Discursive brilliance or mania?

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This topic contains 8 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  Blake Barton 7 years, 5 months ago.

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    I have been meditating for over two years now. Using Culadasa’s method. In just the last month I have found my
    mind becoming very sharp, ideas coming quickly,and needing very little sleep. I have been staying up till 2 AM sometimes, excited about a project at work or some other topic.

    While some would think that was a good thing. I have found it interfering with my meditation.

    I go very deep but it feels different. Even a little scary. So I end up bouncing back to a shallower level to
    get my bearings.

    In Culadasa’s writing he warns about what he calls discursive brilliance.

    Has anyone here had an experience like this that was caused by meditation?

    Or should I just go and see my doctor about something to calm my mind down?

    Mitchell Melton


    Hello Mitchell,

    I am not an expert but I have read similar descriptions and they were pointing to your “symptoms” as signs of good progress. Culadasa himself described during a recent retreat that I attended the reduced need for sleep as a normal stage along the path.
    In any case, a good suggestion that I got from a teacher recently is to take everything with a hint of lightness and detachment. Some humor and a little indulgence, in his words, will go a long way.



    Blake Barton

    Hi Mitchell,

    I have had similar experiences to what you describe. I went through a period at work, where I was effortlessly able to solve very difficult problems. My mind was functioning very efficiently, but unfortunately this did not last.

    I have also experienced periods of time where I was very energized from my meditation practice. It almost felt manic or like I had several cups of coffee. This is more likely to happen after attending a retreat.

    I think the discursive brilliance is only a problem during your meditation. Outside of your practice, I would just consider it a fruit of meditation. Culadasa mentions the mind functioning more efficiently as a benefit of meditation practice.

    During retreat I often feel I need less sleep and I end up sleeping very little. I feel “spacey” when I return. I finally realized that this “spacey” feeling was caused by sleep deprivation. I would be careful with not sleeping enough. It can cause all sorts of side effects.

    If the energy gets to be more than you can handle consider doing something physical like walking, yoga, or some other form of exercise.

    Hope this helps,

    Dharma Treasure Facilitator


    What I like about samatha meditation is the amount of honesty it requires. To practice samatha correctly IMHO is self-honesty at its very core. Or “not-self” honesty maybe the right way to say it, but I still have a hard time with the “not-self” part of Buddhist practice. I think that part has to be experienced and is not knowable as my definition of knowledge goes.

    So in keeping with the spirit of honesty, my past months experience seems to have been mania. Maybe it was brought by changes in my brain from my practice or maybe not. Anyhow I did not feel like any progress was made during this time.

    Basically, I crashed.

    I fell asleep during a meeting at work and actually started snoring!!!
    Thankfully all the people at the meeting have known me for years and
    just thought that it was funny.

    The amazing or disturbing thing was that I was not drowsy at all. I think sleep deprivation was a good call.

    I am going to settle myself down and get back on my routine schedule of
    of sleep and practice.

    Hopefully this will serve as a warning to any 55 year old dharma practitioners out there. If you suddenly find yourself with superhuman thinking powers and think that you can get away with doing things like you did in your 20s.


    Mitchell Melton


    Blake Barton

    Hi Mitchell,

    Samatha practice does tend to bring up piti which in the early stages can cause quite a bit of excitement and be over the top. Unless you have had problems with mania before starting meditation, then I think it was likely the meditation. The sleep deprivation could have exacerbated the problem.

    Getting back on your routine schedule of sleep and practices sounds like a good idea.

    Good Luck,


    Thanks Blake.

    No I haven’t had any problems with mania before, but I recognize the systems. My father and my 2nd ex-wife were diagnosed
    with bi-polar disorder.

    So I am probably being a little over dramatic and self-diagnosing. I just don’t want to fall into the
    trap of attributing all of strange things that have happened to my mind in the past two years to meditation and miss a
    health issue.

    If I had bi-polar disorder it would have showed up many years ago. It is just hard for my skeptical side to
    accept that meditation is so mind altering and life altering. I know that is what I was going for when I first started meditating, but WOW!

    Thanks for all the help.

    Mitchell Melton


    I’ve had similar experiences after my first time attending a retreat. It was particularly pleasurable yet scary, I hadn’t expected meditation to dramatically affect me that way. I remember thinking that I had underestimated all these seemingly hyperbolic statements about the power of mind’s clarity and deep senses of bliss. The fear came I think from not knowing how to relate to it and also from not having a cause, such as drugs or a mental illness. Luckily I had a meditation teacher who I could confess that I felt like I was Jesus or I was crazy. He laughed a bit and understood and talked me down. Told me it would wear off, eat normally, exercise, sleep-in other words ground myself.

    And it did wear off. Seems to be a common experience, a fruit of meditation, yet still something that needs to be integrated, and as Davide said, taken with humor.

    It helps to have a teacher or community who can relate to what you’re goin through so you don’t feel so “out there”.

    And the dharma is amazing 🙂


    Just an update.

    So I was dealing with the mania earlier this year and thought that I was going crazy. Then over a two week period there was a shift of sorts. I don’t know how to explain it.

    Basically I become a more loving, caring, and sociable person. More so than at any other time in my life. I’ve connected with old friends, have long conversations with strangers, easily tell people that I love them, etc……. This just isn’t suppose to be in my personally. Never has been before but now it is part of me.

    This is a huge lesson for me about the self, or no self, or not-self, or whatever term you want to use.

    How can focusing on the sensations of the breath at the tip of my nose bring this on?

    I don’t know, but I know that I like it.


    Blake Barton

    Hi Mitchell,

    Thanks for sharing your update. I am very excited for you. It is great to hear that meditation is having such a positive impact on your life.

    Take Care,

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