Thread: Mental Illness and Meditation

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    Mental Illness and Meditation

    Have read books and viewed YouTube videos with curiosity in relation to using meditation for help with mental health afflictions. Many will discuss issues such as depression and anxiety, panic attack and the like. My query goes deeper. What role does it play when it comes to disease that is harder to treat? An example would be Bipolar Disorder.

    One Bikkhu stated that meditators coming to his retreats should not take any medication at all whilst there, including those with bipolar. From my own personal experience, this sounds dangerous. Others that have been read indicate that meditation practiced long term may have such an effect on the mind that one may eventually be able to free themselves from medication but states that this is by no way an overnight process.

    Have been told that a body physically regenerates every 7 years. A mind seems to be something more.

    Any guidance here?

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcsfa1 View Post
    Have read books and viewed YouTube videos with curiosity in relation to using meditation for help with mental health afflictions. Many will discuss issues such as depression and anxiety, panic attack and the like.
    When these matters are relatively minor & influenced by poor social environments & relationships, meditation in a friendly environment can help.

    My query goes deeper. What role does it play when it comes to disease that is harder to treat? An example would be Bipolar Disorder.
    I have known individuals with Bipolar Disorder who practised meditation but they generally continued to take medication. These matters are highly dependent on the individual & the treatment or therapy they have received.

    One Bikkhu stated that meditators coming to his retreats should not take any medication at all whilst there, including those with bipolar.
    This sounds careless.

    From my own personal experience, this sounds dangerous.
    Certainly.

    Others that have been read indicate that meditation practiced long term may have such an effect on the mind that one may eventually be able to free themselves from medication but states that this is by no way an overnight process.
    I think making generalisations here would not reflect what is really possible. I would imagine more than a mere meditative approach would be required; that social support is also required.

    Have been told that a body physically regenerates every 7 years. A mind seems to be something more.
    This does not sound relevant to me.

    Any guidance here?
    Most retreats do not recommend meditation retreats in such situations, unless the doctor of the individual supports it. As I mentioned, it is probably a matter highly dependent upon the individual.

    Some retreat policy statements:

    An intensive silent retreat can be a positive and life transforming experience. At the same time, meditation practice can be strenuous and requires some stability of physical and psychological health.

    If you have recently experienced considerable trauma, significant depression or anxiety, or are currently experiencing strong PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), a silent retreat may not be appropriate for you at this time in your life. A therapist can help you assess the wisest course duration for you, or if it’s best to wait a while before signing up. Daily life practice may be more beneficial meanwhile.

    Mental health If you are seeing a therapist and/or any other mental health professional, please inform them of your intention to participate...

    https://www.dharma.org/meditation-retreats/faq
    You must be in good general health, both physically and mentally. The retreat is not suitable for people with mental disorders or drug addictions.

    http://www.suanmokkh-idh.org/index.html

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    There's an interesting paper on Jon Kabat Zinn's work on bipolar using mindfulness based cognitive therapy (MBCT) here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3277324/

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    As one who lives with bipolar disorder, it would be irresponsible of me to not take my prescription medication. It keeps the mind in check. That doesn't mean I don't use Mindfulness as another tool.

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    If I understand correctly, one would be discouraged from attending meditation retreats with this or similar conditions. How then is progress made by said individual beyond his or her own personal efforts?

    Some live active, healthy lives while the brain is being balanced with medication. Is it my mistake that one is not medicating the mind here but rather providing for some lack of the physical brain? I might venture to say that even the Buddha would say that the mind and body are two separate entities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcsfa1 View Post
    If I understand correctly, one would be discouraged from attending meditation retreats with this or similar conditions. How then is progress made by said individual beyond his or her own personal efforts?
    An individual can only make progress through his or her own efforts. A meditation teacher cannot provide effort, only guidance.

    Retreats vary one from another. Some are short, others long, Some are gentle, others intense. Individuals vary one from another, too. Some make progress during retreat, others less so.

    A retreat is not the only way to go. One can make progress with the right meditation teacher, or spiritual guide,

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    Quote Originally Posted by mcsfa1 View Post
    If I understand correctly, one would be discouraged from attending meditation retreats with this or similar conditions. How then is progress made by said individual beyond his or her own personal efforts?

    Some live active, healthy lives while the brain is being balanced with medication. Is it my mistake that one is not medicating the mind here but rather providing for some lack of the physical brain? I might venture to say that even the Buddha would say that the mind and body are two separate entities.
    Progress is often best made in small steps, and usually comes from the stuff we do by ourselves over a long period. A weekly sangha meditation at a local center is useful too. The problem with retreats is that such intense meditation can bring up issues quickly, brought about by having to practice at a pace necessarily imposed by those running the retreat. You as an individual can probably deal with such issues easily, but this may not be the case for others, hence the level of discouragement you have found.

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    Forums Member Element's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mcsfa1 View Post
    If I understand correctly, one would be discouraged from attending meditation retreats with this or similar conditions,
    If one is confident & motivated, one should liaise with the retreat centre beforehand to ensure the retreat centre is fully informed to allow the retreat centre to make informed decision on one's participation.

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    Thanks for the suggestions, reminders, and encouragement as all are helpful.

    philg, have been told that vipassana meditation may also bring up heavy issues, just not at the pace as at a retreat. Doctor actually encouraged vipassana. Finding a center that practices is a priority.

    On a personal note, have been "stable" as they call it for 20+ years. Meditation, practiced now in the mindfulness manner, has produced some tremendous results in life view and how I react to life.

    Truly appreciate everyone here and most grateful for the teachings of the Buddha.

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    i am new, i also suffer from schizoaffective disorder. i looked into Buddhism after my therapist suggested meditation and i like it so i research into it more and more. i take my meds but i refrain from drugs or alcohol.

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