Author Topic: Meditation and bipolar disorder.  (Read 1282 times)

Offline VitaVoom

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Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« on: January 11, 2016, 01:21:58 pm »
Hi all.

I've been practicing zazen meditation for some years and spent time at my local zen center although sporadically.  Now after being in a pretty bad place for some time with severe sleeping problems I've temporarily given up meditation because when I'm like this, meditation seems to make me hyperactive and worsen my sleeping issues. Haven't touched my cushion for months. I have always thought that I just get stressed out and can't concentrate, but now I'm up for a psychic evaluation... The docs suspect that I might suffer from Hypomania which is a 'light' version of the 'ups and downs' of the bipolar, shifting from hyperactive, restless and even euphoric states to feeling low, tired and slightly depressed. Now that diagnostic thing doesn't bother me that much, but the thought that maybe meditation practice and truly walking the path just isn't for me because I have certain traits of personality really kills me.

Do anyone else here have similar experiences with bipolar disorder? Have you been able to continue your practice despite having such swings of mood? Meds + meditation, can it work? Other meditation practices than just following your breath? Some periods my meditation have been very regular and I've had beautiful experiences, but this always ends abruptly with a change in my mood after which meditation becomes little more than pain and frustration.

Thank you for your time
Gassho
« Last Edit: January 11, 2016, 01:26:06 pm by VitaVoom »

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2016, 07:07:26 am »
Other meditation practices than just following your breath? Some periods my meditation have been very regular and I've had beautiful experiences, but this always ends abruptly with a change in my mood after which meditation becomes little more than pain and frustration.

Have you considered chanting, or walking meditation?

Offline VitaVoom

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #2 on: January 18, 2016, 04:28:07 pm »
Thank you for your answer. Hm yes chanting or mantra practice might be do-able. It's most common in the Tibetian tradition, am I right? I've done the recitations at my zen center and it sort of appealed to me. Walking meditation too but I've only done it as intermission between zazen.

Offline Lobster

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #3 on: January 26, 2016, 01:12:11 am »
You might consider prostrations as this can be very earthing because of its physical nature. Your zen centre might have stylistic differences but in essence is the same :jinsyx:


Offline GatesofDawn67

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2017, 05:53:10 pm »
I am bipolar and find that I often have anxiety attacks and irritability when meditating in groups. As my illness has gotten worse, so has my difficulty with meditation. I am presently working with a Zen teacher, but I don't think she has much experience with bipolar people. Sujato Bhikkhu told me that he thinks bipolar people shouldn't meditate. I have identified as Buddhist for most of my life, so this is difficult to hear. 

Offline Solodris

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2017, 09:56:18 am »
After a multitude of meditation sessions spread out over the divine blessings of having to deal with inconsolable mental anguish, euphoric messianic egomania, periods of haunting anxiety, all while battling addiction. I've discovered that a meditation/mindfulness practice is practically safe, if using one among the ones I've experimented with so far: Samatha (monkey mind purification), Metta (loving-kindness), aggregate mindfulness, jhanic bliss absorption meditation, emptiness meditation, vipassana meditation (observe, analyze and adjust thought/behavior), renunciation mindfulness and chanting practice.

However, if you find yourself being unable to let go in a situation/practice/attitude that produces unwholesome results or suffering, the practice must be discontinued immediately, or ego will manifest and plain out infest your personality with long term side-effects. I would want to add that I deeply connect with your commitment to practice despite mental infirmities. Psycho-analytically, it is a basic need to share your identity with the world, and Buddhism does indeed largely shape your priorities in life. Just make sure you are appropriately evaluated, educated and medicated.

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2017, 11:09:48 am »
I know a longtime serious zen practitioner who is bipolar. He's fine as long as he takes his meds. I would think that developing mindfulness and serenity would be good for anybody.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

Offline GatesofDawn67

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2017, 01:34:47 pm »
Solodris Thank you for your response. It is helpful.

zafrogzen
Every bipolar person is different. I have been in therapy for 40 years, been on meds 20 years, have had three series of ECT and I still can get so depressed I will sleep 22 hours a day and I will be come such an a$$hole when I am in an irritable phase that some mental health professionals have refused to treat me.

Perhaps I wasn't clear about this earlier, although I have been meditating for 40 years, meditating in groups can cause me anxiety attacks, to experience extreme emotions and I had what may have been a psychotic break or an LSD flashback during a Zen retreat. On the other hand, when doing koan practice I had kensho and years later during a solo retreat, I had kensho again, so I have made some progress during this time.

What I was hoping to do in this forum was to connect with other bipolar Buddhists to see how they may have handled similar issues.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2017, 06:21:09 pm by GatesofDawn67, Reason: I didn\'t see Solodris response when I wrote my reply. »

Offline zafrogzen

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Re: Meditation and bipolar disorder.
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2017, 07:55:06 pm »
Hi GatesofDawn,

Quote
I was responding to this by VitaVoom -- "the thought that maybe meditation practice and truly walking the path just isn't for me because I have certain traits of personality really kills me."

Quote
And you saying --  "Bhikkhu told me that he thinks bipolar people shouldn't meditate. I have identified as Buddhist for most of my life, so this is difficult to hear."

I was trying to be encouraging with my comment about my friend who is bipolar and is still able to practice (Soto zen). Some people seem to think that meditation is a cure-all and that they can stop taking medication.

It sounds like you have a strong practice despite your bipolarity. Zen meditation retreats (sesshin), especially with Koan practice, can be pretty intense and might not be conducive to "mindfulness and serenity," at least in the short term.

I hope you can find a way to practice that is beneficial. Intense sesshins can be like the ups and down of a psychoactive drug. I've found that calm, consistent daily practice over the long term is actually where it's at.

Anyway, I'm not a Mental Health professional or bipolar, so I'm not really qualified to comment here.
My first formal meditation training was with Shunryu Suzuki in the 60's and later with Kobun, Robert Aitken and many other teachers (mainly zen). However, I've spent the most time practicing on my own, which is all I do now. I'm living in a rather isolated area so I miss connecting with other practitioners. Despite my interest in zen I've made an effort to remain secular. You can visit my website at http://www.frogzen.com

 


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