What mindfulness gurus won’t tell you: meditation has a dark side

We never intended to be the Richard Dawkins of mindfulness — but, because of our book, we seem to have started a public debate about its downsides nonetheless.

Our approach was to go through almost half a century of scientific evidence and tease out fact from fiction when it comes to beliefs about various meditative practices. As it happens, most of the media hype about mindfulness as a cure-all is not grounded in scientific evidence. But it was a chapter on the dark side of meditation that caused a stir, where we described the unexpected or exacerbated mental health problems that have been experienced and the potential misuse of meditative techniques (such as by the military). Our conclusion was that meditation might benefit some individuals, but not all — and it might be unhelpful for others.

We don’t yet know the reasons for these individual differences. There is very little research on why meditation doesn’t work in the same way for everyone and how it might cause emotional difficulties. One hypothesis is that meditation amplifies emotional problems that are lying hidden under the surface. Think of an individual who went through a traumatic experience in early life but forgot about it, only to find themselves reliving it as an adult trying out mindfulness meditation. Since the book came out we have listened to this and other stories, often via email or our book’s Facebook page, at other times from callers during live radio interviews. One of the most poignant accounts came from a journalist who interviewed us. She had been on a weekend meditation retreat with a friend who had a history of suffering from depression. Coming out of the retreat, they walked together to the railway station and, unexpectedly, this friend jumped on to the rail tracks as a train was speeding by.

Researchers like the amplification hypothesis because meditation comes out clean. The problem was already there and meditation only brought it out into the open. But there is a competing explanation, which we call the rattling hypothesis. We received a number of letters from long-term meditators supporting this explanation. According to them, the aim of sitting down and going within is to rattle the ego, to shake our sense of who we think we are, in order to move beyond self-centred concerns.

When techniques like mindfulness were adapted into a psychological, secular model, this rattling function was brushed under the carpet. But this was bound to resurface, as adverse effects can happen to anyone. In our book, we report the account of a psychiatrist who had to fight to keep his mental sanity after a meditation experience in which he felt the boundaries of his ego dissolve. This mystical experience led to a serious rattling of the self, which he was able to process in part because of his mental health training, but mainly because he had good social support, including a meditation teacher who explained that what he was going through was perfectly normal.

Unfortunately, mindfulness teachers (who are currently unregulated) are generally unaware of potential ego-rattling effects, nor possess the mental health training to deal with these situations. We have received emails and letters from individuals who were feeling anxious during mindfulness courses and this was dismissed by teachers as ‘built up stress’ that would go away.

But what happens when it doesn’t? This was the case of Gareth, who tried out a mindfulness course because he was having some trouble falling asleep. While doing the course he became aware of negative thoughts, which wouldn’t disappear no matter how much he accepted and tried to ‘let them go’. After eight weeks his anxiety levels had increased from something barely noticeable to an everyday problem which he found hard to manage. ‘Is it my fault?’ he wanted to know — and this is a common question for those who don’t feel the wellbeing, relaxation, happiness kick one might expect to get when meditating. Let’s not add stigmatisation to the list of adverse effects. It is no one’s fault when meditation goes wrong.

The problem is how we have come to think of mindfulness meditation as a practice that we should all engage in, because it will do us all good — and only good. This is a religious, not a scientific view (and to be fair, most religions actually tend to be cautious about the use of meditation).

There are many unanswered questions about the effects of meditation. Mindfulness, in particular, is portrayed as a universal ability to be ‘in the here and now’ — how can you not want that for yourself? Well, the bad news is that it doesn’t work for everyone.

But this isn’t necessarily bad. For one, there are many ways of ‘being present’ — meditation is just one of them. There are plenty of other activities that we can do for a sense of increased awareness and to feel ‘in the moment’ (and which may also help to reduce stress and improve mood), such as walking, swimming, talking to a friend, singing, dancing. The list is endless.

Another good thing is that it challenges simplistic notions of our minds as a more or less resilient muscle, which the mindfulness industry would encourage us to simply ‘exercise’ in order to achieve ‘mental fitness’. The variety of experiences (pleasant or difficult) stimulated by meditation portrays mental life rather as a combination of subtle and complex processes with various layers. Instead of dedicating more research to promoting a stereotypical image of meditation as a universal boon, we need to be mindful of how it affects people in different ways and try to understand why that is.

Dr Miguel Farias leads the Brain, Belief, and Behaviour research group at Coventry University. Dr Catherine Wikholm is a clinical psychologist in the NHS. They are the authors of The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?

  • Transcend

    please don’t make the mistake of lumping all meditation practices together and just calling it all mindfulness. The Transcendental Meditation technique has actually been more thoroughly researched, and never have there been any negative side effects associated with TM practice. It’s a very different form of meditation and has very different effects–

    • Watermelonbeast

      Really?. You should do more research. I personally know several people that have suffered greatly from TM practice. One person became so delusional and grandiose that the could no longer hold a job. This person also suffered from severe narcolepsy. Another person I know suffered a severe psychotic break in her late 50’s due to her involvement in TM. She lived and worked in Fairfield at the University. You should talk to some of the pastors at local churches in Fairfield, Iowa who have ministered to those who have had severe problems with TM.

      • Transcend

        Granted, the people you mentioned may exist and may have had problems, but it is highly, HIGHLY unlikely that TM led to these people’s problems. I’ve been reading the studies for 40 years, and not one legitimate peer-reviewed study, out of hundreds, has ever identified a negative side effect from TM. The deep rest and more harmonious brain functioning from TM just doesn’t cause problems; it is only beneficial. I wouldn’t base conclusions on talking to a couple of pastors but on the experiences of teaching hundreds of people myself and practicing it for 45 years. I’ve seen only all-positive, life transforming results. But that’s just me. However, the science makes it objective.

        • ApplesAreNotOrange

          You’re so blinded by your love is TM. In actually it is highly likely TM caused the damage. Fake made up mantras. It’s a shame you can’t see that TM is a marketing scam version of regular meditation.

          • Transcend

            can you produce any clinical or peer-reviewed evidence that TM has ever caused anyone any psychological damage? Let me answer that for you: no, you can’t.

            the mantras actually come from the Vedic tradition and there’s 1000’s of years of precedence of authenticity, ask any Indologist or Vedic scholar.

            you may have your opinion about what “regular meditation” is, and how TM compares. fine. but for it to be a scam, someone would have to be making money off it. can you produce any evidence that anyone, from the bottom to the top, has ever profited from TM course fees? I’ll answer that for you, too: no, you can’t. as a 501(c)3, the foundation is strictly non-profit and it’s all public record. after 50 years, if it were a scam, there would have been legal challenges and the IRS would have revoked the organization’s status. sorry, that’s never happened.

            yes I love TM, because of the benefits I experience, more so than from other forms of meditation I’ve tried. and I’ve tried them all.

          • Charmaine Greenland

            Hello there… Reading what your putting may help me with a few issues. I used to mediate all the time and now i can’t.. everytime i do i always see horrible thoughts and no matter how relaxed i am they are still there… I’d like you shed some light on this as before my intrusive thoughts and anxieties i was fine and could meditate happily but now i see horrible faces, redness and it gives me pure fear. I also have PTSD and meditation used to help but now it is deathly frightening.

          • actionmanrandell

            peer reviewed simply means it had something like 6 different people review it, that oesn’t mean its correct

          • Jack Scott

            You haven’t tried them all – no-one has – that sort of arrogance is why you refuse to accept TM might not be perfect

          • Transcend

            Thanks for your comment. Of course, you’re right, no one’s tried them all if you’re speaking of particulars—everyday countless people make up new meditation practices, so there are endless possible forms of meditation. But in the sense that the scientific and scholarly literature on meditation has identified three major categories of meditation practices, and every practice one might develop or describe will fit into one of these three categories (focused attention, open monitoring, and automatic self-transcending), there are many people who have tired them all. The three categories are identified by what’s happening in the brain—what kind of cognitive activity is the person engaged in—and, so far, scientists have seen that every practice ever studied will fall into one of these three major categories. https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/researchers-point-three-major-categories-meditation/

    • Anon

      TM is a cult, don’t listen to this guy, he’s a member and will say anything to get you to join the cult as well.

    • Transcend

      Myth #9: Meditation can have negative side effects and make you go crazy! http://meditationasheville.blogspot.com/2010/12/myth-meditation-can-have-bad-side.html?m=1

    • Rose Quartz

      TM should never be suggested to people with mental illness or people who have suffered severe trauma. It is very dangerous. It does no good and causes harm.

      • Transcend

        Not sure how anyone would come by that opinion — that TM is “dangerous” and should not be learned by people with mental illness. The fringes of the Internet, I guess. There are reams of studies showing that TM improves mental disorders. M’s deep, coherent rest is rejuvenating and is only good for you. Several peer-reviewed studies have been done on psychiatric patients learning TM and not only show no negative side effects, but show significant improvements in PTSD, anxiety, depression, stress reactivity, etc. For an empirical assessment from a noted psychiatrist, I recommend the book “Transcendence: Healing and Transformation Through Transcendental Meditation,” by 20-year senior NIH research (and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University Medical School) Norman Rosenthal. He gives a though overview of the research and offers lots of accounts of using TM with his patients.

        • Dani Porter

          Wow. People are literally telling you their own experiences of how TM has been, or is, harmful to them but you shut them down as SORRY, ANECDOTE ONLY, SCIENCE PLEASE. What is science if not observing and retelling the effect of something?! You’re scoring a massive own goal here by not listening and instead telling people their experiences are wrong because you believe something studied and published to be more real than their experiences, simply because its been replicated. You back this up, ironically, with your own experiences as further evidence of what you believe. Stand back and re-read others’ and your own comments. The arrogance!

    • ApplesAreNotOrange

      Wrong. I know someone who knows quite a few people from the TM scene. One guy went insane and never recovered. Other people were also damaged. The science behind TM is mostly fake.

      • Transcend

        I know someone who knows someone who knows someone… Out of 750+ research studies, not one legit study ever found adverse effects. To the contrary. See my link above.

        The science “mostly fake?” Okay, about 500 different scientists, most of them not associated with TM or Maharishi University (see the bibliography), from more than 250 separate universities or institutions, have been involved in the studies on TM, over a 40 year period so far, and the studies have been published in about 375 peer-reviewed journals. So you’re accusing most of these scientists of fraud? Can you produce any evidence of a single TM study being retracted from a peer-reviewed journal for being “fake?” No, you can’t.

        If the research were “mostly fake,” there would have been hundreds of retractions. There have been none. And retractions happen all the time in science. But not with TM. The same prestigious leading journals (such as the International Journal of Neuroscience, American Physiologist, Consciousness and Cognition, etc) repeatedly publish new research on TM. You need to think about what you’re saying. If the research were fake, the editors of the journals would have to be in on it, along with hundreds of independent peer-reviewers (who are chosen because they are the most qualified researchers in their fields); also complicit would be the National Institutes of Health (who have given over $25 million to fund numerous TM research studies), the Department of Defense and VA (who have given about $2.5 to study TM on PTSD vets), and so many universities and medical schools that have signed off on TM studies.

        Sorry, there’s just no basis for your claims.

        • Elaine Doe

          I’m actually very upset that you seem to be defending TM wholeheartedly and not even considering the pain and hardship that other people are trying to discuss with you.

          That feels very religious.

          An inability to take or accept critique is often a red flag that the subject at hand is flawed or being presented with a biased manner.

          For someone who has transcended, you should not be blind to the suffering that people have brought to you here. In fact, you just argued and at times even subtly insulted people who disagreed with you. I’m now very much turned off by TM as a practice.

          When people cannot extend empathy or consideration, then I know that they cannot be trusted.

          • John Furr

            What I see when I read this thread is a whole lot of people with completely unreal expectations of what meditation is. It’s not supposed to be easy or calming. Its supposed to put you face to with face with the deep stuff going on inside you.

            There is literally only one person in a meditation session.. what ever arises is YOU. When I first started I definitely did NOT like what I saw inside me. But accept it I did, because WHO else was to blame for it but me? I didn’t like it and only I was able to change it.

            I guess I was lucky because unlike so many of you I was grounded by a really good teacher that told me it would get worse before it got better.. and it did get worse… Issues would arise and then I’d work on them in daily life and then new issues would arise and I’d work on them in daily life.. guess what? 25 years later this is still what happens. The BIG difference now is that I have far far less mental clutter going on and most sessions are in fact quite peaceful and relaxing, but not all of them.. and to be blut it’s the harsh sessions that have the most to teach.

            So what I see is a thread full of people expecting meditation to be Prozac or some sort of panacea for life’s ills. HAHA Meditation is only a spotlight. Don’t blame the spot light if you don’t like what you see…

            And and BTW.. yeah meditation can feel dangerous to a degree.. and literally every spiritual tradition with meditation as a practice warns of meditating without proper grounding. ALL OF THEM.

          • Elaine Doe

            I think you’re rushing to blame people for their expectations a little too quickly.

            Meditation is actually VERY often advertised and promised to people as a panacea and a means of calm. Even as well, an antidepressant or anxiolytic. There’s a whole business out of this.

            While I don’t necessarily disagree with you; I actually agree with a lot. But unfortunately, the way you were taught is not a standard for how meditation is presented. So, a lot of people are really being sold snake oil and I don’t think that’s fair.

          • John Furr

            “So, a lot of people are really being sold snake oil and I don’t think that’s fair.”

            Elaine I agree. The way it’s advertised is not alway’s right.. see my comment above. But we can’t blame the actual discipline and practice on misinformation. We can only hope that we can help others see it correctly.

          • Elaine Doe

            I also don’t feel that it’s a complete spotlight.

            I get a lot of benefit from the spotlight, yes, and I don’t think people are having these adverse reactions because of the spotlight effect.

            I just feel that it’s not a one size fits all. Havung guidance can be great, if not essential if one chooses to practice meditation for awhile.

            Sometimes people might need a therapist, psychiatrist or other mental health professional in conjunction with medication. Not everything in the spotlight is real. And, those lines aren’t always easy to detect.

            There’s a wealth more I could say on this subject, but my current migraine is a warning that it won’t come out concisely.

          • John Furr

            “…I don’t think people are having these adverse reactions because of the spotlight effect.”

            Then what exactly is it? Where do the thoughts come from that are so troubling? It seems the trouble is precisely because of the spotlight effect. You are shining the light of attention on parts of the mind that are largely ignored or glossed over in the hyper mental state of daily life.. meditation slows that down and lets the deeper mind work it’s way to the surface.

            “Not everything in the spotlight is real.”

            Agreed and this is where it can be beneficial to have a guide. Though I believe that most people, perhaps not all, can get tremendous benefit from a sitting practice.. if it gets challenging it’s as simple as not meditating for a few day’s, weeks, etc until one is grounded again.. and then give it another shot.

            All that baggage that is brought to the surface is the power of meditation.. But we still have to deal with it and integrate it into our lives. Also worthing noting that most traditions start people off with small amounts of meditation a day.. Me being an instant gratification American start sitting 30-60m minutes a day… and Hell Yes I had some baggage come up and it was difficult at times… But I went in knowing this is what was SUPPOSED to happen during a mindfullness meditation session.

            “I just feel that it’s not a one size fits all.”

            Sure I agree with that also,, but I see a lot of people in this thread jumping on the dismiss wagon without having ever been properly trained nor haven given it a real go. And to be fair I do blame a lot on the way it’s been introduced into the west..

            We have a mindfullness club at work.. good grief.. if people really know what mindfullness was about they certainly wouldn’t be teaching it to employees.. lol But this is America and damnit we will find a way to sell mindfullness to corporate America and people WILL feel better. <— unfortunately that is a line of baloney and I've seen it fed to people over and over again.

            Meditation is one tool in the self work toolbox. It's a spotlight that say's, "Hey John, you were totally a jerk today, or that passing comment may not have been received well".. It's up to me to make it right or ignore it.

            And yes I won't deny that meditation can and often does go much deeper that that, but honestly very very rarely does a person hit deeper states until they have dealt with the surface baggage.

  • Jeff1

    The medical proffession is broken. I see this first hand. They know their drugs dont work but they continue to give them to folks either for fear of being sued or for fear of losing their income. They hide behind science but science doesnt create people create science studies people and then figures out why they can acheive great things. This article doesnt say anything that people who meditate dont understand. Its a journey and it involves the individual and that is why there are different results. Meditation and or yoga is self healing..some people are up for the challenge and others need more time. Will everyone make it through the journey with the same outcomes? No that is not a logical thought. But the medical industry does not believe in self healing. They believe they are god and they heal. But the irony is they dont do anything but run tests they are afraid to use their intuition so they hide behind bias tests that drive folks to drugs that dont work but harm. They are scared and They need articles like this that just create fear or doubt in folks mind. Good job guys keep up the good work. And stop blaming insurance companies for your own short comings and greed.

    • Elgordo

      It’s thinking like yours that frightens me. This is the sort of uncritical, irrational, post-modernist mumbo jumbo that perpetuates dangerous anti vax crackpots and homeopathy peddlers.

      You’re happy to completely ignore the host of evidence provided in the article to suggest everyone who meditates understands more than the author. Just consider the stunningly deluded arrogance of that assertion.

      Those of us with an education recognise the extraordinary quality of life advances that modern medicine and science have provided us with. In fact, comments like yours are an insult to all those who have suffered through continuing practices which have been resoundingly debunked by evidence.

      • Jeff1

        It’s not thinking its personal experience..both with doctors for over 28 years as well as with meditation and yoga. Its your fear of my comments that clouds your vision. Its not arrogance its enlightenment. I have evidence for each of my comments. I agree there are crackpots out there who practice “self healing”. There are also crackpot doctors who dont keep up on new ideas or look at folks as income strems vs individuals. There are doctors who refuse to use their own intuition and rely on biased tests that are designed to match up a drug to a symptom which results in a bad diagnosis.

        People in general find it much easier to offer to “heal” or help others vs “healing” or helping themselves. This does not discount what I stated about the medical industry it just adds to ones challenge of seeking help from others. If it feels better on your end its a larger issue than this article and the medical profession but that system is broken and the doctors, and nurses in many cases are not being honest with themselves and their patients and this creates a difficult environment for someone in need of help. Many of these folsk either know it because they have internal conflict that they created that results in anger toward others or they created a false reality for themselves to avoid the conflict. People get bad advice from many different aspects of life. In my opinion this article raises more fear than offers real help…and that doesnt help.

      • Elaine Doe

        Thank you for stepping in. It’s sad to see how much people stick to meditation and yoga religiously.

        They’re tools as part of a whole, and not everyone is going to see the same success with the same tools.

        I don’t understand how people can be so upset with the scientific method and all of the understanding it has brought to us. I feel that it is often a desire for control over their reality, in a way, a control that they can access without having to do all of the boring hard work of actually STUDYING the science they’re denying.

  • Youcefbb

    I think mindfulness is more about looking for a more accurate self-awareness, more than “finding happiness”, isn’t it? Even though the aim of being more and more self-aware in my opinion is to adapt in an optimal way to the world we live in, and therefore be more satisfied w/ our lives.

    Very interesting article though !

    • Lex Barringer

      You’re correct. You don’t find happiness, it’s generated from within.

  • Ricky Chan

    I will read your book in depth. But something tells me that alcohol or marijuana have the same problems – fine for some, bad for others – exacerbates certain tendencies, etc. Not everyone needs to meditate either. If psychologists are failing at healing clients, then their field is the problem. If many people are chronically unhappy, they should change their life – not try to meditate to make it bearable. Western people have been looking for “something else” to make things better or “somewhere else” where things are better for a long time. Meditation should be added to that bucket – yet another disappointment in the search for the perfect life. We must live with contradiction.

  • John D

    I have always been unable to do meditation or mindfulness. I have tried to do it at different times but it sets my mind so on edge that the slightest sound cuts like a knife through my brain. Last year I started a year long trauma treatment, which included mindfulness at the major mental health clinic in Melbourne.There were 8 people in the group, 3 of them had a similar reaction to me. At one session we were forced to stay at a session despite protestation from two of us. The 3Rd patient wasn’t in that day.
    When the session was over I was shaking like a leaf and the other person said “I was feeling reasonably well but terrible now”.
    I did not complete the treatment as I couldn’t sleep anymore.
    I have had over the years many arguments with psychiaters and psychologist about being unable to do those practices.

    • Lex Barringer

      Was this psychologist a licensed hypnotherapist? Traditionally hypnotherapists and psychoanalysts (psychologists who identify mental and emotional disorders not relating to neurological / medical reasons) are separate individuals.

      That was a rather dumb statement that the psychologist said about you going into a depression that you would never recover from. Each person is different in how they react to hypnosis, let alone how the hypnosis is induced in a given person.

      Depression is caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain, has much to do with long-term malnutrition. Some food additives can worsen depression in patients.

      My suggestion to you is to go see a psychiatrist and explain what happened. Have the psychiatrist do a full blood workup on you. Which will be in regards to free and serum levels of all the hormones, vitamins, minerals and all the other important saturation ratios. Do mention if you’re on any medication. Also mention if you have heart trouble, diabetes, hypoglycemia, seizures, allergies to foods and chemicals. This can in fact change the outcome of how things are handled. Also, mention any hereditary diseases that run in your family. The psychiatrist may check you for these as well.

      The difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist is that a psychiatrist is also a medical doctor (M.D.) and a psychologist is a (Ph.D). Also, there are many different specialities from within psychiatry. The type you’d be on the look out is by the name of “Neuropsychiatry” abbreviated as (NUP) right next to (M.D.) in his / her title.

      Some patients don’t know how to articulate the problem they’re having or don’t know how to ask the medical staff to rule out what some people would be considered obvious, although, some doctors are so set in their ways, they don’t want to do what they’re “supposed to do”.

      Also, if you’re on psychiatric medication of any kind that could make it impossible for you to mediate, also it may enhance your hyper-aware state. Some doctors don’t know that these medication make it impossible to meditate (although, they should know).

      • John D

        The person who tried the hypnotherapy with me was a qualified medical doctor  who was working for a psychiatric clinic attached to a major public hospital. Other psychiatrists have also confirmed that it can be a major issue.

        • Lex Barringer

          To say with certainty is a wrong thing to do, however. The science of the mind is ever evolving, John, it’s not static as to how they describe it to be. Have you ever suffer from any form of clinical depression before? If you haven’t, you’re more than likely not going to suffer from a depression you will not recover from.

          I studied psychiatry, a lot of what is stated is alarmist in nature. While, it’s true, some people who have psychopathy suffer from a very specific form of clinical depression by the name of psychotic depression. It’s a lot more rare than these doctors lead on.
          There is a difference between psychosis / psychotic break and psychopathy. As with all depressions, they don’t last forever.

          I had chronic depression since I was 8 and it just lifted several months ago, as it was constant (I’m now 41). In a word, psychology and psychiatry are based more on observation rather than hard science. However, there are some case studies that do root out all the various causes, that do in fact use hard science. That level of clinical studies are fairly rare in the industry. The clinical studies that are available usually have a very specific target in mind and work towards that, instead of following where the evidence leads them. That’s a travesty. An example is the introduction of a new psychiatric medication and they have a triple blind clinical trial for patients to be a part of the clinic study. This type of study has very rigid beliefs in what is valid and what is not valid, despite what the evidence may state to the contrary.

          Now, I’m not pushing you toward hypnosis or any other practice but be aware that it’s not set in stone that if you do or don’t do a certain thing, that the outcome will be X, Y or Z, that’s not how the mind actually works. We as humans, will never completely understand how the mind works, while we may master the biological and biochemical basis of our brains, the mind is far beyond this. Psychiatrists still don’t really know what a thought and consciousness really is as of yet. Yet, they attempt to articulate that it’s nothing more than a biochemical reaction in the brain that makes up thoughts, etc.

          If what they were actually true, I’d like them to go to an abandoned asylum during the night with an Ovilus 5 and a paranormal research group. You can hear and see residue or active energy built up from previous patients with various ailments, for which there is no brain and body of a patient actually still there. If they can’t explain that, after they come back, they need to dig deeper into understand as to where thoughts and conditions, really come from. Granted, yes, some are a biological wiring issue, while others are a mental conditioning issue, some go far beyond it, as what’s called psychic conditioning.

          Psychiatrists and psychologists are very narrow minded people, for the most part. This little exercise of them going outside of what they know and currently understand would be of great importance to their research into how the mind really works. To better understand if your problem is a conditioning issue or touches into your soul, which is psychic in nature. If the psychic part is cleaned up and patched, then the mental / psychological conditioning issue can then be corrected but not until then.

          While this may seem like an off the wall approach to you, you may want to talk to an energy healer that understands abuse and they can help with that end. If you study about meditation, you’ll realize everything is based on energy and certain patterns, let alone collections is know as you, John. Just as my set of collections and patterns of energy are seen and known as me, Lex. Everything we see, feel, taste, touch, hear, smell, sense, is based off of energy. If your energy patterns are scattered or are not aligned correctly you get mental illness and/or physical ailments.

          Do keep an open mind and heart to any solution that may come your way, do investigate each one, as they could be the solution to your problems, John.

  • Jesus Smith

    As far as I’m aware, the older traditions teach meditation with warnings.
    There are warnings about the danger of psychotic breaks, “maya” along with advice on how to practise correctly. There are warnings about “sinking” rather than transcending and so on.

    A good way to virtually guarantee negative experiences is to “force” meditation, that is, practise with effort.
    Another way is to practise without alertness, to zone out, to dissociate.

    In general meditating incorrectly and without having a useful cognitive or philosophical model within an ethical framework is a good way to end up in hospital.

    ps. I’ve been meditating for over 30 years.

  • foto2021

    I tried mindfulness after finding a guided 3-minute meditation on YouTube which worked well for me, and still does.

    However, I signed up for a mindfulness course that was funded by the NHS and found the first group session an ordeal. I was in tears by the end of the 40 minute meditation. It felt pointless and was very unhelpful. It took me several weeks to regain any semblance of feeling able to cope with normal life.

    I emailed the tutor to let him know I would not be attending any further sessions. He responded by telephoning me several times a day to try to persuade me to return. In the end I had to block his email address and mobile phone number, but it did not stop him writing to me, pleading with me to return to the class. In the end I made a formal complaint to his employer because I felt I was being harassed and had no alternative.

    It wasn’t funny then, but I can laugh about it now. I suppose a lot depends on your tutor and the training he/she has received.

    I still use the the guided 3-minute meditation whenever I need it. It is by Dr Mark Williams of the Oxford Mindfulness centre: http://bit.ly/1OQ3cX7

    • Lex Barringer

      What is the name of this practitioner and where can he found? I want to run a deep background check on this quack. Yes, you were in fact being harassed. Next time you run into a fraudster like this don’t hesitate to file a police and FBI report, in case the person is a flight risk, trying to leave the country.

  • Novell Gopal
  • RustyRiley

    there are so many wild, irresponsible, statements in this I think it only demonstrates yet again that one shouldn’t believe, or uncritically accept, anything one reads on the internet, it also only demonstrates that authors of articles on this site are irresponsible “so-called” journalists — the train episode is total BS if it’s supposed to highlight the alleged “dangers” of mindulness. There are so many mis-statements as well — certainly, one needs to do one’s homework before independently practising any self-help technique, but here’s a good start — shame someone from outside England had to be the one to point to an English resource http://mindfulnessteachersuk.org.uk/pdf/teacher-guidelines.pdf

    • Lex Barringer

      That’s a great article you’ve cited!

    • Elaine Doe

      I happen to think that you are wrong and that your tone sounds angry because someone criticized something you like.

  • Kung Fu Andy

    “Think of an individual who went through a traumatic experience in early
    life but forgot about it, only to find themselves reliving it as an
    adult trying out mindfulness meditation.”

    This is exactly what happened to me, but I didn’t understand it at the time. Any time I do mindfulness or meditation my state of mind worsens, and I re-experience the trauma, my mind gets obsessive, agitated. It’s like my mind cannot “rest” in the present moment, because of the presence of trauma in body and mind. I’ve kept trying for years but hurt myself and it has negatively affected my mental health. I kept trying because I just assumed I was just doing it wrong, because of the message I got from meditation teachers, therapists etc and their refusal to listen or respect my experience.

    So thanks so much for this article, it helps to reassure me that I am not alone.

    • Lex Barringer

      Any time teachers, so called gurus and other trained staff, whether it be a psychologist or psychiatrist. If they don’t listen to you, respect your experience, that is disrespecting you. If this happens, get out of there as fast as you can. They’re not their to help you at that location or facility.

      There are good people and bad people in all of these modalities. The bad ones don’t care about you and what you have to say. The good ones listen and work with you on a 1 to 1 basis. I must say, these types are really rare (unfortunately).

    • robin s

      Sounds like you need professional help with your trauma. Meditation alone is definitely not enough. If you can’t talk about your trauma, it keeps coming back. Also without meditation. A common treatment is EMDR therapy. Search it on Google. It’s very effective. I’m not a therapist but I’ve had some bad experiences too. Wish you the best. Cheers.

    • Ensō Śūnyatā

      maps ptsd mdma

  • David Briggs

    The problem is mindfulness and meditation have been separated from their spiritual origins and made out to be what they are not. Neither is a cure for anything. Together they help us see our false reality for what it is – man made – and so help us see the ultimate reality. Yet again the modern world using something from the ancient world for wrong intention – commercial gain. Right intention, balance of concentration with mindful attention, insight and wisdom all has to be there together with the right teacher.

    • Lex Barringer

      What you say is true, David.

    • John Furr


    • M..

      this is the explanation

    • Kalambong Kalambong

      Much obliged for a very clearly thought out comment.

      However, I would like to point out that there is a much deeper dimension regarding meditation.

      There is a reason why Meditation was linked to Religion, because Meditation is closely related to Trance, which was/is often employed in religious ceremony technique to ‘connect’ to those things that beyond the realms of our present consciousness, which are always out there

  • Jeff

    Gated Communities

    Gated communities are taking on an important role in modern politics. Donald Trump grew up in a gated community, and made his fortune building gated communities that illegally exclude African-Americans. Trump’s approach is not based on ideology, but on consumer demand, and in particular, the demand of the working class to live in a place where there are no minority groups, criminals, wierdos or politically correct (Catholic educated) people.

    A gated community has a number of characteristics. There is ideally a six metre high concrete wall to keep out intruders. When the wall surrounds a very large number of houses, the average cost of the wall becomes insignificant. Getting past the security guards is like going through customs. Hence there is no crime in a gated community, and children can roam unsupervised in complete safety. Parents can be sure their daughters will not encounter males that would be unsuitable sons-in-law.

    Allotments are typically quarter-acre or five acres (one-tenth or two hectares). Houses are fireproof and of a similar appearance. Services are provided by underground ducts, including pneumatic mail delivery. Television and internet are unobtrusively censored.

    There is a shopping centre with a supermarket and other key shops. Prices are controlled to prevent gouging. There is a club for men and older boys from which women are excluded. On the top of the shopping centre is a hospital and old people’s home overlooking a race track and playing fields.

    There is a non-denomination church, which has leather sofas instead of pews, and wallpaper with pictures of saints like in an eastern orthodox church. The priest is a family man employed by the management committee. There is a co-educational school, so that if children conceive a passionate desire for a classmate, it will be someone of the opposite gender. The school has international baccalaureate and no homework.

    Once people move into a gated community, it occurs to them that, instead of their having to move into a gated community, it would be better if the “undesirables” were forced to live in ghettos, or were kicked out of the country altogether. No doubt this is what Donald Trump has in mind. The Conservative Party should take on board this trend in modern living and become the party for people who live or would like to live in gated communities. er

  • Naveen Sai Kiran

    Too much of meditation worsens your condition to a great extent rathar than helping you. I personally know one who started going crazy, with hallucinations and hearing voices. Is there any treatment or a practice to cure these side effects?

    • Lex Barringer

      Cut way back on the amount (how many times you do it in a day) and for shorter periods of time. Get a lot of physical exercise, live in the ever present now.

      As long as you don’t have any neurological or psychiatric disorders, that you get plenty of good restful sleep, meaning deep REM sleep. This will help you alleviate (won’t get rid of it completely).

      People do on occasion start to hear voices and seeing hallucinations if they’re up for more than 96 hours straight, some people get it sooner, while others start seeing it at 120 hours. It depends on the your psychological conditioning and makeup.

      Do go see a psychiatrist in this regard, make sure you don’t have anything physically wrong with you that could be causing this issue. Sometimes people that are low on zinc, magnesium and calcium can have this happen to them as well. Always good to check the obvious stuff first. Full blood work panels can help your doctor figure out what’s happening.

      In any case, I hope you get help with this problem fairly soon and get well.

  • ApplesAreNotOrange

    Thanks. I had an astronomical breakdown after attending a meditation retreat about ten years ago. I’m still very ill. I went on another mindfulness course and got dissociation and high levels of trauma arising. The mindfulness trainers didn’t give a flying fuck, excuse my sanskrit. Om indeed. No mental health specialist understands and no spiritual teacher is compassionate or wise enough to help.

    • Elaine Doe

      I’m sorry that was your experience.

      I find it’s really difficult to get to the truth sometimes. Hard to find someone into abstraction who can also take critique and be logical. And visa versa. I hope you can find someone with a good head on your shoulders and enough concern and understanding to help you.

    • codefool

      The thing about mindfullness is it allows us to become aware of those things which we have been pushing down inside of us for so long. Dissociation is a very common response to trauma as you begin to depersonalize the trauma in order to not feel it. Some joker the took a weekend meditation course and now is teaching meditation isn’t going to be qualified to help you, they are just as likely to repeat so foo foo nonsense and blame it on the client. I’ve seen it many times for those who have no clue what they are doing. Experience the emotions of the trauma in it’s self isn’t a bad thing if you have a competent person to coach you through it. The only way out is through else the behavioral patterns driven by those emotions are going to persist. Since you had a breakdown it seems to be that a lot of those emotions are just beneath the surface and you spend a lot of energy pushing them down. They probably pop up in the time right before you fall sleep. Its not that no health specialist or spiritual teach isn’t compassionate, most want to help but most can only repeat the non sensical answers that their teachers said to them, which mostly go on to blame the client for not doing something right. A good coach (trauma therapist, A REAL regression hypnotist that knows what they are doing) can help you process those feelings and gain the proper prospective can help you. They can help you discharge the emotions behind it so that they are no longer an issue.

  • Sogand Ka

    I have been doing different meditations. I repeatedly receive cautions regarding problem after mediations despite the what is described here. There are other forms of mediations rather than mindfulness or zen. an example is twin-hearts meditation which is a form of compassionate meditation. in this meditation simply you bless the entire world and through the blessing, you generate positive energy as well as positive karma. You can find it in this link: http://pranichealing.com/meditation-twin-hearts . If anyone has a problem with sitting in meditation, I recommend this meditation along self-cleansing and doing service. If meditation brings up our personality problem we cannot escape them we should fix them one way or other. Also, it is true that meditation can make you more sensitive. It happens for me but I try to understand it and deal with it rather than announce that meditation makes me angry!

    • Elaine Doe

      Some people need to announce things and some people are helped by hearing those announcements.

  • aa5767 aa5767

    I have recently started this practice and it has worked wonderfully to quite my mind and stop my compulsive thinking. It’s interesting to read this article and comments, I didn’t know there could be drawbacks

  • Andrew Eastman

    Everything I read in this article and below is purely subjective. A bunch of opinions and perspectives based on varying beliefs. Whether you believe meditation is good or bad, it’s not going away. Accept all things and be free.

  • MofromRo

    In the case of Gareth, the negative thoughts were always there in the subconscious. Meditation simply made him aware of them. The point of meditation is to become aware of such thoughts, and through awareness (and accompanying detachment) release them. Where those thoughts originated, may become clearer to the meditator. Meditation isn’t for everyone. It is for those seeking personal freedom. Waking up (gaining spiritual awareness) although highly rewarding, is often a difficult process. Meditation has many benefits, one of which is to build emotional stability/intelligence/calmness through inner spiritual growth. There are many different types of meditation. I’ve no personal experience with “mindful meditation” however true meditation isn’t simply a relaxation exercise. It’s an agent which enables a person to uncover and maintain their true core identity, whilst becoming increasingly aware of the veil of insanity that constitutes normality in our world. Although many mentally unstable people can be set off by a change such as meditation (there against almost anything could set such a person off) I’m very much against government control and licensing of teachers of meditation. Spirituality and government are direct opposites. I’m also not surprised a psychiatrist claimed to be disturbed by meditation, as the practice of meditation tends to put psychiatrists out of business. Making meditation the new bogey man is simply a way to curb and curtail a practice that has provided enormous benefit for millions of people, at a loss of business and profits for doctors, pharmacuetical companies, advertising agencies, spin doctors, detox centres, attorneys, law courts and prisons. No surprise that some want it controlled and licensed into oblivion.

    • David Brown

      I don’t think meditation can be a bad thing or have at least one side effect. I do meditate 1-2 times/month, I eat 2 cannabis gummies (no THC!) – https://vapehabitat.com/cbd-gummies/ and this is the best relaxation ever. 100% refreshment guaranteed!

  • guipli

    The phenomenon you talk about It’s called “The Dark Night of the Soul”

  • Shadesofyoga

    I love this article. This is very well written. You have truly enriched me with some excellent knowledge about meditation .

  • kitewest seo

    This article is very good. I like it. Interesting post. Thanks for posting about meditation .Please share more information.

  • robin s

    I agree that you need support and guidance, but I have to say it takes practice to accept and let go of thoughts. I think it says a lot about the person who’s meditating if he or she can’t stand the feeling of not being in control for a few minutes. I consider that not healthy personally. I wouldn’t say you need to keep meditating if you have that. But I do think you need to think about visiting a therapist or at least talk about it with someone.

  • Yogavit Yoga

    Informative blog about meditation . Thank you for sharing with us..

  • Linda Teuling

    I really needed this. I just finished reading an article about developing your intuition and at the end was the usual list of: eat your veggies, get enough sleep, meditate and do yoga. it seems like meditation and mindfulness are supposed to cure everything except maybe the common cold or maybe even that if our heads are in the right place.

    It’s could be true that more people should do these things but it just seems like a canned answer that everybody seems to be giving especially with meditation and mindfulness. I have some excellent information on mindfulness but I don’t think it’s a magic key to everything and the way we do it differs with every person.

    So I appreciated this article very much.

  • Crystal

    It’s sure misfire to not clean your plate. Be mindful of your issues asking for guidance know the difference between light and darkness on this approach. Not to get into biblical sense but be careful what table you eat from. Be blessed healthy, and wise.

  • Ensō Śūnyatā

    If u have really bad exp after meditation try to learn about dark night of the soul/maps ptsd mdma hope its will help

  • Vivian Hui

    This is a thought provoking article. I’m a total newbie in meditation, although I personally find it very useful for myself, and have benefitted immensely, I can understand if it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Even the strongest and best medicines aren’t always a good fit for everyone.

    It was said that the Buddha himself practiced with gurus and teachers who taught him meditation techniques that made things worse for him. It’s kind of funny imagining the Buddha himself pricking an eyebrow and thinking “there’s got to be another way…”. Meditation, like anything, can be misused. The key is as much in how you do it, as whether you do it.

    I also agree with the author that there are many ways to be in the present moment. While I can’t think of any way better than meditation (at least done right!), there are many ways up the same mountain.

  • SM

    “Mindfulness” is just basically re branded “vipsyana” from Buddhism and it’s purpose is not for “relaxation” but for critical self appraisal, which “Mindfulness” ignores. These side effects have been documented by practitioners of vipsyana for thousands of years & there’s a comprehensive support system to deal with these effects. But it seem you Westerners were just interested in copyrighting this technic in it’s superficial form so one man (Jon Kabat-Zinn) can become super rich

  • raimund

    Oddly, the famous guru Sai Baba (subsequently proven to be a homosexual molester of young men at his ashram and a hoarder of wealth) warned against meditation, saying that it was dangerous, comparing the mind to an electric cable. The author of Call No Man Master, Joyce Collin-Smith, tells of one TM practitioner who plunged into a terrible depression and seemed to see time speed up so that whenever he looked at anything. a flower, a child, became morbidly aware of its eventual corruption and dissolution and could focus on little else.

  • Jake Wells

    Meditation is based on each person, some people believe that they are incapable of reaching the state of medatative though from what I have come to know. Push those people aside because if u are capable of reaching the state of meditation, u are one of the few I would like to talk to. Anyone that has a higher understanding of others and self due to their understanding of others should understand. You have to learn to hate yourself, love yourself and then teach everyone else how to love u and hate u at the same time.

  • Jake Wells

    Mainly hate you😁