Can you meditate too much?

June 5, 2009

Unfortunately I have to disagree with Mae West who said “too much of a good thing is wonderful”. When it comes to meditation, as well as almost every other “good thing” in life, there can be too much. Food, water, sunshine, exercise, rest — everything in life — needs to be in balance. As wonderful as good as meditation may seem, too much is not wonderful at all, but may cause discomfort and interfere with our functioning.

LoraC left a comment today saying that since starting meditation, she finds herself crying more easily and also has become clumsy and has been tripping and even fell. She loves the relaxation of meditation, but these things concern her. Of course, I didn’t have enough information to know for sure what is happening with her, but it is certainly possible that she is meditating too much.

Too much meditation can make you “spacey” and ungrounded. It can weaken your mind-body coordination. This could be why LoraC is feeling clumsy and tripping. As for her crying more readily, it’s just possible that some emotions are being released as a result of the deep relaxation in the meditation. Usually emotional releases would happen during meditation time and not create any concern. But if there starts to be a lot of release or intense emotional processing outside of meditation, it could be that too much is happening too fast. Since these things seem to have started after LoraC began “meditating in earnest”, an easy way to find out if it’s from meditation is to stop meditating for awhile or cut back on the meditation time or frequency. If the clumsiness and crying go away, then clearly too much meditation is the culprit and the time and frequency of meditation can be adjusted accordingly.

What is the right amount of meditation? How often and how long should you meditate? The answer is it depends. It depends on you — your constitution, lifestyle, goals for meditation and many other factors. It also depends on the type of meditation. For most people and most meditation styles, usually once or twice a day for 15 – 30 minutes, would work well. Unless you have the personal guidance of a teacher, you will need to experiment and find out what works best for you.

If meditation is enhancing your life, you’ve found a good balance. If it seems to be creating problems, it may be that you are meditating too much or that you might need to be doing a different kind of meditation. LoraC might find that if she does the grounding meditation or body awareness meditation, she would feel less clumsy as these meditations can help strengthen mind-body coordination.

Emotional pain in chakra meditation

June 16, 2008

I am responding to a question from a listener who experienced emotional pain while using the Chakra Meditation.  Here is his email:

I was today listening to the Chakra meditation podcast, but felt it was necesarry to turn it off at the Heart Chakra. I found that I became overwhelmed by a feeling of great emotional pain in my heart… I thought I would e-mail you to see if you knew what might be causing this, and how to find the solution.

It’s not unusual to become more aware of our emotions during meditation, and even to have strong emotions or emotional pain come up.  I will write about that in general in another post (or talk about it in another podcast), but for now I’ll talk specifically about having this happen during the Chakra Meditation.

During the chakra meditation, we put our attention on the various chakras.  The chakras, or energy centers of the body, are like doorways to different aspects of ourselves.  They process the energy for our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual functioning.  When we put our attention on a chakra, we become more aware of what is going on in the part of our life that the chakra represents.  Not only do we become more aware, but the energy in the chakra is enlivened by our attention.  

Our attention is a beam of energy and intelligence and, like a laser beam, it affects whatever it is directed toward.  With your awareness on your heart chakra, you may get in touch with something going on in your heart area.  It’s like shining a light into a dark room — what has been hidden becomes revealed.

In this case, you felt great emotional pain.  This could be pain associated with something going on in your life now that you’ve been ignoring, or it could be some pain “releasing” from the past.  The heart chakra has to do with our relationships and connections with others.  If there has been some loss or hurt in relationships, it is felt in the heart area.  The loss or hurt could even be associated with things and events, such as moving or losing a job.  If the feeling of hurt (or perhaps grief) isn’t fully “processed”, the energy of the feeling gets “stuck” in the heart chakra.  When we put our attention on the heart chakra, we may feel what is waiting there to be processed.  It’s the job of the heart chakra to process certain emotions, and when we relax in meditation and allow our attention to go there, the heart chakra gains the energy to do its job.  While no one likes to experience emotional pain, it is a part of healing and recovering from an emotional trauma. 

Very often we have grief that hasn’t been fully resolved in our lives.  Some cultures are better than others in supporting people through grief.  In many of our Western cultures, we’ve learned to suppress grief.  But our mind and body will always move toward greater balance and emotional well-being given the opportunity.  While meditating, things that have been under the surface can come up to be felt.

When something comes up that makes you feel too uncomfortable, you can always do what you did and stop the meditation.  It would be good if that happens to lie down and rest a bit to let things settle down. There are some other ways of dealing with strong emotions as well, and for something like this an experienced meditation guide could help.  The advice the guide would give would depend on some one-on-one exchange with you.  

After responding to the person who asked this question, he emailed back that indeed he had recently experienced a sort of emotional trauma and had been feeling quite numb until listening to the meditation. Based on that, I also want to add that it is quite normal to feel numb after a traumatic event like the death of a loved one, breakup of a relationship and any other intense loss or change.  It’s a healthy response of the body and psyche to protect itself from overload and allow us to continue functioning.  Usually that phase passes and we begin to feel our emotional reactions.  Sometimes, however, those reactions are buried and may surface again after a long period of time.  It’s not always possible to know where a strong emotion in meditation is coming from — it could be an emotion from a recent event or left over from something long ago.  In any case, part of healing is experiencing that emotion and meditation can sometimes facilitate that.  

Usually an emotional release will in meditation will not take too long to resolve and won’t cause undue discomfort.  Occasionally, however, meditation can open us up to some feelings that are so difficult for us that we would benefit from help from a trained counselor or therapist.  Be kind to yourself and get support if needed.

Beyond Pain Guided Meditation

October 12, 2007

We’ve just published our latest podcast episode, Beyond Pain. It was hard to come up with the right title for this one. The experience of pain is so complex. If we are speaking of physical pain, the pain itself is just a sensation in the body. Unless you are someone who enjoys pain, and there are some people who do, pain is much more than “just a sensation in the body”. It can create enormous suffering.

What makes the sensation of pain so difficult? Besides the fact that it can be so strong that it grabs our attention totally, making it difficult to focus on anything else, there are many ways that we suffer with pain. Much of the suffering comes from the thoughts and emotional reactions that we have along with the pain. It may trigger fear, sadness, anger, or frustration depending on our past experiences and beliefs. We may start to wonder how long it will go on, what it means, where it will go, and whether or not we’ll be able to endure it.

There may be some underlying feelings about the pain that are very subtle and not so obvious, like the sense that it is a punishment or due to our failings. It can bring up a sense of abandonment or betrayal. Pain can bring up all sorts of feelings. Next time you are experiencing pain, you can investigate what comes along with it and also whether the suffering you are experiencing with the pain is from the pain itself or everything else that it brings up.

The purpose of the Beyond Pain meditation is to bring about a greater sense of ease with the presence of pain. We may tend to tighten up and resist pain which in fact makes it worse. The meditation encourages you to relax into the pain, and to let go of the involvement with all the mind’s stories about the pain and the emotional reactions to it. It can help you come to a place of peace in spite of pain. Whether or not the feeling of pain becomes less, the suffering that comes with pain can be released.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with this meditation and invite you to comment!

Breath in the Heart Guided Meditation

June 13, 2007

We’ve just added the Breath in the Heart meditation to our podcast. It’s a variation on meditations in which you follow your breath. In this case, you maintain awareness of the breath and the heart area at the same time. This helps open and enliven the heart chakra. The heart is the seat of love and connection. Attention on the heart helps to awaken the energy of love. This meditation can be especially soothing as you connect into the energy of the heart. At the same time, it can bring our awareness to any emotional pain which is present in the heart chakra. The pain may be from past hurts or from our current situation. If we are grieving, bringing attention to the heart will help facilitate the feelings of grief. By allowing these feelings to be present, they can move through and resolve.

“Relaxing into Healing” guided meditation podcast

May 4, 2007

I just added an episode to our Meditation Oasis podcast called “Relaxing into Healing”. It’s a very simple, direct approach to healing, and probably quite different from most guided meditations for healing.

The meditation is based on the idea that healing is in the nature of life. The natural intelligence of the body and psyche is always moving in the direction of healing. We can cooperate with this natural process of healing by being open to it, relaxing so that the maximum energy is available for healing, and allowing whatever needs to be healed to come fully into our awareness.

Being open to healing — In the beginning of the meditation, we set the intention to open to healing. This way we become more receptive to the process of healing.

Relaxing to free up energy for healing — We relax by letting go of resistance to whatever we are experiencing in our body, mind and emotions. Resistance takes energy, and we want to let that energy be used for healing.

Allowing what needs healing into our awareness — Finally, the guided meditation encourages you to allow everything to come into your awareness that needs healing. The idea isn’t to start thinking about it and analyzing it, but to simply experience it. Our attention is a beam of intelligent energy. Simply having something in our awareness brings energy to it. It may be a situation, an emotion or something in the body that needs healing. The meditation encourages you to simply allow yourself to experience whatever needs to be healed without judgment. In this way you hold a compassionate space for yourself to heal.

Emotional Ease Meditation

March 18, 2007

My most recent podcast episode is a guided meditation for “emotional ease”. Those words may conjure up a vision of euphoria or floating in a comfortable cloud, but that’s not what it means. Although you’ll hopefully feel more relaxed and at ease after the meditation, it will be a result of being able to actually stay present to your emotions rather than resisting them or becoming mentally involved with them. Emotional ease is about being present to what is happening without struggling with it, and that includes feeling all emotions including those you may not want to feel, such as sadness, grief and anger.

Ease in living is not about life being easy. Life isn’t easy! It’s about the ability to flow with what happens, the “good” and “bad” events and the “pleasant” and “unpleasant” reactions to those events. While some guided meditations give us some respite from life’s storms and a chance to relax by encouraging visualizations of beautiful, relaxing places, my approach is to encourage surrender to whatever is happening right here, right now. While it can be helpful at times to escape, peace in life ultimately comes from being able to remain right in the heart of the storm (whether it is a storm of events or an emotional storm). I hope this latest meditation will help some of you with that!

Freedom and trust on the spiritual path

February 22, 2007

I’m quoting naturalhigh‘s comment on my last post. I just love the sense of trust she has in her own process. She has obviously felt a freedom in her journey to try lots of meditation styles, do what works for her and develop her own ways of meditating. Here’s what she said:

“I use meditation to let go of tension, worry, doubt, fear, all the stuff that keeps me stuck and unable to be fully present. I use many different forms of meditation – not the same one for months on end. Sometimes a walking meditation or Sufi dancing can release emotions best. Sometimes getting deeply into my pottery work. Throwing pots is a great meditation. So my best tip is to continually learn and grow and expand your awareness of techniques, and after awhile, develop your own.”

It took me many years to find that kind of freedom and trust in myself, and I suppose that’s why when I lead a guided meditation I try to do it in a way that someone can flow with their own unique process and eventually develop their own style.

I also like naturalhigh’s reference to throwing pots as a meditation. Any activity can be a meditation. Although I still sometimes sit specifically for meditation, I now see my whole life as meditation. If I need to get grounded, I can close my eyes and do a grounding visualization, or I can walk barefoot outside paying attention to the feel of the earth. The possibilities are limitless!

I’d love to hear more comments on peoples’ experiences with meditation.

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