Newspapers and magazines are full of stories about the positive effects of meditation practice, so it was only a matter of time before we’d begin reading about about its perils. The Vancouver Sun‘s Douglas Todd writes today that New York psychoanalyst Micheal Eigen and philosopher Ken Wilbur, both meditators, express concern about meditation’s potential ill effects. Can contemplative practice feed our narcissism and mask serious problems? Can it cut us off from our feelings and cause us to lose touch with others? After reading Eigen’s book, The Psychoanalytic Mystic (1998), the Vancouver Sun‘s Douglas Todd has been inspired to ask:
[C]an meditation, contemplation and related practices encourage people to detach too effectively from their so-called negative thoughts, leading them to actually detach from life itself? Can meditation even feed into the North American consumer society’s predilection toward narcissism, which sees individuals cultivating an inflated sense of their own importance?
An attempt at spiritual practice that feeds the ego? Sounds a lot like what Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche called “spiritual materialism.” The good news is that there’s a simple cure: find a teacher—and a good one—not the kind Eigen describes in Todd’s article. And if you don’t have a teacher, buy a copy of Chogyam Trungpa’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism. On second thought, buy it anyway.
The bad news? I can’t think of any right now.