Adverse effects of meditation Although a considerable amount of the effects of meditation are reported to be positive, other studies are demonstrating that the case might not always be so. Meditation, if practiced unproperly or too intensely, can lead to considerable psychological and physiological problems. It is not uncommon for teachers of meditation to warn their students about the possible pitfalls of a contemplative path. In the case of Asian contemplative traditions there often exist major challenges connected to the way the particular tradition is to be applied to a western culture, or a western mindset. The import of eastern contemplative concepts into popular western culture has not always been sensitive to, or familiar with the cultural matrix that the meditative concept originated from.
A growing body of clinical literature is now starting to address the phenomenon of meditation-related problems (Lukoff, 1998; Perez-De-Albeniz & Holmes, 2000). Several side-effects have been reported, among these we find uncomfortable kinaesthetic sensations, mild dissociation and psychosis-like symptoms (Craven, 1989). From a clinical study of twenty-seven long term meditators Shapiro (1992) reports such adverse effects as depression, relaxation-induced anxiety and panic, paradoxical increases in tension, impaired reality testing, confusion, disorientation and feeling 'spaced out'. The possibility that meditation might trigger strong emotional reactions is also reported by Kutz, Borysenko & Benson (1985). Within the context of therapy meditation is usually contraindicated when the therapeutic goal is to strengthen ego boundaries, release powerful emotions, or work through complex relational dynamics (Bogart, 1991). The tendency of meditation to disturb object-relations and release unconscious material implies that the beginning meditator should approach the practice with some moderation. It usually takes years of practice to become stable in a contemplative practice, a perspective that is often overlooked by many new religious movements and New Age therapies.