A reader wrote in to us today saying, “Why am I crying during meditation. What’s going on?  I thought it was supposed to make me relaxed and happy, but my eyes wet and I feel all emotional. Please explain what’s happening to me!” 

Many people think it’s a bad sign if you’re crying during meditation. It really isn’t. There are far bigger side effects of meditation.

Crying when meditating is common. There are many reasons why people cry when they meditate. Sometimes it’s just because of dry eyes. Other times it could mean your emotions are out of control. If you think that is the case, use our guide to controlling your emotions.

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

Are you Actually Crying During Meditation?

You notice many things when you meditate. One thing you might notice is that your eyes are wet. Look: 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.

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. For this reason meditation is good for your eyes. In fact, research shows that meditation can improve eye-sight [1], especially method likes Trataka

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.”  This is especially common in people who are empaths. It is quite normal to release your emotional distress when you meditate. 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.

Listen: Some people cry when they meditate. And it’s a good thing. The main reason you cry when you meditate is 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 fine to cry when you meditate, according to Lodro Rinzler [teacher of meditation in the Buddhist tradition of Shambhala]. 

The only reason why most people think crying is bad is because of what the media and modern society tells us.

Modern society and culture teaches us to suppress our feelings.

But in reality: Putting a barrier up around your emotions is rarely helpful. You can’t simply shut out your feelings. People with high emotional intelligence levels know that you can’t just shut out emotions. Sooner or later those feelings are going to bubble to the surface. However, they cannot bubble to the surface while you’ve got your self-constructed psychological wall up around yourself.

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 in order to prevent yourself from letting those tears drop. And that tension can last a very long time.

There is also a tremendous psychological strain that comes from suppressing emotions. Simply stated: it is not good to hold those 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 a way of handling things, especially if you happen to be a sensitive person.  

Those emotions have been there for a long time because you learnt to repress them. You started this bizarre habit of hiding them in childhood. But it only got worse in adulthood.

As a kid, it might not be the most popular thing to show your feelings, but you’ll get away with it because you’re 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 create 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 that 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 you in one go.

As adults, the majority 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. Containing those sentiments 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 melts those walls like butter in a pan. Your self-created emotional prison evaporates in the heat of the meditation, in the heat of that mindfulness, that directed consciousness.

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. There are two great techniques that I recommend you use. Both will help you to let your feelings out in a healthy way.

What To Do If You Cry 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:

3: 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 the emotion.

Rinzler advises mindfully investigating your crying during meditation, and the 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). Then you will start to understand the emotion, and you will be working with it in positive ways.

4: Let yourself cry

So many people ask why they sometimes cry when they meditate. 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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Written 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.