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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Emotion Numbing, Meditation, and the Dark Night of the Soul

“Oh, you’re a meditation teacher,” Kelly sang, “although I know the basics I’m quite anxious. People have warned me that meditation can be rather perilous. They’ve told me it could numb the emotions and even invite a ‘dark night of the soul.’” she confided.

“The term ‘meditation’ is so imprecise,” I explained, “it’s like referring to a paperback as ‘a Barnes and Noble’ book; but walk through the doors, gaze up and down the aisles and you’ll see every category of tome imaginable. How much easier it could be to simply walk Buddha’s path.

He taught an eight fold path, the seventh of which is mindfulness. No mindfulness, no enlightenment; so those who warned you off could have been speaking of a different contemplative system.”

“What about the dark night of the soul?” Kelly pleaded.

“An effective meditation system creates a safe space where disturbing memories or fantasies can surface, like Nessie from a dark Scottish loch, that we might explore them passively, vulnerably, viscerally, and spontaneously as we access our sympathetic nervous system with each inhalation. And during the exhalation (which inevitably follows like day after night) our parasympathetic nervous system invites our body to relax and our mind to release (at least in portion).

In this way meditation could be the key that unlocks the factory installed therapist that is our autonomic nervous system. Like a mixed bag of nuts, our contemplative experience could shift from agony, to bliss, to peace, to tears, to smiles, and back again. When done correctly it could be terribly exciting, and well worth the effort.

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