Meditation practices linked to altered states of consciousness
PsyPost - Meditation

Altered States in Meditation and Mindfulness Practices

Recent research published in the journal reveals that altered states of are more prevalent among those who practice and mindfulness than previously recognized.

While many individuals report positive and transformative outcomes, a significant minority experience negative effects ranging from moderate to severe.

The popularity of meditation, mindfulness, and has surged due to their perceived benefits.

However, the altered states of consciousness induced by these practices remain underexplored.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital conducted a to investigate the frequency and impact of these experiences on well-being.

Using a detailed questionnaire developed with experts in psychiatry, , and meditation, the study surveyed 3,135 adults from the United States and the United Kingdom.

Participants were recruited via online platforms and a Rationalist blog, ensuring a diverse sample.

The questionnaire captured a wide range of experiences, including derealization, unitive experiences, ecstatic thrills, vivid , changes in perceived size, bodily sensations, out-of- experiences, and perception of non-physical lights.

The study found that 45% of participants reported experiencing non-drug-induced altered states of consciousness, significantly higher than previous estimates.

The most common experiences included derealization (17%), unitive experiences (15%), and ecstatic thrills (15%).

While many participants reported positive outcomes such as increased well-being and a sense of , about 13% faced moderate or greater , including of misery and existential discomfort.

Alarmingly, 1.1% described their suffering as life-threatening. Despite this, 63% of those who experienced negative effects did not seek help, highlighting a lack of awareness and support for these issues.

The researchers call for more studies to understand the individual traits associated with altered states and their potential risks.

They emphasize the need for integrating these findings into patient care practices and educating clinicians and meditation teachers about the potential risks and how to manage them.

This approach aims to ensure that meditation and mindfulness practices are both effective and safe for all practitioners.


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