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3 Hidden Dangers of Meditation You Should Know

3 Hidden Dangers of Meditation You Should Know

Mindfulness meditation (the practice of sitting still, focusing on your breath, noticing when your attention is drifting and bringing it back to your breath) is all the great rage at the moment—and for good reason too. There are some pretty amazing benefits of meditation that science agrees can work to everyone’s benefit. An Oxford University study, for instance, has found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) courses can reduce relapses into depression by 44%. In other words, mindfulness meditation is as effective as taking antidepressants, say the researchers.

However, like most things in life, there are potential dangers associated with meditation you may not know about. Without attempting to be alarming, psychiatrists are now increasingly sounding a warning that mindfulness meditation can have troubling side-effects that are intimately connected with the benefits. Keep in mind that the following concerns about meditation and its hidden dangers come not from critics of mindfulness but from supporters.

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1. It can bring feelings of ennui, emptiness and even fear.

Dr Florian Ruths, consultant psychiatrist at the Maudsley hospital in south London, has conducted a number of investigations into adverse reactions to MBCT and uncovered some troubling news. She has reported rare cases of “depersonalization” where some meditators feel like they are watching themselves in a film. For some people this “depersonalization” can whip up some difficult emotions that can include feelings of ennui and emptiness, disconnection and even fear, says Ruths.

This potential side-effect or danger of meditation is important to know beforehand because if you’re diagnosed with a mental illness like depression and anxiety in many western countries, mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is something you’re likely to be offered as a treatment.

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2. It can bring changes in your sense of self, and cause impairment in social relationships.

This particular concern about meditation follows the “dark night” project at Brown University in the US, which has catalogued how some Buddhist meditators have been assailed by traumatic memories. Professor Willoughby Britton, lead researcher and psychiatrist in the project, has recorded surprising problems among some of the Buddhist meditators that include: “cognitive, perceptual and sensory aberrations,” impairment in social relationships and changes in their sense of self.

One Buddhist monk, Shinzen Young, has described the “dark night” phenomenon as an “irreversible insight into emptiness” and “enlightenment’s evil twin.” Another man who felt he’d been harmed by meditation described going through “psychological hell” as a result of his practice, while yet another man worried he was “permanently ruined.”

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Mindfulness experts, however, say such extreme adverse reactions are rare and only likely to occur after prolonged periods of meditation, such as weeks on a silent retreat. Nonetheless, this information opens up a new angle to think about meditation amid the avalanche of hype.

3. It can be disempowering and keep you passive, contained and compliant.

In the mainstream arena, mindfulness meditation is merely a tool or way for calming and focusing oneself. But, mindfulness meditation in its original Buddhist tradition is more about gaining insight into the human condition, reducing stress and suffering in our own hearts and minds, and also in the world of which we are a part. It certainly has calming benefits in situations where we cannot do much to change things and it’s necessary to calm down and de-stress. However, there are times when we should be angry, distressed and determined to change things.

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The single-minded enthusiasm in which meditation is now being deployed in schools, hospitals and even offices of companies like Google to paper over the cracks in situations where oppression, inequality, discrimination and other difficulties face us is concerning. This kind of deployment is tantamount to using repressive psychopharmacology to restrain people, or an injunction to ‘stop thinking about it,’ which is quite disempowering. It is an effective way to keep you isolated, passive and compliant.

The way to address these and other hidden dangers of meditation is to view it as part of a repertoire of techniques for living. Many times meditation is helpful, but it can also have troubling side effects. As Britton cautions, meditation is not all calm and peace. It opens up a space for you to see what’s going on in your mind. Psychological material (old resentments, wounds, trauma etc.) can surface that require additional support or even therapy.

Featured photo credit: Luis Alvarez/Vetta via gettyimages.com

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David K. William

David is a publisher and entrepreneur who tries to help professionals grow their business and careers, and gives advice for entrepreneurs.

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Last Updated on September 25, 2019

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

How to Tap Into the Power of Positivity

As it appears, the human mind is not capable of not thinking, at least on the subconscious level. Our mind is always occupied by thoughts, whether we want to or not, and they influence our every action.

When we were still children, our thoughts seemed to be purely positive. Have you ever been around a 4-year old who doesn’t like a painting he or she drew? I haven’t. Instead, I see glee, exciting and pride in children’s eyes. But as the years go by, we clutter our mind with doubts, fears and self-deprecating thoughts.

Just imagine then, how much we limit ourselves in every aspect of our lives if we give negative thoughts too much power!

We’ll never go after that job we’ve always wanted because our nay-saying thoughts make us doubt our abilities.

We’ll never ask that person we like out on a date because we always think we’re not good enough.

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We’ll never risk quitting our job in order to pursue the life and the work of our dreams because we can’t get over our mental barrier that insists we’re too weak, too unimportant and too dumb.

We’ll never lose those pounds that risk our health because we believe we’re not capable of pushing our limits.

And we’ll never be able to fully see our inner potential because we simply don’t dare to question the voices in our head…

But enough is enough! It’s time to stop these limiting beliefs and come to a place of sanity, love and excitement about life, work and ourselves.

So, how can we tap into the power of positivity?

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“Happiness cannot come from without, it comes from within.” – Helen Keller

It’s not as hard as it may seem; you just have to practice, practice, practice. Here are 4 simple yet powerful ideas on how you can get started.

1. Learn to substitute every negative thought with a positive one.

Every time a negative thought crawls into your mind, replace it with a positive thought. It’s just like someone writes a phrase you don’t like on a blackboard and then you get up, erase it and write something much more to your liking.

Just take a look at these 10 Positive Affirmations for Success that will Change your Life.

2. See the positive side of every situation, even when you are surrounded by pure negativity.

This one is a bit harder to put into practice, which does not mean it’s impossible.

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You can find positivity in everything by mentally holding on to something positive, whether this be family, friends, your faith, nature, someone’s sparkling eyes or whatever other glimmer of beauty.

If you seek it, you will find it.

3. At least once a day, take a moment and think of 5 things you are grateful for.

This will lighten your mood and give you some perspective of what really is important in life and how many blessings surround you already.

Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life that can inspire you.

4. Change the mental images you allow to enter your mind.

How you see yourself and your surroundings make a huge difference to your thinking.

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Instead of dwelling on dark, negative thoughts, consciously build and focus on positive, light and colorful images, thoughts and situations in your mind a few times a day.

Learn from this article how to change your mental images: How to Think Positive and Eliminate Negative Thoughts

If you are persistent and keep on working on yourself, your mind will automatically reject its negative thoughts and welcome the positive ones.

And remember:

You are (or will become) what you think you are.

This is reasonable enough to be proactive about whatever is going on in your head.

More About Staying Positive

Featured photo credit: Lauren Richmond via unsplash.com

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