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Problems with meditation

Discussion in 'Spirituality and ME/CFS' started by Lucinda, Sep 19, 2010.

  1. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    I am Buddhist, and try my best to practice meditation and mindfulness as often as possible.

    However, I find meditation a real struggle due to my noise sensitivity.

    My body reacts to even the slightest amount of noise. It just seems to go into a panic. I'm very hyper sensitive and react strongly to stimulus (and as such I cannot leave the house much) - though noise is the worst.

    However, I live in a family home where there are always people in the house, and well, they create noise.

    Usually when I am not meditating, I deal with the noise by using ear plugs, ear muffs, playing white noise, or playing soft classical music (which I do not find disturbing). However, when I meditate I find all of these things a distraction and so cannot use them. As such I always end up reacting badly to the noise, and it frequently means I cannot really get into the meditation. This is very frustrating, as on the rare occasions I do get silence, I love my meditations and really get into them, and feel so much better afterwards.

    So I guess I was just hoping that other people may have some tips on dealing with this. Does anyone else find their noise sensitivity disrupts their meditation practice? And have you found a way of dealing with it?

    I have tried just trying to let go, and keep my focus on the practice, but my body reacts so extremely (my heart will race, I'll get palpitations, I'll hyperventilate, and just generally feel panicky like I'm being chased by a tiger or something!) that I just don't find this cuts it.
  2. Tom

    Tom windows exterminator

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    Hi Lucinda ,
    Try to look at the whole picture of your 5 senses ,vision , smell, taste, hearing and touch , all or any combination of these senses can cause severe problems for the individual.
    The information is gathered by each and then directed to a specific part of the brain. This part of the brain is probably suffering from chronic inflamation and likely has a build up of toxins.
    When the information inputted by the senses gets there , it gets scrambled and for example the sound of a pin dropping may turn out like a drum machine at full volume inside your head.
    This can happen with the input from all 5 senses.
    What to do?
    Perrin Technique.
    As well as treatment there are some simple things that any individual can do for themselves to stimulate the drainage of toxins from this part of the brain. These are listed in the thread Perrin Technique on DVD.
    Once the levels of toxins are reduced and inflamation reduced the sensory overload problems will begin reducing until they are all gone.

    Tom
  3. helsbells

    helsbells Senior Member

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    Honestly I haven't been able to affectively meditate since I became severely affected. I tried special yoga classes for PWME's really gentle - it wasn't just the noise/startle thing for me but just general concentration - I really feel like I have ADD these days. I am sorry to hear the noise stimulus is so powerfully detrimental for you.
  4. justy

    justy Senior Member

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    Helsbels, i was interested in your mention of startle. I have a very exagerated startle reflex, which pings of in my body at the same time as the noise etc. I thought i was the only one who had this, i have had it since childhood and it is most disturbing!

    Sorry Lucinda, not hijacking your post! i have replied to you elsewhere. xxx
  5. Sallysblooms

    Sallysblooms P.O.T.S. now SO MUCH BETTER!

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    I helped noise sensitivity (low Seratonin) with supplements so that is 90% better. It was awful before that.
  6. helsbells

    helsbells Senior Member

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    My partner came up behind me as I was at the sink the other day and started to speak - I didn't stop screaming for about 10 seconds (and I mean really screaming) which in turn frightened him to death. Sorry Lucinda I will keep quiet now just wanted to say I have bad form for this kind of behaviour.
  7. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    Thanks for your replies.

    I'll check out the Perrin thread, Tom. I have heard the Perrin Technique recommended before. Have you had it yourself?

    And sorry to hear you cannot meditate at all, helsbells. I know how frustrating that is. When I first learned meditation about 4 years ago I was a heck of a lot more ill than I am today and really could not do it. It was so frustrating, and I struggled for years, trying it on and off, but always ended up giving up or just having the most pointless meditations when I didn't really enter into it at all.

    However as my health started to improve (as a result of regular acupuncture) I started getting a little more success. Then, about 6 months ago I got to the point where I could meditate on 'good' days. Now I have progressed to being able to meditate most days. But, as I say, as soon as my meditation is interrupted by noise, it all goes very wrong and I usually have to stop. Most frustrating, as when I do get silence, I often find meditation quite blissful. It is one of the few things left in my life that I truly love and haven't had to give up due to my health!

    Sallysblooms - yes I remember you mentioning this to me on another thread. As far as I remember, you have a doctor who has prescribed you supplements haven't you? My NHS doctor certainly wouldn't do that, and there don't seem to be any private doctors in the area that know anything about ME. I am trying out supplements myself though but I have to experiment on my own as when I bought up the topic of supplements to my doctor her attitude was very much: This isn't my area, but experiment if you want to.
  8. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    And no need to apologise regarding the discussion on the exaggerated startle reflex. It is very relevant. I get this too and I think it is all part of the same thing - hypersensitivity, noise sensitivity, being on edge, being easily startled, I think they are all part of the same problem. I guess it's a general problem with the brain/body overreacting to everything, like everything is perceived as a danger.

    I absolutely hate people slamming doors/cupboards as it startles me. People often slam doors when I am meditating and it puts me into such a panic. Same when the dog suddenly starts barking. It can take ages to recover from it.
  9. Hope123

    Hope123 Senior Member

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    Well, I'm not much of a meditator but have done some in the past. Some possibilities are:

    - talking to your family about setting aside a time of day when they could be quieter to accomodate you

    - realize that you can't control the noise around you and meditate on the noise itself -- e.g. listen on purpose to what is going on around you
    and when your mind gets distracted pull yourself back to listening
    (what I've found is that you don't need to focus on just breath or just silence, you can focus on mental images, on a flickering flame, even the neighbor kid badly practicing her violin, etc.)

    Here's a quick Google of a similar concept: http://www.wildmind.org/background/noise

    I don't have noise sensitivity but in order to focus as well as I can, I don't listen to anything while trying to read, watch TV, etc. -- one thing at a time for me.
  10. Tom

    Tom windows exterminator

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    'Morning Lucinda,

    http://www.forums.aboutmecfs.org/showthread.php?572-Perrin-Technique-on-DVD&highlight=perrin

    I meditate , I'm also a Reiki Master and have been on the Perrin Technique treatment for over 3.5 years .

    The area of your brain that is mainly affected also controls different parts of your nervous system , sympathetic etc.

    I've found that it is better to deal with the cause rather than use masking techniques , and I do'nt think focusing on the "noise" would be helpful,may drive you nuts.

    If you read the info on the Perrin Technique or buy the book , it really helps to explain what this disease is doing to your body, and it also ties in with other scientific explanations of what is going on.

    Whilst waiting for a "cure" or "treatment " from the NHS (could be the 12 th of never) you need to do what you can for yourself.

    Avoidance and pacing can only do so much , meditation likewise.
    It takes another step to improve your QOL and regain some functionality.

    Tom
  11. Luke

    Luke ooph

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    Hi Lucinda,

    I don't know whether it would be appropriate to the type of Buddhism you practice but I wonder whether chanting may be an alternative for you as it would provide a more active focus and could potentially mask the intefering noise to some extent.

    I was living in an ashram when I first got ill and it was in my meditation that I first noticed it. It gradualy destroyed my ability to concentrate and achieve any sense of spaciousness. I now find using mantras, both out loud and internally to be a more effective option for me.

    Another thought, though I understand still a very different experience from 'pure' mediation, would be to try and find a guided meditation of some sort that suited your tastes.

    Off the top of my head I wonder whether creating some sort of affirmation to use when a noise occurs could be helpful. Maybe something like;

    " I gratefully acknowledge the exitance of others around me and remain at peace with myself"
    or
    "I greet this noise with compassion and include it within my peace"

    I'd also think of trying some throat chakra focussing and just relaxing your tongue right into it's root in the throat.

    I try to practice a form of medtitation on bodily sensation where I locate the associated physical sensation that comes with an emotion or idea and use that as a source of focus. This tends to reduce it's emotional impact and dissipate the associated physical reaction. I find it lets things 'pass through ' me more and not get amplified so much.

    I might also think of using an internal thought stopping technique like just saying 'STOP' to yourself when you sart reacting.

    It's a tricky thing though, I know all of these are quite invasive upon the meditation process but they could potentially allow you to get some rather than no benefit.
  12. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    I was part of a Buddhist group where I was able to do chanting, but have been unable to find chants either in print or audio versions in the years since going (though there are some available with music in the background). Is there a place to look for simple written versions of chants?
  13. Luke

    Luke ooph

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    Are you looking for something from any particular tradition zoe?

    Loving your art by the way. I find ink painting is one of my most meditatively absorbing activities. I often paint after I chant. And some times chant to what I paint.
  14. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    Hi Luke,
    Thanks for your thoughts on this. I can't say that I paid strict attention to the tradition, but they are of the Tibetan vajrayana lineage, but I can't recall the more complex chants (basically I can recall a Tara chant and om mani peme hung) but there were others that went on for a page or so. I suppose I miss the activity as a group as well. I haven't found a way to change that yet. I also recall a song "Like a dream, like an illusion Like the city of gandharvas...." that I sing to myself on occasion. Ink painting sounds very interesting! I think I have been practicing drawing/painting with it very abstractly, but I imagine there is a more specific type that you are speaking of.
  15. Recovery Soon

    Recovery Soon Senior Member

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    The real purpose of meditation as you probably already know is to be with things as they are moment to moment. So, instead of interrupting your meditation, your noise sensitivity IS your meditation. Whatever comes up in the field of awareness is what we are focusing on. Trying to deepen into meditative states is not the real purpose, that's just striving for a goal; the real purpose is to allow things to be as they are without judgment. Of course, this is extremely difficult to do- especially in your case. But this is where the liberation comes from.

    I've been meditating fairly intensively in Vipassana for 11 plus years (But I am not a Buddhist). But my practice had only taken off since I came down with CFS four years ago. For the first year I shrugged off meditation because I thought the symptoms were too distracting. But then I realized that meditation was the only medicine I really had- so I began going on intensive week long retreats and such. Now my meditation is primarily focused on sick feelings, which are themselves very "distracting." But really they are not distracting, they are what is present in the moment, so they get my full attention, much like your reactivity to noise is your experience, which warrants your attention.

    This is a radical shift, but in my opinion it is where the rubber hits the road in meditation. It's easy to say you want to meditate when you are healthy, and you can sort of bliss out on the breath, and enjoy the great sensations. But when you can accept everything as it is, even the unacceptable, and be vigilant with your efforts to sit and examine, and not recoil, you begin to liberate yourself.

    If you're Buddhist then you are probably familiar with the 2 arrow story. The Buddha said there are 2 arrows of suffering. The first arrow is pain, which is unavoidable; the second arrow is your resistance to the pain, which is optional. Your noise sensitivity is not optional- it unfortunately will happen whether you like it or not, much like my headache, sore throat, etc. But your resitance to that noise sensitivity is optional. If you closely examine it, as difficult a task as that is, you will learn from it, and not create stories about it, project into the future, etc. You are probably doing this now. This does not mean that you will automatically stop resisting, but if you put your attention on the resistance itself when it arises, this will begin to paradoxically lessen your resistance. Basically, if you mindfully observe whatever comes up, moment to moment, and see nothing as a distraction, you will experience greater and greater liberation.

    It's not easy. It requires a shift in how you look at things, and some tenacity. That's why most people don't do it.

    I never would have thought this possible. But now, I find myself waking up at 6AM every morning and simply watching pain for 45 minutes. As it turns out, this object is no greater or less than the breath, a mantra, what have you, as an object of attention.

    And it seems to stop the second arrow. I'm in great discomfort much of the time. But I'm not suffering.
    Soporificat and CJB like this.
  16. Luke

    Luke ooph

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  17. Victoria

    Victoria Senior Member

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    Lucinda,

    Are you well enough to try some walking meditation. Concentrating on each step might be useful to reaching a more meditative state, than being at home sitting (when a loud noise seems more disruptive).

    Slow, mindful walking works well for me.
  18. zoe.a.m.

    zoe.a.m. Senior Member

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    A lovely thread to find updated after a night awake and the sun rising... Recovery soon: what an incredible post! I admire how well you put into words your decade+ of practice. It brings to me the memories of why it all felt important to me when I came upon it, and how I turned my back (and have remained tilted) due to personal setbacks and illness. What guts you have and a sharp mind! Thank you Luke for continuing the search. It was nice to delve into what it was I was trying to remember since it brought me to searching about the group I once practiced with, Shenpen Osel, and was able to find several of their publications online which brought me right back to those days. I agree with Victoria that the walking meditation is a way to focus on 'one foot in front of the other.' Sometimes it is the only meditation that can come naturally to me because I can find myself in the middle of the opportunity. Also the concept of listening to the noise and observing what it brings up in you... I know of meditation directions related to this in a non-Buddhist book. I can say I finally have made peace with the noise I have where I live (and it's a peaceful place) and am moving very soon away from the these sounds and am noticing them so much these days and am worried about what will replace them and what I will lose (hence the chord struck about resistance).
  19. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    Thanks for all of the responses. I'll try and reply individually.

    Hope123 – Yes I have talked to my family. The thing is they don’t really get how sensitive I am, and so usually make enough noise to set me off whilst not realising it.

    And yes, I have tried meditating on the noise itself, but I’m afraid it didn’t help. My body panics no matter what I do mentally. I know, I have experimented a lot over the last 4 years.

    Tom – Thanks, I’ve checked out the Perrin Technique thread. Will look more into it as it really interests me and there are therapists in my area that do it.
  20. Lucinda

    Lucinda Senior Member

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    Luke – Hi again :)

    Sorry to hear that CFS gradually ruined your ability to meditate. That must have been esp horrible considering you were actually in an ashram at the time.

    Your suggestion to chant instead would certainly be a great idea though if it wasn’t for the fact that I often find speech very draining. I ration my speech hugely. I don’t know how normal this is for CFS, as the few people I have met with the illness didn’t seem to have trouble with talking at all, but I just find every word I speak is a drain on my energy and must be kept to a minimum else my symptoms worsen.

    However, I do use chanting a little when I am well enough, and do find my noise sensitivity less of a problem when I do, but it is not something I could practice for very long, nor could I do it every day.

    As for a guided meditation – yes I sometimes do a guided ‘body scan’ and find that helps a tiny bit as I am focusing on the person’s voice. However, I do not find it helps significantly. On another forum though I did see someone recommend a ‘meditation machine’ that plays soothing music: http://www.meditations-uk.com/products/inner_pulse.html I did think that focusing on the music would reduce the problem of me being sensitive to my family’s noise, the only thing is, it just doesn’t look like ‘real’ meditation to me. I just thought it may help me achieve a state of relaxation, but that isn’t really the same thing as meditation.

    As for your other suggestions, yes, I have tried similar things before. I have never found that such techniques have had a significant effect – my body still panics – but sometimes I find they help reduce my emotional reaction. I will experiment some more.

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