Dharana: Fear in Meditation

Fear in the deep ocean of the Mind

Meditators experience fear and discomfort in the early stages of meditation, technically called Dharana. This article explains how meditators can deal with their fear and discomfort.

Beginners on the path of Raja, the royal path of meditation, expect that meditation should bring them instant joy, peace and calmness. It does eventually. However, in the initial stages the mind is being purified.Toxins such as repressed fears, unfulfilled desires and unhealthy emotions are purged from the mind. If the meditator is not ready for this he is bound to be disappointed and even harmed by the intensity and quality of some of his thoughts and emotions. The greatest discomfort in meditation is caused by the expectations of the meditator from his meditation.



Self Condemnation is not useful in Meditation

Meditation increases our awareness of the mind and its nature. It brings us in touch with our feelings and innermost desires and expectations. When the beginner, who is not aware of the different levels of consciousness meditates, he discovers the changing nature of the mind, the chaotic disconnected thoughts and he condemns himself for it. Stronger the identification with the thoughts of the mind, the greater the self-condemnation. As hidden motivations and suppressions appear and become conscious the meditator may feel guilty and thus hurt himself. The awareness of many unfulfilled desires and expectations can make the meditator angry and frustrated. This is the first layer of unacceptable qualities that every meditator must go through. 

Many beginners become afraid and stop meditating. This is a serious mistake. Meditators must understand the complete process of meditation so that they can prepare themselves for this first layer of unacceptable qualities. One of the guiding principles in meditation is Ahimsa or Non-violence. 

Be Gentle to yourself in Meditation

The first layer of unacceptable qualities can be crossed once the meditator learns the importance of Ahimsa or Non-violence. If increasing our self-awareness is Satya or Truth, then accepting a thought as merely another thought, without hurting oneself is Ahimsa. It means we do not condemn ourselves for our thoughts, desires and feelings. Ahimsa is understanding that guilt and self-condemnation are not useful. If means that we need not keep feeling shame, guilt and regret for our past mistakes and that for others to forgive us, we must first forgive ourselves. 

The process of meditation involves going inward. To get to the Divine, to the Self, to Atman (or whatever you wish to call it), we have to go through the mind.There is no other way. The mind is complex and even treacherous. Thus a meditator must be courageous, indeed, he must be a warrior. To reach his goal the meditator, must have determination and a strong desire for knowledge. In meditation, the meditator is alone with his mind. No one can help him. So, it is important that he cultivates a friendship with his mind. The mind is a powerful instrument, it is not our enemy. It is what you make of it. The meditator may make mistakes and the mind may trick him. Making mistakes is part of the process, it teaches the meditator to learn to forgive himself and not to compete with himself. 


Meditation is a skill to be learned and practised

As the process of self-discovery continues the meditator discovers that the mind is like a battlefield. Feelings and thoughts of a contrary nature are tearing the mind apart, his desires take him in opposites directions. The meditator becomes intensely aware of all the conflicts in his mind. If the meditator has not practised Ahimsa and has not learned to be non-attached, he may suffer and hurt himself. Meditation is a skill and is perfected with practice. 

With the practice of Ahimsa and Vairagya (non-attachment) the meditator can safely cross this first layer of unacceptable qualities. He then accepts himself fully. We might say that it is from this point that true meditation starts, as the thoughts, feelings and energies flow. Dharana, the early stage of meditation then leads to Dhyana, the flow of meditation. 


ecil joseph from Uganda:
Wonderful ideas, i am a beginner @ meditation, i started like a week ago. So i was looking for guiding principles during meditation and am glad to have this. Any other ideas that may be of help is highly welcome, and highly appreciated!

Krish from Germany:
I must admit , I have been in the stage of Dharana without much awareness for almost one year now. I am now motivated to stop wasting further time, to practice ahimsa whenever contradicting negative thoughts arise and move on to Dhyana. Thanks radhika ji.

And for those you who feel they are in this stage, may I suggest reading other articles on Atma vicharan on this site.

Tushar from Banglore:
I have one problem during meditation i have strange expriences i feel some joy but i stop myself because i am feared that meditation will change me. What should i do? It is like meditation will deviate me from my aim of life or i will loose everything.

Radhikaji from THATfirst:
@Tushar, meditation will not deviate you from your aim, rather it will help you recognize the true purpose of life and focus your mind towards it.

Choi Yan Yau from Phoenix Arizona:
Dear Radhika Ji,

Thank you for sharing.
This reminds me of my early days of meditation practice. How the simple act of beginning to steady one's mind, opens up the ability to start detecting the previously undetectable, the content of the mind. I was faced (and still am) with a lot of 'dark' ego centred thoughts and feelings. Quite a painful thing to wake up to.... and even if we are told not to judge, judging and self criticism also seems to be a strong samskara that jumps onto the thoughts.... It's taken me many years in a subtle 'struggle/resistance' with my inner world to finally learn what it means to surrender and show kindness and compassion towards it. Sometimes we think we've come to full acceptance when we haven't, there is still subtle aversion to ourselves and our place on our path. Love and compassion is tough thing to learn, when we have very little of that light to draw upon from our past. But I feel it comes with time, the closer one gets to the Heart. Out of nowhere, love started to envelop me in my darkness, it felt like the being held by Grace. x

Shibu from Dubai:
Really a different article about dharana. Dharana explained in a practical version here. Most of the spiritual traditions explained dharana about a part of deity form. But here its explained as a understanding (Dharana) about our self and state of our mind. And its clearly underlined that without practicing Ahimsa and non-attachment, meditation will cause suffering because of increased awareness and uncontrolled mind .

Antoine from Atlanta Ga:
I experience fear in meditation as the different layers of the unconscious mind are rolled back and I come into contact and experiences with forces, aspects of the shadow self, and previously hidden dimensions of self that are foreign to me in waking consciousness. New things are revealed and like a new born baby I am frightened as I learn to navigate this new world.

Manisha S from USA:
What I appreciate about this article is how it encourages one to remain on the path and to continually be kind to oneself no matter the thoughts and emotions observed along the way. Does Dharana have anything to do with the Marathi word "dhar", i.e., hold? I am asking because I wonder if this stage can be viewed as learning how to unconditionally hold space for oneself.

meeta from Bangaluru:
Very inspiring article, specially for beginners. I like the way Radhikaji has mentioned about how to be gentle towards your own self on this path of self discovery. Very informative and at the same time motivates us to be steady on the path.

Arup from Bhubaneswar:
Why I feel fear after meditation?

Salwa from Qatar:
I've started meditating like couple of years ago. and i reached a satisfying point where i felt in peace in my mind. however as i continued to meditated daily i started to feel as if i've awaken something strange. at the time i thought that i've awakened something evil or more of i felt that i am starting to sense a malice or evil being watching me. and started having alot of sleep paralysis which back then i thought it's this evil being watching me and i even reached a point of deep fear of this evil being that i could not stand the dark. and i would sleep with the lights on. finally i decided to stop meditating becoz i didn't know how to handle it and had no guidance. few months a go i went back to meditating, i was in a really bad stage in my life and i needed to feel some peace in my head so i resorted to meditating. the first few weeks was wonderful i was in peace again my inner child opened up to me and i started to feel parts of me that i never really felt before and i was at peace again then i went through the same thing that happened to me years ago. i started having intense dreams about feeling a being lying in bed with me and not being able to see it. dreams of me flying but unable to control my movement feeling like i lost my body and whatever is left of me can't seem to find control to navigate through the world (which is a horrible feeling when i recall it to loose my body) and i would wake up shaking then when i tried to calm myself and tell myself that it's just im new to this energy and that with time i will find control over those energy if i continue meditating so i would continue meditating but this time i felt fear again. i'm still feeling this deep fear of meditating again my mind is fighting me to get up and end the meditation session whenever i try to focus my attention on my body i feel this strange new sensation in my chest a certain kind of pressure as if its a demon is sitting on my chest. after reading this article i feel it could be my mind would be playing me because it feels threatened by this self-awareness that i've been cultivating lately, and it would use things that i'm usually afraid of like darkness and evil creators to convince me that meditation is bad for me.. i will continue meditating and i hope i'll have the strength to do so.

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