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"The side Effects of Meditation"

"The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/15/18 9:06 PM
Meditation Is a Powerful Mental Tool and For Some, It Goes Terribly Wrong

An article that begins with an interviewee saying, "I just felt shattered. I had a job, a wife, and two beautiful children, and yet I felt that I would never experience joy again.”  David had a hunch about what had caused his panic attack: his meditation practice.He had begun meditating in August 2017. His gateway was a book, The Mind Illuminated by John Yates, and then Daniel Ingram's Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha. He took to it easily. In the first week, he could meditate for about 30 minutes a day, and a month later had a regular practice of two 60-minute sits a day—once in the morning, and once in the evening.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/15/18 9:35 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Many of the praticipants on this forum were involved in Willoughby Britton's work at Brown University on the Void or Dark Night type phenomenon that is refrenced in the article. I think there is a video of Daniel at Cheetah House at Brown, talking about this stuff floating around somewhere.

Meditation is about inclining your brain's attentiveness in a particular way, it can definitely induce anxiety and other issues.

The transformative effect of stream entry and other attainments is well worth the risk IMO. But each person has to decide for themselves.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 12:05 AM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
If he was familiar with MCTB, wonder why he didn't take the 'warning' and the 'resolution' (in dark night section) seriously. It's like the only meditation book on earth which gives explicit warning before starting. Sounds strange.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 12:16 AM as a reply to tamaha.
Hey, glad there is already a thread on this, but before I saw this thread, here is what I wrote:

”So this article came out in Vice on the 15th: https://tonic.vice.com/en_us/article/vbaedd/meditation-is-a-powerful-mental-tool-and-for-some-it-goes-terribly-wrong, and it mentions MCTB in the first example of being a book that inspired the meditation in someone that went horribly wrong after they also picked up TMI. While I am delighted they are talking about the Dark Night in more real-world terms than what it typically gets, I must admit I felt more than a bit slighted, and noted numerous bits of irony that I found irksome.

Irony #1: being mentioned in the same sentence as The Mind Illuminated, which, while a great textbook on meditation fundamentals, is also frankly and irresponsibly dismissive IMHO of the Dark Night stages, giving them only cursory treatment, claiming to be able to often bypass them by just adding in some more samatha with the vipassana, a claim that doesn’t even often work out in students working with the man himself, as I noted during my month co-teaching with Culadasa at his own meditation center Dharma Treasure this September.

Irony #2: Speaking of which, not any mention is made of the fact that I go farther out of my way in MCTB2 to mention the Dark Night stages in excruciating detail and provide more warnings and helpful and normalizing tech for dealing with them than any book I know of on meditation, and yet I seem to being lumped into the camp of those who don’t mention them, something that for years earned me no end of flack from numerous major “don’t talk about it” types.

Irony #3: the fact that no mention is made of the fact that I have run and paid for a free online community of over 6,000 people for over a decade that is largely populated by people who have run into these stages.

Irony #4: that Shinzen is quoted as mentioning the Dark Night stages, when he is one of the ones who is moderately dismissive of how frequently and sometimes how intensely they occur, as evidenced by his recent podcast with Michael Taft on Deconstructing yourself. (Just so I am clear, I am generally a bit fan of Shinzen, but diverge from him radically on this particular point).

Irony #5: the fact that I spend numerous hours every single week answering emails and skype calls and the like for free largely helping to handle people who have run into the Dark Night stages and are struggling with them.

Irony #6: I have also influenced and promoted scientific articles that mention the Dark Night stages, including the work of Drs Willoughby Britton and Jared Lindahl, as well as through my editing work for a meditation journal, and the influence I had on Duncan’s article about the Dark Night stages that went out in the journal that goes to every mental health practitioner in the UK.

Irony #7: that I have been on numerous podcasts and even interviewed by the BBC and other mainstream media sources regarding the Dark Night stages for my work in trying to bring awareness to them.If anyone has any idea how to get in touch with the author of that article, let me know.

Anyway, thanks for listening to my somewhat self-indulgent rant about a pretty ironically distorted article from my point of view.

Daniel”

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 7:14 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Yeah. That.

I found that Vice/Tonic article linked to from FlashBoard this morning in my inbox. I read it and had a similar reaction.

Since when was factual accuracy, fair treatment based on reading all the relevant books, talking to the authors and their audiences, historical actions of the article's subjects and the existence of contradictory evidence a thing the popular media does?


emoticon

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 7:45 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
My take on the article: Its tone is not judgemental or sensational, and it does not single you out. Yes, it is a glaring omission that the author did not interview you or mention your work in this area; but today's journalists seldom go deep enough into any investigation.

If I may make a suggestion: Consider increasing your public exposure so that your message is more widely heard. In particular, you might call Dan Harris back and tell him you are ready to do an interview.

Added: The copy I read says the author is shayla.love@vice.com

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:16 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Hello Daniel,

Culadasa has 6 talks devoted to the adverse effects of meditation. They are about 1 hour each.

Here are the links to the 6 talks:

1. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-29-may-2014-2/

2. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-14-aug-2014/

3. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-28-aug-2014-dharma-talk/

4. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-11-sep-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-4/

5. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-25-sep-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-5/

6. https://dharmatreasure.org/tcmc-9-oct-2014-culadasa-adverse-effects-meditation-6/

He argues that one can mostly avoid the Dark Night if one correctly follows the "entire" Noble Eightfold Path .

Kind regards,

Michael

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:55 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Oh, yes, a  podcast with Sam Harris would be great.

Thanks for the links to the talks.

Could someone list any podcasts that Mr Ingram has been on?

I had a dissociative experience after meditating with Sam's app (only 10 minute meditations) for 30 days and then a guided body scan. I felt dissociated for 3 days. It wasn't unpleasnt - quite calming, dissociated from desire, ability to observe desires and thoughts.

I'm using TMI at the moment.

Could someone give any advice, conisdering the VICE article is pretty frightening (even after reading about The Dark Night - permanent or long term psychological issues are not what one considers when wishing to attain streamentry).

I don't have any psychological issues (other than the "average" person has, I guess, or that I know of)


Thanks

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 1:36 PM as a reply to Greg Jack Tunting.
Greg Jack Tunting:
Could someone list any podcasts that Mr Ingram has been on?
Yes, discussing the current subject:

https://youtu.be/kTLr0gqQTuU

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 2:51 PM as a reply to Greg Jack Tunting.
Greg Jack Tunting:


Could someone give any advice, conisdering the VICE article is pretty frightening (even after reading about The Dark Night - permanent or long term psychological issues are not what one considers when wishing to attain streamentry).

I don't have any psychological issues (other than the "average" person has, I guess, or that I know of)


I'd recommend reading these threads (1, 2) on the book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness, which does a good job of covering a different facet of what goes on in practice than either TMI or MCTB.  

I discussed it a bit in those threads, but I've had some difficult experiences this year due to retraumatizing myself with meditation.  I'm definitely conflicted by the Vice article.  On one hand, my experience has been difficult and a complete retelling would make it sound like one of the worse anecdotes.  On the other hand, following the path has been very worthwhile and I've still found the benefits to outweigh the drawbacks.  I also did have complete warning that there was a high potential for difficulties, and have been very grateful to have had access to the maps to make sense of certain parts of my experience.  I think my main mistake was essentially a kind of risk compensation and narrow focus -- knowing that the Dark Night existed and could be broken into intelligible stages made me feel like I fully understood the full range of difficult experiences, so I neglected a bunch of warning signs that should have had me backing off and instead ran into trauma-related issues that weren't on my radar at all.   I was also trying to make stuff go faster by improvising a bunch of different practices instead of staying within the "slow and steady wins the race" single-trustworthy-tradition approach like TMI.

One way to figure out whether you might have had past events that predispose you towards difficult meditative experiences is to look at all your relationships and honestly assess whether you're feeling significantly blocked in some of them.  It's especially worth keeping an eye on whether you feel like you're isolating yourself in order to meditate your way out of your problems.  I would have probably not described myself as having had all that many issues before I started meditating, but the signs were probably present in my life.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 3:32 PM as a reply to Ward Law.
Regarding Dan Harris, he only really wants to do it in person, and I just haven’t managed to swing by NYC in a while, but might be able to on my way to France in late March, Norns and finances permitting, but don’t count on it by any means.

Thanks for the contact info, and gratifying that it wasn’t only my narrow perspective that caused that reaction and that other people saw something similar.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 3:38 PM as a reply to Michael P Fortier.
I won’t have time to listen to the Culadasa podcasts, but having just been involved in perhaps 40 hours of Q&A in person with Culasasa where we often debated these topics, sometimes moderately hotly, as well as just recently on retreat with him in Canada (we were all retreating together doing fire kasina), I know his take on these issues pretty well, I think, and we are going to have to agree to disagree, as he truly believes despite obvious evidence that the Dark Night stages are largely avoidable or easily mitigated by just doing things exactly his way, something that only doens’t work out in practice often, but also, IMHO, contains shadow sides that need to be addressed somehow for TMI to really be all it can be, as it does contain some great elements.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 4:01 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
I also keep thinking that if my book was instead about extreme sports, and titled something like Mastering High-Intensity Powerlifting, or Mastering Ultramarathons, then, not only would the people reading the warnings have a much higher chance to actually hear and understand them them, but they would have some understanding that a book at Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha is basically in that same league, particularly if one wants to do something that extreme fast, and have a much better appreciation for the numerous places that I say brain injuries are possible, real, and not always even recoverable.

MCTB was never meant to be a mainstream, for beginners, everyone-should-do-this-dharma book, just like a book called Mastering High-Intensity Powerlifting or Mastering Ultramarathons hopefully would never in a zillion years be considered by anyone with half a brain as a reasonable book to study from for most exercisers. While it is true it has parts suitable for the meditation hobbyist or the casual dabbler, there is a reason the book has not just a Foreword but something called a “Foreword and Warning”, and a reason that the subtitle is An Unusually Hardcore Dharma Book. If someone said to you, “Hey, here’s a book called: Olympic Weightlifting, an Unusually Hardcore Exercise Program,” would you train from that book unless you were up for the risks that getting those benefits would likely entail? Yes, it says that people can do these things, like people can go to high-intensity gyms or practice from high-intensity workout videos or whatever, but it assumes that people will actually read the warnings as real and make good choices about whether or not those risks are right for them and their lives and responsibilities.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 10:51 AM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
There are a few neat diagrams in the appendix of TMI about "The Dark Night", but that's about it. It's the last appendix in the book, basically an after-thought. I really love the diagrams, as they visually spell out all the whole DN stuff pretty cleanly. I was surprised that it was the only mention of it in the book. 

I've uploaded those images here because I like them so much. 

I think there is a term, which eludes me at the moment, for the epiphany one can have when reading a journalistic piece about something they know a great deal about. Basically, "if this journalist is getting stuff not-quite-right, perhaps all the other journalism about topics I know much less about, which I've taken to be well-researched and thorough, are also off the mark in ways I'll never know."

I don't mean to knock the piece really, I was happy to see the subject given treatment and think the general public stands to gain from reading more pieces such as this. When reading something like this through one's "expert" lens, one should be a little forgiving of the shortcomings of it that might not be visible to everyone else. 

I've written journalistic pieces before and recall people who were extremely knowledgable about the subject getting in touch with me, extremely upset about minor details, whereas many "regular" people who'd read it reached out and told me it was a fantastic, well-written piece. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/16/18 4:51 PM as a reply to Gus Castellanos.
Great that the subject of serious meditation practice is widely discussed.
What if to put this or a similar article as the first thing after the title in every meditation book ever published from now on?

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 7:02 AM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
I won’t have time to listen to the Culadasa podcasts, but having just been involved in perhaps 40 hours of Q&A in person with Culasasa where we often debated these topics, sometimes moderately hotly, as well as just recently on retreat with him in Canada (we were all retreating together doing fire kasina), I know his take on these issues pretty well, I think, and we are going to have to agree to disagree, as he truly believes despite obvious evidence that the Dark Night stages are largely avoidable or easily mitigated by just doing things exactly his way, something that only doens’t work out in practice often, but also, IMHO, contains shadow sides that need to be addressed somehow for TMI to really be all it can be, as it does contain some great elements.
That's interesting to hear Dan. I was always sceptical about Culadasa's stand on this.

I have met 2 people who had a streak of insights who, as long as I knew them, didn't have dark nights. However, both of them, had extremely stressful pasts in their life.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/17/18 6:05 AM as a reply to Kim Katami.
This journalist made an unfortunate, but entirely understandable, ommission here. The fault lies with the source who cited MCTB without explaining that, in fact, this book amounts to the single biggest warning about/collection of advice on the subject of DN.
Overall, this is a thoughtful and thorough treatment of the subject, with a pretty broad range of perspectives presented. I'm sick of people slamming journalists. What other mistakes were made here? In what other ways was this a shallow, MSM treatment of the subject? 

One important point: With the exception of something like Medium, journalists never get to write the headlines for their articles. They routinely have to deal with copy editors writing headlines that get something wrong, like asserting that "no one talks about" these phenomena. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/18/18 4:35 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
Tashi Tharpa:
This journalist made an unfortunate, but entirely understandable, ommission here. The fault lies with the source who cited MCTB without explaining that, in fact, this book amounts to the single biggest warning about/collection of advice on the subject of DN.
Overall, this is a thoughtful and thorough treatment of the subject, with a pretty broad range of perspectives presented. I'm sick of people slamming journalists. What other mistakes were made here? In what other ways was this a shallow, MSM treatment of the subject? 

One important point: With the exception of something like Medium, journalists never get to write the headlines for their articles. They routinely have to deal with copy editors writing headlines that get something wrong, like asserting that "no one talks about" these phenomena. 

Yes, and in addition to that, I hope the article will at least be one wake up call for the mainstream image of meditation in public media (despite the article drawing some premature conclusions). Since VICE has a broad audience, maybe more people start to recognize that buddhist meditation wasn't originally developed to optimize your capitalistic self, and is instead a source for human development, including shadow aspects, that goes much deeper. And if they research online, they hopefully find these valuable ressources, like Dharmaoverground and such, for guidance.

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
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11/18/18 7:29 AM as a reply to Tashi Tharpa.
I think the biggest remaining issue with the article is the question of what people in this situation should do. It refers generically to people getting therapy or being admitted to a psych ER. At least for outpatient stuff, I think that there aren’t a ton of therapists who are actually well-equipped to handle meditation-related emotional disregulation.  When I reached out to Willoughby earlier this year, she suggested that I work with a somatic experiencing therapist. That’s been very useful, and I think that would be a good default recommendation for both people in crisis and for meditators who are looking for good therapeutic support. 

RE: "The side Effects of Meditation"
Answer
11/18/18 1:43 PM as a reply to JP.
I totally agree ;)
The studies listed in the article may be part of proper research - how the author presents them contextually is definitively misleading.