12 spiritual risks that come with meditation (and how to manage them)

Meditation has existed for centuries, but it has recently made quite the resurgence. We keep hearing about how it can benefit you physically, psychologically, and spiritually.

However, nothing is perfect. Meditation is quite hard to practice correctly, much less ideally.

If done incorrectly, meditation can pose risks or cause potential spiritual hazards.

But no one talks about it, right?

In this article, we share how dangerous meditation can become.

Don’t fret, though—we’ll also teach you how to manage these risks and overcome these potential problems so you can reap all the benefits of meditation!

Let’s go!

12 ways meditation can be spiritually dangerous

1) You might suddenly awaken your kundalini

If you don’t know about your kundalini, it’s one of the forms of divine feminine energy that is assumed to rest at the base of your spine.

“Kundalini” means “coiled” in Sanskrit, and while certain kinds of meditation and yoga techniques attempt to activate this dormant energy, it can also be unintentionally and suddenly awakened.

This unintentional awakening can be too intense of an experience since you will be unprepared should it happen. Some people were even frightened and have become traumatized as a result.

Awakening your kundalini in such a way can result in headaches, some tingling in the spine, an unstable mood, and other physical and psychological effects.

If you’re scared of this happening, read more about it or talk to an expert who might help you avoid accidentally awakening this powerful form of energy.

2) Some meditation sessions can fail to live up to your expectations

As much as meditation can be harmful, it can definitely also be an amazing experience.

However, you might get too attached to particularly powerful and incredibly meditation experiences that your expectations become unrealistic.

If you’ve experienced exceptional meditation sessions, you might begin to expect the same out of every single time you meditate.

This will only lead to disappointment.

Always go into each meditation session with an open mind and heart.

Even if they don’t end up as amazingly soul-shaking as some of your past ones, there’s still a lot to gain from each session in one way or another.

Remember that spiritual growth is never linear, and the journey towards it won’t always be filled with new highs every time.

3) You might pressure yourself to be perfect

The purpose of meditation is to help you be more mindful and to grow spiritually.

This does not mean, however, that you will ever achieve complete and perfect mindfulness and spiritual maturity, no matter how long you’ve been meditating.

At the end of the day, we’ll all remain human, and we all have weaknesses in some way or another. You can and will still be prone to being irritable or angry from time to time.

Don’t punish yourself or think that your meditating efforts are useless or a failure. Don’t compare yourselves to others as well, as we all have our own journeys.

No one is and will ever be perfect. So don’t chase perfection, chase progress!

4) You might feel ennui, emptiness, and even fear

If you have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety, you will likely be offered MBCT (Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy) as one of the main forms of treatment, especially if you’re in the west.

MBCT includes meditation as one of the practices.

Although it’s a scientific approach to treating mental issues, knowing about the potential side effect is essential if you want to engage in MBCT.

The London-based Maudsley hospital psychiatrist Dr. Florian Ruths discovered that MBTC can cause adverse reactions in some patients.

Her study found that some meditators would “depersonalize” during MBTC.

This means that they would often feel like their consciousness would leave their body, and they would watch themselves in the third person, almost as if they were watching a movie.

Such an experience often results in feelings of emptiness or ennui, confusion, and existential fear.

If you suffered from a mental illness and was offered MBCT as a form of treatment, bring up this potential side effect to your doctor and get their advice on

what to do if you experience it.

6) It can be used to mask material injustices

In Western media, mindfulness meditation’s primary purpose is to calm ourselves from day-to-day life’s chaos.

However, historically speaking, meditation has a deeper purpose and making the meditator calm only scratches the surface of what meditation is supposed to be for.

According to Buddhist tradition, meditation also aims to gain further insight into the human condition and of the world at large.

Essentially, meditation strives to make us feel more connected with broader humanity.

While its calming and de-stressing effects are important, there are also times when we should be angry and take action to change things—especially against injustice and oppression.

Unfortunately, many companies and other institutions nowadays make their employees meditate as a way to distract them from the real-life injustices that occur within their establishments.

They will say it is to help them with self-care, but that is not the actual reason.

The real reason is that they want to placate their people so that they do not leave or demand better from the company.

They are trying to disempower you and keep you passive.

Remember that becoming calm is not the end goal. Instead, you should strive to be level-headed to become more effective at improving the world.

6) It can bring some negative thoughts

Meditation is aimed to help facilitate positive, calming, and reaffirming thoughts.

But in reality, things can sometimes go awry.

In a 2017 study, nearly half of meditators experienced negative thinking during meditation.

Some reported delusional, irrational, or even paranormal thoughts. Others said that they lost a great deal of their sense of control and memory.

Another study from 2009 held at the Seattle Pacific University in 2009 echoed these findings too. Participants also felt deluded.

So, if you feel some extremely negative emotions while meditating, take a break in your practice and reach out to someone experienced to give you a piece of advice.

7) It can distort your psychology and sense of self

A study conducted by Brown University in the US held an experiment with Buddhist meditators.

They found that several of the participants were bombarded by traumatic memories and destructive thoughts while meditating.

Professor Willoughby Britton, the head of the study, as well as a practicing psychiatrist, reported that such psychological phenomena included “cognitive, perceptual, and sensory aberrations”, as well as impairment when it comes to interacting with other people.

Worst of all, this was all seemingly caused by a distortion in their sense of self.

Shinzen Young, a Buddhist monk, called this the “dark night” phenomenon and described it as an “irreversible insight into emptiness” because it was “enlightenment’s evil twin.”

Another man claimed that he went through “psychological hell” while meditating.

More disturbingly, one person even worried that his mind was so damaged that is now “permanently ruined.”

Meditation experts accept that such dark possibilities exist. However they also say that these are rare exceptions and are far from the norm.

They are only likely to occur during exceptionally long and intense stretches of meditation, like weeks-long silent retreats.

Regardless, even if you’re only beginning to meditate, it’s good to keep these things in mind.

8) You might take non-attachment to the extreme

The concept of non-attachment is quite controversial.

What exactly is non-attachment?

Should you stop being attached to things that are important to you? To your hobbies? To people you love?

It’s true that Buddhism and other philosophies and religions that emphasize meditation often teach that detaching yourself from Earthly concerns is a prerequisite to Nirvana or enlightenment.

While there is a lot of debate about what detachment tangibly looks like in the real world, it’s safe to say that some people misunderstand it or take it too far.

Anything taken to the extreme is harmful, and that includes meditation and detachment as well.

9) You might unintentionally demotivate yourself

Although meditation can make you calm and help you destress, it can also make you too calm to the point of demotivation or lethargy.

This is especially true if you’re already a chronic procrastinator. You might even be using meditation to excuse yourself from doing the work you need to do.

A 2017 study revealed that meditation can hamper you from feeling motivated.

It can make you lose your drive for your passions and hobbies, and in some extreme and rare cases, it can even be a catalyst for depression.

If you already have trouble with procrastinating and getting work done, meditation could be bad news: The 2017 study revealed it can cause a serious lack of motivation.

According to Psychology Today, this can be the result of striving for detachment.

People who get demotivated from meditation might think that detachment means detaching or ignoring your real-world responsibilities.

10) You’re replacing therapy with meditation

As beneficial as meditation can be, it’s no magic cure. Some people think that meditation is a direct cure for mental illnesses like depression.

While meditation has definitely shown to help depressed people overcome their depression and is often an integral part of their path to recovery, it’s still not a replacement for actually seeking professional help.

It will never address the root problems of such issues. You still need to see a doctor and get therapy. Only then can you directly tackle your issues and understand them more clearly.

Even when meditation is necessary to heal someone, it’s often still not sufficient on its own.

11) Suppressed emotions might resurface

Meditation clears your mind. Sometimes this means that thoughts, memories, and emotions that you’ve long buried will start to resurface.

This might be difficult to face, especially if such memories include traumatic events or feelings of shame, guilt, and regret.

As scary as this sounds, it’s all part of your spiritual and emotional growth. You need to face and process these emotions to truly heal and mature.

If it becomes too overwhelming, don’t hesitate to talk to loved ones about it or seek professional help if you feel like your mental health is taking a toll.

12) It can make you antisocial

Meditation is often all about internal reflection and mindfulness.

However, it can also screw how you interact with the external world too.

In the 2017 study mentioned above, nearly half the participants reported that they experienced difficulties with social interactions due to meditation.

It affected their behavior so much to the point that socializing became difficult. In fact, some even said they had difficulties reintegrating into society in general.

However, this was usually only after very long or extreme meditation sessions. If you meditate with moderation and balance in mind, the chances of this happening to you are very slim.

How to be safe when meditating

Even though some of these potential dangers are quite scary to think about, they are easily avoidable with enough preparation.

Here’s what you should keep in mind and regularly do before you start meditating.

Don’t meditate alone

Meditation may seem like a highly individual and private practice, but there are also a lot of pros to meditating alongside other people.

Firstly, if you’re a beginner, then meditating with a class and an instructor can set you on the right path. It can be confusing where to begin when you’re just starting out, so proper guidance will set you up for success.

Don’t underestimate the power of collective energy. Not only is it simply fun to do something new with other people, but your peers can also help you hold yourself accountable.

The presence of seasoned practitioners will also serve as a calming and guiding presence that will help you navigate away from meditation’s potential dangers.

Exercise with some yoga beforehand

Yoga and meditation often go hand-in-hand, and for a good reason.

Yoga will help you coordinate your breath and warm your body up to get rid of any pressure. This will greatly help you become more present and mindful during your meditation session.

Other activities such as tai chi or even just plain walking can also yield similar benefits.

Remember that the physical and the mental are not completely separate. Relaxing your body beforehand will allow you to relax your body more fully.

Work on your breathing to start

The key to mindfulness and feeling present lies in how you control your breath.

In case you didn’t know, there are actually many meditation styles that focus primarily on breathwork.

This opens up your body for the mental and emotional benefits to occur naturally and easily.

Working on your breath is necessary for your nervous system to settle down and to remove all traces of anxiety. This is crucial for a successful meditation session.

The more you are in control of your breath, the more you will be in control of your heart and mind.

This will allow you to filter out any negative thoughts and avoid all the negative side-effects of meditating.

Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

With how distracted we are in the age of technology, it’s not easy to fully concentrate and relax when meditating.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you’re struggling to meditate properly. If you have racing thoughts or are easily distracted when meditating, that’s completely fine and normal.

Besides, beating yourself up will only further kill the meditative and contemplative vibe!

To conclude:

Meditation is an easy and accessible way to relax, center yourself, reflect on your thoughts and emotions, and practice mindfulness.

While there are some potential pitfalls, especially if done incorrectly, these are very rare, and research is quite limited.

The key to avoiding these dangers is to take it slow and meditate gradually with moderation and balance in mind.

Don’t hesitate to join others in meditating and ask for help when you need it!

The potential benefits of meditation can be positively life-changing, so don’t be afraid to dive into it!

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