I can still hear the words of my grandmother ring in my ear: ‘Too much of a good thing, is a bad thing!’ Is that really true? Can you meditate too much? Can you do too many affirmations? Can you do too many visualizations?
You most certainly can meditate too much. Too much meditation can lead to social withdrawal, a lack of motivation and damage to your sense of self. It can also make you re-live negative emotions and experiences that you may not be able to deal with constructively.
A 2017 study also revealed that some people who are ‘addicted’ to meditation experienced hallucinations and panic attacks – but this certainly is at the extreme end of the spectrum.
The big issues that comes up is how much is too much?
Like everything in life there is an optimal level at which to do it. If sugar makes bitter coffee taste better, then can you simply add more and more sugar to keep improving the taste, right?
At some point there will be a threshold where you create the opposite effect. Instead of making it taste better you will actually start making it taste worse.
If meditation has all these amazing benefits, can you simply keep doing more of it to keep piling on the benefits?
Is there a threshold where it actually creates the opposite effect? Is there a point where too much meditation becomes ‘bad’ for you?
Meditating Too Much And Doing Too Little
When I was in my 20’s I had a good friend who was severely overweight. She was an emotional eater and just could not stop herself. Most week nights would end in a trip to the local burger joint where she would finish a family meal by herself.
Weekends would be worse.
It would involve drinking as well. She was incredibly smart, talented and had a high profile job as a lawyer – way above everyone else at her age.
When you walked into her apartment it was filled with self help books. She was a prolific reader. She read every self help book on weight loss she could find. She knew everything about self hypnosis, NLP, affirmations, visualization…you name it, she knew it in-depth.
The problem is that she simply could not apply any of this knowledge. She knew a lot and did everything except for the one thing that really matters.
She did not want to take the leap and actually apply all this knowledge to make a real and concrete difference in her life.
The lesson with the story is that you can meditate for 20 hours a day and you may gain a lot from it in general terms.
Until and unless you take what you learn and gain from meditation out into the real world and into your life, itrs value to you will be very limited.
Ultimately you want to take what you ‘learned’ from meditation out into your everyday life. When you are in meditation you can suspend a lot of the issues you face in your life ‘outside’. It can become an escape.
One of the reasons why many people start meditating too much is because they become addicted to being ‘in meditation’.
Like my friend, reading about solving the problem is much easier than actually solving the problem. You still feel like you are doing something about it.
In your mind you at least feel like you are addressing the issue(s) but in reality you are not.
Can Too Much Meditation Be Harmful?
There is no denying the fact that meditation is good for you. The mental, emotional and physical benefits are not only obvious, but have all been proven in numerous studies.
This age old practise has been used to heal emotional and physical ailments for more than 2500 years. It is only in the last 50 years that the idea of meditation became more mainstream in the western world and many have embraced the practise.
And it was about time!
Our western world has many issues that can easily be addressed through meditation. Mental health has become a big problem due to our personal, professional and social lifestyles.
Through meditation we can not only alleviate many of the symptoms but we can cure them to a certain extent.
Meditation feels good and because it offers an escape from may of the issues we face in the real world it can become addictive for some people. This is when it certainly can become an issue and where you can meditate too much.
If you do meditate too much, then these are the 5 most common issues you will face.
1. Re-live Negative Memories and Emotions
Meditation can bring up many suppressed emotions, memories or even traumas. The mind has the ability to suppress bad experiences. It’s a sort of survival mechanism.
During meditation the mind can ‘free up’ and you can ‘remember’ a lot of things that you may have either forgotten or suppressed completely.
It is often only when you get really good at meditation that you are able to go deep enough to reach these levels of the mind. Meditating too much can make you ‘too good’ and let you reach and access levels of your mind that you may want to avoid.
This can cause you to re-live experience and bring up emotions and memories that you ‘buried’ for a reason.
While it is good to work through these suppressed and/or subconscious issues, it often requires some trained help to deal with it effectively – especially if trauma was involved.
Many people who experience this, try and meditate more in an attempt to deal with it or resolve it. You may not have the skills to really do it effectively and you may need professional help to do it.
2. Loss of Interest In Life
Meditation feels good. It helps you to transcend the noise of everyday living and reach a place of pure bliss – a place of inner tranquility.
If you have a lot of ‘stuff’ going on in your life then meditation can be a tranquil escape from reality.
While the purpose of meditation is to find this place of peace, the ultimate purpose is to experience this peace in your everyday life and not just during meditation.
It is easy to see how this can become addictive. Craving that inner peace and tranquility can push some people to meditate too much in search of that inner peace and experiencing it more often.
This can often lead to someone losing interest in the real world and life in general. They lose a sense of meaning for life and their spiritual pursuits become more significant – often to a point where they lose interest in all worldly pursuits.
A general loss of motivation for life and being motivated to live for basic life goals can be very dangerous. You become disconnected from reality.
When you meditate too much and get consumed with the practise of meditation and transcending everyday consciousness, you can follow down a lonely path.
Some people develop a sense of superiority – as if they are somehow above others who are not ‘as evolved’ as they are.
This sense of spiritual superiority can not only distance them from their friends and family but lead to social withdrawal and anti social behaviour.
4. Altered Reality
Losing touch with reality and the everyday world is probably most common for those who spend too much time in meditation.
In some ways it makes sense practically. If you withdraw from the everyday world too much then returning to it can be overwhelming.
Meditation will not carry you to another world, but it will reveal the most profound and awesome dimensions of the world in which you already live. Calmly contemplating these dimensions and bringing them into the service of compassion and kindness is the right way to make rapid gains in meditation as well as in life.– Zen Master Hsing Yun
The way you see things, hear things and perceive reality in general can become altered.
The more extreme end of the spectrum is where people hallucinate, see visions, illusions or lights that are not real.
Perhaps the most common side effect of meditating too much is a distorted experience of time and space. Five minutes of meditation can feel like 5 hours and vice versa.
5. Damage Your Sense of Self
The most important relationship you have in your life, is your relationship with your Self. When you lose yourself in obsessive meditation you can easily start feeling disconnected from yourself.
The 2017 study on meditation I mentioned earlier also found that many of the participants actually became more aware of their own negative thoughts and their own negative qualities.
Deep meditation will reveal to you how you are in fact not separate from everyone else and how we all share the same ‘mind’. Some take this too far and lose their sense of individualism.
Can You Meditate Too Much – Conclusion
It is important to point out that these side effects of meditating too much will only affect a very small percentage of people.
Even if you really wanted to, meditating for hours is incredibly hard. Most people who do that only do it under very controlled conditions in a monastery or a temple.
It can take years of dedicated practise under expert guidance to even be able to do that.
‘Too much’ is a relative term and there are no hard and fast rules for how much meditating is too much. Meditation has immense physical, emotional and spiritual benefits but doing it too much can lead to numerous issues.
One way to quantify ‘too much’ is simply when you start losing control over your free will. When it becomes addictive then you lose control and what is generally good, becomes bad.
We must experience the Truth in a direct, practical and real way. This is only possible in the stillness and silence of the mind; and this is achieved by means of meditation.– Samael Aun Weor
When you become addicted to meditation it starts acting as a drug and affects your sense of self, your reality and how you function in society in a healthy and constructive way.
Addiction creates a dependency. This dependency creates the illusion that you can no longer live without what you are addicted to. You lose touch with life and reality.
When you meditate too much you actually abuse meditation. It becomes self serving and you (mis) use it as a tool to manipulate your reality.
Should you be afraid to meditate too much? Absolutely not. It is very rare for people to become addicted to meditation and to suffer from things like life hallucination and antisocial behaviour.
If your goal with meditation is to transcend human consciousness and reach more enlightened states then you should be a bit more cautious and only seek out teachers who have the responsibility to keep you grounded in reality.
You are not here in this life only to escape it. That makes you no different from someone who is addicted to some drug.
Being curious with altered states of consciousness is normal for people who are on a spiritual journey. Only when that becomes more important than the reality you live in does it become an issue you need to be worried about.
If you have friends and family you are concerned about then you should talk to them about it. If their meditation practise is starting to push them away from life, society and general sound mental health then an intervention may be required.
The more regularly and the more deeply you meditate, the sooner you will find yourself acting always from a center of peace.– J. Donald Walters
Ultimately you don’t want to meditate just for the sake of meditation. You want meditation to help, assist and enlighten you everyday life – making life more meaningful, more joyful and ultimately a richer and fuller experience of life.