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I am 45 years old. I’ve come to realize that I have been more or less unhappy in my life. So I met a clinical psychologist and I do show some childhood codependency issues and we could no CBT and anapanasati for 10in a day to get rid of my anxiety.

Contrary to all our expectations a day or so after meditation, noticing the breath at nostrils, I become into a very strange mood, low energy, edgy, sad and rarely aggressive. After few days I started having panic attacks and I was asked to stop and do simple relaxation.

But my concern is why is this practise giving me such negative side effects? While others enjoy calm and peace. My psychologist was of the view that it might be the traumatic childhood I underwent with my father. Which was 40 years ago.

Also, I had very painful dreams of my childhood during this time. Also, loss of appetite, tension headaches and loss of taste.

Does anyone had any idea why I’m getting this unwelcomed side effect? Will it stop at some point or should I give up?

Kindly share your experiences.

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    Might want to check your meditation technique again, for a correct Anapanasati implementation would significantly reduce any sense of "I", "mine", and "myself", and instead put the trainee in sort of an "objective observer" mode, hence greatly enhance his ability to handle stress/anxiety attacks much more efficiently. – santa100 Oct 8 at 19:25
  • Maybe it has less to do with your meditation,than with your expectation of the practice, and maybe it has nothing to do with your meditation at all – m2015 Oct 8 at 23:33
  • Could you clarify the phrase "we could no CBT and anapanasati for 10in a day". Thanks. – chasly - supports Monica Oct 10 at 20:11
  • As @StillJustJames answered below, several of these symptoms you describe have been associated with COVID19. Have you been tested? This may not be meditation related. – GVCOJims Oct 15 at 18:56

12 Answers 12

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My local Buddhist temple's resident teacher Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo has this beautiful metaphor of the "poop soup", highly relevant to yours (and the rest of ours) situation.

In this metaphor we accumulate all kinds of neuroses ("poop") in the bowl of our psyche, until after many years it becomes veritable poop soup. Then, as we get older and more restrained, the poop gets harder and the surface of the soup becomes nice and flat. Couple more years and it gets covered by a layer of beautiful silver fungi, giving the whole thing a surreal appearance of something ethereal and fluffy. We become an adult, sometimes even an admirable person, and almost forget what hides in our bowl under its surface level.

The bowl is full of shit! (excuse my language.)

So when we start meditating, we puncture a hole in the lid of fungi and hard poop and start stirring the content. Guess what happens then? It does not smell nice. To be very honest it stinks and looks nauseating.

But wouldn't it be insincere if we kept pretending to be a nice admirable person while holding on to all that baggage?

We must work through it until our cup gets empty and squeaky clean. There's no "unpleasant side effects of meditation", these are The Results of meditation, its fruit and its blessing.

Keep working until you get through it and come out on the other side.

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  • All credit goes to Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo 🙏 – Andrei Volkov Oct 15 at 19:32
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A couple of days is not enough time for your 10 minute meditation to have resulted in any change in your mood, feelings, or anything else. Were those panic attacks accompanied by difficulty breathing? If so, that and your loss of taste are big indicators of a COVID-19 infection. The other symptoms less so, but not unrelated to viral infections in general. Consider seeing a doctor and getting tested.

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Kimattha Sutta explains the purpose of skillful virtues or sila, and shows its effects on the mind and on meditation.

When you have problems with meditation, it's a sign that you should take a step back and start with development of skillful virtues or sila.

Here's from Chapter Six: Daily Life of Ven. Yuttadhammo's book How to Meditate:

First, it is necessary to discuss activities that are harmful to one’s mental clarity; activities one must avoid in order for the meditation to bring about sustained positive results.

As I explained in the first chapter, “meditation” is the mental equivalent to “medicine”. When taking medicine, there are certain substances one must avoid; substances that will either nullify the positive effects of the medicine or, worse, combine with the medicine to create poison. Likewise, with meditation there are certain activities that, due to their tendency to cloud the mind, have the potential to nullify the effects of the meditation or, worse, pervert one’s understanding of the meditation, causing one to cultivate unwholesome mind states instead of wholesome ones.

Meditation is meant to cultivate clarity and understanding, free from addiction, aversion, and delusion, and therefore free from suffering. Since certain bodily and verbal acts are intrinsically tied to negative qualities of mind, they are considered ‘contraindicative’ to the meditation practice; they have an effect opposite to what is desired, cultivating defilement instead of purity. Meditators who insist on engaging in such behaviour will face great difficulty in their practice, developing habits that are detrimental to both meditation practice and personal well-being. To ensure the mind is perfectly clear and capable of understanding reality, certain behaviours must be taken out of one’s “diet”, so to speak.

First, there are five kinds of action from which one must refrain completely, as they are inherently unwholesome:

  1. One must refrain from killing living beings. In order to cultivate one’s own well-being, one must be dedicated to well-being as a principle, refraining from killing any living being, even ants, mosquitoes and other living beings.

  2. One must refrain from theft. In order to find peace of mind, we must grant it to others as well; stealing is a denial of this basic right to security. Further, if we wish to be free from addiction, we must be able to control our desires to the extent of respecting the possessions of others.

  3. One must abstain from committing adultery or sexual misconduct. Romantic relationships that are emotionally or spiritually damaging to others, due to existing commitments of the parties involved, are a cause for stress and suffering and based on perversion of the mind.

  4. One must refrain from telling lies. If one wishes to find truth, one must avoid falsehood; intentionally leading others away from the truth is harmful both to oneself and others and incompatible with the goals of meditation.

  5. One must refrain from taking drugs or alcohol. Any substance that intoxicates the mind is obviously contraindicative to meditation practice, as it is the antithesis of a natural, clear state of being.

Complete abstention from these activities is necessary if one wishes for meditation practice to be successful, due to their inherently unwholesome nature and the invariably negative effect they have on the mind.

Further, there are certain activities that must be moderated or they will interfere with meditation practice. These are activities that are not necessarily unwholesome in and of themselves but will nonetheless inhibit clarity of mind and lessen the benefit of the meditation practice when undertaken in excess.

One such activity is eating; if one wishes to truly progress in the meditation practice, one must be careful not to eat too much or too little. If one is constantly obsessed with food, it can be a great hindrance to progress in meditation since not only does it cloud the mind, over-eating leads to drowsiness, both in the body and mind. One should eat to stay alive rather than stay alive simply to eat. During intensive meditation courses, meditators eat one main meal per day and suffer no negative physical consequences as a result; whereas the positive effects of such moderation are clarity of mind and freedom from obsession over food.

Another activity that interferes with meditation practice is entertainment – watching movies, listening to music, and so on. These occupations are not inherently unwholesome but can easily create states of addiction when undertaken in excess.

Addiction is a form of insobriety in a sense, since it involves chemical processes in the brain that inhibit clear thought and clarity of mind. Since the pleasure that comes from entertainment is momentary and unsatisfying while the addiction and obsession carry over into one’s life, a serious meditator should determine to make the best use of their short time in this life by cultivating peace and contentment, rather than wasting it on meaningless activities that don’t lead to long term happiness and peace. If one wishes to find true happiness, one must therefore moderate one’s engagement in entertainment. Socializing on the Internet and similar activities should be undertaken in moderation as well.

The third activity one must moderate is that of sleeping. Sleeping is an addiction that is often overlooked; most people don’t realize how attached they are to sleep as a means of escape from reality. Still others become insomniac, obsessed with the thought that they are not getting “enough” sleep, leading to increased stress levels and further difficulty in falling asleep.

Through the meditation practice, one will find that one needs less sleep than before since one’s mind will become calmer. Insomnia is not a problem for meditators since they are able to meditate even in the lying position and keep their minds free from stress. People who have difficulty falling asleep should train themselves to watch the stomach rise and fall, noting “rising”, “falling”, all night if necessary. Even if they are not able to fall asleep (which is unlikely, given the calm state of mind while meditating) they will find themselves as rested as if they had slept soundly through the night.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that to truly gain results in the meditation practice, a meditator should set aside at least a period of time to remain entirely celibate, not just avoiding immoral sexual activity, since all sexual activity is invariably intoxicating and will be a hindrance towards attainment of mental clarity and peace.

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In the context of buddhist training, sitting meditation is a very important part of the path, but it does not cover all the aspects fundamental to liberate the mind from obstacles.

I suggest maybe exploring those other factors.

The Buddha taught the Noble Eightfold path, with Samadhi (the term usually translated as "meditation") being the last element. The seven preceding factors serve as a foundation to develop the mental conditions for meditation (although I wouldn't say that the whole purpose of the path is meditation: meditation is a means for an end, namely, the gradual uprooting of the conditions that perpetuate dissatisfaction and suffering).

You'll find some useful and introductory information here:

What I'm trying to convey here is the importance of having good foundations for getting the best out of meditation practice, and also the idea of meditation being one part of the path, and not the whole path or the goal itself.

The development of other mental factors could lessen the influence, prevalence and effects of whatever could be perceived as an obstacle to well-being.

Kind regards!

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Very good question, and many good points in the answers you have been given.

It sounds as though you have been introduced to meditation through Western psychology, or perhaps the "Mindfullness" movement. While it's good that they acknowledge meditation's benefits, there are also other stories and articles about Mindfulness being possibly dangerous.

This is not so surprising, I don't think the modern teachings do more than scratch the surface of buddhist meditation and the 2500-odd years of practice behind it ... which must count for something, right?

I haven't come across a buddhist introduction to meditation - book or course - that DOESN'T have warnings and instructions about what to do if obstacles arise. And I think this is what Samana Johann is getting at with the remark "Better to take the Buddha's medicine" than some of the imitations.

The good news is that the immediate advice you were given, "stop and do simple relaxation" or breath-counting exercises, seems to be widely agreed on.

You can always come back to Andrei Volkov's "poop soup" later when your stomach is stronger.

(I agree with him that ultimately, you'll have to "work through it" to see the greatest benefits, but I hope your gym doesn't tell you in the first session, to "push through the pain" and complete that marathon! First, be kind to yourself.)

I got a lot out of Akong Rinpoche's book "Taming the Tiger" - the first half is a refreshing look at daily life through buddhist teachings, and the second half is a basic manual of meditation. It shows different types of meditation for different purposes:

Some of the exercises deal with suffering, negative emotions and enemies; situations we would normally prefer to avoid. Yet if we learn to face such situations then, gradually, what is painful can be confronted and dealt with properly

And he is quite up front about potential issues:

Sometimes when we want to do therapy exercises or meditation, we can find that we are in a disturbed state of mind. Tn that case, any attempt at relaxation may just increase our agitation, despair or whatever negative state of mind is dominating at the time. At these times it may be more helpful to do something physical - like go for a brisk walk, work in the garden or get down to some neglected household task. It is very important to work with ourselves in a natural and down to earth way and not lose our common sense.

He also suggests seeking a teacher, who may be able to help in an individual way that a book or a generic course may not. Are there any buddhist centres in your area? If so, which schools or traditions?

If even after patient practice things are nos going so well in facing yourself and daily situations, then one could try to find some guidance from a good teacher, or the support of a group. However it is wise to investigate the organisation or teacher before putting confidence in them.

(disclaimer : after getting a lot from this book, I was fortunate to take refuge with Akong Rinpoche, at Samye Ling. here in Scotland)

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Good householder, better to take the Buddhas Medicine, his teachings, his disciples, not under traders selling, telling fakes under his lable, as it has to be used, then to seek refuge in that and those actually not freed from aging, sickness and death:

The Healing Power of the Precepts, by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Many people today have come to the Buddha's teachings in search of emotional and spiritual healing. In this short essay the author reminds us that the single most effective tool for healing a wounded heart may be found in the cultivation of sila, or virtuous conduct.

The Karma of Happiness: A Buddhist Monk Looks at Positive Psychology, by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2013; 8pp./34KB) PDF

The author tries to give within this essay certain inspiriation toward the modern wave of "positive psychology, provided in the teachings of the Buddha. In this way he points out the significant —and also long term causal working—differences and holes, open to investigate and addopt to get unfilled spaces possible filled, also within more wordily approaches toward long term happiness, incl. effects on many.

Sila leads to wealth, to long term happiness, to liberation, the path develops on given roots, no shortcuts how ever luring...

[Note that this isn't given for stacks, exchanges, other worldbinding trades and entertaining but for escape from this wheel]

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Personal experience here - To have moderate exercise, walk in the nature, relax then try again. I often having side effects when headache, neck pain or high/borderline BP. No side effect when body relax, normal BP and normal resting heart rate.

You can try meditate with White Noise Effects too - It works well on me. https://blog.noisli.com/what-is-white-noise-and-why-is-it-so-powerful/ enter image description here

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You have all kinds of conditionings- both pleasant and unpleasant. When you are aware of the present moment, then these conditionings come on the surface. You should not hold on to them. You should neither accept them nor reject them rather you should 6-R them.

Recognise: जानाति Janati
Release: विनेय्य vineyya
Relax: पस्सम्भयं passambhayam
Resmile: पसन्नेन pasannen
Return : पुनरपि punarapi
Repeat: बहुलीकरित्वा bahulikaritva

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It's not just breath meditation, any type of meditation where you relax deeply, calm the thoughts, qi starts circulating throughout the entire body with much more force. Doing meditation, while one has Energetic blockages and deficiency in long term storage of qi can cause all kinds of problems like you've described. Depression, panic attacks, psychosis, etc.

So it's not the meditation method that's the problem, it's that you have some underlying health issues that need to be addressed first. Some problems like this may be long term cumulative result of whatever you did to compromise your health, and would require patient long term remedial practices to heal gradually.

I highly recommend keeping 8 precepts, celibacy, eating healthy, exercising a lot regularly every day, and doing walking meditation instead of meditation in static postures (such as sitting with eyes closed). Living in such a way you'll preserve your vital internal energy which will be used to heal yourself.

I found this exercise was particularly helpful for melting energetic blockages more so than walking meditation, slow jogging, and most types of qigong. http://lucid24.org/misc/qigor/arsenal/sab/index.html I do that exercise at least 40min a day total (3 or 4 sessions staggered through the day of 10min or longer each session). When I was having some strange blockages and problems, I would do that exercise more than 60min a day total. Also great to interleave that with a large variety of basic calisthenics and stretching, squats, pushups, pullups, etc., so you get a large range of movement, contraction and lengthening of all your tissue.

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Your experience is actually not uncommon. Meditation can exacerbate hyperarousal of your nervous system (and also the opposite, hypoarousal), which can lead to intense anxiety (or numbness) if your system is already tightly wound/slowed down.

Of course, this can happen with no pre-existing conditions, too.

This is a useful diagram, that may help understand the window of tolerance.

There are resources at Cheetah House, but otherwise you might just want to avoid meditation for a while.

enter image description here

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Loss of taste isn't part of meditation. Much of your other experiences probably aren't either.

You describe these experiences as outside of your mental formations. You don't describe thought, emotion, just physiology.

My meditation experience is that growing my awareness was usually unpleasant. I did not use guided meditation. It was rife with monkey-mind, which, when watched, lead to unpleasantness. Doing the practice results in seeing how there are connections.

What you are describing is highly unlikely an effect of your beginner meditative practice, or your past traumas.

If you can't tell where your physiological reactions are flowing from and to, you either have extremely low awareness or they are disconnected from your own mind, meaning illness or external ongoing interaction with your physiology. All these options are possible.

With me, externally put upon me experiences of my physiology, when my brain is functioning properly and often when it isn't still, are as obvious as someone else touching me. Obvious.

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OP re-read your post and see what you are claiming as a you and a yours... with the word "MY" and what you have as "Yours".

Claiming an abusive father all to yourself; endears him to you and only you... such a thing only adds more fuel to what you say is already ashes under the bridge.

Kamma of the body and speech no matter how long past; when the mind calms stirs the coals of that old corpse to throw more wood on it.

The poster saying change your mind by changing your body is good; don't let that old corpse drag you around the one of either self or other. It is a form of negation and yet also one of running away from "Mara" and his armies, instead of facing it directly with gentleness as a yoke calmness as a yoke as you "ghost" or re-live those experiences on the cushion. Imagine oneself as you are now strong and wise standing on your left knee dispensing medicine to the lesser you still stuck and injured and the young you of past the one sitting safe and sound away from all past.

Allow a wise knowing smile to form but a genuine one not a loki sort of one that becomes mischievous and painful as a protector the protector is the you standing on the knee.

Such is a medicine buddha practice. It heals past present and future all that me and mine mentioned a fetid corpse not oneself asking a the question like shakti imploring birth of heavens and hells as ideal to end as she is tired of so much birth pain and suffering in the many realms. Do not fall for her; remeber oneself as the virtuous youth knowing right from wrong sitting claiming the purity you never lost as a lotus throne.

If you fall for her the one standing on the knee becomes sattva and no longer buddha...

It is a very powerful practice and is the exact thing pictured in the bhavacakra as posture right hand up in the gesture o fearlessness with OM written on it as the base or root earth gesture... other hand relaxed in the lap.

Things arise and things pass no matter what those things are is the over all theme for the healing.

Let lit incense focus of scent be the medicine for all three worlds... and when it is no longer lit meditation over.

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