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Good and bad 'energy' of places where you meditate

As a scientist I have been puzzled about this phenomenon for quite some time, since I can’t find a rational explanation for it, but through experience I find it undeniable that some places are better to meditate than others because they have a better ‘energy’ (this reminds me of a book by Hemingway I read many years ago, where he said that some places were better than others for writing - at the time it didn’t make any sense to me but perhaps for creative writing too the ‘energy’ of the place is important).
Anyway, back on the subject of meditation, it seems to me that if you meditate where people have meditated for many years, you can ‘plug in’ as it were into the energy of the place and have better meditation. If you meditate in the place where a very good meditator has, it’s even more evident.
And on the other hand some places have clearly a negative energy. I remember after doing a lot of meditation so that I was quite sensitive and energized, visiting someone I knew and who had been unkind to me sometimes in the past. I remember feeling in their house such negative energy that it was nearly scary, so I realised that this person had serious problems and I felt a lot of compassion for them (rather than a sense of grievance for what they had done to me in the past).
So I was wondering whether you had had similar experiences, and whether you had an explanation (either from the EBT or from elsewhere) for this phenomenon.

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Hi Stef,

I too get that feeling in places where a lot of meditation is/has been going on, but I have not seen any experiments done on it, and suspect that it is all in my mind. Maybe I just like the smell of incense permeated furnishings. :wink:

Having said that I had a lovely time living and meditating in an apartment once, even suggesting that there must’ve been a meditator occupying it before me, only to find out that two floors below a Christian meditation group met frequently.

Ahhh! Apparently it’s got a name, “emotional residue”. I found this article: Believing in “Bad Vibes” - Scientific American

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Hi Stu,

good to hear form you :slight_smile: I like the story on the Christian group, actually I had some good meditations in Assisi and other places in Umbria, the atmosphere is good there.

I checked out the article; in the last paragraph they refer to explanations in terms of chemicals in tears etc but I don’t think that can explain it. In my case I didn’t really believe in this to start with, and I had specific experiences that surprised me, for example meditating in a place where monks had meditated for many years I experienced a different, much more ‘dense’ peace than I used to normally (previously it felt more ‘rarefied’); it was a specific difference rather than just something vague; also once when I had the chance to meditate where a famous monk meditates, the breath had immediately more grace and beauty.

Ajahn Brahm told the story in Mindfulness Bliss and Beyond about the spot, exuding a sense of peace, where someone had meditated at home for many years. He also said that when he came out of his 6 month retreat the other monks wanted to meditate in the hut where he had been, because of the powerful energy. I can really understand that and I personally don’t see how it can be explained in terms of chemistry.

Anyway thanks for sharing your experience and the link. :smiley: Take care.
Stef

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This reminds me of Meghiya Sutta (AN 9.3) where bhikkhu Meghiya, in spite of the Buddha’s reluctance, went to meditate in a Mango grove but could not carry on with his meditation.

Bhikkhu Bodhi says in his translation of Anguttara (Note 1833) that according to Anguttara commentary, it was due to bhikku Meghiya’s past association with the very same Mango grove where, as a king, in five hundred past lives, he had enjoyed with dancing girls and also had ordered executions and imprisonments of prisoners.
So it was a case of those past associations coming back to haunt him when he attempted meditation because of probably, evil vibes which were still prevalent in that place.
But if it was someone else other than Meghiya, I have no idea if the outcome would have been different.
What is certain, according to the story is that a place can have an impact on a meditator.
With Metta

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Isn’t the most likely explanation that these are psychological effects? After all, if you visit a person who was mean to you, the memory of the ill treatment is likely to cause feelings of fear, embarrassment, resentment, etc. People tend to outwardly project their emotional states onto external things, like a house, object or location.

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It could possibly be ‘psychological’. In a way, everything is phycological. It would be great to devise a few experiments to determine if prior knowledge of the use of a room or prior knowledge of the person who normally lives in the room is a casual factor in the effect. But those experiments just don’t seem to have been done yet, so I don’t think that we can jump to saying what the mechanisms for ‘emotional resonance’ might be yet. But yes, that would be the first thing to rule out.

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I’ve been meditating daily for over 12 years. I’ve meditated in all sorts of places to keep from missing a day.

The only thing I’ve found about any location in helping/hindering my meditation is noise.

Either such things do not exist or I am insensitive to them.

If I am insensitive to them, I’ll take that as a good thing, as it means I can have a good meditation anywhere that I have a good seat and some quiet.

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I found the paragraph Ajahn Brahm devotes to this. From what he writes I am more inclined to understand that he means that there really is a positive energy in certain places (and another story he sometimes tells is about someone who had a stressful job and who used to go and sit in the car park of Bodhinyana monastery to find peace).

Citazione
It is not that difficult to create an in-house holy place.
Many modern houses have family rooms, guest rooms,
rumpus rooms, as well as several bathrooms. Wouldn’t it
be shrewd to include one holy room? If a spare room is not
available, then you can always use a quiet corner of your
bedroom. Mark out the private corner with your favorite
cushions. Then surround it with just the right amount of
spiritual symbols and peaceful posters to give it a mood of
serenity. Use that corner regularly for your meditation or for
listening to or reading something inspiring. Never do
anything worldly in your holy corner and always avoid talking
there. As the months flow past and the years trickle by, you
will discover a gentle “energy of stillness” build up in that
space. It soon matures into a special sacred spot.
Meditation becomes much easier there because you have
made it a place of spiritual power. You have created an
authentic holy place in your own house.
One Australian disciple followed my advice and set up a
holy place in a corner of her bedroom. She would meditate
there regularly, often alongside her husband. One day, she
told me, her two young children had a heated argument just
outside her front door. Her seven-year-old daughter began
crying, ran into the house and into her parents’ bedroom.
There she sat on her mom’s meditation cushion in the holy
place, calming her tears. The small girl had never gone
there before. Intuitively she found her home’s place of
peace, the sanctuary in which to heal the unbearable hurt in
her little heart. The holy place had become a valuable
resource for her whole family.

To me, these kinds of beliefs are a little worrisome, because to the degree people invest external things with certain kinds of spiritually beneficial energies, auras, power or vibrations they will be inclined to take up crutches and think they can’t make spiritual progress without these things. But we shouldn’t need the presence of a guru, drugs, holy places and shrines or any other kind of spiritual security blanket.

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I’ve always been quite sensitive to “atmospheres” in different places, but I can’t explain the mechanism. It could just be psychological projection, but it feels like something else is happening.

I have a need to touch things, like the walls of buildings, rocks, trees, it’s a sort of connection…though I can’t explain that either. :yum:

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I think the mechanics of it is unimportant or unknowable- there is a sutta which I cannot find right now, which talks about finding a suitable place, which is about a place the helps to lessen craving, aversion and delusion- having said that I also think (feel) that some places have a calming vibe and others can be maddening.

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I lived for several years in a house in Redwood Valley, California that had been a Jim Jones home for the elderly. We found out about it soon after we moved in, so I didn’t have the opportunity to “feel” the energy first and then discover the cause later, but I definitely felt creeped out. We did a bunch of chanting, incense burning and playing of recordings of Tibetan monks playing these huge horns that sound like elephants trumpeting. That banished, for me, the “negative energy”, whether it was all in my head or not. As a scientist, I lean towards the explanation of this as purely psychological, but I have no evidence one way or another.

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I think it’s purely psychological. If you reflect that these Christians worship a deity that send billions to everlasting hell, you’ll probably feel a “negative energy”

Yes, that’s a good point probably. Though since the emotional atmosphere was one of joy there, it probably helped more than the thought or the reasoning about punishment you mention.
Some of the teachings of St Francis I found quite similar to those of the Buddha.

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It’s interesting that no one has mentioned devas. I think a traditional explanation is that devas are attracted to places where people meditate, read suttas, and chant. Then they add their own positive energy when people come to do these things.

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Years ago I visited a Catholic shrine in Ireland during a strongly atheist phase, and still felt something powerful and inspiring. Best to keep an open mind, IMO.

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I had a Pagan phase years ago, and found similar ideas in that tradition, also the idea of “holy” places in the natural world.

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Yes I believe it’s a good point. I remember seeing a video in which Ayya Khema taught a meditation retreat in a Christian monastery; I guess they could have chosen any place so the Christian monastery was probably more conducive to peace and joy than the other options.