The ‘dark side’ of meditation?

There’s been a long-running debate over the nature of meditation. Is it a religious practice? Is it a therapeutic practice? Is it a way to withdraw from the world? Is it a way to engage with the world? I’ll write more about these questions in the future, but the issue has popped up again in the national media in the wake of the tragic shootings at the Naval Yard in Washington, DC, last Monday. The suspected gunman, Aaron Alexis, was said to have been a regular practitioner of meditation (“Aaron Alexis and the Dark Side of Meditation”, Time magazine, Sept 17, 2013) . If that was so, then it shows the danger in believing that meditation is a simple self-help cure-all. Perhaps the end of the article says it best, “While it’s impossible to know what role, if any, meditation played in Alexis’ mental states, it’s clear that most therapies and practices that are powerful enough to have positive effects are also capable of doing harm when used in the wrong way and in the wrong people.”