I had assumed that I was just uniquely bad at taming my thoughts. Yet a growing body of research suggests that such stories may be surprisingly common, with one study from 2019 showing that at least 25% of regular meditators have experienced adverse events, from panic attacks and depression to an unsettling sense of “dissociation”.
Given these reports, one researcher has even founded a non-profit organisation, Cheetah House, that offers support to ‘meditators in distress’. “We had more that 20,000 people contact us in the year 2020,” says Willoughby Britton, who is an assistant professor in psychiatry and human behaviour at Brown University. “This is a big problem.”
How could something that is apparently so beneficial for so many people turn out to have such disturbing effects for others? And are there any ways to gain the benefits of meditation without running into these risks?