Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
[edited - some of my hyperbole removed for easier reading]

Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. It seems I'm one of them. And yet for others it's fine, even beneficial. The reason for starting this thread is that there are likely to be some instances where meditation is contraindicated in an individual. I'd like others not to put themselves though unnecessary suffering that can result when meditation is practised despite being contraindicated.

If one was to sit and read through enough Dho threads, one would soon find that it is frequented by a small subset of the population:

-- men (seems like about 95+%)
-- socially anxious and isolated
-- depressed
-- highly intellectual (The "escape to the mind" coping strategy can turn into spiritual elitism if unchecked)

(of course there are some who don't fit this stereotype). One needs to question why so many psychologically messed up people appear on the Dho, and not healthy, confident happy people. The dark night platitude just doesn't hold water, particularly when you see that almost every single poster who complains of dark night, never recovers. Of course there are many who claim to have got past DN, only to display all the symptoms of depression/anxiety a few weeks later in their posts.

This article explains everything. It's a very long article, so if you don't want to read the whole thing, try the parts in bold. There's also a summary paragraph at the end. Engler's words are particularly interesting in my view.



Meditation And Psychotherapy
A Review of the Literature
Greg Bogart, Ph.D.

Originally published in The American Journal of Psychotherapy,
volume XLV, number 3, 1991, pp. 383-412
© Greg Bogart, all rights reserved

Are meditation and psychotherapy compatible? While meditation leads to physiological, behavioral, and cognitive changes that may have potential therapeutic benefits, psychoanalytic and Jungian critics claim that meditation is regressive, fosters dissociation, and neglects the unconscious. In contrast, transpersonal theorists contend that, when used with attention to assessing the individual's developmental stage and choice of an appropriate method, meditation may promote inner calm, loving kindness toward oneself and others, access to previously unconscious material, transformative insight into emotional conflicts, and changes in the experience of personal identity.

Introduction


Jacob Needleman (1) has written that increasing numbers of contemporary westerners "no longer know whether they need spiritual or psychological help" (p.110). While therapy is often sought for removing the obstacles that stand in the way of personal happiness, spiritual disciplines like meditation are often pursued by those "yearning for something inexplicably beyond the duties and satisfactions of religious, moral, and social life" (p.113). But might there be some point of meeting between therapy and meditation? Could these two approaches to human growth complement and benefit each other in some way? Could they be integrated and utilized in tandem?


Over the past two decades there has been a growing interest in the potential use of meditative practices in psychotherapy (2, 3). This has given rise to a fertile dialogue regarding the confluences and divergences of the traditions of contemplative practice and Western psychotherapy (4-6). Questions have been raised about whether these two methods of human growth are compatible. Might meditation offer access to dimensions of human experience that are largely untouched by Western therapy, and possibly augment or improve the effectiveness of therapy? Does meditation lead to improvements or difficulties in psychological adjustment? How significant are meditation's physiological and cognitive effects? Is meditation fundamentally out of place in the clinical setting, intended to precipitate entirely different kinds of changes in human behavior, personality, and consciousness? Are there dangers in introducing meditation into the therapeutic context? How might these dangers be avoided?


This review of some of the research that has been done to date will focus upon the therapeutic integration of meditative techniques. I will consider theories suggesting that meditation leads to physiological, behavioral, and cognitive changes that have potential therapeutic benefits, as well as suggesting ways in which meditation is more than just a relaxation, behavioral, or cognitive technique. I will then examine some of the problems raised by psychoanalytic and Jungian critiques of meditation. Finally, I will explore the views of several authors associated with the field of transpersonal psychology, Jack Engler, Ken Wilber, Mark Epstein, and Elbert Russell, who have done important work comparing Eastern psychologies (especially Buddhist) and Western views of the self-the individual's conception of being a separate and distinct person with a unique identity-in order to to illuminate how psychotherapy and meditative disciplines might inform and assist one another.
Meditation


There are many forms of meditation that have been developed and passed on by humanity's religious and spiritual traditions. Many involve some form of withdrawal of attention from the outer world and from customary patterns of perceptual, cognitive, emotional, and motor activity, performed in a state of inner and outer stillness. There are, however, forms of meditation that utilize music, movement, or visual or auditory contemplation of physical objects or processes (i.e., staring at a candle flame, watching or listening to a stream of water or ocean waves). Goleman(7) divides meditation into two main categories: concentration methods and insight techniques.


Concentrative meditation fixes the mind on a single object such as the breath or a mantra and attempts to exclude all other thoughts from awareness. This kind of meditation is prescribed in the Yoga Sutras(8) and Buddhism(9), and has been popularized in the form of "Transcendental Meditation"(TM). Concentration practices suppress ordinary mental functioning, restrict attention to one point, and induce states of absorption characterized by tranquility and bliss.(10)
Buddhism, however, also introduced the practice of insight meditation (vipassana), the goal of which is insight into the nature of psychic functioning, not the achievement of states of absorption. Vipassana is a training in mindfulness in which attention is focused upon registering feelings, thoughts, and sensations exactly as they occur, without elaboration, preference, selection, comments, censorship, judgment, or interpretation(10) (p.21). It is a process of expanding attention to as many mental and physical events as possible, the goal of which is understanding of the impermanent, unsatisfactory, and non-substantial nature of all phenomena. Thus, it is primarily a means of knowing one's mental processes more clearly-for example, by understanding the chain of "mind moments" that lead to suffering-and of learning to shape and control them.


These two kinds of meditation may have very different effects on the practitioner and thus may have very different clinical applications. A comparison of two EEG studies(11,12) showed that yogis in meditation are oblivious to the external world, while Zen meditators become keenly attuned to the environment. Thus, different forms of meditation are associated with different patterns of brain activity and different forms of attention. The distinctions between various forms of meditation such as TM and vipassana are significant because they enable us to recognize that a meditation technique may appropriately be applied in therapy only if it matches the therapeutic goals being sought, for example, stress reduction, working through difficult emotions, or seeking transformative transpersonal experiences.
Finally, in order to speak intelligibly about meditation we must not only make these distinctions between various kinds of meditation, but we must also note that different effects may be associated with different stages of meditative practice; i.e. long-term practitioners may experience different physiological, cognitive, and psychological states and changes than novices.


Why Use Meditation in Psychotherapy?
Deatherage(13 studied the effectiveness of meditation techniques as a primary or secondary technique with a variety of psychiatric patients. He conceptualized meditation as a self-treatment regimen (highly efficient for the use of the therapist's time and therefore quite cost-effective) that helps patients know their own mental processes and preoccupations, develop the "observer self," and gain the ability to shape or control their mental processes.
Carpenter(14) writes, "Meditation and esoteric traditions have much to offer psychotherapy," and suggests that the efficacy of meditation in therapy is due to a combination of relaxation, cognitive and attentional restructuring, self-observation, and insight. Shapiro & Giber(15) discuss two main hypotheses regarding the mechanisms responsible for the therapeutic benefits of meditation: first, the view that meditation brings about a state of relaxation; and secondly, the view that meditation is effective by inducing an altered state of consciousness.
Deikman(16) argues that Western psychology has much to learn from the traditions of mystical sciences, which claim that central sources of human suffering originate in ignorance of our true nature, and that achieving enlightenment, or the experience of the "Real Self" alleviates human suffering by removing its basis. Western therapy, he writes, focuses on emotions, thoughts, memories, impulses, images, self-concepts, all of which are contents of consciousness. But Western psychology fails to concern itself with the fact that our core sense of personal existence--what Deikman calls "The observing self"--is located in awareness itself, not in its contents. Thus awareness remains beyond thought and images, memories, and feelings, and cannot be observed, but must be experienced directly. Meditative techniques heighten awareness of the observing self, change customary patterns of perception and thinking(p.33), and change motivation, lessening the intensity of motivations connected with the ego (the "object self"), leading to reduction of symptoms (p.11).
In Deikman's view, "Meditation is an adjunct to therapy, not a replacement for it" (p.143). Therapy is most helpful for persons seeking relief from symptoms interfering with work, intimacy and pleasure (p.174). Therapy ameliorates neurotic self-centeredness, corrects misinterpretations of the world, and teaches new strategies that are more effective in meeting a person's needs. Western therapy focuses on fulfillment of personal desires, the gratification of the object self (p.81). Mysticism questions and uproots craving, and tries to bring about a change in psychological and emotional state or attitude that leads to a diminishment of the problems that are the focus of therapy (p.78). Vassallo (17) concurs, writing that by illuminating two basic human dilemmas-clinging and ignorance-Buddhist psychology and meditative practices help people accept reality as it is and decreases their individualistic preoccupation.


Kutz, Borysenko, and Benson(18) state that meditation may be a primer for therapy; for observing and categorizing mental events provides insight into how mental schemes are created, giving rise to a greater sense of responsibility and allowing one to step out of conceptual limitations and stereotyped reactions and behaviors. Meditation thus spurs the desire for deeper self-understanding through therapy, and actually leads, in their view, to an intensification of the therapeutic process. Meditation is a form of introspection pursued outside of the therapeutic session, for which patients pay with their own time, not the therapist's time. Thus meditation enhances the quality of therapy by involving patients more deeply in the process of self-exploration and providing abundant material for exploration in therapy sessions. Moreover, therapy and meditation both assume that understanding one's pain and defenses against it can alleviate suffering and promote psychological growth. They argue that combining meditation and therapy is "technically compatible and mutually reinforcing."


Bradwejn, Dowdall, and Iny(19) disagreed with these conclusions, writing that the goal of meditation (the realization that the self or ego is illusory) is irreconcilable with the therapeutic goal of facilitating development of a cohesive ego. Corton(20) cautioned that before combining therapy and meditation, the developmental levels of patients must be carefully considered. Wolman (21) argues that the combination of meditation and therapy is redundant. In contrast, however, Dubs's study(22)--which used interviews and questionnaire assessments of 30 long-term meditators and identified unresolved anger as a key element in resistance to progress in meditation--suggests that psychological and spiritual growth are linked, perhaps sequentially and developmentally.


Bacher (23) suggested that a sequential approach in which psychotherapy precedes meditation is more beneficial than a blended approach. It is important, in his view, to respect the developmental tasks of the person emphasized by existential-humanistic therapy; self identification, emotional contact and expression, ego development, and increase in self-esteem are all necessary before the individual can undertake in a serious way the tasks of meditation: the disidentification from emotional and egoic concerns. Although meditation and therapy perform corollary functions in the enhancement of individual well-being-the intensification of present awareness and lifting of repression-there are major philosophical differences that make separation advisable. Bacher notes that keeping a clear distinction between them maintains the full integrity and power of each to accomplish its stated aims. Meditation teaches the skills of attention and a still mind, a state of inner harmony and a transformation and transcendence of the personal concerns that are the focus of psychotherapy.
Vaughan (24) lists the following components common to both therapy and meditation: Telling the truth; releasing negative emotions; the need for effort and consistency; authenticity and trust-avoiding self-deception; integrity and wholeness-accepting all one's experiences and allowing things to be as they are, rather than living in a world of illusion and denial; insight and forgiveness directed toward oneself and others; opening the heart and developing the capacity to give and receive love; awareness and nonjudgmental attention; liberation from limiting self-concepts, from fear and delusion, and from the past and early conditioning.


Kornfield (25), a noted psychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher, contends that Western therapy emphasizes analysis, investigation and the adjustment of the personality. Yet it neglects the development of concentration, tranquility, and equanimity, "the cutting power of samadhi, the stillness of the mind in meditation" that can "penetrate the surface of the mind" and "empower the awareness to cut neurotic speed" (p.37). Meditation, in his view, is a means not merely of seeking comfort and stability, but of working with inner turmoil and undergoing a profound transformation that represents the death of the self that is the main focus of attention in psychotherapy. However Kornfield (26) also emphasizes that "meditation doesn't do it all." In many areas, he writes, such as grief, communication skills, maturation of relationships, sexuality and intimacy, career and work issues, fears and phobias, and early wounds, Western therapy is quicker and more succesful than meditation.


Odanjnyk (27) writes that meditation teaches a focused attention that leads to increased self-awareness of mental and emotional states, mastery over instinctive, compulsive reactions, insight into one's true nature and into reality, exploration of religious themes, images, and feelings, and expansion of ego consciousness into a more universal consciousness.
Brooks and Scarano (28) studied the effectiveness of Transcendental Meditation in the treatment of post-Vietnam adjustment, concluding that it is a useful treatment modality. After three months of meditation, treatment subjects showed significant reductions in depression, anxiety, emotional numbness, alcohol consumption, family problems, difficulty in finding a job, insomnia, and other symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder. Therapy subjects in the same study showed no significant improvement on any measure.


Much of the physiological data on meditation suggests its effectiveness for treating a variety of stress-related, somatically based problems. Many studies have suggested that meditation could be a promising preventive or rehabilitative strategy in treatment of addictions, hypertension, fears, phobias, asthma, insomnia, and stress. Research has also suggested that subjects using meditation change more than control groups in the direction of positive mental health, positive personality change, self-actualization, increased spontaneity self-regard and inner directedness and self-perceived increase in the capacity for intimate contact (29-31). Delmonte (32) discussed the relationship between meditation and personality scores, focusing on self-esteem and self-concept, depression, psychosomatic symptomatology, self-actualization, locus of control, and introversion/extroversion. He found no compelling evidence that meditation changes psychometric scores, but found that meditation does seem to be associated with increases in self-actualization and decreases in depression.
Childs (33) found that use of TM with juvenile offenders was associated with self-actualization, decreased anxiety and drug use, and improvements in behavior and interpersonal relationships. Dice (34) noted that TM promoted improvement of self-concept and internal locus of control. Lesh (35) has shown that meditation may increase therapists' accurate empathy and openness to their own inner experience. And Keefe (36) believes that meditation leads to greater awareness of feelings, enhanced interpersonal perception, and increased present-centeredness, thereby strengthening therapists' effectiveness. Goleman (37) contends that meditation is applicable as a means of deconditioning in cases of general or diffuse anxiety but not in treatment of specific fears. In his view, responses of meditators to stressful situations may be more adaptive, due to the increased ability to let go of stress rather than remain chronically stressed or anxious after the stressful situation has passed(7).


However, the view that meditation leads to anxiety reduction is a point of contention for some. Many of the findings cited above have been contested on methodological grounds by Smith (2). Boswell & Murray (38) contend that
self-report and behavioral measures of anxiety are no more reduced after meditation than after appropriate controls.... The results uniformly fail to support the contention that meditation is an effective method for reducing anxiety.
Delmonte (39)--using measures of blood lactate, blood flow, hormone levels, plasma phenylalanine, and neurotransmitter metabolites--concluded that there is no compelling evidence that meditation is associated with special state or trait effects at a biochemical level.


The Relaxation Model
Many of the clinical benefits claimed for meditation are attributed to the physiological state of relaxation associated with meditation. Studies have found that meditation leads to significant decreases in oxygen consumption, carbon dioxide elimination, respiration rate, cardiac output, heart rate, arterial lactate concentration, respiratory quotient, blood pressure, arterial gases, and body temperature (40­50). Meditation is also associated with increases in skin resistance and in slow alpha brain waves and a decrease of beta waves (40). All of these physiological correlates of meditation yield a portrait of a condition of relaxed wakefulness. This has given rise to the view that meditation is basically a relaxation technique, one which allows a calm witnessing of thoughts and reduces somatic symptoms, fears, and phobias through desensitization and reduction of anxiety.


The relaxation model of meditation's therapeutic effectiveness is usually associated with the theory of reciprocal inhibition. Wolpe (51) hypothesized that a phobic reaction would extinguish if it could symbolically occur in the presence of an incompatible response, such as relaxation. This is the foundation of modern behavioral self-control strategies, which will be compared with meditation below.


The Reciprocal Inhibition Model
Goleman's (7) study of Buddhist Abhidharma psychology and meditation identified the principle of reciprocal inhibition as central to the efficacy of meditation. Abhidharma teachings describe the flow of "mind moments," the constant flux of mental states. Mental states are said to be composed of a set of properties of mental factors, which are differentiated into pure, wholesome, healthy factors, and impure, unwholesome, and unhealthy mental properties. Delusion-perceptual cloudiness or misperception of objects-is the primary unhealthy factor, which gives rise to the unhealthy cognitive factors of perplexity, shamelessness, remorselessness, and to the unhealthy affective factors of agitation, worry, contraction, torpor, greed, avarice, envy, and aversion. These are counteracted by the factors present in healthy states, which are seen as antagonistic to unhealthy states. The most important of these are mindfulness and insight (clear perception of the object as it really is), which suppress the fundamental unhealthy factor of delusion. These lead to the development of modesty, discretion, rectitude, confidence, nonattachment, nonaversion, impartiality, composure, buoyancy, pliancy, efficiency, proficiency, compassion, loving-kindness, and altruistic joy. According to Goleman, "The key principle in the Abhidharma program for achieving mental health is the reciprocal inhibition of unhealthy mental factors by healthy ones."
While Goleman's summary of the Abdhidharma perspective is quite illuminating, the theory of reciprocal inhibition upon which it is based is not immune to criticism. Shapiro & Giber (15) raise questions regarding the reciprocal inhibition explanation of systematic desensitization of anxiety, saying that this effect may also be due to attention shifts and cognitive refocusing (52,53). Boals (54) writes that the reciprocal inhibition theory ignores some of the complexities of the relationship between anxiety and performance, for example the fact that insufficient levels of arousal may detract from optimal performance as much as excessive anxiety does. Moreover, the hypothesis that meditation leads to global desensitization of anxiety associated with an individual's thoughts (37) may be unfounded; the relaxation provided by meditation may not be sufficient to achieve desensitization to negative or disturbing thoughts and images that may emerge in the course of meditation.


Furthermore, according to Boals, meditation may not reduce the anxiety associated with symptoms like drug use by substituting relaxation for it; instead it may work by substituting an alternative way by which people can reach an altered state of consciousness (ASC). Thus, while meditation may be associated with a decrease in the use of drugs or alcohol, for example, anxiety reduction may not be the best explanation for this reduction. There is some evidence suggesting that people may ingest substances not to reduce anxiety but to produce an ASC that is positively reinforcing.
Klajner, Hartman, and Sobell (55) write that previous research on the use of relaxation methods (such as meditation) for treatment of drug and alcohol abuse have been premised upon the assumption that substance use is causally linked to anxiety and that anxiety can be reduced by relaxation training. However, evidence suggests that such precipitating anxiety is limited to interpersonal stress situations involving diminished perceived personal control over the stressor, and that alcohol and other drugs are often consumed for their euphoric rather than tranquilizing effects. Thus, empirical support for the efficacy of relaxation training or meditation as a treatment for substance abuse is equivocal. Even in cases of demonstrated effectiveness, they write, increased perceived control is a more plausible explanation than decreased anxiety.


Critiques of the Relaxation Model
In addition to these important questions regarding anxiety-reduction and reciprocal inhibition, there are a number of other reasons to reconsider the view of meditation as primarily a relaxation, anxiety-reducing strategy. Boals (54) writes that the relaxation model of meditation has allowed meditation to become more familiar, acceptable, and accessible to the scientific community and to the public at large, and has led to fruitful study of the uses of meditation in a variety of settings. Nevertheless, this view of meditation may have outlived its usefulness. The relaxation model does not provide us with an adequate understanding of the negative consequences sometimes associated with meditation, which can only be explained as symptoms of unstressing (the organism's attempt to normalize itself by eliminating old stresses), a resistance to relaxation, or an eruption of depression that is ordinarily masked by activity.


Furthermore, the relaxation model leads some to believe that meditation is no different from other relaxation techniques (56-59). Benson (57), for example, has postulated that meditation, Zen, Yoga, and relaxation techniques-such as autogenic training, hypnosis, progressive relaxation as well as and certain forms of prayer-elicit a uniform "relaxation response," which only requires a quiet environment, a mental device for focusing attention, a passive solitude, and a comfortable position. Delmonte (60) would seem to confirm this finding, showing that both mantra meditation and hypnosis involve focused and selective attention, reduced exteroceptive and proprioceptive sensory input, passive volition, a receptive attitude, a relaxed posture, and monotonous, rhythmic vocal or subvocal repetition. Both states involve increased drowsiness, a shift toward right brain hemisphere activity and parasympathetic nervous system dominance, increased hypnogogic reverie, regressive mentation, and suggestibility. Both are altered states of consciousness that have in common similar induction procedures, and many state effects.

While the view of a unitary relaxation phenomenon demystifies meditation, Boals writes, it is inaccurate for a number of important reasons. First, although Benson postulates the relaxation response as a unitary phenomenon, it is difficult to define relaxation precisely. Sleep and TM, for example, are both relaxing, yet they are associated with very different states of consciousness (40, 61, 62). Moreover, many activities that are considered relaxing are quite active and involve states of physiological arousal. Second, some meditation techniques produce different effects on different subjects or in the same subject on different occasions (63-66). Third, the relaxation model tells us nothing about the process of meditation as it is subjectively experienced. Fourth, there are quantitative and qualitative differences between various relaxation techniques. I will return below to this point, which is important because failure to distinguish between various methods obfuscates the potential uses of different techniques in alleviating particular kinds of human suffering.


Fifth, as noted earlier, meditation is not a unitary phenomenon: different types of meditation produce widely varying outcomes. For example, Zen meditators grappling with a koan or vipassana meditators confronting the naked truth of mental processes may become at least temporarily quite anxious or agitated. Similarly, meditation in the tradition of kundalini yoga (67) may bring about spontaneous motor activity, emotional release, or other forms of psychophysiological arousal. Thus, some forms of meditation do not result in states of relaxation.
Sixth, the mechanisms used to explain the relaxation response may not be valid. For example, rhythm is said to be a central factor used to induce states of meditation; yet some rhythms are arousing rather than relaxing, and many meditation methods do not use rhythm at all (e.g., staring at a candle flame). For all of these reasons, we must conclude that although there is some evidence that meditation does lead to a state of relaxation and does seem to be associated with a reduction of anxiety, the relaxation model is not by itself an adequate explanation of the therapeutic efficacy of meditation.


Meditation From a Cognitive Perspective
Boals (54) and Deikman (16) prefer a cognitive explanation of meditation, viewing it as a process of deliberately altering attention, involving a change of focus from the external world to the inner world, from stimulus variety to stimulus uniformity, from the active mode of consciousness-characterized by focal attention, control, task orientation, manipulation of the environment-to the receptive mode-characterized by diffuse attention and letting go. Goleman (7) also characterizes meditation as the "self-regulation and retraining of attentional habits," through deliberate deconditioning of habitual patterns patterns of perception, cognition, and response.
The cognitive changes resulting from meditation can perhaps best be understood using Deikman's (68) concept of the "deautomatization" of consciousness, brought about by "reinvesting actions and percepts with attention." Deautomatization implies a shift toward a form of perceptual and cognitive organization which some people might consider primitive because it is one preceding the analytic, abstract, intellectual mode. However this mode of perceptual organization could also be viewed as more vivid, sensuous, syncretic, animated, and dedifferentiated with respect to distinctions between self and object, between objects, and between sense modalities. Deikman (69) calls deautomatization a process of "cutting away false cognitive certainties," leading to mystical experiences and unusual modes of perception. Many experiences of altered or mystical states, he believes, can be understood in terms of "perceptual expansion," the "awareness of new dimensions of the total stimulus array," through which aspects of reality previously unavailable enter awareness. Such experiences are "trans-sensate phenomena," experiences that go beyond customary pathways, ideas, and memories, and "are the result of the operation of a new perceptual capacity responsive to dimensions of the stimulus array previously ignored or blocked from awareness."


According to Goleman (7), meditation induces the experience of flow characteristic of all intrinsically rewarding activities (70,71). The flow experience is characterized by (a) the merging of action and awareness in sustained, non-distractible concentration on the task at hand, (b) the focusing of attention on a limited stimulus field, excluding intruding stimuli from awareness in a pure inwardness devoid of concern with outcome, (c) self-forgetfulness with heightened awareness of function and body states, (d) skills adequate to meet the environmental demand, (e) clarity regarding situational cues and appropriate response. Flow arises when there is optimal fit between one's capability and the demands of the moment (7).
Meditation produces a change in internal state that maximizes the possibility for flow experiences while lessening the need to control the environment. Meditation thus leads to "perceptual sharpening and increased ability to attend to a target environmental stimulus while ignoring irrelevant stimuli." Flow is associated with a sense of the intrinsic rewards of activity and an absence of anxiety and boredom. The flow state that may result from meditation is associated with clarity of perception, alertness, equanimity, pliancy, efficiency, skill in action, and pleasure in action for its own sake.
Another useful cognitive model is found in Delmonte's (72) constructivist approach to meditation based on George Kelly's (73) Personal Construct Theory (PCT). According to Kelly, there are two fundamental realities, the reality beyond human perception (similar to Kant's "noumenon"), and our interpretations or constructions of this primary reality (Kant's "phenomenon"), which are constantly updated in the light of new evidence. Both PCT and Eastern psychologies such as Buddhism agree that normal human understanding involves use of dualistic constructions to make sense of a unitary reality. Buddhism emphasizes the need to see through the illusion of duality through meditation, to recognize the transparency of our construct system, and to experience a greater sense of unity; whereas PCT emphasizes the practical value of dualistic construing and the importance of elaborating ever more effective personal construct systems to more accurately predict events.


Meditation involves two main "cognitive sets," Delmonte writes, constriction and dilation. In constriction, attention acts to exclude or curtail construing by reducing the number of elements to be dealt with to a minimum. Dilation uses suspension of habitual construing while broadening the perceptual field to include more elements, using a more comprehensive organization of the construct system. Thus, in mindfulness meditation one observes the contents of consciousness in a neutral fashion while suspending habitual construing. The stimulus repetition of meditation leads to a condition of "no thought" due to stimulus habituation and inhibition of the construct system. As habitual construing is temporarily blocked, spatial and temporal distortions of awareness may result, or a regression to a preverbal form of sense-making (e.g. sexual arousal, hate, fear, love, anger, changed body size). Delmonte notes that meditation often brings about modification of brain hemispheric laterality, such that advanced stages of meditation inhibit or transcend the functions associated with both left and right hemispheres, a finding that is at odds with those who view meditation as primarily a relaxation response associated with increases in right-hemisphere functioning.


According to Delmonte, the suspension of habitual, logical-verbal construing in meditation frees us of our usual defensive constructions, allowing consciousness to move in new directions. Here Delmonte makes a crucial differentiation between "ascendence," a movement up to a higher, more abstract level within one's personal construct system; "descendence," in which awareness moves down from cognitive to preverbal or somatic construal, an adaptive regression to unconscious levels of awareness in which repressed emotional material can come into consciousness and be cathartically released; and "transcendence," in which one experiences no thought, the feeling of unity or bliss, in which the meditator transcends the bipolarity of contrual and thereby recovers the preverbal awareness of the essential unity of reality.
Thus, Delmonte's model suggests that the process of attentional retraining involved in meditation can be beneficial in three distinctive ways: It can be applied in a pragmatic way to change human behavior by augmenting and improving our personal construct systems (ascendence); to facilitate the accessing of unconscious material, previously inaccesible from within our construct system (descendence); and to bring about altered states of consciousness in which one experiences, at least temporarily, the free space of reality beyond and prior to our construct systems. Let us examine how meditation could be utilized therapeutically in each of these ways.


Meditation and Behavioral Self-management Techniques
Through attentional training, meditation brings about a shift toward self-observation and thus may be useful for facilitating behavioral changes (54,74). Herein may lie one of meditation's most important forms of clinical utility. Deikman16 writes that the increase in scope and clarity of the observing self which meditation encourages leads directly to freedom from habitual patterns of perception and response (p.98). As the motivations of the object self subside and cease to dominate perception and as the observing self is extracted from the contents of consciousness, one begins to disidentify with automatic sequences of thought, emotion, and fantasy (p.107). The observing self redirects the intensity of affect, obsessive thinking,automatic response patterns, and thus provides the opportunity for modification, mastery, and control of behavior.
Goleman (7) has noted that therapy is treatment for specific symptoms, while meditation is not. Biofeedback or behavioral therapy may be more effective for self-control and relearning of adaptive responses to stress or for treatment of specific psychopathology. Conversely, meditation is useful for providing a general pattern of stress response less likely to trigger overlearned, maladaptive responses. Meditation, he writes, may function as a stress therapy, facilitating more rapid recovery from the psychological and physiological coping processes mobilized in stress situations, allowing more alert anticipations to threat cues, and more effective recovery.


Shapiro and Zifferblatt (75) compared Zen meditation with Western behavioral self-control strategies. In addition to relaxation and refocusing of attention, meditation involves self-observation and desensitization to thoughts, fears, and worries. Attending to the breath in a state of relaxed attention becomes a competing response that desensitizes thoughts and images, and permits increased receptivity to other thoughts, affects, or fantasies. (This refers to the emergence into awareness of previously unconscious material, a topic to which I will return below.)
Methods of behavioral self-change are also based on awareness: self-observation, self-monitoring, and analysis of the elements of the environment that are controlling one's behavior. Self-control techniques also use monitoring of thoughts, feelings, physiological reactions, and somatic complaints; examination of antecedents, initiating stimuli, and consequences of behaviors; and recognition of the frequency, duration, intensity of the behavior itself.
In Zen meditation on the breath, no attempt is made to plot data charts or employ systematic and written evaluation of data. In contrast, behavioral self-observation focuses on the specific problem area observed, the behavior to be changed or altered, and utilizes the labelling, evaluation, recording, and charting of data for the purpose of discrimination, and self-management. Shapiro and Zifferblatt do not seem to be aware that other forms of meditation such as Vipassana do employ discrimination, labelling, and recording of all contents and movements of consciousness.
Shapiro and Zifferblatt contend that meditation can promote behavioral self-control skills by teaching one to unstress and empty the mind of thoughts and images, and by increasing alertness to stress situations, thus facilitating performance of behavioral self-observation. Moreover, meditation gives practice in noting when attention wanders from a task, therefore placing the person in a better position to interrupt a maladaptive behavioral sequence. Zen meditation also does not involve cultivation of particular positive images or thoughts, as do active behavioral programming methods for stress and tension management, which use fear arousal as a discriminative stimulus for active relaxation, positive imagery, and self-instructions to cope with the stressful situation. Nevertheless, meditation does allow one to step back from fears and worries, and to observe them in a detached, relaxed way. Thus it alters subsequent self-observation by making the problem seem less intense and by giving a feeling of strength and control.
Meditation and the Unconscious: Psychoanalytic and Buddhist Perspectives
Meditation may indeed have some usefulness in facilitating the self-observation and behavioral changes sought in some forms of psychotherapy. But to view meditation solely in this manner is to limit our understanding of its potential to promote other important therapeutic goals, for example, the recognition of unconscious conflicts that may be at the root of behavioral problems. In this regard, let us recall Delmonte's observation that meditation can also bring about "descendence" of consciousness, thus increasing access to the unconscious. Goleman (7) also noted that meditation allows formerly painful material to surface. Thus there is some reason to think that meditation might be compatible with psychodynamically oriented psychotherapies focusing on uncovering and working through unconscious material.
Kutz et al. (18) write that meditation leads to greater cognitive flexibility, which allows one to perceive connections between sets of psychological contents that were hitherto separate and unrelated. In this manner, they contend, meditation loosens defenses and allows the emergence of repressed material. Both meditation and free association involve self-observation, although one is usually discouraged from trying to interpret the meaning of free associations during meditation. Meditation-related free associations are usually available to memory and, like dreams, can be brought into therapy and understood by examining their origin and meaning.


The view that meditation may be a useful means of uncovering unconscious material is not shared by some within the psychoanalytic tradition who view meditation as regressive or pathological. Freud (76) considered all forms of religious experiences as attempts to return to the most primitive stages of ego development, a "restoration of limitless narcissism" (p.19), used as a defense against the fears of separateness. Alexander (77) called meditation a "libidinal, narcissistic turning of the urge for knowing inward, a sort of artificial schizophrenia with complete withdrawal of libidinal interest from the outside world" (p.130). Masson and Hanly (7)8 contend that the urge to get beyond the ego which is the goal of mysticism represents a regression to an earlier, undifferentiated state of primary narcissism, often associated with "an influx of megalomania," and characterized by "the withdrawal of interest from the natural world." Lazarus (79) noted psychiatric problems precipitated by TM. He concluded that TM can be effective when it is used properly by informed practioners, but that when used indiscriminately it can lead to depression and depersonalization, heightened anxiety and tension, agitation, restlessness, or feelings of failure or ineptitude if the promised results do not occur. These findings suggest that the very openness to the unconscious that meditation provides may also contribute to the negative experiences sometimes found among meditators.


Several writers sympathetic to both meditation and the psychoanalytic perspective have attempted to clarify the psychoanalytic understanding of meditation. Shafii (80) conceptualizes meditation as a temporary and controlled regression to the preverbal level or "somatosymbiotic phase" of the mother-child relationship, a regression that rekindles unresolved issues from the developmental phase in which the individual develops a sense of basic trust (i.e. experiences and learns to rely on the continuity and sameness of outer providers and of oneself). Frustrations of basic trust due to breaches in the child's protective shielding give rise to "cumulative trauma," and the consequent maladaptive defense mechanisms studied by psychoanalysis. Meditation, Shafii says, returns the individual to the earliest fixation points and permits reexperiencing of traumas of the separation-individuation phase on a non-verbal level. Meditation, in Shafii's (81) view, is a state of "active passivity" and "creative quiescence" that has some similarities with the "psychoanalytic situation": utilization of a special body posture, limited cathexis of visual perception and increased cathexis of internal perception, enhanced free association of thoughts and fantasies. However, while psychoanalysis emphasizes verbalization of free associated thoughts, feelings, and fantasies, in meditation one experiences and witnesses these silently.
Epstein and Lieff (82) emphasize that meditation may be used in both adaptive and regressive ways. They stress that some meditators need a therapeutic framework in which to work out the unresolved unconscious issues which may emerge in the form of an upsurge of fantasies, daydreams, precognitve mental processes, or visual, auditory, or somatic aberrations during meditation. They also note that many of the phenomena that often occur during advanced stages of meditation-such as visions of bright lights, feelings of joy and rapture, tranquility, lucid percpetions, feelings of love and devotion, kundalini experiences, etc.-must not be interpreted simply as pathological symptoms. To do so would be an example of what Wilber (83, 84) has called the "pre-trans fallacy," that is
a confusing of pre-rational structures with trans-rational structures simply because they are both non-rational.... It is particularly common to reduce samadhi into autistic, symbiotic, or narcissistic ocean states (84) (p.146).
Wilber (83, 84) has delineated the stages of development comprising what he believes is the full spectrum of human development, from pre-personal to personal to transpersonal stages of consciousness. He emphasizes that we must not equate transpersonal experiences with the pre-egoic states with which they have some structual similarities. According to Wilber (84), meditation is not a way of digging into lower and respressed structures of the submerged unconscious, but rather a way of facilitating emergent growth and development of higher structures of consciousness. Thus, meditation is a progression in transcendence of the ego, not a simple regression in the service of the ego. At the same time, derepression of unconscious material ("the shadow") may occur in meditation, as meditation disrupts the exclusive identification with the present level of dev0elopment.


Engler (10), who is both a psychiatrist and a teacher of Buddhist meditation, has written perhaps the most lucid assessment of the problems of using meditation in a clinical setting, one which addresses many of the concerns raised by psychoanalytic critics. In his view, both Buddhist psychology and psychoanalytic ego psychology and object relations theory define the ego (what Buddhists call "personality belief") as an internalized image that is constructed out of experience with the object world and which appears to have the qualities of consistency, sameness, and continuity. According to object relations theory, the major cause of psychopathology is the lack of a sense of self, caused by failures in establishing a cohesive, integrated self, resulting in an inability to feel real. In contrast, Buddhist psychology says that the deepest psychopathological problem is the presence of a self, the "clinging to personal existence." That is, identity and object constancy are seen by Buddhist psychology as the root of mental suffering. Thus, whereas therapy devotes itself to regrowing a sense of self, Buddhist meditation is focused upon seeing through the illusory construction of the self. Engler questions whether or not these two goals are mutually exclusive and suggests that one might be a precursor of the other, concluding, "You have to be somebody before you can be nobody" (p.17).
Engler has noted the tendency for Western students of meditation to become fixated on a psychodynamic level of experience-dominated by primary process thinking and unrealistic fantasies, daydreams, imagery, memories, derepression of conflictual material, incessant thinking and emotional lability; and their tendency to develop strong mirroring and idealizing transferences to meditation teachers, reflecting a need for acceptance by or merger with a source of idealized strength and calmness, or characterized by oscillation between idealization and devaluation. Engler attributes these problems to the inability to develop adequate concentration, the tendency to become absorbed in contents of awareness rather than the process of awareness; and the tendency to confuse meditation with therapy and to analyze mental content instead of observing it.


However, a more fundamental problem is that meditation may be effective only for persons who have achieved an adequate level of personality organization, and may be deleterious for persons with personality disorders. ****In Engler's view, many Western students of meditation have prior vulnerability and disturbances in the sense of identity and self-esteem, as well as a tendency to try to use Buddhism as a shortcut solution to age-appropriate developmental problems of identity formation. Thus, such persons often misunderstand the Buddhist "anatta" doctrine that there is no enduring self to justify premature abandonment of essential psychosocial tasks. Engler believes that such students have not achieved the level of personality development necessary to practice meditation, and demonstrate structural deficit pathologies. Many, in his view, are near the borderline level of development, characterized by identity diffusion, failure of integration, split object-relations units, fluid boundaries between self and world, feelings of inner emptiness and of not having a self, and an inability to form or sustain stable, satisfying relationships (p.30). Such persons are attracted to the anatta doctrine because it explains, rationalizes, or legitimates a lack of self-integration. Moreover, borderlines are often attracted to the ideal of enlightenment, which is cathected as the acme of personal omnipotence and perfection. This represents for them a purified state of invulnerable self-sufficiency from which all defilements, fetters, and badness have been expelled, leading in many cases to a feeling of being superior to others.****


Buddhist psychology has little to say about the level of self-pathology with structural deficits stemming from faulty early object-relations development because Buddhism does not describe in detail the early stages in the development of the self (p.34). Moreover, Engler believes that Buddhist meditation practices will only be effective when the practitioner has a relatively intact, coherent, and integrated sense of self, without which there is danger that feelings of emptiness or not feeling inwardly cohesive or integrated may be mistaken for sunyata (voidness) or selflessness.
Like therapy, vipassana meditation is an uncovering technique, characterized by neutrality, removal of censorship; observation and abstinence from gratification of wishes, impulses, or desires, and discouragement of abreaction, catharsis, or acting out; and a therapeutic split in the ego, in which one becomes a witness to one's experience. All of these elements presuppose a normal, neurotic level of functioning. In Engler's view, those with poorly defined and weakly integrated representations of self and others cannot tolerate uncovering techniques or the painful affects which emerge (p.36). Thus insight techniques like vipassana run the risk of further fragmenting an already vulnerable sense of self.
The vipassana guidelines of attention to all thoughts, feelings, and sensations without selection or discrimination create an unstructured situation intrapsychically. However, the goal of treatment of borderline conditions is to build structure (not to uncover repression), and thus to facilitate integration of contradictory self-images, object images, and affects into a stable sense of self able to maintain constant relationships with objects even in the face of disappointment, frustration, and loss. Such treatment addresses the developmental deficits deriving from early relationships-through a dyadic relationship, not through introspective activities like meditation (p.38). Engler emphasizes that mere self-observation of contradictory ego states is not enough to integrate dissociated aspects of the self, objects, and affects. What is required is confrontation and interpersonal exposure of split object- relations units as they occur within the transference. Thus, Engler writes, "Meditation is designed for a different type of problem and a different level of ego structure" (p.39).
Because a cohesive and integrated self is necessary to practice uncovering techniques like vipassana, meditation is not a viable or possible remedy for autistic, psychopathic, schizophrenic, borderline or narcissistic conditions. Concentration techniques, however, may be useful in lowering chronic stress and anxiety, and for inducing greater internal locus of control. In Engler's view, meditation and psychotherapy aimed at egoic strengthening are mutually exclusive; for at a given time, one should either strive to attain a coherent self, or to attain liberation from it (p.48). Engler warns that bypassing the developmental tasks of identity formation and object constancy through the misguided attempt to annihilate the ego has pathological consequences.


Nonetheless, despite these potential drawbacks of meditation, Engler contends that Buddhism has much to teach Western psychology, especially in its radical view of the construction of stable and enduring constructs of self and others as the source of suffering. From the Buddhist perspective, in contrast to that of most Western psychologists, identity and object constancy represent a point of fixation or arrest, and coherency of the self is a position achieved in order to be transcended (p.47). Therefore what we consider normality is, in the Buddhist view, a state of arrested development.
Epstein (85) disagrees with Engler's contention that meditation is only an appropriate therapeutic intervention for those already possessing a "fully developed personality." Epstein concedes that some people attracted to meditation have pre-oedipal issues and narcissistic pathologies, but argues that Buddhist meditation may play an effective role in the resolution of infantile, narcissistic conflicts. Mahler (86) found that narcissistic residues persist throughout the life-cycle, centering around memories of the blissful symbiotic union of the child and mother-a time in which all needs were immediately satisfied and the self was not yet differentiated. According to psychoanalytic theory, the infant's experience of undifferentiated fusion with the mother gives rise to two psychic structures: the ego ideal and the ideal ego. The ego ideal is that toward which the ego strives, what it yearns to become, and into which it desires to merge, as well as the ego's memory of the perfection in which it was once contained. The ideal ego is an idealized image the ego has of itself, especially centered around the belief in the ego's solidity, permanence, and perfection; thus it is an image of the ego's remembered state of perfection, a self-image distorted by idealization, sustained by the ego's denial of its imperfections.
In borderline, narcissistic and neurotic disorders, the ideal ego is strong and the ego ideal is weak. Only with maturation does the ego ideal begin to eclipse the ideal ego. Psychoanalytic theorists view meditation as a narcissistic attempt to merge the ego and the ego ideal to reachieve fusion with a primary object. Thus, in this view, meditation is believed to strengthen the ego ideal and neglect the ideal ego.


Epstein contends that Buddhist meditation can bring about restructuring of both the ego ideal and the ideal ego. From a Buddhist perspective, the experiences of terror that sometimes occur during meditation are the result of insight into the impermanent, insubstantial, unsatisfactory nature of the self and ordinary experience, leading to a sense of fragmentation, anxiety, and fear. Western psychologists are concerned that these experiences could unbalance those with inadequate personality structure. Buddhist psychologists, however, emphasize that equilibrium can be maintained through the stabilizing effects of concentration-which promotes unity of ego and ego ideal by encouraging fixity of mind on a single object, allowing the ego to dissolve into the object in bliss and contentment quite evocative of the infantile narcisistic state. The experiences of terror sometimes resulting from insight practices, however, do not satisfy the yearning for perfection and do not evoke grandeur, elation, or omnipotence. Instead they challenge the grasp of the ideal ego, exposing ego as groundless, impermanent, and empty, and overcome the denials that support the wishful image of the self.
Theravadin Buddhism also postulates an ideal personality-the Arhat, who represents the fruition of meditative practice, and the experience of nirvana, in which reality is perceived without distortion. The promise of nirvana may thus speak to a primitive yearning. In this manner, the ego ideal is strengthened while the ideal ego is diminished, reversing the relative intensities of these two that are thought to characterize immature personality organization. Buddhism emphasizes the precise balance of concentration and insight, a balance between an exalted, equilibrated, boundless state with one that stresses knowledge of the insubstantiality of the self. Concentration practices strengthen the ego ideal, leading to a sense of cohesion, stability, and serenity thst can relieve feelings of emptiness or isolation. Yet if the ego ideal is strengthened without insight into the nature of the ideal ego, the experience of concentration may lead to a sense of self importance or specialness that can increase the hold of the ideal ego. Conversely, when the ideal ego is examined without adequate support from the ego ideal one may become anxious and afraid, leading to morbid preoccupation with emptiness, loss of enthusiasm for living, and an overly serious attitude about oneself and one's spiritual calling. Another danger is that of superimposing a new image of the ideal ego onto the preexisting one, "cloaking the ideal ego in vestments of emptiness, egolessness, and non-attachment."


To understand the therapeutic benefits of meditation, it is important to avoid the pre-trans fallacy ((83, 84) by distinguishing between experiences that may sound similar yet have very different meanings in the therapeutic and meditative contexts, respectively-for example, equating the states of emptiness that sometimes arise in the course of meditation with the pathological forms of emptiness described by psychoanalysis. Epstein (87) writes that while the experience of emptiness is a subject common to both Western and Buddhist psychologies, these two traditions understand emptiness in fundamentally different ways. Western psychologists have described pathological forms of emptiness characterized by numbness, despair and incompleteness, identity diffusion, existential meaninglessness, and depersonalized states in which one aspect of the self is repudiated. As we have seen, some critics of meditation (78,79) contend that it may intensify these forms of emptiness. According to Epstein, emptiness of these kinds are characterized as 1) a deficiency, an internalized remnant of emotional sustenance not given in childhood; 2) a defense-a more tolerable substitute for virulent rage or self-hatred; 3) a distortion of the development of a sense of self, in which one is unable to integrate diverse, conflicting self and object representations; and 4) a manifestation of inner conflict over idealized aspirations of the self, resulting when unconscious, idealized images of the self are not matched by actual experience, producing a sense of unreality or estrangement.
In contrast, the emptiness arising from Buddhist meditation is characterized by clarity, unimpededness, and openness, an experience that destroys the idea of a substantially existing, persisting, individual nature, as well as the substantiality of "outer" phenomena. Western psychologists observe that succumbing to the inevitable gap between actual and idealized experiences of the self leads to disavowing the actual self through a numbing sense of hollowness or unreality. Buddhist psychology focuses upon uncovering the distorting idealizations that are at their root groundless, based on archaic, infantile fantasy. Meditators confronted by a sense of emptiness must not mistake this for Buddhist emptiness, Epstein writes, but must explore it and expose their beliefs in its concrete nature. Epstein argues that meditation can help the observing ego attend to whatever conflicting self or object images that arise without clinging or condemnation, thereby decreasing pathological emptiness. Thus Epstein concludes that while there are potential complications of using meditation as a therapeutic method, it may have a role in transforming narcissism, feelings of emptiness, and other forms of psychological suffering. Moreover, according to Epstein, where absorption and insight balance precisely and the voidness of the self is discerned, meditation can move beyond all residues of the ego ideal and of narcissism into the experience of enlightenment.
The writings of Engler, Wilber, and Epstein represent a new synthesis of the insights of psychoanalytic theory and Buddhist psychology. Each of them suggests that the question of whether meditation should be used in therapy requires a careful assessment of the patient's character structure and the way in which this may be affected by meditation.


The Jungian Critique of Meditation
C.G. Jung (88), while considerably more open to religious or spiritual experiences than many psychoanalytic theoreticians, consistently advised Westerners against the use of Eastern meditation techniques. Westerners do not need more control and more power over themselves and over nature, he writes; we need to return to our own nature, not systems and methods to control or repress the natural man. Before Westerners can safely practice Yoga or meditation, Jung says, we must first know our own unconscious nature. Jung believes that psychotherapy is a more appropriate form of introversion for Westerners, one which permits the making conscious of unconscious components of the self. No discipline ought to be imposed on the unconscious, Jung emphasizes, for this would reinforce the "cramping" effect of consciousness. Instead, everything must be done to help the unconscious mind reach the conscious mind and free it of its rigidity. Thus Jung prescribes active imagination, in which one switches off consciousness and allows unconscious contents to unfold (pp.533­37).
Jung frequently cited the danger of being overwhelmed by the unconscious through improper use of Eastern psychotechnologies. He was particularly wary of the possibility of being thrust into an uncontrollable psychotic decompensation, or of becoming "inflated" as a result of identification with archetypal material emerging from the unconscious. In his view89, these pitfalls can be avoided by cultivating the ability to consciously understand this unconscious material with a critical intelligence (pp. 224, 232­34).
Hillman (90) contends that spiritual disciplines have a fundamentally different purpose than psychotherapy, being oriented toward "peaks," ascent toward pneumatic experience, or timeless and impersonal spirit, and often encouraging a turning away from nature, from community, from sleep and dreams, from personal and ancestral history, and from polytheistic complexity. Psychotherapy, in his view, is more a work of the soul than of the spirit, of depth as opposed to height, of "vales" rather than peaks. Therapy is "a digging in the ruins" of our personal history, fantasies, and emotional complexities as revealed by imagery emerging from the unconscious.


Jung and Hillman suggest the importance of finding value and meaning in the imaginal contents of the unconscious mind. In their view, many forms of meditation involve disidentification from the contents of consciousness, including the unconscious material that may emerge. It is important to recognize, however, that while their comments may apply to concentration methods, they may be inaccurate with respect to vipassana meditation, in which one must actively face and grapple with one's unconscious conflicts rather than transcend them. Nevertheless, one argument against the use of meditation in psychotherapy is that it may encourage a detached or negative attitude toward the contents of the unconscious, which are so significant in most forms of depth or insight psychotherapy.
Balancing Psychological and Spiritual Development
Jungian and psychoanalytic critiques suggest that using meditation in the context of therapy is no substitute for the exploration of psychological-emotional issues stemming from the individual's personal history that are the focus of most psychotherapies. Thus to be effective therapeutically, meditation would have to be pursued with an attitude of psychological sensitivity that does not pursue expanded states of consciousness as a form of "spiritual bypassing"91 of emotional, interpersonal, or intrapsychic conflicts.


Russell (92) has attempted to define a model for a balanced approach to psychological and spiritual development. Russell searched the literature of Hindu Yoga and Theravadin, Abhidharma, and Vajrayana Buddhism and found that while these systems have great insight into conscious experiences and states of mind, they do not demonstrate any understanding of the unconscious, emotional conflicts, the existence of defensive mechanisms, or the operation of emotions like anxiety, anger or guilt operating outside of awareness. Nor do they acknowledge the effect of childhood trauma and parental treatment on the adult personality. While Eastern psychologies may occasionally refer to unconscious contents, they invariably view these as an intrusion and an obstacle to meditation that must be removed-for example, through concentration techniques for suppressing the unconscious.
Russell believes that therapy and meditation differ significantly with respect to their aims, their experiential areas, and their techniques. Meditation is not a method to alleviate psychopathology, Russell states, and "in recent years the expectation that meditation would be an effective psychotherapy has largely been reversed." Meditation helps one achieve higher states of consciousness, but is not focused on resolving emotional problems. Therapy, however, aims at exploration of the unconscious, rather than the higher states of consciousness sought in meditation. Welwood (91) summed up this view when he wrote that the aim of psychotherapy is self-integration, while the aim of meditation is self-transcendence.
Meditation and therapy are also concerned with quite different aspects of consciousness. Therapy attempts to bring unconscious material into consciousness where it is explored, analyzed, interpreted, or expresssed, while concentrative forms of meditation seek a state of pure consciousness without content. In addition, therapy generally uses uncovering techniques designed to elicit unconscious material and bring it into awareness, where it is actively engaged through free association, interpretation, and analysis of transference. Only in cases of severe psychopathology (in which structure building and the development of adequate personal defenses are necessary and desirable treatment goals) does therapy employ covering techniques. Eastern spiritual disciplines do not examine unconscious material closely, and often use covering methods to eliminate obstacles to attainment of higher states of consciousness. For example, Theravadin Buddhism uses precribed behaviors and concentration meditation directed toward particular themes to reduce emotions and desires that interfere with meditation. Concentrative meditation does not attend to emerging unconscious material, but rather utilizes selective inattention toward it. Moreover, although a technique like vipassana can be viewed as an uncovering method in that unconscious material does arise, this material is dealt with differently than in Western therapy. As Welwood (91) noted, in meditation feelings and emotions are not viewed as having any special importance, whereas in psychotherapy they are. In support of Russell's argument, however, let us note that although vipassana does stress examination of the nature of emotions, this is not the case in most forms of meditation.
Despite these observations, Russell believes that because meditation doesn't necessarily block unconscious material, there is not a complete opposition between meditation and therapy. He argues that spirituality and psychology are both concerned with enlarging the area of consciousness, either by bringing unconscious material into consciousness, or by exploring higher states of consciousness. These two approaches to expanded consciousness can be but are not necessariy explored simultaneously. Increased access to unconscious material does not always lead to an increase of higher states of consciousness. Alternatively, higher states of consciousness could occur without increased awareness of unconscious material. However it is also possible to increase awareness in both directions concurrently. Moreover, solving personal problems through awareness of unconscious material may improve meditation. Conversely, meditation may sensitize a person to the inner world and thereby increase openness to emergence of unconscious material in therapy. Russell concludes, therefore, that therapy and meditation are not related in a linear sense, as Wilber's and Engler's developmental models seem to suggest, but can act synergistically to promote human growth. Thus Russell is in agreement with Epstein that meditation can be used therapeutically both to promote the personal healing customarily sought in therapy and the expansion of consciousness sought in contemplative contexts.


Meditation and Altered States of Consciousness
As we have seen, meditation involves voluntary redirection of attention, a training in the self-control of attention that has some resemblance to other methods used in the behavioral sciences. However, this retraining of attention may lead not only to a physiological condition of deep relaxation, to increased skill in behavioral self-observation, to deepened access to the unconscious, but also to non ordinary states of consciousness. By alteration of the level and variety of sensory input (either through sensory reduction or sensory overload(54), the brain's information-processing capacities are affected, perception is "deautomatized," and the "flow" experience arises, characterized by perceptual expansion and sharpening.
In some cases, meditation may lead to what Delmonte (72) and Noble (93) have called "transcendence," the experience of going beyond one's habitual perceptions or conceptions of self and world, culminating in peak experiences such as samadhi, satori, or enlightenment.
According to Noble (83)--summarizing the views of James (94)--such powerful thrusts into higher consciousness are characterized by ineffability (i.e., cannot be described accurately in words); a "noetic" quality of heightened clarity and understanding of reality; transiency; passivity; perception of the unity and interconnectedness of existence; and positive affect. Noble writes that spiritual disciplines like meditation have as their primary objective an openness to, and preparation for, the experience of transcendence. While such experiences may cause disruption of personal equilibrium in their aftermath (e.g., periods of withdrawal, isolation, confusion, self-doubt), Noble also notes evidence suggesting that, "Transcendence is significantly more productive of psychological health than pathology."
Noble reviews studies showing that subjects who have had peak experie)nces are less authoritarian and dogmatic, and more assertive, imaginative, self-sufficient, and relaxed (95). Wuthnow (96) showed that peak experiences were positively associated with "introspective, self-aware, and self-assured personalities" (p.73) and with a greater sense of meaningfulness and purposefulness in life. Other studies (97) have shown that people having intense spiritual experiences are more likely to report a high level of psychological well-being. Noble also notes evidence suggesting that
[T]he tendency to report such experience increased significantly with overall gain in psychological maturity scores. This finding is consistent with Hood's (98) suggestion that "only a strong ego can be relinquished non-pathologically" (Hood, p.69) and that to have a transcendent experience, one must have developed the requisite psychological strength to withstand it. Clearly, transcendence can present percipients with a total existential shift in which their experience of self and of the world, their orientation in space and time, their emotional attitudes and cognitive styles, and perhaps even their entire personalities undergo a profound change. (93)


Noble's findings suggest that a further reason to use meditation in psychotherapy is to precipitate such experiences of transcendence, and the "existential shifts" that these may catalyze.
Deikman (16) has also noted that meditation produces major alterations in perception of personal identity or definition of the self. He emphasizes the value of meditation as a means of realizing the transiency of all mind content, and bringing about a decreased preoccupation with one's personal problems and suffering (p.142). Parry and Jones (99) write that meditation facilitates the recognition that "belief in the reality of a separate self, rather than enhancing well-being, actually leads to suffering" (p.177). Walley (100) writes that meditation practice provides an antidote to "self-grasping" and "the self-cherishing attitude" which, according to Buddhist teachings, cloud the inherent purity, warmth, openess, and intelligence that are the qualities of our natural state of mind (p.196).
These writers suggest that meditation may offer a fundamentally different approach to mental health than that used by most psychotherapists. Whereas therapy traditionally focuses on the individual's problems and attempts to construct a more healthy self-image, a meditatively informed therapy would promote realization of the transiency and insubstantiality of all identity constructs as well as the cultivation of equanimity, compassion, and friendliness toward oneself and others (5) (p.49). The extent to which such realizations of "no-self" and consequent turning of attention away from the problems of the personal self is in line with the goals of psychotherapy, and exactly how these would affect the course and outcome of psychotherapy remains to be determined through further empirical and phenomenological studies.



Conclusion
Meditation is a multidimensional phenomenon that may be useful in a clinical setting in a variety of ways. First, meditation is associated with states of physiological relaxation that can be utilized to alleviate stress, anxiety, and other physical symptoms. Secondly, meditation brings about cognitive shifts that can be applied to behavioral self-observation and management, and to understanding limiting or self-destructive cognitive patterns.
Meditation may also permit deepened access to the unconscious. However, meditation by itself may not be an effective means of reflecting upon and giving meaning to the previously submerged material that may come to consciousness. Here the interpretive schemas developed by psychoanalytic, Jungian, and other psychodynamic theorists may prove more useful. Conversely, meditation techniques like Vipassana focus attention on the manner in which unconscious conflicts are being processed and recreated in the mind on a moment-to-moment basis. Thus, vipassana offers the possibility of not just understanding such conflicts conceptually, but of actually penetrating and gradually dismantling them through meditative insight.
I have noted the importance of assessing the developmental stage of the individual before prescribing meditation as an adjunct to therapy, and in choosing an appropriate method. While some, such as Engler, argue that meditation may intensify prior deficits in self-structure in ways that may be deleterious, others, e.g., Epstein, contend that meditation can actually help resolve structural personality disorders commonly treated by therapists.
Our discussion has suggested that meditation may offer the possibility of development beyond what most therapy can offer, but proceeds more effectively when certain egoic issues such as self-esteem, livelihood, and intimacy and sexuality have been at least to some extent resolved (10, 16, 84). Therapy may be a more effective means of developing ego strength and exploring unconscious conflicts, relationships issues, and so forth, especially when a preoccupation with these concerns is a cause of sufficient anxiety that focused meditation may not be possible (26, 90). Here Bacher's (23) contention that a sequential approach to the use of meditation in therapy may be most fitting appears to be supported.
I believe that meditation can make a significant contribution to the deep transformation of personality sought in psychotherapy. Nevertheless, Western therapists will need to experiment to learn how these methods can be most useful to them. For the therapeutic effects of different meditation techniques may vary greatly. Concentration methods may allow the patient to feel inner balance, calm, and a ground of being that transcends the continuous flux of thoughts and emotions, and that inspires confidence. Vipassana meditation may promote transformative insight into maladaptive patterns of mental and emotional activity. But all of these methods have the capacity, as Deatherage suggested, to help make the patient more self-reliant and less preoccupied with transference to the therapist. Meditation can in some cases be useful in promoting social adjustment, behavioral change, ego development, and so forth by generating a mindfulness and inner peace that leads to greater efficiency in work, openness to feelings, and satisfaction in daily life. Moreover, meditation can enable the patient to view emotions with dispassion, acceptance, and loving kindness, to transmute neurosis into a spiritual path, and to taste an inner freedom "beyond any identity structure" (101). I think that the use of meditation mainly makes sense in a therapy that deliberately understands itself as contemplative or transpersonal; for meditation's ultimate goal is to evoke the higher potentials of consciousness, and experiences of a spaciousness beyond the cognitive structures and constructs of the self that conventional psychotherapy seeks merely to modify.


Summary
This essay has explored research to date concerning the efficacy of introducing meditation into the therapeutic setting. I have presented the views of proponents and critics of the relaxation model of meditation and of theories describing the cognitive changes brought about by meditation-for example, Deikman's theory of the deautomatization of consciousness and Delmonte's view that meditation may be utilized to bring about "ascendence," "descendence," and "transcendence." After summarizing psychoanalytic and Jungian arguments against meditation, the writings of several transpersonal psychologists have been cited to demonstrate the differences in how psychotherapy and meditative disciplines conceptualize personal identity, work with unconscious material, and view the experience of emptiness.
I conclude that the question of whether meditation should be used in therapy can be answered only by considering what therapeutic goals are being sought in a particular instance and whether or not meditation can reasonably be expected to facilitate achievement of those goals. Meditation may, in some cases, be compatible with, and effective in promoting the aims of psychotherapy-for example, cognitive and behavioral change, or access to the deep regions of the personal unconscious. In other cases, it may be strongly contraindicated, especially when the therapeutic goal is to strengthen ego boundaries, release powerful emotions, or work through complex relational dynamics, ends which may be more effectively reached through standard psychotherapeutic methods than through meditation. Meditation may be of great value, however, through its capacity to awaken altered states of consciousness that may profoundly reorient an individual's identity, emotional attitude, and sense of wellbeing and purpose in life.
(References removed)
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Yadid dee, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:41 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:33 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Hi CCC,

I would like to propose the following:

What you presented in the post are your opinions, based on reading the DhO posts and other things,
while you have not met a single person from the DhO, in the dark night, outside of it, or otherwise.

Therefore, your opinions on this matter are pure speculation mixed with projection, and so are inaccurate.

A great example of showing how this is mostly your own projections comes to mind of your observations of Bruno - from my personal meeting and staying with Bruno for a week - they totally missed the mark and were based upon your own projections, rather than the real person Bruno.

CCC:
Feel the person on the other end of the thread. Sometimes you'll need to read between the lines, other times it's right there in your face.


This screams 'Projection', as you cannot 'FEEL' the other person at the other end, you are IMAGINING them, mixing it with your own emotions and projections, which are inevitably inaccurate.
Try having a skype video-chat with someone, and you'll get a better feel for it.

You seem to keep wanting to share and verify those opinions on the DhO, such is my impression of your posts (that meditation is harmful for you, and others.)

As long as we're clear on that, keep on rantin' ;-)
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:42 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:42 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
You never read my posts properly.

You read my posts with one filter in mind: "is CCC being positive or negative? Is he being nice or nasty, because if he's being nasty, well I don't like that". And so you miss most of what I'm on about. You're in full protection mode, of yourself, and of the forum.

I don't need to meet people to know who they are. People betray who they are with every single word they speak. Their choice of words, tone, analogies, repetitive themes tell me exactly who they are. If I could be bothered to read through 10 of your posts, I could tell you things about yourself that even your own mother wouldn't know.
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Yadid dee, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:58 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 7:52 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 258 Join Date: 9/11/09 Recent Posts
Hi CCC,

I have nothing to protect, myself, nor this forum.
I read your posts with this in mind: Does CCC's post reflect my experience, and that of others who I know closely?
And since it does not, I shared that fact with you.

And about your second comment, I'll have to agree to disagree with you on that one, as without meeting and interacting with a person over some period of time, any impression you have from their posts, is very limited, and biased in a very extreme way.

In regards to your opinions about meditation: Again, without proper meditative experience, your opinions are based upon very little / limited information, and that is the main point I am trying to convey.

If you think meditation is bad for you, by all means, don't do it, but as you have already seen, this is not going to convince people who have already seen more of the actual results of practice than you, as they can see for themselves how your opinions are invalid by those results.

If you would allow me to try a little experiment on projection here, could you please tell me if you consider yourself:
Male ?
Socialy anxious and isolated (sometimes, most of the time) ?
Depressed (sometimes, most of the time) ?
Highly intellectual ?
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Simon Ekstrand, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:25 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:25 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 245 Join Date: 9/23/11 Recent Posts
Hi CCC,

C C C:
Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. I'm one of them. And yet for others it's fine, even beneficial. One of the big problems with Dho is that Daniel has not, and will not warn people of the very real dangers of meditating. I'm trying to correct that so that others don't put themselves though unnecessary suffering of meditation when it's contraindicated.


In what way do you find meditation harmful for yourself?

C C C:
If one was to sit and read through enough Dho threads, one would soon find that it is frequented by a very small subset of the population:

-- men (seems like about 95+%)
-- socially anxious and isolated
-- depressed
-- highly intellectual (The "escape to the mind" coping strategy soon turns into spiritual elitism)


That's not very surprising, it also describes the stereotypical 'nerd' - which in turn is someone who is very active on the internet. You'll see an overrepresentation of them on very many internet forums.

C C C:
One needs to question why it's psychologically messed up people who appear on the Dho, and not healthy, confident happy people. The dark night platitude just doesn't hold water, and it wears thin very quickly, particularly when you see that almost every single poster who complains of dark night, never recovers. Of course there are many who claim to have got past DN, only to display all the symptoms of depression/anxiety a few weeks later in their posts. Before you scream "projection!!!", just do some more reading of the forum. Feel the person on the other end of the thread. Sometimes you'll need to read between the lines, other times it's right there in your face.


I don't see this as at all unexpected. Unhappy people are much more likely to be searching for solutions for becoming happy, in this case meditation. The fact that many unhappy people meditate in an attempt to become happier doesn't mean that meditation causes unhappiness or is bad for you.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:33 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:32 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
One of the big problems with Dho is that Daniel has not, and will not warn people of the very real dangers of meditating.


As Daniel has done a lot to promote the idea of the "Dark Night" (= psychological difficulties that come from meditation) and the idea that it can repetitively occur, and the idea that it can do serious damage to one's life, and the idea that those with psychological difficulties should approach meditation very gently (if at all) for the sake of their health and happiness, this seems like pointless libel.

One needs to question why it's psychologically messed up people who appear on the Dho, and not healthy, confident happy people. The dark night platitude just doesn't hold water, and it wears thin very quickly,


I agree to some extent...the explanation that seems obvious to me is that spirituality often attracts people with psychological problems, because (self aware) people with psychological problems are more easily able to come to the conclusion that their experience could be improved by some change or alteration in their psychological or perceptual functioning.

Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. I'm one of them.


So, what particular feature is harmful to you, in your estimation? Paying attention? Concentrating? Analyzing experience? If one of these is harmful, what would the more salutary state be...a daydream? Cognitive disorganization? One in which experience could not be made sense of nor described?
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:38 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:33 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
simon, It causes extreme aching (nothing to do with posture, and to the extent that I don't know where to put myself), cold and shivering so bad that three quilt doonas won't keep me warm, nausea, dizziness, malaise and depression.

If you read the bold portions of the articles you'll see that it can be very harmful for some people. I'm saying I'm one of them, and given my reading of the forum over many years, I know that there are many many others for whom this would apply.

I'm telling people to make sure it's ok for them before they start taking advice such as "it's dark night, just keep going".
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:34 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:34 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
It causes extreme aching (nothing to do with posture), cold and shivering so bad that three quilt doonas won't keep me warm, nausea, dizziness, malaise and depression.


Which feature? Paying attention? Concentration? Analysis? Something else?
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:39 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:38 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. I'm one of them. And yet for others it's fine, even beneficial. One of the big problems with Dho is that Daniel has not, and will not warn people of the very real dangers of meditating.

Really?

MCTB:
On the other hand, even if you gain all kinds of strong concentration, look deeply into impermanence, suffering and no-self, but can't just open to these things, can't just let them be, can't accept the sometimes absurd and frightening truths of your experience, then you will likely be stuck in hell until you can, particularly in the higher stages of insight practices.
[link]

MCTB:
Our dark stuff tends to come bubbling up to the surface with a volume and intensity that we may never have known before. Remembering what is good in our life can be difficult in the face of this, and our reactivity in the face of our dark stuff can cause us staggering amounts of needless suffering. On top of this, we also begin to experience directly the fundamental suffering of duality, a suffering that has always been with us but which we have never known with this level of intensity or ever clearly understood. We face a profound and fundamental crisis of identity as our insight into the Three Characteristics begins to demolish part of the basic illusion of there being a separate or permanent us. This suffering is a kind of suffering that has nothing to do with what happens in our life and everything to do with a basic misunderstanding of all of it.

Dealing with either of these two issues, i.e. our dark stuff and our fundamental crisis of identity, would be a difficult undertaking, but trying to deal with them both at the same time is at least twice as difficult and can sometimes be overwhelming. It goes without saying that we tend not to be at our best when we are overwhelmed in this way.

The knee-jerk response often is to try to make our minds and our world change so as to try to stop the suffering we experience. However, when we are deeply into the Dark Night, we could be living in paradise and not be able to appreciate this at all, and so this solution is guaranteed to fail. Thus, my strong advice is to work on finishing up this cycle of insight and then work on your stuff from a place of insight and balance, rather than trying to do it in the reactive and disorienting stages of the Dark Night! I cannot make this point strongly enough.

As a close friend of mine with a ton of experience in insight practices and a gift for precise language and teaching so aptly put it, “The Dark Night can really fuck up your life.”
...
The second piece of advice is to have a “no-bleedthrough” policy when you suspect you are in the Dark Night. Simply refuse to let your negativity bleed out onto everyone and everything around you. Failure to do so can be disastrous, as your profound lack of perspective, fixation on negativity and the suffering from your fundamental crisis of identity can easily get projected out onto things and people that simply did not cause that suffering! No one appreciates this at all and it does no good whatsoever.
[link]

MCTB:
While I do generally wish to avoid biting the hands that have fed me, I must say that not telling practitioners about this territory from the beginning so as to give them a heads up to what might happen is so extremely irresponsible and negligent that I just want to spit and scream at those who perpetuate this warped culture of secrecy. While many teachers may not do so because they don’t think many people will ever get this far, that in and of itself is a scary assumption that should cause some serious questioning of their teaching methods, techniques, and perhaps even motivations.

Imagine that there is a meditation medication called Damnitall that is used to treat some form of suffering (perhaps it’s a pain medicine or an anti-depressant). However, in a subset of patients its long-term use is known to cause pronounced anxiety, paranoia, depression, apathy, micro-psychotic episodes, a pervasive sense of primal frustration, pronounced lack of perspective on relationships, reduced libido, feelings of dissatisfaction with worldly affairs, and exacerbation of personality disorders, all of which can lead to markedly reduced social and occupational function. Imagine that these side effects are known to persist sometimes months and even years after someone stops taking the medication, with occasional flare-ups and relapses, with the only permanently effective treatment being to increase the dose, along with supportive care and counseling, and hope that these side effects pass quickly with little damage.

Now, imagine that you are living in the dark days of paternalistic medicine during which doctors are prescribing this stuff without fully disclosing the potential side effects despite the fact that they are fully aware of them. Imagine that drug companies are not forced to disclose known side effects. Does anything in this scenario make you a bit uncomfortable? I should hope so!

Let’s say for the sake of argument that I am a fanatic who is blowing this thing way out of proportion. Let’s assume that Damnitall only causes these effects in one out of every ten thousand patients. Would you have these side effects included on the little piece of paper that comes in the bottle? Let’s say it’s one in a hundred? At what point does it become absurd that those doctors and drug companies are being allowed to get away with this? Unfortunately, I must admit that I do not know the exact odds of these side effects happening to you. I do know firsthand that they happen and that if you cross the A&P Event you are fairly likely to run into at least some of them.

These side effects are no fantasy. When they show up they are as real and powerful as if some dangerous drug had seriously skewed your neurochemistry, and I often wonder if that might be something like what happens. Thus, it seems only fair to have the same standards that we apply with such pronounced zeal and fervent litigation to drug companies and doctors also applied to meditation teachers and dharma books. For reasons unknown to me, this book is the first one I know of to spell out all of these things explicitly in language that everyone should be able to understand so that you can go into meditation having been fully informed of the risks and benefits and thus make informed decisions about your own practice. In the spirit of professionalism, I call on others who promote the dharma to adopt a similarly high standard for their own work.
[link]
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:48 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:39 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 946 Join Date: 3/9/10 Recent Posts
Analysis isn't meditation is it?

Attention/concentration.



And beo it's not nearly good enough to have those words inside chapter 5 of his book. It should be the one and only sticky thread labeled WARNING.
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:53 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:53 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
Analysis isn't meditation is it?


I would say that analysis of one's experience (by trying to see its individual qualities, rather than seeing it as a unitary and ineffable mess) is certainly one form of meditation...one which I personally have benefited from.

(Please be sure to distinguish what I just said from "intellectual analysis".)

Attention/concentration.


Is a more salutary state for you one in which you walk around in a reverie or daydream, or exhibit prominent ADHD-like disorganization?

Or, is it that a certain level of paying attention and concentration is harmful?

Or, is it that your attempts to pay attention and concentrate have been marred by some other incidental experience?
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Alan Smithee, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 3:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 2:14 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
-- men (seems like about 95+%)
-- socially anxious and isolated
-- depressed
-- highly intellectual (The "escape to the mind" coping strategy soon turns into spiritual elitism)

1) Yes, I am a "man." But this can be made problematical from a Queer Theory point of view -- gender as performance, social construction, etc. -- but I won't bother getting into that stuff right now [read Judith Butler]...

2) I used to have pretty severe anxiety about twelve years ago, but then I went back to school and my anxiety attacks simply went away. Also, I am by no means isolated: I take classes, I work 5 days a week, I live with my partner, I see my family on a weekly basis, I frequently see friends, and I often go out into society whether for pleasure or for getting shit done. My goal is to be a high school teacher, which is like the opposite of isolated. In fact, I generally feel like I could use MORE isolation.

3) I am not a depressed person. When something terrible isn't happening (car breakdown, someone I love is sick, etc.) I am generally happy, energetic, curious, and kind of a goofy laugh-and-joke-a-lot kind of fella. If something rubs me wrong, my style is to develop a strategy to overcome the problem. I'm not a "wallow in the muck" person.

4) Got me there. I don't get my kicks from cocaine, but from intellectual investigation and study! I enjoy philosophy, critical theory, literary theory, etc. However, I have no need to "escape the mind" by turning to "spiritual elitism." My interest in insight practice is just an extension of my intellectual interest in knowledge generally, and my practice is inspired much more via the desire to discover truth than from an overwhelming urge to end suffering.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 2:44 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 2:42 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
Hey CCC, I agree with much of what you and that article says, although I suggest that making generalizations about groups of people will not win you any favors, advance your point, or help people read you clearly.

I agree that vipassana might have a conflict, and thinking of things in terms of no-self and thinking about ultimate oblivion can be really detrimental to certain types. I am one of those types, I've suffered a lot and acted maliciously. However, I don't agree that it is the buddha that suggested these views and approaches. The issue is perhaps with the "vipassana movement" which separated concentration and insight and led a lot of people to trying to practice pure vipassana. The buddha's strategy had three components, virtue concentration and discernment, not just discernment. Also, these were intended to be practiced sequentially, you move from sense pleasure to form pleasure to formless pleasure, then you recognize that even this most refined form of pleasure is stressful impermanent and not-self, and thus you gain insight into a cause of suffering, clinging to the stressful. This is different from just trying to observe your own experience and recognize that there is already no self. I have noticed that when people do this they often find some degree of contentment with an imperfect condition, or they simply follow the pattern described in the article:

Lazarus (79) noted psychiatric problems precipitated by TM. He concluded that TM can be effective when it is used properly by informed practioners, but that when used indiscriminately it can lead to depression and depersonalization, heightened anxiety and tension, agitation, restlessness, or feelings of failure or ineptitude if the promised results do not occur. These findings suggest that the very openness to the unconscious that meditation provides may also contribute to the negative experiences sometimes found among meditators.


Which I know from personal experience.

Buddhist psychology has little to say about the level of self-pathology with structural deficits stemming from faulty early object-relations development because Buddhism does not describe in detail the early stages in the development of the self (p.34). Moreover, Engler believes that Buddhist meditation practices will only be effective when the practitioner has a relatively intact, coherent, and integrated sense of self, without which there is danger that feelings of emptiness or not feeling inwardly cohesive or integrated may be mistaken for sunyata (voidness) or selflessness.


I'd say that this is a symptom of interpretations of buddhism rather than the original teachings, which actually stressed some thing like effort and responsibility, "skillful pride" "skillful shame" and only mentioned the three characteristics twice i think.

meditation and psychotherapy aimed at egoic strengthening are mutually exclusive; for at a given time, one should either strive to attain a coherent self, or to attain liberation from it (p.48). Engler warns that bypassing the developmental tasks of identity formation and object constancy through the misguided attempt to annihilate the ego has pathological consequences.


This hits the nail on the head I think, here is a dhamma talk by the Thai Forest tradition Ajahn Thanissaro Bhikkhu. [url=http://www.dhammatalks.org/Archive/090904%20You%20Can't%20Clone%20Awakening.mp3]You cant clone awakening

Interestingly I think the buddha might have foreseen this and this is why he told monks not to talk about their attainments and didn't do a ton of description of advanced states, he didn't want people to try and clone awakening.

Thank you for providing me an explanation that put together a lot of loose thought fragments I've had and helping me understand why I've been making progress lately due to focusing on virtue, mindfulness, concentration, and right effort.
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josh r s, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 3:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 2:48 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 337 Join Date: 9/16/11 Recent Posts
Also, the buddha's goal never was "ego destruction" but nibbana attainment which is reached due to a lack of fetters, some of which may be caused by seeing things as self.

he never said whether there was or wasn't a self, just that people shouldn't take the aggregates as constituting or being related to a self
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 3:13 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 2:55 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 2227 Join Date: 10/27/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
And beo it's not nearly good enough to have those words inside chapter 5 of his book. It should be the one and only sticky thread labeled WARNING.

In a sense it's kind of a moot point as the people who end up on this forum usually have already gone past the A&P at some point and will thus be effected negatively in some way if they're not careful. I'm also fairly confident in saying that when (new) people ask for advice, the people responding usually mention the Dark Night if it's relevant (e.g. if they haven't hit A&P yet and will, or if they are just hitting A&P and it will come, or if they have crossed the A&P and it's happening now, or if they're in Equanimity and they might slide back, etc...)

That is a good article, though, and I've certainly suffered from not having done this thing carefully in the past, even having read MCTB and all those warning sections. But I doubt an additional warning sticky on the forum would have changed things much. For me it was more like "Dark Night? I'll own it! Bring it on! I'm ready!"

I also think that, at some point, ego strengthening won't work anymore... if you're hitting the Dark Night hard, things just start falling apart around you. Trying to put them back together is just what is causing the suffering; accepting things as they are leads to less suffering (Equanimity). Just my uninformed opinion, though. It might be better to have some artificial solidity from which to investigate, at first, until one can be comfortable with the nature of one's self (impermanent, suffering, causal).. but that's the point of concentration practice no?
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 6:50 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 6:47 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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End in Sight:

Is a more salutary state for you one in which you walk around in a reverie or daydream, or exhibit prominent ADHD-like disorganization?

Or, is it that a certain level of paying attention and concentration is harmful?

Or, is it that your attempts to pay attention and concentrate have been marred by some other incidental experience?


The second one - paying attention. The more I have to pay, and the more concentrated, the more harmful. One of my worst reactions was following a game of golf, where I made great effort to pay attention to certain body sensations. I did this while walking between holes and whilst hitting, so it added up to quite a few hours. Best game I've ever played, then it struck. 12 hours to recover. It's always the same pattern, whether I sit to meditate or walk or whatever. Once I figured that it was a herx-type of reaction, but I gave that idea away after repeated attempts in a relatively short space of time and no progress.

Where is this line of inquiry leading? Somewhere useful I hope.
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(D Z) Dhru Val, modified 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:15 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/19/12 8:13 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 346 Join Date: 9/18/11 Recent Posts
C C C:


If one was to sit and read through enough Dho threads, one would soon find that it is frequented by a very small subset of the population:

-- men (seems like about 95+%)
-- socially anxious and isolated
-- depressed
-- highly intellectual (The "escape to the mind" coping strategy soon turns into spiritual elitism)


Yes, this was actually what attracted me to the site (highly intellectual, attainment oriented / masculine style of spirituality).

Mainstream pop spirituality in the west is mostly middle aged women who watch Oprah, and uses language that appeals to that demographic.

A nerdy systematic approach is exactly what I was looking for.

C C C:

One needs to question why it's psychologically messed up people who appear on the Dho, and not healthy, confident happy people.


lol... Where does one find these illusive healthy, confident, happy people you speak of ?

Srs question. Most people I know are more concerned with appearing happy to other people, rather than actually being happy.

You and others on DhO are already a step ahead of most in my book. Even if you may not always feel like you are.
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Alan Smithee, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 12:44 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 12:44 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
End in Sight:

Is a more salutary state for you one in which you walk around in a reverie or daydream, or exhibit prominent ADHD-like disorganization?

Or, is it that a certain level of paying attention and concentration is harmful?

Or, is it that your attempts to pay attention and concentrate have been marred by some other incidental experience?


The second one - paying attention. The more I have to pay, and the more concentrated, the more harmful. One of my worst reactions was following a game of golf, where I made great effort to pay attention to certain body sensations. I did this while walking between holes and whilst hitting, so it added up to quite a few hours. Best game I've ever played, then it struck. 12 hours to recover. It's always the same pattern, whether I sit to meditate or walk or whatever. Once I figured that it was a herx-type of reaction, but I gave that idea away after repeated attempts in a relatively short space of time and no progress.

Where is this line of inquiry leading? Somewhere useful I hope.


Golf? No wonder you are a depressed person. Everyone I know who plays golf is insane...
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:58 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:57 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
End in Sight:

Is a more salutary state for you one in which you walk around in a reverie or daydream, or exhibit prominent ADHD-like disorganization?

Or, is it that a certain level of paying attention and concentration is harmful?

Or, is it that your attempts to pay attention and concentrate have been marred by some other incidental experience?


The second one - paying attention. The more I have to pay, and the more concentrated, the more harmful. One of my worst reactions was following a game of golf, where I made great effort to pay attention to certain body sensations. (...)


I think you're describing an overt attempt at a meditative practice, but what about more mundane circumstances? In everyday life there is still some degree of attention / concentration happening (or not) as you pass through...there is still likely to be some appreciation of your current experience (what you're seeing, what you're feeling, etc.) rather than having all of it pass in a haze...how much attention / concentration are you able to cultivate before getting a bad reaction? (Or, in other words, how close to constantly daydreaming do you have to stay to avoid bad reactions?)

Where is this line of inquiry leading? Somewhere useful I hope.


I don't know where it's leading (though I'm interested in asking about the condition you're describing), but I hope it will be useful also!
Change A, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 8:46 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 8:45 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 791 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. ...............Of course there are many who claim to have got past DN, only to display all the symptoms of depression/anxiety a few weeks later in their posts. Before you scream "projection!!!", just do some more reading of the forum. Feel the person on the other end of the thread. Sometimes you'll need to read between the lines, other times it's right there in your face.


What would you say about Actual Freedom practices?

What about those people who claimed to have gotten past DN and then went on the attain Actual Freedom?
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Thom W, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:02 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:58 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
For those with both psychotherapeutic expertise and deep contemplative / meditative practices, it is widely understood that a certain level of psychological health and stability is desirable before entering into practices that aim at destroying the sense of self entirely. That doesn't mean they should be labeled as dangerous, as when prescribed correctly they are not.

For some, progress in insight can come very fast and (relatively) painlessly, avoiding deep dark night traumas and the like. For those a little less ready for it (those who perhaps could do with some more conventional therapy) things can take longer, and be a little hairier, but profound progress is still possible. For those really not ready for it they can be downright unhelpful and dangerously destabilising. It all comes down to knowing what's best for you - sometimes a hard thing to figure out by yourself without the guidance of someone who knows their stuff.

I think what Daniel has done to increase understanding around the dark night is extremely valuable, as detailed a little further up the discussion.

I do think theres a fascinating part of the spectrum of human development where psychological health practices and insight practices cross over, and a sensible discussion of this is a great idea...

Thom
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Jake , modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:04 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 10:04 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
End in Sight:

as you [CCC] pass through [experiences in daily life] ...there is still likely to be some appreciation of your current experience (what you're seeing, what you're feeling, etc.) rather than having all of it pass in a haze...how much attention / concentration are you able to cultivate before getting a bad reaction? (Or, in other words, how close to constantly daydreaming do you have to stay to avoid bad reactions?)



This is a great question! Sounds like you have a really unusual condition, CCC, if it's actually the case that merely paying attention to your experience leads directly to severe distress. Psychotherapy would definitely be an option in such a case! But is this actually what you are saying? Are you really saying that your options are limited to being absorbed in distractions or paying attention to experience and getting this huge reaction? This sounds really extreme; not that I'm doubting you, just that it would help if you really made this explicit.

--Jake
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Thom W, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 3:03 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 2:58 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 63 Join Date: 12/31/10 Recent Posts
Oh yeh, a few more thoughts.

CCC, have you tried samatha / tranquility / concentration practices? In other words, meditative practices that are aimed at increasing ease and tranquility in body and mind and not directly aimed at liberating insight?

I ask as you say that you find the more concentrated you are, the more harmful you perceive the effects to be. But you immediately go on to say that you "made a great effort" to "pay attention to sensation". This is using concentration as a base for insight practice, and not as a way to increase ease, tranquility and feelings of well-being in body and mind, which can be of benefit to those who are not ready for the intensity of insight work.

Doing "dry insight" practices (just paying attention to sensation) without the base of a tranquil mind and body can be aggravating, destabilising and uncomfortable at the best of times, never mind for someone with an already edgy psychology, and especially when approached with a praiseworthy but perhaps misguided enthusiasm.

Concentration does not necessarily mean paying a shed load of attention to flickering sensation. It has traditionally been prescribed before insight practice as a way of stabilising mind and body before the ripping apart of vipassana practices or the equivalent.

Nick posted this once, and I like it:

"And how, Nandiya, does a disciple of the noble ones live heedfully? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones is endowed with verified confidence in the Awakened One... Not content with that verified confidence in the Awakened One, he exerts himself further in solitude by day or seclusion by night. For him, living thus heedfully, joy arises. In one who has joy, rapture arises. In one who has rapture, the body becomes serene. When the body is serene, one feels pleasure. Feeling pleasure, the mind becomes centered. When the mind is centered, phenomena become manifest. When phenomena are manifest, he is reckoned as one who dwells heedfully." Nandiya Sutta

Basically, this is making the case for really taking the time and effort to build a serene and blissful bodymind through samatha practice, which leads naturally to the clearer perception of sensation, at which point the insight train is fueled and ready to go with only a nudge in the right direction.

This sort of approach I would suggest might be more appropriate to the category of people I assume you have in mind with your post.

Thoughts?

Thom
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 4:08 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 4:08 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1199 Join Date: 11/12/10 Recent Posts
Before you scream "projection!!!", just do some more reading of the forum.

I've read the threads on this site for quite some time so let me just say this:
Projection!!!

Feel the person on the other end of the thread.

How exactly would a person do that?

Sometimes you'll need to read between the lines, other times it's right there in your face.

You know that point where you read between the lines? More often than not, it's you projecting. Maybe you'd make a lucky guess, or maybe, as usual, you'd just be wrong.

As for things being "right there in your face", read your own threads and your continued refusal to acknowledge that you're wrong, that you don't know what you're talking about and that you have absolutely no experience with any of the subjects discussed on here outside of what you read online.

Go open your own site or blog and tell the world about your discoveries, you'll no doubt find an audience and get the attention you so obviously crave.
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 5:59 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 5:59 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 669 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts
D Z:
C C C:


If one was to sit and read through enough Dho threads, one would soon find that it is frequented by a very small subset of the population:

-- men (seems like about 95+%)
-- socially anxious and isolated
-- depressed
-- highly intellectual (The "escape to the mind" coping strategy soon turns into spiritual elitism)


Yes, this was actually what attracted me to the site (highly intellectual, attainment oriented / masculine style of spirituality).

Mainstream pop spirituality in the west is mostly middle aged women who watch Oprah, and uses language that appeals to that demographic.

A nerdy systematic approach is exactly what I was looking for.


I'm one of two women who currently posts here on a regular basis (the other woman being Katy Steger)... there are other women I have seen post in recent times, but they do so somewhat infrequently. So CCC should have said it's more like 99.9% men.

What is a masculine style of spirituality?

What type of language appeals to middle aged women who watch Oprah? Why do you think women who watch Oprah are attracted to mainstream pop spirituality and what is pop spirituality?

I'm asking because your post seems to imply that women don't appreciate/understand the (highly intellectual, attainment oriented/ masculine style of spirituality/nerdy systematic approach) style of practice here.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 6:20 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 6:18 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Well, to be fair, your question is already answered, given the premise from which it was asked: the proof that women do not appreciate/understand the highly intellectual, attainment oriented/masculine style of spirituality/nerdy systematic approach is self-evident in the fact that only 0.1% of the people participating in this forum, of which previously mentioned style of practice is exercised, are women.

But, instead of humoring the claim that what goes on in this corner of the Internet is what has been described (highly intellectual, masculine spirituality, blah, blah...) - instead of taking the premise as given - I'd rather question if this is in fact true.

In my mind there is no doubt that there are other, much more important factors, determining the ratio of the sexes on this forum - of which most probably aren't perceived by you as insulting. (that last bit there is a projection emoticon)
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Steph , modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 6:36 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 6:35 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 669 Join Date: 3/24/10 Recent Posts
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:

In my mind there is no doubt that there are other, much more important factors, determining the ratio of the sexes on this forum - of which most probably aren't perceived by you as insulting. (that last bit there is a projection emoticon)


What other important factors do you think determine the ratio?


To be more clear about my intent in asking DZ......middle aged women who watch Oprah is generally considered somewhat of a pejorative... one of those stereotypes of a lazy woman sitting on the couch all day who is kind of dumb & overly sentimental. So DZ using this description in particular to describe the majority of women in the meditation scene kind of seemed like a reference to the general lazy dumb woman theme.
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:14 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 6:47 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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End in sight, on reflection it seems that the subject matter might make a difference to my concentration abilities. If the process is enjoyable (because the subject naturally draws my attention), the process can be relatively painless. Golf doesn't really fill me with delight and I don't play all that often, but I do know that to play well I have to concentrate quite hard. I think sometimes I play just because others are, or because I'm ok at it. Another bad example would be a kitesurfing lesson I had recently - my first one. My motivation to do this was because it looks so fun and I thought it would make me feel great. But there's a very steep learning curve and not much fun in the learning stages; mostly you're concentrating very hard in order to avoid getting dragged out to sea with ropes tangled around your neck. This lesson created a moderately bad reaction. When I wasn't actively engaged I made a point of just zoning out completely to conserve energy because I could feel myself getting very uncomfortable after half an hour. On the other hand if I paint a picture, I can (occasionally) sit and study the minutiae of a person's face with deep concentration and become quite peaceful - I'd forgotten about this because I hadn't done one for so long. Maybe I just need to find things that naturally grab my attention.

So yes there's possibly an element of being zoned out a fair bit of the day, purposely avoiding concentration for the reasons stated.

Aman I don't really have anything to say about actual freedom. I find the AF people hard to communicate with, as do a lot of others. Show me the people who have overcome DN. Point out their threads.

Thom, Jake, yes I've tried both insight and concentration practice many times, mainly sitting with eyes closed. Both have the same effect. I've given up on insight practice. Concentration practice for me might be a matter of somehow finding a trick or manoeuver that promotes stability. Sometimes I can read spiritual works and that will promote stability, for example. In general, stability comes most easily for me when i indulge desires. That's the most reliable way i know to create peace.

Tommy, I've started my blog and I want you to come and make a guest appearance.
John Wilde, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:11 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:09 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
C C C:

Concentration practice for me might be a matter of somehow finding a trick or manoeuver that promotes stability. Sometimes I can read spiritual works and that will promote stability, for example. In general, stability comes most easily for me when i indulge desires. That's the most reliable way i know to create peace.


When you've indulged and fully satisfied a desire, what's it like?

Is there a part of your experience that's always like that (in the background) even while you're desiring something and taking action to satisfy it?

If so, tuning into that can show you the way to a reliable stability and peace, without demanding that you sit with closed eyes and give up your desires.

Might be worth a look.

John
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:11 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:11 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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ok I'll try that, thanks. Makes sense.
John Wilde, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:18 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:18 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 501 Join Date: 10/26/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
ok I'll try that, thanks. Makes sense.


Good luck. If that doesn't work, there may be other ways. I think anyone who finds any kind of peace in this life is not manufacturing it by their practices, they've just learned to notice and tune into something that's already there. There are plenty of ways to do that, but it's an individual thing.

John
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Alan Smithee, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:52 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 7:52 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 310 Join Date: 4/2/10 Recent Posts
Have you considered that the source of your problems may be golf?
End in Sight, modified 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:52 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/20/12 9:52 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 1251 Join Date: 7/6/11 Recent Posts
C C C:
End in sight, on reflection it seems that the subject matter might make a difference to my concentration abilities. If the process is enjoyable (because the subject naturally draws my attention), the process can be relatively painless. Golf doesn't really fill me with delight and I don't play all that often, but I do know that to play well I have to concentrate quite hard. I think sometimes I play just because others are, or because I'm ok at it. Another bad example would be a kitesurfing lesson I had recently - my first one. My motivation to do this was because it looks so fun and I thought it would make me feel great. But there's a very steep learning curve and not much fun in the learning stages; mostly you're concentrating very hard in order to avoid getting dragged out to sea with ropes tangled around your neck. This lesson created a moderately bad reaction. When I wasn't actively engaged I made a point of just zoning out completely to conserve energy because I could feel myself getting very uncomfortable after half an hour. On the other hand if I paint a picture, I can (occasionally) sit and study the minutiae of a person's face with deep concentration and become quite peaceful - I'd forgotten about this because I hadn't done one for so long. Maybe I just need to find things that naturally grab my attention.


So (with a nod to Thom's suggestion), do you think that it's meditation as such which has been a problem for you, or just that your experiences of meditation haven't been enjoyable in themselves, and consequently caused (in what appears to be a fairly unique way) a negative experience?

If you sit down to meditate, and instead of trying to concentrate, you try to relax, in a really deep and physical way, you may have a different experience. ("Concentration meditation" has a very misleading name; "stable, relaxed, open meditation" characterizes how to do it a lot better.)
Nick K, modified 10 Years ago at 1/21/12 7:52 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/21/12 7:48 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 15 Join Date: 1/10/12 Recent Posts
Perhaps something that does not get enough attention, simply because it is not all that harmful for most eh?
That it can be harmful does not surprise me, but I can see how some get the idea that it is all good all the time.
Similar to how many have the idea that yoga is good all the time. But see a recent NYT article on how Yoga can be harmful: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/magazine/how-yoga-can-wreck-your-body.html

Transcendental Mediation (TM) is perhaps the most researched form of mediation. It's Mantra meditation. There are studies of it doing harm.
http://www.behind-the-tm-facade.org/transcendental_meditation-harmful-abstracts.htm

Relaxing rather than intense focus might not help him either:
"Dr. Solomon Snyder, head of neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University, warns that during meditation the brain releases serotonin. This may help those with mild depression but too much serotonin can cause, in some, a paradoxical relaxation-induced anxiety. Instead of relaxing during meditation, these people become distressed and may even have panic attacks. Snyder says that in some cases of schizophrenia, meditation can launch a person straight into psychosis."
http://www.thehumanist.org/humanist/MaryGarden.html

Have you tried metta mediation?
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 6:59 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/24/12 6:39 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Yes golf is a problem I agree Alan. Breeds insanity. I don't do it that often.... or do I?

EIS, I don't enjoy meditation when I do it purposefully and with intent. And the reactions have always been very harsh. The only time it has worked to any degree is when I'm already feeling peaceful and I just sort of gently play with that state and try to deepen it. That peaceful state is much more likely to happen after I get things done (fulfill desires). Of all the different desires, it seems being productive and useful is one which fosters the greatest peace. And that's difficult when your mood is low.

nick, I have had a few instances of that paradoxical anxiety when physically relaxing.

LSD, DMT, shrooms and meditation can cause very similar effects and insights, and 3 of these 4 are illegal due to the potentially destabilizing effects on the psyche. I'm not trying to be dramatic, but you see what I'm saying.
Johnny Froth, modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 1:04 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 1:04 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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I find it peculiar the extent to which CCC is being given a hard time about this post. The vast bulk was the Bogart review, and I find that *very* useful. Excellent CCC, thanks for digging it up. And as to those who point out that CCC is merely stating his/her own opinion -- well, what on earth is *any* of us doing in that respect?

That said, CCC I seriously disagree on one of your primary points -- that Ingram doesn't warn about the dangers. For me, the discussions about "dark night" are exactly that. I don't know why you refer to it as a "platitude". Ingram, on page 187 of his book, says, fruitily: "I would warn such people to STAY THE FUCK OUT OF THE DARK NIGHT".

If anything, I think Ingram may be taking the warnings too far, risking putting people off trying. I know he's trying to compensate for lack of warnings in the wider teachings, but if someone reads *only* Ingram's stuff, then as a standalone vehicle for learning, I'm not sure it gets the balance right.
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 1:38 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 1:38 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Froth, disregarding my issues with meditation for the moment, what should be done when someone comes in complaining of depression and depersonalization and gets diagnosed instead with dark night and a glimpse of 'no-self'? There's a huge amount of overlap in symptoms when you compare conditions such as bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc with effects of meditation practice. And what about when these people are told to 'keep meditating', and 'go on a retreat for a week', and they end up in a psychiatric ward or dead? Who's there to pick up the pieces?

I realize I misrepresented Daniel at the start of the thread. Beo also pointed this out. Sorry Dan. To me the degree of risk seems very high to not have it plastered in big letters at the top of the home page. That's what I want.
Johnny Froth, modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 2:13 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 2:13 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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C C C:
Froth, disregarding my issues with meditation for the moment, what should be done when someone comes in complaining of depression and depersonalization and gets diagnosed instead with dark night and a glimpse of 'no-self'?

OK, that's what you meant by platitude. Fair point.

C C C:
To me the degree of risk seems very high to not have it plastered in big letters at the top of the home page. That's what I want.

I'd say you actually want more. It's not necessarily the prominence of any warning that's important. The simple fact that there are dangers *is* already prominent, I think anyway.

What's not sufficiently clear is just how dangerous this stuff could be. So it's the *content* of the warning that's the issue. In fact, when you put it like this, perhaps I do agree with you after all. And I'm not so sure you did misrepresent Ingram.

On the other hand, he's a medic and I'm not (don't know about you). Maybe danger is overstating it. I dunno.
Johnny Froth, modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 2:18 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 2:18 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Johnny Froth:
On the other hand, he's a medic and I'm not (don't know about you). Maybe danger is overstating it. I dunno.


And on that note, Willoughby Britton discusses how she found in survey that it's not uncommon for practitioners who are merely experiencing (but not trying to dismiss) what is being called "dark night" have been diagnosed (incorrectly I think is the assumption) with serious psychiatric conditions such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

What's to be done about that flip side of the "danger" coin?
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Jake , modified 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 8:34 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/28/12 8:34 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 695 Join Date: 5/22/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
There's a huge amount of overlap in symptoms when you compare conditions such as bipolar, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc with effects of meditation practice. And what about when these people are told to 'keep meditating', and 'go on a retreat for a week',


A valid point, as far as it goes. I might qualify it like this: 'there's a huge amount of overlap..." Well, not really, but from a distance and filtered through text-only interactions, as interpreted by people with no psychological training and a gung-ho dharma attitude, yes absolutely, this can be a big problem. I want to emphasize the point though that there really is not a big overlap in symptoms, but rather, there are symptoms of the path unfolding that can *mimic* symptoms of the disorders you mention and vice versa.

But I disagree that they are the *same* symptoms, if that is what you are saying. For example, no-self and depersonalization seem very different to me both in terms of phenomenology and etiology. No-self can mean seeing through the constructive activity that posits an entity as the owner of experiences by seeing clearly that any such construction is another ownerless experience, and clearly not an "experiencer".

This in my experience generally leaves all the functional components of the psychological ego intact-- memory, self-awareness, decision making--- executive functions. If anything, these actually seem to be enhanced with mindful equanimity that dis-entangles them from the self-as-owner-of-experience construct, since the latter largely seems to arise as an attempt to reconcile instinctual programs with socialization and thus tends to have a defensive nature (Freud's tri-partite psyche). Recent neuroscientific investigations of the brains of awakened people seems to confirm this, as the self-referencing systems which correlate with the self-structure phenomena drop out while the executive circuits responsible for monitoring the rest of the brain are strengthened resulting in greater inhibition of limbic response etc.

On the other hand, depersonalization and other pathologies seem to be marked by, first of all, a developmental failure of the self-construct to arise in a healthy way in the first place, or a traumatically induced deformation of that construction. (In other words, the defenses never formed properly, and consciousness is constantly torn between instinctual forces and social pressures, the ego-as-mediator never having congealed properly). Since even when the ego does form properly it does so as a defensive structure, seeing through it means having to deal with those conflicts in a new way, which while unpleasant at times is rewarding in the long run.

Having a pathologically deformed self-construct which impairs executive functions and unleashes earlier coping mechanisms (regression) seems very different to me from seeing through the self-construct and differentiating those functions which composed it from the construct, because the latter seems in practice to lead to increased functional capacity of the executive functions since they are not being used (as) defensively as there is greater capacity for bare attention towards earlier structures and functions, as well as greater capacity to differentiate between what I feel and think and what others feel and think (socio-emotional autonomy) which comes from my being more honest with myself about what I feel and think (i.e., less defended).

There are at least two ways in which, given what I just wrote, I can see important critiques in what you are writing CCC.

One, and the one I agree with wholeheartedly, is that participants at DhO in general are not trained to recognize the difference between pathological deformations of the self-structure and no-self, and in general there is too much tendency to just interpret everything anyone posts as practice/insight related, which is a shame, since it seems like conventional wisdom that in the contemporary West many people with structural pathologies are attracted to buddhism because it seems to confirm their pathological intuitions. They want their borderline ego structure to be no-self, because that would save them a lot of trouble. Generally it seems like careful reading of posts and especially observation of posting patterns can reveal a lot in this regard, but granted, few if any here are qualified to make any diagnoses particularly given the scant data present in posts. The exception is when pathology is totally obvious, but even then as recent examples show, all it takes is one respondant's "idiot compassion" to egg on a pathological poster. I'm not sure how to solve this problem.

Two, the question whether the progress of insight itself could be the traumatic trigger which causes pathological deformation. This question has to be referred back to what we know in general about the emergence of severe pathology in the context of an otherwise adaptive personality. My impression, which is not professional, is that this doesn't seem to happen in quite this way. There seems to need to be a structural deficit to begin with which renders a person particularly vulnerable to trauma. For instance, research seems to indicate that getting securely attached in the first few years of life lays a groundwork for healthy self-structure which can serve throughout life, and apparently is a significant factor in determining why two people in the same traumatic situation (bank robbery, rape, multiple deaths of loved ones, etc) can respond so differently: one will develop ptsd or worse, the other will have much greater capacity to "bounce back". All in all, I think we definitely need much more research on this in relation to insight practices before we draw any conclusions but in the meantime it's worth watching out for.

...What do you think?

-Jake
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 1:44 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 1:42 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
Mr. Jake *:
What do you think?


Spot on!

While I understand that one can argue that what 'Mr. Jake' have presented is a mere view, an opinion, I believe (see? An opinion...) that the post by 'Mr. Jake' should be separated from this thread, or duplicated, and made sticky and possibly augmented with the essay in the first post of this thread and other relevant posts.

Separating the illusory and unnecessary 'self-referencing tendency' from the hugely beneficial 'ego structure' is very, very important, methinks. Also, learning to skillfully (re-)configure (e.g. simplify) and satisfy what I have called here 'the ego structure' is tremendously beneficial.

If you mix these things up and proceed to rip apart your 'ego structure' (depersonalization), you will have done yourself and others a great disservice.
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 11:08 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 6:35 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Hi Jake,

What I've always assumed is that a healthy ego will be naturally happy and successful in the material World. He's not blissful or super wealthy with 100's of friends, just reasonably happy a fair amount of the time, and able to function at work and in close relationships.
And the absence of these functional criteria would indicate someone with a poorly developed self-construct.

Do you (or anyone else) think that's unreasonable?

Would a lifetime history of difficulty in these areas be diagnostic?
Compare this to someone who has already demonstrated an ability to enjoy a reasonably happy healthy normal life, then decided he was interested in something else that transcended his normal boundaries.

Some other thoughts I had:

I don't like the term "no-self". Self must still exist even when enlightened, otherwise how would you know which body to feed? How would you know which body to dress or which mouth to speak out of? This one here or that one over there? I think of it more like a shift of identity from individual to universal, where the individual still exists in full. And if the self still exists, how useful will it be in the world if it has never learned how to make a living or relate to people? It would be the equivalent of a drug addict, blissed out in his own home, avoiding the world because he can't function in it, avoiding people because he can't relate to them, totally useless.
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Jake , modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 8:03 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 8:03 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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I think what you're saying, how you phrase it here in the first paragraph, *is* reasonable. For the most part, the majority of people I know fit that bill ;-)

I definitely don't see that as incompatible with opening to deeper dimensions of this moment of experience, and starting to live with deeper intent that expresses that deeper clarity. In other words, as far as I can tell from my own experience, going into insight territory has, even during dark night phases, unequivocally improved my capacity for 'ordinary happiness' and 'materially successful function' in the world.

I just posted something on some thread or other about the dark night in which I made a case for sharply distinguishing between insights into how 'dukkha' is the result of the way mind functions rather than of circumstances and other people, and on the other hand, the basically pathological ways we can react to those insights as we struggle against them. I tried to make the case that what is often called the dark night, I think imprecisely, confounds those insights with the struggle against them and the symptoms which arise from that struggle. So although I definitely recognize those cycles, I absolutely do not advocate the crazy assed years of torture version of what the dark night is. It isn't that. That's what happens when we try to pretend we aren't learning those dukha lessons and struggle to maintain the facade that we can blame others and the world for our basic suffering.

But learning to see how much of my suffering (all, depending on the definition) comes from how my own mind operates, and learning to operate in new ways, is not in any way incompatible with living a healthy full human life, in my experience anyway. I certainly get the point that navel gazing can be indulgent and selfish. So can an objectively reasonable, materially successful life!
This Good Self, modified 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 11:07 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/30/12 11:07 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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So maybe true dark night = the unwillingness to surrender to oblivion. Resisting the dissolution of one's cherished beliefs and world view causes the suffering. No resistance = no dark night?

Most of the Dho threads are about understanding and clarification of terms or processes or experiences. And yet, being willing to not know or understand anything is very much called for as a practice. In my experience this is true, which is why I am against too much intellectual debate.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 12:57 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 12:57 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Dear CCC: you want it? I am all for it, and you got it.

Daniel
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Tommy M, modified 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 3:41 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 3:41 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Tommy, I've started my blog and I want you to come and make a guest appearance.

emoticon I love you too, disagreements and all.
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 4:47 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 1/31/12 4:12 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 296 Join Date: 9/5/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
I don't like the term "no-self". Self must still exist even when enlightened, otherwise how would you know which body to feed? How would you know which body to dress or which mouth to speak out of? This one here or that one over there? I think of it more like a shift of identity from individual to universal, where the individual still exists in full. And if the self still exists, how useful will it be in the world if it has never learned how to make a living or relate to people? It would be the equivalent of a drug addict, blissed out in his own home, avoiding the world because he can't function in it, avoiding people because he can't relate to them, totally useless.


Stian Gudmundsen Høiland:
Separating the illusory and unnecessary 'self-referencing tendency' from the hugely beneficial 'ego structure' is very, very important, methinks. Also, learning to skillfully (re-)configure (e.g. simplify) and satisfy what I have called here 'the ego structure' is tremendously beneficial.

If you mix these things up and proceed to rip apart your 'ego structure' (depersonalization), you will have done yourself and others a great disservice.


The 'self' that is being talked about, the apparent center-point of experience, the one you want to get rid of, the one that in the end is seen as not even having been there in the first place; this 'self' which you do want to get rid of is not the 'self' that knows where it's mouth is.

If you read the above sentence a few times and actually trust that it is true, you will experience some sort of cognitive dissonance - you'll wonder: "What? But I thought... But isn't... Is the 'self' that I've thought I must get rid of not the 'self' I should actually get rid of? How can this be? And since I've been paying attention to the 'wrong' self, what and where exactly is the 'self' that I should be paying attention to?".

EDIT:

'Anatta' can be translated in many ways. Commonly it is translated as 'not-self', and this is not only because 'not-self' has a certain degree or precision in conveying the intended meaning of 'anatta', but also because of socio-cultural circumstances (and indeed, other causes as well). What I'm saying is that the reason why you think Mr. Buddha meant 'not-self' when he said 'anatta', is not necessarily because it is the most correct representation.

Buddhism in a Nutshell - Anatta
ANATTA: The Concept of No-Self in Buddhism
Atman
Anatta
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 2:31 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 2:31 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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I've never heard it put like that, Stian. Thanks. Is there any more where that came from? emoticon
Stian Gudmundsen Høiland, modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 3:35 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 3:35 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Strange that you would ask like that because actually there is. I've recently had so many insights lining up coupled with some very down-to-earth explainations and I've been taking notes constantly. Currently I'm trying to come up with ways to combine the notes in a presentable way.
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 3:59 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 3:59 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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The self in question doesn't exist, AND NEVER HAS AND NEVER COULD, which is an essential point. (Sorry for those who don't like a lot of caps).

Anyway, working backwards, discrimination was always not self, clarity was always not self, thought was always not self, memory was always not self, perception was always not self, effort was always not self, investigation was always not self.

The trick it to figure out how to take basically the exact same stuff and see it clearly, as when you do this well, suddenly you find that what seemed like the same stuff actually implies things totally differently from when it was poorly perceived, and it shows directly:

All things happen on their own
There are no fundamental boundaries in the field of experience at some basic, transformative level
There never was an observer or controller or doer
There was never any continuous existence of anything from a direct sensate point of view, which, being the basis of all other extrapolation, is the fundamental thing

It is sort of like that classic drawing that viewed one way looks like an old women, and viewed another way looks like a young one: same picture, completely different ways of viewing it.

Or those 3D pictures that initially look like a bunch of similarly repetitive nonsense but if you cross your eyes just right you suddenly see floating 3D images in space that you couldn't see before: same image, very different way of perceiving it.

Helpful?

Daniel
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 6:32 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 6:32 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 336 Join Date: 5/23/11 Recent Posts
Yes very.

the juxtaposition of the 'illusionary self' with the term 'structural ego', and then reading carefully;

discrimination was always not self, clarity was always not self, thought was always not self, memory was always not self, perception was always not self, effort was always not self, investigation was always not self.


See all of me functionally there, yet knowing that the perceptual quality can be so vastly improved.

I've never considered them side by side like that, the eastern and western conceptions as being complementary.

so side by side, to get back to the OP, a healthy western ego, and anatta are both possible/desirable.

Well adjusted and awake. I dig.

emoticon
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 8:10 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 8:10 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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theres plenty of gold in here for everyone...thanks Mr Jake.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 10:15 PM
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RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Richard Gombrich says the translation of anatta (anatman)
[indent] "is very often mistranslated (sometimes by [Gombrich] too, in the past) as 'not having a self or essence'. That is indeed how later Buddhists came to interpret it, but that was not its original meaning - in fact, it is doubly misleading. Both Pali grammar [14] and a comparison with the Vendanta show that the word means 'is not atman' rather than 'does not have atman'. Comparison with the Vendanta further shows that the translation 'self' is appropriate, as the reference is to living beings. However, as time went by the term was taken as a possessive compound and also taken to refer to everything, so that it became the one-word expression of the buddha's anti-essentialism."Page 70, What the Buddha Thought[/indent]


[indent][14] "The word was originally a karmadharaya compound, not a bahuvrihi" page 214, Notes to pages 69-81 (links to wikipedia added, not Gombrich's links)[/indent]

Therefore anatman was not, according to Gombrich, using the primitive a to create a "no-atman" entity or condition (e.g., new noun with which to establish a negative version (the no-atman) of the positive version (the atman)), but was using primitive "a" as an appositional compound (wherein "an" is applied to the unchanged concept of "atman" to mean "is not atman") and, thus, atman does not change its meaning nor is it modified by the preceding primitive a.

Gombrich describes the triad which Gotama countered as the Upanishadic concepts of being*, consciousness, and bliss


*Page 67:
[indent]The Buddha was influenced by the Upanishadic theory if 'being' on two levels. Firstly, he accepted the conceptualization of 'being' as the opposite of 'change' or 'becoming". On a more abstract or philosophical level, however, he rejects the reification of 'being'. He declares that there are three major fetters (samyojana) binding us to the cycle of rebirth, and the first of these is the view that there is a category 'being'. [10]

(...)

Famously, the Buddha's approach to life's problems was pragmatic. Our problems are urgent, and irrelevant theorizing is as silly as refusing to receive treatment for an arrow wound until you know the name of the man who shot the arrow. Today we see the world as in perpetual motion, and that reminds people of the Buddhist principle of imperanence. True, the Buddha saw our experiences as an ever-changing process, a stream of consciousness - the literal Pali equivalent of that expression does occur. But we are talking physics, whereas the Buddha was talking psychology. In my view, he did not see an object like a stone or table as changing from moment to moment (see below). Nor did he hold the opposite view. Such an analysis of the world outside our minds was to him irrelevant and a mere distraction from what should be commanding our attention, namely, escape from samsara. I shall have more to say about this pragmatic approach in Chapter 11. Here let me just reiterate that it was our experience of the world - of life, if you like, that the Buddha was focusing on, and it was our experience that he considered to be a causally conditioned process.



[10] sak-kaya-ditthi. The Sanskrit equivalent would be sat-kaya-drsti. I have devoted an article to this: 'Vedanta stood on its head: sakkaya and skkaya ditthi'. [/indent]

To consider Gombrich's research could be to accept things as they are, as in: I am here, and 'I' is not some substrate of being, consciousness or bliss, nor is there a not-I (aka: no self) form/entity/condition arising among spontaneously arising forms/things-happening-on-their-own speculation. This could cause a believer of the no-self cosmology (with all matter arising spontaneouslyhappening-on-their-own) to quarrel with the pragmatic I-exist-without-permanent-beingness/see-things-as-they-are person. There is no reason to enter such a dialogue after/if differing views are exchanged. Such views do not even need to be cultivated:
Gombrich again:
[indent]The result of this self-denying ordinance was that the Buddha condemned all theorizing which had no practical value. Whether we like it or not, he tended to be quite harsh on those who indulged in metaphysical speculation. In the Pali tradition, the very first sutta in the entire collection of his sermons is the Brahma-jala Sutta, which spends many pages on the kinds of speculation that people indulge in concerning both the world and the self, and then saying that the Buddha has himself realized their seductive power and made his escape from them".

(...)

'So', says the Buddha, 'remember what I have left unexplained as unexplained..."
[/indent]

Page 166-67, What the Buddha Thought

Anyway, wet your whistle? It's good book, though debated among scholars.



Edit: bolding a section, and then some
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 11:46 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 11:46 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Mr. Jake *:

... participants at DhO in general are not trained to recognize the difference between pathological deformations of the self-structure and no-self, and in general there is too much tendency to just interpret everything anyone posts as practice/insight related, which is a shame, since it seems like conventional wisdom that in the contemporary West many people with structural pathologies are attracted to buddhism because it seems to confirm their pathological intuitions. They want their borderline ego structure to be no-self, because that would save them a lot of trouble. Generally it seems like careful reading of posts and especially observation of posting patterns can reveal a lot in this regard, but granted, few if any here are qualified to make any diagnoses particularly given the scant data present in posts.
-Jake


Oh boy, have I seen this around the traps. And in myself...

Coupled with Santiago's comment (I think it was him) that we mostly define suffering as 'things we don't want to do' it puts a whole new spin on why I might go of on a tangent so easily.

We want to change all the things we call 'suffering' (read; bothersome things we don't want to do/experience) -but we want to do that by affirming our own point of view/ mind state with new terminology. Doh!

Back to the cushion.
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 11:55 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/2/12 11:55 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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katy steger:
But we are talking physics, whereas the Buddha was talking psychology. In my view, he did not see an object like a stone or table as changing from moment to moment (see below). Nor did he hold the opposite view. Such an analysis of the world outside our minds was to him irrelevant and a mere distraction from what should be commanding our attention, namely, escape from samsara. I shall have more to say about this pragmatic approach in Chapter 11. Here let me just reiterate that it was our experience of the world - of life, if you like, that the Buddha was focusing on, and it was our experience that he considered to be a causally conditioned process.



Anyway, wet your whistle?


Yep. Reminds me to remember what 'set of rules' I'm dealing with when thinking about my experience vs. being scientifically correct. a bit of a challenge for me actually, I like to have everything lining up, but it doesn't have to be so to work. Terms work, when applied to the sphere they describe.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 12:41 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 12:41 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Hi Daniel,

Helpful?


emoticon
All things happen on their own
There are no fundamental boundaries in the field of experience at some basic, transformative level
There never was an observer or controller or doer
There was never any continuous existence of anything from a direct sensate point of view, which, being the basis of all other extrapolation, is the fundamental thing

If all things happen on their own and there never was a controller or doer, then for what purpose are there the instructions of cultivation in in the Ekadhamma Suttas, for what purpose the Dhamma-vinaya, and what is meant in the dhammapada (183) instructing a doer to:
[indent]Not to do any evil
To cultivate what is wholesome
To purify one's mind:
That is the teaching of the Buddhas[/indent]

And karma (consequences of one's actions),which may not be chiefly causal to one's conditions, but is at least listed as the the eighth cause for one's conditions after seven others (including basic inborn health problems)?

Gotama is so logical: why would he give instructions for conduct and practice if he knew us to be incapable of directing our doing? Knowing we are doers, why does he also observe how we should do (e.g., dhamma-vinaya, eight-fold path)?


There was never any continuous existence of anything from a direct sensate point of view, which, being the basis of all other extrapolation, is the fundamental thing

It is sort of like that classic drawing that viewed one way looks like an old women, and viewed another way looks like a young one: same picture, completely different ways of viewing it.


As in the analogy you provide of the trompe d'oeil (the old/young woman), which view of the image is "the basis" and therefore "fundamental"?


As the mind has both a capacity for a "direct sensate point of view" as well as the capacity to have other views (like perceiving the "continuous existence" of a stone), how can one view be more fundamental than the other?

If one mental capacity (your "direct sensate point of view") cannot be found to be more fundamental (the view of "continuous existence" such as a rock and its decay) then how could direct sensate perception possibly be the basis of all other extrapolation?

Is holding a polarized view of things that cannot be known by oneself (such as the fundamental basis) stressful?
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 3:24 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 3:24 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Relative language still works. Try reading Part I of MCTB and it goes into long detailed explanations of why ultimate and relative language both are appropriate in various contexts and for various fields of communication. There is no need to repeat this basic material here.

As to the fundamental nature of things: keep going, keep paying attention, noticing things, and see what conclusions you come to. This is something you have to see for yourself.

It is like those images where you have to cross your eyes just right to see the 3D thing emerge: until you have done it, it doesn't really make sense like for those who have done it.

Once you have seen the other way of directly perceiving the thing, then we'll talk, perhaps, but at that point, the general question becomes: "How to I keep that mode of perceiving things on all the time!" this assuming that it didn't stick when first seen, which it usually doesn't, but if it does, then that is a bit of a conversation killer in a good way.
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Oliver Myth, modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 3:48 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 3:48 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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If a AFer has no "perspectives" or point of views, then does he see the young lady or the princess?!?

The world may never know!
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Jake , modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 6:48 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 6:48 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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welcome!
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Jake , modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 7:14 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 7:14 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Daniel M. Ingram:

at that point, the general question becomes: "How to I keep that mode of perceiving things on all the time!" this assuming that it didn't stick when first seen, which it usually doesn't, but if it does, then that is a bit of a conversation killer in a good way.


Daniel, assuming you mean the way of perceiving things in which they all happen on their own, period, does this advice pertain to entering MCTB 4th path, or something else? I ask because this is a perspective I can access more or less at will, and can deepen by concentrating on it (keeping that mode on). In a sense, it's always evident in some way unless there's a buying in to a particularly strong emotion; but the fact that the vividness of this point oscillates implies that it could be optimized (1). "Seeing through the centerpoint" is the same way (and the two seem to be different aspects of the same insight/perspective, in fact). So anyway, is focusing on stabilizing this insight your pointer for 4th path? Thanks--

--Jake

1-- I guess the reason I haven't optimized and stabilized this insight is that, in my experience, seeing it clearly at all seems to have taken the wind out of the sails of the felt-sense of drivenness or desperation to complete some process of seeing things clearly, because this insight is always over my shoulder so to speak, which provides a whole lot of leverage to let go of issues and behavior patterns which are trouble for me and my relations (which has been a bigger motivator for me in maintaining a consistent practice than the motivation to perceive truth, which is there as well, but just not the prime motivator for quite a while).
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Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem, modified 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 8:34 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/3/12 8:34 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

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Oliver Myth:
If a AFer has no "perspectives" or point of views, then does he see the young lady or the princess?!?

The world may never know!
potentially relevant post
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Andrew , modified 10 Years ago at 2/5/12 5:34 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/5/12 5:34 PM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 336 Join Date: 5/23/11 Recent Posts
Wow, that has to be the king of illusions. Thanks BCDEFG.
Change A, modified 10 Years ago at 2/19/12 9:26 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 2/19/12 12:07 AM

RE: Meditation vs. Psychotherapy

Posts: 791 Join Date: 5/24/10 Recent Posts
C C C:
Meditation is very harmful/dangerous for some people. ...............Of course there are many who claim to have got past DN, only to display all the symptoms of depression/anxiety a few weeks later in their posts. Before you scream "projection!!!", just do some more reading of the forum. Feel the person on the other end of the thread. Sometimes you'll need to read between the lines, other times it's right there in your face.


Aman A.:
What would you say about Actual Freedom practices?

What about those people who claimed to have gotten past DN and then went on the attain Actual Freedom?


C C C:

Aman I don't really have anything to say about actual freedom. I find the AF people hard to communicate with, as do a lot of others. Show me the people who have overcome DN. Point out their threads.


I think Actual Freedom practices can be at least as harmful/dangerous as meditation for some people if not more so. One example is right here on this forum:

http://www.dharmaoverground.org/web/guest/discussion/-/message_boards/message/612174

Guilherme:

I discovered actualism in 2007. Within the first few days of finding the official website, I had a PCE while reading Richard's writing, and then recalled another PCE that I had had many years before that. I have read almost all of what is available on their website.

Many things happened and one day in 2008 I suddenly became severely depressed. I have been depressed ever since. I call it "permanent depression" because I've had it for a long time, because it is continuous and because it does not "wax and wane".


Second example, I won't name the person, but it has been reported that he became suicidal. Third example is of a person who is reported by his friend as having gone almost totally crazy with only few periods of normalcy. Those who want more information about the second and third example may go check out moderated yahoo forum about actual freedom.

Maybe there should be a warning about Actual Freedom Dark Night as well? Three examples out of few people who practice Actualism is a high percentage.

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