My Body Moves during Meditation. Is this Normal?
Yes! Meditation can make a lot of different things happen to your body!
It all depends what type of meditation we are doing, and how aware you are of body sensation. Some people are very aware of their bodies, others, not so much. I like to think of the purpose of meditation is to increase your ability to direct your attention to all your senses. Collectively, all of senses make up your consciousness.
Your senses can be external, such as sight, hearing, taste, smell, and touch. Or they can be internal, both the sensations inside your body, and also emotion, thoughts, memories, and imagination are can all be considered consciousness senses. We use our internal consciousness senses to get information about our internal world, just like we use our external consciousness senses to get information about the external world. We also have senses that we use to get information about the subconscious world that lies behind our everyday awareness. These senses are instinct, intuition, abstraction, psychic senses, and creation.
What all meditations do in some way is shift your attention from one sense to another. If shifting your attention is done carefully, systematically, and deliberately, it will firstly make you more present to the world around you, then eventually allow to reach a transcendent state where everyday reality fades away and you become aware of the deeper, abstract world of our subconscious.
The difference between meditation techniques is essentially how that particular meditation technique goes about shifting your attention.
For instance, Dr Joe Dispenza explains this by saying that when we go from a narrow focus on objects and things, to an open focus on space and on nothing, our brain state changes, and moves from beta to alpha brain waves. Dr Dispenza’s meditation techniques are skillful blend of self-hypnosis and the open focus technique which was originally developed by Lester Fehmi. You can find out about the history of the open focus technique at Openfocus.com
If we have first focused on sensing a body part, then shifting your attention to a more open, abstract focus on space often seems to trigger interesting physical sensations as your attention moves ‘out of’ your body. These may include pain, tingling, warmth, tension, sudden surges of emotion, or our bodies jerking, stiffening or shivering. These effects can be very powerful. While doing a very deep emotional release meditation, I once experienced my throat constrict so much I couldn’t breathe for several minutes.
These effects appear most powerful when we direct our attention to particular areas. In the Indian Verdic tradition, there are points or lines on the body called Nadis, which we are directing prana (life force) to or away from. A new age way of explaining this might call them energy centers, and use ‘elevated emotion’, ‘attention’ or ‘awareness’ to refer to life force. I prefer just to use the term attention, because it is simple and has fewer mystical connotations.
A lot of people can get quite carried away with the idea of energy centers. Meditating on your energy centers can be valuable as one form of meditation practice, but these techniques have a tendency to have a lot of mystical beliefs associated with them. We have to be careful that we don’t just become attached to the mystical beliefs, instead of actually spending time improving our skills at navigating our consciousness.
As we improve our attention management skills and practice shifting our attention from concrete to abstract awareness, we can eventually teach ourselves to disassociate with our body completely. When that occurs, people feel like they are falling, spinning, or travelling through space at high speed. If you do not know what you were doing when this occurs, it can be disconcertingly weird at best, terrifying at worst.
Because of how weird these ‘out of body’ experiences can be, it can be tempting and get you lots of attention to assign mystical stories and meaning to these experiences. (“I travelled to an alternate reality and talked with Angels”). At one time in my own meditation practice when I was practicing a lot of deep emotional exploration techniques, things were getting a bit weird, and I succumbed to this too. But in reality, if you meditate for a while with different techniques, all of these experiences could be considered ‘normal’ and ‘expected’ results of your growing skills at meditation. It’s just the brain trying to comprehend us doing something it is not used because we have mastered changing our brain state.
With a guided meditation, often you have no idea what the person that designed the meditation is trying to do or the effect it will have. Many guided meditations contain elements of hypnosis, which can be very powerful, and they can contain hidden cues to trigger body sensations in order to make you believe the meditation is being effective. I’m a fan of guided meditations, because they can accelerate how we learn, and take us to very interesting internal experience that we might not get to on our own.
As you get more experienced as a meditator, you should be trying to understand how to direct your own attention deliberately, so that you have become the cause of the things that occur in your meditation, and it not just being a wild ride designed by someone else.
About the Author
Peter Hill loves to take time to think and feel deeply. Over thirty years, he has studied and practiced dozens of meditation, self-development and spiritual techniques. Guided by neuroscience rather than mysticism, his mission is to teach people to live better lives by using their consciousness more effectively.