Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

thumbnail
Ijs Vogel, modified 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 4:10 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 3:46 PM

Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/29/24 Recent Posts
Hi everyone,
​​​​​​​
I have a complicated question; I have a history of epilepsy that started around age 10. At age 23 I got a brain surgery that cured it. They removed a tiny part of my brain, but never discovered what was the cause. The tissue was completely normal. I was 100% epilepsy free for more than five years, until a mysterious event this week. 

When I'm in very deep jhanic states of meditation I sometimes feel an enormous amount of energy being pulled towards my forehead, moving further upwards. There was an event where my eyes were rolling up and down and my face was trembling. If I start to breathe into it, the energy comes up even more and it almost feels like I enter some trance state. It's not all the time, but it can happen spontaneously. 

This week I had such a strong experience that I have a hard time explaining. I was in a normal meditation, continuously letting go and sinking deeper into presence. At a certain point I felt a ramping, pulsating energy rising from my body upon till my head and upwards. It almost felt electric, like when I used to have seizures. Also because I "could not help it". It would just overpower me. It got so intense that my eyes started flickering rapidly and then everything went "out" for a split second.

When I came back I felt an extreme relief and liberation. A calm that I had never felt before. It was accompanied by enhanced perception of reality, like all of the shapes and things I saw for the first time, for real. 
This strong sensations lasted for half a day and the next day I suddenly felt very emotional, negative and not like my normal self. That night, the unimaginable happened. Right when I went to sleep, I had a big epileptic seizure after more than 5 years of being seizure free. I went to the hospital immediately and everything is OK.

This started to make me wonder, can there be a possible relationship between the intense Kundalini experiences that sometimes just overpower me and the seizure I experienced? Since the electrical experience during meditation felt so powerful and similar to a seizure, I have a strong feeling that it is related.
I have already tried to bring the intensity of the meditation before, just meditate for an hour max and focus constantly on "letting go". However, after what happened I started to become cautious and stopped meditating. 

I understand that this is probably a very specific and rare case, but I hope that someone can give me some advice. 

In specific I would like to know:
- Can deep states of meditation and/or kundalini energy Ignite epileptic seizures?
- How would it be best for me to proceed with meditation? (I'm also totally at peace if it's better for me to stop it)

I hope that you can help me!

Kind regards
Martin, modified 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 4:12 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 4:12 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure, meditation and Kundalini

Posts: 873 Join Date: 4/25/20 Recent Posts
I don't know anything about epilepsy but I wonder if the people at Cheeta House (www.cheetahhouse.org) might be able to help, or at least point you toward someone who can. I notice a few articles on epilepsy and meditation here: https://www.cheetahhouse.org/bibliography
thumbnail
Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 7:09 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 7:09 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
Yeah so there do seem to be some historical links between epilepsy and spirituality. Like people speculating that Joan of arc, Teresa of Avila, St. Paul, and Mohammed all had epilepsy, but this is debated amongst scholars. (More here https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_with_epilepsy under the religious figure section).

Furthermore, there was one eeg study of jhanas by Dennison that claimed that jhanic activity in the brain looks similar to seizures, but there have been follow up papers that criticized his setup/conclusion (I found all of this on google scholar back in the day, I could probably dig it up if you're interested). 

My hunch is that because the neural side of meditation is pretty understudied that there isn't a firm consensus one way or another. 

Ancedotally I have one friend with TLE who used to do jhana meditation and it he says it didn't make it worse, and another who had a more general form who said meditation in general helped (but he said it only helped him when he was basically far along the path). However, I would *strongly* suggest against using what one guy said online about two of his friends to make health decisions. 
thumbnail
Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 7:22 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 7:22 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
Actually it seems as if there is a bunch of research with fairly mixed stuff (at least as far as the abstracts go), with some talking about how meditation could make it worse, with some talking about how it could help. It's probably worth checking out the literature yourself, as well as talking with a neurologist.

​​​​​​​https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C33&q=meditation+epilepsy+&btnG=
thumbnail
Bahiya Baby, modified 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 9:43 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/29/24 9:43 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 519 Join Date: 5/26/23 Recent Posts
There can be phases of meditation in which there can be uncontrollable movement, shaking, over powered ecstacy, bright lights etc. I've seen it have a pretty wild effect on some people. I don't know what epilepsy is like. It is possible those sorts of states might aggrivate the condition, or mimic it, or bring stuff up from epileptic experiences in the past. 

I have seen more than enough people rolling around on the floor, shaking, writhing, screaming and so on... at the feet of a certain unmentionable teacher. 

Do some research... Weird stuff does happen... Maybe nothing to worry about. All the best emoticon
thumbnail
Ijs Vogel, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:26 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 1:24 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/29/24 Recent Posts
Thanks for the replies everyone, I am well aware that this is a very under researched field and indeed, the literature that is there is very mixed.

This is why I decided to temporarily stop meditating; I don't want to risk further igniting anything until someone can give me some advice.
 
This whole situation has made me question deeply what is happening in my brain during meditation and how can it be that I feel so much electrical phenomena during deep Jhanic states? Am I tuning into some mysterious force that is too much for my body to handle? 

​​​​​​​My hope is still to find a neurologist with deep knowledge of meditation, but as you can understand, this is very hard. 
thumbnail
Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 1:28 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 1:28 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 5262 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
+1 for finding the right neurologist to help you navigate this!
thumbnail
Bud ‎, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 3:11 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 3:11 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 4/29/22 Recent Posts
Ijs Vogel:
This whole situation has made me question deeply what is happening in my brain during meditation and how can it be that I feel so much electrical phenomena during deep Jhanic states? Am I tuning into some mysterious force that is too much for my body to handle?


Many here have gone through the electrical phenomena after A&P or other meditation experiences, and yes it's often disorienting. It feels a little overwhelming, like you have no control over it, and this can trigger fear and other unpleasant sensations. As time goes on though, the intensity fades and can actually be something fun to experiment with and develop.

You're becoming more sensitive due to your practise so it's not really surprising you're noticing sensations you didn't previously. Like any other meditation object, they seem to grow when attention remains on them. If it feels like too much, try focusing on something else for a while, and try some physical activity to ground yourself in the body a bit more. Go easy on yourself, there's no hurry and it will work itself out in time. You might be surprised what the mindy and body can handle.
thumbnail
Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:20 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:13 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 5262 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
I loathe the way potentially serious medical problems are sometimes considered just "more of the same" meditation symptoms. It's dangerous and messed up.

There, I said it. 

Epileptic seizures aren't to be taken lightly.
thumbnail
Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:34 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:34 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
+1 

I agree wholeheartedly. It's easy for us to speculate about kundalini and Joan of arc having epilepsy. But it's another thing to have epilepsy and deal with things like having seizures revoke your driving license, having high insurance bills, etc. I saw my friend with TLE have a seizure once, and it was a very serious thing indeed.
Derek2, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:37 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 4:37 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 231 Join Date: 9/21/16 Recent Posts
Ijs Vogel
Can deep states of meditation and/or kundalini energy Ignite epileptic seizures?

Possibly, but I think no one really knows yet.

"Both short- and long-term physiological correlates of TM practice have been studied. EEG effects include increased alpha, theta, and gamma frequencies and increased coherence and synchrony. Neuronal hypersynchrony is also a cardinal feature of epilepsy, and subjective psychic symptoms, apnea, and myoclonic jerking are characteristic of both epileptic seizures and meditative states."

Lansky EP, St Louis EK. Transcendental meditation: a double-edged sword in epilepsy? Epilepsy Behav. 2006 Nov;9(3):394-400. doi: 10.1016/j.yebeh.2006.04.019. Epub 2006 Aug 23. PMID: 16931164.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16931164
thumbnail
Bud ‎, modified 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 7:55 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/30/24 7:55 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 29 Join Date: 4/29/22 Recent Posts
Chris M
I loathe the way potentially serious medical problems are sometimes considered just "more of the same" meditation symptoms. It's dangerous and messed up.

There, I said it. 

Epileptic seizures aren't to be taken lightly.
While I agree that ideally a neurologist or other specialist would be consulted, as Daniel has pointed out modern medical science just isn't there yet. Very likely the advice would be "stop meditating" because they'd have no data to use for diagnosis and/or treatment. If OP is already experiencing kundalini type symptoms and what sound like possible cessations, they're already on the ride so to speak. I'm doing my best to provide some support to someone asking for it. Do you really think your average neurologist or doctor is going to provide any useful answers or support? Perhaps Daniel could suggest a course of action, or someone to speak to who actually has some understanding of meditation and associated issues.

Of course, at the end of the day it's up to the poster to decide what to do with whatever information is provided.
thumbnail
Ijs Vogel, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 5:34 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 5:32 AM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 3 Join Date: 1/29/24 Recent Posts
Hello fellow practitioners,
I feel like I need to further clarify a few things:  I'm a practitioner of the Twin Meditation Method, and I recently experienced this "grand mal" seizure following a significant milestone in my practice.

Meditation Methodology: I follow the Twin Meditation Method, as advocated by Delson Armstrong and discussed by Daniel Ingram on the Guru Viking podcast. This method combines jhana and vipassana, with a primary focus on the Brahma Viharas, particularly loving-kindness meditation. The practice emphasizes a broad concentration rather than a one-pointed focus, incorporating the 6R technique to enhance relaxation. It's a very gentle method focused on relaxing.

Personal Experience: My progression in meditation has been notably rapid after starting TWIM this year (before that I had 4 years of experience with other meditation methods).During a 10-day TWIM retreat with my husband, I found myself advancing to deeper states, such as the 8th jhana, within 2 to 5 minutes, without much effort. Two days before the epileptic seizure believe that I reached stream, but I'm not 100% certain. 

Context and Concerns: On the day of the seizure, I had been emotionally distressed, which might have contributed to the incident. My brother-in-law, who had a mental breakdown during deep vipassana retreats, switched also to loving-kindness meditation and has seen remarkable improvement. 

Given these factors, I wonder if my rapid advancement and the intensity of my practice could inadvertently be more one-pointed and thus riskier than intended.

Key Questions:
- Should I consider moderating my practice intensity, perhaps actively 'stepping on the brakes' to prevent such occurrences?
- What is the relationship between deep meditative states like stream entry and physical phenomena such as seizures? Is there a way to navigate these experiences safely?

Additional Measures:
I am eager to hear your thoughts, experiences, and advice on this matter. Your insights will be invaluable to my understanding and approach to meditation going forward.

Thank you for your time and guidance.

​​​​​​​Warm regards
thumbnail
Geoffrey Gatekeeper of the Gateless Gate, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 6:01 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 6:01 AM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 395 Join Date: 10/30/23 Recent Posts
Two days before the epileptic seizure believe that I reached stream, but I'm not 100% certain. 

Figuring out this is actually more in our wheelhouse if you'd like to talk about it. The questions people would ask would be to describe the cessation, ask if you got multiple, and ask what's things have felt like immediately after and also in the weeks since.
- What is the relationship between deep meditative states like stream entry and physical phenomena such as seizures? Is there a way to navigate these experiences safely?

The answer really from the thread seems to be we don't know, and it doesn't seem the scientific research is clear one way or another. 
Should I consider moderating my practice intensity, perhaps actively 'stepping on the brakes' to prevent such occurrences?

This is ultimately going to be a personal choice, where hopefully you have been made aware of the risks, benefits and alternatives. There are non jhanic meditations you can do (although most people report that post stream entry that meditation and the jhanas are more automatic and can sometimes be stronger in the case of the jhanas). But again a lot of this depends on your risk tolerance, and also how big of an issue epilepsy is in your life (like I know in the us they may revoke your drivers license if you have a seizure, which could obviously have a big implication for some people). Meditation aside, I think talking to a neurologist after having a seizure after five years free is probably a really wise move, even if they aren't well versed in the ins and outs of jhana. 
thumbnail
Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 7:48 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 7:48 AM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 5262 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Do you really think your average neurologist or doctor is going to provide any useful answers or support?

I'm sure you meant to help, but these situations tend to be outside our wheelhouse on a message board. While we have this idea in mind about all the meditators who fail to get the proper attention from the medical profession, getting proper medical advice still always comes first in a situation that could be serious, even life-threatening. Seek the assistance of someone like Daniel Ingram, or get a referral from someone like Cheetah House, or be sure to describe your situation clearly to a doctor you trust.
temporal illusion, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 10:25 AM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 10:25 AM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Post: 1 Join Date: 1/31/24 Recent Posts
Hey there, chiming in here as a person with TLE and  some meditation experience. (I'm the person who Sha-Man! Geoffrey saw having a seizure). I've experienced some of the jhana states and in these I have had sense perceptions strikingly similar to those that come with my partial seizures in TLE. These experiences are not the same as the specific experience you describe, and I have had similar experiences to yours in jhana meditation. Unlike seizures, they did not ever "run away" into a full blown seizure, and many of my other mental faculties/perceptions were unaltered.

Figured I'd share some knowledge and recommendations that I wish I knew at the outset of my epilepsy and practice. Apologies if this is stuff that you already know, but I figured I'd write it out so that if anybody else comes across this thread, they may take something from it.

1. Seizures occuring after a major change in state of the brain are common occurance. Certain examples include following alcohol consumption, release of stress, or following psychadelic experiences. Meditation certainly feels like it could fit into this category.

2. It is absolutely possible to find a neurologist and epilepsy care team that will help you achieve your goals and engage in "unsafe practices" in a more safe manner. I won't go into specifics here, but if you can build a foundation of trust with your neurologist through honesty, respect, and curiosity, they may help you identify sets of drugs or practices you can engage in before/after mind-altering states that reduce the odds of having a seizure. It's really about trying out as many neurologists as you can. A sweeping heuristic, but I have had success with younger neurologists and those with MD + PhD degrees (I guess the PhD selects for more open-minded and curious people?). My experience is that about 10% are open-minded.

3. I feel it's worth taking seizures seriously not only because of their ability to alter your life, but because seizures beget other seizures. For every seizure you do have you are more likely to have another.

Wishing you the best of luck on your meditation and epilepsy journey. Feel free to DM me.
Olivier S, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 12:18 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 12:18 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 958 Join Date: 4/27/19 Recent Posts
Good post!
thumbnail
Chris M, modified 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 1:12 PM
Created 4 Months ago at 1/31/24 1:12 PM

RE: Epileptic seizure caused by meditation?

Posts: 5262 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
Thanks for posting that - it's very helpful and interesting.

Breadcrumb