In the last couple of months, I have experienced a chronic headache in my forehead and after checking with doctors etc nothing could be found. I then kind of had the intuition it could be related to my meditation practice. It's more the 2 years I meditate daily for 20/30 minutes or more. I have come around some articles online reading that focusing on the breath (especially in the nostrils, which I used to do) could lead to an accumulation of energy around the third eye chakra, and it seemed to me my pain felt exactly like this. I have now taken a break from my daily practice and the headache got much better and nearly disappeared, but as I stopped meditating I really miss the peaceful state of mind and presence I had when I meditated daily, so I would like to start again soon. I would be so grateful to get tips from you on this.
In the last couple of months i have experienced a chronic headache in my forehead and after checking with doctors etc nothing could be found. I then kind of had the intuition it could be related to my meditation practice. Its more the 2 years I meditate daily for 20/30 mins or more.
Are you meditating while "looking" at your nostrils with eyes closed?
If so, that creates tension in the eye muscles, namely the medial rectus muscle and the inferior/obliquee rectus muscle. The function of the medial rectus muscle is to turn the eye towards the midline and nose, while the inferior/obliquee muscles are responsible for vertical movement, in this case depression of the eye, i.e. looking downwards.
This is a common problem for many meditators who use the area around the upper lip and/or nostrils (anapana region) as a meditation object. They tend to look at that spot with their eyes closed, hence the build up of muscle tension.
Some meditators falsely think that doing something with their physical eyes will actually produce the nimitta. Nothing in the practice is the result of doing anything with the physical eyes.
... I have now taken a break from my daily practice and the headache got much better and nearly disappeared ...
This further supports the hypothesis that the pain is caused by muscle tension in the eye muscles.
The solution to the problem is to first and foremost stop looking at your nostrils. That is very difficult in the beginning but after a while it will become easier. Start by doing short meditation sessions such as a couple of minutes and then progress to 5, 10 minutes and so forth.
Before meditation try to relax your eyes. This can be done in several ways:
- Consciously place attention on your eyes/eye sockets and try to relax them. Be aware of how your eyes move during meditation and if they begin to turn towards the nostrils or upper lip, then again try to relax them. When meditating your eyes should not do anything at all. They should just be relaxed and not moving.
- Do these stretching exercises for the eyes. Follow the instructions given. These exercises should be done 3 times a day. They work both as a preventive measure and treatment for headaches caused by tension in the eye muscles.
Hope this helps.
By the way, I'm a meditator and a licensed physiotherapist.
Could you tell me what is your object of focus? Have you been concentrating on, for example, the space between your nose and your mouth?
If that's the case, I would recommend that you choose a different region of the body. Lower abdominal area, about three fingers below your naval, would be an option. Some Chinese masters believe that women should concentrate instead on the big toes or the bottom of the feet.
In any case, I think pushing the focus on the lower parts of the body will help. If this doesn't help, you should go talk to an experienced meditator.
The Buddha did not teach to observe breathing at the nose tip. The Buddha taught to simply let go and give up craving. Just sit quietly and naturally. The mind should be "open" rather than "focused".
i really miss the peaceful state of mind and presence i had when i meditated daily
There are other forms of meditation. We sit a lot in our offices. Perhaps sitting meditation is too much on top of that. Since I started walking meditation listening to suttas, much has improved for me. If you walk outdoors in western cultures, please do wear a yellow road work vest. I have had the police called on me when I wasn't wearing such a vest. Kind neighbors had thought I was in need of assistance wandering aimlessly. Yellow road vests offer instant and proper seclusion accorded to those who work. Earbuds also help regardless of whether you are listening to anything--"here is someone busy listening".
If you wish to download audio material for walking meditation, please see SuttaCentral Voice Assistant. SuttaCentral Voice Assistant lets you search for any sutta by English and/or Pali phrase (romanized or accented). You can play the suttas on your desktop bilingually with each text segment in Pali/English. You can also download an MP3 for any supported sutta (over 3000 and growing). SCV does also have links to other audio resources such as Pali Audio for certain suttas, but its own voice coverage of the suttas is, I believe, the largest currently. For example, I listen to DN33 daily. It is two hours long. We are continually expanding SCV's sutta coverage in English and, hopefully, eventually to other languages.
If this is indeed a problem with forcing your eyes into a strenuous position to maintain focus somewhere, I've found a way that allows me to have my eyes rest, while still having them act as a center of focus.
- Reach your hand out in front of your eyes, with you eyes open.
- Focus on the position of your hand in front of your face, and learn to "feel" that position.
- Once that's comfortable, close your eyes (with your hand still outstretched where it was), and again, focus on the position of your hand without seeing it.
- Once you can easily focus on your hand without seeing it, lower your hand, and again focus on that same area; now occupied by empty space.
I've found the empty space in front of my face to be a very relaxing place to focus. I often use this to help me fall asleep. I haven't tried transferring this over into meditation (I really should practice meditating more), but I can see this technique being applicable.
Try a meditation practice like ‘Loving kindness meditation.’ Here, you first direct loving-kindness to yourself and gradually extend to people you know and even to enemies (if you have any) at the end (you should be able to find more info regarding this meditation on the web). Another thing to try is to simply observe your thoughts – how they come and go. Then, “I miss the peaceful states” becomes merely another arising and ceasing thought. This meditation would also lead you to peace.