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Thread: Risks of Meditation?

  1. #1
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    I have read many websites, articles, etc. on the good effects of meditation, and even studies revealing that buddhist monks with thousands of hours 'logged' into meditation increases their gamma ray output (related to conciousness, IE a higher state of conciousness) as well as increased activity in the frontal left lobes (which is where the emotion of happiness comes from), etc.

    Anyway, someone mentioned to me that meditation can bring about bad effects too, and that the lack of breathing can even lead to extensive brain damage and cellular destruction... (this, I did not know)

    I tried to basically google "bad effects of meditation", and more found stories of people going 'crazy' and committing suicide, or becoming 'depersonalized' or 'out of touch with reality' (which, I do not fear any of those things happening to me)

    But I did not really find anything on meditation causing brain damage. Does anyone here know if the lack/shortness in breathing can actually lead to brain damage, or if this is merely misinformation from my friend...? (also, if it is true, at what point would it actually happen, and how high is the risk of this actually happening? I imagine, if it is true, it must be an extremely low percentage based on how highly recommended meditation is to mental health from many sources...)

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Balgore
    Anyway, someone mentioned to me that meditation can bring about bad effects too, and that the lack of breathing can even lead to extensive brain damage and cellular destruction... (this, I did not know)
    Is this specifically Buddhist meditation you've been investigating, Balgore... or just meditation in general ? As for "lack of breathing," I'm wondering where that came from ?

    If you Google 'bad effects' of anything on the internet you're probably likely to get lots of negative results !

    In the UK, Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy, which includes meditation(based on Buddhist meditation) as part of the programme, is available for referral on the NHS as a treatment for depression ...so meditation can hardly be considered dangerous by the medical profession.

    "Based on Jon Kabat Zinn’s Stress Reduction program at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy includes simple breathing meditations and yoga stretches to help participants become more aware of the present moment, including getting in touch with moment-to-moment changes in the mind and the body.
    In eight weekly classes (the atmosphere is that of a class, rather then a therapy group), and by listening to tapes at home during the week, class participants learn the practice of mindfulness meditation."


    http://cebmh.warne.ox.ac.uk/csr/mbct.html

  3. #3
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    Maybe the only risk about meditation as the way toward awakening is to truly awake.


  4. #4
    Well it is said that breathing gradually stops as meditation goes deeper. You can even experience your breathing becoming shorter and smoother as you meditate. However, I have never heard this causing any brain damage whatsoever. If it causes such then I am not sure how people who have been meditating for long hours still wake up in perfect shape or in better shape :p So chances are high that you have been misinformed.

    As for going crazy and all that, meditation in general is not only Buddhist meditation as Aloka-D pointed out. Not sure why correct practice of Buddhist meditation will make a person crazy. Never heard of it.

    In case if you haven't done so already, I suggest you read these; written by two Thai Forest monks based on their own personal experiences

    1) The Ajhan Brahm's book : Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond
    2) Anapanasati: Mindfulness of Breathing by Buddhadasa Bhikku : http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/

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    Forums Member Cobalt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deshy
    Well it is said that breathing gradually stops as meditation goes deeper. You can even experience your breathing becoming shorter and smoother as you meditate. However, I have never heard this causing any brain damage whatsoever. If it causes such then I am not sure how people who have been meditating for long hours still wake up in perfect shape or in better shape :p So chances are high that you have been misinformed.
    Yeah, I agree. This should not be a problem. A body at rest needs to breathe less. If you stop breathing entirely during meditation then you have another health problem that has nothing to do with too much sitting and being mindful and are probably already on a ventilator or you are dead.

  6. #6


    Yes, I think that when thoughts settle and the mind becomes more peaceful and spacious, very relaxed gentle breathing isn't so noticeable.

    Regarding Anapanasati mentioned by Deshy, there's also a short article here by Ajahn Sumedho:

    http://www.amaravati.org/abm/english...now/03ana.html

    and also 'Only One Breath'

    http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Ar...One_Breath.htm

  7. #7
    Global Moderator Esho's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka-D-Aloka
    Yes, I think that when thoughts settle and the mind becomes more peaceful and spacious, very relaxed gentle breathing isn't so noticeable.
    Yes, this is true.

    Roshi Taisen Deshimaru dedicated his life with special devotion to the practice of Zazen and Shikantaza. He leave a very important knowledge about this meditative technique that is the main aspect of Soto Zen schools.

    In his book Vrai Zen (True Zen) he gives a very wide exposition of the benefits that Zazen can bring to our physical and mental helth. In addition to what has been told about breathing, there are other benefits, because of this special breathing rate, in relation with the electromagnetic performance of the brian. The brian in an ordinary way works with Beta rhythms that are essencialy chaotic and desorderly. Zazen and its particular breathng rate shifts quikly from Beta into a special kind of Alpha rhytms different as the ones that are given by an ordinary concentrarive activity like reading or studding or deep intelectual concentration. This special Alpha rhythms are particular of meditation, in this case Zazen and shikantaza techniques. The Alpha rhythms given by the intellectual and artistic concentration are still rough. On the other hand, the Alpha wave lenths given by Zazen (or meditation) indicates an absolut relaxation of the electromagnetic tone of the brian which leads to external feeling of pace and mindfulness.

    The overall result of this particular mode of brian function is what leads to a very deep and easy way of breathing that keeps a steady heart tone that increases arround a 40% the circulation of oxygenated blood to all organs and into the brain itself in a positive feedback loop. The brian after some time of contious practice of Zazen learns to recall this special way of operation even in daily life.

    The increased heart tone causes movilization of fat from body deposits and can lead, after some time of constant practice, to the use of body fatty deposits more efficiently and reduce the energy requirements by a half leading to a low calorie diet that is essencial for keeping a good meditative performance.

    So, there is no reason to think about health risks when one is devoted to meditative practice as it is required by the Soto Zen tradition.





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    Quote Originally Posted by Cobalt
    or you are dead.
    LOL


    Quote Originally Posted by Deshy
    Well it is said that breathing gradually stops as meditation goes deeper. You can even experience your breathing becoming shorter and smoother as you meditate. However, I have never heard this causing any brain damage whatsoever. If it causes such then I am not sure how people who have been meditating for long hours still wake up in perfect shape or in better shape :p So chances are high that you have been misinformed.

    As for going crazy and all that, meditation in general is not only Buddhist meditation as Aloka-D pointed out. Not sure why correct practice of Buddhist meditation will make a person crazy. Never heard of it.
    Yeah I think that is what he was referring to (if you stop breathing for 5 minutes, you start to suffer massive irreperable brain damage). But obviously, no one truly 'stops breathing' when they are meditating, "or you are dead" lol.

    I figured too, since I had never heard of it happening to anyone before, and ive heard about meditation my whole life, that it must have been incorrect. I just figured to make this post JUST incase one of you have heard of it happening.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka-D-Aloka
    If you Google 'bad effects' of anything on the internet you're probably likely to get lots of negative results !
    True enough.

    Well, thanks guys for clearing that up, now I dont need to worry about meditating and awakening as a brain-dead person lol.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Balgore
    But obviously, no one truly 'stops breathing' when they are meditating, "or you are dead" lol.
    Are you sure about that?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Deshy
    Quote Originally Posted by Balgore
    But obviously, no one truly 'stops breathing' when they are meditating, "or you are dead" lol.
    Are you sure about that?
    Well im assuming/hoping so? Thats why I made this thread though... If you think meditation can actually hit a level where all breath stops... Then are you not in risk of rapid cellular destruction (brain damage), and/or death?

    Slow breathing, or breaths once every few seconds is not NO breathing....

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