Ask Deepak: The Relationship Between Meditation and Depression
By Deepak Chopra
May 12, 2010
Each week, spiritual teacher Deepak Chopra responds to Oprah.com users' questions with enlightening advice to help them live their best lives.
Q: I have a question about meditation. For a couple of years, I've been greatly inspired and influenced by the books of Osho, but didn't start practicing the meditations suggested by him. A few days ago, I tried the Kundalini meditation and had some exciting experiences, like stillness in mind and no-thoughts moments. And then during the day, I felt more lively and energetic. But what concerns me is that some of my fears got stirred. In my nature, I'm quite an anxious, hypochondriac person, prone to worries and anxieties. I sometimes suffer from recurring depression. I used to take medications until the symptoms subsided, but haven't for a long time. During the recent weeks, I've also been quite depressed, which affected my daily life and ability to work well.
But I'm still quite skeptical and fearful about using the drugs and hopeful for some alternative ways to be in a peaceful, positive state. And here I tried Osho meditation, which did change the way I felt. But even having had a good effect after the practice, I'm still concerned—can a person with psychological and psychiatric issues practice meditation on his own? Are there any contraindications to meditation? I looked on the Internet and found some articles that said deep meditations such as Transcendental Meditation can lead to psychosis and worsening the symptoms of mental diseases. Now I'm quite concerned about continuing the Osho meditations, even though the effect after the meditation was good. My old fears of going crazy and losing control of my mind have been reinforced. What advice can you give me?
— Tatiana A., Moscow, Russia
I think you know in your heart of hearts what the answer to your question will be. No, you must not practice Kundalini meditation without supervision. Yes, there are contraindications when someone has psychological issues. But there are two things you also need to know. TM—or Transcendental Meditation—which is the technique I began using in 1985, does not lead to psychosis. The TM organization is also good about guiding beginners and making sure the course of meditation runs smoothly. The second thing is that meditation doesn't cure depression.
The issue here is tricky. To be of real value, meditation must take you inward; but the deeper you go, the more hidden material will be brought to the surface, including old wounds, difficult memories and perhaps the contributing emotions that are linked to depression. I suggest you meditate in a group for only a few minutes a day; or if that is inconvenient, do a simple breathing meditation for 10 minutes, twice a day. Because of your anxiety and depression, you must not overdo this. It's tempting to use meditation as an escape, but the results can easily backfire.
For you, the benefits of meditation will surface only after you deal with your depression first. Please read my article on depression here at Oprah.com. Despite your fears, you probably do need professional medical advice and guidance. Once your mood is more stable, I hope you will return to the path of deeper meditation. It has much to offer.