Tremors which last

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This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Will 10 months, 2 weeks ago.

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    Hello all,

    I’m a 28 year old male, and over the last couple years I’ve had serious issues with anxiety and insomnia, so let me just put that out there. I’ve been noticing slightly shaky hands for the last couple months or so, practicing TMI in the meantime, but nothing noteworthy.

    I have just come back (~6 days ago) from a retreat which emphasized metta practice. I struggled with sleep rather severely on the retreat as well as since then.

    The first time I experienced full body shaking was just after I entered a jhanic state for the very first time of my life. It was not particularly pleasurable in the sensory sense, but afterwards I was trembling all over and very excited. This precipitated about a week of serious sleep deprivation, as well as internal tremors which seem to grow and shrink, but which are nevertheless there all day.

    This intense internal tremor seems to increase during metta practice, and it’s not clear whether the sleep deprivation has caused it, or the practice, or some interaction of the two. It is there all day, throughout the whole body, and rather intense — as if I’m plugged into an electrical socket. Buzzing, vibrating, chattering, shaking, fluttering — all these words describe what I’m feeling. I wouldn’t describe it as pleasant.

    To illustrate the extent of what it’s like right now, if I put my teeth very close together, I can feel them chattering slightly. This is strongly amplified if I do this while looking upwards (back of neck bent.)

    I was wondering if this sounded familiar to anyone here. In other words, has anyone had trouble sleeping and/or lasting tremors when practicing metta (or just intense meditation more generally?)

    • This topic was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alec.
    • This topic was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alec.
    • This topic was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alec.

    Doug Tataryn

    Hi Alec

    Its great to hear you have managed to settle into some early jhana states, particularly with the level of anxiety and insomnia that you seem to have been living with a long time. The symptoms that you are describing suggest that the meditative process is doing what it tends to do, shake loose the internal emotional and psychological debris that tends to get repressed or dismissed and ignored in our journey from childhood to adulthood. This topic of “purification” is something that we have spent a lot of time discussing in out Teacher Training program with Culadasa. It’s an important process to understand and to work with.

    The simplest suggestion I would give is to try and find the feeling and emotional elements that might be associated with the trembling (fear?), and tense jaws (hard to speak you truth, express yourself?). The kinds of thoughts that might fill your mind at night while you are unable to sleep may also give you hints as to the emotional content. For example, constantly thinking about what you should have said to your boss or significant other might mean you are feeling insignificant, inadequate, helpless, abused, used, etc. What we ahve learned over the last decade or so is find the feeling and express them, usually with a good cry and you will find yourself much more settled in general and also while trying to meditate.

    I hope this was helpful. Good luck with things and let us know how it goes.

    Doug Tataryn
    TMI Teacher in Training



    Doug, thanks for the comment.

    What I got from your reply is reassurance — that this may not a sign that something is wrong with my body (and so much seems to be going haywire these days) but that the process is (might?) be going as it should be.

    Given my tendency towards anxiety (which alone can cause shaking) I was now worried that I had developed essential tremor or something, which gave me a fright.

    Of course, if my description sounds off and you think I should see a doctor, that would be good to know too.

    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alec.
    • This reply was modified 10 months, 3 weeks ago by  Alec.

    Blake Barton

    Hi Alec,

    I have had similar experiences in meditation where my teeth chatter and I have difficulty sleeping, particularly on retreat. I (and the teacher I was working with at the time) attributed it to a side effect related to piti (meditative joy). You might want to look up Meditative Joy (piti) in the index of TMI. While piti is meditative joy it can produce quite a few weird side effects (like spontaneous movements) while it is developing, and you may not necessarily have much joy at first. It can also raise energy levels and feel like too much coffee, and can also feel pretty similar to anxiety.

    Metta practice is a form of samatha practice which can cause quite a bit of piti to arise. I recommend trying to get your sleep back to normal. Grounding activities like exercise, heavier food, and long walks can help bring the energy levels down. You might also consider not meditating in the evening if you are currently doing that, and maybe cutting back on your total meditation time until things stabilize. If you are susceptible to this type of energy, doing a meditation technique while going to sleep can be counterproductive because it raises energy levels.

    Best Wishes,
    Blake – DT Teacher


    Doug Tataryn

    Hey Alex, I am glad you came to see that what you are going through is fairly normal and expected and that is comforting. I am not sure what you mean by “<I am> now worried that I had developed essential tremor or something”, other than it sounds like your are concerned that there is something wrong with you that isn’t normal. I doubt that, but it is your life and body and such and you have to make those kinds of decisions. I would continue to encourage you to try and find the feelings behind your concerns, perhaps even make that a focus of your meditation for a session or two. Best of luck

    Doug Tataryn
    Teacher in Training.



    Hey Alec,

    There was another thread regarding Anxiety and Insomnia back in April 2018 which I contributed to, in case you’d like to check it out:

    Having worked with both Insomnia and Anxiety for a long time, I can definitely understand and relate to your experience and the continued interaction with those things and your meditation. I think the above advice is great, and the linked thread also has some great advice. I would encourage a balance between working on your meditation, making healthy lifestyle choices like Blake suggested (diet, exercise, supplements, sleep hygiene), and as necessary traditional western psychology – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    It can be easy to get caught up thinking that meditation is the one true God-solution to Insomnia/Anxiety, but from my experience it’s better to treat it as a _component_ of the solution. As Doug said, meditation is great at bubbling up “purifications”, some unconscious material that is causing issues behind the scenes, and this itself can be healing. Meditation in general is also great at cultivating an attitude of acceptance towards your current state, and somewhat ironically, with increased acceptance of sleeplessness, _sometimes_ improved sleep can come. You could also choose to do forms of meditation before bed that are more relaxing (I do a super light bodyscan for 10 minutes).

    I personally would also recommend doing your own personal investigation in to some very light supplements to aid sleep. This is a very slippery topic because it’s possible to dose too much, to become addicted and reliant on your Sleep Aid, using it as a crutch. It’s important to cultivate an attitude of acceptance towards whatever your state is, rather than a weary yielding and giving up and simply swallowing a sleeping pill each night (I’ve been there). From this place of acceptance, and with the right attitude towards medication, if you choose to look in to this I would recommend checking out:
    – low dose Melatonin (0.3mg) taken every second night (right before sleep) for a given period (say, one month).
    – Magnesium supplements (~1hr before bed)

    At the moment I am doing my own experiment with CBD which so far seems good but it’s too early for me to recommend it from personal experience.

    Very happy to talk more if you think it would be helpful, and good luck with your journey!

    – Will, Culadasa Teacher in Training since January 2018



    I also forgot to mention, depending on the nature of your insomnia, if it feels more mental (lots of thinking and planning and remembering etc.), or if it feels more bodily (restlessness, tension, pain), it may make sense to look at practices for the body, e.g. Yoga, or breathing exercises (pranayama, or simple 4-7-8 breathing can be very effective – you can find explanations on youtube). It can be good to create a toolbox of techniques that you can experiment with and use the right tool based on how your anxiety and insomnia are presenting themselves at the time.

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