It’s not wise to do nothing but “mindfulness-based” practice. We need to develop ourselves emotionally as well, becoming kinder, more compassionate, and more confident in ourselves and in where our practice is taking us.

      All the best,

  • There was this one time where I meditated in my bed lying down, doing breathing exercises as usual and all of a sudden I got this huge rush of energy starting from the top of my head reaching all the way down to my toes. Then my whole body started vibrating but I still stayed in the meditation with my eyes closed but then during the vibration I saw a huge yellow light with my eyes closed, it was like someone was shining a torch on my face but I was the only one home with curtains closed. Is this something you have heard of before?

    • Hi, Liam.

      I’m wondering if you read the article. As I explain, experiences of flowing energy (called “piti,” or “priti”) are quite common. So are experiences of light.

      All the best,

  • I have also been having really strange coincidences, for example I have a friend who I have had no contact with for nearly half a year and one night whilst concious in my dream he was there along with a distinguishable yellow hoodie, but I woke up the next day and thought nothing of it, however I then got a message from him asking if I would like to hang out so I did whilst also being shocked. After I had hung out with him I made my way home and I saw a man whom I’ve never seen in my life wearing the exact same hoodie as the one from my dream. I know this sounds crazy but is there logical way this could have occurred?

    • To reframe your question, have you noticed all the times you dream of things and they don’t happen in real life? Those experiences are far more common than the ones in which our dreams correspond to actual events.

      What’s interesting is that we want to believe that there’s something special about the times our dreams appear to make predictions. But there’s no need to look for things like that in order to see life as being imbued with magic. Life already is magical. Every moment is already a miracle.

      • So you are going to focus on the dreams that have nothing to do with the real world and that are made up of your unconscious thoughts throughout the day when I’ve experienced a clear event that could not be explained by neurological science? I didn’t look for things mate that shit came to me, I didn’t choose to dream about my friend in a distinctive yellow coat and I certainly didn’t go out and buy the same yellow coat to give to a stranger who I had never seen before, honestly I just think you’re full of it because you used the phrase “appear to make predictions” when if it happens with physical matter in the real world it is a prediction isn’t it

        For all I know you could just be a guy who’s bored as hell and just decides to mess with people or give half hearted answers, or to suppress what could be possibly happen to keep people in the dark because you yourself probably haven’t reached the same level as some of these people on here and that annoys you because you’ve probably put years of study into this, plus your explanations don’t really make sense due to the whole seeing lights as you don’t clearly state the cause and meaning behind the different lights and feelings, you’ve just subjected them all to Buddhist words which you belive to be true

        • You seem kind of angry, Liam. All I did was express an opinion in response to what your question — which is what I thought you were asking me to do. If you don’t want people’s opinions then perhaps it’s best not to ask for them?

  • I was meditating trying to decompress after being stressed and a hooded figure approached me and told me to look into a pool of water I looked and saw myself on an opperating table and the hooded figure lifted his hand over my stomach and pulled out a black ball of energy. I’m not to sure but I am about to have stomach surgery and have been stressed. I am also a firm pagan witch and am having a hard time figuring out if it was something I wanted to see or something real almost like a reassurance please let me know what you thing

    • Hey there. This just sounds like the kind of anxious dream-like experience we have when we’re under stress. You were probably reassuring yourself that you’re going to be OK. Good luck with the surgery!

  • hello I am very new to meditation while i was getting deeper into it i started to notice a white translucent ball form in front of me. Then yellow, green, blue, red, and purple started to flow towards this white ball continuously and wrapped around the outer portion of the ball. I could still see that the inside was white but i also saw the other colors around the ball as if it was an iris. Just wondering if me seeing this means that i am moving in the right direction.

    • Hi, Terrell.

      Thanks for writing. It’s natural to seek reassurance that we’re making progress. The real markers of this, though, are not the kind of thing you describe, but whether we’re becoming calmer and kinder. So are there times when in the past you might have got upset but now get less upset? Are there times you would have gotten mad at someone but now (sometimes at least) you are gentler with them? Are you less critical and more appreciative? Are you getting a little happier? Those are the things to look out for.

      What you describe is, like most of the dream-like imagery that sometimes appears in meditation, not significant in itself. It’s probably a sign that you’re getting a bit calmer. It also might mean that you were a little dreamy and that you’d benefit from being more vividly aware of your direct experience of the physical sensations of the body.

      Anyway, keep on going! It’s great you took up meditation!

  • Ah yes, the pressure in the forehead experience! Familiar with it. I’ve written a number of times about it at my site.

    For me, this happens when I’m fully concentrated on the breath at the nose. There occurs some pressure and changes in the feeling of the forehead. Sometimes if focused on, it launches into a full-blown event.

    The first time it happened to me I remember feeling a thin cone of concentration forming from my forehead, moving out in front of me – as if my entire forehead, then head and then body were all behind it – focused on the tip of the cone with such power and force that it was overwhelming.

    One of the most amazing experiences during meditation – ever.

    Once total concentration on the breath is attained, things start getting really interesting. :P

    Anyway, enjoyed this page a lot. Will read more of your site later. Cheers!

  • OK, i’m fairly new to meditating, but I feel like I am experiencing another life, another body, maybe i’m just daydreaming but it is like I am someone else – maybe in a former life as an observer. Anyone else had this?

    • Yes, I did experience that and have quite a lot of visions. Depending on the type of meditation that you do, this may happen if you’re prone to it. If you want do a calm one, a body scan or just observing your breath is very good for grounding.

  • Major Arvind Singh Rajawat
    April 9, 2020 5:27 am

    Good Day everyone ,
    I also felt the same like I saw two tiny dots of light then forming into one large ball of milky light and taking me inside it . I felt as if there is no body and I have melted into the universe. I kept on observing and after some 20 min I felt a sensation in my spinal cord. Now I have discontinued mediation but will start it back again.

    May I know what are those things which I had experienced.

    Major Arvind Singh Rajawat
    26th Battalion
    The Rajput Regiment

    • Hello, Arvind.

      This sounds very like a nimitta — a helpful synesthetic experience that helped guide you to a state of calmness. It’s likely that you were in some kind of jhana/dhyana state, although it’s hard to say which one.

      Anyway, the main challenge you face now is to meditate without expecting the same thing to happen again. That expectation is a form of grasping that prevents meditative absorption from taking place, and that can cause frustration and despair. So leg go of expectations as much as you can, and just enjoy each moment of your meditation practice.

      All the best,

  • I been meditating for one year. And i love it. Last night when i weditating I walk thought a white door intoo a all white room whit red and blue dot all over. Gold and yellow. And iam trying too find out what it means dont know. Help me please

    • Hi, Eugene.

      I think the most important things you’ve said are that you’ve kept up your meditation practice for a year, and that you love it. That’s fantastic! What you saw while meditating isn’t that important. It may have some symbolic significance, in the way that our dreams can have symbolic significance. Doors are evocative of moving from one place/state to another. White is a calm, pure, color. Gold is rich. So you had an experience of moving into a state of mind in which there was calmness, purity (freedom from negativity), and a sense of richness. That’s all the image means, really. It’s not a sign of some mystical attainment, or anything.

      You might find that if you recall aspects of that image, and how it felt, that it becomes easier to slip into that state again. On the other hand it might not help.

      Keep practicing! I hope you keep enjoying it for a long time to come!


  • Kileen Gilroy
    April 20, 2020 8:21 pm

    When I meditate, a couple of times my head goes all the way back and my throat is shining upwards. Any thoughts or information on this?

    • Hi, Kileen. This is the kind of thing that happens when there’s a strong imbalance in meditation. It sounds like there’s a lot of energy and excitement and not enough calm and relaxation. I’d suggest staying grounded in sensations of the body, and especially those low down in the body (diaphragm and lower). Pay lots of attention to the out-breathing. Let go of thoughts that excite you and keep coming back to the body.

  • Inge Van der deure
    May 3, 2020 10:04 am

    Im 19 and physicaly very healthy I think. i have meditated every day for about a month now. I find it very healing but also scary. Twice now have I had the feeling that my heart stopped. I think that its probably closest to body distortion but it freaks me out and it interrupts my meditation. I was wondering if maybe other people have heard of or had similar experiences?

    • In my experience this means you’re going deeper into meditation. The heart rate can slow down quite a lot and I’ve also even experienced the breath stopping. Nothing to be afraid about the last one, if you need to breathe the body will remind you of it.

  • I’ve done some research but cant seem to find any experience similar to mine therefore no answers but sometimes when I mediate just as I become more relaxed something goes in my head and it feels like my head is shaking very fast side to side making me feel dizzy and nauseous I’ve tried to go past it but it dosnt ever get easier or go away and it becomes too much and I have to open my eyes and sit up and then I get a head ache I really need help as i dont mediate much anymore incase it happens it’s not a nice experience

    • Hi, Kayla.

      That’s an experience I haven’t come across. I’m assuming you’re speaking literally when you say it “feels like” your head is moving, and that it actually isn’t moving. You don’t say what you’ve tried doing to “go past it,” but what I’d suggest is to see if you can shift your awareness more into the sense of stability and groundedness brought by the movements of the belly as you breathe in and out. Possible taking your attention away from the head might help.

  • Hi, I’m new to meditation. Just about a week. Sometimes I experieced numb from my feet and become more to the whole body until my head. It feels like goosebumb but happens in all the body. And last night is my first experience of swirling light. The color is like pink/purple and blue, these 2 colors swirling and dancing in my vision just for 8-10 seconds.

    • Hi, Zoneca.

      The swirling colored lights are something I describe above. It’s normal. It’s a sign you’re relaxing but that you’re not yet grounding your awareness in your actual sensory experience. Just keep paying attention to the actual physical sensations arising in the body, and especially those sensations that are connected with the breathing. The swirling lights will settle down and a more mature sense of calm and ease will start to emerge.

      All the best,

  • New at meditation but today when I was doing it I randomly felt like someone was smacking the back of my head until I let my neck just hang, everytime I picked my head up I would get the smack feeling on the back of my head. Is this a bad thing?

    • Do you mean you literally felt an impact on the back of your head? If so, that’s unusual, although I don’t think it’s anything to panic about.

      I’d imagine that some part of you is resistant to you sitting with your head straight for some reason. Letting your neck hang isn’t going to be helpful for your meditation practice or your body. Maybe there’s something a little “off” about the way you were initially holding your head? For example if you were holding it too rigidly, perhaps you need to find a middle ground where the head is aligned with the spine, but in a relaxed way.

      Also, I’m curious about how you’re sitting, and whether your spine is actually straight. Commonly people try to sit cross-legged without having the flexibility to do so. This results in the spine being bowed. And then the head either hangs or they use a lot of effort to keep it up. If something like that were going on with you then I can imagine that your body might send you a signal that you’re not doing yourself any favors with the way you’re sitting. I’m just, as they say, “spitballing” here. But I’d recommend checking out my posture guide.

  • Patricia Gilbert
    June 25, 2020 11:13 pm

    I was meditating today. I was so relaxed Then i seen a small black hand grabbed my fingers on my right hand. My eyes were closed. But i felt it. It felt very real. It startled me and i came out of my meditation. I’m very curious was i touched for real?

    • Hi, Patricia.

      No, you weren’t touched for real. The mind is very good at coming up with powerful, dream-like illusions.

      All the best!

  • Once I was practicing yog nidra, then at all of a sudden something really strange happened.
    I felt like I am dying!
    Really dying!
    Nothing mattered to me at that time.
    My body felt that it was melting . My hands ,legs and every other thing we’re melting. It felt very much pleasurable but I was afraid .
    Did anyone had this experience before , what is it . I found no solution of it around me,and o am chasing that experience from that day because it was very much pleasurable.
    Any clue please.?
    Please help me out with this.

    • Hi, Ravan. The kind of experience you describe is not uncommon. You were probably on the fringes of what’s called the “formless spheres” (Arūpa-āyatanas). Chasing the experience will actually stop it from happening again, since it only happens when we temporarily give up chasing or pushing away any experience, and instead simply rest in awareness. Just keep practicing, and stay focused more on questions such as, “Am I becoming kinder? Am I becoming calmer in everyday life?” Meditation is about changing ourselves, not about chasing pleasant experiences.

  • During the 20 minutes meditation maybe in the last five minutes I get the feeling my body has become numb and like a stone immovable…..why is that can anyone answer please ?

    • Hi, Charulatha.

      That’s quite a common experience. The brain is very complicated and different parts can have different intentions — for example in the familiar case of wanting to get out of bed and also wanting to stay in bed. In this case I’d imagine that some part of your mind is enjoying the sense of calm and stillness that’s arisen during meditation. Another part of your mind, perhaps wanting to get on with the next activity, is observing this stillness, but isn’t invested in it. It’s probably best to take a deep breath, to relax, and to accept the stillness.

      All the best,

  • So yesterday I was trying the Brian Weiss past-life regression session everything went good I visualized everything he told me but when it was time to see my past me I couldn’t see myself and was surrounded by clouds & light the point is I thought it didn’t work I kept trying & nothing happend so I stopped but when I stopped I felt a wave of energy it even pushed me back a little bit what does this mean or is this? I didn’t got scared I thought it was a pretty cool experience so I wanted to try it again but it didn’t work (btw I’ve never done something spiritual or meditated)

    • Hi, Ines.

      I’m afraid I can’t help here.I teach lots of different kinds of meditation, but past-life regression is not one of them. Your question is a little like asking a golf pro about a problem you’re having with your tennis backhand ?

      It sounds like you really need to talk to Brian Weiss.

      All the best,

  • I felt a wave of energy when I stopped meditating I even felt like it pushed me back a little bit I’ve never done it before so I was wondering if this was normal?

    • Hi, Alexandra.

      Sure, that kind of thing isn’t at all unusual. It’s best not to place any special significance on it either way; it’s just a sensation. The main things are: Do you feel calmer? Do you feel more at peace with yourself? Do you feel kinder to yourself and others? Those are the main aims of meditation, and the kind of experience you had is relatively unimportant in comparison.

      All the best,

  • Lately depression is taking most of my energy. I feel tired and sleepy most of the time. While falling asleep in the couch I started having the tingling sensation all over my body, I could hear the tv and my son talking but couldn’t move, I saw a magenta color as large as my body floating around 2 feet above me and I couldn’t move. It happened in the past but it was like a white fume without shape. This time took a lot of effort to wake my self completely. I never experienced anything like this. Can someone guide me?

    • Hi, Suzy.

      I’m sorry to hear about the depression you’ve been experiencing.

      It sounds like you were in a semi-meditative, semi-sleep state. As I mention in the article, people seeing colors in meditation is common, especially when they’re becoming relaxed but haven’t yet learned to root their awareness in a vivid experience of the body. It’s not of any great significance, so I’d suggest not getting hung up on the experience. Some time that you’re feeling a bit more emotionally in balance, you might want to try meditating, preferably in an upright posture, and either focusing on your breathing or on developing kindness. You’ll probably find it very rewarding.

      All the best,

  • Thank you for this article and your website which I find very helpful as a beginner practitioner. Now I know I have been experiencing a form of “sam?patti”, I often feel absorbed in bright light which does give a nice peaceful feeling, even after it’s gone it keeps me happy for sitting with myself. It is not the first time I read that I shouldn’t pay much attention to this experience as if it was a “trap”. Interestingly, I’ve never seen swirling lights in my meditations but I had many dreams with swirling lights the first 3 weeks after I started to write them down! What a coincidence (or not!).

    • Hi, Celine.

      If the light is steady and observing it of being absorbed in it brings a sense of calmness, then it’s a nimitta, and it would be best to keep doing what you’re doing.

      All the best,

  • Thank you for this article. I feel a lot of pressure in my scalp. I also feel tingling in my head after meditating. My son who is 12, sometimes likes to chant ‘Om’, just 21 times. He says he feels tingling in his hands just after. I sometimes worry if he is too young for this. not sure if anyone knows. Thanks again!


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