I’m Seeing Strange Images and Sounds in Meditation, What Do They Mean?

Question

In recent weeks I have had my concentration shattered during meditation. Many images and sounds appear in my mind. The strange thing is that they are extremely clear and detailed as if I was seeing and hearing physically. Several times during the meditation I have to bring my attention back and avoid these "lucid dreams".

My meditation used to be quiet, but now it is disturbed by voices , images and faces of people I’ve never seen before.

What can I do?

—Marcelo, Brazil

Answer

Dear Marcelo,

When you have a regular meditation practice, you will probably encounter a number of disturbances of various kinds during meditation over the years. It can be disconcerting to have this happen, but it doesn’t necessarily signify that something is wrong. It does mean that during these times you will need to put out more energy in your meditations to concentrate and to continue to push these images away — as you are already doing.

The most important thing to do at times like this, is to steadily continue on with your regular meditation routine. This is usually the way out of such disturbances. Your regular practices will act as a calming influence on your mind and lead you forward — even if at the time it can feel as though you are in the middle of a battlefield!

The other more subtle aspect of having these things happen, especially when you describe them as being “extremely clear and detailed, as if I was seeing and hearing physically,” is to not encourage them by continuing to give them energy. You can do this by not continuing to think about them, and mulling them over in your mind.

Why do things like this happen? Well, it can be from a number of causes. No matter what the cause, it does present a good opportunity to look at what the rest of your life looks like. Is there anything that you are doing that could be causing such disturbances? It might be things such as associating with old friends, family troubles, the movies you watch, the daily news, trouble at work, etc. These are just some ideas of the kinds of things that could be disturbing your meditations.

In addition, these kinds of disturbances could be caused by your own past karma. Actions done either in this life, or previous lives, are all registered in the subconscious mind. The energy from these actions travels with us through all our lifetimes, and is only resolved completely when we are spiritually liberated. In the meantime, this karma can come up and affect us in various ways in our present lifetime. Paramhansa Yogananda referred to these happenings as “karmic bombs.” These can go off at any time in our life given the right circumstances. Again, the best way to deal with them, is to continue your meditation practice, keeping it strong and focused, and not keep these disturbances active by thinking about them too much. The disturbances are there, and the way out of them is to look to the light, not to focus on the disturbance. If you have a guru, then the other important thing to do, it to pray to him/her for help, guidance, and grace (spiritual power) to move beyond them.

I hope this will help you in what you are dealing with.

In divine friendship,

Nayaswami Parvati