RX: MEDITATION 1 SIT BID
Meditation and mindfulness has become extremely popular of late. I have heard people saying that they meditate every day, or twice a day, or that they have been meditating for blah blah amount of time, there is certain pride being demonstrated about being part of the crowd. Like anything that truly does have such an impact on people’s lives we want to share it and want to feel as if we belong with the hip crowd. I too plead guilty to this at times, I like to say, “Oh, I am on my way to a meditation, that I have plans to hear this or that mindfulness lecture, etc. I have overheard people recommend meditation to others as if they are doling out a prescription for total health or happiness. (And, I am certainly guilty of doing that myself). If only that were possible! I started to wonder if meditation was indeed appropriate for everyone and here is what my research turned up:
A direct quote from the above link: “…Meditation isn’t without risks of its own. Marketed as a kind of warm bath for the psyche, Britton says, meditation has a shadow side, familiar to experienced meditation teachers but almost never mentioned in the popular media—that is, the not uncommon tendency of some people when they begin practicing in earnest to freak out (lose ego boundaries, hallucinate, relive old wounds and traumas, experience intense fear, and even have psychotic breaks, as well as exhibit strange physical symptoms, like spasms, involuntary movements, hot flashes, burning sensations, and hypersensitivity). These effects are well documented in Buddhist texts as stages along the long, hard path to inner wisdom, but they haven’t been studied in the West and aren’t featured in mindfulness/meditation brochures. Britton is one of the first to begin researching these phenomena seriously…” According to Willoughby Britton, an assistant professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown.
Certainly, I am not saying not to try meditation but this points to another benefit of having all the wonderful trained teachers I have had. Despite this, the only time I have seen a spark of real discomfort in someone meditating was during a 13-day silent retreat and our teachers saw it first. I know I will continue to feel as if meditation has had a tremendous impact on my life but perhaps I will hesitate before doling out a PRESCRIPTION for meditation.
Beth D. Weinstein