Recommendations to work with strong Piti in the lower stages

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  • #2972

    Andreu
    Member

    Hello,
    glad to be a new member of this community, I have been reading posts for some time and they have been always very helpful.

    I have searched for recommendations to work with strong Piti in the lower stages (3,4,5), I have found some information in this community and other places but I haven’t been very successful applying them so far.

    In my case, the Piti sensations appear in every meditation session from the beginning, this has happened for the last few weeks. The Piti is localized in my face and head as very strong pressure sensations, as if somebody was pressing balloons in different places of my face increasing in intensity up to fingers pressing on my face when it gets stronger, paired with some visual light phenomena and faint ear ringing. The Piti also affects the overall texture of my awareness or conscious field, it is very energizing but very disrupting and distracting, everything seems distorted and restlessness keeps growing during the meditation session, sometimes it makes me stop around 40-50 minutes instead of sitting the whole hour. Do you have any recommendations about how to continue my practice so I can overcome stages 3, 4 and 5 without the Piti sensations being too disruptive of my concentration?

    Recommendations that I have found and tried but haven’t work so well:

    – Relax the mind: As the mind relaxes the Piti grows stronger.

    – Relax the body/Release body tension: If I relax the body too much I get involuntary neck movements (kriyas?) and spend the whole session involuntarily stretching my neck, which feels nice but I lose all concentration and don’t meditate at all. The movements are very wide random stretches to the sides, backwards or rotating, not a repetitive movement that can be easily incorporated to the concentration.

    – Try to feel the sensations before the Piti arises: Faint Piti is already present when I’m relaxed or concentrated in normal life. When I meditate it immediately arises as soon as I close my eyes and it gets quite strong while counting to 10 by the time I get to 3-4.

    – Use your attention to break any energy “blockages”: I can use my attention to “massage” the Piti sensations and attenuate them until they become two long “veins” on both sides of my face, they don’t appear to be flowing from or to anywhere. But I have to keep my attention there constantly reducing the Piti, as soon as I go back to the breath the Piti increases again.

    – Use the stage 5 body scan: I use the body scan often, I can find subtle breath sensations around my body, but as any form of concentration or relaxation it increases the Piti localized on my head.

    – Expand the awareness to include your body: There’s so much energetic stuff going on on my awareness that if I keep my awareness wide I get easily distracted and thoughts creep in, usually if I do this the discursive mind comes back sneakily and I revert to Stage 3 with forgetting the breath often.

    Methods that have “worked” and I’m currently using:

    1 – “Following” the breath very closely: Since this strong Piti started happening, this is the only way I can concentrate enough to achieve Stage 5 without gross distractions. Without this method I seem to remain on Stages 3 or 4. But the method is quite intense and the restlessness keeps growing. Is it a good idea to continue with this method until my concentration grows strong enough to work even when strong Piti is present or the Piti decides to dissipate?

    2 – Allow my awareness to be “absorbed” by the Piti while keeping my attention on the breath: I can not do this consistently. I have managed to do it about 3 times when I have a lot of energy and the Piti starts very strong and overwhelming from the beginning. To do this, I’ll keep my attention on the breath but consciously energize the Piti even further and allow it to “absorb” my awareness. As the Piti grows stronger it seems to “smooth” and shift from physical to more visual light phenomena, which makes it still very energizing but less distracting and producing not so much restlessness. It would be nice if I could do this consistently but it seems to require a lot of energy and usually doesn’t work at all.

    Do you have any recommendations regarding my current methods and any other recommendations you may think are helpful to work with strong Piti?

    Thanks!

    #2974

    Hi Andreu,

    The description you gave of your experience of piti in the early stages is very similar to my own.

    One of the things about piti is that it’s very compelling, and so attention is naturally drawn to it. At the same time, bringing attention to the piti tends to increase its intensity, so it’s easy to get into a cycle of ‘piti intensification’ that can result in very wild and agitated meditation sessions. With that in mind, you want to work with piti in a way that avoids this cycle of intensification (unless you have very specific reasons for intensifying the piti).

    Here are a few things you may wish to try that I found to be helpful:

    1) Try your best to let go of any resistance to, or struggle against, the piti. See if you can treat the piti as just another sensation, even though it can seem somewhat strange and intense. Being equanimous with the presence of piti, just as with any other insistent distraction, can go a long way towards letting it ‘sink into the background’ so that you can have more continuity of attention on the meditation object. The equanimity will also help take some of the ‘energy’ and intensity out of the restlessness that can accompany strong piti.

    2) I found my attention very strongly alternated with the piti sensations in the face, and at times it seemed impossible to keep attention from doing this. If you notice something similar happening, it’s ok. Until you get to stage 6, this kind of alternation is fine – it doesn’t mean that you’re back in Stage 3. To take the ‘pressure’ off needing to isolate your meditation object in a sea of intense piti, you can even allow the sensations of facial piti to be incorporated into your meditation object, so that your object is a combination of piti and breath sensations at the nose. I’ve found that this kind of ‘hybrid’ object allowed me to stop fussing with the fact that the piti kept capturing my attention, and made it easier to be equanimous with the whole thing. This, in turn, improved the continuity of my attention. Doing this also didn’t seem to intensify the piti, perhaps because the breath sensations were still part of the meditation object (i.e. piti was not the sole object of attention)

    3) When it comes time to be more discriminating with your meditation object, such as in Stage 6 and higher, especially if you are doing close following, it helps to take a more metacognitive perspective (in fact, doing this can be beneficial earlier than Stage 6 if you have enough metacognitive introspective awareness to do it). Everything arising in conscious experience, including the piti, is part of this vast field of conscious awareness. Allow it all to unfold before you, almost as if the field of conscious awareness was this large TV screen in front of you on which everything plays out (don’t actually visualize a screen or anything, this is just a metaphor to help you get into a more metacognitive perspective). The function of attention is to highlight particular portions of this field. You can think of it like the tuner dial on a radio. As you turn the dial, different frequencies are emphasized and others fade out. It’s very similar with attention in the field of conscious awareness. Turn the knob on your attention dial until your attention is tuned to the meditation object such that everything else is allowed to fade into the background. By doing this, you aren’t doing anything to suppress anything else in the field of conscious awareness (including the piti), you are merely choosing what you wish to tune into (the meditation object).

    Basically, when working with strong piti, regardless of what stage it arises in, the name of the game is to get to a place where the piti sensations are just sensations, and no more or less important that any other. The less you make a ‘story’ out of the piti, the less its sometimes intense and chaotic nature will interfere with the continuity of attention.

    Also, be aware of any tendency to ‘indulge’ in the piti. Intense, chaotic piti can have quite an allure and make it feel like you’re a pretty amazing meditator (don’t ask me how I know this 😉 ), so take care to not be doing anything to intensify it to have a really cool and exciting experience. BTW, I’m not saying that you’re doing this, but it’s something to watch for because I’ve done it in the past and I’ve had students indulge in it too =)

    As you pointed out, as the mind gets calmer, the piti tends to increase. That’s perfectly fine (and expected) and so just do your best to take that in stride. Eventually, the piti matures into a beautiful meditative joy, so this rocky period is very much a temporary thing =)

    Hope that helps!

    Cheers,

    Nick (DT Teacher in Training)

    #2978

    Andreu
    Member

    Thanks Nick, that’s very helpful!

    Regarding your point 1) I’ve tried to set the intention to let go any resistance and be equanimous as soon as I feel that the Piti starts producing restlessness. That together with the close following that I indicated in my post seem to help a lot and make it very easy to sit for the whole hour and have a pleasant session instead of growing restlessness and having to apply constant willpower to remain meditating. The crazy Piti still remains in the in the background or slips occasionally to the foreground but doesn’t affect the quality of my experience as much. So this makes things much easier going forward with my practice.

    About point 2) I was already doing something similar, it was pretty much impossible to try to “fish” the breath sensations out of the Piti or filter them out so instead I try to concentrate in whatever zone the air flow is clear whether this is the skin on my nose or how it affects the Piti surrounding that zone.

    I have also tried your recommendations from point 3), I don’t have the mindfulness or mental power to keep the metacognitive introspective awareness going on for the whole session, but I have managed for some brief moments to experience the meditation object and background Piti in that detached “TV screen”-like way you described. I’ll try to keep working on making this more stable and durable. Seems like a great way to improve my mental power and mindfulness in preparation for the next stages.

    Do you have any recommendations regarding the Stage 5 body scan? In the TMI book it seems that the body scan is used for increasing mindfulness but also for judging the vividness of the meditation object to detect subtle dullness. Even with all the Piti I can detect some dullness at times, but using the body scan to judge the vividness of the breath doesn’t work so well as it also increases the Piti. I can also make the breath more vivid by re-energizing myself from the Piti so that part doesn’t seem so important. Would you recommend to use the body scan to judge vividness? Or would you use it as a separated tool just for increasing mindfulness and let the Piti take care of the dullness?

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

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