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Thread: The side effects of meditation (for some people)

  1. #1

    The side effects of meditation (for some people)

    Food for thought:



    (Posted from my iPhone; please excuse any typos or brevity.)

    I know nothing.

  2. #2

    Thanks for the link.

    Clinging and attachment can be distracting. Joyful to throw it all away.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  3. #3
    Hi Kirk,

    I have seen the article, and heard some on Buddhist Geeks about this "Dark Night". My feeling is that this is usually encountered by meditators undertaking a very intense, concentrated, forceful form of meditating that has become popular in some circles. Yes, those people can really push themselves right over the edge ...

    There are folks who put themselves through long, intense sittings trying to experience some intense energy or visualizations or high ... and it is not a surprise that some of them fall into all manner of strange or dark mental states.

    This generally should not happen with Shikantaza, which is a much more subtle, gentler (yet no less profound), low intensity (but powerful still) Practice.

    Of course, that being said, even in Shikantaza there are times when we may sit longer and a bit harder, such as when sitting back to back sittings from early morning to late at night during a multi-day Sesshin. At such times, there may be days where the mind can fall into some negative or extreme emotion (such as loneliness, sadness, anger or a touch or paranoia. In most cases, this is a temporary state that soon passes after some hours. As well, old memories and the like may surface, with accompanying emotions. Generally, we just recognize when such is happening and move past it.)

    For any of us, even sitting just once or twice a day, there may be times when things surface. Even this, however, is not likely to be the "Dark Night of the Soul", sometimes stretching on for months or longer, that is described in that article.

    Finally, some sensitive people may be more prone to fall into negative or extreme emotions and thoughts even with light Zazen, or even with no Zazen at all. Such cases are rare in my experience, but some people seem to have a kind of natural weakness or tendency, perhaps due to some other psychological condition (such as depression) that exists independently of meditating. Such people need to be careful, and may need to break off from Zazen if they find it pushes them into an "attack" or the like.

    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 07-13-2014 at 04:37 PM.

  4. #4

    Thanks for posting the article. I may have to read it a few more times to make sure I am not missing something, but I came away with two main impressions. First, from the perspective of journalism the piece is very badly written. The author accepts the premise that meditation can be harmful from the very first paragraph. It also seems like his own biases towards religion bleed through a bit but aren't acknowledged. So, I think some objectivity would have been more helpful to his readers, even if his final conclusion was the same.

    Secondly, there is a very loose interpretation of what constitutes cause and effect, especially notable with "David" who in my view may have had some serious psychological issues that existed well before he started meditating. He says at one point that he felt like a schizophrenic as a result of meditation, but based on his behavior of making major life changes after only a few months several times makes me think that he could actually be schizophrenic.

    The more likely conclusion is that these were, at times, deeply troubled individuals who were not helped by meditation. I actually agree with the authors' criticisms of the "mindfulness" craze, but to imply that meditation caused any of these problems is being confused with an effect from preexisting issues. And, as a result, the conclusions he draws are not scientific.


  5. #5

    I am speaking from personal experience only.

    Around 20 years ago, I had had two serious mood episodes requiring hospitalization where I had reality testing difficulties. I had been experimenting with "The Silva Method of Mind Control" meditation technique. They had listed in fine print in their tapes and books that it could cause psychosis in a small percentage of people using the technique if I recall correctly.

    Gassho, Jishin
    Last edited by Jishin; 07-13-2014 at 05:55 PM.

  6. #6
    Such cases are rare in my experience, but some people seem to have a kind of natural weakness or tendency, perhaps due to some other psychological condition (such as depression) that exists independently of meditating.
    Hi All,

    A little off-topic, but as someone who has worked as an advocate for people with disabilities, the word “weakness” jumped out at me when I was reading Jundo’s comment. Just want to point out that mental illness or psychological issues are not issues of weakness. Anyone can develop an issue under the “right” conditions. I know Jundo did not mean it that way, as is clear from the rest of his post. I think he was speaking about someone having a predisposition to mental issues before they sit down to meditate. It’s one of those things where the language does matter, though, as it can reinforce negative stereotypes that make folks reluctant to ask for help when they need it.

    Again, I know Jundo meant no harm and was just using the word casually. I don't mean to nit-pick or be the PC Police. Back to topic...


  7. #7
    Yes, perhaps I should just have said a predisposition or tendency.

    Gassho, J

  8. #8
    Hello all

    I think that some kind of 'kick back' is not surprising as mindfulness and meditation are touted as 'cure alls' all over the print and digital media. However, I also think that these kind of cases are rare, and often result either from untreated mental illness or intense bouts of sitting with no support or dokusan. As far as journalism goes, extreme cases are probably more interesting than a bunch of people happily sitting with steady, incremental improvements in attention and insight.

    A similar article could be written about exercise and the number of people who have died due to having an unknown heart condition or done too much and pulled or torn muscles in the process. Any sane person would realise that advising against exercise would be a massive overreaction but maybe both exercise and meditation are mostly good but should be approached with moderation and any unwanted effects should be treated seriously before continuing.

    Last edited by Kokuu; 07-13-2014 at 06:52 PM.

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