Crying During Meditation? Here’s What You Need To Understand

Why You Cry During Meditation

Today, one of my online meditation students asked, “Why am I crying during meditation. 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 during meditation. 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.

Crying when meditating is normal, especially if you’re using a meditation technique like Trataka.

It’s happened to me, and it’s happened to most seasoned meditators that I know.

There are many reasons why we cry when meditating. Sometimes it’s simply the fact that the eyes are dry. Other times it could mean your emotions are coming out (which is good). If you think it’s an emotional situation, I recommend reading my article on meditation for emotional control.

 But there are many more reasons why people cry during meditation. Let’s investigate.

Are you Actually Crying During Meditation?

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 later 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 relaxing. 

So, one potential reason for your eyes watering during meditation is because they are cleaning themselves. Indeed, this is one of the reasons why meditation can improve eye-sight [1].

But maybe you really are crying. 

I Am Definitely Crying During Meditation

If you are definitely crying during meditation, it is probably because you are releasing grief and pain [READ: Meditation For Grief].

The Chopra Center says, “Crying during meditation 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.

Even if you do cry during meditation, it is probably a good thing. It happens because of underlying feelings that you usually do not permit yourself to face. This is especially true if you are going through a period of grief. If this is the case, try not to worry. It is totally normal to cry when you meditate, according to Lodro Rinzler [teacher of meditation in the Buddhist tradition of Shambhala].  

Crying is often good.

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.

But in reality: 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, in 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.

You’re Crying During Meditation To Let 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 learnt 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).

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 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 when meditating, 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 if you’re crying during meditation.

1: Try different techniques

The first thing you can do if you notice that you are crying when meditating is to change your technique. Here are two methods to try:

  • 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.

Rinzler advises mindfully investigating your crying during meditation.

  • 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. 

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By Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation.