who should not meditate

Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
Post Reply
User avatar
DNS
Site Admin
Posts: 5370
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:23 pm
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada, Estados Unidos de América
Contact:

who should not meditate

Post by DNS »

Good article (imo) by Piya Tan this week. Piya Tan was a Theravada monk for over 20 years and he teaches vipassana/Theravada, but his comments on meditation could apply for any Buddhist tradition.
1 Meditation is generally safe for most people, but there are re­port­ed cases and studi­es noting some adverse effects.[1] From one-third to one-half of participants of long silent medi­ta­tion retreats (two weeks to three months) in the West reported increased tension, anxiety, confu­sion, and depress­ion.[2] In an article well publicized on the Internet, Jack Kornfield confesses that in vipassanā practice,

At least half the students who came to three-month retreats couldn’t do the simple “bare atten­tion” practices because they were holding a great deal of unresolved grief, fear, wounded­ness, and unfinished business from the past. I also had an opportunity to observe the most successful group of meditators—including experienced students of Zen and Tibe­tan Buddhism —who had developed strong samadhi and deep insight into imperma­nence and selflessness. Even after many intensive retreats, most of the meditators continued to experience great difficulties and significant areas of attachment and unconsciousness in their lives, including fear, difficulty with work, relat­ion­­ships wounds, and closed hearts. (Kornfield 2003)

2 On the other hand, most of these very same participants also reported very positive effects from their meditation practice. The vulnerable margin of participants usually includes those who are under some kind of medica­tion, or have a psychiatric history or some kind of undisclosed personal disorder. There have been a few reports that intensive meditation could cause or worsen symptoms in people who have certain psychiatric problems, but this question has not been fully researched.

Such studies do suggest, however, that meditation may not be recommended for people with psych­o­­tic disorders, severe depression, and other severe personality disorders, unless they are also receiving psychological or medical treatment, and closely monitored so that they can receive support whenever needed. Individuals who are aware of an underlying psychiatric disorder who wish to take up meditation should speak with a mental health professional or experienced instructor before doing so.[3]

3 Obviously, for some people, the “vipassana” method does not always work, or does not always work by itself. Meditation for beginners is likely to succeed when the following minimum conditions are present:

(1) Participants with emotional or psychological issues have them resolved first.

(2) The instructor is an experienced teacher, with sufficient spiritual training.

(3) Breath meditation and lovingkindness cultivation are taught in a balanced manner.

(4) The group is small, say, not more than fifteen participants per group.

(5) The environment is quiet and conducive, and there are basic standing rules.

(6) The length of sitting is flexible, depending on the student’s ability and inclination.

(7) The instructor keeps to an ethical code and is easily available for related consultation.

4 Psychotherapists and other professional specialists trained in meditation may be effect­ive medi­ta­tion instructors for beginners, even for intermediate levels. However, for more advanced prac­tice, the teacher must be firmly founded on Buddhist meditation, if the students are to real­ly bene­fit.

5 Even if religious experience can be scientifically induced [8.1], it is still a feeling like love, faith and compass­ion, which cannot be meaningfully induced by the most sophisticated scientific instru­ment, short of man himself. This is a matter of consciousness working upon itself: only the mind can in­duce such states. The best tool for cultivating inner stillness is a hearty meditation.[4]
http://www.themindingcentre.org/dharmaf ... te-516.pdf
User avatar
Nemo
Posts: 1810
Joined: Thu Jan 21, 2010 3:23 am
Location: Canada

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Nemo »

The missing ingredient for those without a severe psychiatric condition is bravery. Most are terrified of going through the pain of past trauma. The way through is letting it be painful. It may feel like emptying an Olympic swimming pool one bucket at a time but with discipline eventually the pool will be empty.
Miorita
Posts: 1164
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2022 11:37 pm
Location: US

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Miorita »

Thanks for the info!
It explains why some groups of people develop many cancers from which they die. It is due to accumulated traumas.
User avatar
Kim O'Hara
Former staff member
Posts: 7182
Joined: Fri Nov 16, 2012 1:09 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Kim O'Hara »

DNS wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2024 5:26 pm Good article (imo) by Piya Tan this week. ...

http://www.themindingcentre.org/dharmaf ... te-516.pdf
:thanks:

Yes, that's very good.

:namaste:
Kim
Genjo Conan
Posts: 772
Joined: Thu Jul 23, 2020 6:27 pm

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Genjo Conan »

Miorita wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2024 7:00 pm Thanks for the info!
It explains why some groups of people develop many cancers from which they die. It is due to accumulated traumas.
Or, you know, carcinogens.
Miorita
Posts: 1164
Joined: Tue Jan 04, 2022 11:37 pm
Location: US

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Miorita »

DNS wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2024 5:26 pm ... could apply for any Buddhist tradition...
So it's a possibility and he contemplates the idea of extending it to Vajrayana Buddhism after he quit being a monastic.

Genjo Conan wrote: Mon Jun 10, 2024 1:57 am
Miorita wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2024 7:00 pm Thanks for the info!
It explains why some groups of people develop many cancers from which they die. It is due to accumulated traumas.
Or, you know, carcinogens.
It does not mean that I want to further detail on cancer causes. It does not apply to the issue I'm looking into.
User avatar
Queequeg
Former staff member
Posts: 14641
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Queequeg »

There are plenty of people who would benefit from other kinds of cultivation much more than samatha/vipashyana. Sraddha, silla, karuna, metta, upechka, mudita, buddhanasmirti. But we Buddhists are often at fault for sometimes suggesting those kinds of practices are lesser, when they are not. At least some absorb those attitudes and insist on jumping in the deep end when they don't know how to swim. And many meditation teachers I would say are not qualified to do anything but teach meditation, having had no other training, ESPECIALLY, outside an actual Buddhist community.

Personally, I'm more circumscribed and would counsel against people taking a multi-day retreat when they've had no or little training and practice. I think its a little irresponsible for accepting people like that into a multi day retreat without at first vetting them - a more than just a questionaire.

But, meditation is a business, inside and outside the Buddhist community, and depends on turnover for profits, so...
There is no suffering to be severed. Ignorance and klesas are indivisible from bodhi. There is no cause of suffering to be abandoned. Since extremes and the false are the Middle and genuine, there is no path to be practiced. Samsara is nirvana. No severance achieved. No suffering nor its cause. No path, no end. There is no transcendent realm; there is only the one true aspect. There is nothing separate from the true aspect.
-Guanding, Perfect and Sudden Contemplation,
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
Posts: 9794
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: who should not meditate

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Genjo Conan wrote: Mon Jun 10, 2024 1:57 am
Miorita wrote: Sun Jun 09, 2024 7:00 pm Thanks for the info!
It explains why some groups of people develop many cancers from which they die. It is due to accumulated traumas.
Or, you know, carcinogens.
:rolling:
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook produces outward insight.
User avatar
Zhen Li
Posts: 2864
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Tokyo
Contact:

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Zhen Li »

A few things come to mind:
1. While inspired by Buddhism, Vipassanā/Bare Attention (i.e. Goenka and MBSR) is its own modernist thing. I am wary of generalisations about "Buddhist Meditation" based on them alone because that's not the traditional Buddhist approach (either to the actual meditation on the cushion or the practice off the cushion).
2. Before starting meditation, I think people should have a well-rounded course introducing them to Buddhism. They should begin to deal with morality and precepts before they do a retreat.
3. Most people should start with loving-kindness meditation. This probably was not always the case, but I think that something about the modern condition makes people develop a temperament stronger in ill will than the other temperaments. The advantage of loving-kindness meditation is that it can naturally proceed into the other brahmavihārās and the dhyānas if developed fully.
4. Buddhānusmṛti is also very effective at reducing unwholesome qualities, but it may be more challenging for people new to Buddhism or without refuge/respect for the Buddha first. For those who do have faith first, continuous Nembutsu is very effective and eliminates karma.
sphairos
Posts: 52
Joined: Wed Nov 30, 2016 11:20 pm

Re: who should not meditate

Post by sphairos »

Zhen Li wrote: Mon Jul 01, 2024 11:43 pm A few things come to mind:
1. While inspired by Buddhism, Vipassanā/Bare Attention (i.e. Goenka and MBSR) is its own modernist thing. I am wary of generalisations about "Buddhist Meditation" based on them alone because that's not the traditional Buddhist approach (either to the actual meditation on the cushion or the practice off the cushion).
That's not what the followers and a number of scholars say. Moreover, Vipassanā is by no means Bare Attention. Bare Attention was a method of Jiddu Krishnamurti, and it has little relation or relevance in the Vipassanā practice.
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 17411
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

MBSR is shamatha/Vipassana applied clinically, while the context is different, the techniques are arguably congruent with traditional Buddhist techniques, since that is their source, though sometimes the terminology is off.

That said, a lot of the mental-health based models are beginning to recognize that a person should not learn these skills without an ethical , aspirational or emotion intelligence component.

When I used to do this kind of meditation with substance use treatment groups (which was requested, btw, people were genuinely interested), I would begin and end with a kind of secular aspiration practice, imagining a person with admirable qualities, focusing on these qualities, imagining sharing them with others, etc.

I personally think that most people who are utilizing clinical mindfulness will probably never get beyond the point of simply achieving basic “cognitive defusion” (https://cogbtherapy.com/cbt-blog/cognit ... -exercises), however, combined with emotionally transformative approaches, this can have a serious positive impact on people’s mental health and lives.

In my experience, whether or not someone should meditate on the breath for 10 minutes and make some positive aspirations is not a question, minus a few specific disorders it probably benefits everyone.

Once people develop a more consistent personal practice though there is more chance to develop problems, and more of a need for truly qualified guidance.

When I helped to teach a prison Dharma program, one thing it made me realize is that under some circumstances non-Buddhist meditators can have a more effective practice than some Buddhists. Evidence was an increased ability to deal with difficult situations while maintaining equanimity, compassion, an increased ability to evaluate one’s thoughts without getting emotionally caught up, etc.

It is not the fault of lineages of practice that many lay Buddhists (most of whom face nothing like the prisoners did daily) neglect certain things, but the fact that there is a cultural tendency to ignore certain aspects of practice.

So, I would say that for all its faults, the idea that something like MBSR is incomplete is a bit of a red herring.

Buddhist practices are also incomplete when practitioners ignore major parts of their meditative traditions in favor of the shinier parts, which we often do.
Meditate upon Bodhicitta when afflicted by disease

Meditate upon Bodhicitta when sad

Meditate upon Bodhicitta when suffering occurs

Meditate upon Bodhicitta when you are scared

-Khunu Lama
User avatar
Zhen Li
Posts: 2864
Joined: Sun Apr 07, 2013 8:15 am
Location: Tokyo
Contact:

Re: who should not meditate

Post by Zhen Li »

Yes, my apologies for what sounded like a simplification. If there are issues, they are on a human and individual level, not necessarily with a system of thought or practice with merits.
Post Reply

Return to “Meditation”