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"meditation-related difficulties"
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4/3/20 9:42 AM
The subject of this thread is based on the Facebook "Meditation-related Difficulties Support Group," sponsored by Dr. Willoughby Britton and her wonderful crew at Brown U. and Cheetah House. I think this is the right place for it, or at least the best place I can figure out on DhO (open to feedback on that). She is doing extraordinary state-of-the-art work, and I think in the long run it is going to change meditation cultures across the board, across all traditions. An early incarnation of her work was "The Dark Night Project," which now goes under the (less daunting, maybe?) name of "The Varieties of Meditative Experience," but whatever you call it, they are doing amazing stuff in some of the very few front-line field hospitals of spirituality and helping people in real danger of becoming casualities of the spiritual path. The Facebook support group is wonderful, but Facebook is Facebook, too, and I think we should have a real place here on the Dharma Overground to complement their work, a specific location where people can be referred when their "meditation-related difficulties" get to a point where they are in serious danger and need serious help. A DoH ER, if you will. 


There's a good video of Daniel Ingram and Dr. Britton in conversation on this stuff---
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTLr0gqQTuU&t=11s

and I know that Daniel has taken a strong interest in this topic; his main post here on the Dark Night thread is the state of the art, and in general he had been at the forefront of moving against the grain of the mushroom culture phenomena and dynamics on this. It's not a dirty little secret, it's a vast thing affecting a lot of people, and for people in that horrific no-man's land between the psychiatric/psychotherapeutic and meditation paradigms, it can be literally as serious as a heart attack.  Worse, really--- it's relatively easy to find people who know what to do for a heart attack.

So that's openers, just to get a point on the learning curve here.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/3/20 9:57 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/3/20 10:53 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Sure. But a pound of cure, if the ounce was not taken, or failed, has its own worth. I'd be willing to go for an ounce of cure, where prevention has failed. I think there are more and more ounces of prevention in play, throughout meditation cultures these days. But that's not what this thread is about.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/3/20 7:14 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
I think discussion about this topic is definitely worthwhile but, honestly, I don't know how many people here are truly qualified to work with or even diagnose some of the more deep extreme cases. IMHO this is NOT the place for anyone with "serious difficulties" or needing "serious help".

Sometimes you don't know what you are wading into until you are far past your level of expertise. My teacher has plenty of horror stories about how deep seated psychological problems and psychoses are dug up in the process of working with meditation and has always encouraged me to make clear that:

1. I can ONLY do dharma, meditation instruction, and pointing, NOT counseling or psychology

2. I have a great list of truly knowledgeable people who happen to be meditators, but are also psychological professionals equipped to deal with such issues

I have only had to make clear once that I was out of my depth with the kind of problems a student was experiencing. That was when they volunteered that they had been previously hospitalized for Borderline Personality Disorder.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/3/20 10:19 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Hi Tim,

I am not on Facebook and I will spare you the rant of why not, so unfortunately I cannot view Willoughby's page. I had one extreme kundalini event in 1996 the after effects of which lasted about 4 years and two other "negative outcomes", one in 2011 when the after effects lasted about 6 months, and one in 2015, where the after effects lasted about a month. You can read about the first two in my memoir "Silicon Valley Monk" which you can find here and other places (Google Books/Play, Apple iStore, etc).

After the 2011 event, I contacted Willoughby and participated in some of her studies, and have read her papers. I would say that at that time, her primary motivation was publishing research papers about negative outcomes, which is to say well documented and factual reports, statistically backed up, to counter some of the sensationalized, anticdotal accounts that periodically appear in the literature rather rarely and the much more common glowing anticdotal accounts. It was not developing a treatment regime or educating meditation teachers about possible negative outcomes. I talked with her about organizing a conference to discuss the issue, and inviting mediation teachers, but she thought it was too early and wanted to wait until she had done the science first. I recall a while back seeing a notice somewhere on the Internet that there was conference on this topic for meditation teachers, I don't know if she was involved in organizing it or not.

I would say in my case, the incidents had relatively little impact on my daily life, with the after effects not interfering with my ability to work and with relationships with friends, outside of the time I was in retreat and maybe for a couple days to a week afterward. The exceptions are the last event, which disrupted my relationship with my significant other for about a month and the kundalini event. In the latter case, I was practicing as an ordained Zen monk, and had to attend monthly meditation retreats. Intensive meditation tends to escalate kundalini and that is why it took so long to die down. As I have never had much problem with mental illness nor does it occur in my family, I was a bit surprised, and in both of the latter two cases, I worked with a psychotherapist to understand what happened. I think that helped to clear up the aftereffects more quickly.

The primary reason I hang out here on DhO is to provide people who have had "negative outcomes" with some grounding advice: stop meditating for a while, hang out with good friends, eat nice meals, see some movies, work out at the gym, etc., and see a therapist if you can afford it, especially if the incident is having an impact on your daily life. Now of course with coronavirus rampaging, a bit difficult to follow in some cases, but anyway. Meditation has enriched my life in many ways, from bringing new friends, to providing deep insights into the human conditiion, to access to alternate states of consciousness if you want to call them that, and I want to help people who are having trouble with it. It's the least I can do.

Hope that helps.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/4/20 1:11 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
Tim Farrington:
Jim Smith:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.


Sure. But a pound of cure, if the ounce was not taken, or failed, has its own worth. I'd be willing to go for an ounce of cure, where prevention has failed. I think there are more and more ounces of prevention in play, throughout meditation cultures these days. But that's not what this thread is about.
Hi Tim,

I acknowledge my post was annoying. However what I really wanted to say was 1000 times more annoying (it related to foxes guarding hen houses). Even I have a limit to how annoying I am willing to be so that is all I am going to say.

Please accept my apologies.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/4/20 3:07 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Can you elaborate on the Ounce of Prevention please. Thank you. 

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/4/20 6:28 AM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
I think discussion about this topic is definitely worthwhile but, honestly, I don't know how many people here are truly qualified to work with or even diagnose some of the more deep extreme cases. IMHO this is NOT the place for anyone with "serious difficulties" or needing "serious help".

Sometimes you don't know what you are wading into until you are far past your level of expertise. My teacher has plenty of horror stories about how deep seated psychological problems and psychoses are dug up in the process of working with meditation and has always encouraged me to make clear that:

1. I can ONLY do dharma, meditation instruction, and pointing, NOT counseling or psychology

2. I have a great list of truly knowledgeable people who happen to be meditators, but are also psychological professionals equipped to deal with such issues

I have only had to make clear once that I was out of my depth with the kind of problems a student was experiencing. That was when they volunteered that they had been previously hospitalized for Borderline Personality Disorder.
I'm with you all the way, Stirling. It is precisely trying to discern the application of those principles to the horror stories about deep-seated psychological problems and psychoses as they emerge that we are talking about here. This is a thread in the tapestry of the dark night section of the larger tapestry of the stages of insight. We are definitely not here to do counseling or psychology, but we are here to be part of the process of discerning what is called for in particular cases in the jhanas of the knowledge of suffering that require some sorting out. Your great list of truly knowledgeable people who happen to be meditators, but are also psychological professionals equipped to deal with such issues when they call for clinical help rather than dharma chops is a priceless resource. Such people are rare, and the number of people who need them is revealing itself to be larger than most of us had thought. Many of these are people in despair over being able to find such people.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/4/20 8:49 AM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
I think discussion about this topic is definitely worthwhile but, honestly, I don't know how many people here are truly qualified to work with or even diagnose some of the more deep extreme cases. IMHO this is NOT the place for anyone with "serious difficulties" or needing "serious help".

Sometimes you don't know what you are wading into until you are far past your level of expertise. My teacher has plenty of horror stories about how deep seated psychological problems and psychoses are dug up in the process of working with meditation and has always encouraged me to make clear that:

1. I can ONLY do dharma, meditation instruction, and pointing, NOT counseling or psychology

2. I have a great list of truly knowledgeable people who happen to be meditators, but are also psychological professionals equipped to deal with such issues

I have only had to make clear once that I was out of my depth with the kind of problems a student was experiencing. That was when they volunteered that they had been previously hospitalized for Borderline Personality Disorder.

So you do acknowledge that conditioning might be relevant after all. That's reassuring.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/4/20 9:35 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:


The primary reason I hang out here on DhO is to provide people who have had "negative outcomes" with some grounding advice: stop meditating for a while, hang out with good friends, eat nice meals, see some movies, work out at the gym, etc., and see a therapist if you can afford it, especially if the incident is having an impact on your daily life. Now of course with coronavirus rampaging, a bit difficult to follow in some cases, but anyway. Meditation has enriched my life in many ways, from bringing new friends, to providing deep insights into the human conditiion, to access to alternate states of consciousness if you want to call them that, and I want to help people who are having trouble with it. It's the least I can do.

Hope that helps.
Amen.

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/8/20 10:23 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
This link, from Daniel Ingram's state of the art piece in the Dark Night forum, is to the heart, for this thread, if you've got the stomach for it, since at various points it also illustrates the kind of useless crap, crap at great length, that makes pretty much everyone want to throw up their hands and run for the cover of the Disgust nana of the Dark Night as a relief. I think we're much better able to avoid getting bogged down in quite this way, these many years later, given the increase across the board in psychological sophistication, meditation base-line, and awareness of the real and messy place where the psychology and practice collide for some people, who then desperately need the best discernment that can be offered. The state of the art is simply different now. But it's interesting to parse this thread now, and see what has held up from what was at times a real melee.

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/2812066

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
4/10/20 12:56 PM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
a marvelous bit of scholarship and synthesis from shargrol (circa 2013, bonus points) that is relevant here--- his article is "Therapeutic M odels for Meditators":

http://awakenetwork.org/magazine/shargrol/253

RE: "meditation-related difficulties"
Answer
5/10/20 6:41 AM as a reply to Jim Smith.
Jim Smith:
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

far more than, but the effects on my life suck. I need to find better compromises between what I love and what I fear.