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When I spend an extend period with Buddhist practice I become emotionally more volatile or at least my emotions seem stronger and more likely to come to the surface. I've often had reactions that are uncharacteristically emotional though the emotion feels authentic. The period of practice doesn't even have to be that long - sometimes a day retreat will have this effect. It could be linked with meditation however it could be study or the experience of sangha that does it.

Is this something that people recognise? Is it written about anywhere by any teacher? I want to know if it's a common outcome and advice around working with it.

Many Thanks

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    What type of meditation you practice and by emotion do you mean anger? – Sankha Kulathantille Mar 24 '15 at 19:50
  • @SankhaKulathantille I practice metta bhavana and mindfulness of breathing. The emotion isn't anger - it's more of an emotional rawness. I can get more easily upset by things that wouldn't normally bother me too much. – Crab Bucket Mar 24 '15 at 21:18
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    If your sitting isn't bringing up anything, you aren't really sitting! ;-) For me, sesshin is often a roller coaster of cheers and tears. – user698 Mar 24 '15 at 21:19

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Yes, I often get a bit brittle after sittings. Things can feel a little more raw and noisy for a while.

Also, longer sittings (like retreats) can have hangovers days or weeks later, sometimes euphoric rather than painful. Extended meditation has a momentum that keeps working on you after you stop the formal practice, and it's related to the speed at which you are unconsciously perceiving the arising and passing away of your momentary experience. That is an alternately blissful and painful process. There are various models to describe this, such as the "progress of insight" in the classical commentaries like 'Visuddhimagga' and a lot of Mahasi literature; also look up Daniel Ingram, Ron Crouch, and Kenneth Folk for some contemporary views on it.

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    I was going to say something like this, referencing especially Daniel Ingram's controversial social commentary. I would like to add one very important concept: time spent away from people + time spent in the depths of meditation (retreat) = deterioration of skillful social habits and understanding. After a year+ retreat some people lose their social stuff entirely. What to do? After a retreat is done, especially when you notice a lot of those positive, energies... HOLD back and refer to Right Speech's guidelines before going out into the world--even if that is just your family living room. – Ahmed Apr 16 '15 at 4:49
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    @Ahmed Making one socially awkward is an expected outcome is it not? The Buddha can be seen chiding small talk and social pleasures in several suttas. Once one has spent a lot of time on inner organization the world outside is going to look superficial, chaotic and dull by comparison. There are zen koans like chop wood, carry water, which recommend going about one's life after enlightenment, but we live in very socially engaged times that don't offer the inner fulfillment of chopping wood. Modern society is built on a lot of busy, shallow relations, reintegrating into which can be a bad idea. – Buddho Jun 25 '15 at 5:47
  • @Buddho. I could not agree more. Especially this sentence is very true "Once one has spent a lot of time on inner organization the world outside is going to look superficial, chaotic and dull by comparison". – Lanka Jun 25 '15 at 14:01
  • I agree, but would add that the practice continues to evolve past the phase of disillusionment with the "outside world". Eventually, we go back into the "busy-ness" and recongnize that nothing is truly shallow. The best example (as always) is Buddha, who came back from his enlightenment to become the guide and CEO of an organization with thousands of unruly members spread across many cities. – rob_mtl Jun 25 '15 at 15:23
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From my own experience i can say that this has happend to me before. I think its due to the fact that when one sits in insight meditation one does not have a "filter". One wants all phenomena to come up in order to observe them, learn from them and understand them.

So when one practices a lot and thereby having extended periods in ones life where there is no filter then when one returns to everyday life and is not being mindful about what phenomena arises (e.g. emotions) one can easily react to them.

So it seems that if one practice a lot and is used to things comming up in meditation then one should make an even greater effort to guard oneself with mindfulness in everyday life. Because the filter is still not there. The suppression is not there.

That might be one of the reasons why these emotions can seem to have a greater intensity because there is no suppression or filter to affect them or "cloud" them. They are experienced "clean and bare". While non-meditators may have layers of filters and concepts limiting the intensity of the emotions that is not the case for insight-meditators.

This is my own experience and view on it. I do not know if information about your question can be found anywhere in the texts.

  • I like the description involving 'filters'. I think this is a good image for understanding. But the point is not to build super-strong filters, but to have less and less 'inside' to get triggered. "Let the wind breeze through, may it leave no trace in you of that bilious fever." (Rumi) – user2341 Jun 25 '15 at 12:19
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Emotions are there always. You're not more emotionally sensitive. You have more emotional clarity. The emotions should be understood. Anger for example, exist as a mechanism of self-defense. It's response to a hostile environment, which could save your life in some situations. That makes anger constructive, when applied in the right situations. What you have is an opportunity to analyze and reflect on the emotions, and through the understanding you get, you can use emotions as tools and apply them where needed.

  • I like that you said "You have more emotional clarity." Yes. But at some stage, a coalesced state can become nearly overwhelming. One clearly experiences the hurricane through the now open windows. Analysis will not help then, something else is needed. I liked the answer about filters. Life with no filters is untenable, until something else happens. – user2341 Jun 25 '15 at 12:50
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Here are some advice given by Ajaan Fuang, and recorded by his student, Thanissaro Bhikku. These should be relevant to your case. Basically, don't get attached to any experiences caused by meditation. Just observe them, learn from them, then let go and go beyond.

§ "The mind is like a king. Its moods are like his ministers. Don't be a king who's easily swayed by his court."

§ A young nurse practiced meditation with Ajaan Fuang several days running, and finally asked him one day, "Why wasn't today's session as good as yesterday's?"

He answered: "Meditating is like wearing clothes. Today you wear white, tomorrow red, yellow, blue, whatever. You have to keep changing. You can't wear the same set of clothes all the time. So whatever color you're wearing, just be aware of it. Don't get depressed or excited about it."

§ A student came to complain to Ajaan Fuang that she had been meditating for years, and still hadn't gotten anything out of it. His immediate response: "You don't meditate to 'get' anything. You meditate to let go."

§ "When the meditation goes well, don't get excited. When it doesn't go well, don't get depressed. Simply be observant to see why it's good, why it's bad. If you can be observant like this, it won't be long before your meditation becomes a skill."

§ The seamstress, after practicing meditation with Ajaan Fuang for several months, told him that her mind seemed more of a mess than it was before she began meditating. "Of course it does," he told her. "It's like your house. If you polish the floor every day, you won't be able to stand the least little bit of dust on it. The cleaner the house, the more easily you'll see the dirt. If you don't keep polishing the mind, you can let it go out and sleep in the mud without any qualms at all. But once you get it to sleep on a polished floor, then if there's even a speck of dust, you'll have to sweep it away. You won't be able to stand the mess."

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If someone is a health nut who goes to the gym daily, and only eats organic food, they can't really hang out at burger joints with their friends, the smell of deep frying will be revolting. Does this make their body volatile? We all know it isn't possible to stay as healthy by eating burgers and fries, so we allow them their salads, there is social acceptance for that. Hanging out at the gym or park instead of at the bar after work becomes their routine.

Sugary or deep fried junk food tastes bad to one who has been on a healthy diet of natural fruits and vegetables. Persist with eating junk, and the body adapts. Same with altitude sickness, dust, noise and other kinds of pollution.

The emotional body is the same - it doesn't like difficult emotions of the outside world. Since a few years now I find even regular family TV soaps featuring some manipulative characters very violent - just the idea of deceit and lies is revolting. This is not volatility, it is the emotional body protesting at toxins.

Our physical and emotional bodies are trained to recognize good health, and they guide us towards it by protesting harsh environments. They are keeping us safe. Ignore the warning for long enough, and they will lose the ability to warn.

Unfortunately, there is a school of thought among a few modern teachers that one must remain emotionally healthy despite operating in toxic emotional environments. Most modern successful work places are very toxic with lots of busy but shallow relationships where everyone is looking out for themselves. Showing an interest in the emotional affairs of another at the workplace is threatening, because everyone is trained to view the others as opponents. We are at war in such work places that emphasize "professionalism".

Ambition and competition are violence, and there is violence in just about any modern activity. For example fashion that makes us regret our bodies is violence, food that is tasty by contains no nutrients is violence, entertainment is by definition violence because it takes us away from our inner self.

Meditation is going to make us intolerant to violence at work, at home - and anywhere else.

This may mean giving up some things we previously loved - a job, a neighborhood, a city, a partner. Or it may mean giving up on a life of peace.

When I moved to urban India I began coughing blood. I visited a doctor who pointed out that I simply wasn't used to high levels of pollution. I could either stay in the city and get used to it in a few months, or live in air conditioned environments and never mix with crowds or leave the city.

It's a choice we all have to make with emotional environments.

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Can't personally relate to this as Metta always made me happy and mindfulness of breathing only brought calmness. But you might want to try Satipatthana meditation as it focuses on senses at their basic form, rather than perceived entities. I believe being emotional is always connected with people and the notion of self. But if you can note seeing as just seeing, hearing as just hearing, sadness as just sadness etc. and watch them arising and passing away, you should become less emotional.

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Attachment to something can cause of dukka ,so if you feel something is not good for you ,better avoid it, avoid the extremes ,practice moderation.

Meditation is not recommended for people with certain conditions, I read it somewhere long ago (not on the Internet) . Meditation relaxes your mind and body ,if somebody is having nervous or emotional problems,after meditation their nerves may get further dilated(Not good).

Since you have asked for advice ,I suggest you regularly exercise(skipping rope ,running, walking and possibly some mild weight lifting at the gym also). Take care to balance your breath and try to bring a rhythm, It can also have the same effect of meditation,bringing mind and body together by controlling the breath.

also some info here

http://www.wildmind.org/applied/depression/when-not-to-meditate

  • "I read it somewhere long ago (not on the Internet)" - ha ha. Here we are on the Internet, trying to gather up the shards of truth! But good advice on the exercise thing. Walking walking walking until tired saved my sanity. – user2341 Jun 25 '15 at 12:46
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It depends on what kind of practice your doing.I only do Samatha meditation and I don't experience volatile emotions as long as the momentums still going. Even if bad things happen I feel blissful.Almost like its creating some kind of karma that would stop volatility from arising. But if I stop meditating even for a day it starts coming back and sometimes with more force.And then I get irritated easily and just bad news.This is my experience.

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Initially you may feel that you are volatile as you get to experience sensations and formations that trigger different emotions.

The key is you should practice equanimity. With this firmly established, then your volatility of emotions will subsided as your are nor reacting to sensations or formations.

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I went through a period of about 4 years of increasingly "over the top" feelings, sensations, reactions, bliss, etc. It was a wild ride. At times it burst upwards in to what I call a "Neo State" where verbal thought stopped and ego was not operating (temporarily). It was a bit like a drug trip for hours or a day or so. Former wife thought I was going insane. Eventually reached an experience of nonduality, which persisted and is usually hanging around somewhere nearby, or can be reached in about 2 seconds. This is a choice, but you have to be organized enough to get there, first comes the 'housecleaning'.

I see it as - you could say - larger and larger portions of mind activity coalescing into a growing Unitive state. At first you do not know how to handle it. Then it is confusing, but OK. Then... it does get better. Daily practice, hold to your teaching, try not to say wild things (the hardest thing for me, especially on web sites and e-mail, which has gotten me in trouble). The people around you have no idea what you are experiencing, but it is normal. Just 'growth' or development.

I have searched and searched for any scriptures, research or other things that describe this in the same way (ego >>> Neo / no ego >>> Nonduality / no-self) but there is not much. The current research in to Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience (PNSE) is very promising. Most descriptions do not segregate out the "self without ego operating" situation. Chogyam Trungpa describes it in "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism", if you are willing to receive his point of view on it. I think that it is related to the developmental stages from Concrete Operations to Formal Operations to Post-Formal, but I am researching that at the moment. Good Luck!

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