Has mindfulness left you headspaced?
Depersonalisation, derealisation, anxiety, depression; these are just some of the problems that can surface during meditation, and there’s no such thing as an app or a weekend mindfulness course that can help you if they do.
"Think of an individual who went through a traumatic experience in early life but forgot about it, only to find themselves reliving it as an adult trying out mindfulness meditation…
…a psychiatrist [practicing mindfulness] had to fight to keep his mental sanity after a meditation experience in which he felt the boundaries of his ego dissolve."
- What mindfulness gurus won’t tell you: meditation has a dark side, Dr Miguel Farias and Dr Catherine Wikholm
The truth about meditation
Regardless of our expectations or the reasons we’ve been sold for taking up meditation, the practice is fundamentally a process of growth in wisdom, which means if you take up meditation in any meaningful way (and sometimes not even then) you will come face-to-face with your personal problems, and even challenging spiritual experiences too, as this is how you correct the false conclusions you have about yourself and reality through the practice. It is precisely correcting these false conclusions that makes us wiser.
Practicing meditation for the apparent health benefits is like going to the gym just so you can wear sports clothing. It misses the purpose of meditation entirely by fixating on a superficial side-effect of doing the practice.
And by selling meditation as a harmless relaxation technique or productivity booster, the mindfulness industry is fooling people into taking up what could be the most challenging process of growth they will ever face, only to abandon them, traumatised and helpless, as they confront the appearance of personal and existential problems.
Every wisdom tradition in the world anticipates this happening, and the point of meditation is that the rewards of becoming wiser far outweigh the confrontation with personal problems or challenging experiences, because wisdom is actually the resolution of these problems and events by correcting the false beliefs that give rise to them in the first place; and whether we consciously confront our problems or not, they nevertheless exist under the surface of our lives with detrimental results. We can either live with our problems, or we can become wiser. For me, becoming wiser is a no-brainer.
"If the mind reels before something thus alien to all we know, we must take our stand on the things of this realm and strive thence to see."
- Plotinus, giving advice on challenging spiritual experiences, 1,800 years ago (Plotinus' Sixth Ennead, Tractate 9, 7-11)
The problems I faced and what I did about them
Challenging events and experiences are only traumatic if they are undergone involuntarily. In my own progress in wisdom, besides experiencing extraordinarily profound insights and ideal states, such as bliss, love and peace, I also encountered - over the course of a number of decades - instances of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, depersonalisation, derealisation, unpleasant energetic sensations, vertigo, a sense of impending self-annihilation, and the playing out of personal problems inherited through the family.
- I came face to face with these problems as part of a voluntary and informed practice. None of my experiences were traumatic.
- Every one of these problems I resolved with Wiser Dialectic Practice or through the phenomenon of awakening, and today I live a life free from each and everyone of these issues. Because that's the point.
How to deal with problems triggered by mindfulness, profound spiritual experience or psychedelic drug-use
If you’ve suffered any ongoing or traumatic experience through mindfulness practice or profound spiritual experience - including those induced through psychedelic drug use - you may find any number of coping strategies useful such as psychotherapy and medication; however, you should know there is a self-guided approach you may find of benefit too in the Wiser Dialectic Practice offered for free in the Master Class. The practice involves drawing out an instance of your problem, and completing an interactive form with step-by-step video guidance.
Use your better judgement in how you proceed in dealing with your problems. Don’t come off any medication or treatment program without consulting the appropriate professional first. Pharmaceuticals get a bad rap, but they could be the reason you’re even functional enough to do Wiser Dialectic Practice at all. It may be true that I dealt with all of my own problems with Wiser Dialectic Practice, and it may be true that many other students have comparable success with the method; but the practice requires confronting the problem in question, including the emotional and mental states involved, and this requires a voluntary and determined engagement. If you’re already receiving support, consult your doctor, therapist or counsellor first before you begin. The practice also has its own practical challenges, and in the first instance requires a few hours of work. Even then you may not get it totally right the first time, but with perseverance and repetition it’s possible you could come to understand your problems and achieve success in moving past them with this method, just as I did.
To begin a Wiser Dialectic Practice, all you have to do is create an account, and go straight to the Dialectic tab to begin. Although it's possible to explore your problem through dreams and daydreams, the best starting point is probably with an instance of the problem playing out in your life, or what we call a ‘drama’. If you select this option from the six types of dialectic, you will then be guided through each step of the practice by video instruction. The example used in the videos is a drama where a student suffers a panic attack as a result of a sense of impending self-annihilation, a very common and classically described feature of a particular stage of growth in wisdom. The end result of success with the Wiser Dialectic Practice is for the student to realise that this is an ideal problem: a problem the student never had in the first place. With this realisation, the problem ceases to arise, and the student is free to continue enjoying his growth in wisdom, including all of the ideal states that come along with this.
Of course, this is just an example drama to show you how to complete the interactive form. You can practice the dialectic with any kind of a problem at all. See our research for more on this.
The Wiser Dialectic Practice is free, forever
So to begin a Wiser Dialectic Practice, all you have to do is create an account, and go straight to the Dialectic tab to begin. Use of the Wiser Dialectic Practice on the site will remain free forever, and you can do as many dialectics as you like without ever having to subscribe.
Alternatively you can proceed through the Master Class for an introduction to the practice through exploring daydreams and distractions that happen during your meditation practice; however, this does require subscribing ($10 a month), and meditating too, which may be something you don’t want to do given your current situation. Again, if applicable, consult the relevant professional for advice before you decide how to proceed.
If you want to be wiser, better to begin with a Wiser Practice
Being bound by the guiding principle of Duty of Service, Wiser By Design offers a Master Class in wisdom that is ethical in its promises and approach to practice. So although it includes the ideal meditation practice to facilitate awakening or growth in wisdom, the Master Class will also teach you how to make sense of the origin and nature of any problems you might encounter, and how you can resolve them for good. (You can read more about our research into problem resolution here.)
So if you're going to learn meditation, better to begin with a Wiser Practice.