Pitfalls of meditation

 

As different forms of meditation practice become more popular in the west, there is also a growing awareness of the possible pitfalls of meditation.

Here are a few:

We may be guided – either by ourselves or through a teacher – by misguided ideas. This may lead us to inadvertently practice or reinforce something unhelpful.

We may open up to various transcendent states and experiences and not know how to navigate them.

We may open up a Pandora’s Box of unprocessed psychological material.

In general, we may enter certain areas of the path or landscape without good guidance. Areas that are not fruitful. Or areas that are confusing, disorienting, and sometimes scary or overwhelming. That’s why it’s important to have access to a guide who understands and knows the terrain well from their own experience. Unfortunately, that’s often not

Unfortunately, many teachers – including many who have a formal training within a certain tradition – have a very limited skillset and experience. If anything slightly out of the ordinary happens, they may not know how to guide the student through it.

And fortunately, there are people out there who have this experience and the necessary skillset. What I have seen is that these are often people who are not bound by any one tradition. They may have training and experience from one or more tradition. But they also know and understand that the terrain we are exploring is far wider than any tradition typically covers, and that the pointers and skills needed to navigate is found in many different traditions and also outside of any tradition.

Of course, I am biased. The previous paragraph describes my own path and background, and the background of those who have guided me, so that’s naturally what I am more familiar with and inclined to see as helpful.

Pitfalls of openings and awakenings

 

Here are some common pitfalls of openings and awakenings:

New identifications. With an opening or awakening, new identities may surface and the mind may identify with these for safety. These identities include but are not limited to awareness, oneness, spirit, free. These are just more thoughts that the mind identifies with, and it’s good to notice and inquire into these as soon as they arise.

Unprocessed material. With an opening or awakening, the lid may be taken off any unprocessed material. Anything that’s unfelt, unloved and unquestioned comes up to be felt, loved, and questioned. Any unfelt emotions or feelings surface to be felt. Any unloved parts of us or our experience (including our whole world) comes up to be loved. Any unquestioned stories surface to be questioned. This can lead to a version of the dark night of the soul.

Kundalini. With an opening or awakening, kundalini may activate. For some, this may lead to a kundalini overcharge. It may feel like high voltage is going through regular house wiring, and as if parts of us – and perhaps our brain – is fried. This can be prevented and reversed.

What do I mean with an opening or awakening? I mean that we realize what we are, or what we are realizes what it is. This is what the mind may call awareness, oneness, no separation, spirit (or even Buddha Mind, Brahman if it’s so inclined). This may be a glimpse, or it may be a more stable recognition. Often, there is a mix of this recognition and remaining identifications which partially obscure this recognition. We then live partially from noticing what we are, and partially from remaining identifications. This is very natural, and there is not really any problem here, but it’s good to be aware of and acknowledge, and also to have ways to work with these identifications.

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Pitfalls on the path

 

1-Pathological Regression

Retreat into infantile prerational uroboric fusion. Indulgence in dissolution and fragmentation; often due to lack of modeling, support, structure or clearly defined developmental framework of ascent that covers all sides of the whole human (survival, somatic, emotional, social, spiritual). Desire to let ones life collapse in the hope of being rescued. Retreat into depression and grief to escape more expansive perception and profound sense of being.

2-Running Away

Retreat and evasion through dissociation and denial. Inertial holding back to former modes of perception and being. Effort to pull energy down, back and in through substance addictions, heavy food, sedentary lifestyle and through avoidance of “opening” practices and therapy. Secondary fear chemistry due to negative interpretation of kundalini events resulting in panic, paralysis, stagnation, isolation and avoidance. Even running away from bliss and increased wellbeing with various forms of anaesthetization, self-repression and self-destruction.

5-Fixation on Internal Processes

Overly fascinated, morbidly curious, distracted by and absorbed in kundalini symptoms, psychic phenomena and newfound spiritual powers (siddhas). This compulsive obsession with symptoms and phenomena feeds inflation and interferes with relationships and functional utility. Possible secondary fear or depression over the temporary loss of adaptive functions and left-brain sharpness. Inability to disembed to perceive emotional storms as psychosomatic events of alchemical cycles. Excessive reactivity to conditions both internal and external.

– from Pitfalls on the Path (I added the underlines)

I can find most or all on the full list in myself, and the three above seem especially relevant to me at times in my recent process.

Some statements and topics for inquiry….

Collapse: I need to be saved. I need someone to save me. It’s hopeless. I can’t do it. It’s too much. If I collapse, someone will help me. I need to collapse to get what I need. I don’t have what I need. –> Look for command to collapse. Command to find someone (something) to save me. Look for the one who needs to be saved. Look for the one who is collapsing. (Living inquiry.)

Compulsions: I need to move away from this experience. I need to distract myself. Food is comfort. Internet is comfort. Friends are comfort. Clarity will keep me safe. –> Look for command to move away from experience, to eat for comfort, to go to the internet for comfort, to go to clarity for security. Look for the one who is doing (or needing) these things.

Emotional storm: It means something terrible has happened (will happen). It’s too much. These emotions reflect reality. –> Look for the threat in the thoughts, images, sensations. Look for the command to move away.

And in general:

If I do any of these – go into a pitfall – it means I am doing it wrong. I am not up to it. I won’t get through it. I will fail. I am unable to cooperate with the process. –> Look for command to do it right. Look for the command for perfection. Look for the one who is doing it wrong. Look for the one who is doing it right. Look for the one who is doomed. Look for doom.