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meditation 101: working with vertigo

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What a weird sensation. Here I am, happy as a clam, spending a few days at the monastery when, all of a sudden, I experience a prolonged sense of vertigo. I’ve had this several times before over the years; no reliable explanation or antidote. To the observer I appear healthy and upright, but inside my head everything’s spinning . Yesterday I was able to cope by sitting still and lying down at my own pace. Today, the monastic schedule once more dictates our activities and I had to make it known that I couldn’t do my share of chores.

My teacher has experienced similar symptoms herself and, as a MD, explains possible causes and conditions. Dr. Google mentions Vestibular Balance Disorder  replete with a map of the ear (above). Lacking a thorough examination and proper tests, we’re left with  educated guesses. I’m sent to lie down and dinner will be brought to me.

But what if it’s something horrible; what if it’s a brain tumour? It might well be a tumor, or the rare Fred Myers Disease, or an aspect of ageing, or something to do with barometric pressure in the Columbia River Basin. Endless possibilities; as many as a busy mind can conceive.

I lie down, prop my spinning head on a pillow and bring attention to the breath. That much I know: I’m inhaling and I’m exhaling, circa 17 time each minute; rib cage and belly expanding and contracting. Everything else is projection and fabrication. Gradually anxiety subsides and direct experience informs my awareness. It’s calm at the centre of the hurricane.


10 responses »

  1. peter, I am sorry to hear this. Barring any medical reason, I wonder if this sensation has only come up when meditating and if it reminds you of any past occurence in your life? The reason I ask is because it reminds me a little of a very strange experience I went through on a ten day silent Vipassanna meditation retreat years ago. A while before the retreat I had been involved in a car crash and during the retreat I experienced, very vividly, all the PHYSICAL sensations my body had gone through during that crash – IN SLOW MOTION! It was as if it was on a loop, constantly recurring throughout the ten days, hour upon hour…all day…every day… each minute detail of the way my head and body had moved during the whiplash etc was relived over and over in slow motion! My body involuntarily going through the actual movements as I sat on the chair. It was quite disturbing at the time but I now believe the retreat gave the opportunity to allow a traumatic experience which had got “stuck in my body” to work its way out, as I was consciously totally unaware of these sensations at the time of the accident because I blacked out. Your experience may be nothing like this, but it reminded me so I thought it may be worth mentioning? Whatever is going on for you, I hope you are able to observe it happening from a peaceful place, and of course don’t hesitate to consult the medics if necessary!!

    healing wishes,


    • fiona!

      your story and wishes go straight to my heart. thank you for taking the time to write and to share your experience. many causes for what ails the body; always fruitful (I find) to pay close attention and to listen inside. may you be happy this and all days, pain and suffering and all.


  2. sorry, forgot to put my name before posting the above…why do I do that?! : )

    • perhaps “why” is less important than to note that you ARE adding your name at all. thank you for writing, Fiona. Fiona. Fiona.

  3. Hi Peter, no good idea myself, but it does sound like the sort of thing that Chinese (or Korean!) traditional medicine might have a good answer for.

    A lot of monks and nuns from the meditation halls (3 month retreats) come down with similar symptoms. It’s often described as heat rising to the head. Treatment would depend upon the individual, and the doctor, but in very general terms, rising energy is associated with a lack of internal energy/weakness. Dairy products, intense sugars, and poor quality wheat and oils are often associated with this.

    If you’re sensitive to how foods make you feel, look for food that causes a feeling of the energy settling down, of your lower belly area relaxing, and the relaxation of the area around the eyes. Be careful of food/activities that cause the opposite feeling.
    Hope there’s something useful here!

    with palms together,
    Chong Go

    • thank you Chong Go Sunim — I’ll pay be paying special attention to the food you mention. also to bring awareness to my ‘hara’ (chi), centre of belly energy to ground me. may you be well! peter

  4. I have had vertigo (related to a flu) and it is the most disconcerting feeling. It was after a surgery I was anxious to leave behind and Chong Go Sunim points out it was definitely a time of depleted energy. Lots of emotional stuff went with it too.
    Hoping this sympton will point in the direction of healing. Prayers to you, Peter

  5. thank you for your kind blessings, carole. vertigo: another finger pointing to the moon. may you be happy. peter

    ps: may your body heal after the accident I just read about.

  6. Wishing you better, Peter
    And holding you in my thoughts.

  7. Dear Daishen…

    Listening to the postings, each one searched experience and then offered what was learned…

    so I ask…
    is it really about vertigo?
    or is the lesson only wrapped in vertigo…

    from my own experience…
    when my ‘plan’ is overwhelmed
    even if I thought it was a really, really good plan!
    I hear it as a call to prayer…

    and my heart sings

    Psalm 84
    Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    in whose heart are your ways,
    who trudging through the plains of misery
    find in them an unexpected spring,
    a well from deep below the barren ground,
    and the pools are filled with water.

    They become springs of healing for others,
    reservoirs of compassion to those who are bruised.
    Strengthened themselves they lend courage to others,
    and God will be there at the end of their journey.


    Amen = it is True


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