I’ve been reading about this researcher who deals with people who have been negatively affected by meditation, like permanently it seems. I’ve also seen that a lot of people have this idea that this whole “dark night” stage is 100% necessary to the “progress to insight” as they call it. I’m not really a big fan of that model, but I do think people can go through those stages. I’m just not convinced it leads to true awakening.
I’ve also read a recent article, and you can find this too if you just search google, of a girl who went on a vipassana retreat recently, lost her mind while on it, literally, and when she asked for help they just told her to keep meditating, for 3 more days straight! This could have been just another story of someone getting in too deep too quickly and in a place that was not run properly, but unfortunately that is not how this needed. She left the retreat with her family, totally gone and a wreck, and continued to email the retreat staff asking for help. They clearly didn’t help and instead ignored her emails, and a few weeks after the retreat, she successfully committed suicide by jumping off a bridge.
This is obviously a problem. There are people saying this is something you have to go through to reach awakening, and there are people killing themselves because they are going through this. Something isn’t right. It’s strange too because it makes me think of my own mind and circumstance. Like in MN20 when the Buddha talks about “mind crushing mind.” I’ve pretty much lived in that my entire life, and so I can’t imagine ever really being affected like that, having that “dark night.” I’m just stable like that, always have been, I had to be to survive. So what, now because I can’t have this dark night I can’t reach awakening? That’s nonsense. And what, someone who doesn’t have a mind that can handle these deeply distrubing states of mind can’t reach awakening either?
If you are so psychologically twisted and wrecked by the very practice that is supposed to be helping you, to the point that you kill yourself?! There has to be another way. These people need to reevaluate their whole progress of insight model, and they especially need to make sure there is an on-call psychologist at these retreat centers. This girl had very slight anxiety issues before her retreat, that’s it. Everyone has very slight anxiety issues! And all she did was meditate, nothing unusual, just intensive meditation. These retreat centers can’t think that meditation just automatically fixes everything. Obviously this girl had a predisposition to a very serious mental illness that the meditation brought out (she was saying she wasn’t real and she wasn’t supposed to exist all this insanity). At that moment someone should have said, “stop meditating right now, go see the psychologist, take this emergency xanax, we’re calling your family to come get you.” They told her to KEEP meditating! I mean my god, smarten up.
Here’s a link to the article: