Meditation For Dummies
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Like any powerful technique with such well-researched benefits, meditation comes with some caveats and occasional adverse reactions, especially when practiced intensively for extended periods of time. Meditation is not necessarily the best practice for everyone all the time! Besides, the techniques for working with persistent patterns may prove inadequate for dealing with certain deeply rooted issues that are more problematic and resistant to change.

For example, you should probably ease into meditation slowly and cautiously if you happen to have a history of mental health problems like bipolar disorder (manic depression), severe depression, psychotic episodes, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). If you take psychoactive drugs like antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, or you’re working with a psychotherapist or psychiatrist, you should talk with your healthcare professional about your plan to give meditation a try.

Meditation does have a tendency to bring to the surface — or, as they say in psychology, derepress — potentially unpleasant or unsettling emotions and memories. This process, called spontaneous release, is generally a beneficial one, but it may require special handling and support, and it’s best to be aware beforehand and assess whether you’re ready to deal with what may arise.

If you start to feel overstimulated or overwhelmed while meditating for any reason, don’t hesitate to ease up on your practice or stop entirely until you feel more balanced, grounded, and relaxed. Instead of mindfulness, you may want to switch to a deep relaxation exercise or body scan. And if you continue to have difficulty with persistent painful patterns of thinking or feeling, by all means feel free to consult a therapist.

People who attend lengthy meditation retreats often experience short-lived side effects like anxiety and disorientation that may continue even after they’ve left. For this reason, it’s important to have an experienced teacher when you venture beyond a daily practice into more intensive terrain.

As necessary as these caveats may be, take them with a grain of salt, like the disclaimer on a supplement label. For the vast majority of people, when taken at the recommended daily dose, meditation is perfectly safe and more effective than any other technique known for delivering a host of well-documented mind-body benefits.

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Stephan Bodian is an internationally known author, psychotherapist, and teacher. He leads regular intensives and retreats and offers spiritual counseling and mentoring to people throughout the world. His bestselling app Mindfulness Meditation (with Mental Workout) has been praised in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

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