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TheHeartOfTuxes7 karma

Anyone that suggests counting your breath leads to suicide should probably see a therapist and not attempt any meditation.

Do you mean to say that?

It's not the mere fact of applying a number to a single breath, but the internal power plays and machinations that occur when it is repeatedly applied, contrary to the lax distraction that may be the basis of one's world view. It's the fact that many people conceive of the method as a challenge, or a battle of the mind, or the crux between being a 'good' versus 'bad' person, or a way to achieve the healing or freedom they desperately seek, that charges the meditative situation.

Do you deny that many (if not most) newcomers to meditation experience a greater than usual pressure to succeed at the task, either from themselves and their own hopes or self-blame, or from the Zen culture and how they receive it?

Even without misunderstanding ideal practice, it takes some time to digest the method and teachings. People don't just plop into error-free practice. Though the ideal is very, very simple the reality for a meditator may often be quite a bit more complex.

Mental pressurization may happen in both early and later phases of the meditative career. Early on, it can come with misunderstanding of the nature of practice. Or, as we see in some Zen traditions, pressure can be applied and increased by the teachers and the institution: "Your question must become intense like a hot iron ball in your throat! Harness all your resources toward this end!" The very act of breathing may be turned into a pressure-building, mind-altering act, as we see in the 'bamboo breathing' recommended by some Zen teachers (viz. Sekida).

Later in the meditative career, one may sense a chance for breakthrough or may experience disappointment or depression over one's perceived lack of progress, and as a result conscious or unconscious forcing may arise. There are many situations in which meditation can become the catalyst for self-harm, even if the ideal participation is very simple.

Meditators may indeed sense that they are "on the cusp" of something vast and earth-shattering. Whether they name it or not doesn't negate the experience of impending expansion or destruction. The dark night experience often includes these feelings of being on the brink of something overwhelming. Of course this is delusion. We all have delusion; that's why we practice. But that doesn't mean the experience and even the outcome is not real for the meditator. There may come a breakthrough, there may come an earth-shattering revolution. It needs to be met with wisdom and compassion: not huffed at as a ridiculous aberration, but responded to with proper care, appropriate context of form, and good teaching.

To say "it's simple, so there should be no problem" speaks of an unwillingness to respond to those who do have problems.

TheHeartOfTuxes3 karma


Dogmatism is so revered among many Zen neophytes, but it's neither a positive trait nor an endearing one. It just offers the comforting illusion of certainty. Many students don't realize the strong basis of compassion in Zen until much later.

Good luck to all of us.

TheHeartOfTuxes2 karma

Pretty often we have people over in /r/meditation[1] come ask about their severe depression and whether meditation will help, and I always advise them to tread carefully and implore them to seek competent medical advice as well as an experienced teacher.

As do I. Thank you for your consistency and clarity in this regard. I'm sure you've helped many people online.

I hope that the folks hammering home the "just keep sitting" line take in this discussion. The notion that meditation can cure everything is naive. And while "just keep sitting" could be a good encouragement for strong practitioners in the context of a good practice container, sometimes it's an overly simplistic or unnecessarily heroic maxim. Holding to the instruction blindly could be disastrous for people without a certain level of internal stability or external support.