Meditation-related challenges

Meditation-related challenges

Meditation-related challenges

Reading the Academic Report: Progress or Pathology? from Lindahl et al 2020

This post offers a reflection on a recent academic paper and may be of particular interest to those who engage in mindfulness teaching, training and practice.

The latest paper from the research group at Brown University (Varieties of Contemplative Experiences Project), who are concerned with deepening our understanding of meditation-related challenges, was published this week. It is important work. Important for mindfulness teachers that we read and learn from this work. I find this work helpful in staying open to the full range of meditation experiences. There is a popular tendency to see meditation through rose-tinted lens – prioritising the positive impacts and minimising the negative impacts. So it can also be challenging to attend to this kind of material. And it helps us to grow our skills and resources in supporting those who may experience or have experienced difficulties in meditation practice. In this paper the researchers seek to understand which experiences in meditation might be considered  ‘progress on the path’ and which may not, and thus, may need additional support and follow up. 

The study is qualitative which means its findings are not generalisable beyond the sample involved but they may resonate for us and offer helpful signposts for teachers in our ethics to ‘do no harm’ on this path. The data came from semi-structured interviews with 60 meditation practitioners and 32 meditation experts from the Zen, Theravada and Tibetan traditions who were predominantly white, from the US and 57% identified as male.  7/10 had expertise in meditation-related challenges that arose in the context of intensive retreats.  3/10 and 4/10 had a psychiatric and trauma history, respectively. 

From my reading, of this lengthy report, the conclusion is that there is no set of universal criteria to easily apply in discerning which experiences are part of the ‘expected path of insight’ and which may be deemed ‘psychopathological’. Therefore, focusing on when clinical intervention may be appropriate is advised as a way forward. Each person’s experience in meditation is specific to their social, personal and cultural context and this includes the tradition of meditation in which the challenges arise and are held. We also need to take care not to ‘pathologise’ human experiences that may only serve to grow shame, confusion and further distress. Listening to and holding concerns and difficulties with calm, care and wise attention is to be mindful.

As MBSR Teachers, we practice being in relationship with participants, we respect the full range of experiences and support those in need to return to the resource of grounding in the present moment. We practice turning towards the whole of our experience from a place of being resourced. We practising knowing how to access those resources when needed. And at times this means stopping meditation and advising medical and psychological support. In the secular practice of mindfulness this is part of creating the safe container together and we cultivate relationships with participants in this intention. Teachers who commit to training and certification pathways are demonstrating their commitment to bring mindfulness to communities in ethical and appropriate ways.

As mindfulness teachers, this report underlined for me the importance of being in relationship with each other too – with senior teachers, supervisors and our peer community, as a means of supporting and grounding each other so that we may serve others in this deep and valuable work. Take a read for yourself, see what resonates for you and reflect on how this work may support your intention, practice and teaching as an MBSR teacher on this path of tending to human distress?

At Mindful Academy Solterreno we are growing our ways of staying connected and in community together. There are supervision and mentoring options available: individual, group and combined individual and group packages.  There are also sit with inquiry groups, masterclasses, retreats and other continuing education options available to deepen further our practice, teaching and community as global MBSR Teachers.

Mindful Directory logo Mindful Academy Solterreno
   

 

Testimonials

Testimonial

I recommend TT3 to anyone who is interested in deepening their knowledge and skil ls for mindfulness teaching.

There is ample opportunity provided to deepen your practice including a 2-day silent retreat at the beginning. The instruction is superlative. The sessions…

TT3, June 2022

I loved how the course was structured. I took TT1 in the intense format of 1 week and TT2 was instead spread over 2 months. I really enjoyed both formats and I felt that TT2 was ideal in this format, because I really had the time to absorb what I learnt in each session and had time to prepare.…

What 3 words best describe your experience of this course

community, support, learning

TT2 Online, Oct 2021

Fantastic course. The structure of each day was fantastic. The days were long but every activity or teaching session felt like it was not rushed, there was spaciousness and yet things didn't often overrun or feel crammed in. Perfect balance. The teachers were absolutely wonderful, grounding,…

What 3 words best describe your experience of this course

Grounding. Safe. Comprehensive

TT1 8-day intensive 

I would recommend this TT1 training course to anyone interested in doing the course. The material is well structured and laid out. It is taught experientially which aids in long term learning. The trainers are knowledgeable and impart their knowledge in showing rather than teaching at the…

What 3 words best describe your experience of this course

wonderful, insightful, formative

TT1 Online August 2021 

Testimonial

I have loved the course. Very intense in a way, but the safe environment and the sense of community that is created around my colleagues and the trainers is incredible and made me change the perspective of being. It brought me to an incredible space of love and kindness. I…

TT1 online August 2021 

Overall feedback

As always it was a beautiful and incredibly rich experience. I have learnt so much for my own practice and also my understanding for teaching feels enhanced. As always there were challenges but I felt held and supported the whole way through. It was always clear what was…

Silent Online Retreat, May 2021

The TT1 online course was truly amazing and beautiful. I can't fully put into words how lovely this course was - although, as I'm writing these lines I find myself smiling as so many memories keep coming up. It involved a lovely bunch of individuals coming together from all over the world. I…

TT1 April 2021

Testimonial
I absolutely loved this course. The trainers really embodied mindfulness and I felt very inspired by them. The course content was very well-prepared and well-delivered. What I loved most was to learn how to teach without teaching! Just gently guiding the…

TT2 ONLINE, Jan to March 2021, 9-weeks

Bodhins videos

banner-MA-solterreno