Saturday, June 16, 2018

Meditation Made Me Sick

Meditating on emptiness 
Spilled tea on the zabuton 
Cup not as empty as I thought 
~Richard Arthure

I’ve been a serious meditator for over a decade now, and it hasn’t always been easy. The monkey mind is only part of it. During my first week-long retreat I had sort of a meltdown due to some challenging energetic discomfort. I literally felt like I had a severe headache outside of my head for days. For a few years thereafter, my head would wobble uncontrollably (a.k.a. kriyas) during my practice. I would feel my right heal involuntarily raise up if I was seated in a chair. I was continually prone to such “kundalini” experiences due to metabolic imbalances in my energy system. Moreover, I needed to purify a less-than-mature ego that was not ready to give up its tendencies.

In recent years, I have gradually come to see an easing into practice where the relationship to experience is more accepting. At times, I still encounter a mind full of agitation, over-intellectualism, and desire. Yet, I look forward to practice now. 

Moreover, I have redefined why I practice. In the past I did it more to find some life-changing “awakening” experience and enduring happiness. Now, I practice to cultivate my relationship to be with God, so that I can better relationally become in the world. It’s less about me, where the practice and being are one in the same.

Still, there are always places where we can go awry in spiritual practice. I recently came across a blog post by David Brazier on Meditation Sickness. He says, “Meditation sicknesses are states that can come about as a result of meditation, generally meditation that has, in effect, been practised with an unsound motivation.” 

Many techniques and teachings of meditation, albeit popular these days, are metaphysically lazy. There seems to be little motivation to meditate beyond physiological and psychological benefits. For some, this may be adequate. But for the rest, we are losing sight of the relational potentials we can have to the transcendent and immanent Source to become more whole(y).

This also reminds me of what Frithjof Schuon says about Realizationism: “A pernicious error that must be pointed out here -- one which seems to be axiomatic with the false gurus of East and West -- is what could be designated by the term 'Realizationism': it is claimed that only 'realization' counts and that 'theory' is nothing, as if man were not a thinking being and as if he could undertake anything whatsoever without knowing where he was going.”

For those of us who can lose sight of knowing where we are going, here are the sicknesses pointed out by Brazier:
1. Unsustainable infatuation: The practitioner falls in love with the practice in an unsustainable way that in due course often leads to an equally sudden rejection or loss of faith.
2. Pursuit of visions and emotional high: The practitioner pursues the practice primarily in a quest for visionary or psychodelic experiences and is endlessly looking for such novelties.
3. Attachment to heavenly states: The practitioner makes some progress and attains to one of the higher dhyanas and becomes strongly attached to it, wanting only to dwell there.
4. Emptiness disease: The practitioner, having had an insight into emptiness loses all sense of purpose or direction. At an extreme this can become a kind of psychopathy.
5. Self-inflation: The practitioner believes him or herself to be enlightened and in possession of super-normal abilities in a way that leads to recklessness or abuse of others.
6. Reactivation of extreme ego states: Meditation can trigger neurotic or psychotic symptoms in persons already so predisposed.
7. Loss of connection with instinct: The practitioner may become so detached from bodily processes that he or she loses the ability to respond naturally to somatic messages.
8. Accidie: The practitioner becomes weary of spirit and can see no point in the practice or in any other activity.