Are there any dangers of meditation?
Today I found myself googling ‘dangers of meditation’. I’m not sure why; I guess, I just wanted to know if anyone else thought there were any negative side effects to meditation.
For a while I’ve been meaning to write a post on the rules and regulations that can come with spirituality, certain mediation practices and religions. However, I can discuss all of these things in this post.
Because meditation is so subjective there are no right answers when it comes to compiling a list of the dangers of meditation. Everyone, after all is different. Meditation might bring up trauma or unresolved issues from the past at which point you might need to see a therapist or the meditation teacher should be made aware before hand. Alternatively, you might jump into a practice too soon and feel overwhelmed or experience a disturbing kundalini energy awakening.
1. Blindly following rules
I’ve been to many meditation classes as well as staying in an ashram for a few weeks in India and although many of these experiences have been amazing, with some of them I felt like I was being force fed instructions — ‘My way is the only way’ problem. This, for me is one of the main dangers of meditation so be careful and make sure you ask lots of questions.
The beauty of meditation is that there are thousands of different ways to do it so if someone is telling you that a particular meditation is the most effective or is better than others, I’d keep an open mind. Never dismiss something without first questioning, but at the same time, never blindly follow. And never feel stupid for asking lots of questions.
2. Bad communication
When you practise yoga, a good teacher will ask you if you have any injuries. If you go for acupuncture you’ll be asked for a brief medical record. However, a lot of the time when you go to a meditation class or you sign up for a meditation course, you don’t have to communicate any of these things.
Although it looks like you’re just sitting doing nothing, meditation can be incredibly powerful. You don’t know what might come to the surface. I’ve read about people who have said they felt worse after meditation in the following months of doing a specific course only to be told by the teacher that they were likely to have been suffering from something prior to the meditation. Whether this is true or not, there’s no way of knowing unless everyone embarking on a meditation course provides a medical history or tells the teacher of any problems they’ve had.
Meditation hasn’t been explored scientifically for that long despite the fact that it has been practised for hundreds of years.
3. The dark night of the soul
You might have heard of this term before as it can be associated with meditation or even brought on by meditation. When the dark night of the soul makes an appearance it isn’t pleasant. Whether you want to call it depression or a loss of meaning in life — the dark night of the soul might come about when you’ve been meditating to gain greater truths about the world we live in and what our true nature is. This, however, is a phase that comes and goes despite the fact that it might seem unending and painful at the time.
For more information about the dark night of the soul, read Eckhart on the Dark night of the soul
4. Spontaneous kundalini awakening
You may or may not have heard of kundalini energy — the coiled serpent power that lies sleeping at the base of the spine. Certain meditation practices and kundalini yoga help to awaken this dormant kundalini energy. However, sometimes it can awaken spontaneously which can be a frightening experience. Some side effects may include a pressure in the head, tingling in the spine, mood swings and more. Read more about the dangers of kundalini energy awakening.
5. Becoming too attached to your meditation experiences
For a while, after I had an incredible meditation experience, I couldn’t stop thinking about it and every time I would try to get back to that state through meditation and would fail and feel disappointed as a result. Attaching yourself or letting the ego identify itself with your meditation experiences could hinder your spiritual growth. Never think you are special or gifted just because you’ve had an interesting or mind blowing experience with meditation. Always be willing to learn more.
6. Feeling that you have to be perfect
Perhaps as a beginner, you’ll be more honest with yourself and acknowledge that you’re a human being with imperfections like everyone else. But, as you continue with your meditation practice over many years, there might be a tendency to try to hide imperfections or pretend you’re something you’re not. Just because you’ve been meditating for many years does not mean you’ve failed if you still get irritated or feel anger. I think this is really important. Also, no one should put anyone who has been meditating for a long time on a pedestal — treat everyone equally.
7. Going too far with non-attachment
Non attachment always sparks a lot of debate. What does it actually mean? How do you detach yourself from the things you like and why do this anyway?
Certainly in Buddhism and many other meditation practices, it’s advocated that to reach enlightenment, nirvana or whatever you want to call it, you mustn’t cling or attach yourself to the things in life you enjoy or love. I feel that it could be dangerous to then get rid of all your material possessions and go and live in strict isolation for years — this is the extreme scenario.
However, equally, if you take non attachment literally and stop doing the things you love doing, you could end up feeling very detached from the world and people around you.
Personally, I believe non attachment means the realisation that your likes, tastes, dislikes, opinions, thoughts…are not your real self no matter how much your ego might fight. Aggressively stopping the things you enjoy could be incredibly damaging to you in the long run.
8. Pushing yourself with the wrong type of meditation
Always trust your intuition when it comes to trying out a new meditation practice. This is obviously easier said than done, but if after a few sessions, it really doesn’t feel right, try another class or meditation style. Never blindly follow and never feel stupid for asking questions.
9. Using meditation as a substitute for therapy
Don’t expect meditation to cure all of your problems or think that it’s an easy fix. While meditation might help, ask yourself if you should also speak to someone too or see a therapist. You are the best judge of this. Never use meditation to escape from existing or underlying problems.
10. Facing suppressed emotions
When you start to meditate regularly, suppressed emotions or things you haven’t thought of for years might come to the surface of your mind which might be difficult or upsetting to some people. While this is a natural part of the meditation process, you should feel like you have someone to talk to if you ever become scared by the thoughts that arise.
If you’d like to read about more dangers of meditation check out the website of the meditation teacher, Lorin Roche PhD
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