Profile image
Story Views

Now:
Last Hour:
Last 24 Hours:
Total:

The Dark Side of Meditation

Friday, May 19, 2017 4:49
% of readers think this story is Fact. Add your two cents.

Headline: Bitcoin & Blockchain Searches Exceed Trump! Blockchain Stocks Are Next!

by Dr Miguel Farias; UPLIFT

Can Mindfulness Make Us Ill?

 

Aaron Alexis was in search of something. He started attending 
a Buddhist temple and learned to meditate; he hoped it would bring him wisdom and peace. “I want to be a Buddhist monk,” he once told a friend from the temple. His friend advised him to keep studying. Aaron did. He learned Thai and kept going to the temple, chanting, and meditating. But then other things got in the way.

On 16 September 2013, Aaron drove into Washington’s Navy Yard. It was eight o’clock in the morning. He’d been working there not long before, and security let him in. He walked out
 of the car with a large bag and briefly disappeared into a toilet. Minutes later the security cameras caught him holding a shotgun. Aaron walked briskly and hid behind a wall for a few seconds before advancing through the building. Within 30 minutes twelve people were dead. He killed randomly, first using his shotgun and then, after running out of ammunition, using the handgun belonging to a guard he’d just killed. He died after an exchange of gunfire with the police.

It took only 24 hours for a journalist to notice that Aaron had been a Buddhist, prompting her to write an article that asked, ‘Can there be a less positive side to meditation?’ Western Buddhists immediately reacted. One wrote, “This man represented the Dharma teachings no more than 9/11 terrorists represented the teachings of Islam.”

Others explained that he had a history of mental health problems. However, some noted that Buddhism, like other religions, has a history that links it to violence. And meditation, for all its de-stressing and self-development potential, can take you deeper into the darkest recesses of your own mind than you may have wished for.

This brings up questions I have wrestled with, both as a psychologist and in my own spiritual practice. Do I have unrealistic positive expectations about what meditation can do? Can it also have adverse effects, finding its way to non-spiritual, even non-peaceful ends?

Dark Recesses of The Mind

When something goes wrong, the way it did with Aaron Alexis, we can’t look the other way – rationalizing that he wasn’t a true Buddhist or meditator isn’t enough. We need to examine the less familiar, hidden facets of meditation – a technique that for centuries has been used to cultivate wisdom, clarity of mind, and selflessness. We need to ask ourselves if meditation has a dark side. I’d come across the idea that without the guidance of an expert teacher, meditation can have adverse effects, but I’d thought that this was a metaphor for the difficulties we might encounter as we venture deep into ourselves. I hadn’t considered that the adverse effects might be literal ones.

Meditation can take you deeper into the darkest recesses of your own mind.

Meditation and Mental Health

Then, one day, I heard a first-hand account that opened my eyes to my naïvety. At the time, I was teaching an open course on the psychology of spirituality. There were a few twenty-year-olds, but the majority of students were in their late fifties and early sixties and represented a combination of retired lawyers, Anglican priests, psychiatrists, and three or four yoga and meditation teachers. Louise was one of them.

In her late fifties and lean with dark, short hair, Louise was a quiet member of the group, who – in general – spoke up only when she felt she had something important to say. She had taught yoga for more than twenty years, stopping only when something unexpected happened that changed her life forever. During 
one meditation retreat (she’d been on many), her sense of self changed dramatically. “Good,” she thought initially, “It must be part of the dissolving experience.” But she couldn’t help feeling anxious and frightened. “Don’t worry, just keep meditating and it will go away,” the meditation teacher told her. It didn’t.

She couldn’t get back to her usual self. The last day of the retreat was excruciating: her body shook, she cried and panicked. The following day, back at home, she was in pieces – her body was numb, she didn’t want to get out of bed. Louise’s husband took her to the GP and, within hours, she was being seen by a psychiatrist. She spent the next 15 years being treated for psychotic depression and for part of this time, she had to be hospitalized.

Louise had chosen to give a presentation on the 
psychology of spiritual experience, as part of her assessment 
on the course. She talked lucidly about her illness and its 
possible origins, including a genetic predisposition to mental health problems. She explained that she had gradually taken
 up yoga practice again, but had never returned to meditation retreats. “I had to have electroconvulsive therapy,” she told the class. That means strong electric shocks going through your skull; a treatment that is not only painful, but leads to memory loss in the short term.

Diving Too Deep

I was stunned. I looked through the medical and psychological databases in search of articles on the possible adverse effects of meditation. There were some, most of them case studies. One of the most striking, written in 2001 by a British psychiatrist, told the story of a 25-year-old woman who, like Louise, had a serious mental health problem following meditation retreats. The first time she was admitted to hospital her symptoms included:

Thought disorder with flight of ideas, her mood was elevated and there were grandiose delusions including the belief that she had some special mission for the world: she had to offer ‘undying, unconditional love’ to everyone. She had no [critical] insight.

This woman, referred to as Miss X, was diagnosed with mania. After six weeks of medication, her symptoms were controlled.
 A psychiatrist saw her regularly for two years and she started twice-weekly psychotherapy. Then, she took part in a Zen Buddhist retreat and was hospitalized again.

Adverse Experiences

Interesting, I thought, but I was still unconvinced. All these examples could be individuals with a strong predisposition to mental illness. As I looked further into the scientific literature though, I found other kinds of evidence. In 1992, David Shapiro, a professor in psychiatry and human behaviour at the University
 of California, Irvine, published an article about the effects of meditation retreats. Shapiro examined 27 people with different levels of meditation experience. He found that 63 percent of them had at least one negative effect and 7 percent suffered profoundly adverse effects. The negative effects included anxiety, panic, depression, increased negativity, pain, feeling spaced out, confusion and disorientation.

Perhaps only the least experienced felt these negative experiences. Several days of meditation might overwhelm those who were relatively new to the practice. Was that the case? The answer was no. When Shapiro divided the larger group into those with lesser and greater experience, there were no differences: all the meditators had an equal number of adverse experiences. An earlier study had arrived at a similar, but even more surprising conclusion. Not only did those with more experience of meditating find themselves with negative symptoms – particularly anxiety, confusion and restlessness – they also had considerably more adverse effects than the beginners.

Is it true that meditation might not be for everyone?

Meditation in Moderation

Amid the small pile of articles on the adverse effects of meditation, I was surprised to find two by Arnold Lazarus and Albert Ellis, co-founders of CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). In a 1976 article, Lazarus reported that a few of his own patients had had serious disturbances after meditating; these included depression, ongoing tension and a serious suicide attempt. Lazarus strongly criticized the idea that ‘meditation is for everyone’. Instead, he argued that ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’, and that researchers and therapists need to know both the benefits and the risks of meditation for different kinds of people.

Albert Ellis shared Lazarus’ misgivings about meditation. He believed it could be used as a therapeutic tool, but not with everyone:

A few of my own clients have gone into dissociative semi-trance states and upset themselves considerably by meditating.

Overall, he believed meditation could be used only in moderation as a ‘thought-distracting’ or ‘relaxing’ technique.

The Dangers of Dissolution of Self

Razzaque is a London-based psychiatrist whose own 
Buddhist meditation practice has led him to re-evaluate the meaning of mental illness. He argues that many of the psychotic experiences his patients describe resemble mystical experiences of ego-dissolution that are known to occur after years of meditation practice.

Psychotic episodes can resemble mystical experiences of ego-dissolution.

Razzaque suggests that mental breakdowns are part of a spiritual-growth process, in which we learn to see the self for what it is – an illusion. He describes his own mystical experience in the book:

I found myself descending into a deeply meditative state;
 I somehow travelled through the sensations of my body and the thoughts in my mind to a space of sheer nothingness that felt, 
at the same time, like it was somehow the womb of everything. I felt a sense of pure power and profound energy as I came upon a sudden brilliant light and a profound feeling of all-pervading joy…I was everything and nothing at the same time.

In the days that followed, however, life wasn’t so blissful. Razzaque found that he couldn’t contain his joyful experience and there was something deep within, pulling him in the opposite direction.

I could sense the powerful currents in my whirling mind – the self-doubts and the dents in self-esteem sucking me towards a ball of depression, the anxieties and fears threatening to balloon into full-blown panic, obsessions or defensive compulsions, and the speed of it all that risked pushing me into a manic state.

 

Repressed and traumatic material can easily resurface during intense meditation.

A Psychotic Episode or Spiritual Experience?

Others before Razzaque have trodden a similar path and pointed out similarities between the symptoms of psychotic people and spiritual experiences. In the late 1980s, Stan Grof and his wife edited a book on spiritual emergencies. They caution clinical psychologists and psychiatrists to be aware of and respect what on the surface may look like mental illness, but is, in fact, the expression of spiritual experiences that are having a profound, though momentarily stressful, effect.

Their pioneering work came to fruition when a new category was added to the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DsM-IV), used by psychiatrists worldwide – that of religious and spiritual problems.

With a category of religious and spiritual problems, clinicians are potentially able to recognize what are genuine manic, depressive or psychotic episodes and what are the non-pathological, though sometimes difficult, effects of meditation. But it’s far from a straightforward distinction. David Lukoff, the clinical psychologist who co-authored this new category, admits that his interest in the topic arose in 1971, when he spent two months experiencing his own spiritual crisis – fully convinced that he was the reincarnation of Buddha and Christ, with a mission to save the world.

Despite its dark side, meditation is a technique with true potential for personal change.

Repressed and traumatic material can easily resurface during intense meditation, which made me realize, with a sense of relief and humility, that meditation need not be a panacea to cure every ill, nor a tool to moral perfection. Perhaps we shouldn’t treat it very differently from prayer, which can quiet our minds, give us some comfort and lead us towards a deeper place, where we can explore 
who we are or be closer to God.

Tread Carefully on The Spiritual Path

Perhaps meditation was never supposed to be more than a tool to help with self-knowledge, one that could never be divorced from a strong ethical grounding of who we are and the world we live in. In Patanjali’s sutras, when he describes the various aspects of yoga, meditation is only one of them. The first one, the very basis of a healthy and eventual selfless being, is self-restraint (yama), which he defines as ‘non- violation, truthfulness, non-stealing, containment, and non-grasping’. And to be sure that these are the definite and non-debatable foundations he adds: these restraints are not limited by birth, time or circumstance; they constitute the great vow everywhere.

Only with this strong foundation, can the other limbs of yoga (as Patanjali calls them) emerge, including the asanas, pranayama, meditation and the blissful experiences of unity with the ground of being. Despite its dark side and the limitations of the current scientific research, I still think meditation is a technique with real potential for personal change, if properly guided and taught within a larger spiritual-ethical framework.

This piece is a slightly adapted excerpt from The Buddha Pill, published with permission from Watkins Media.

RELATED POSTS

 

 

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Every Day is Earth Day



Source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/riseearth/KZKa/~3/WxD-Ln_xmFk/the-dark-side-of-meditation.html

Report abuse

Comments

Your Comments
Question   Razz  Sad   Evil  Exclaim  Smile  Redface  Biggrin  Surprised  Eek   Confused   Cool  LOL   Mad   Twisted  Rolleyes   Wink  Idea  Arrow  Neutral  Cry   Mr. Green

Total 6 comments
  • diane

    i have been practicing Transandental Meditation since 1978. There is no religion involved, in the practice. The fact is I am Christian. It has allowed me to manage times that have been difficult.

    Harvard Medical School and doctors have done studies and found this form of meditation quite useful for slowing down the aging of the heart.

  • Knight777

    The second you do not write about the real reason for Aaron’s actions that day makes your whole article a pile of shit coming right from you pathetic mouth. You might as well just bend over and lube your ass up right now.

    • Deanna Martinez

      What a nasty comment. You must be a white liberal Buddhist wanna be. Lemme tell you something, you POS… instead of leaving nasty comments in response to nice article, why dont you do the world a favor and go kill youself. The Eastern religions are garbage, this is a CHRISTIAN country, or at least it was before the stupid white nasty moron in colleges started to turn to Eastern garbage. You are a nasty POS and I hope you drop dead.

  • Deanna Martinez

    Eastern philosophy is garbage, its what white college profs and students do to be like everyone else, stupid idot.

  • goastdale

    123’s of true Christianity v popular & damnable heresies
    (simply because you “confess” it does not mean you actually are, the devil has deceived many of his own children to believe they are Christians 2Tim 3:5)
    #1 “ONE” not triune: THE ANTI CHRIST….WHERE? WHERE?….EVERYWHERE!!! …..IT”S YOU O TRINITARIAN!

    “WHO” it was (what person) that came “IN THE FLESH”, IS THE DETERMINING FACTOR IN WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “ANT-CHRIST”! Even Islam claims Jesus was the Jewish messiah/Christ who was to come in the flesh) they all deny “WHO” it was (what person) that came (to be the Christ) in the flesh!?!…….To deny the father is to deny the son because they are one and the same person that came in the flesh! https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/part-6-anti-christ-where-everywhere-allen-daves?trk=mp-reader-card

    JOHN 14: 8-20 where Christ specifically identifies himself (his person as the person of both the father and the HS; the only distinction is in “location” and “method of manifestation” …….Note Isaiah 9:6. For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: …: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, … the everlasting Father ….The son, father/Holy Spirit are all the same person, NOT like two different persons working together even as “one flesh” ….The “oneness” between Christ and the father is not comparable to a man & his wife, for only a fool would say “When you have seen me you have seen my wife, how sayest thou then, Shew us your wife?” Notice they asked to see THE FATHER and the response was Jn 14:9 ..“HAVE I BEEN SO LONG time with you, and yet hast THOU NOT KNOW ME, Philip…..Now image some fool trying to claim that statement if you asked to see his wife!?!!? You want to see the FATHER but have I been with you but you don’t know me!?!?! https://www.scribd.com/doc/305367608/The-Trinity-Heresy

    Jn 14 continued….…………..17. Even THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH; (Jn 14:6 I AM the way, THE TRUTH,) whom the world cannot receive, .. for HE DEWLLETH WITH YOU, (present tense/standing next to them in the flesh) and SHALL BE IN YOU… (future tense “In them”) 18. I will not leave you comfortless: I WILL COME TO YOU (future tense “In them”) Note: The spirit of Christ is the sprit of God and the holy spirit that is why Christ said “I will come to you” (to comfort them, because Christ is the comforter). The spirit was standing next to them in flesh… ….latter it would come to them to be inside of them (inside of their flesh as the spirit we are given)…..that is why. he would send the spirit…… However, Jesus himself here makes the point that the same person who was the HOLY SPIRIT that would come was standing next to them but lets them know “I will come to you again to be Inside of you”

    The whole point to Gal 3:20.a mediator is NOT A MEDIATOR OF ONE, (HEIS) but GOD IS ONE. (HEIS) again, point blank, identifies the number of persons of God! The “but” points out the contrast between multiple persons in a mediation party v the “one” of God. God is not like a mediation party with multiple different persons. …..”the express image of his person” ( the person of God; singular not plural).Any attempt to lay claim otherwise is willful ignorance and delusional nonsense https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/part-1-echadechadmy-godgod-echad-allen-daves?trk=mp-reader-card

    NOTE: don’t be that one in prov 26:12 over my use of the word “fool” here prov 18:13 (https://www.scribd.com/presentation/322007258/Fools ) “But but, the gospel of John…the Gospel of John …look look…” which is quite ironic since the gospel of John does not leave ANY room for multiple different persons of Jesus and father. However the gospel of John does leave a few verses that facilitate God’s promise in 2 Thess 2:11/ Isaiah 66:4 (take note of “HAND” in verse 2,14..You just can’t make this stuff up…God is surely laughing at these fools; Ps 2:1&4)

    ……Mark 12:28…Which is the first commandment of all? 29. …Hear, O Israel; THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD: 30. And ………..this is the first commandment….. 31. And the second is…..
    JESUS IS GOD AND IS THE FULLFILMENT OF ALL THE LAW AND PROPHETS SO IF YOU CAN’T GET THIS “FIRST OF ALL COMMANDMENTS” RIGHT, ALL THE REST OF YOUR “FAITH” AND PREACHING ON SIN IS MOOT

    TRINITARIANS CONFESS JESUS /THEY ARE NOT POLYTHEIST BUT ARE MONOTHEIST LIKE A LIAR & THIEF WHO “CONFESS” THEY DO NOT LIE OR STEAL The simple fact is that just because you confess or deny that you are in an adulterous relationship and denounce all forms of adultery has nothing to do with whether or not it is in fact adulterous! .. …A rose by any other name is still just a rose AND calling it a water lily does not change the definition of what a water Lilly or a rose is either!…No, Trinitarians confess & preach literally …”ANOTHER JESUS” 2 Cor 11:4

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/part-2-pgs-91-101-chapter-eight-lets-talk-us-allen-daves?trk=mp-reader-card

    - Like a thief in your house caught stealing your things insisting he was not there stealing “I CONFESS I am NOT stealing”. You just do not “properly understand” what he is doing/saying. Further, since you never had a “proper understanding” of what he is doing/saying you have no business accusing him since you do not even know what you are talking about in the first place. It is with and in your own ignorance that you base your “false accusations” & “ad homonym attacks” against him…… Ridiculous of course it is ……2Thess 2:11; Titus 1:16; 2Tim 3:5;

    - A Favorite tool for pathological liars is to use incongruent definitions or create oxymorons out of synonyms such as “a person” and “a being” so as to claim that your god is THREE DIFFERENT PERSONS but ONLY ONE BEING: Which is (1) no different then trying to claim that “THREE DIFFERENT CARS” is “THE ONE VEHICLE” (2) blatant demonstration of the dishonesty & sorcery these children of hell will employ with “a strait face” (which is in part what it means to be a pathological liar)
    ……but, ah i remember how this game is played… “God is three in one” (or 1in 3 or 3in one et al) should have given you a hint, harking back to Satan in The garden…God said you will die…Satan comes along and states no you will be more WISE……today .God said He is one; but Satan’s children come along and say no three is more WISE and humble in the face of God’s grandeur only “a mystery” that can be understood “in faith”. God uses head and right arm to explain the distinctions between father and son.. However, the Trinitarian heretics say to the effect: “NO, that is just a figure of speech, or that is not what God really means. What God is really saying is that God is three different persons”. Fools, hypocrites and blind guides, God said he was One and by your traditions and vain imaginations have taken the words of God and made them of no effect, refashioning God into your image!

    You can download the complete FREE book from
    https://www.scribd.com/doc/305367608/The-Trinity-Heresy
    OR
    https://www.academia.edu/23463667/THE_TRINITY_HERESY

    http://www.scribd.com/user/249756770/Allen-Daves

    independent.academia.edu/AllenDaves

    https://www.linkedin.com/today/author/0_0wXAPxHFpV6o3_6erj3ZFe?trk=prof-sm

    #2 SECOND COMING Thou Fool! “I come quickly” so “Hold fast
    till i come”… NOT …“in another 2000 yrs I might be coming soon any time now, so hold fast”!?! …those that deny the second coming of Christ in the war of AD70 are practicing a damnable heresy in denying the lord that bought them ( 2Peter 2:1-2 ;2Tim 4:8/ you cant love an appearing you deny& the context is the 2nd coming not the first)… Mat 7:23..”I NEVER KNEW YOU” …..Mat 10:33. But whosoever shall deny me before men……..sound familiar?…. If I said I am coming to your house in this generation when these things happen but no one knows the day or hour what fool would think I might be coming in 2000 years latter!?!? ..2 Tim 4: 4. And
    they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be TURNED UNTO FABLES.
    2Thess 2: 11. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

    DOWNLOAD FREE THE ENTIRE 480PG BOOK AT SEVERAL LOCATIONS
    https://www.scribd.com/doc/305366745/Revelation-the-First-Gospel-of-the-Kingdom

    or

    https://www.academia.edu/23464127/REVELATION_THE_FIRST_GOSPEL_OF_THE_KINGDOM

    #3 There is a sharp contrast between THREE groups :

    (1) “PREDESTINED DAMNED” who were NEVER written in the book of life ………..Rev 17: 8 WHOSE NAMES WERE NOT WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF LIFE FROM THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD, …as contrasted …EPH 1: 4. According as he hath CHOSEN US in him BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD

    (2) “MANY CALLED”= ONLY and ALL SAINTS (those who come to Christ) are written in the book of life … Philippians 4:3… ……Rev 21:27; (Only saints are Called and elect; Rom 1:6-7 et al) This is THE CHRUCH and ONLY these can have their names blotted out of the book of life ….….Heb 12:23 to the general assembly and CHURCH of the firstborn … WHICH ………are WRITTEN in heaven,

    (3) THE FEW CHOSEN: Those saints who were alive in group #2 who are now physically dead. They died “faithful” these are the FEW that were chosen faithful…….Rev 3:5. ……; and I
    will not BLOT OUT HIS NAME OUT OF THE BOOK OF LIFE, (Ps 69:28) …. These are the FEW that are CHOSEN and now that they have died and are saved then “once saved THEY CAN NEVER BE LOST”

    Predestination….its true..its all true…download here

    https://www.scribd.com/doc/306868420/Most-True-Christians-Go-to-Hell

    https://www.academia.edu/25217564/Most_True_Christains_Go_to_Hell

  • Anonymous

    Increased self-awareness brings a problem to your attention, doesn’t fix your problems.

    Having a tool or an insight doesn’t fix your problems.

Top Stories
Recent Stories
 

Featured

 

Top Global

 

Top Alternative

 

Register

Newsletter

Email this story
Email this story

If you really want to ban this commenter, please write down the reason:

If you really want to disable all recommended stories, click on OK button. After that, you will be redirect to your options page.