meditation: mental instability

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.

meditation: mental instability

Postby arayan » Sun Oct 10, 2010 8:45 pm

Hi there,

I started meditating seriously almost 2 years ago. Unfortunately, I mistook meditation teachings, and developed quite a reactive mind, mistaking that for feelings of being more liberated. I probably developed some more unwholesome qualities, including quite strong insomnia, and a mind racing with thought that I had never experienced before.

However, one particular thing I developed was that I felt very unstable only in public places. Where there were lots of people about in a stationary setting. Out in town and shopping was fine. But situations such as parties, dinners, where there was attention on me. I could literally feel my face quiver/spasm. This was very odd as I had never experienced such a thing before. It almost felt like everyone's energy was stronger than mine.

Now I don't know if I was just suppressing before i started meditating, to not have experienced this. Or if I currently was trying so hard to observe my feelings moment to moment, that I had lost mental grounding. What I realised I could do, but didn't, was snap my mind a little harshly into shape. Like slapping a child. I only did this recently and the quality of mind afterwards was similar to before I started meditating, though this always felt a bit blocked/suppressed. i am wondering if anyone has experienced something similar, and whether this was the right thing to do. Things definately felt more stable afterwards, but also, more removed. I don't know if this is suppression, or enforcing stability. There definately seems something at work here, energetically, so to speak.

I realise this might sound like a particular detailed, or 'out there' problem, but I feel if I continue to mess around with my mind like this, on my own, any longer, I will probably do damage. I have thought of going to a teacher to this, but how one acquires a good meditation teacher, or gets a good amount of time with them to ask these things.. I'm not sure.

If anyone has any experience or advice, I'd be interested and grateful to hear.
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Re: meditation: mental instability

Postby lojong1 » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:05 pm

arayan wrote:I mistook meditation teachings

The situation you describe doesn't sound too pleasant, and certainly isn't experienced by every buddhist meditator, but what makes you think you did something wrong? What were your instructions?
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Re: meditation: mental instability

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Oct 10, 2010 9:26 pm

Sounds to me like you need to talk to a teacher. I know what you mean tho, i went thru a phase of feeling much more vulnerable and i think a lot of people do. Its a tough place to be. Its easy to give up at this point. Also practice can give you more insight into the workings of your own mind than you may be comfortable with, i speak from experience :)

I think if i were you i would go easy on the meditation practice until you can talk to a teacher about these things. If you feel like you have to meditate in the mean time, my recommendation would be either metta practice or the practice here called "Watching the Tan-Tien" http://www.cloudwater.org/index.php/ch- ... o-meditate Breath practice isnt always calming and can generate an excitement of its own. Dont push too hard, be gentle and kind to yourself what ever method you use, but i think the important thing is for you to talk to an experienced meditation teacher in what ever tradition you choose.

As far as contacting a teacher there are a couple of versions of "ask a monk" or some variant on the net, there is nothing like an in person meeting tho. Where are you? What kind of resources are available in your area?
"Even if you've read the whole Canon and can remember lots of teachings; even if you can explain them in poignant ways, with lots of people to respect you; even if you build a lot of monastery buildings, or can explain inconstancy, stress, and not-self in the most detailed fashion ... The only thing that serves your own true purpose is release from suffering.

"And you'll be able to gain release from suffering only when you know the one mind."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai ... eleft.html
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Re: meditation: mental instability

Postby Dan74 » Sun Oct 10, 2010 11:05 pm

I would strongly encourage you to see a therapist (ie a psychologist).

This is not to alarm you or anything but it can be very helpful. It's very good that you recognized these things early and now is a good time to deal with them. A well-trained and experienced professional can be of great help in this.

Then when you are ready to resume meditation, some contact with a teacher like the other have suggested would be strongly advisable.

Good luck!!!
_/|\_
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Re: meditation: mental instability

Postby Ben » Mon Oct 11, 2010 1:00 am

Hi arayan

I would like to echo Dan's excellent advice.
If you feel that there is something not quite right, some mental instability or a deepening of misery - do get yourself checked out.
Sometimes meditation can bring to the fore some mental health issues which may have been laying dormant.
If your therapist or doctor gives you the all-clear, then as Dan has suggested, look up some reputable meditation teachers.
All the best,

Ben
"Only those who take to meditation with good intentions can be assured of success. With the development of the purity and the power of the mind backed by the insight into the ultimate truth of nature, one might be able to do a lot of things in the right direction for the benefit of mankind."

Sayagyi U Ba Khin


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Re: meditation: mental instability

Postby Individual » Mon Oct 11, 2010 5:38 pm

arayan wrote:Hi there,

I started meditating seriously almost 2 years ago. Unfortunately, I mistook meditation teachings, and developed quite a reactive mind, mistaking that for feelings of being more liberated. I probably developed some more unwholesome qualities, including quite strong insomnia, and a mind racing with thought that I had never experienced before.

However, one particular thing I developed was that I felt very unstable only in public places. Where there were lots of people about in a stationary setting. Out in town and shopping was fine. But situations such as parties, dinners, where there was attention on me. I could literally feel my face quiver/spasm. This was very odd as I had never experienced such a thing before. It almost felt like everyone's energy was stronger than mine.

It sounds to me like you have anxiety -- possibly specifically social anxiety disorder or agoraphobia. I'd also suggest finding a counselor or therapist.

Anxiety is interesting, because it doesn't necessarily feel like nervousness. It can also feel like excitement, exhiliration, like you have lots of energy and your thoughts are racing. You mentioned that it was others' energy, but really, it more likely was your own mind.

Have you tried breathing meditation?
The best things in life aren't things.

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