Monday, June 04, 2007

The Potential Downside To Vipassana

What a long time since last I blogged.. this certainly hasn't turned out the way I wanted it to. I had meant this blog to be a really positive blog on the virtues of the Vipassana course.

I still believe it has positive elements to it - but I think it is worth saying that Vipassana is a serious undertaking and it would be, in my opinion, a really good idea to have done some meditation courses prior to going on the course.

The reason I say this is because after I had been on the course for 10 days I had a manic psychotic episode. Being manic feels like the most wonderful thing in the world... you think you can do anything and that everything is going to work out and that just generally all is going to be well. Of course unfortunately it's not reality. After a manic episode there is often (and is in my case) a period of depression.

Depression sucks. It's the most sucky thing I have ever ever experienced, and I hope it never happens again (though I'm still not clear I think). You're tired all the time, you have no wish to get out of bed, making decisions is really hard and you have no confidence in yourself. It's crap. Medication can help - and therapy (psychologist) - but it is not a fun time. I really have so much more empathy for people who have gone through these things.

I have been fortunate in that I have an extremely understanding boss who has helped me through this difficult time and has let me go to reduced duties.. if I didn't have that I dread to think what this time would have been like for me.

So - coming back to Vipassana - the subject of this blog. I do think it has positive values. But I think it would be wrong of me - especially after what I have gone through - not to warn that Bad Things can happen. Being manic was a really weird experience - one that felt positive at the time. You can see the results here in this blog - as these writings came out of me being manic. Now however, after 2 months of minor depression I can definitely say that it's not worth being manic for the flip side of depression.

By the way - there was no history of depression / mania before going on this course - so it was completely out of the blue for me..

24 Comments:

Anonymous Anattta said...

I'm interested in your experience, since I had a "spiritual emergency" during a vipassana retreat, and heard of others, although I was quite experienced in several kinds of Vipassana meditations
Indeed, there are several kinds of Vipassana, which one did you practice?
I still practice but I also remember an Asian teacher of mine who said "you're sitting on a bomb when you do meditation".
I also regret that few teachers address this topic of the risks of intensive meditations.
I'm interested in exchanging on this subject.
Peace

2:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi,

I've also had a manic/psyhotic episode after a 10-day Vipassana course (Goenka). After that came clinical depression. Now it's nearly two years down the line and much, much better, but still recovering.

Also keen to exchange views and ideas...

Stef Fleet

10:03 AM  
Blogger ATG said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

11:35 AM  
Blogger patrick said...

Hi ATG,

The reason for the depression was simply that, for me, the intense meditation, concentration and lack of interaction caused me to have a manic psychotic episode.

Mania is, unfortunately, often followed by depression.

As I have said in other posts.. it's not that I think Vipassana itself is bad.. but I had *no idea* this could happen. It's all well and good to day "don't react".. but for someone who had never done any meditation before - this is a big ask.

And, to be perfectly honest, I didn't think I *was* reacting.

As Anattta said above, it would be better if they discussed the possible side effects. I'd hate to see what happen to me happen to anyone else.

That said - I'm glad it works for you :) (but there's no way I'd do it again - too risky for my psyche I think)

12:14 PM  
Blogger Liz said...

I'm so glad I've found these posts. I left Vapassana y'day on day 8. I feel pretty crap today like I'm a bit of a failure..and I know that's part of the brainwashing processes..cos the discourses tell u that weak minded people leave the course early and how many times did I hear that if u didn't finish the 10 days u will slip back into "misery"..just a matter of getting my head into the right place with it all. Yes some good things in it but lots of -ves for me. Too much having to do this and that on a gong, being made to sit, don't leave the hall for an hour, eat now, don't eat now, walk this way, bowing....and according to the discourses Vapassana is not ritualistic????
After reading about the depression etc peeps have suffered, I'm feeling much better about getting out when I did.

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am just coming back from Vipassana meditation, I cannot say that today I feel great... I meditated yesterday morning, and felt very good for most part of the day, but I started feeling low early evening and didn't find the strength within myself to meditate again.
Nevertheless , I still feel vipassana is a good technique but it just seems not to be an easy
ride...
I came back Nov 20th , today is the 22th and i feel depressed, with fever and a stiff body.
On the 20th I was extremely sensitive physically, raw is the closest word that comes to mind to describe how I felt... When talking if I forgot to stay with breath, I would get head rush and felt as if i was on some kind of drug...
All i will say is if anyone wants to go through the 10 days mediation,be prepare to carry on the good work home.
I feel nothing is lost, the way I feel right now is just a reminder that if the technique is not applied then we are just left with an open body after a deep operation if that makes any sense.
Writing this comment actually inspires me to focus back on the breath which I have been doing while writing this and I already feel better.
So I will get my hour of meditation now, and will comment again soon to let u know how I'm getting on.
I know Vipassana retreat is no magic wand, it's just a place where we start a journey that is challenging but I still think the technique learnt can be very helpful if we stick to it.
Only we can do the work for our self.
I have looked on the Internet and I have not found anyone who had the discipline to apply the technique having a bad experience with it.. So... for those who did the 10 days retreat , I would say, remember to look within rather than outside and please do not blame the technique you have learnt, if the technique is not applied then of course it wont work and what ever has been brought up to the surface during the retreat might very well create some discomfort...
Practice.
to be continued...

Be Happy.

Kyoma

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am going on a vipassan course in the near future, but im interested in how you managed to get manic and depressed agter vipassana.

Surely if u follow the techniques you will achieve a certain middle way as the buddha puts it? if you have negative of positive thoughts surely u are not following the teachings, as u are not supposed to judge the sensations as good or bad right?

anyway, i cant really speak as i havent been on it yet, but surely the aim of vipassana is to avoid labelling your state! so it seems illogical to blame your supposedly bad mental state on vipassana.

8:48 PM  
Blogger patrick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

12:18 PM  
Blogger patrick said...

Well Anonymous, in a way you're probably right... obviously going manic / depressed isn't the aim of the course ;) And obviously something went wrong somewhere.

However, if you have the time, do listen to the podcasts I made http://livingvipassana.blogspot.com/2010/02/bipolar-chronicles.html

I hadn't done any meditation before going on the course and was obviously a complete beginner. I'm also very used to a busy / social life... and so complete isolation (silence) for 10 days was a pretty big stress for my brain. Obviously most people don't go manic, but some do, and my makeup seems to leave me vulnerable in this sort of mentally stressful situation.

I have heard, through this blog, of a number of other people who have had similar outcomes to me following a vipassana course... so it's definitely not unique.

Anyway, sounds like you've done quite a bit of research, and maybe you're already meditating a lot, in which case I'd imagine you'll be fine :) But yes, I went into the course normal, and came out in a manic psychotic state. Seems to me like the course triggered it ;)

12:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello,
I have been dealing with intense mania and depression since the course got out over a month ago. When I practice the techniquI sometimes feel good for a little while though it seems to bring up more pain and more layers of traumatic stuff. It seems endless. How does one put a cap on it?
To expect a person to achieve equanimity in 10 days and master the technique is a bit far fetched...
Another friend of mine struggled a lot afterwards as well...
So I hear you, and I don't think enough info is given about potential struggles following a course like this.

2:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I would totally recommend seeing a professional (at least a doctor) if you are having the sorts of sensations you are talking about!!

Good luck!

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took a vipassana course about two years ago. Reading all the comments above makes me think that there are very complex personalities in this modern world. I don't practice vipassana regularly but the way of thinking has changed my world for the better.
I think if you had a bad experience after a vipassana course it means you hadn't finished dealing/processing with your perspnality/ way of viewing the world. I would recommend to keep trying. Ignoring the problem doesn't make it go away. You have to deal with the weak parts of your brain. Teach yourself to stay balanced without outer intervention.
And remember- sometimes you need to fall a step backwards inorder to climb 2 steps higher...
Good luck and stay healthy!

5:34 AM  
Blogger El Montana Riviera said...

heey folks just back from a ten day course, this is my second time taking the damma surabhi vipassana up in merrit bc. It is with urgency that i share some info with you. First, all though i am not a christian, i am in Christ and am blessed with the vision.. on day 5. i awoke to the sound of many entities flying above the retreat. of course, in an attempt to suppress me and the what the power of Christ brings, the demons had put a guard on me too keep an eye on me whilst they feasted on the delicate open minds of the other attendees. Instantly recognizing what was happening i was able to incant the powerful prayers of Christ and instantly banish my demonic overlooker, before going outside (middle of the night) and scattering the rest. there where literally thousands in the above darkness of the retreat. It has thus been brought to my attention to remind people before taking on such a delicate open heart and mind operation, to have your protective prayers nearby and your heart planted in the Christ before exposing yourself so dangerously to reptoids who can and will feast on your vulnerability. May all beings be happy!

9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi El Montana Rivera,

Dude, you sound like you're pretty unwell at the moment. If you do happen to read this, please go and talk to a friend / doctor and tell them some of these thoughts you're having.

All the best,

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Sweta said...

Hi!

I went to a Vipassana course in February this year (2014). It was a wonderful experience and I can say that I progressed a lot.

After coming back I had an accident and could not be very regular in my meditation. I felt grumpy and lazy for days and didn't feel like to wake up in the morning and do any work.

Gradually I stopped practicing Vipassana and came back to regular life. (I must say here that Vipassana is a great practice.) Which ever day I practiced meditation I felt good but again the next day would be grumpy.

I have been trying to be regular in meditation and go for a second Vipassana retreat. Hope that will be soon.

Recently I came across this article on Facebook and I realised that the alternate feelings of peace and grumpiness are a part of the process of spiritual growth. You can read the article here - https://www.facebook.com/spreadinghappiness/posts/10152191023952251

Hope it gives you the same solace it gave to me. I meditated in peace yesterday and again I'm feeling grumpy, but I don't mind it now :)

Peace to you.

Sweta

11:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have ocd and depression. After 5 days after Vipassana course, my depression hit me really bad and I started to heard bird chirping all the time. I was so freak out at that time.

4:03 AM  
Blogger nishant said...

My friend just came from it and became a maniac ,telling all shit and behaving like a manifestation of Buddha himself ....suggest what to do

6:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm, tricky, if they're still doing it and you reckon they're really manic, take them to see a doctor (somehow!)

Good luck!

9:23 PM  
Blogger Karl von Arb said...

Please tell your story on Facebook: Sick after vipassana...

7:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear that you're not feeling well after a vipassana course. I'm not currently planning on sharing this content on Facebook, however, you are of course free to link to it & share it yourself :)

8:58 AM  
Blogger Varun Sharma said...

my cousin attended this vipassana meditation .After coming back he is behaving abnormally.like breathing deeply .staring at things continuously while lying down and walking in hallway of house for long time . could any of you give me your advice or your contact number on what should i do.his parents are concerned for him.

11:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really sorry to hear that. If you have any concerns I would try to see a doctor with him... And maybe try to make sure he gets lots of sleep. But I am not a professional so I would recommend a doctor. Good luck

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same happened to me, it got worse and better and worse and so on and it didn't stop until I was completely manic followed by deep depression. Never thought that it can have such an effect. Still looking for a reason or good thoughts about what happened after the course. Anyway, now I'm screwed, bipolar, severe psychiatric disease, full of meds and no idea how to proceed in life.

5:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear that you feel "screwed". As for being full of meds & no idea how to proceed. I felt the same, for a long time (listen to the audio if you haven't already). It does get better, but it does take time. My advice, trust your doctors and stay on the meds until they suggest it's time to come off them. But it does get better.

9:08 AM  

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