Today, one of my meditation students asked, “Why have I been I crying when I’m meditating? What’s going on? I thought meditation was supposed to make me relaxed and happy, but my eyes are wet.”
I explained that it is perfectly normal to cry sometimes when you meditate. Many people think it’s a bad sign, but honestly, it isn’t. It’s not an issue at all. While there can be some significant side effects of meditation, this isn’t one of them. In fact, it’s normal if you’re using a meditation technique like Trataka (focusing your eyes on a candle).
Here are the many different reasons why it happens.
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Maybe your eyes are just watering
There are many reasons why we cry when meditating. Sometimes it’s simply the fact that the eyes are dry or that they are cleaning themselves.
Sometimes when you meditate your eyes water. This is similar to crying but different. Your eyes water when you meditate because they are simply relaxing and cleansing themselves.
When you’re living a busy life, it’s easy for dirt and toxins to get into your eyes.
- If you smoke, for instance, your eyes will soon fill with toxins that need to be expelled.
- If you spend time outdoors, you may be getting various substances in your eyes.
- Indoors your eyes can be plagued by dust.
Normally, your eyes will cleanse themselves through blinking (NKCF.org). But various factors can interfere with this process. If you work on a computer all day, for instance, you will blink less than you should. This prevents your eyes from cleansing themselves until you relax—perhaps while you’re meditating, when your eyes relax enough to clean themselves. This is just one of many signs that your body is healing itself.
So, one potential reason for your eyes watering during meditation is that they are cleaning themselves. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why meditation can improve eye-sight .
But maybe you really are crying.
I’m Definitely Crying
Sometimes we cry in meditation because we are letting emotions out. And if you think this is the case, I recommend reading my article on meditation for emotional control.
If you are definitely crying, it is probably because you are releasing grief and pain [READ: Meditation for Grief].
And hey, that’s a good thing, it is a normal part of the healing process. And most of us meditators still have some healing left to do.
The Chopra Center says, “Crying indicates that within your body, mind, or spirit lives unresolved sadness and loss waiting for an opportunity to be released.”
It is normal to release your emotional distress when you meditate.
While you’re mindfully breathing you might become conscious of painful emotions that you have simply been closing your eyes to. Maybe you’re facing grief, sadness, depression, or just general unhappiness. And you realise it when you meditate.
So don’t worry. It is totally normal, according to Lodro Rinzler [teacher of meditation in the Buddhist tradition of Shambhala].
Are You Doing Heart Chakra Meditation?
One particular time when you might cry is during heart chakra meditation. This is a type of meditation that is used to open Anahata, the heart chakra. I myself often cry when I do this meditation.
Crying during heart chakra meditation is normal because it is, after all, a very emotional meditation that involves tapping into your emotional core. So if your eyes wet during this technique, don’t worry, it’s normal. A lot of people also cry during Vipassana meditation, but again, no worries.
Tears are often good
Some people think that because they cry, they can’t meditate.
This simply isn’t the case. Tears are really just subconscious emotions being released, and that release is important.
Sadly, modern society teaches us to suppress our feelings.
- Friends tell you to get a grip.
- Parents tell you to grow up.
- The media extols the supposed superiority of the cold heart and the impenetrable mind.
Listen. Emotions are normal and healthy.
Putting a barrier up around your emotions is rarely helpful. You can’t simply shut out your feelings. If you try to repress emotions, they will eventually bubble to the surface.
While you’re forcing yourself to suppress your feelings, you’re putting an awful lot of stress on your muscles, particularly muscles in your neck, shoulders, face, and, yes, your eyes. You tense-up to prevent yourself from letting those tears drop. And that tension can last an exceptionally long time.
It is not good to hold your feelings back. It is much healthier to let them out in the right ways. And one of the best ways of working with difficult emotions is by meditating.
Benefits of Crying
Studies show that it is good to cry and that crying can help to heal both the mind and body. For instance, William Frey PhD., a biochemist and expert in tears, says that crying releases stress hormones via our tears and also helps us to produce endorphins and oxytocin, which psychiatrist Dion Metzger, M.D. says improve our mood.
You’re Letting Emotions out
If you cry when you meditate you are probably letting your emotions out. It’s your way of handling things.
Those emotions have been there for a long time because you learned to repress them. You started this bizarre habit of hiding emotions in childhood. But it only got worse in adulthood.
As a kid, it might not have been the most popular thing to show your feelings, but you got away with it because you were a kid. Reaching adulthood, you’re expected to be unaffected and unemotional (even though none of us truly are).
It’s a sad part of our society that we try to hide emotions. Enlightened people know better. They embrace their emotions and they are not ashamed to let their emotions out. Maybe that’s a lesson for you to learn on your journey.
Stop repressing your emotions
In an effort to be unemotional, you created a psychological barrier. And by now, next to none of your emotions are coming out.
Many people show absolutely no feelings at all. Then something awful happens. Suddenly their psychological barrier simply cannot withstand the force of the emotional tornado knocking against it. The wall comes down, and all those built-up emotions come bursting through them in one go.
As adults, most of us exist as an emotional vortex contained in an isolation chamber, walls all around our minds desperately trying to prevent anger, sadness, grief, etc. from breaking free.
This is not healthy. Repressing emotions leads to stress, anxiety, resentment, physical tension, and even illness. You have to break down those walls and let those emotions come pouring out before they drown you.
That’s where meditation comes in.
Meditation is an opportunity to release your emotions in healthy ways. So yes, cry
Meditation brings calm and acceptance. Meditation breaks down the walls of your mind. Naturally, whatever you’ve been hoarding under lock and key in your mind is going to come tumbling out when you meditate.
You meditate. Your emotional prison crumbles. Your mind is freed. The emotions come pouring out. They drop like dew from your eyes. You cry. But it is a good cry. It is a cry like the caged bird that sings of freedom. It is the cry of your emotions finally set free. That is why meditation makes you cry.
If you continue to cry, it’s a sign. You need to let your emotions out in healthy ways. Rinzler tells us that we should embrace all our emotions and work with them.
What To Do If You Cry During Meditation
Here are some tips:
1: Try different techniques
Try these two methods:
- The first technique is a Buddhist insight meditation called Vipassana. This meditation will help you to understand what is happening in your mind. When you try this technique, don’t be surprised if you find that you have lots of repressed emotions that you’re not letting out. Accept those feelings and give yourself the freedom to express them.
- The second technique is Osho Dynamic Meditation. This is a powerful technique in which you truly let all your feelings come roaring out of you. It is a tremendously liberating experience. No other meditation will give you an emotional release quite like dynamic meditation.
2: Work with difficult emotions
So, you’re facing challenging emotions when you meditate. Good. It’s the perfect opportunity to work with those emotions. What you want to do is mindfully accept your feelings.
Mindfully investigate your emotions.
- Where is the emotion coming from?
- What does it feel like?
- What kind of energy do you notice?
Mindfully observe the painful emotion in the way that you would in Vipassana meditation (Buddhist Insight). Simply observe what it feels like. Then you will start to understand the emotion, and you will be working with it in positive ways.
3: Let yourself cry
Many people ask why they sometimes cry when meditating. They ask because they wrongly believe that meditation is just about relaxation. It isn’t. It’s about accepting your whole self, including painful emotions like anger, loneliness, isolation, panic, rage, shame… this is the time to accept those emotions and work with them, not against them.
Embrace your emotions, the happy and the sad, and let tears fall without shame. You’re human. Own it.
And if you have trouble embracing your emotions, book an meditation session with me. I will teach you a different way to be.
It’s natural when you meditate
When you meditate your mind and body relax. Your breathing rate lowers and you increase the creation of alpha and theta brainwaves. You also balance neurochemicals like serotonin, noradrenaline, and oxytocin. You also open your heart and mind to emotions. All of this helps your body to release things, including subconscious emotions, which leads you to shed tears, which in turn helps your body to eliminate toxins.
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison