wandelaar

Meditation sickness and related deviations

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Personally I prefer keeping a middle road in my practices, so I didn't deeply study the possible dangers of extreme forms of meditation and/or chi gong. But as more and more Bums report about what went wrong in their own practice I think it is time to research meditation sickness and related deviations. So this topic is devoted to the study of meditation sickness and related deviations. Bums are invited to provide information and links to further sources about what happens in meditation sickness and related deviations, and what can be done about it. Please don't (mis)use this topic for promoting personal pet theories, you can open other topics about those if you like. Here I prefer well reasoned and researched comments. I haven't placed this in my personal practice topic because I also want non-members to be able to profit from this topic.

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A quick search reveals that one can find all kinds of articles about this on the internet, so one has to be careful in what to believe. One - possibly somewhat too negative - article is this one:

 

https://skepticmeditations.com/2017/07/23/meditation-sickness/

 

It contains interesting information and links for further study.

 

I have also found some possibly relevant free pdf's, but I will first read them myself to see whether they are worth linking.

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Before scaring everyone I need to point something out. Most people simply don’t train enough to get any of these problems.

 

Secondly most people also don’t have the ‘energetic awakening’ necessary to develop any meaningful amount of Qi.

 

Also most Qi Gong that’s available to the public is based on imagination... and mostly creates imaginary results. Of course imagination practice can cause its own host of issues - but again it takes several hours of intense practice every day - most people don’t do that much.

 

If you’re serious about the internal arts, you’ve probably found a good teacher who should be able to help you navigate around any issues or pitfalls.

 

 

Qi Gong Chu Pian - Qi Gong Deviation.

 

Generally it’s the result of reversed flow in a channel. Generally not too serious. Can cause pain and tremors when not practicing (tremors and pain during practice is normal). Usually it’s because of incorrect practice... being too forceful with intention or too much contrived directing of energy.

 

 

Zou Huo Ru Mo - Entering The Fire.

 

Slightly more serious than the above. Basically the body gets too yang and starts burning up. It’s often because of some underlying condition. It can cause the surfacing of psychological conditions... usually mania. If it’s not tended to it can create long term psychotic episodes, mood swings, aggression etc.

 

 

Gu Zheng - Steaming of the Bones

 

This results from depleting the Yin of your body. Basically it feels like your bones are producing heat, you feel restless, can’t sleep and get night sweats. Caused by excessively leading energy with the mind... forcing the microcosmic orbit... too much visualisation... also during some Nei Dan processes. Common in dedicated Healing Tao practitioners.

 

 

Du Huo Gong Xin - Poison Fire Tainting the Heart

 

Another common one amongst HT practitioners, Guru types or anyone heavily focusing on sexual practices and ‘retention’. This one I believe is the most dangerous one. It’s one thing to mess yourself up, but this condition will often go unnoticed and start to affect other people around the practitioner. Basically it’s a ‘base desire deviation’. Results in an obsession with sex/money/power... Often creates sexual deviancy (desire to dominate sexually, ‘corrupt/destroy innocence’ etc) Also desire to dominate people (lust for power) and an obsession with wealth.

 

There’s many other subtle ones.

 

Too much Qi in the head (often results in increase of ‘intelligence’ but in a confused, manic way... Drew’s behaviour would be a classic example)

 

Stagnation based issues... often from too much meditation or incorrect quality of focus in internal practices. Results in sluggish and dull mind and body. Often meditation feels very nice and peaceful, but it’s in fact just going into a dull sedated trance state. Very common in meditators.

 

There’s so many other pitfalls. Often from useful openings happening at the wrong time in someone’s development. Results in the ‘dark night of the soul’... deep depression etc. Again this often happens in meditators without a teacher and without energetic inner transformations necessary to create the right conditions for the expanding consciousness.

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In addition to the above, some other issues that come up...

I think we've seen multiple people coming to the forums with depersonalization/derealization issues resulting from their meditation. This can especially happen with meditation practices that seek to realize that the sense of self is an illusion...the practitioners misunderstand the purpose of such teachings, and end up causing depersonalization, where they feel like they are observing the body as if it's not them etc, which is not the correct result and is a disorder that causes major problems in their life. Derealization can also happen with meditation, where the person feels like the world isn't real and everything seems fake. These are not achievements, although misunderstanding various spiritual teachings can definitely lead one to believe they are...some of these teachings are quite easy to misunderstand. And I think various "spiritual teachers" in the marketplace sometimes have these disorders - such as the neo-advaitans who give satsangs.

 

I personally had a frightening time resulting from energy practices done incorrectly, ended up in two psych wards for a few days each, and had strong experiences of "ideas of reference", which for a short time I mistook to be real (and therefore had "delusions of reference"). I've seen one other person come to the forum with that same issue, and I tried to help them...but it's extremely challenging to reason with a person whose mind isn't functioning optimally, who is in a heightened state of emotions, and who believes what they're experiencing.

 

What helped me recover psychologically from my experience was practicing the attention training methods from Dr. Amit Sood's book Train your Brain etc, in addition to other basic ideas like getting into a normal sleep schedule, etc. It was challenging to ultimately overcome the ideas of reference, but it's possible and these days I basically never experience such things...my mind got back to normal.

Sorry this isn't really well referenced on the subject of deviations, but it's some of what we've seen at the forum and my own experience, with some clear diagnoses (only licensed professionals can diagnose) for these particular issues. I'm sometimes not a fan of psychiatry, but in these disorders I think they're spot on.

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2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

Bums are invited to provide information and links to further sources about what happens in meditation sickness and related deviations, and what can be done about it.

Have had this about three times in the over 10 years of long term daily sitting.  Mostly , for me it feels like a kind of 'roid rage"  where I am not angry but very anxious,  areas on the body feeling like electric sparks are hitting it.  disconnected.  The last time this happened was doing to much neigung reverse breathing.  It usually happens when I forget to just have fun in meditation.  just sit to sit. while i still do some other forms of dantian/hara breathing , I just watch the breath, and don't try to get anything out of it.  that seems to let the energy calm down.  Also going out side sitting on the ground, touching trees, etc, helps a lot, have no idea why. don't know what works for others.

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Yup - the “delusions of reference” and general self centredness is often a sign of Zou Huo Ru Mo. Or even something more minor like too much Qi in the head (new age ‘third eye’ type practices).

 

I’ve seen ‘depersonalisation’ type symptoms from new age practitioners and from ‘sectarian meditation’ practitioners.

 

There are also many Kundalini Syndrome issues.

 

These often happen when New Age practitioners do authentic practices to ignite the kundalini without any of the preparatory practices. There are many psychological and physiological issues related to this. Too many to list.

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Most problems associated with energetic practices are related to “engineering” issues:

 

Meaning the wilful acts of moving energies according to what in the beginners misunderstandings will create fruit desired - generally feeling “something” and or getting some ability or enhancements.

 

Engineering is the Rabbits Way - it will inflate the ego, produce rapid shallow results, detour ones transcendence, and if the outcome is “desirable” it will generally occlude 

the overall understanding of the practitioner. But - it’s fast and flashy and gets results quick. The “shallow” results may seem pretty incredible by all accounts - and many books tout them as such.

 

The Rabbits Way does not imply short forms or no work - it can be hours of practice each day and total dedication.

 

But intentionally moving energy and engineering ones energies as apposed to a practice that brings into action the subtle energies in a holistic natural way without wilfulness and directing/controlling

the natural unfolding - such engineering is actually the slow way and the least productive in the long run. 

 

This is not to to say that some experience with playing with energy is not useful or helpful.

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14 minutes ago, Zen Pig said:

Have had this about three times in the over 10 years of long term daily sitting.  Mostly , for me it feels like a kind of 'roid rage"  where I am not angry but very anxious,  areas on the body feeling like electric sparks are hitting it.  disconnected.  The last time this happened was doing to much neigung reverse breathing.  It usually happens when I forget to just have fun in meditation.  just sit to sit. while i still do some other forms of dantian/hara breathing , I just watch the breath, and don't try to get anything out of it.  that seems to let the energy calm down.  Also going out side sitting on the ground, touching trees, etc, helps a lot, have no idea why. don't know what works for others.

This is a perfect example of engineering vs “simple” (and far more advanced) practice. 

 

If your practice is all about “doing” and you really feel like you know what “you” are doing - you are IN the Rabbits Way and probably about to write a book or two. And you may have many students and do very well out there.

 

Yet the Turtle always transcends to the “finish line” whereas the Rabbit is a shiny object even if he plays shy and cool.

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Posted (edited)

Students and many “Masters” direct energies, practice specific regional intense breathing, and offer help to their students who end up in psychiatric care.

 

Many are given an A-Z schedule of spiritual events that must happen as one progresses from one certification to the next.

 

A “base simple practice” will lead one to everything unfolding holistically and whatever is needed will come to one in such a practice.

 

An engineered practice will lead to a specialized growth, self fulfilling colored lenses and seeing spectacular horizons.

 

The “simple” practice will have one BE the spectacular horizons. 

Edited by Spotless
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Yeah I understand your distinction.

 

But could you name some specific practices - just so it’s helpful for people reading.

 

Or are you saying that the same practice (Qi Gong for example) can be practiced in a Rabbit or a Turtle approach?

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, wandelaar said:

A quick search reveals that one can find all kinds of articles about this on the internet, so one has to be careful in what to believe. One - possibly somewhat too negative - article is this one:

 

https://skepticmeditations.com/2017/07/23/meditation-sickness/

 

It contains interesting information and links for further study.

 

I have also found some possibly relevant free pdf's, but I will first read them myself to see whether they are worth linking.

I had never heard of "meditation sickness" before so this article was very interesting.

 

In my formative days, I would sometimes meditate for 8-9 hours on a weekend when I wasn't working but it was more akin to the thought-conception and discursive-thought associated with the first jhana in the Buddhist Satipattana Sutra as questions were being resolved. Upon resolution, this dissolved into thought-free stillness and equanimity on that specific subject. Then, at some point, I moved on to sleeping meditations ("conscious sleep") and walking meditations (pure alert awareness) and here-and-now meditations in waking life while working out specific issues in the here-and-now.

 

I never got into those long empty stoned-out sitting meditations as they did not seem useful nor did I go into meditation with expectations of specific results. Then I read something from the Hindu sage Ramana Maharshi that "sitting in meditation for prescribed intervals at specific times is only for the merest of spiritual novices". That caught me by surprise initially but I understood.

 

Fortunately, I never developed "meditation sickness" as described in that article and discussed in this thread. It's all very interesting and I'm glad that, somehow, I avoided these malpractices. :)

Edited by Still_Waters
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1 hour ago, Aetherous said:

In addition to the above, some other issues that come up...

I think we've seen multiple people coming to the forums with depersonalization/derealization issues resulting from their meditation. This can especially happen with meditation practices that seek to realize that the sense of self is an illusion...the practitioners misunderstand the purpose of such teachings, and end up causing depersonalization, where they feel like they are observing the body as if it's not them etc, which is not the correct result and is a disorder that causes major problems in their life. Derealization can also happen with meditation, where the person feels like the world isn't real and everything seems fake. These are not achievements, although misunderstanding various spiritual teachings can definitely lead one to believe they are...some of these teachings are quite easy to misunderstand. And I think various "spiritual teachers" in the marketplace sometimes have these disorders - such as the neo-advaitans who give satsangs.

 

I personally had a frightening time resulting from energy practices done incorrectly, ended up in two psych wards for a few days each, and had strong experiences of "ideas of reference", which for a short time I mistook to be real (and therefore had "delusions of reference"). I've seen one other person come to the forum with that same issue, and I tried to help them...but it's extremely challenging to reason with a person whose mind isn't functioning optimally, who is in a heightened state of emotions, and who believes what they're experiencing.

 

What helped me recover psychologically from my experience was practicing the attention training methods from Dr. Amit Sood's book Train your Brain etc, in addition to other basic ideas like getting into a normal sleep schedule, etc. It was challenging to ultimately overcome the ideas of reference, but it's possible and these days I basically never experience such things...my mind got back to normal.

Sorry this isn't really well referenced on the subject of deviations, but it's some of what we've seen at the forum and my own experience, with some clear diagnoses (only licensed professionals can diagnose) for these particular issues. I'm sometimes not a fan of psychiatry, but in these disorders I think they're spot on.

I can see this happening and really appreciate your comments and the description of your own personal experience.

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Posted (edited)
22 minutes ago, Spotless said:

Students and many “Masters” direct energies, practice specific regional intense breathing, and offer help to their students who end up in psychiatric care.

 

Many are given an A-Z schedule of spiritual events that must happen as one progresses from one certification to the next.

 

A “base simple practice” will lead one to everything unfolding holistically and whatever is needed will come to one in such a practice.

 

An engineered practice will lead to a specialized growth, self fulfilling colored lenses and seeing spectacular horizons.

 

The “simple” practice will have one BE the spectacular horizons. 

I have seen a lot of "A-Z schedules" and they always struck me as being unnatural and full of potential self-fulfilling prophecies. Fortunately, I stayed away from such "level teachings" as they seemed off-target as soon as I was exposed to them.

 

My own teacher NEVER predicted results of meditation practices. Practices were generally "open-ended" so to speak and specific to the individual since each individual is unique. It quickly became clear to me that, if some one expected to have a particular sensation or experience, they would eventually cause it to manifest as a self-fulfilling prophecy. You presented the phenomenon with great clarity. I am fortunate that my spiritual mentor steered me away of a lot of the problematic practices being discussed on this thread.

Edited by Still_Waters
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What can be construed as an “extreme form of meditation” is not meditation.

 

It is a very common thing to speak of meditation as though it encompasses anything that includes the intention of meditating. This assumes that the intention is automatically at least trying to head in the right direction which is simply not the case in the least.

 

Take for example the person sitting with eyes closed doing intense reverse breathing - please note - they are sitting and doing intense reverse breathing - not meditating.

 

Take the person sitting with eyes closed and doing all sorts of energy manipulations- they are sitting and doing energy manipulation- not meditating.

 

Consider every person sitting and “doing ..........” - they are sitting and “doing ..........” - they are not meditating.

 

This conversation is really about two things: 1. What are some of the pitfalls of energetic engineering and also of overdoing practices in order to yank results out from our wilfulness in practices.

2. What are some of the naturally occurring energetic difficulties encountered upon a well founded practice.

 

In those falling into the first category the problems are all over the board and prolific.

 

In those falling into the second category the problems are generally along the lines of watching one’s entire diet and then some very real problems that can come up. But even in this - most problems arise as an offshoot of category 1 repercussions.

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I spent several years in the "Dark night of the soul" state. Primarily it was a result of direct experience without proper knowledge supporting it. How it happened was a gradual process of meditation and taijiquan/neigong practice (in my lineage they go hand in hand after the initial few years). I entered Nirvikalpa samadhi several times, but the hard part was being in witness mode for several years in a row. When I first entered the witnessing mode and saw the contents of my mind, I fell into a spiral of depression, self-judgement and loathing (the contents of my mind didn't often fit into the box of the saintly person I aspired to be). 

 

With time it became better. When I met my Master, literally with a touch of his index finger to my forehead, he pulled me out of a rut, and slingshotted me into progressively unfolding awakening. 

Edited by dwai
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46 minutes ago, Spotless said:

What can be construed as an “extreme form of meditation” is not meditation.

 

It is a very common thing to speak of meditation as though it encompasses anything that includes the intention of meditating. This assumes that the intention is automatically at least trying to head in the right direction which is simply not the case in the least.

 

Take for example the person sitting with eyes closed doing intense reverse breathing - please note - they are sitting and doing intense reverse breathing - not meditating.

 

Take the person sitting with eyes closed and doing all sorts of energy manipulations- they are sitting and doing energy manipulation- not meditating.

 

Consider every person sitting and “doing ..........” - they are sitting and “doing ..........” - they are not meditating.

 

This conversation is really about two things: 1. What are some of the pitfalls of energetic engineering and also of overdoing practices in order to yank results out from our wilfulness in practices.

2. What are some of the naturally occurring energetic difficulties encountered upon a well founded practice.

 

In those falling into the first category the problems are all over the board and prolific.

 

In those falling into the second category the problems are generally along the lines of watching one’s entire diet and then some very real problems that can come up. But even in this - most problems arise as an offshoot of category 1 repercussions.

 

 

 

Ok so I think you’re warning people not to play ‘energetic engineer’ and there’s a difference between meditation and energy work - even when seated. (Completely agree)

 

Then you seem to be saying that there’s a practice that unfolds all the developments ‘naturally’ without any specific action taken by the cultivator. You’re alluding to this practice being meditation (I guess?). And that in meditation there are no problems except for naturally occurring problems...

 

I think playing around - whether with energy practices or with meditation is almost always a bad idea and can result in problems - particularly if done intensively over a long period of time.

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59 minutes ago, dwai said:

When I first entered the witnessing mode and saw the contents of my mind, I fell into a spiral of depression, self-judgement and loathing (the contents of my mind didn't often fit into the box of the saintly person I aspired to be). 

 

Can definitely relate to this. Particularly before I had regular contact with an exceptional teacher. Then things got much easier.

 

I always recommend for people to find a good teacher. But most are too excited about ‘energetic engineering’ or they don’t quite understand how important a good teacher really is. Or they can’t find one immediately and just do ‘something’.

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1 hour ago, Spotless said:

Meaning the wilful acts of moving energies according to what in the beginners misunderstandings will create fruit desired - generally feeling “something” and or getting some ability or enhancements.

Yes, I think this is spot on as far as my experience goes.  I have also had some Kundalini movement experiences, but never had a negative problem with them.  Probably because at the time, I was doing zen, and had no clue about these Kundalini crea's .  so by not trying to do anything from a "thinking/will"  standpoint.  much like having a spontaneous opening,  (kensho in zen), happens when usually when just doing something else, not really thinking, but engaged in the world.  

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Posted (edited)

“Long empty stoned out sitting meditations” were mentioned above 

by Still_Waters

 

This is not a reference to meditation. 

It would be an indication of not ever having been IN meditation while specifically working toward meditating.

 

The various attempts toward meditation and the many forms of conceptually getting there have many very real benefits - as do many energetic practices of all sorts - mainly they serve as pointers to the benefits of practice and hopefully to move toward the “simpler” deep practice that great sages expound upon.

 

Long meditation is anything but “empty”and “stoned out”.

 

In-correct sitting can be “empty” and “stoned out” but it is not meditation - rather it is generally associated with

seating ones attention to far forward in the head and sitting in the analyzing activity center while holding it silent - this often causes headaches and uncomfortable pressure in the area. 

 

Movement back toward the center of the head will alleviate this problem.

Edited by Spotless
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Posted (edited)

A common deviation that is often unseen is “hitting the wall” during the first 20 to 40 minutes into meditation. Women generally hit it at around 15-25 minutes in and men around 35-45 minutes in.

 

As the energies clarify and begin to permeate those areas that have been isolated in resistance to touching upon them - anxiousness and thoughts that it would be a good time to stop arise. 

 

If one stops at this time regularly then getting to meditation will not occur and a fairly shallow practice which may be quite delightful will become ones practice but generally not progress much along the lines of meditative expansion.

 

This will have a tendency to incline the “meditator” to “doing” as a way to affect the semblance of change.

 

It is far better to stop well before or well after the “wall”.

Edited by Spotless

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10 minutes ago, Spotless said:

A common deviation that is often unseen is “hitting the wall” during the first 20 to 40 minutes into meditation. Women generally hit it at around 15-25 minutes in and men around 35-45 minutes in.

This is an issue i have with some schools of meditation who suggest 20 to 30 min's twice a day. Of course if that works, then fine, but just getting up early in the morning, and even sitting for an hour, instead of dividing it up seems deeper.  good point

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Posted (edited)

I have this every time that I meditate. I practice just sitting for one hour. But roughly half way I have to resists giving in to the temptation of finally wanting to do something (instead if just sitting). But until now I have always continued meditating till the very end, whenever I started. Didn't know that this problematic phase was called “hitting the wall”. I thought the expression had something to do with not being able to (rationally) solve a koan.

 

Edited by wandelaar

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, wandelaar said:

I have this every time that I meditate. I practice just sitting for one hour. But roughly half way I have to resists giving in to the temptation of finally wanting to do something (instead if just sitting). But until now I have always continued meditating till the very end, whenever I started. Didn't know that this problematic phase was called “hitting the wall”. I thought the expression had something to do with not being able to (rationally) solve a koan.

 

The “wall” is typically only a few minutes ( though it seems longer).

 

In many cases a timed meditation is not what you are really shooting for - but no question - if you start at 3:30 am and need at some point to shower and leave for work then a timer is very useful.

 

The term “hitting a wall” is simply a way of saying what I have noticed happening in the early stages of learning to be in meditation. Most people begin to float out of their bodies at these times - the energy desifies to some extent - and often brown colors begin to form or reds.

 

 

Edited by Spotless

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3 minutes ago, Spotless said:

The “wall” is typically only a few minutes ( though it seems longer).

 

Yes - that's what makes it bearable. I know it will pass, and that I can handle it.

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