Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Dark Night

I've received many benefits from my meditation practice.  Yet, as I've written in some of my most often read posts, I'm skeptical about the vast positive claims the proponents of mindfulness meditation make.  It truly can't be this good for everyone who undertakes it.

Today many teachers with little depth of understanding of the challenges meditators can face are leading students into practices that, while often very positive and relaxing, can lead a troubled mind to very dangerous places.

Just as a poorly trained yoga teacher can lead a student to physical injury,  an insensitive meditation teacher can introduce practices that add dangerous rumination to the challenges one faces.  Even expert, world famous teachers have students who have come apart, some requiring hospitalization, on the cushion.  Meditation's failures are rarely admitted by the proponents of mindfulness.  But an article in The Atlantic by Tomas Rocha details such failures.  I highly encourage you to read it.

Anything people sell you as a cure-all should be met with skepticism.  Meditation can yield very positive results to most who undertake it - including most people with mental illness.  But a measure of caution is always warranted.  Just as a personal trainer who works his client so hard that he can't walk the next day is doing a disservice, so is the meditation teacher not prepared to admit that this is not for everyone.  If it all sounds too easy, it likely doesn't work.  If when undertaken it seems too difficult, maybe one should stop.

Find a good teacher and trust yourself if you choose to practice.  Mindfulness, noticing your experiences and your environment, is a very positive thing.  But there are many paths to get there.  Don't take one that hurts.

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