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Is Meditation safe?

As we all know all dharma and no balance leads to . . . well where? Here are the dangers:
http://www.businessinsider.com/dark-side-of-meditation-2014-6

Is meditation an extreme practice?

Vastmind
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Comments

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    More stupid than extreme.

    Inc88
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Interestingly I started meditation AFTER a psychotic break and it has been helpful for me. Without my volition my path is really gradual. I have never had visions etc in meditation.

    lobsterdantepw
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Also I don't think correlation proves causality.

    Eliz
  • Nothing is safe. Meditation is just going for a walk in the park, if things happen before, during, or after, is it fair to say going for a walk in the park is bad for you?

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Some parks are safer than others. Some meditation is safer than others?

    namarupa
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited June 2014

    That's an interesting question, @lobster. Which meditations are dangerous? My teacher in a teacher student public email said that she could not guide her student to do tummo because she didn't support that for whatever reason.

    My teaching, formless practice, is supposed to be 'self sealing' because if you are not ready for the meditation to 'take off' nothing will happen to you and you might enjoy it in any case. It's unclear to me what happens when you are ready; is it safe still then?

    Cinorjer
  • zenguitarzenguitar Bad Buddhist New England Veteran

    When I read the article I couldn't help thinking that perhaps some of the individuals who had bad experiences were (or had been) experimenting with more than just meditation.

    ShoshinCinorjerRowan1980
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited June 2014

    Kia Ora @lobster,

    Thanks for the link, it's quite fascinating...It's true meditation is not the be all and end all cure that some make it out to be...

    One man's meat is another man's poison and this sadly would also be the case with meditation practice... Some greatly benefit, for some, it does nothing for them, whist others it would seem that it brings their latent neurosis to the forefront where it tends to linger...

    So is meditation safe ? On a personal level yes, but in the case of others... yes & no...(maybe)

    Metta Shoshin :)

    lobsterVastmind
  • SkeeterkbSkeeterkb Explorer

    My meditation practice is to let go of all words/thoughts and simply experience the moment. It causes me nothing but serenity.

    lobsterBuddhadragondantepw
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran

    This has crossed my mind several times over the years...As far as...is this for everyone? How do they know each person here is ready for this kind of kick up?
    What happens if this guy next to me cracks and can't deal or isn't ready to deal with what thoughts and feelings arise?
    The teachers don't know each individual bec of the volumes of people on retreats.
    Even temples. I've noticed people that are so introverted and closed off, it seems they need the opposite of sitting by themselves and being quiet. I dunno....I'm glad it's getting talked about, though.

    And so many people use retreats as vacations/to get away/unplug....when they soon find out, it's serious mental work and examination.

    DandelionlobsterCaptain_America
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited June 2014

    @dharmamom said:
    A friend of mine is bipolar and she was advised against practising meditation by her psychiatrist.
    She couldn't explain to me why, but in view of this article, it might be that in the face of certain psychological conditions, meditation could do more harm than good.
    I mean, wrestling with the mental chatter and presently giving it our undivided attention during meditation is maddening enough for a sane person, I can imagine that people who suffer from delusional mental conditions or 'hear voices' could be rightly confused by all the seemingly endless din.
    Meditation has many benefits and I still consider it the base of my practice.
    Whether it is safe for everyone, it's for psychiatrists and people in the medical profession to determine.

    Its in the end an individual matter of course..this psychiatrist would be quite happy for my clients/patients to practice Samatha/Shinay.

    I would want to know however whether they were having hands on instruction if they were wanting to practice Burmese Satipatthana or HYT's.

    But I would give that same advise on those practices to anyone anyway, with or without Mental Health issues.

    lobsterTraveller
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran

    Many of us, in all societies and walks of life, tend to do things that keep us busy.

    When you're sitting in a quiet room and have nothing but your own mind to keep you company, I can imagine that for many people, there's a whole lot of crap that can surface.

    For some with clinical mental illness, I can imagine that meditation would be either contraindicated or need to be highly supervised by an experienced teacher.

    For others, I would probably advise seeking the guidance of a teacher. Misinterpreting what comes up through meditation could be dangerous, but I don't think it's necessarily something to avoid. We just need the right amount of support and guidance.

    CittalobsterBuddhadragon
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Thanks guys
    :clap: .

    @lobster I went to the blog where this image originated because I recognize how this cushion was made (fiber arts my fave craft). There are directions on how to make one's own such cushion. I am off . . . . damn creative compulsions . . .

    lobster
  • WanMinWanMin Veteran
    edited June 2014

    I practice qigong and had problems with meditation. In fact I even had to abandon it for a while.
    I remember a friend at the time mentioning something like the Yoga syndrome which is when hidden problems suddenly emerge in an overwhelming way. I also heard a Chinese doctor once mention people who become incapable of taking care of themselves in China because of qigong. I think the real problem is what kind of meditation a person is taking and also knowing that mystical experiences and strange thoughts should be shunned if they appear during the practice. I find simple methods like counting breaths the saffest. Other methods like visualizing energy, feeling the energy, feeling the blood circulating, or even focusing on emotions if one is not prepared, I find them to be more dangerous.
    I also believe that living correctly helps meditating correctly.
    Eating correctly is also important. Sometimes when we adopt meditation we also adopt other lifestyles like veganism, but an incorrect diet may leave us mentaly frail if not followed correctly.
    As I was reading in the article about suicide it reminded me that these dangers are also known in the Christian mystical practice of hesychasm.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Thanks guys,

    I tend to agree with this from Dark Knight, Batman and Zen Master in the article:

    Almost everyone who gets anywhere with meditation will pass through periods of negative emotion, confusion, [and] disorientation. …The same can happen in psychotherapy and other growth modalities. I would not refer to these types of experiences as 'dark night.' I would reserve the term for a somewhat rarer phenomenon. Within the Buddhist tradition, [this] is sometimes referred to as 'falling into the Pit of the Void.' It entails an authentic and irreversible insight into Emptiness and No Self. Instead of being empowering and fulfilling … it turns into the opposite. In a sense, it's Enlightenment's Evil Twin. This is serious but still manageable through intensive … guidance under a competent teacher. In some cases, it takes months or even years to fully metabolize, but in my experience the results are almost always highly positive.

    Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-dark-knight-of-the-souls/372766/#ixzz364RYmVxL

    'Enlightenment's Evil Twin.' is nihilism and the Shakyamuni warns against this extreme
    http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/111.htm

    . . . perhaps we are drawn to the blind leading the blind advocated in the comments section . . .
    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanislav_Grof

    I would expect contemplation to be capable of reaching the extremes of human experience. From the urge to make cushions, to laughing on futility, to explosive intensity, to psychosis, bliss and deep serenity.

    Meditation it ain't what you think . . .

    Mr Cushion has provided a self destruct/'Emergency Boddhisatvah' call out button . . .

    OM YA HA HUM

    namarupaanatamanShoshinTraveller
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Kia Ora,

    Meditation can be liken to taking medication:

    "The dosage determines whether or not it becomes a poison or a medicine!"

    Metta Shoshin :)

    lobster
  • yagryagr Veteran

    Living is dangerous; one won't get out of it alive.

    I suppose though, for any serious contemplation of the topic, 'Is meditation safe', one would have to define 'safe'. Specifically and off the top of my head, I'm thinking:

    1. Safe equals no danger.
    2. Safe equals less danger than not doing so.

    Considering #2, A certain someone who meditates is prone to disturbing thoughts. Without meditation they are prone to having a psychotic split.

    Since we can't imagine what life would be like for anyone if they had not meditated, it could simply be that it was an improvement over what their life would have been like. But since no one can no what it would have been like...no sense contemplating it.

    BuddhadragonTraveller
  • namarupanamarupa Veteran
    edited June 2014

    Misconception #5
    Meditation is dangerous and a prudent person should avoid it

    Everything is dangerous. Walk across the street and you may get hit by a bus. Take a shower and you could break your neck. Meditate and you will probably dredge up various nasty-matters from your past. The suppressed material that has been buried there for quite some time can be scary. It is also highly profitable. No activity is entirely without risk, but that does not mean that we should wrap ourselves in some protective cocoon. That is not living. That is premature death. The way to deal with danger is to know approximately how much of it there is, where it is likely to be found and how to deal with it when it arises. That is the purpose of this manual. Vipassana is development of awareness. That in itself is not dangerous, but just the opposite. Increased awareness is the safeguard against danger. Properly done, meditation is a very gentle and gradual process. Take it slow and easy, and development of your practice will occur very naturally. Nothing should be forced. Later, when you are under the close scrutiny and protective wisdom of a competent teacher, you can accelerate your rate of growth by taking a period of intensive meditation. In the beginning, though, easy does it. Work gently and everything will be fine.

    http://vipassana.org/meditation/mindfulness_in_plain_english_4.php

    lobsterBuddhadragonanataman
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    I think there is a very good point in this article, and as @karasti points out, this might be when a seasoned teacher becomes the invaluable asset or jigsaw piece. At the end of the day, how many people in the world are actually facing up to themselves or the consequences of their thoughts and actions?

    Leading a contemplative life, means you may well reach experiential boundaries and personal barriers to understanding and the limitations of your consciousness, and these are not necessarily normal experiences. Turning to face into the full force of the the stream and having no knowledge as to how or whether you can overcome it may may confound and confuse the spirit of the investigation, and the fear and anxiety that may arise, as all your beliefs are shattered, can become overwhelming.

    That is where faith in the teachings becomes invaluable, and as so is a disciplined meditation practice the raft that withstands the mental turbulence. But you have to brace yourself and meditate if you are to understand this. The question that the very action that brings insight and liberation may be unsafe, is in itself a subtle reminder that there is something to overcome, and it's really down to you to face your angels and demons. So find the dharma that works for you, and stick with it.

    lobster
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @Invincible_summer said:
    Many of us, in all societies and walks of life, tend to do things that keep us busy.
    When you're sitting in a quiet room and have nothing but your own mind to keep you company, I can imagine that for many people, there's a whole lot of crap that can surface.

    In normal circumstances, we can be thankful for all the crap that surfaces and that would otherwise remain lurking in the recesses of our minds.
    A shadow you can see, is a shadow you can address.
    The question remains, to what extent are we strong enough to deal with our mental refuse.

    anatamanInvincible_summer
  • ZeroZero Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Some meditation is safer than others?

    If it is unsafe, probably no more so than the alternative non-meditation

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    @Zero said:
    If it is unsafe, probably no more so than the alternative non-meditation

    It depends where you take yourself. Living your life is just your doing. However, mindfully living your life and intervening - now that has consequences.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Kia Ora,

    Is Meditation Safe ? ...Not when you're driving.... :D ..

    Metta Shoshin :)

  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Invincible_summer said:
    Shoshin - Unless you use driving as a form of meditation

    http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/meditation/Zen/005-drivingmeditation.htm

    Kia Ora,

    But I strongly recommend not doing it with ones eyes closed . :D ..

    Metta Shoshin :)

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    I do driving meditation for at last 2.5 hours a day - eyes wide open!

    if you crash whilst meditating -it is not someone elses thought - it's yours ;)

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Driving is an example of panoramic experience. You are not looking at only one certain thing rather you take in a panorama of vision. It's an example of awareness and I think sometimes people get caught thinking mindfulness is only of a solitary object such as the breath. I used to do mindful driving but just forgot about it. Cheri Huber talks about how and why to do driving meditation.

    yagr
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    We mostly use a centrally-focussed (I suppose you could call it ego-centric) consciousness, but in the background there is always a broader fied that takes in everything within the sensual field of consciousness - and that's what's driving when you are on the phone! However, don't think it's gonna let you chat away to your friend without giving it some respect and attention from time to time .... OR: crash! ...

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    @dharmamom said:
    In normal circumstances, we can be thankful for all the crap that surfaces and that would otherwise remain lurking in the recesses of our minds.

    A shadow you can see, is a shadow you can address.
    The question remains, to what extent are we strong enough to deal with our mental refuse.

    My life has been one with many abnormal circumstances, then :D . That crap surfacing has been something I needed professional help with!

    To what extent are we strong enough to deal with it? Indeed.

  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    Don't doubt yourself @Hamsaka! You are much tougher than you think...

    Hamsaka
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
    edited June 2014

    Kia Ora,

    It would seem some go into meditation with eyes wide open and find it so safe, they can even do it with their eyes closed, whilst others go into it blindly(eyes closed) and end up being blinded by the light, when it shines upon them...

    Metta Shoshin :)

  • You know, never in my decades of meditation and leading or being in meditation groups have I encountered someone harmed by meditation. Now, I am willing to submit this is Zen meditation and not that fancy yoga or tantra stuff so I can only speak about my own practice. So to the question raised, and it does get raised once in a while, my reaction is always:

    You're just sitting down, doing nothing. Unless you've got a sudden urge halfway through crossing a busy street to sit down and meditate, what could be safer?

    What are people afraid is going to happen? It's you sitting there. It's you counting your breaths, or watching your thoughts come and go, or visualizing your chakra in your stomach or whatever. It's still you, your ordinary, everyday mind, sitting down and eventually getting back up.

    Sitting, doing nothing. Easy-peasy.

    lobsteryagrShoshinBuddhadragon
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited July 2014

    Well said @Cinorjer‌ :thumbsup: .

    I have found a lot of injured people attracted to spirituality and it often stabilises but often makes them worse. They become caricatures, extremists and also interestingly enough experts, teachers and dharma police. Some of the nonsense that is taught as wisdom or insight provides much to amuse ordinary folk . . .

    The dangers emerge when people engage in extreme practices for long periods. Change is not necessarily progress. New personality is just shackle changing.

    It is not just yoga and Tantra, Zen too has its sickness mode, with 'experts' providing pithy humour and put downs with no depth to their 'understanding'. Enlightenment and being awake becomes the most impressive ego game in town . . .

    For me meditation is a grounding. It is very simple. Nothing happens. Loads of stuff comes and goes . . .
    http://www.mountainrunnerdoc.com/RelDis2.html

    Jeffrey
  • yagryagr Veteran

    @Jeffrey said:
    Cheri Huber talks about how and why to do driving meditation.

    I'm pretty sure she goes so far as to say that she doesn't want to be on the road with anyone who isn't doing driving meditation. :)

  • CittaCitta Veteran

    @lobster said:
    Well said Cinorjer‌ :thumbsup: .

    I have found a lot of injured people attracted to spirituality and it often stabilises but often makes them worse. They become caricatures, extremists and also interestingly enough experts, teachers and dharma police. Some of the nonsense that is taught as wisdom or insight provides much to amuse ordinary folk . . .

    The dangers emerge when people engage in extreme practices for long periods. Change is not necessarily progress. New personality is just shackle changing.

    It is not just yoga and Tantra, Zen too has its sickness mode, with 'experts' providing pithy humour and put downs with no depth to their 'understanding'. Enlightenment and being awake becomes the most impressive ego game in town . . .

    For me meditation is a grounding. It is very simple. Nothing happens. Loads of stuff comes and goes . . .

    There is the famous " Zen sickness " where ( a tiny few ) have some kind of small experience and then spend the rest of their lives telling everyone that that don't exist. Completely alienated...

    It is rare, but it happens. I doubt that it happens much to people with a job, kids, responsibilities.

    I think Zen Sickness sufferers are probably space cadets to start with.

  • ZenBadgerZenBadger Derbyshire, UK Veteran

    I find an increasing number of people recommending meditation divorced from any kind of suitable moral framework such as Buddhism or Hinduism. Meditation is taught as a technique in its own right which is a bit like teaching someone how to daub paint with a paintbrush - without being taught perspective and how to see all that will happen is a messy canvas. The guy who had repressed memories and pornographic images is an example of this. When I learned the basics many years ago I was told this would happen and that it is just the mind kicking against being tamed. When a non Buddhist friend of mine learned meditation as a form of therapy he wasn't taught about these phenomena and so he immediately thought he was under satanic attack and panicked. You can have "Buddhism without beliefs" as long as the underlying mind is basically sound, if it is rotten by half-beliefs in various other traditions then there is the possibility of the extra load caused by meditation snapping what structure there was.

    I think that meditation is inherently safe but the accumulated detritus in the mind is often unsafe.

    Invincible_summer
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran

    And that is where purification practices come in handy @ZenBadger‌ - if you've got the same shit resurfacing all the time, you're probably swimming in a mental compost heap that needs a good turning over.

  • ZenBadgerZenBadger Derbyshire, UK Veteran

    But purification is often dismissed as "mumbo-jumbo". I think there is some value in practising something which allows you to consider your past mistakes and indiscretions as dealt with, on a symbolic level even if you don't subscribe to the idea of purification.

  • CittaCitta Veteran

    I think the manner of that purification is key @ZenBadger..

    Allowing repressed or 'forgotten' material to surface into the light of consciousness is one thing..and a very good thing. When that material is seen clearly and let go without clinging.

    Some kind of Freudian seeking for buried material and then scrutinising it...I am less convinced about.

    Dharma is Dharma.

    Psychoananalysis..which might be a good or even necessary preliminary process, is something different.

  • kaveekavee Explorer
    edited July 2014

    This reminds me of an old saying from a wise. He said, think of a Nunchuk (the martial arts thingy). It can do more damage to you than your enemy, if you do not know how to handle it. If samsara (viscous cycle of birth and death) is your enemy and meditation is your weapon, humm you get the rest.... :)
    I am sure there are many analogies to this showing anything can go terribly wrong if not used correctly. Why we think Meditation is different.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Thanks guys,

    From the article:

    Meditation is considered to be safe for healthy people. There have been rare reports that meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched.

    Read more: http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/the-dark-knight-of-the-souls/372766/#ixzz36TMZuetf

    I hope that gets addressed in the future by similar projects or initiatives. The fragility, susceptibility and often complete inexperience of such possibilities is not being addressed. Some are even dismissive. I would agree with @kavee that meditation needs to be a supervised training or at least journaled. How many would be on the path if it had potential dangers? Personally I would consider it an occupational hazard. I consider genuine, knowledgeable and experienced instruction to be a rarity. We have to consider that grounding in the ordinary, the chores of life mentioned in another thread, stabilise the abnormal arisings and extreme practices some engage in . . .

    :wave: .

    Cinorjer
  • BuddhadragonBuddhadragon Carpe Diem Samsara Veteran

    @Cinorjer said:
    What are people afraid is going to happen? It's you sitting there. It's you counting your breaths, or watching your thoughts come and go, or visualizing your chakra in your stomach or whatever. It's still you, your ordinary, everyday mind, sitting down and eventually getting back up.

    @Cinorjer, I totally agree with you. I have been practising meditation for over twenty years now and have only experienced good things, so depending on my experience, I would never consider the practice of meditation dangerous.
    Whatever comes up during meditation, the mental chatter, I mean, can be put to good use as material for self-knowledge and spiritual growth. I have only experienced more clear-headed thinking and present-moment awareness as a consequence of my practice. Only positive things, if you ask me. Even the negative stuff that comes up is good compost for recycling into something positive.

    But for example yesterday morning I was having coffee with my neighbour. He moved in a few months ago and we're only getting to know each other.
    He's a single, Charlie-Harper sort of party guy. He told me he has the radio on all day because he can't stand the din in his head. Apparently he suffers of a hearing condition by which he hears a constant buzz in his head. And when he wakes up in the morning and has to face this static, he's on an aggressive mode well into an hour of waking up.
    I can only suspect he's on medication about this, since I have never been privy to his aggressive side.
    Well, this is a mild example of someone who has a hard time having a one-to-one encounter with his own mind, but just imagine that bevvy of illuminati who think they are enlightened or the next avatar come true.... could the practice of meditation reinforce them in their delusions?

    lobsterCinorjerZero
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