Caffeine problems?

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This topic contains 10 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  dcurtis 1 month, 2 weeks ago.

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  • #3245

    dcurtis
    Member

    I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced problems on and off the cushion as a result of using caffeine.

    I’ve noticed it off cushion, but it wreaks havoc with actual sitting practice. Monkey mind, scattered attention, uncomfortable feelings and emotions that hinder any attempt at stable attention. I’ve quit several times, for as long as ninety days. Within a few weeks of quitting, the problems go away. The mind rests more easily on the breath (although not to fully stable attention, but the promise and opportunity is apparent)

    Off cushion, it makes remembering to bring the attention back to the breath/present moment very difficult. Same for bringing joy to the mind.
    I’ve tried smaller doses/quantities, and that doesn’t work for several reasons.

    Just wondering if others have found it necessary to quit in order to further their practice.

    #3246

    Eve S
    Member

    Hi there. I have not had the same experience with caffeine. I think this one of those things that you have to experiment with and do what works best for you.

    During daily life, I drink a cup or two of coffee in the morning. It brightens my mind, but does not provoke any buzzing or static. I have experimented with periods of abstinence, and haven’t found that much of a difference. I also continue to drink a cup in the mornings on retreat. When I advance to stages 7+ I generally stop because the mental energy is already pretty powerful and I can have trouble sleeping.

    All that said, I have had friends quit the coffee and say it changed their life. That leads me to think that sensitivity levels vary person to person. It sounds like you might be one of those people that is more sensitive. As I’m sure you know, there are many alternatives from tea to running to cold showers 🙂 Good luck!

    #3248

    Tony-James
    Member

    Hey Dcurtis,

    I used to consume a lot of caffeine before I started practicing Vipassana and my tolerance was apparently high. To a point where I would use the caffeine pills instead of drinking coffee. When I was at a meditation centre for about a month, I wasn’t drinking anything that was very caffeinated I believe. Only tea at best, mostly herbal but I may have had some black tea. Later on into the month, the last few days, one of the teachers gifted us with some chocolate covered coffee beans. I ended up having a decent amount, around 10 probably, and I went to my room during the break time and felt these very strong anxiety sensations in my heart/chest area. It felt like I was in fight or flight mode. Caffeine targets your nervous system so I’m guessing that my awareness was good enough to pick up on this process. Your solar plexus, I think, has a lot of nerves in that spot. I stopped drinking caffeinated stuff, or at least slowed down dramatically since. It’s pretty much synonymous with anxiety/fear type emotions to me now. I feel like meditation in the morning and just an overall knowing that tiredness in the morning will wear off, has been a factor in my less caffeinated diet.

    Wish you well!

    #3254

    dcurtis
    Member

    Thank you for the replies both of you. I’m surprised more people don’t have an issue with this, to be honest, as we’re such a heavily caffeinated country and culture. Energy drinks galore, Starbucks on every corner, and independent coffee shops are near ubiquitous.

    Apparently I’m just unusually sensitive to the stuff. I have been down to about 10 ounces of strong tea in the morning (after I sit) and I can *still* feel it the following morning when sitting. It makes it hard to keep the attention in on the breath. More than usual that is. Like Tony James said it creates unpleasant sensations in the solar plexus area, and generates the fight or flight response. Not a good combination for progress.

    #3256

    Florian
    Member

    Hello dcurtis

    Just ran into your post and wanted to reply affirmatively to you and Tony-James:
    I observed the very same thing as you do.
    A certain low amount of caffeine will have positive, energizing effects on me, but as soon as I consume too much it’ll ruin my day:
    Anxiousness and irritability followed by feeling worn out and overly tired (when the high wears off).
    The effects will be felt firstly and stronger in meditation.
    Afaik there’s even some research on the very same thing, rememer having read of some kid who developed a caffeine dependency problem with Coke

    Maybe try something else than coffee: green/black tea or mate. Maybe even thinned out with some water.
    Tbh: best thing seems to be to get off caffeine altogether (not that I managed yet)

    All the best
    Florian

    #3261

    dcurtis
    Member

    Florian,

    Thanks, it’s really helpful to have your experience mirrored by others. It at least tells me it’s not my mind playing games.

    I agree, the best thing is to be done with it. I had my last dose of caffeine on Monday, and I tapered down gradually for a week or so. Strangely, the first two days were no problem. Then today the wheels fell of. It was hell. I got through it, because I can’t stand the way it makes me feel, and the negative impact it has on my practice.

    I’ve heard that after you get through the withdrawals, and your body and brain (and adrenals)have fully recovered, you feel great, and you actually have more energy than when you were using caffeine.

    Thanks for your reply

    #3279

    Gilbert R
    Member

    Early on in my meditation career I started out meditating with relatively high levels of caffeine (ie 1-2 cups of coffee). The caffeine appeared to help make the sits more enjoyable and productive. As I progressed with meditation I naturally started tapering over the years. I found myself becoming more sensitive and needing less caffeine. I switched to tea and I liked that for several years. During these years, I did sometimes notice some of the “negative” effects that others have reported.

    From what I’ve been able to gather, caffeine is merely an apparent external tool that can help to regulate the energy level of the mind. If one is chronically mentally drained or dull(many people), caffeine appears to help at least temporarily. Naturally there are side effects and crashes to this approach. For those who are actually naturally hyped up (too high energy level of the mind), caffeine actually can serve the opposite function and lead to calming down or even sleepiness. There are side effects and problems with this approach as well. In the long run, it does seem to be best to reduce one’s reliance on an external supports to regulating the energy level of the mind. In the short run, caffeine is sometimes very helpful.

    #3281

    Florian
    Member

    Hello again.
    Haven’t found the article that I mentioned before, but stumbled onto another one on caffeine addiction:
    Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda
    All the best

    #3335

    dcurtis
    Member

    Florian,

    Just now seeing this. Thanks for the link. In line with the idea of a caffeine use disorder, I discovered there’s actually a twelve step group for caffeine addicts. Obviously some people are pretty seriously affected. I know it seems absurd to many, I’m sure. Yet, considering the way it affects my moods, sleep etc, I don’t find it so ridiculous.

    Anyway, thanks again.

    #3337

    Alex K
    Member

    I have done “no caffeine” for a while and still very mvery mindful about my intake. It is a very interesting way of watching habits, cravings and seeing the effect it has on energy and sleep requirement. If you are on Reddit you might want to check out r/decaf for tips and experiences of others. Beware that many people there seem to be extremely affected and promote a zero tolerance policy: No caffeine ever again

    #3339

    dcurtis
    Member

    Alex,

    That’s kind of where I’m at – zero tolerance. All caffeine does is make me feel like crap, and ruin my sleep. All benefits disappeared months and months ago. Yet there’s the habituated element which keeps me running to something that only interferes with my practice on and off cushion.

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