Common problems in sitting meditation: headaches and eyestrain
Headaches and eyestrain is a common problem for many meditators who use the area around the upper lip and/or nostrils (anapana region) as a meditation object. They tend to look at that spot with their eyes closed, hence the build up of muscle tension.
Eye muscle tension occurs namely in the medial rectus muscle and the inferior/obliquee rectus muscle. The function of the medial rectus muscle is to turn the eye towards the midline and nose, while the inferior/obliquee muscles are responsible for vertical movement, in this case depression of the eye, i.e. looking downwards.
Some meditators falsely think that doing something with their physical eyes will actually produce the nimitta. Nothing in the practice is the result of doing anything with the physical eyes.
The solution to the problem is to first and foremost stop looking at the nostrils. That is very difficult in the beginning but after a while it becomes easier. Start by doing short meditation sessions such as a couple of minutes and then progress to 5, 10 minutes and so forth.
Before beginning meditation try to relax the eyes. This can be done in several ways:
Consciously place attention on the eyes/eye sockets and try to relax them. Be aware of how the eyes move during meditation and if they begin to turn towards the nostrils or upper lip, then again try to relax them. When meditating the eyes should not do anything at all. They should just be relaxed and not moving.
Try these stretching exercises for the eyes. Follow the instructions given. These exercises should be done 3 times a day. They work both as a preventive measure and treatment for headaches caused by tension in the eye muscles.
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