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the downside potential of meditation

genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

An article at sniffs the edges of "the dark side of meditation."

An excerpt:

The shortage of rigorous statistical studies into the negative effects of meditation was a ‘scandal’, Dr Farias told The Times.

He said: ‘The assumption of the majority of both TM [transcendental meditation] and mindfulness researchers is that meditation can only do one good.

‘This shows a rather narrow-minded view. How can a technique that allows you to look within and change your perception or reality of yourself be without potential adverse effects?

‘The answer is that it can’t, and all meditation studies should assess not only positive but negative effects.’


  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    edited May 2015

    Interesting that "confusion" is a negative side effect. Daily life is confusing, lol. I think that for most people, just following their breath and letting go of thoughts isn't going to be harmful. But the more advanced practices get into stuff that can be, and it's one of the big plusses to having a teacher. Then you have someone to go to with your experience versus being stuck in your living room with no where to go because the article you read about meditation in Yoga Journal didn't tell you THAT could happen.

    It's pretty astounding the things that are covered with not only little explanation but skewed advice in things like YJ. There was a recommendation recently taken from a Ayurvedic practice that YJ recommended as a way to burn fat and lose weight...which involves throwing up. Seems like a good idea to recommend in a magazine that "to lose weight, you just need to throw up sometimes." Nope, nothing can go wrong there.

    The number of people taking on such practices as meditation and other things based on silly magazines is probably rather high. They are also much more likely (it seems to me) to experience negative side effects because they don't really know what they are doing. Facing yourself when you have been hiding it for scary. If you aren't expecting it, yep, there will be side effects.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I thought of the same thing as karasti in that a teacher might help sort out negative effects of meditation.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran


    Thinking is dangerous. The mind is dangerous. Living causes death (my god who would have thought). Emotions can lead to sensations ... Balance may lead to extreme indifference. People found dying in their sleep ... read all about it ... :dizzy:

  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    Truth to tell, I didn't read the whole article any more than I read articles depicting the meaning of monks' meditative brain waves. A 'scientific' approach to meditation strikes me as iffy at best just as a a woo-hoo love affair strikes me as iffy at best: Either way, in practice, I think something unexpected -- maybe pleasant, maybe unpleasant -- is likely to crop up. And the thing that crops up today is unlikely to crop up in exactly the same dimensions tomorrow. As a result, dissections and proofs are wobbly where science seeks out assuredly replicable results.

    Still, I think it's worth keeping in mind that shit happens, in meditation as elsewhere. An idealized view of Buddhism is as hazardous as an unremitting skepticism about it.

    Just thinking out loud.

  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    I haven't read the article in whole yet, but it's only 'fair' to go in with the hypothesis there may be negative effects of meditation.

    Having a sacred cow (even if it really IS sacred :D ) is a bad idea all around.

    And whatever a study like this comes up with, how many of us here are gonna stop meditating or recommending it?

    My knees are totally messed up, thanks to inheriting knees that don't last as long as the rest of the body :angry: so I take Naproxen twice a day -- with great improvement! Yet Naproxen has negative side effects to keep in mind and be careful of. So far, it's not bothering me (and it's really helped muh knees!), but KNOWING the downside is vitally important, it could be life threatening if I was clueless (or the doctors were!)

    So applying ye olde scientific method to meditation is just smart. It crunches my butt a bit, I mean how could meditation EVER have downsides?? but lets get real here. If we keep meditation a sacred cow we prevent it being studied the way we expect everything else to be studied in our lives.

    And, a more 'scientific' approach will make meditation appeal to more people -- like me! I believe there is so much more to be discovered about it. A study is a study -- it will highlight the good and the bad if it's done well, ESPECIALLY if the hypothesis going in is that there are downsides to meditation.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    "the downside potential of meditation"

    ...the loss of self

    "the upside potential of meditation"

    ...the loss of self

    A win win situation :D

  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 2015

    I think that the downside potential of meditation is getting
    stuck having to write something credible about that subject.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 2015

    @how said:
    I think that the downside potential of meditation is
    having to write something credible about that subject.

    Indeed. <3
    When writing for a titillation rag such as the Daily Femail, it is sensationalism and making one unthink (unless about women's bodies) that is the motivation.

    For those trivial dabblers in practice, the undisciplined triviality is the major downside. Meditation discipline is what resides with us through the dangers, arisings, fallings, high lows etc.

    There are potential dangers in breathing, sitting still [yes really] but everything has a time and place.

    The place for the Daily Mail is the Dharma has bin. Even the most rudimentary search produces better results than celebrity populist 'dharma twaddle'. Too harsh?

    and now back to the dangerous news ... :p

  • TheswingisyellowTheswingisyellow Trying to be open to existence Samsara Veteran
    Tearing down a cobbled together reality and sense of self may be traumatic. Understanding it's all made up may be unsettling. I think deep reflection brings hard questions and maybe realizations about ones life and society in general that may be difficult to accept. I personally welcome this type of challenge, and though difficult at times I wouldn't have it differently.
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @genkaku said:
    Still, I think it's worth keeping in mind that shit happens, in meditation as elsewhere. An idealized view of Buddhism is as hazardous as an unremitting skepticism about it.

    Exactly so.

    The highly dangerous Middle Way strikes again ... :scream:
    I will be contacting the news desk immediately ... :p

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @genkaku said:> An article at sniffs the edges of "the dark side of meditation."

    So have there been any studies into the negative effects of meditation? I've heard anedotally about a few people having problems, but I think they were people with pre-existing mental health conditions.
    It's probably an argument for having contact with other meditators and getting some proper instruction.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    The term 'spiritual paramedic' though humorous is exactly right. <3

    Very good post from @how as it illustrates the range of potential within meditation and other meds.

  • ZenniZenni Veteran

    @genkaku - it is so very true that "be mindful, be compassionate, to let go" are easier said than done.

    But I love your Zen teacher's words, "Every day is a good day, some days are shitty days AND everyday is a good day."

    Years ago, I was crying, alone, at a staircase. A (about 7 or 8 year-old) school girl was climbing up the steps, stopped---- then said "Please don't cry." I nodded my head, smiled and said thank you. She went on her way. Two minutes later, she reappeared, smiling, and passed me a small piece of folded paper, and ran up the steps. I opened the folded paper. In a child's handwriting....

    Every day is a happy day!

    I still have this precious note.
    But it is only now that I understand the full meaning of it.

    Yes, some days are shitty. Or maybe, a portion of some days, or maybe a fraction of a day.

    Yesterday, someone threw my "meditation cushion" away, when I was not at home.
    It was not a "proper" meditation cushion. It's a (15 / 15 / 2 inches) flat foam.

    "Thrown" I was told.

    Negative feelings arose.
    Awareness took awhile, I must say, but as soon as I noticed it.. there are no better ways but..

    I had to be mindful... my breath, my every movement in my activities
    I had to be compassionate.. this person is angry, does not know how to control/handle the anger.
    I had to let go/ non-attachment)... Of my negative feelings/thoughts and my meditation cushion.

    With or without cushion, I will continue to do meditation. :)

    OP - downside potential of meditation

    let it come...
    let to go....
    @how - no more or less than love does <3


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