I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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James the Giant
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I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by James the Giant » Wed Apr 11, 2012 12:09 pm

I have just completed a 10 day meditation course, and I have a horrible itchy red spotty rash on my torso, front and back.
I have gotten psychosomatic itchiness before on meditation retreats, but nothing like as bad as this. This is almost intolerable. Aiyaiyaiyaiiii!
Itchy itchy itchy.
And of course scratching the rash just makes it worse.

It is not due to any environmental or chemichal factors, or diet. I've pretty much ruled them out I think. nothing much has changed from how I was at home, and besides, this has happened at three different meditation centres.

Volunteering and working at meditation centres and monasteries is fine, but as soon as I hit about day 7 of a ten day retreat, I get itchy.

What do do?
What to doooooo? Man, itchinesss drives ya crazy I tells ya!
The teacher on this recent retreat just said Relax, take it easy, don't push so hard , which is good common sense.
Problem is, I have tried striving less and not being so intense in past retreats, and I feel llike it's just a waste of time if Idon't push myself. I certainly don't get such good cocentration or insight when I take it more easy.

But maybe, maybe, my body and mind is telling me, "James, sorry buddy, but you just need to chill out and slow down, we aren't designed for such intensity. "
(hmmm, that's a bit of a dualistic imaginary conversation, but you get the essence!)

So, any suggestions or advice?
I'll check back here in three or four days, I'm a bit out of contact at the moment, being at a monastery and not online every day.
Thanks!
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

santa100
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by santa100 » Wed Apr 11, 2012 1:48 pm

The best way is to check with your family physician to identify the root cause. I don't think meditation caused this. Instead, meditation could make the rash go away faster.. :smile:

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Ben
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Ben » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:40 pm

James, go see your local pharmacist or doctor.
Wishing you all the best,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Goofaholix
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:50 pm

James, I take it as you've ruled out enviromental factors that you're still in the west, not in the tropics yet, if you are in the tropics then climate might be a factor.

Could the laundry detergent you are using, or are you doing it by hand and not rinsing it all out properly be a factor?

Otherwise i think you've just got to work with the sensations and use it as an opportunity for learning and letting go, if it's not occuring off retreat I'm not sure a doctor is going to bve able to help much.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Ben
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Ben » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:17 pm

Hi Goof,
Goofaholix wrote:Otherwise i think you've just got to work with the sensations and use it as an opportunity for learning and letting go, if it's not occuring off retreat I'm not sure a doctor is going to bve able to help much.
It could be completely psychosomatic. However, a topical cream that treats the symptoms and reduces the itching may reduce the annoying distracting factor of the phenomena and allow James an opportunity for practice. Its not unusual for psychosomatic symptoms to manifest during retreat. I had an extremely difficult time in Myanmar with a psychosomatic illness manifesting but I couldn't have completed the course without seeing a doctor and getting pain relief. I think we need to judge for ourselves when something becomes too much of a distraction to allow us to practice effectively on a retreat and take appropriate measures to alleviate the distracting symptoms.
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

Yana
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Yana » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:20 pm

hi,

I've never experienced this before during meditation.But the best way is to check with a doctor.They can run some tests to find out what's causing it.

Hope you get better soon :namaste:
Life is preparing for Death

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Goofaholix
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:34 pm

Ben wrote:It could be completely psychosomatic. However, a topical cream that treats the symptoms and reduces the itching may reduce the annoying distracting factor of the phenomena and allow James an opportunity for practice. Its not unusual for psychosomatic symptoms to manifest during retreat. I had an extremely difficult time in Myanmar with a psychosomatic illness manifesting but I couldn't have completed the course without seeing a doctor and getting pain relief. I think we need to judge for ourselves when something becomes too much of a distraction to allow us to practice effectively on a retreat and take appropriate measures to alleviate the distracting symptoms.
kind regards,
Yes if it's too overwhelming one needs to reduce the symptoms, if it indicates possibly a bigger medical problem it needs to be investigated.

However if it's not then the practise is about sensation (if he's doing the Goenka method as i know he's done before), so trying to avoid sensation that is unpleasant but not harmful and should be tolerable for a hardened meditator is just the opposite of what should be happening.

Saying that these symptoms are distracting demonstrates missing the point of the practise.

A little itching never hurt anyone.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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Ben
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Ben » Wed Apr 11, 2012 9:47 pm

I absolutely agree with you Goof. My reading is that it appears to be more severe than a mild rash.
Anyway, I wish James all the best.
with metta,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Anagarika
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Anagarika » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:29 pm

The rash could be an opportunistic issue related to your immune system, much the way that people get hives when they are stressed or worrying. A long meditation retreat or sesshin certainly can be a physically and/or emotionally stressful process. The remedy can be the use of an antihistamine or steroid. These rashes are not a per se autoimmune disorder; some people just get these blotchy rashes as a response to physical exertion (exercise) or stress.

I'm not a doctor, but I played one on TV.

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James the Giant
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by James the Giant » Fri May 18, 2012 7:29 am

Thanks for the replies, and sorry for the delay in my reply, I have been busy busy busy with dhamma-related stuff, staying at monasteries and suchlike.
The itching stopped within 5 days of leaving the meditation centre, and I've talked with a couple of monks about it, they think it was caused by stress or sankharas arising.
I also saw a doctor and she gave me a couple of different kinds of antihistamines, neither of which worked, and she concluded it was probably stress-related.
So it was basically Hives, caused by pushing myself too hard in meditation.
And I really was pushing myself. I got "results" though; one day I only lost my awareness three times, for less than 20 seconds each.
Next retreat I sit, I will try with a different attitude, more relaxed. Less of the relentless active awareness, more of an open, receptive awareness.
And if the itching arises again, It's JUST itchiness.
It's funny how I lost sight of that fact in the midst of the discomfort. It was intense and horrible, but in nthe end it was just itchiness.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11

nobody12345
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by nobody12345 » Mon May 28, 2012 6:22 pm

James the Giant wrote:Thanks for the replies, and sorry for the delay in my reply, I have been busy busy busy with dhamma-related stuff, staying at monasteries and suchlike.
The itching stopped within 5 days of leaving the meditation centre, and I've talked with a couple of monks about it, they think it was caused by stress or sankharas arising.
I also saw a doctor and she gave me a couple of different kinds of antihistamines, neither of which worked, and she concluded it was probably stress-related.
So it was basically Hives, caused by pushing myself too hard in meditation.
And I really was pushing myself. I got "results" though; one day I only lost my awareness three times, for less than 20 seconds each.
Next retreat I sit, I will try with a different attitude, more relaxed. Less of the relentless active awareness, more of an open, receptive awareness.
And if the itching arises again, It's JUST itchiness.
It's funny how I lost sight of that fact in the midst of the discomfort. It was intense and horrible, but in nthe end it was just itchiness.
I think you are on the right track since you began to see it as just itchiness and without creating too much related baggages around it.
I can related to your situation since I developed various pain and discomfort around one year ago.
And they are here to stay and jumping up and down and yelling at me like good pawns/soldiers of Mara to draw my attention.
Too bad for them that I don't pay that much attention to them.
If it's medical related problem then it's another story but in your case (my case as well), it appears to be non-medical problem (and they are not uncommon).
So just keep marching on.
Let them keep yelling, jumping up and down, screeching, and berserking.
It's not your problem.
And they all cease too just like all the formation within Samsara.
Last edited by nobody12345 on Tue May 29, 2012 1:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

manas
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by manas » Mon May 28, 2012 7:17 pm

Hi James,

a herbal cream that helps alleviate itchy rashes for me, is 'chickweed gel' by the manufacturer, 'Greenridge'. Unlike pharmaceuticals, it is natural, with no cortizone or other nasties. Take note, there is 'gel' and 'ointment' and while they are both good, they are for different kinds of rash or itch...

Might be worth a try. I usually find it at quality health-food stores. But there are other herbal formulations for different kinds of itches or rashes too, that a qualified person could help you discover.

:anjali:

geckobeach
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by geckobeach » Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:28 am

Hi James and all others who entered into this discussion.

I have had the same experience with Urticaria and, considering it has happened on several retreats at different centres and that nothing (diet or environment) could be attributed, it is, I have concluded, the result of rising Sankaras. I could be completely wrong on this but symptoms and 'stuff' arising seem to always correlate. And yes, continuing to meditate seems to be the best form of defense, IF you are in a position to do so. :jumping:

Currently I am in East Timor self-funding several projects with the more vulnerable, of which there are plenty. ET is a difficult country and many opportunities for falling back on compassion are indeed made available to you. The problem is I attempted to meditate last night for a mere 15minutes (I admit I fell asleep sitting up and had to retire) but awoke half through the night with Urticaria on my neck and chest. Despite them showing no indication of working in the past, I've opted to take antihistamines on the off-chance this has been triggered by an allergic reaction but, from previous experience, all indications are that it is most definitely NOT. I actually joined this site looking for answers and yours was the only post I came across.

Attending vital meetings, conducting lengthy training sessions on depleted energy and dealing with the heat, dust and on-going stresses the 'dynamic' Timorese culture offers up, the last thing I need is this terribly distracting and, visually, embarrassing rash. And I know from experience that working through whatever has brought it up is, of course, the best approach....only NOT RIGHT NOW. So my choice for now is to 'sit on my sankaras', do my six very intense weeks in Dili, and deal with the underlying issues when I return to Australia. The downside of this being I CAN'T MEDITATE WITHOUT THIS CONDITION ARISING AND I WANT TO!!!!! Lets face it if just 15 weary minutes can bring such a condition on..oh dear. So James I can fully empathise.

Yeah Chickweed cream could be effective. I use what I have on hand here (Papaya Ointment) which seems to at least ease the itching if not the physical symptoms. Considering several doctors have confessed to me that modern medicine still doesn't fully understand the condition, you would have to land an extremely dedicated one for 'a visit to the doctor' to be of any particular use. However Ayurvedic medicine talks of such conditions arising from excess pitta so that may be worth some research. If, like myself, you are devoted to continuing your practice this may be of some help. Also on one retreat I attended at Blackheath I applied chamomile tea and that was particularly soothing. It's not that I have concern for the condition arising as a physical symptom of arising 'stuff'.....just not right now... :clap:

All the Best from Timor-Leste

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Mkoll
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Mkoll » Mon Aug 25, 2014 3:42 am

geckobeach wrote:Currently I am in East Timor self-funding several projects with the more vulnerable, of which there are plenty.
:bow:

All the best in your work. And I hope you find a way to ameliorate or remove your condition.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

Andrea Mandal
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Re: I have a nasty itchy rash from meditating! Help!

Post by Andrea Mandal » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:03 pm

Hi James
I too get hives outbreaks after intense meditation...often. I get migraine (they can be caused by air pressure from airplane travel) and even meditating when i have early symptoms of one can bring on hives for me.

I have had this response since contracting Lyme Disease (although it is unrecognised in Australia we believe that's what i have) and one of the symptoms of the condition is hives.

I can't tell you why, or how, but i can tell you what alleviates and prevents it for me. Zinc. Very simple, best in liquid form but any will do. Zinc regulates histamines.

If i get hives i'm generally low in zinc. In fact i have a wee outbreak now. I was meditating on the plane i recently took to Timor-Leste, which i often do if i can't sleep. Bam!....Hives within 12hrs.

2 catches with zinc:
1. try to ingest it with a little citrus juice (lemon/lime/orange) as it prevents stomache disturbance.
2. Be aware it can reduce your magnesium levels so it is best to supplement your magnesium when taking it.

I also "go hard" when doing retreats, but i always have, and these symptoms did not arise until 16 years ago when i got sick from tick bourne illness (which we believe is Lyme Disease). So maybe worth looking at whether there's something similar underlying things for you.

However, what is is 😎 The reasons really make little difference. But relief is at hand regardless.

All the best.

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