Questions on involuntary body movements

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This topic contains 28 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Samuel 2 weeks, 1 day ago.

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  • #2389

    Samuel
    Member

    Given my current medical situation, I’m concerned by the prospect of experiencing involuntary body movements. I’m wondering what the involuntary body movements experienced in meditation are like. I was also wondering if there are any strategies for reducing their intensity or avoiding them altogether. Given my health, I would be fine with slowing down my meditation progress in order to reduce their intensity level.
    Thank you,
    Samuel

    • This topic was modified 6 months, 1 week ago by  Samuel.
    #2391

    Ted Lemon
    Member

    What is your current medical condition?

    It’s hard to answer the question on body movements because it’s different for everyone.

    #2392

    Samuel
    Member

    The connective tissue in my arms and hands is injured. The result is that stretching motions drain a nontrivial amount out of my physical endurance and harsh stretches can injure me. I learned the hard way, to give you an example, that shaking people’s hands is bad for my health. Involuntary body movements in my arms could theoretically cause serious damage in the worst case, and unnecessarily drain out of my endurance in the best case.

    #2393

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Samuel,

    Not everyone experiences involuntary movements during meditation. I don’t really know the percentage. Some people have very gentle movements like swaying or the twitching of a finger or thumb. However, some people do experience very strong involuntary movements.

    Have you had any indications that you might have some of these movements? How long have you practiced, and how long do you typically sit?

    As you approach the higher stages, it is more likely, but some experience this during the lower stages.

    Blake – Dharma Treasure Teacher

    #2397

    Samuel
    Member

    Hello Blake,
    I have been practicing for 4 years, started practicing TMI about a year ago, and am currently at stage 4. I’ve also started practicing Dzogchen longde about a month ago and am rather enjoying it.
    I practice meditation lying down, after discovering that the connective tissue in my legs doesn’t like sitting meditation. I lie for an hour at a time doing 2 meditation sessions. During the 1st session, I practice Dzogchen, and during the 2nd session I practice TMI.
    I have already had intense involuntary body movements in my toes, which occur almost every meditation session. Occasionally my legs move a little bit and every once in a while I involuntarily sit up. I’ve also found I sometimes involuntarily raise my hand, but this is mild enough and rare enough that I am hardly worried about it.
    I am concerned however, by the idea that this is supposed to intensify in the later stages.

    #2401

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Samuel,

    Thanks for the additional information. Have you noticed any difference in movements between TMI and Dzogchen practice?

    One thing that you might try is when you start to have involuntary movements see if you can notice any subtle body sensations prior to the movement. You can switch and make this your object for awhile.

    I have found this practice helpful. It seems that if I am aware of these pre-movement sensations the actual movement is less likely to occur. They seem to be energy currents.

    Of course, if you do this practice to try to make the movements go away it will probably make them less likely to go away. You want to try to have equanimity and a sense of exploration.

    You could also try the body scanning practices introduced in stage 5 to see what effect it has on your practice.

    Please keep us informed of what you learn.

    Blake – DT Teacher

    #2402

    Samuel
    Member

    Hello Blake,

    Thanks for the advice.

    I have noticed that involuntary body movements happen more frequently when practicing TMI. Also interesting to note: I took a break from TMI to explore different styles of Dzogchen practice and had an increase in movements after returning.

    #2403

    Samuel
    Member

    As an update:

    Thus far I have been unable to detect any special sensations before involuntary body movements. I did try the body scanning technique during the beginning of my meditation session last night and had a decrease in movements. I also found that after using the body scanning technique I was often able to detect involuntary body movements shortly after they were starting and stop them.

    • This reply was modified 6 months ago by  Samuel.
    #2410

    Hi Samuel

    As Blake said, the amount and intensity to which involuntary movements happen varies significantly. For some, they are super intense…. I’m one of those people. For others, such as Culadasa, they are minimal… as I can recall all he had was some thumb twiddling. Thus I understand your concern and think it’s wise to be prepared and at the same time realize that you may not experience anything beyond what you’ve described above.

    One thing I would suggest if they do become intense is relax and back off on watching the breath so intensely. Intensity of focus seems to increase involuntary movements in my experience. You could even just drop the breath completely and move into an open awareness… which you may be doing in Dzogchen practice. Then return to the breath but don’t be so concerned about discerning details. Just have a gentle and general sense of the movements of the breath, enjoy the stability without the intensity.

    Hope this helps
    Matthew

    #2411

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Samuel,

    The sensations prior to movement can be quite subtle. I usually have to shift my attention away from the breath to a spacious body awareness to feel them. Continuing with the body scanning will give you more sensitivity to subtle sensations. This sounds like this could be a good practice for you.

    I concur with Matthew that if I have more spaciousness around the breath the movements are lessened.

    Blake

    #2429

    Samuel
    Member

    Hello,
    I thought I would provide an update. The involuntary body movements started to intensify and occur in daily life. Some of the involuntary body movements I had could’ve killed me if I was driving a car at the time. I decided to respond by abandoning my formal TMI practice for now and focusing on Dzogchen. Thus far, this is working well for me. My TMI practice has done a good job of preparing me for Dzogchen and I can practice full-body mindfulness during my physical therapy exercises without involuntary body movements. I have recently found myself becoming much more mindful in daily life than I used to be and am starting to have direct experience of the Dharmakaya. While I don’t expect to return to concentration meditation for a while, I would like to thank this community for the invaluable resources it has provided. Without them, I probably wouldn’t be ready for Dzogchen right now.

    #2433

    Blake Barton
    Keymaster

    Hi Samuel,

    Thanks for the follow up. It may help someone else down the road. I am glad you found a practice that is working for you, and you are welcome for any assistance that we provided. Best of luck.

    Blake

    #2434

    Samuel
    Member

    Hello Blake,
    to provide some extra information, I found that the Dzogchen approach to concentration meditation didn’t cause intense body movements. It is important to note, however, that the practice gets very different results than TMI and is aiming to prepare the practitioner for something very different from insight meditation.

    Samuel

    #2446

    JavaJeff
    Member

    Samuel, could you elaborate on this please? How is the end result of Dzogchen different than the end result of insight meditation? Thanks, Jeff

    #2450

    Samuel
    Member

    Dzogchen does not end in dispassion.

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