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Embodied Enlightenment

“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”

Carl Jung

True enlightenment requires grounding and stability. Without these, we lose touch with our bodies, the material world, and the elements that make us successful humans.

The spiritual seeker often tries to detach from problems and people. He or she may resent the need to attend to practicalities and prefer to retire from the chaos of an ever-changing, ever-challenging world.

When obsession for enlightenment controls the personality, imbalance occurs.

The ego goes autonomous. The seeker loses touch with reality, which threatens their ability to survive, let alone create a good life.

What follows is a crisis – the sharp descent back to material existence, the thing the seeker most hoped to escape.

Now they must face the realities of life and the gorges of their abandoned darkness. The seeker needs to recognize that he or she cannot just live in the light all the time. They need to manage their darkness in order to find the light again. It is a hard road, but not an impossible one.

Eventually, there is the realization that authentic enlightenment comes from excavating the darkness.

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Why Mindfulness Is Not Enough

Mindfulness Is Not Enough
Many people come to us for therapy believing they cannot meditate. 

They have tried a few simple mindfulness and breath awareness techniques; however, they tell us they couldn’t meditate because they couldn’t stop thinking. They either feel bored looking at their thoughts, which they had hoped would stop, or they become nervous because they could not stop the anxious feelings, emotions, and memories that accompany these thoughts. 

It is a common misconception that you have to stop thinking to meditate. Rather the opposite is true. When you start off in meditation, the mind will be full of thoughts. This is a sign of success. The attainment of the thoughtless state, the state of Inner Silence, comes later on down the path.

The tragedy is, that because of this initial experience with pure mindfulness techniques, many people close the door on meditation and say that it is not for them. The real problem is that they have experienced only one technique, have not had access to theory, and are unaware that there are many other techniques that can give them a peaceful experience of meditation, even if they are thinking.

Mindfulness is one of the most popular forms of meditation. However, mindfulness, which is really the simple act of paying attention to the present moment and not being lost in thinking and rumination, is only a small part of meditation. It has gained popularity because it has been integrated into mental health programs where it is part of a larger approach to mental health. Mindfulness is not a standalone technique. It supports the clinical psychologists’ treatment of mental illness. 

For most people, and especially in a clinical setting, mindfulness needs to be combined with other techniques that enable you to reduce negative feelings attached to thoughts. You need to combine mindfulness with techniques that enable you to cultivate positive feelings so that you develop a positive sense of self-control. 

Much more is possible if you understand the theory behind meditation. This includes learning about the structure of the mind, and how to apply meditation to the thinking, feeling, and knowing aspects of the mind. 

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Is Meditation Dangerous?

And How Long Should You Meditate For?

One of our students recently wrote to us asking our thoughts about the possibility that meditation is dangerous. She quoted an article that describes the experience of people who had reported that engaging in mindfulness-based meditation resulted in the following negative experiences:

  • strange, persistent and obsessive thoughts
  • the sense of depersonalization
  • extreme sensitivity and vulnerability
  • a feeling of being exposed
  • anhedonia – the inability to experience pleasure
  • lack of meaning and joy
  • loss of direction

Like anything in life, meditation can cause problems when it is misused or misunderstood. If you don’t approach meditation with the correct preparation and attitude, you can become excessively introverted and psychological disturbed. It’s also possible to develop physical symptoms such as digestive problems, joint stiffness, muscle pain and metabolic imbalance.

Yogic perspective on the dangers of meditation

From a yogic perspective, these symptoms are described as excessive activity in the ida nadi, the left-hand channel that runs along the spinal chord, which carries mental energy. There are three energy channels running along the spine: ida nadi carries mental energy, pingala nadi carries physical energy and sushumna carries spiritual energy.

For meditation to be successful it’s important to balance ida and pingala nadis, the mental and physical energies, otherwise, your brain and mind can become over-stimulated, and depleted.

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