Author Topic: Vipassana to cure depression?  (Read 13806 times)

MountainKing

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Vipassana to cure depression?
« on: December 29, 2013, 02:36:58 PM »
I've been suffering from mild to major depression for 4 years now. I'm looking for a way out. I tried one Goenka 10 day retreat. Does anybody have experience with Vipassana or any other form of meditation curing depression?

I am considering doing 3-4 10 day retreats at a stretch.

BTW, I've been seeing a doctor for a long time now, and I don't trust psychiatry much.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2013, 03:38:43 PM »
Hey MK,

If you have this kind of free time, why don't you sign up for long term dhamma service. Sign up for 3-6months and sit and serve courses. This way you can sit a course when it feels right and do some service and interact with other meditators when you do not wish to work as intensly. It is a very nurturing and supportive environment.
This way you will be in constant contact with teachers and fellow meditators, it is also a great benefit in developing a daily practice.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2013, 05:42:43 PM »
You don't want to be depending on vipassana as a "cure" for your meditation. Ingest some material and get into a regular sitting practice. PM me if you'd like some resources to start with.

DarkNightOfNoSoul

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #3 on: December 29, 2013, 06:51:37 PM »
Hi MK, like DT said, probably not a good idea to rely on vipassana specifically as a means to help depression. They do ask you on the application form whether you suffer from depression, and I'm not sure they would allow you to do several 10-day retreats consecutively. As you know, these retreats are very intense! Over the long term, meditation will likely help with your depression as a side effect of the practice, but it's important to get more targeted, professional help at the same time IMHO.

BTW, I've been seeing a doctor for a long time now, and I don't trust psychiatry much.
I don't blame you for mistrusting psychiatry - it tends to be heavily reliant on pharmacological and other medical interventions, and often uses outdated and discredited therapies (such as psychoanalytic or psychodynamic), which can do more harm than good.

On the other hand, psychology (as opposed to psychiatry) has made steady progress in developing effective therapies for depression (for example, CBT). And since you're interested in a mindfulness approach, you might want to investigate mindfulness-based cognitive therapy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness-based_cognitive_therapy

This book provides a very good introduction:

http://www.amazon.com/The-Mindful-Way-Through-Depression/dp/1593851286

The emphasis is on becoming aware of, and changing, the habitual negative thinking patterns that lead to recurring depressive episodes. I personally found this book very helpful.

All the best.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2013, 07:07:37 PM by DarkNightOfNoSoul »

Tathāgata

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #4 on: December 30, 2013, 12:42:11 PM »
Hello MountainKing.

There seems to be many people asking this kind of question. Some, naturally, reach out for meditation, in hope of a remedy to such conditions as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, etc.

As our dear friends here already point out to you, be mindful.

The writer was “cured” of a 17-year long medium/heavy depression and schizoid personality disorder, after the first S.N. Goenka course.

So, it seems you have found your way to one who has actually had this wonderful experience.
…But, how does that relate to you and your situation?

Please, understand, that the writer did not attend an S.N. Goenka 10-day retreat to get cured of depression and SPD.
Maybe that is of any use to you?

The writer who “got cured” cannot tell you how to solve it - simply because he honestly does not know.
Maybe this too could be of some use to you?

Mettā
"When this is, that is.
From the arising of this, comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this, comes the cessation of that."

               – Siddhārtha Gautama

MountainKing

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #5 on: December 30, 2013, 01:46:53 PM »
Thanks for the replies, people, I really appreciate it. Any more insight would be highly appreciated!

MountainKing

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #6 on: December 30, 2013, 01:53:44 PM »

The writer was “cured” of a 17-year long medium/heavy depression and schizoid personality disorder, after the first S.N. Goenka course.

So, it seems you have found your way to one who has actually had this wonderful experience.
…But, how does that relate to you and your situation?


Do you mean to say that after one Goenka retreat you were cured of medium/heavy depression and SPD?

Overall, the message I seem to be getting is that these problems (depression, etc) go away as a side effect of practicing vipassana, and that it is foolish to expect anything from vipassana. Am I right in my interpretation?

Tathāgata

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #7 on: December 30, 2013, 04:46:34 PM »
The answer to both your questions is yes.

Mettā
"When this is, that is.
From the arising of this, comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this, comes the cessation of that."

               – Siddhārtha Gautama

Mpgkona

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #8 on: December 30, 2013, 07:14:30 PM »
I suggest you be very careful with having expectations on a Goenka retreat. A Goenka retreat is a crash course, sort of like an instruction manual. The real work is what you do with the learning AFTER the course. A course will NOT cure anything, especially depression, by itself. If you go with this expectation, and when it doesn't come to fruition (which it won't) you could be worse off. A retreat is a very lonely experience. The teachers are only there to help with technique and nothing more. I'm certainly not trying to dissuade you from attending (it's a great experience), but I urge you to not go simply to cure yourself. Their website specifically talks about how the technique is not a cure for anything. If anything, be very truthful on your application. IF you're accepted the teacher will meet with you on Day 1 to have a quick discussion to see if you should take the course. They may ask you to go home or they may not.

Folks, we need to be careful in our recommendations. Curing depression is not a side affect of a course. Depression is not one size fits all. What works for one (a course) may not work for another. Ones mental health problems don't magically disappear as a result of meditation. My anxiety disorder has actually become worse since my course, and I attribute this directly to meditation. Vipassana has intensified my attacks. The only difference after two years is that I can see the impermanent nature of each attack. Nevertheless, they are still debilitating when they occur.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2013, 07:23:46 PM by Mpgkona »
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

Dharmic Tui

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #9 on: December 30, 2013, 08:30:18 PM »
Overall, the message I seem to be getting is that these problems (depression, etc) go away as a side effect of practicing vipassana, and that it is foolish to expect anything from vipassana. Am I right in my interpretation?
Part of Vipassana is a re-training of how you come to interact with the world and yourself. Generally people are very object focused, here's depression, I don't want that, and over here is happiness, I do want that, etc etc.

What is sought with Vipassana is a cessation of objectivity, rather than desiring or avoiding things or states of mind you are instead merely viewing things as they present themselves, without grabbing hold of or running away from them. As you may have come to learn, you can't think yourself happy, all the thoughts do is add more fuel to the fire.

So anecdotally, through my practice I find myself getting less caught up in thought patterns and emotions that lead me to be depressed (but by no means am I immune to them), and in the past when I've tried to meditate with a goal of shaking negative emotions and thoughts, I've just got myself trapped in a cycle of being disappointed, feeling helpless, and so on.

So really what I aim for is to sit there and observe the cards falling as they may, not willing them to be any certain way.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #10 on: January 03, 2014, 11:19:39 PM »
Curing depression is not a side affect of a course.
The technique one learns on a course is however the cure, but one must cultivate this with daily practice.

 
My anxiety disorder has actually become worse since my course, and I attribute this directly to meditation.
I believe this is common, I also experienced about 2-3 years of chaotic mood swings(highs and lows), I am lucky my marriage survived. I just knew that it was working, my highs just weren't as high and my lows not as low. I began to notice I was catching myself much quicker before an outburst, and if I didn't catch myself before the outburst It wasn't far into one before I would see it. I remember catching myself getting angry with a situation getting all hot and bothered, breathing heavily and then there was the practice, I couldn't hide, I had to look at this and accept it was ego. The ego of the past would never let that happen, it would make up stories to justify this anger. I just began to find that I could not hide from this any more, this practice forces me to observe all my actions, whether in the now or slightly later, now when the ego is observed it can chuckle at itself.   

 
Vipassana has intensified my attacks.
Yes, although it is the ego at work. I also experienced periods of intensity, at times I felt I was having a heart attack. I just sat with this as best I could knowing it would eventually pass away, at times I would succumb to this and take some pain medication or have a hot bath. I gave myself to this practice, full faith and confidence. I think I just eventually burned up all the stored bad stuff and in an instant it went away. I simply do not experience anything with the level of intensity as before. Similar thoughts are there, but nowhere near as intense.

 
The only difference after two years is that I can see the impermanent nature of each attack. Nevertheless, they are still debilitating when they occur.
Do you have faith/confidence in this practice Mpgkona? I have been picking up a vibe of negativity towards this technique from you lately(I might be mistaken), are you looking at other practices? I feel that if one does not give themselves to this practice entirely, it cannot cleanse as it should. Your words seem to carry a seed of doubt?

Mpgkona

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #11 on: January 04, 2014, 06:18:26 AM »
Red,

I do not have doubts in the practice, but I have made minor tweaks here and there to the technique. Sometimes nasal anapanna does not "work" in becoming concentrated so I shift to the abdomen when this occurs. I also sometimes stray from the head to toe sweep and mindfully go to where sensations have arisen instead of searching for them part by part. I see these as minor adjustments rather than wholesale changes. I really just do this when slight boredom arises while trying to maintain the rigidity of the technique. However, I am mindful of why I am doing it. I don't have aversion to this boredom or the technique. I simply feel it's healthy to adjust when the need arises.

My main argument above was that simply attending a course will not cure depression, and if one goes with that intention they will leave the course disappointed (if not early). One has to maintain the practice on a daily basis in order to reap any fruit, and since depression is debilitating, the length of time it takes for this fruit to arise may lead to even greater depression. My overall anxiety is now worse than before the course, and you are spot on Red, it's all ego. When my anxiety is high I curse the day I stepped foot in the meditation hall (not much different than wishing I had taken the blue pill). Climbing back up the rabbit hole is still very tempting at times.
« Last Edit: January 04, 2014, 06:24:52 AM by Mpgkona »
When you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.

redalert

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #12 on: January 04, 2014, 04:01:40 PM »
I also sometimes stray from the head to toe sweep and mindfully go to where sensations have arisen instead of searching for them part by part. I see these as minor adjustments rather than wholesale changes.
This is what is meant to happen as you develop the practice, you start to explore sensation in different ways.


My main argument above was that simply attending a course will not cure depression, and if one goes with that intention they will leave the course disappointed (if not early).

I know, but we also do not want to discourage those who want to take a retreat. I have full confidence in the organisation that they will process, direct and evaluate students appropriately.


Climbing back up the rabbit hole is still very tempting at times.
You don't mean that.

Embracetheday

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Re: Vipassana to cure depression?
« Reply #13 on: January 05, 2014, 04:09:59 AM »
I have been doing Vipassana Meditation for over 40 years. I have seen much and experienced much during that time. The Vipassana teacher, Mr. Goenka, wanted to take his first Vipassana course to get rid of his severe migraine headache. He was using morphine to kill the pain. His teacher told him if this was the reason he was taking the course, he could not attend. He was told that his migraine is a byproduct of an impure mind. If he takes the course to purify his mind of the mental defilements, then he could attend. He took the course without wanting to get rid of his migraine. He worked hard and did as his teacher asked.  It just so happened that his migraine left after his first 10 day course.

I took multiple courses with Robert Hover, Mother Sayama, John Colman, Jack Cornfield and Goenka who I spent many years with.  All these teachers had huge positive changes in their lives and many many people I met along my journey who were their students had the same happen to them including me.

My suggestion for you is to find a teacher you resonate with and take one course. If after taking the course it feels right for you, then take another. Then try serving a course. Let nature take care of the rest. I have seen many people lose their anger, greed, doubt, hatred, unwholesome passion, and other impurities of the mind. When the mind heals, so does the body. I hope this helps.