When Meditation Meets Mental Illness

Young, spiritual and lacking containment, anchoring

I have often had the privilege of working with young spiritually inclined individuals – many high school and college aged. These amazing people are students of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, Shamanism, Spiritualism and some include hallucinogenic plant medicines as part of their spiritual practice.

Through meditation, ceremony, ritual these people have experienced life-changing and mind-blowing awakenings. They have opened to divinity, consciousness, transcendence of time, space and other 3-D normalities. Their consciousness expanded, hearts open, their young, impressionable minds illuminated with the expansiveness of their experience. Sometimes euphoria and hyper-stimulated awareness overflows; their experiences aren’t grounded and contained, rather, they’re overflowing. In some cases, the profound shift in the individual’s behavior, temperament and disposition leads hospitalization and psychiatric evaluation, medication and diagnosis of mental illness. It’s important and essential to take appropriate steps to anchor and stabilize an individual who demonstrates extreme and uncharacteristic behavior and disposition changes. The mental health community operates very differently than holistic and spiritual practitioners do. The goals and objectives of the mental health community are to stabilize, assess, diagnose and treat. Medication plays a major role in this model. I have no judgments on this; there’s a time and place for all healing modalities, and when profound instability occurs, it’s often the most important thing to do!

Meditation can be very grounding

Please know that meditation is not inherently dangerous. It takes concentrated, focused effort for most to achieve the transcendent states that some of these young people are experiencing.  It is in part their innocence that generates their awakening, and the lack of containment and anchoring is what tips the scales and can cause radical shifts in behavior and affect.

What is vitally important is that these precious young people receive support, training and reassurance that meditation and spiritual practice need not generate mental imbalance, instability or illness. When I have worked with young peopleOften the questions and dialogue that ensues goes along these lines:

What happened to me? I was meditating 2-3 times/day and having some incredible experiences, and then everything tilted and I found myself in the psych ward. Am I really bipolar?

I’ve been seeing spirits since I was little. Sometimes it frightened me to see them, and yet, I wouldn’t want the ability to disappear.  Am I really unbalanced and in need of these medications?

The plea that I am making is that parents and clinical practitioners do what’s necessary (without judgment, shame or making wrong) to stabilize their children, patients.  And then – get these kids in to see a qualified energy practitioner who can teach them energy hygiene and self-care skills, and clear out the residue of their destabilizing experience.

A few years ago,  a lovely young man contacted me after a series of episodes that caused him to be hospitalized in a psychiatric ward and diagnosed as bipolar. The episodes stemmed from his ongoing, intense meditation practice. A beautiful young being, he had deeply connected to the Cosmic field, his spirit or essence, and the expansive understanding that he is one with all. There is nothing unseemly or wrong with any of this. It’s powerful and transformative work! Many adults strive for this awareness, but can’t let go and receive the gifts of expanded consciousness. Yet he also knew that he had crossed some sort of line and was unable to find his way back to grounded awareness and ‘normal’ reality. His energy and emotions were highly irregular, and he felt as though he was swinging wildly from one experience to another.  He lacked embodiment, and his energetic boundaries were virtually non-existent. He was abundantly clear that his diagnosis was the best that the therapeutic model could offer, and he’s grateful for the intervention that took place to stabilize him. Yet he knew that his experience was not about mental illness.

With his psychiatrist’s help, he weaned off of the medications and studied energy clearing skills through the CLEAR course. He received practical tools for self-care and hygiene, is now anchored deeply in his body, and has a more refined spiritual practice. He is NOT bipolar. He is completing his college education, and is once again in his life in profound and beautiful ways.

Anchoring spiritual practice is essential

These young people are our future.  They deserve to be honored for their commitment to themselves and to conscious awareness.  And they need to be supported in their practice with clear, coherent tools and resources to handle their energy bodies effectively.

This is a call to clinical professionals and parents to look beyond the therapeutic model and the diagnosis of mental illness.  We can help young people get the training and information they need to heal, grow and work with meditation and spiritual practice through embodied awareness. Imagine having adjunct staff skilled in chakra-based energy therapies in psychiatric settings to support people who have these intense spiritual awakenings!  What a gift to the mental health community and their patients.

Do you have a story about how energetic self-care helped you or someone you know find their way into deep, embodied spiritual practice?

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4 thoughts on “When Meditation Meets Mental Illness”

  1. This is such an important and (characteristically) well written piece. I wish it could be broadcast somehow to parents everywhere. It clarifies. It reduces fear. It offers an alternative perspective and hope around the stigma of mental illness. Will keep it on hand as a future resource.

    • Thanks, Blair. I agree. Parents often feel helpless and uninformed when their children, teens, young adults have these transcendent experiences. Yet healers well versed with energy hygiene protocols and practices can make an enormous difference in the healing process – the whole family, in fact. Please feel free to forward this on to anyone who would benefit. I’ll look into publication in therapeutic and parenting journals.

  2. I had a spontaneous Kundalini rise in a Pranayama class in my 20’s. It opened all my circuits and I was seeing/hearing things I had no idea what to do with. I thought I was going crazy, so I went to a therapist. Luckily she recognized what had happened and suggested I see a colleague of hers who did energy work and taught energy healing.

    It made all the difference. I needed to learn how to shut the circuits back down, to selectively open them. I wasn’t crazy, I just had a very intense spiritual opening before I had the skills to manage it.

    Such important work you are being called to here.

    • Hi Christine,
      Thanks for sharing your experience with us. It’s clear you are well-versed in what I described in my post. How wonderful that your therapist was so well attuned to what you had experienced, and that the energy body needed support and management while you soothed your psyche through the realization that you weren’t mentally ill or unbalanced. Shutting the circuits down, opening selectively is energy hygiene of the highest order. People have no idea how differently they could experience themselves and their lives through the simple process of selectively opening and closing the circuitry of the chakras.


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