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 Healthcare - Holistic and Modern
 mental illness and deep meditation
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93 Posts

Posted - Jan 18 2015 :  1:33:16 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Message
My mother has been taking medication for mental illness for more than 25 years. She leads a normal life, held a job for about 35 years, although she was never completely off medication during the past 25 years.

A few months ago, I introduced AYP to her and she read many of the small books in the AYP enlightenment series and practiced deep meditation once a day for about 3 months. She however had problems with spinal breathing and could never take up that practice. Even with a couple of breaths imagining light traveling from the root to the point between the eyebrows, she developed severe back pain which lasted for several days and eventually had to stick to just deep meditation

A month ago, she felt things were not going smoothly as she was beginning to hallucinate, developing some sort of fear and she had to stop deep meditation altogether. As per the advice from the doctor, she had to go on a slightly higher dosage of her usual tablets and additional medication for anxiety and insomnia. The unstable period lasted for a couple of weeks, and now she is functioning normally, although the extra medication has not been reduced. She is eager to take up deep meditation once again, but I am not sure if it would be wise.

I should also add that she has been inclined to spiritual matters for the past 4-5 years and has been doing a lot chanting (e.g., Lalitha Sahasra Nama etc) daily. Not sure if that plus AYP deep meditation could have led to some sort of overload.

I would like to know if anybody here had similar experiences and in general what the AYP advice is for spiritual aspirants who are on medication for mental illness.


Edited by - dv2014 on Jan 18 2015 1:37:01 PM


342 Posts

Posted - Jan 18 2015 :  4:08:44 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Sorry to hear about your mother's difficulties. Meditation and other intense spiritual practices are usually discouraged for those with any severe mental illness, such as any with the manifestations of psychosis. (there sometimes seems a fine line between psychosis and some spiritual experiences - other symptoms must be in place) Perhaps your mother could stick with low key type bhakti practices or being outdoors in nature could be a spiritual practice, music, singing, anything that inspires or has great beauty. My son has a severe form of schizophrenia and I would love it if he could be helped by practices but that is not the case. However the environment in our home reflects a spiritual intent, lots of love, and we are out in the country - clean air, quiet, animals etc. Whatever helps to keep your mother mentally and emotionally stabilized is what is best for her. Usually that comes down to environment and medication. My son is on medication but over time the amount has decreased due to a safe and unstressed environment. I would really encourage your mother to find a less labile spiritual practice.
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123 Posts

Posted - Jan 18 2015 :  9:49:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
My depression (severe) was completely gone with DM +Kriya. My cousin is on anti-psychotics for 10+ years just from doing axcessive mantra chanting(possible shaktipat involved) .

I really feel a depression can be cured by meditation (no scientific support but one realizes that current probs are not great and there is a better state possible) but have doubts about other disorders like bipolar (have a friends son completely into Bhakti, no desire to live in normal society)[

So,tread carefully. There might be a best solution for a particular problem, but each Uncommon/severe problem needs attention of an experienced One

Edited by - NoDogma on Jan 18 2015 10:20:17 PM
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93 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  12:35:33 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you Little Turtle and NoDogma for sharing your thoughts.

Little Turtle - sorry to hear about your son's illness, but it must be a great relief to you that he is feeling better in a stress free environment.

My mother is quite normal and no one would suspect she has any difficulties; but it is just that her neurobiology requires some supplements for a stable chemistry. At least that's what the doctor says. And it is lithium carbonate that she is prescribed to.

Although she went through some difficulties for a few days recently, she felt she was intact internally throughout, and was in a state where she could sort of observe herself. This, she says, was not the case when she had difficulties in the past, prior to taking up AYP DM. During such periods (last such episode was at least 4-5 years ago), she would completely lose herself and would not be able to recall much after recovery. This time, it was more like a hazy screen and she could still see through and watch what's going on around her. She is sort of convinced that DM helped in recovering fast and is keen on continuing the practice.

NoDogma - your story is really inspiring. I was also hoping my mother could be off medication eventually. But not really sure if she is ready for DM ...
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484 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  12:47:31 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Hi dv2014,

It sounds like the decision is ultimately your mother's. Frankly, I do not know the specific AYP position on this. I personally think that psychotropic drugs are very dangerous, irresponsibly prescribed, and irresponsibly perceived.

Praying for everyone who suffers.

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342 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  2:33:04 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
I hope things continue to improve for your mother. Forgive me for offering unsolicited advice but I do hope your mother's doctor monitors her kidney labs often (Lithium). At the very least every 3-4 months. This is sometimes overlooked unfortunately but very important. And it would be good to hear later on how she does wile continuing with deep meditation. Cheers.
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93 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  6:22:54 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks Anima. And Thanks for the word of caution, Little Turtle. I am going to ask her about kidney tests. Not sure if she gets that done regularly. Thanks!

As for the meditation, I am searching for other formats, possibly less advanced. One such option may be Amma's (Mata Amritanandamayi) 'Ma Om' meditation, which I vaguely recall in an interview Amma recommended for everyone. I am yet to collect authoritative details on that; I will post when I have more details. For now, a google search brought up the below link, which may be useful:
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351 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  6:32:13 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Moderator note: Topic moved for better placement
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123 Posts

Posted - Jan 19 2015 :  10:22:35 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
My knowledge of lithium carbonate is limited to bipolar disorder. Is that what she is being treated for ?
You might have already found out that it is a disorder quite difficult to pinpoint or diagnose exactly.

My Friends son has bipolar. He dropped out of school and just keeps doing mantra. He is on meds also. The meds numb him, keep him calm.

I don't see anything wrong in living with prescribed drug if the life looks good.... I took prozac for more than 12 years before finding correct form of meditation. was also in psychotherapy that long. It was a good time, but I wanted different.


Edited by - NoDogma on Jan 20 2015 05:47:15 AM
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small paws

United Kingdom
2 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  09:12:12 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply

If it would be of use to you, your mother and other users of this forum, I would like to share my research and personal (subjective) experience of practicing AYP (and other spiritual practice) whilst also having experienced severe mental illness.

Unhappily, I have some pressing work to do at the moment, but I will endeavour to post on here later today, or failing that tomorrow.

I will just say that your mother shouldn't do anything rash without first being as informed as possible. I recommend reading Grof & Grof's 'The Stormy Search for the Self' and Ken Wilber's 'The Atman Project' (esp. Chapter 17 'Schizophrenia & Mysticism'), both of these books were immensely useful to me during my ongoing 'healing journey' and return home.

Anyway, until later,
Best Wishes

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United Kingdom
1729 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  10:26:13 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Best wishes and prayers to all of you who have been touched by mental illness.
I love your post NoDogma - good on prozac and good being free of it too

Dv2014, has your mother considered breath focused meditation? To my knowledge, mantra meditation is the strongest form there is. Perhaps a gentler form would be better as a starting point? You will find details about it here (second half of the lesson)

It sounds like spinal breathing could be stirring up some severe stresses or emotional issues in your mother. I had this experience (back pain too) and had to proceed ever so gingerly with my SBP.

It seems the psychiatrist does not consider psychosis to be her problem (judging by her medication). For depression and mood disorders meditation is a widely accepted treatment. I hope your mother finds a form of meditation that strikes the balance between gentle and effective.
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342 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  1:28:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Psychosis can occur in any of the extremes of mental disorder - depression, bi-polar, anxiety - even if very briefly.
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United Kingdom
1729 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  3:00:22 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Very true LittleTurtle.
I was focusing on the primary diagnostic because that makes a difference to whether meditation is considered/accepted as a possible treatment option or not. You will find that psychiatrists are generally happy with mood disorder patients practising meditation, but if the diagnostic is squarely in the area of psychosis (hallucinations and delusions), there is no research to support the idea that meditation helps. In fact there is apprehension that deep meditation will make matters worse, at least at an initial stage, with no predictable results later on.

Of course even in bipolar disorder, it does matter how often patients have hallucinations or delusional episodes. Not clear cut, I agree, but on balance it might be worth trying a lighter form of meditation. If breath focused meditation is still to intense for dv2014's mom, a guided meditation like loving kindness (metta bhavana) could be suitable. I remember seeing a small study on this and it looked liked the psychotic subjects involved were safe practising it.

Of course it's up to dv2014's mom how much risk she is prepared to take. Guided meditation would reduce the risk of a new psychotic episode, but it is less effective as meditation goes.

Edited by - BlueRaincoat on Jan 20 2015 3:21:01 PM
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small paws

United Kingdom
2 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  6:18:15 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply

"I would like to know if anybody here had similar experiences and in general what the AYP advice is for spiritual aspirants who are on medication for mental illness." -dv2014

I am very anxious to write about my experiences in a public forum, but I do fit the criteria of being a "spiritual aspirant" who has been, or continues to be, on medication (albeit a minuscule dose) for "[severe] mental illness". I think I owe it to the people, like myself, who have struggled with great suffering and uncertainty to give a message of help ...and possibly hope.

To answer your query, yes, I feel that practices such as Deep Meditation (DM) and Spinal Breathing Pranayama (SBP) do shake the personality and *can* do so to the point of collapse. Especially this is the case if the personality is 'damaged' or its foundations are weak (e.g. in the case of severe mental illness). In such cases, I would recommend that the "aspirant" strengthen their ego first before undertaking DM and especially before undertaking SBP! Personally, I would recommend gentle meditative practice such as breath meditation (e.g. anapanasati) and psychotherapy to strengthen relatedness (so often over-looked). In addition, achieving victories in the world will build a sense of accomplishment and a stronger sense of self. You need a strong sense of self, a strong ego, before you go on the next portion of the journey.

(In transcendent practice, the ego is stretched and has to learn to let go. The 'ego' of a damaged personality is inflexible and if it 'lets go', the personality structure risks falling apart.)

Having said the above, I also strongly believe that meditation can bring about great healing of the personality in its own right. I believe that even the 'healthiest' person has many repressed elements that require healing. The eminent Transpersonal Psychologist, Ken Wilber, recommends what he calls 'shadow work' to get at the repressed elements of the personality, but he recommends it in combination with meditation. Meditation makes you better able to accept these disowned parts of your experience/self, even if it doesn't release them primarily. Nowhere is this 'shadow work' more important than for someone experiencing 'mental illness' and, I would recommend, that it should be done before more intensive 'transcendent practices' (like DM and SBP) are attempted.

To recap, meditation is good, especially in combination with psychotherapeutics, medication (in low doses if required) and a stress-free environment. However, using intensive meditative techniques such as DM should be approached with discernment and sensitivity. It is possible that DM simultaneously releases the repressed issues and transcends them, but I don't have enough experience to say this with any conviction. SBP on the other hand should only be attempted with great care, because you risk a premature Kundalini awakening.

Kundalini (K) may be a very powerful trans/non-personal energy that may heal the body and the personality, but it is brutal. K takes no prisoners. If you are experiencing mental illness and have a premature rising of Kundalini, you risk your whole personality structure topling (psychosis) as the energy tears through the body and mind, restructuring as it goes. Although it is arguably healing/restructuring, it is a terrifying ordeal, one I wouldn't recommend, even to the most foolhardy (and damaged) spiritual seeker. This, I believe, is what happened to me at the age of 21. A premature K awakening initiated as a response to impossible life stress events. As you would expect, my terrified parents and doctors had me hospitalised and put on a regime of strong medication. There is hope though, I have had tremendous healing brought about by K, it is just terrifying n the initial stages. But it seems to get gentler and easier as you are transformed from the inside out!*

*again, I wouldn't recommend it as your go to method of resolving mental illness

Anyway, I hope that helps you and your Mum (and in fact anyone who come across this information and is looking for reassurance)
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342 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  6:18:47 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
i think we are simply repeating what the other has said BlueRaincoat. at any rate i feel that the original poster now has info to proceed with. cheers
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123 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  10:10:23 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
just couple of more pts:

There were few times in last 20 odd years when I had realized that it will not be my problem once I cross the line .... I was making it my problem because I felt I was on the border and was trying to make sure I didn't cross it... once I cross it, it's their problem ;-) ... how can the wise blame/ridicule a mad-person for being mad ?

from my experience, if you've serious disorder then a therapist who has experienced these practices (a lot of parallel ones exist .... mine has suffi knowledge/teachings even though she is Christian) is a possible good guide rather than a spiritual guru who might not know about disorders or (s)he might be one with schizzo etc.

In the end, even a so called normal person needs to take it slow and self-pace... and quite often, only that person knows how fast it can be.

Edited by - NoDogma on Jan 20 2015 10:35:19 PM
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93 Posts

Posted - Jan 20 2015 :  11:12:38 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thank you all so very much for all the feedback!

NoDogma: Yes, I believe my mom's initial diagnosis was bipolar, although she hasn't had extreme mood swings. But again, I have felt the mainstream psychiatrists are eager to prescribe medication without spending enough time with the patient.

small paws: so kind of you to share your thoughts and experiences. I am glad you came out of your difficulties successfully. I guess my mom's experience also tells that intensive meditation techniques are not for everybody. What you said about ego/self esteem resonates with my observations as well. For example, My mom is generally of low self esteem and is highly sensitive and I have sensed that she often becoming even more sensitive as a result of her spiritual practices. So it seems building a strong base/anchor with healthy self esteem may be the priority for such individuals. I hate to connect it with chakras (with my limited knowledge on the subject) - but I have often felt that people like my mom (that includes me as well) lack healthy functioning of the lower chakras, but think of themselves as upper chakra persons, incorrectly so. They are perhaps eager to evolve to higher levels, to be selfless etc, but without a heathy sense of self they are always up in the air, never able to achieve anything substantial and thereby never building a strong healthy self esteem.

BlueRaincoat: Thanks for your thoughts and info on breath meditation.
I am thinking I will suggest my mom to take a break from DM. Perhaps guided forms would be helpful - I will update what we find and how our experience goes with this ... if that would be helpful to others.

Thanks all

Edited by - dv2014 on Jan 21 2015 09:49:43 AM
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67 Posts

Posted - Feb 10 2015 :  7:17:53 PM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Here is my two cents. Screw the Doctors, awakening requires courage and strength. Use the 12 steps to tackle the mental illness, which is all the crap that is blocking her higher self. If she is determined enough she can see past the monkey mind and break free of it ccmpletely, look at Eckhart Tolle.
Fatih, BAHKTI,
do not settle for anything but the Divine
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1 Posts

Posted - Mar 10 2015 :  02:38:45 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
The problem with medication is that it can treat the symptoms of mental disorders, but cannot address the underlying cause. Medicines provide relief only by desensitizing the brain sensors and thus, the solution is temporary. Moreover, there are a number of side effects of medication. As the chemicals in the medicines are absorbed into the cells via the blood stream, it can cause damage to kidney, heart, liver and brain chemistry.

As far as the alternative methods or complementary medicine is concerned, they can be very helpful in alleviating mental health disorders.
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93 Posts

Posted - Mar 10 2015 :  08:29:59 AM  Show Profile  Reply with Quote  Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks mouni and KarenVic for your thoughts.

Just to update on the situation, my mom is not doing any kind of meditation currently. I hope she can give a try to breath meditation later when her medication gets stabilized to a fixed dose.

Alternative therapy may be there as mouni said, but for someone who has been taking western medicine for such a long time, not sure how that transition would be, and how smooth that will be. Will have to find a knowledgable doctor who is confident about alternative therapy.
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