Is There a “Dark Side” to Meditation? Watch the Documentary Film on the Dark Night of the Soul
Hundreds of millions of people engage in some form of contemplative practice, such as meditation or yoga. The benefits of mindfulness practice have been touted by scientists and lay people. As one of those scientists — my research has examined the health benefits of mindfulness, including in educational settings — I can stand behind most of these claims. Yet I have encountered a number of “adverse effects” in my own practice. These challenges are seldom acknowledged in the research, and even more rarely discussed in popular society.
Can meditation and spiritual practice produce adverse effects? Who might experience these, how should we understand them, and how can people skillfully navigate them?
Five years ago, as a graduate student, I decided to make a documentary film on the challenges of meditation and spirituality. I interviewed academics, therapists, and meditation teachers about the “dark night of the soul” phenomenon in contemplative practice. The film below is the product of these these interviews (and many nights of editing).
The movie highlights the various challenges one could face on a spiritual path. It offers different “maps” or frameworks for understanding these challenges through the lenses of biology (i.e., the body and brain), religion (e.g., Buddhism and Christianity), and mythology (e.g., The Hero’s Journey).
Is the dark night of the soul something to be avoided, or necessary step for transformation? This is ultimately up to you to decide. I hope this film can be of service to you or others struggling on the path.
For more on the film, and to read about my personal dark night of the soul, you can visit my website: https://www.matthewgoodmanphd.com/film
For resources on navigating meditation-related challenges see:
For research articles on meditation-related challenges, and resources for therapists and teachers, see:
To preview the film, see this teaser:
Please feel free to share your own “dark night” experience related to meditation! You can send me a message here: https://www.matthewgoodmanphd.com/contact