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Can It Be Dangerous to Meditate?

written by: Diana Cooper • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/18/2011

When you think of meditation, you probably think only good things can come from it. Apparently, dangers from meditation do occur. Learn what they are and know what you can do to help prevent them.

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    Is Meditation Safe?

    Neopagan meditation in Rocca di Cerere You have probably heard how beneficial meditation can be for both the mind and body but did you know there can be possible dangers?

    Many people meditate for various reasons. Some do it to find inner peace while others do it to help treat or manage a life threatening disease. Many people have successful outcomes while others find no results and quit.

    So, what can make practicing meditation so dangerous? Below are a few answers I was able to find:

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    Possible Dangers

    Side Effects

    For more than 30 years, researchers have known that meditation can have negative effects on some people, including physical and psychological problems such as insomnia, muscle spasms, anxiety attacks, hallucinations and psychotic breakdowns. According to Maggie Phillips, Ph.D. (specializing in hypnosis), she has known people who would go to five to eight day long retreats and would be basket cases at the end.

    Sense of Failure

    For some people, the urge to meditate is strong. Despite investing much time to learn how to do it correctly, they fail. Therefore, the person grieves the loss and feels worthless.

    Covering Up the Problem

    Louis Nordstrom, a professor and Zen master, was abandoned by his mother in childhood. To help deal with his pain, he would meditate. Although he found comfort through meditation, he realized he was continually going through bouts of depression. He discovered through therapy that meditation was only covering up his pain (detaching himself from his emotions and others) and not treating it, thus leading to the bouts of depression.

    Mentally Disturbed

    According to Ananda Sangha, only a small percentage of people are at risk of not benefiting from meditation—people who are deeply disturbed. This can include people who are severely depressed or who are paranoid schizophrenics. This doesn't necessarily mean it is dangerous for them. It is said that silent sitting meditation has not worked well for people suffering from severe psychosis; however, it is possible it can make matters worse.

    Detachment Techniques

    Detachment techniques are meant for nuns and monks, meaning they take a vow of celibacy, poverty and obedience. People practicing some types of meditation (such as Buddhist or Hindu teachings) have become depressed because they have been cut off from life.

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    Avoiding Complications

    Many people won't experience any dangers from meditation but apparently they do exist. If you are thinking of practicing this natural technique, it would be wise to learn from an experienced instructor. Before choosing an instructor, research and ask questions.

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    References

    Ananda Sangha: http://www.ananda.org/ask/197/can-meditation-be-dangerous/

    Psych Central: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mindfulness/2009/04/what-everybody-should-know-about-the-dangers-of-meditation/

    Open Buddha: http://www.openbuddha.com/2002/09/06/the-dangers-of-mediation/

    Lorin Roche, PhD: http://lorinroche.com/page8/page8.html

    Photo courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pagan_meditation.jpg

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