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What Happened to Cheetah House

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What Happened to Cheetah House
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4/24/19 3:53 PM
Does anyone know what has become of The Cheetah House? I've noticed this shift over time from them being super interested in meditation, while also wanting to be sober about potential difficult experiences and downsides that are part of the path to what seems like outright hatred for meditation. I follow them on facebook and it feels like they just sit around scouring the internet for negative articles about meditation. Of course, it's there perogative to have that opinion, but it is definitely an interesting turn. 

RE: What Happened to Cheetah House
Answer
9/9/19 8:41 AM as a reply to Causes & Conditions.
I've had the exact same thought. I think they literally have a Google Alert set up for any news articles related to meditation. They share them on their public channel it seems to either a) generate content or b) just share them for the sake of it. I think their attitude is more, "here's another story -- we don't necessarily support its contents, but we suggest everything is considered".

Some of the nonsense they've shared has been so unscientific I'd actually thought it would work against their goals. It is confusing. But the main thing (I believe) is that it's not them saying, "we support this", as much as it is them saying, "here's something else to think about".

That said, it's been a while since one of their weird posts came into my feed. Also note: There is a "research" group within their Facebook page, which is more scientific and helpful, IMO.

RE: What Happened to Cheetah House
Answer
9/9/19 1:03 PM as a reply to Johnny W.
I like the analogies in the article All Debates Are Bravery Debates for thinking about this.  The general point is that sometimes different messages are useful for different groups of people to hear and are the right advice for them, even if those messages are in direct contradiction to each other.  For example, some naturally giving and altruistic people need to hear "It's OK to have your own needs and wants and to prioritize them over helping others."  And some naturally self-centered people need to hear "Consider the needs of others above your own."  

So in the case of meditation, there are a lot of people who could benefit from adopting a meditation practice.  And there's a lot of advice out there saying "Mindfulness and meditation are awesome! Go for it!"  And that's great if it gets someone to set up a 20 minute/day practice.  But if they overshoot and meditate 3 hours every day or do a really intensive retreat without the knowledge that meditation can mess stuff up, that advice will have failed them.

So the audience of people that Cheetah House serves is either those who need to hear "Take it easier with your practice and be aware that meditation can have adverse effects", as well as those who have already have had significant adverse effects and need a community to validate that meditation can have intense effects, and that it's not necessarily true that either they practiced wrong or that something was wrong with them.  So I'd bet Cheetah House thinks of themselves as a corrective to the prevailing rah-rah mindfulness hype.

There also may be some selection bias going on where people with meditation-related crises disproportionately reach out to Willoughby Britton for help, so she sees 90% extreme cases and very few meditative success stories.  She was kind enough to point me towards finding a Somatic Experiencing therapist when I myself needed help.

I do prefer the nuanced pragmatic dharma take on this of "Yes, significantly adverse short- and medium-term effects are very possible.  Here's some practice advice that may help alleviate the negative effects on your life, and some experiential reports so that you understand that some degree of adverse experiences are expected.  There can be very positive effects on your experience in the long run, but you will still be a fallible mortal at the end of it all."  But just reading standard pragmatic dharma resources like MCTB, TMI, etc. does leave out important ways of understanding the causes of adverse experiences, and reading the work of the Britton Lab and its collaborators helps fill in some pieces that aren't covered the same way.  I'm thinking in particular of the book Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness by David Treleaven.

It is a bit disappointing to me that the Britton Lab seems to have turned away from its earlier focus on figuring out what's going on neurologically with different meditative states and events.  But it seems like they're focused on trying to educate meditation instructors to not ignore potential problems, which is definitely a public service.