I’ve discovered that I have ADHD, and I’m not the only one of our community who has discovered this about themselves. I stopped meditating formally after the events of 2017 – which are well documented here and in my book Fallout: Recovering from Abuse in Tibetan Buddhism – but I’ve recently returned to a form of meditation practice after realising that I need it. And when you look at the research on ADHD and meditation, it’s easy to see why it’s particularly good for my neurodivergent brain.
When I look back at how my mind was before I started meditating – easily distracted, often overwhelmed with thoughts, low self-esteem – it’s easy to see how much it’s helped me. I can even see why the Vajrayana practice worked for me when other forms of practice didn’t. It simply held my attention better. When you take my autism into account (structure, repetition, stimming-style use of mala etc) I can see why it’s the perfect form of meditation for me – once you’ve taken away the feudal and blind devotion bullshit side of it of course.
Why meditation is good for people with ADHD
Research backs up my experience, and I’ve written an article about how meditation works for ADHD on my Psychemagination website. If you’re interested in the details pop over and take a look.
What isn’t helpful for people with ADHD in Tibetan Buddhism
I mentioned that Vajrayana practice was good for me, but I always make the distinction between Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism because they are not the same thing. Tibetan Buddhism is just one version of Vajrayana, and Tibetan Buddhism isn’t all good for people with ADHD. Parts of it are, and parts of it aren’t.
Since I practiced alone at home and avoided group practices, I escaped the aspects of Tibetan Buddhism as displayed in Rigpa that are not ideal for anyone but are particularly a problem for people with ADHD. Aside from abuse, these are the cult control and manipulation tactics of pressure and shame: pressure to conform, to complete a certain number of mantras in a certain time, to be able to parrot the guru’s words back at him and so on; and the shame people are made to feel when they don’t meet the guru’s expectations.
What does work particularly well for people with ADHD are the structured practices with the use of imagery and imagination, mantra, chanting and the physical repetitive nature of flicking mala beads. These things just help to keep ADHD minds focused.
Has anyone else discovered they have ADHD or any other form of neurodivergence, or think they might have? Has it changed how you see your meditation experience?
My story of looking at myself through the neurodivergent framework is documented (illustrated with animated AI art) on Psychemagination: Journey into the Psyche. Do pop over, the site is changing and growing all the time.