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Is meditation about making your mind go blank?

dandelionOne of the most common misconceptions about meditation is that it’s about making your mind go blank. I don’t know where this “meme” originated (a “meme” is a virus-like idea which inhabits or even “infects” our minds) but it’s pervasive and long-lasting. I think it may take at least another generation or two of spiritual practice before that notion goes to the scrapheap of ideas that it deserves to rest in.

This mistaken idea is even found in some meditation sites that rank highly in Google, which is a little worrying.

Certainly, we want in meditation to reduce the amount of thinking that goes on. Most of us are plagued with thoughts that arise seemingly without cause. It’s rare to experience more than a few moments without some thought arising. And although this is “normal” (i.e. very common) it’s not healthy. Many of the thoughts that arise in the mind are supportive of emotions of anxiety, ill will, neurotic craving, and self-doubt. So that’s why we want to reduce the amount of thinking we do — to have a rest from this near-relentless onslaught of thoughts.

We can even experience times in meditation when no thoughts arise at all.

Hey, you may be thinking, hasn’t he just contradicted himself? Well, no. Let me explain.

If you think that not thinking is the same as having a blank mind, then you’re making the error of equating “the mind” with “thinking” and specifically with verbal thinking, or inner self-talk. There’s much more to the mind than inner self-talk! There are perceptions of physical sensations, and there are perceptions of feelings and emotions, and of internally-generated images.

When meditation brings us to the point where self-talk ceases, the mind is anything but blank. Instead it’s full — full of an awareness of those sensations, feelings, emotions, and images. I like to think of this as one of the meanings of mindfulness – “mind-full-ness,” or the mind being so full that there’s no need for, and no room for, inner self-talk.

Our inner self-talk, as well as generating or reinforcing unhelpful emotions, also has the effect of keeping us at a relatively superficial level of our experience. We get so wrapped up in what we’re saying to ourselves inside our heads that we often don’t really notice what’s going on in the heart, the body, or even in the outside world.

As we start to pay more attention to the breath, and therefore the body, we find that our thinking naturally starts to quiet down. And this creates an even greater opportunity to notice the body, feelings and emotions, etc.

What happens as the mind starts to quiet down?

And we find that interesting things start to happen. Because we’re no longer reinforcing unhelpful emotions, we feel happier. And we’re free to notice that happiness more because we’re less obsessed with our thinking. So we really notice how happy we are becoming.

Interesting things start to happen in the body as well. Because we’re no longer reinforcing unhelpful emotions, the body starts to relax. As it relaxes it feels more enjoyable to have a body and energy starts to be released. And that energy is very pleasurable, and because we’re less obsessed with thinking we’re free to really notice those sensations as well.

And sometimes vivid and symbolic imagery wells up into the mind, and of course we’re free to really pay attention to that. We don’t necessarily think about the imagery, but we allow it to sit within us like a wise presence.

So all this is going on in the mind, and the mind is therefore anything but “blank.” Normal experience seems “blank” in comparison to the fullness of experience that we can develop in meditation. I’m reminded of times I’ve been reading outdoors and have emerged from the lines of text on the page to realize that there’s a world full or life and beauty around me that seems incomparably richer and more beautiful than the book. And I say this as someone who has always loved reading!

Sometimes we decide it is appropriate to think in meditation. And we call this reflection. This kind of thinking is more focused and powerful than normal thought. We don’t have a constant stream of thoughts running through the mind, but instead we take a thought and allow it to be there, not going anywhere but simply sitting in the mind, surrounded by awareness, and we notice what responses it calls forth. It’s like the difference between watching MTV, with its constant jumping from one image to another, and standing in an art museum, spending time in front of one picture and drinking it in. (Although I’ve noticed that people generally spend most of their time reading the labels of the pictures than they spend actually looking at the pictures themselves — a sign, I assume, that they are addicted to inner self-talk and uncomfortable with actual experience.

So, no, it’s not contradictory to say that meditation isn’t about making your mind go blank, but that it can help us to reduce, or even eliminate, inner self-talk for periods of time. Meditation is about developing mindfulness, or “mind-full-ness.”

Comments

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Comment from Mn
Time: June 24, 2008, 8:10 pm

Exactly..those who experienced it knows better..

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: August 28, 2009, 4:33 am

Hi, I practised a little bit of a meditative technique, only a couple of times, where I focused on not allowing thoughts to intrude into my mind. But ever since that time, this has become a permanent state. My mind is blank (no thoughts whatsoever) all the time unless I consciously make the effort to think of thoughts. Otherwise, my mind is blank. I often experience periods of time where, while I am blank, I forget what I’m doing or stop doing what I’m doing. I can’t multitask. I can only focus on one thing at once. I recently had an EEG done and everything was normal except: I was conscious during the test but the results show that I had fallen asleep.
Is what I’m experiencing normal? Is this good? Can anyone tell me what this is? A permanent meditative state? Permanent trance? Permanent daydreaming? Does anyone else experience this?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 28, 2009, 12:18 pm

Hi Fuzzwuzz,

To be honest I don’t know, but you might want to check out Ekhart Tolle’s very popular book, The Power of Now, where he describes a very similar experience of losing his thoughts (unless he wants to have thoughts). On the other hand, he additionally describes this as being accompanied by powerful insight experiences and by a deep sense of, which suggests that what happened to him is not the same as happened to you. Unless of course you had those experiences too and just didn’t mention them for some reason.

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: August 28, 2009, 8:59 pm

Sounds like an interesting book. What kind of deep senses did he describe having?
I often feel as though I’m purely conscious, and without thoughts entering my mind, I just know things, eg. when I’m talking, I know what I’m going to say without thoughts entering my mind. It’s almost automatic. Although I do have random epiphanies sometimes. People around me say that it’s unusual, that’s all.
I’m just concerned that the no-thought thing is supposed to, usually, be temporary, not permanent.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 29, 2009, 8:39 am

It’s quite a few years since I read the book, so I’d suggest that you read it yourself rather than rely on my shaky recollections, but from what you say it doesn’t sound as if you’ve had exactly the same experience as Ekhart Tolle, although there’s some overlap. Good luck with understanding what you’re experiencing. By the way, you wrote “I know what I’m going to say without thoughts entering my mind” but I’d assumed that was true for everyone — understandings (including understandings of what you’re going to say) come wordlessly at first and then emerge as speech. At least that’s my experience.

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 25, 2009, 5:44 am

I am with Fuzzwuzz I only done meditation a couple of times. This has resulted in me being free from “Inner talk” thoughts almost completely. To be honest it sucks and I have been kind of depressed about it. I hope in the months, or years to come with stopping meditation my inner voice will come back. I knew meditation over time can quiet the thoughts, but I didn’t think completely and forever. Yeah I still think about stuff it’s just those random thoughts that would pop up in my head are gone. Like Fuzzwuzz I seem to feel more aware now. I would do anything to get my thoughts back.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 25, 2009, 9:22 am

That’s very odd. The only time I’ve heard of this the experience of being thought-free has been accompanied by a sense of deep joy. I can only presume this is a different experience altogether, and not one that I’ve come across in any meditation text.

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 25, 2009, 12:42 pm

Yeah it’s really wierd I feel so numb it’s horrible. Is the absence from all thoughts supposed to be forever? I don’t feel any deep joy, more emptyness than anything. I actually cried my eyes out over being in this state I am experiencing. I feel like I am loosing interest in almost everything even women. I am worried and scared I won’t be back to normal. I also worry that now I could be potentially dangerious being free from thoughts. Should I see a doctor?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 25, 2009, 12:50 pm

If I were you I would definitely see a doctor. I’m not sure your General Practitioner could do much more that refer you to a specialist, but it’s worth following up if this is causing you suffering. I’d suggest also that you go further into meditation. You have a need to bring more joy and acceptance into your life. That’s not something your doctor is going to be of much help with. Mindfulness and lovingkindness are wonderfully enriching practices that might help you to see the benefits of having a quiet mind (something most meditators would — metaphorically — kill for).

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 25, 2009, 1:13 pm

So is this “quiet state” forever? Perhaps I just can’t accept this is my new way of living. I truly feel like I am in a dream sometimes and wish I would wake up. It’s like my soul has gone. I also worry being free of thoughts can make me somewhat dangerious in not having a conscience anymore. Many concerns are endless including having problems connecting with women. I for more numb than anything else, I wonder if this is depression, I also recently had emotional issues and panick attacks.

Thanks

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 25, 2009, 1:44 pm

I really don’t know — as I mentioned what you’re describing is unlike anything I’ve experienced or heard described as emerging from meditation experiences. It’s possible through meditation to experience temporary states where there are no thoughts, but these experiences are extremely enjoyable. It’s also possible to experience enlightened states where there is no thought unless one wants to think, but this too is described as being a state of deep joy. Non-thought without the joy is something I don’t know about.

It’s possible you’re half-way to some kind of insight experience, which is why I suggested going further into meditation — to finish the job off, as it were. It may be that there is some kind of alienation going on, where you are thinking but somehow don’t recognize the thinking. This is more common with emotions, where people have feelings but don’t recognize them. But I’ve never heard of alienation with regard to thoughts.

But whatever the cause, I suspect that cultivating greater mindfulness and lovingkindness will be helpful. I’m picking up from the way you talk on a sense that you have a lack of positive emotion — joy, love, etc. I think that’s probably what you need to work on. If we’re talking about some kind of alienation then that will be of benefit. If you have had some kind of “dry insight” experience then positive emotion would help that insight to become complete so that you can be genuinely happy.

There’s little connection, by the way, between verbal thinking and conscience. Conscience is more of a gut sense of things being right or wrong. Thinking is vastly over-rated, by the way. We don’t need to think nearly as much as we think we do. And often people identify themselves with their thoughts, so that they think that if their thoughts vanish then they too will vanish. But it’s not like that! We are not our thoughts. We can lose our thoughts and be infinitely richer for that.

I do wish you well. Please do let me know how you get on, and if you have any follow-up questions please feel free to toss them my way!

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Comment from Grace
Time: September 25, 2009, 2:18 pm

I love how you’ve re-defined “mindfulness” here. I’ve had a bit of trouble over the years with how so many people tend to approach being mindful as thinking about everything, which to me is missing the point! Your comments about the fullness of experience when the mental chatter slows down or stops are beautiful. I spent most of last Sunday experiencing just that sort of spaciousness when I went to the mountains for the day. No doing, just being!

If I may toss a further comment into your conversation with “Calm” – it seems to me as if there is still quite a lot of mental thought stuff going on, actually – no? The concerns that you have about what it means to be quiet inside sound to me like there’s a lot of thought coming up! After all, if there’s no thought, then are there questions about what no-thought means? :)

I wonder what it would be like to be very curious about what’s happening instead?

Just a couple of ideas…hope it’s okay to toss them in here.

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Comment from patricia
Time: September 25, 2009, 2:53 pm

Thank you for publishing your link on Twitter, I found pleasure in reading this post and was able to find a calming or clamming moment in my thinking.
I particularly liked your reference and definition of a meme. I keep encountering the meme that true meditation only happens sitting a certain way on the floor – of course this lets me out because of a strangely formed knee joint I can not sit cross legged and now it is extremely difficult to get off the floor – I always give folks permission to meditate in a chair – straight backed if that feels more profoundly authentic.
I am working at healing my body at this point in my life – primarily of the extra fat I have gained to protect myself – as a boundary, to not take in other people’s emotions – which I just seem to sponge up.
My mind gets stuck on the idea that as each of the fat cells open up and release their energy – I will have to feel all those old emotions again which have been encapsulated.
When I have a massage the old emotions flood my stomach and I must drink lots and lots of water and rest until these are moved on through my system and released.
I have put my evening meditation practice into the 4pm – very hungry time of the day and I now find myself crying and breathing the pain and fear out until I am exhausted.
At this rate it will take me 20 years to let go of 80 pounds and gain my health.
I am trying to decide about giving up my health insurance before they drop me or bankrupt us in premiums or if I can truly attain health by learning a new practice of release so that I can achieve this goal sooner?
I am also practicing by eating vegan raw, which is not exhausting me but is energizing me.
Is this just a meme? and I need to be doing a different practice with better thinking?
I do need to find different boundary protection also, as I went into the opening of a new grocery store the other day and was so overwhelmed and felt vulnerably sensitive to the bombardment of other people’s emotions – I handed my partner the list and left to go breath deeply in the parking lot – this is nothing like an anxiety attack…while I am making changes it is more as though I am rawly sensitive and salt is coming at me…
I am hoping you have a suggestion or two as I am stuck in a way too sensitive spot. Thank you

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Comment from Duff
Time: September 25, 2009, 4:08 pm

Fuzzwuzz and Calm are likely experiencing some form of dissociation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissociation

“Dissociation is an unexpected partial or complete disruption of the normal integration of a person’s conscious or psychological functioning that cannot be easily explained by the person. Dissociation is a mental process that severs a connection to a person’s thoughts, memories, feelings, actions, or sense of identity”

Instead of joy and peace, confusion and disruption of daily activity takes place. Rather than freedom from the mind by releasing grasping, the individual shuts down the mind entirely.

Steve Andreas talks about how a participant in an NLP seminar was able to induce a dissociative experience on this blog post:

Luckily this person’s inner dialogue came back quickly on its own.

These folks might try to consciously think in terms of an inner voice to find out if they can. Try hearing your inner voice saying something like “I can easily notice my inner talk as it arises on its own, automatically.”

If this doesn’t work, seeing a creative psychiatrist or counselor would be in order, especially one trained in Transpersonal Counseling Psychotherapy, for they may have ideas on how to deal with dissociative disorders as a result of meditation.

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Comment from Duff
Time: September 25, 2009, 4:08 pm

Oops, forgot the link to Steve’s article:
http://realpeoplepress.com/blog/silencing-internal-voices

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Comment from Duff
Time: September 25, 2009, 4:20 pm

A bit more research, and it looks like Depersonalization Disorder:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depersonalization_disorder

“The symptoms include a sense of automation, going through the motions of life but not experiencing it, feeling as though one is in a movie, feeling as though one is in a dream, feeling a disconnection from one’s body; out-of-body experience, a detachment from one’s body, environment and difficulty relating oneself to reality.

Occasional moments of mild depersonalization are normal;[1] strong, severe persistent or recurrent feelings are not. A diagnosis of a disorder is made when the dissociation is persistent and interferes with the social and occupational functions necessary to everyday living. Most cases of depersonalization disorder are triggered by abuse, trauma, and drug use, although a variety of genetic and environmental factors are implicated.

…Fears of going crazy, brain damage, and losing control are common complaints. Individuals report occupational impairments as they feel they are working below their ability, and interpersonal troubles since they have an emotional disconnection from those they care about.”

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 25, 2009, 7:17 pm

Thanks, Duff. Yes, that’s similar to what I meant by alienation. I’m more familiar with people having emotions and not being able to feel them than with people having thoughts and being unable to experience them — in fact I’m not familiar with the latter at all. Certainly having thoughts but there being a sense of unreality, and feeling detached from those thoughts, is a form of dissociation or alienation, but these two people seem to be saying they experience no thought. “Calm” sounds depressed, but it’s hard to know which came first — the depression or the experience of a lack of thought. My mother’s doctor kept telling her she was depressed, which was true, but what he was missing was that her depression was being caused by a cancer in one of her endocrine glands — plus the constant insistence on the part of her doctor that there was nothing wrong with her and that all her symptoms were imagined. I’m not saying there’s an exactly parallel, but I think we need to be open to the possibility that people can experience strange things, and not being able to understand what they’re going through can cause depression. The depression may not be a cause but an added symptom.

Anyway, for “Calm” and “Fuzzwuzz,” I do hope you keep exploring what’s going on. It would be worth pursuing counselling or therapy in addition to medical doctors, who can be pretty clueless when it comes to anything that’s not directly physical.

And “Calm,” I do still think meditation would be useful for you, but it would be best if it were done under the close supervision of an experienced teacher. Meditation can exacerbate some mental health problems — and in the event that there’s something of that nature going on it’s best to tread carefully. And meditation is best used as a complement to therapy or medication, not as a replacement.

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Comment from Grace
Time: September 25, 2009, 8:46 pm

Um. Not for nothing here, but isn’t this all getting a little more complicated than it needs to be?

“Calm” and “Fuzzwuzz,” I want to apologize for discussing you back and forth like this! But at the same time, I think what you’re experiencing is – despite Duff’s and Bodhipaksa’s concerns – extremely normal and even common.

The first glimpses of Silence, Stillness, and the Emptiness that’s there when we stop paying attention to the chatter of thought is often very scary to the mind.

So it’s very natural for there to be a lot of reaction, contraction, and fear-stuff that comes up.

For instance, thoughts/fears about not having a conscience any more, as “Calm” reports, are often reported. I’ve heard many others talk about things like this, and although I’ve not experienced that particular fear myself, I’ve run into plenty others of my own.

I’ve also had times that my mind interpreted as half-asleep, disconnected, potentially non-functional, but when I questioned the reality of that, I could see that in fact I was functioning in some ways better than “normal” (whatever that is).

I’m not saying that dissociation doesn’t happen; obviously it does. I’m just saying that my experience points to some simpler explanations than that.

Sit with your experience and observe it, and see what’s really there. Of course if you’re still concerned, by all means see someone who understands meditation and psychology and get it checked into. But why not start with the simplest explanation (and far more common situation) first?

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: September 26, 2009, 1:49 am

Hey, I looked up dissociation and depersonalisation disorders and such, and didn’t find many symptoms that were relevant to me, and still not too sure what these sorts of disorders are. However, this is familiar to me: ‘sense of automation’- reacting automatically and feeling as though I’m daydreaming (minus the thoughts).
Bodhipaksa, you say that ‘Meditation can exacerbate some mental health problems — and in the event that there’s something of that nature going on it’s best to tread carefully.’ That’s a new piece of information for me, and it makes sense too, since I had mental health problems through high school, of the anxiety/depression sort, and they became worse after finishing school. (I did an improper form of meditation during second last year of school). After experiencing worsened mental health problems, I’m experiencing, additionally, memory issues. I have trouble remembering details/complexity, making it hard to function properly because people may take it for granted, but almost everything we do rely on our knowledge of complex material… eg. relationships, employment, study… so I’m struggling right now, and not sure if the memory issues have anything to do with having a blank mind, or to do with mental health issues/disorders, or to do with meditation?
But yeah, I’ll continue trying to find out about what I’m experiencing :/

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 26, 2009, 4:09 am

Thanks everyone for your replies and help I really appreciate it. I don’t know what to do to be honest. I have booked an appointment with the doctor. Even if the doctor can’t do anything I feel I need to talk to some thearapist about this mentally. This is so unreal to me, I know meditation helps to quiet the mind, but let me put it this way I often go through out the whole day without thinking ANYTHING at all it’s like my mind is litterally blank, switched off. It’s like I am dead inside, I care but I am indifferent both at the sametime. I appear to be very stoic most of the time I feel no strong emotion about things, my attraction towards the opposite sex has gone right down. This is very depressing suicide seems like a good alternative because I feel so dead inside. I fear I have become one of those zen monks who are pure zombies and dead from the world and their feelings. Perhaps I should also note that I am prone to depression, anxiety, worries and obsessions. I also have Dyspraxia which is a mental disorder in itself. Maybe taking up meditation wasn’t a good idea for me and worry doing it further will make things worse. I don’t think it’s possible to get worse though because I feel pretty dead anyway. Like Fuzzwuzz said my memory seems to of been affected too, my short term memory isn’t great anyway, but even in the longterm I have a real difficulty remembering things like my last birthday what I did a few weeks ago things like that. I don’t see the point in much anymore. I am not sure whether to talk to my parents about this I think I should because I may of caused some sort of brain damage and that they need to know I may not be the same person I was before. I just feel so numb.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 26, 2009, 10:23 am

Hi Grace,

I really am surprised to hear you say that these experiences are “normal and even common.” I’m not doubting your word, but what you say just doesn’t fit with my own experience. Over the last 30 years I’ve talked to hundreds or even thousands of people about their meditation practice. These have been people who have experience of many different traditions. And until now I’ve never come across anyone who claims they have permanently lost their thoughts — certainly not with the other symptoms described, such as depression. It’s not uncommon for thinking to cease for short periods of time, however.

I’m also not clear if you’re talking about the same phenomenon that Fuzzwuss and Calm are describing, because when you say “when we stop paying attention to the chatter of thought” that implies that the thought is still there and we’re ignoring it. That’s not what our two friends have reported, although it may be that you didn’t quite express what you meant.

So I’m puzzled on those two counts.

I’d question also whether Duff and I are making this “more complicated than it needs to be.” Duff has suggested that there might be a dissociative state at work here. That may be a possibility. It may also be possible (as I suggested earlier, and as you seem to be suggesting) that a spiritual state has started emerging and has gotten “stuck” because of fear. But it may also be possible, for all I know, that a brain tumor could cause the symptoms described. Certainly, Jill Bolte Taylor described how a stroke removed her ability to think, and other pathologies may be able to make this happen too. It would be tragic to suggest that someone just keep meditating when there may be some underlying organic or psychological problem. Life, the mind, and the brain are all complex things, and I think it’s wise to recognize that.

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Comment from Grace
Time: September 26, 2009, 2:16 pm

I do want to be clear that I’m not suggesting being negligent or blase about whatever may be happening.

But what I initially heard Fuzzwuzz and Calm reporting is in fact a fair amount of thought, mostly concerning questions about non-thought. :) Both of them have subsequently expanded on their initial posts, and I agree with both of them and with you that further exploration of what’s happening for them would be a Very Good Thing. As you say, there are many possibilities, and being cautious is always appropriate.

In saying “stop paying attention,” you’re correct, I mis-spoke (mis-wrote). Sorry – didn’t mean to be confusing.

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 26, 2009, 6:23 pm

I am just really confused to be honest I am sure you have all figured this one out I don’t know where to turn. I hope it’s alright If I express my feelings and concerns here. The best I can explain my situtation is. Imagine someone who is completely free from thought all day everyday, nothing they see, hear or generally experience triggers off their mind or “inner voice”, they’re mind doesn’t have any real curiousity or reaction to anything. This is what I feel and what my state is like it’s not that I can’t litterally think of any thought at all that’s not the issue. The issue is that rational part of my mind that would speak out automatically if I was in danger, needed to do something or speak up in interest about something in general no longer does. I don’t know if what I am experience is temporay, normal or something that needs medical attention. I am no doctor or expert but I know myself better than anyone else and what I am feeling doesn’t feel normal and I do think I may have some sort of brain damage even though it might not be fatal. The truth is it’s normal to think and to be curious about others, the world and everything around us. It’s one thing to quiet your thougths and it’s another thing to shut them down completely. It honestly feels like I am half brain dead. I remember waking up and realizing I wasn’t thinking about anything but as time went on I knew this was a real part of me and it was almost like I couldn’t face the reality of what had happened. It’s so bizzare it’s like if someone asks me a question no automatic response comes up in my mind I just somehow know the answer.

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Comment from Grace
Time: September 26, 2009, 7:49 pm

Actually, I’d say that it’s pretty clear from the discussion that we don’t have it all figured out at all! :)

The thing is, it’s your experience that you need to deal with, and it sounds right now like it’s not very comfortable for you, to say the least. For anyone to have a definitive recommendation based on the short exchange here would be a bit far-out, you know what I mean?

I do wonder how long this has been going on? I read back and I don’t see where you’ve said.

You’ve made an appointment with your doctor – that’s a great move.

My opinion – and it’s only an opinion (based on my experience, what I’ve heard others describe, and my teacher’s experience), and it also clearly differs from Bodhipaksa’s, so take it for whatever that makes it worth to you – anyway, my opinion is that what you’re experiencing is an experience that will pass.

I do hear what you’re saying about how strange it feels to you, but I also feel a sense of recognition in what you describe – I think I’ve been someplace similar to where you are. Weird, yes. But maybe something to be curious about instead of worried about?

At the same time, since you are concerned, then I would absolutely get yourself checked out. I really, really don’t think that it’s possible to cause brain damage by meditation. However, as Bodhipaksa points out, you may have something else going on that is causing what you’re experiencing.

I hope this is helpful – and Bodhipaksa, I hope you don’t mind my jumping in here on this comment stream!

Good luck, and I hope you’ll let us know how it goes.

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: September 26, 2009, 10:53 pm

About Grace’s comment: ‘But what I initially heard Fuzzwuzz and Calm reporting is in fact a fair amount of thought, mostly concerning questions about non-thought. :)’
I’m not sure how similar my situation is from Calm’s, but what I mean when I say there’s no thoughts, is that there’s no VERBAL thought… say you’re reading something. For most people, you read the words, and then inside, you verbally pronounce the words in your head, and lastly, you understand what you have just read. For me, my reading something is directly understood, there’s no voicing of the words inside my head. Same with all my ideas. Everything that I want to say or everything I hear, see, read, are understandings, but there’s no verbal description of them inside my head. That’s what I mean by no thoughts. So what Grace describes as ‘a fair amount of thought’, I think might be better described as ‘a fair amount of ideas/understandings’.

For me, things in life do not trigger verbal thoughts, but they trigger understandings and ideas. However, not automatic ones, only when I choose for it to trigger something. A little unlike Calm, I do feel curious and react to things in life. I agree with Calm on this: ‘It’s so bizzare it’s like if someone asks me a question no automatic response comes up in my mind I just somehow know the answer.’
I’ve had this state for about 3 years, so I’m very used to it, I don’t remember clearly what it was like to have thoughts, but from what I remember, I think, uncontrollably, thoughts used to enter my head no matter what I saw, did, said, etc.

I’m not worried about the state, just think it’s odd, especially with the feeling of not being too aware of my surroundings and feeling as though I’m constantly daydreaming.

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 27, 2009, 5:12 am

Okay I am not trying to contradict myself here but maybe I am just worrying way too much and everything is okay. As you can probably tell I am a worrier before and after meditation that hasn’t really changed :) I think by doing meditation I may of just conditioned myself to think less and to be “in side my head” less and it’s made me stop over analyzing everything as much. I think when I came to realize I wasn’t having thoughts as much I freaked out and wondered if something was wrong and assumed the worst. I guess for some like myself realizing you aren’t thinking so much can be scary and abnormal because I am so used to thinking about stuff and being “stuck in my head”. I also thought meditation may of made me into some stoic zen monk but before meditation I have always been reserved in emotions anyway, Clint Eastwood kind of reserved hence my name “calm”. I have also realized something before meditation I didn’t feel that happy, fullfilled, after meditation with less thinking I feel the same way. I have always suffered with poor confidence and self esteem (which is why I took up meditation in the first place) any adive? I am still going to see the doctor just to make sure everything alright.

Thanks again for everyones help and opinions.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 27, 2009, 10:10 am

Hi Calm,

Just to check — when you say you have no thoughts are you describing the same thing as FuzzWuzz was talking about — an absence of verbal thought (i.e. no experience of “talking to yourself” internally)?

FuzzWuzz is talking about an absolute absence of such thinking, where you’re talking about “thinking less” or “not thinking so much”– which is a rather different thing.

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Grace
Time: September 28, 2009, 12:32 pm

Hi, Calm,

At the risk of wearing out my welcome here on Bodhipaksa’s blog…I do have a couple of suggestions for you, since you asked. :)

If I were you, I’d find someone to work with individually who understands meditation and the things that come up as you integrate meditation and the results of meditation into your life.

As far as I can tell, that’s not something Bodhipaksa offers. I’ve looked around the site, and it seems to be focused on meditation CDs and classes and other material along those lines, rather than individual, one-on-one work – if I’m wrong, then this would be one option for you.

I can absolutely recommend my teacher’s work, Jon Hansen at TheRememberingRoom.com. Also, Stephan Bodian is someone whose work is recommended by people I know (stephanbodian.org).

Good luck with whatever you decide!

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 28, 2009, 1:06 pm

There’s little risk of you wearing out your welcome, Grace!

One-on-one coaching on Wildmind is handled at the moment by my colleague Sunada. I’ve temporarily stopped doing that so I can concentrate on my two young children and on finishing my book.

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Comment from Calm
Time: September 28, 2009, 1:45 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa and Grace

You know I don’t think anything bad has happened I can be prone to worry and having paranoid thoughts/ideas. Yes I can talk to myself internally I guess my “monkey mind” hasn’t gone anywhere. I still ask myself questions, make comments on things etc in my head but not as much as before. I guess I have only just started to understand one of the intentions of meditation as in I can be “in the moment” pretty much anytime I wish or I can start thinking and take myself out of “being in the now” or whatever term you want to call it. In all honestly with me recently realizing I am in my head less and thinking less about things It kind of freaked me out because I wasn’t used to having such a quiet mind. I working now on my self esteem and confidence. I don’t know if what I am experiencing is the same as Fuzzwuzz but I can still think I just feel less need to now probably because I have condition my mind through meditation to turn thoughts on and off at will. Have I got this right?

Thanks again for everyones help and support.

Calm

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 28, 2009, 2:17 pm

Hi Calm,

I don’t think you have anything to worry about! It does seem as if you’re just having a little difficulty adjusting to having a quieter mind. We all identify with different aspects of our experience as being ourselves, and it can be traumatic when the things we identify with start to change. In fact a lot of resistance to change is, I’m sure, a resistance to altering our view of ourselves. People identify with particular feelings, for example, as being themselves, and are reluctant to move away from those feelings even when they are painful. It may be in your case that you’ve been identifying with your thinking as being your self, and so when your thinking quiets down you experience a panicky sense of losing your familiar bearings.

I’d strongly suggest taking up the practice of lovingkindness meditation or metta bhavana. It will probably help you feel better about yourself and help “warm up” the quietness of your mind.

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Comment from Calm
Time: October 2, 2009, 4:50 am

Hi Bodhipaksa,

Yeah I guess I am overeating but it’s just so odd in me barely ever really thinking anymore. My mind is so quiet almost a total blank everyday, this is how I live now. Like Fuzzwuzz said I generally seem to understand things and ideas immediately without thoughts but when it comes to bringing up ideas of my own I am slow to come up with them, my mind is quite foggy I am also slow to react to situations. I can appear too “laid back” because I am very relaxed and content. My worry though is isn’t it kind of dangerious to be free from thoughts and thinking? I still can’t believe it is possible to completely stop all thinking. That’s what the brain is supposed to do think. If I do try and think or I have a thought it sounds very quiet inside my head.

Anyway I have been looking a lot into meditation and I have found out some interesting information. Apparently doing meditation or self hypnosis changes brain waves the higher the brain waves are the faster you are to think and react. However the lower the brain waves are the slower your thinking and reactions response time will be. Like Fuzzwuzz I sometimes feel “dreamy” or my vision is blurry epecially when I am outside I don’t always feel 100% “with it” or aware despite being free from thinking.

Sorry for taking over this blog article :)

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: October 2, 2009, 8:59 am

That post that you just did there, Calm, describes me exactly too! Fogginess, low awareness, too relaxed, etc, etc. I find the information you came up with interesting ‘the lower the brain waves the slower your thinking and response time will be’. My reaction time is pretty slow too, I’m thinking that meditation/ self-hypnosis slows brain waves? My query is: Is this good for you? Is there any way to make your thinking and reaction time faster again, lol? It’s a problem for me because sometimes I don’t follow conversations as fast. I sometimes process what they’ve said after they’ve said it. It’s a problem when you have to give a prompt reply…

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Comment from Calm
Time: October 3, 2009, 9:38 am

Hey Fuzzwuzz when I first realized I wasn’t having any thoughts or thinking much I panicked and I actually thought I was going to have a mental break down. I have always been a person who is mostly “stuck in their head” thinking too much. After calming down and being rational I have realized that being free from “mental chatter” hasn’t really changed anything about me. I still enjoy the samethings, I still feel pretty much the same as before. Even before all this happened I was reserved and somewhat stoic. I thought being free from thinking would mean I wouldn’t feel sad or nervous or self concious not so. It’s true thoughts aren’t everything about who you are and how you feel about yourself or things in general. I guess having a clearer mind for one makes me less stressed and because I am more content and have a relaxed vibe I get the females attention :) On the other hand though my thinking may be a bit slower than before but I have had memory problems before doing meditation/self hypnosis anyway. I think we are normal it’s just through us stopping all the “mental chatter” with meditation/self hypnosis it can seem like our mind is blank. I can still think If I couldn’t actually think I probably wouldn’t be able to write this now, I wouldn’t be able to look after myself. I can fucntion through daily life just as well as before. That’s why the inner voice we use to speak ourselves to inside our mind probably sounds so quiet because all those “mental chatter” thoughts aren’t clouding our own inner voice. I have to be honest all the “mental noise” over most of my life has just held me back and I think most of it was the root of my poor self esteem.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 5, 2009, 11:57 am

Sorry to have been away for so long. Weeks can be busy and weekends (especially with children) can be even busier.

I’d say again, Calm, that I suspect you’ve over-identified with verbal thinking in the past — seeing your thoughts as being you and you as being your thoughts. You say, for example, “That’s what the brain is supposed to do — think.” The brain has evolved to do many things, and verbal thinking is just one of them. Brains sense, evaluate, feel, and do all kinds of non-verbal thinking that are actually much more important than having a ticker-tape of words scrolling through consciousness.

I’d suggest again that you explore lovingkindness meditation in order to get you a bit more in touch with your feelings and emotions. It’s those that help us make decisions rather than our conscious mind. People with brain damage that prevents them from feeling can stand in the cereal aisle for literally hours, trying to evaluate which breakfast cereal they should buy. A person who is in touch with his or her emotions simply makes a quick decision based on their feelings — there’s a good feeling about this cereal because it’s the one we ate as a kid, or we have good feelings about that one because we tried it and it tasted good, eg.

As you said in another comment, our subconscious drives us, and the subconscious drives us by way of presenting feelings and emotions to us. The more we’re in touch with our bodies and their feelings, the more alive and responsive we are. The fact that your thinking has slowed down is great, because over-thinking is something that really holds us back. The next stage in your growth is going to involve emotional integration.

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Comment from joe
Time: May 19, 2010, 4:04 pm

i am shocked to be reading this discussion,im so glad im not the only one who has this condition, i found this dicussion by intering ”when your mind goes absent of thaught” into my search engine. i have no voices,no memories hardly at all. its like someone shut off or unpluged my brain.everything runs automatic. im very worried about the future because it seems to be my reality now, i have a wife and child whom i love very much i dont feel depressed. but there are times that im totally brain dead without worning. no emotion, very little memory, no thaughts unless i force myself to have one. what do i do ? i feel it is growing worse. am i losing my grip on reality?,losing my mind?

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Comment from kyle
Time: May 28, 2010, 10:10 am

Thoughts are inspired by putting together what you see and adding knowledge and experience. If you are able to type coherently and present thought, whether it just flows out or whether you have to sit there and dwell on the matter for a few seconds.. is pretty much the same thing. I think you are creating this delusion that your thoughts are “gone” or your mind is blank… But it’s just the fact that your brain is evolving and you are becoming accustomed to the world…

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: May 29, 2010, 12:12 pm

Hi Kyle,

That’s quite possible as an explanation. When I am speaking, the words seem to manifest from “nowhere.” They just appear, and it doesn’t appear that “I” am doing the thinking. I can imagine that when people become aware that this sort of thing is going on, they feel a lack of “authorship” or “ownership” of their thoughts, and so assume that they’re not thinking, especially if they have previously assumed (as many people do) that thinking is necessarily an inner monologue, as if when you’re about to speak your words assemble themselves in an inner antechamber, awaiting their turn to be unloaded. Much of our thinking is in fact non-verbal, and even when we’re speaking I find that words simply emerge as speech without any prior verbalization taking place in the mind.

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Comment from Calm
Time: July 20, 2010, 8:16 pm

Hi guys I am back I still have this “blank mind” problem (I will talk more about that) but I have come across some interesting information that maybe be of use to some of you. Apparently people who lack conscious thoughts and feelings have a “Auto Activation Deficit” or “Psychic Akinesia” here are some articles I found on this unfortunately there isn’t too much information on this condition.

http://jnnp.bmj.com/content/79/10/1088.full

http://sciconrev.org/2002/05/empty-mind-a-brain-disorder/

I honestly believe some of us have some sort of brain disorder maybe even some brain damage. I do believe this “blank mind” state is a permamant condition. Some of the symtons I experience:

Total lack of random, spontaneous thoughts or ideas.

No deep thinking (no real attrachement to thoughts), no daydreaming, thoughts rarely (if ever) trigger any emotion at all.

Constant state of “being”, always in a neutral state unless something makes me laugh or (which is rare) upsets me then I go back to being neutral. Feeling or rather “being” neutral for days is totally normal for me.

Memory problems, difficulty following and remembering conversations, even one on one, difficulties multitasking.

A feeling of no ego, somewhat immune to rejection and little need for aprroval from others because I have no automatic negative voice or thoughts to put me down. So in a way my self esteem is rock solid.

Somewhat blurred “hazy” like vision especially when outside, I can’t read things as well as I could even from a short distant (eg a few feet away) I have trouble reading things in close range.

I feel my memory is worse as well I can’t really remember what I did most days (like last week) I have no real clear thoughts or memories from events in recent times or years at all,

I think I may know what caused this to happen as well (I don’t know 100% but it seems like a good possibility). I remember some time back I listened to some music and just relaxed with my eyes closed (you could call this meditation) I remember some music I listened to made me feel pretty emotionally and I suddenly felt a strange shock or energy shoot up my spine. I swear then everything changed and things just never the same since.

Mind you there is some good to having such a dull “blanK” mind for example I sleep easily and quickly obviously because there is no constant thoughts running through my mind (I can’t really remember that state).I rarely get depressed. Due to a lack of thinking or deep thoughts I feel I make more of a prescence men (especially women stare at me everywhere I go) people give me respect everywhere I go, It some ways I feel more powerful because I don’t have random negative thoughts, ideas or feelings to hold me back, so like I said before my self esteem is often rock solid.

So basically I have apathy most of the time or feel neutral (if you can even call that a feeling because most of the time I don’t really feel anything) I run on autopilot and usually do things without thinking.

Anyway I hope this information is useful for those with this problem, Thanks.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 20, 2010, 10:15 pm

That is absolutely fascinating. Thank you. I haven’t actually had time to read it all yet, but I’ll do so as soon as I get an opportunity.

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Comment from Swirl
Time: July 20, 2010, 11:12 pm

I’ve been experiencing the same symptoms as Calm describes for awhile now eg self-esteem not affected by negative self-talk or by the things happening around me, reduced range of emotions, inability to multitask, memory problems, difficulties following conversations etc and i’ve been diagnosed with schizophrenia and i’m taking medicine. i’m not saying it’s the same for any of you because it might be difficult to describe and identify what any one is experiencing but talking to a specialist about what you’re experiencing might help.

this seems a bit out of place on a meditation website but i decided to add my two cents XD

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Comment from Numb
Time: November 10, 2010, 1:07 pm

Hello,

Since about 1~2 years I experience the same problem as Calm and a few others described here. It is very difficult to explain it to others since it is such an odd state of being but I will give it a shot. It’s not that I can’t think anymore, else I wouldn’t be able to type this but I am somehow no longer aware of my thoughts. I still have the memory of a state of being that allowed me hear an inner voice, back then there were ‘random’ thoughts all over the place. I had no idea where that inner voice came from but before I spoke my mind there always was an inner voice or a recognizable process. Now that inner voice is completely gone, when I speak it seems like an automatic process that’s doesn’t involve thinking. The words suddenly come out, I am not able to back trace them. For some that might seem like a wonderful thing but the downside of this state of being is the absence of spontaneous thought. Forming a thought is actually a task right now while in earlier times I didn’t even have to try, there always were thoughts. Maybe these thoughts are still there but then they are in a closed chamber within my brain, unreachable to me. As a result I almost never experience positive or negative emotions, there are no feelings there only is a neutral state of being towards everything although indifference describes it better. Hiding this for others is easy because I know how I am supposed to react in certain situations. In other words: I am faking emotions. As weird as it may sound the lack of emotions don’t bother me as much as the absence of spontaneous thoughts. Knowing that you can sit in a chair for an hour without forming a single thought is horrible. That’s an emotion you might say and perhaps it is, however it doesn’t really affect me on a deeper level it is just ‘knowing’ that I don’t like it.

So how on earth did it come this far? I don’t know for sure, but I think that it all happened after I tried to shut down my thoughts with meditation. Needless to say, I didn’t want to shut down my thoughts forever. It is quite ironic isn’t it? First I tried to limit or slow down my thoughts and once I reached that I discovered that I actually like having those thoughts. I kind of overshot my initial goal. Instead of having that relax feeling when I temporarily thought about nothing I now feel/think nothing all the time. There are no real ups and downs, everything is in between. The somewhat positive news: since this all started I managed to come into contact with my feelings/thoughts again a couple of times. The bad news: in each instance it only lasted a short time and the last time it happened was about 6 months back. However these occasions proved to me that it is possible to get out of my current zombie-state. The big question is: how? I will give meditation another shot, the only problem is that I am already in the zone people normally try to reach through meditation. Seeking professional help is another option but this issue hasn’t got much attention yet and even when professionals share their opinion on the subject they don’t get much further then depression or a psychosis.

Greetings!

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: November 10, 2010, 5:49 pm

That’s interesting, because the start of this article actually states that meditation is NOT about making your mind go blank ie. shutting down thoughts. A few years back, I tried meditation by making my mind go blank too, just like it was described in the above message, but maybe we’ve been doing it wrong? Maybe what we did was not real, proper meditation? One of my relatives used to practice martial arts, kung fu to be precise, and also did meditation to accompany it (like the buddhist monks do I think), and his teacher taught him the proper method of meditation, and he told me that there is a proper method of meditating, that it must be taught by someone who is knowledgeable in the field, and not to be tried by oneself, because if it is done in the wrong way, things can go wrong.

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Comment from Fuzzwuzz
Time: November 10, 2010, 6:11 pm

I found the following: (I guess these are hidden dangers of this type of thing!)

Swami Prabhavananda of the Vedanta Society (Ramakrisha Order) warns about the dangers of yogic breathing exercises in his book, Yoga and Mysticism:

“Now we come to breathing exercises. Let me caution you: they can be very dangerous. Unless properly done, there is a good chance of injuring the brain. And those who practice such breathing without proper supervision can suffer a disease which no known science or doctor can cure. It is impossible even for a medical person to diagnose such an illness.”

Shree Purohit Swami’s Commentary on Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutras warns:

“In India and Europe, I came across some three hundred people who suffered permanently from wrong practices. The doctors, upon examination, found there was nothing organically wrong and consequently could not prescribe treatment.”

United Nations spiritual adviser and spiritist Sri Chinmoy, author of Yoga and the Spiritual Life, observes: “To practice pranayama without real guidance is very dangerous. I know of three persons who have died from it.”

Hans-Ulrich Rieker admonishes in The Yoga of Light: “Yoga is not a trifling jest if we consider that any misunderstanding in the practice of yoga can mean death or insanity,” and that in kundalini yoga, if the breath or prana is “prematurely exhausted [exhaled] there is immediate danger of death for the yogi.”

Gopi Krishna, another yoga authority, also warns of the possible dangers of yoga practice, including “drastic effects” on the central nervous system and the possibility of death. Gopi Krishna, “The True Aim of Yoga,” Psychic, January-February, 1973, p. 13.

The standard authority on hatha yoga, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika (Chapter 2, verse 15), cautions: “Just as lions, elephants, and tigers are tamed, so the prana [breath; actually prana is the alleged divine energy underlying the breath] should be kept under control. Otherwise it can kill the practitioner.”

Hindu master Sri Krishna Prem cautions in The Yoga of the Bhagavat Gita: “As stated before, nothing but dangerous, mediumistic psychisms or neurotic dissociations of personality can result from the practice of [yoga] meditation without the qualifications mentioned at the end of the last chapter.” He warns, “To practice it, as many do, out of curiosity… is a mistake which is punished with futility, neurosis, or worse [‘even insanity itself’].”

Swami Prabhavananda’s Yoga and Mysticism lists brain injury, incurable diseases, and insanity as potential hazards of wrong yoga practice; Ulrich-Rieker author of The Yoga of Light lists cancer of the throat, all sorts of ailments, blackouts, strange trance states, or insanity from even “the slightest mistake.”

In The Seven Schools of Yoga, Ernest Wood warns of “the imminent risk of most serious bodily disorder, disease, and even madness.”

Read more: http://www.city-data.com/forum/religion-philosophy/186212-can-meditation-bad-you-buddhists-prophets-2.html#ixzz14vLgv3UK

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 10, 2010, 9:25 pm

I think it’s good to bear in mind that pranayama involves breath-control exercises, which I’ve only done once and which I found very unpleasant. It’s also worth bearing in mind that some people will stress that meditation is dangerous unless done under their guidance because they want you to be dependent upon them. I really can’t take the warnings above seriously, at least if applied to Buddhist meditation of the sort taught here.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 10, 2010, 9:52 pm

Hi, Numb.

This is quite fascinating, and I sympathize. I have to say, though, that you’re not “in the zone people normally try to reach through meditation.” I certainly don’t know anyone who’s aiming for the state of numbness you’ve been stuck in. In fact, I practice meditation in order to feel more alive and more loving.

I wonder what effect lovingkindness meditation would have on you?

I wish you well!
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 10, 2010, 9:57 pm

Hey, again, Numb.

You wrote: “..when I speak it seems like an automatic process that’s doesn’t involve thinking. The words suddenly come out, I am not able to back trace them.”

I thought it was like that for everyone. It’s certainly like that for me. But I don’t see it as a problem — it’s just how things are. Words ultimately come, as do all our actions, from a deeply unconscious place, and irrupt into awareness rather than being generated consciously. Or at least that’s my experience.

You go on, “For some that might seem like a wonderful thing but the downside of this state of being is the absence of spontaneous thought.” I’m puzzled by that, since what you’ve just described seems to be spontaneous thought. Could you clarify?

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Comment from Numb
Time: November 11, 2010, 3:06 am

Hello again and thanks for the replies!

Of course my current state of being is not the zone people want to be in, but before I started with some meditating practices (kundalini) I had a so called ‘racing mind’. By meditating I could quiet the mind and it did feel good, at least until it became permanent. Because at that time the ecstatic feeling slowly started to fade until it was completely gone. I think it is possible that I indeed used wrong meditation techniques or even wrong breathing techniques. I was under the impression it was harmless and just something worth trying. What I meant by stating that speaking became an automatic process is the complete absence of thought before speaking. In the past I didn’t think of every word before I would actually say it but there were always (random) thoughts before I would speak. Now there seem to be no thoughts at all.

So with spontaneous thought I meant the appearance of an inner voice which comments on the things that take or took place. I call it spontaneous because right now I can only think when I try hard. I literally have to pressure myself to think while thinking used to be a natural thing that I couldn’t even control. Throughout the day there were thoughts varying from the bird in the garden till abiogenesis and from an event that took place one year ago till something that will take place next year. That’s gone now unless I force my mind to think. How I force myself to think? By sitting down and telling myself to think about subject A or B.

It’s frustrating because I know it used to be different, it is possible that my mind just changed/evolved and that I now blame meditation for the changes since I can’t come up with anything else and because it fits in the timeframe. By the way I also noticed there might be gender differences in thinking, women seem to think way more than men. Some of my male friends told me that every now and then they had no thoughts at all while my female friends stated that they were always thinking about something.

Post scriptum: I will look into lovingkindness meditation, thanks for the advice.

Greetings!

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Comment from Calm
Time: November 12, 2010, 5:42 am

Hi again everyone.

Numb said:

“As a result I almost never experience positive or negative emotions, there are no feelings there only is a neutral state of being towards everything although indifference describes it better.”

I experience this too for almost a year now. My feelings seem greatly reduced I remember when my thoughts used to affect me and other people’s reactions. Thoughts create feelings. Now they don’t, because of this my confidence seems to be pretty solid as it’s hard to be phazed by much anymore. I think this might be because the automatic thoughts I used to have would kick in and put me down, or place doubt in my mind etc. Now that automatic voice is gone. I swear I only have conscious thoughts now, because my mind is so clear I often fall asleep instantly. I feel kind of fearless and more confident because the emotionally energy I used to experience isn’t there anymore. However there are some downsides to this state, for example I think I have a harder time relating to others, I rarely ever feel much strong emotions anymore no sadness, anger, boredom, enthusiam. Of course I can fake emotions and I think I have to at times so I don’t appear too strange to people. I don’t want be in a constant state of apathy but it’s difficult to litterally care and be bothered about most things like I used to. For those who relate to what I am talking about this state is NOT depression, I know what depression feels like because I had it when I was younger. Honestly I hardly feel anything at all most of the time. Does anyone else find since getting into this state people are often staring at you? I find this all the time and perhaps it’s because they sense I have no fear so perhaps I come across as confident to them it doesn’t seem matter how I look at the time either. I still have thoughts but no matter what I think about there is no affective energy behind my thoughts, beliefs like before. I also often have periods where I don’t even have conscious thoughts like my mind is blank. It seems like once you get into this state it’s impossible to go back.

Like Numb has said maybe we did the meditation wrong and perhaps this caused some minor dysfunction in the brain.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 12, 2010, 9:04 am

As someone who teaches meditation I have to say I don’t want to believe that meditation can produce this kind of effect, but I also honestly find it hard to believe that it could.

I don’t think the mind has easily accessible on/off switches that can accidentally be knocked to the wrong position. Certainly, there’s plenty of evidence that meditation changes the brain, but the changes that have been observed have been gradual and have resulted in an increase in positive emotion. I’ve known many, many thousands of people who have practiced meditation for years, and never heard of anything similar happening. My suspicion would be that the fact you guys had been meditating was just a coincidence.

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Comment from Duff
Time: November 12, 2010, 3:54 pm

This is classic psychological dissociation and emotional numbing which is a near enemy of the equanimity and mental clarity cultivated by proper meditation. Those experiencing dissociation and related conditions (depersonalization, derealization) should seek professional psychiatric and psychological help. One possibly dangerous side-effect is going down a path of psychopathology. Psychopaths/sociopaths don’t feel emotions either, making it easy to cheat, lie, and even kill.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 12, 2010, 11:34 pm

I think this could be a bit more than a psychological condition, Duff. One of the links that “Calm” provided points to possible brain damage.

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Comment from Duff
Time: November 12, 2010, 11:39 pm

I’m not saying it’s not brain damage. It very well could be. Many old yogic texts warned against death or madness could be a result of intensive practices.

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Comment from Calm
Time: November 16, 2010, 4:35 pm

Hi again everyone.

Duff posted about Depersonalization Disorder a while back and I recently read about some people who say they also feel “blank” or numb emotionally and feeling detached from their own thoughts. This are people from Depersonalization and Derealization forums. Maybe this is what some of us have? Like Numb mentioned it’s not that I don’t have thoughts anymore but it’s like they are faint, I do remember actually sometime last year I felt like I was going crazy I had lots of thoughts racing through my mind some were quite disturbing and I just wanted to try and keep myself busy to avoid the racing thoughts. I honestly wondered if I was going mad. I actually felt a bit more normal around this period though because I experienced some depression for a while. However eventually I started to realize I had a blank mind, a emotionally numb mind. I think I may of got into this state by questioning things too much myself, my life, reality etc. Perhaps all this questioning overwelmed my mind and it shutdown in someway. I know this sounds bad and coldhearted but I can talk to others and they have no affect on me at all but I know how to act and react to others but they can’t sense I don’t feel anything. I don’t like being in this state at times the mental stillness can be pleasant and peaceful but I feel almost emotionally dead most of the time. I have realized recently even comedies I enjoy watching while they are still funny and make me laugth the feeling of the laughter isn’t there. My concern is that I will be forever stuck in this state of mind.

I am wondering if Numb or Fuzzwuzz have found anything to help with this problem. Perhaps you may of found a way to pull themselves out of this emotionally numb, neutral state?

Thanks

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Comment from Duff
Time: November 16, 2010, 8:56 pm

Calm–sounds like you paid a high price for inner peace. Numbness and depersonalization is not at all the same as peace that comes from calm abiding (shamatha) and clear seeing (vipassana).

“Enlightenment is intimacy with all things.” ~Jack Kornfield

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Comment from Duff
Time: November 16, 2010, 8:58 pm

p.s. My recommendation for those commenters experiencing dissociation and depersonalization (emotional numbness, etc.) is to find a psychotherapist that specializes in mindfulness-based approaches. The only way to become less numb is to embrace your experience directly, with courage and precision. Hopefully in time your feelings will resurface…and if they do, you will need that professional support in dealing with their intensity, having been buried for so long.

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Comment from Numb
Time: November 17, 2010, 10:51 am

So far I didn’t find a solution Calm, when I first posted here I actually hoped you found some kind of cure. I don’t think I am suffering from depersonalization though, the symptoms don’t really match. I am not in a dreamlike state and the world didn’t become less real to me. It’s just the absence of (real) emotions and the absence of conscious thoughts. I am sure there are still thoughts but I am no longer aware of them, like I described before: the inner voice is gone/hiding. Having that said, I won’t give up and will continue the journey until I uncover the emotions and thoughts. How? By trying out new things to see how my mind reacts to it. I am creating my own assignments to try and stimulate the mind. I want to ‘force’ my emotions and thoughts to re-appear. Talking about this problem is only the first step.

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Comment from Calm
Time: November 19, 2010, 5:56 pm

Hi Numb being in this state of mind is frustrating however I believe there must be some sort of answer for us to fix it someway.

I have a theory which goes back to what I mentioned sometime back. Perhaps when we did meditation (maybe we did indeed do it wrong in someway) and somehow we became stuck in this state. Most of the time I feel half alert and half in a daze. Now if you look online you can read all about “Brainwave” states. Basically these “Brainwave” states are what we experience at any given time. Now if you look into the “Alpha” Brainwave state it’s supposed to be the lightest trance state where the mind is fully alert but at the sametime the conscious mind eseentially falls asleep. Hence why this is considered the ideal Brainwave state to reprgramme the mind in. I honestly wonder if I have somehow got stuck in a Hypnosis state (Alpha) because It does feel like my mind is asleep most of the time like you say Numb it’s almost like I am not aware of my thoughts like before. I doubt our conscious mind has shutdown because if that was the case could we function well at all? Could we even work? I don’t think we would. The change in Brainwaves seems like a possible explanation to our problem. Also consider this Fuzzwuzz mentioned sometime ago that he/she had results saying their thinking had slowed down, well again certain Brainwave states can slow down the brain I am thinking “Alpha” state here you can function in this state. I believe we are stuck in some sort of Hypnosis state hopefully we can get out of it and fully feel our thoughts again but the question is how does one get out of trance or Hypnosis state?

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Comment from David
Time: November 30, 2010, 1:12 pm

I believe you have hit the nail on the head there – you must have practiced self hypnosis instead of meditation. In the Transcendental Meditation training programs people are taught that they will enter a thought-free state before they start meditating, and then they experience that. The mind goes “blank” so to speak. It is self hypnosis.

Essentially, you are telling yourself that you have no thoughts. But you do have thoughts otherwise you couldn’t think that you don’t.

If it is depersonalization or derealization, it could be psychosis related. That could be either genetic or fostered by drug use.

If so, some medication would help greatly with that.

When i was younger i smoked a lot of pot and my makeup was such that it had a bad effect on me. I felt as though i was detached from the external world and my internal dialogue which made everything seem dream like, or like i couldn’t feel my body normally. Before this, i had a strong inner sub-vocalism and was quite energised. After this, a kind of witness state emerged which made me feel sad and uncomfortable. Eventually i got on medication and this problem has gone away. I can meditate or practice pranayama if i want to if i feel like it, and there is nothing dreamy-like about it – i just feel nice and relaxed, almost tranquil and i have learnt how my thoughts work and how to stay positive through cognitive behavioural therapy approaches. What i would caution against is meditation at the cost of sleep, or meditation at the start and end of the day when the body is naturally fatigued, because this could cause dissociative symptoms etc etc.

Unfortunately, meditation is not for everybody. The literature on the dangers of meditation are clear and out there if you look.

But i have to say that the article here tallies with my experience completely. What is known as conscious self talk is called Sub-vocal thinking. This goes away in meditative states to some degree and you are left with images and feelings, more “intuitive” thinking, and even auditory phenomena. Collectively, you could say it is a hypnagogic state where the conscious mind or “ego” retreats inside to some degree.

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Pingback from I think meditation has left me emotionally blank – Page 2
Time: March 23, 2011, 4:53 pm

[…] Hi again sorry to dig up this old topic but I think I may go crazy if I don't express my thoughts. (Perhaps I am a bit crazy) What I talked about before, 7 months or so ago and still I feel the same and sense this "blank" dullness of my mind. I have tried and continue to try different things like eat better, exercisng, lifting weights be more social etc. Still the same. The good news is that I have been able to somehwhat feel at times but it's still odd and I don't understand it. For example If I feel anxiety I will feel the nervous energy in my body or embarrasement yet there are still no thoughts in my mind. It seems now any feeling I experience is the result of external factors that are outside of myself (my mind). Does this make sense? The best way I can explain this is that any thoughts I have seem like they have no substance compared to before, my thoughts don't create feelings or emotions which is why I don't seem to be able to feel much emotions anymore. It like the affective energy through my thinking has died or something. I have looked into depression, chemical inbalances, mental disorders etc and I don't identitfy with most of the symptoms. Something is off I can't understand what honestly I haven't been able to feel much strong feelings or emotion for over a year now. Perhaps I did meditation wrong or maybe I went to deep into it? Resulting in my mind becoming forever still? Here is website with other members who claim they are going through the same thing and yes I am the poster "Calm" on the website. Is meditation about making your mind go blank? | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation […]

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 23, 2011, 10:04 pm

I deleted a comment by a “born-again” the other day that explained how the problem of having no thoughts or an absence of feelings is caused by demonic possession. I’d forgotten that kind of thinking still existed. I suspect some kind of neurological damage unrelated to meditation is a more likely explanation.

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Comment from Duff
Time: March 23, 2011, 10:36 pm

While I’m agnostic on the subject of demonic possession, interestingly cultures that believe in such have a 10x higher recovery rate from psychosis than “enlightened” Western nations:
http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/display/article/10168/51596

“Why transient psychoses with full recovery are 10 times more common in premodern cultures. Premodern cultures are more likely to ease the effects of stress and trauma—which may be evoking spontaneous trances—by providing social support and acceptance, altering family dynamics, expecting brief duration and full recovery, diagnosing a “spirit possession” illness, and using traditional healing practices.”

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 23, 2011, 10:40 pm

I’d imagine it’s reassuring to be given the explanation that there’s nothing wrong fundamentally with you, but you are being affected by some outside entity that can be prevented from affecting you. The placebo effect is very powerful.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 23, 2011, 10:44 pm

Incidentally, there’s a great RadioLab show on the placebo effect, that includes (and I think even starts with) a story about a westerner who was initiated into shamanic medicine. What he did was fake, and he knew it was fake, but it still cured people! Here’s a link to the show: http://www.radiolab.org/2007/may/17/

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Comment from Duff
Time: March 23, 2011, 11:25 pm

I imagine it’s reassuring to assume there is something called “the placebo effect” as well, and that we know what this is… ;)

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Comment from Calm
Time: March 25, 2011, 5:06 pm

Hi again I don’t know who posted what I wrote on another forum. The user name “Pingback” posted one of my forum posts . It seems a bit wierd to me what is the purpose of it?

Anyway after all this time nothing has changed from before I wrote here Bodhipaksa as much I don’t want to feel I could have a mental disorder it could be possible I know what I am experiencing (over a year now) can’t be normal. I have tried various things since I was on the here, exercising, better diet, jogging, socializing more etc. This makes no difference and I continue to have a essentially “blank” no affective/reactive mind. I should make it clear though I do still have thoughts but it’s like I’m almost just watching them, I have no emotional attatchment to my mind or thinking. It’s really strange to describe. Looking back now I did try different Hyponosis techniques and meditation practices including breathing exercises perhaps this could of caused some damage. Like “numb” mentioned sometime ago before meditation I always had racing thoughts, thinking non stop my thoughts often affected my mental/emotiona state. Slowly though meditation my mind started to quiet, more and more and got to the point where I only experienced conscous thoughts. Basically my mind is constantly still, non reactive yet I do still think of course otherwise I doubt i’ll be able to work.

I guess though the main thing I don’t like about being in this state is I have NO ups or downs anymore, I am indifferent most of the time to pretty much everything. The only time I seem to experience any sort of emotion is laughter like when I watch a good comedy or something.

Maybe I did reach “Enlightenment” and from I understand it is longterm (permamant).

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Comment from Duff
Time: March 26, 2011, 6:00 pm

“Pingback” isn’t a username, it’s a kind of automatic notification:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pingback

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 26, 2011, 9:19 pm

Calm: Enlightenment has a strong component not just of equanimity, but of positive emotion as well. Additionally, there’s a cognitive leap in understanding, which we call insight. Unless those two things are present (and you’ve described the opposite in terms of the emotions present) your experience doesn’t match the classic signs of enlightenment.

The mind likes to create stories and “explanations” in order to make life seem more predictable, and therefore more secure, and I suspect that’s what’s going on when you’re trying to connect hypnosis and meditation with your present experience.

I think it would be really interesting for you to be studied with neuroimaging technology, to see what goes on when you’re presented with something that would normally provoke an emotional response. I suspect that this would reveal what’s going on (and perhaps even why). I don’t know how you would go about achieving this, exactly, unless it’s through referral from your doctor, and probably via a chain of neurologists leading to someone with the appropriate interest, equipment, and skills.

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Comment from Calm
Time: March 28, 2011, 5:51 pm

Hello again thanks Bodhipaksa for the reply. Well I do think I have reached “Enlightenment” or close. From what I understand those who are “Enlightened” have a silent mind, they can have a thought or have no thought they can control their thinking. This has been my reality for a sometime now. My mind is constantly calm and still I don’t need to meditate to get into this state I am like it naturally. I realize I am not my thoughts as in my view of myself before. My self image was an illusion my mind build up over most of my life.

However it does seem I am having trouble feeling more positive emotions and I know although I get on well with others I am not approachable for some reason actually I would say at times my energy and “nothingness” I project creeps some people out. How can I project more positive energy?

Also I did have some tests done last year (blood tests, hormones etc) which all came back normal. However I haven’t had any scans done or anything like that.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 28, 2011, 8:54 pm

Hi Calm.

You’ve described yourself as “worried” and “scared” and have said that your situation “sucks” that you feel “dead inside” and that suicide would be preferable. None of this sounds in any way like enlightenment, which is a by definition a state free from suffering. I really think you’re experiencing something else.

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Comment from Calm
Time: March 29, 2011, 2:04 pm

I know before probably what I posted was a bit extreme but I am coming to accept this “Silent Mind” state. Through reading a lot about “Enlightenment” and Buddism I am gaining more understanding about this shift I’ve had. I think for while I have been confused and concerned about this change in me and my mental state. I guess in a way I am free from suffering through my mind anyway. No matter what happens my mind is always peaceful and silent perhaps I thought I felt emotionally dead because I know longer identify so much with my thoughts and thinking. I am working on just being in the moment and trying to be positive. I do feel I am close to “Enlightenment”. Surely an Silent Mind is part of this process?

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: March 29, 2011, 11:29 pm

Hi, Calm.

I don’t honestly know whether a continuously silent mind is an aspect of Buddhist enlightenment. I don’t think I’ve heard that explicitly stated in the Pali canon, although it may be the case. I’d certainly imagine that an Arahant’s mind is pretty quiet, since the agitating emotional drivers of most kinds of thinking have gone.

In second jhana there’s no thinking, but this is a state of great emotional positivity. It’s said that one who is enlightened can enter this state (or any of the other jhanas or ayatanas) at will.

Enlightenment is always conceived of as being the most pleasurable state that can be experienced. It’s also seen as being inherently imbued with powerful lovingkindness and compassion.

What you’ve described has some resonances with certain aspects of what enlightenment seems to be like, but the overlap seems to be very partial, and crucial affective components of enlightenment seem to be absent. Also, enlightenment is inherently a state free from suffering, and you’ve described yourself as experiencing great suffering.

From all that, I’d conclude that you’re not experiencing enlightenment, but something quite different. But, hey, I may be wrong. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t even quite understand your descriptions of your experience.

In a way we’re all “close to enlightenment” since it may strike at any time. One minute you’re thinking you’re as far from awakening as you’ve even been, and the next — bam! — insight arises.

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Comment from Calm
Time: April 24, 2011, 2:55 pm

Sorry for late reply. I think you could be right Bodhipaksa perhaps I haven’t gone through Enlightenment as such but this “no mind” state I am in mirrors it somewhat. Also those who are Enlightened like you say are full of joy and happiness where as I often experience a total void no real ups or downs in life anymore. When someone at work or a casual acquaintance asks me how I am in honestly I don’t really feel anything but of course I don’t actually say that to them. I think the most frustrating thing is I can’t find any real answer for what I am experiencing it seems like some sort of ego death and part of my mind has somehow shutdown or died in a way especially the emotional side of things. I clearly remember I used to have emotional/affective energy with my mind, thoughts and thinking patterns. My thoughts had meaning and emotional impact but since nearly 2 years ago it’s gone. In fact what “numb” describes is very similar to what i experience. I do believe I have gone through an ego death because it’s like I can tell myself over and over again how great I am or the opposite I’m a failure etc and I feel nothing towards these states it doesn’t affect my self esteem at all.

Well I don’t know anymore I am just trying to accept this way of life because it seems to me ever since a few years ago I had some of sort “awakening” which permanently changed my mind somehow and like “Numb” said it could be that for reason we practiced meditation incorrectly. I suppose in truth I can function fine, work fine no one (like my family) suspects I something is off with me etc so I just hope I am not developing some kind of mental condition but to be honest I haven’t really found anything that can explain my situation.

Anyway thanks Bodhipaksa and everyone else here for the advice and replies.

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Comment from Raymond
Time: July 4, 2011, 5:02 pm

Hello I am experiencing similarily the same distressing phenomenon as Calm. I have a blankmind which I feel started from blocking the thoughts I had. I remember alot of them were negative so I blocked them and ever since have been blank. I cant pass interviews, have a hard time working, forming relationships. I cant think or form thoughts it takes so much energy for me to form a thought I feel drained. I have had tests done that all came back normal I lift weights and eat healthy. Only thing I can think of is some sort of brain damage. I rememebr over using a muscle supplement I had and had prolonged sensations of dizziness and headache but my stupid self kept taking it until I realized I should stop but have never been the same since. I have been to doctors who just prescribe meds which dont really focus on this numb mind feeling. Has anyone of the commentors been to a doctor about this yet? After all the power of our mind our thoughts, and ability to think creatively is what seperates us from the animals and makes us human so this isnt normal and I want to be human again. Btw I am 22 years old.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: July 6, 2011, 12:11 am

Gosh, there seem to be so many people with this distressing condition. My guess would be that there’s damage to some part of the brain that processes an awareness of emotion, but I think someone really has to study this using fMRI and other neurological techniques. If there has been brain damage it’s worth bearing in mind that the brain can learn to adjust. For example when someone has a stroke and loses the ability to speak, they often regain the ability as other, non-damaged, parts of the brain pick up the slack. Since meditation has been shown to promote brain growth, it’s possible that meditating might be part of the solution.

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Comment from Calm
Time: August 3, 2011, 4:32 pm

Hi again I haven’t posted here for a while but I have been reading a lot about “ego death” and Enlightenment and it seems I have gone through some sort of Spirtual Awakening since over 2 years now I know my posts seem like I was depressed before but I didn’t understand what I was going through. Things have settled more now I have got used to the peace and quiet of the mind but when this happens it feels like you loose emotions but it’s just really that after “awakening” you no longer/can longer hold onto emotions like before. However this is hard to explain to others who are still in the egoic mind and who’s thoughts and emotions control them. After reading through “numb”s posts again perhaps he/she is going through Enlightenment also.

As for Raymond it sounds like he may have more of a medical problem especially the fact he says he has problems functioning.

Cheers

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 3, 2011, 5:50 pm

May it be so!

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Comment from notsure
Time: August 14, 2011, 3:44 am

Hi, I just read some of your posts. I just want to say after meditating with a tape early this year…my mind, memory has not been the same since and has gradually gotten worse. I have similar issues of out of body, non emotional feelings. Terrible memory, no thoughts etc. This all started to happen after meditation. I had a great memory before this. If only I could turn back time. I am in the process if seeing a doctor, got a EEG done and MRI as well. I really do think meditation is very dangerous. That’s my opinion. I just hope I do improve in time. Good luck to the others that feel the same way I do.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: August 14, 2011, 10:29 am

I’d be very interested to hear what your doctor says. Back in the 1960’s, Sangharakshita observed that a few people were practicing vipassana in a way that was leading to alienation. I believe what they were doing was an extreme form of noting, in which an inner commentary on what they were doing (“lifting arm, lifting arm … drinking tea, drinking tea” began to replace their actual experience. So may be possible to practice meditation (or to think you’re practicing meditation at least) in a way that’s harmful. But that was the mis-application of a practice.

It’s more likely, in my mind, that you’re confusing correlation with causation. If meditation was generally dangerous, you wouldn’t expect to see that people who meditated were more emotionally positive (they are), were less prone to dementia (they are), and had better health in a variety of ways (they do). Your anecdotal evidence is interesting, but it completely flies in the face of the data.

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Comment from Raraavis
Time: September 12, 2011, 8:20 am

Hi,

I’ve been absolutely fascinated reading this whole blog which has confirmed a lot of my thoughts about meditation making the mind go blank. I started Transcendental Meditation a few years ago and took it very seriously doing 20-30mins twice a day. At first I thought it was great but then some doubt started to enter my mind. However, I persevered because the teachers were so convincing that it was the best thing that anyone could be doing. I soon began to realise that my mind had in the same way as you other guys gone blank. I had to force thoughts to appear, I felt totally unemotional and didn’t have normal reactions to other people or situations which would previously have affected me. For a long time I tried to convince myself that this was a good thing and that it would be great if the lack of idle mental chatter would leave me free to think what I liked rather than being dominated by my mind. It wasn’t until I noticed that my new state of mind was really affecting my work that I began to suspect all was not well. I am an opera singer and an actress and I started to become aware that I could no longer grasp the emotions that I had to portray in the words I was singing. Everything felt fake and people commented that I looked uncomfortable and a bit dead behind the eyes. I used to be extremely natural on stage and never had a problem connecting with the drama but suddenly it became near impossible to do what I’d always been good at. I then had a break from meditating for a few months and I suddenly noticed a huge difference. I felt more tired, as meditation gave me a lot of energy, but I felt more like a human being again and found that I was able to act and grasp the emotions in the music I was singing once again. To test the theory I meditated before some performances and found that when I meditated I didn’t give a good performance and had to fake the emotions, and when I didn’t meditate the performance felt natural again. Though I generally feel more like my old self now (which has its pros and cons) I am not yet fully functioning and responding normally. I still find it difficult to react to and empathise with any kind of real life drama in the way that is expected. I strongly believe that meditation is the cause of this mind-numbing experience that we all seem to have suffered from and I wish that more research could be done to find out more about it. I hope that you guys get better eventually. Keep trying new things to stimulate your mind! Animals are good and maybe this lovingkindness meditation is better than the stuff we’ve tried.. I’m sure other meditations are definitely beneficial however I wouldn’t recommend TM to anyone. They charge a fortune as well which makes me suspicious too. Can I ask, did any of you who have suffered from this blank mind dis-ease have divorced parents? Just for my own curiosity.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: September 12, 2011, 1:23 pm

Once again I’d offer caution about assuming that correlation equals causation. I can’t rule out the possibility that there may be side effects of meditation, although they must be exceedingly rare, given that so many people meditate, and given that so many studies have shown that meditation promotes mental health, making depressed people less prone to depression, stresses people less stressed, and in general promoting the experience of happiness, compassion, and wellbeing. I have heard, via Sangharakshita, that he observed some people taking up vipassana-style anapanasati in the 1960s and becoming “alienated”, which is his term for awareness divorced from emotional experience. As far as I’m aware, there was no absence of conscious thought in the cases he described. They seem to have been doing an extreme form of “noting” in which an inner commentary began to replace their actual experience of the body. But this alienating effect clearly isn’t an intrinsic part of insight meditation, which is the style of meditation used in most clinical trials, and which, as I noted above, is strongly correlated with the promotion of mental health. In fact they weren’t really doing insight meditation at all, but were doing something rather different.

It could be that the people Sangharakshita observed suffered from a pre-existing disposition toward alienation. It’s obviously impossible to say for sure. But he has always stressed the need to balance mindfulness meditation with lovingkindness practice, in order to ensure that the emotions are engaged and developed.

It occurs to me that I don’t think I’ve asked “Calm” and others what kind of meditation they did, how they did it, and how much of it they did.

In terms of physical causes, I came across a reference in Wikipedia to Athymhormia and Athymhormic syndrome, which seem to share a large degree of overlap with the conditions some people have been describing here.

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Comment from Samson
Time: October 20, 2011, 9:21 am

I have a feeling the majority of these people claiming to have this condition aren’t being honest. I’ve read several of “Calms” posts and his inconsistancy on his symptoms raises much suspesion. For your sakes, I hope you aren’t just wasting bodhis time, he seems genuwine in his concerns.

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Comment from Calm
Time: November 13, 2011, 2:26 am

Hi Samson I haven’t posted here for a while but I do still keep an eye on this post now and then. I assure you I’m not not trying to mess anyone around since around 2 years or so I have been wondering what has changed in me and why. I still haven’t really found a proper answer the closest thing I can come up with is some sort of Enlightenment. What I do know is that since a few years ago I haven’t been the same since, all the emotions and intensity of feelings I once experienced I no longer do. It probably sounds like depression but trust me it isn’t I have been depressed before and this isn’t it it’s something else. Seriously most of the time I’m blank in terms of emotions or feelings, I still have thoughts but they don’t have any affects on my moods or emotions anymore. Of course this isn’t something I can prove to you or even myself but this is my reality everything now. The main reason I haven’t really been to doctors about this is I can fucntion fine, work and think normally. It really feels like more work now though when interacting with people because I don’t feel the emotions I used to feel and I think people are put off by my blank emotionless deamour which I try not to project but as I said as I experience virutally no emotions anymore it’s hard not to come across like this. I have kind of got used to this state though it seems odd that even my family when I asked them if I seemed different and less show less emotion they said no and they don’t notice the difference I do.

Cheers

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 13, 2011, 12:01 pm

This doesn’t sound like enlightenment as it’s classically described. Enlightenment is a state of freedom from negative emotions, but it’s also a state of emotional positivity. Someone who is enlightened is permanently in a state of jhana, which is to say, a state of joy. Enlightenment is also a state of lovingkindness and compassion.

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Comment from Calm
Time: November 19, 2011, 2:11 pm

Hi Bodhipaksa perhaps you’re right I’m not Enlightened and from what I’ve read Enlightened people have increased emotions where as I barely feel anything I know something is wrong What’s worse is it’s hard to connect with others socially like at work and I don’t feel butterflies or attaction mentally when I see women it’s like I’m a walking zombie and I’m sure people are picking up there’s something wrong with me. I mean how can we connect with others or the opposite sex when we are absent of emotions? I wonder if reading all this Spiritual material over the years messed me up psychologically epecially all the talk on “ego death” and “you are not you’re thoughts or feelings” a lot of guru’s talk about. I know subconciously I’m not content because I remember having feelings and now I can’t feel them?

Does anyone have any suggestions on what to? Maybe I’ve just really detached myself mentally to the point I THINK I can’t feel emotions? I no longer feel human it sounds terrible but my grandparents died over the last few years and I felt absolutely nothing it was hard to show any emotion, when I listen to music I feel nothing as well so I’ve stopped listening to it. I hope I can find my feelings and enthisiam for life again what’s the point of living If we can’t feel?

Cheers

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Comment from Duff
Time: November 19, 2011, 3:15 pm

Calm,

Shinzen Young has an excellent video on YouTube discussing something similar that might be helpful:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zIKQCwDXsA

It might be possible to change by looking for whatever fleeting thoughts and feelings you do have and considering them to be real again.

~Duff

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: November 19, 2011, 3:40 pm

Sangharakshita talks about “alienated awareness,” which is something he used to see in the 1960s, when some people were misapplying insight meditation techniques and disconnecting from their experience in an unhealthy way. They ended up being “robotic” and emotionally detached. When I heard him talking about that I didn’t recognize it in the lives of people I knew at all, so it seemed like a rather remote danger, and in any event the kind of meditation I was doing, which included lovingkindness meditation, didn’t include techniques that involved commenting on experience (and that seemed to be a component with some of these people — they “noted” but stopped really experiencing the phenomena they were noting.

Antidotes to this? Mindfulness, properly applied, starts with a full awareness of the body and its sensations. This leads to a greater experience of emotions. So I’d suggest not “noting” under any circumstances, and instead getting into the body through walking meditation, exercise, yoga, massage, etc. I think that could offer a path to being a more fully feeling being.

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Comment from Calm
Time: December 1, 2011, 4:39 am

Hi again everyone I have been thinking about things more recently and I think I have been looking at this all wrong. I no longer experience negative feelings or emotions this is freedom at least freedom of the mind, I no longer have those barriers in my mind preventing me from being myself, no self consciousness or doubts. Alright I still have doubts at times but the differences is those negetive thoughts no longer phase me or affect my state.

I have very recently just let go and feel like I’m being my true self as the self consciouness and negative energy that used to control me is gone. Things are going good at the moment people are starting up conversations with me everywhere I go, People respect me at work and even the customers and I seem to be attracting the attention of women more now. I guess having a clear mind without the negative energy behind thuoghts is a true advantage, maybe a dift and I realize now the only thing that ever stopped me from really connecting with others was in my mind. Now I have no more excuses because those barriers are down. It’s actually hard now not feel self confident when nothnig can affect my mental but I no I said before I couldn’t experience emotions well the other day (I had a few to drink) I did cry a bit (a few tears) I no it’s not manly to admit that and I hardly ever cry at all but it prove I still feel emotions at least at times.

To this day I still don’t really know what happened nearly 2 years ago or so I believe it is some tyoe of Enlightenment

Anyway thanks everyone for your advice over the past year or so this will probably be my last post on here.

Cheers

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Comment from Lace
Time: January 28, 2012, 2:05 am

Hey guys i have a question … i was born with this Mushin state of mind . I mean i have toughts only when i want to … In rest i don’t have at all … i act with instinct … the question is what this means ??

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 29, 2012, 4:59 pm

I don’t think anyone here can tell you what it means, Lace. No one knows.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: January 29, 2012, 5:01 pm

On a few pages on this site, the comments are getting very numerous, and I’m going to draw a line under the current content by switching commenting off. If you really have something new to say, then you can pass that on to me via the comment form. I’d be willing to switch the comments back on if, for example, you’re a researcher looking into experiences of non-thinking.