Digital Dharma

The Middle Path, One Day At A Time

Meditate or Medicate? — from BuddhaDharma


Trying to heal your depression with spiritual practice alone can make the condition chronic and prone to relapse, says a new study. Physicians and long-term meditators Roger WalshRobin BitnerBruce Victor, and Lorena Hillman explain why both antidepressants and meditation have an important role to play in treating depression.

 When we first set foot on the spiritual path, many of us believed that spiritual practice was all we needed. Ancient texts spellbound us with stories along the lines of, “They heard the teaching, retired into the forest to meditate, and awoke.” End of story! How simple and easy. But somewhere along the path we ran into a problem—reality. It became glaringly apparent that many classic accounts of spiritual life were extremely idealistic, similar to the Hollywood sagas of boy meets girl, where boy and girl fall in love, ride off into the sunset, and live happily ever after. Anyone in an intimate relationship knows that something has been left out of the story.

In short, spiritual practice turned out to be far more complex and demanding than advertised. True, there were many gifts and graces, and some awe-inspiring glimpses of our spiritual potentials along the way. But covering up these potentials were often layer upon layer of difficult emotions, compulsive conditioning, and countless old wounds, fears, and phobias. And ironically, spiritual practice frequently makes these challenges more painfully obvious.

Meditate or Medicate?

Author: Bill

Stumbling down the Middle Path, one day at a time.

4 thoughts on “Meditate or Medicate? — from BuddhaDharma

  1. Well, I know first hand the effects of medicinal treatment for depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and even chemical embalances. Now the difference between my experience is that mine was self induced. I tore my body, mind and soul apart for years trying to self medicate my so called wounds; which later in life I now see were my resentments and self centered lifestyle. I was literally a guinea pig for every pill, patch or drug you could take to stop my body from feeling these horrible episodes of depression and this chronic state of panic I was always in. Well, come to find out I’m an alcoholic and a drug addict and when your drinking anywhere from a fifth of whiskey to a quart everyday from 14 to 18, mixed with whatever substance that would intensify the effect something is bound to collapse internally. At 21 years old I have been so sober for some years now and have seem to have found an even keel through managing depression and sever anxiety with medication and many forms of daily meditation and readings. I hurt my body and brain in many ways that a young boy should not have so I have to deal with those consequences, but after putting the fear aside and being honest with myself, the doctors, and my god I found the right mix of medication that keeps me stable not numb! Meditation is to keep me awake and in the moment, always present of the good and bad, but now how to cope with them and not see but use the light at the end of the tunnel to grow spiritually and mindfully in insight, love, and and for me, even joy. So don’t ever let any person tell you that you should not take “drugs” for a chemical embalance or mental instabality that you may certainly have. Listen to the Doctors, the ones who went to University for a quarter of there life to treat these conditions, and in the meen time stay with your spiritual practice and let whatever thoughts come and pass, just remeber to do what works for you.

    Very similar to my own experience, Thomas, and I can assure you after nearly two decades that it does continue to work if you work it.

    Sometimes folks allow opinions, personal experiences and prejudices to convince them that their opinions are something other than their own experience, strength and hope. That is human nature. We need to recognize that, take what useful information they can offer, and winnow out the rest.

  2. I’m with Michael…pills are a slippery slope that can lead to a dark hole, one I had to dig myself out of.

    I now rejoice in my pain and pleasure both virtually drug free after having my spirit deadened with drugs for almost two decades.

    I say virtually drug free because the withdrawal process has been a nightmare and I’m at the tail end…glad to be feeling it all…good and bad.

    there are a couple of awesome recovery stories from serious mental illness with meditation on my blog under the recovery section.

    meditation and a healthy lifestyle are now my only medicines.

    Good for you! You are doing what you had to do for yourself.

    The path is not so clear for some others. The human brain is bathed in more than a thousand enzymes and neurotransmitters, in varying proportions. Everyone’s brain chemistry is different, and what works for you — or me — is not necessarily going to work for the next guy through the door. Medication, when it is needed and properly administered by experts, has saved — and is saving — the lives and sanity of many. Some of us are LUCKIER than others, and it behooves us not to imply that those people should feel guilty for doing what THEY need to do for themselves.

  3. Pingback: Meditation Zeitgeist, Feb 25, 208 | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation

  4. The answer I believe depends on whether one wants to spend a lifetime learning, or a pill a day forgetting…


    It is good to have beliefs — especially informed ones. As a meditation practitioner of some years’ standing, a former mental health counselor and a depressive, I can assure you that for some of us the answer is not so cut and dried, albeit less epigrammatic.

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