Original Study - Meditators and Non-meditators: A Descriptive Analysis Over Time with A Focus on Unusual and Extraordinary Experiences (University of Virginia School of Medicine)
This study examines the effects of intensive meditation retreats on performance in psi tasks and the occurrence of paranormal experiences. The findings indicate that while there were no significant improvements in psi task performance after the retreats, individuals in the meditation group reported greater paranormal experiences compared to the control group. Correlations were observed between meditation practice, mindfulness, and paranormal beliefs and experiences. Psychosocial measures showed improvement over the retreat period, and mindfulness scores were positively associated with reporting higher levels of paranormal experiences. The study suggests the need for further research with larger sample sizes and controlled designs to explore the relationship between meditation, paranormal experiences, and psi performance.
The field of meditation research has experienced significant growth in the past two decades due to the recognition of its potential to positively impact mental and physical well-being. The number of scientific articles on meditation has increased from 500 in 1990 to over 6,000 today. This research has revealed the effects of meditation on attention, perception, cognition, and even changes in brain structure and function.
However, there are many aspects of meditation that remain understudied, such as experiences of oneness, spiritual phenomena, and extraordinary abilities. Some individuals report having para-psychological experiences during or as a result of meditation, which may be more common than previously thought. Recent studies have shown that these experiences are meaningful to individuals and may play a role in the cognitive, behavioral, and physiological benefits of meditation.
While there has been limited empirical research on the relationship between meditation and psi abilities, preliminary findings suggest a positive association. Previous studies have found correlations between longer meditation practice and improved performance on psi-related tasks. Some research has also indicated that meditation experience may enhance presentiment and the observer effect. A meta-analysis confirmed the psychological benefits of meditation and mentioned the potential development of special abilities called siddhis in Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
These altered states of consciousness are important to consider when studying the effects of meditation. It is suggested that these experiences may occur more frequently and hold significance for individuals' psychological and spiritual development. Rather than being side effects, they could be important outcomes of meditation practice, serving as mediators or mechanisms for additional benefits. This study aims to explore the frequency and impact of mindfulness, paranormal experiences, and psi task performance in meditators and non-meditators, specifically examining the effects of meditation retreats. The study focuses on prospective measures, assessing experiences and performance before and after intensive meditation training, and comparing results to a control group with little to no meditation or mindfulness experience.
The study was conducted at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and the Institute of Noetic Sciences in the United States. Two participant populations were recruited: individuals who had voluntarily signed up for meditation or mindfulness retreats and those with little to no experience in meditation. The comparison group served as a control and was not assigned to any specific activity during the study period. The recruitment process involved flyers, advertisements, presentations during enrollment, email, and word-of-mouth. The aim was to enroll 120 participants, who had to be adults without a history of hallucinations, delusions, mania, or psychosis. The researchers followed best practices and ethics guidelines in managing the research project. Participants were not individually reimbursed but had a chance to win a free iPad through a random drawing.
The study enrolled a total of 127 participants, with 9 participants excluded for not completing required components. The remaining 118 participants (98 in the meditation group and 40 in the comparison group) completed the study and had their data analyzed. Demographic details of the participants are presented in Table 1, including age, gender, race, marital status, education level, employment status, and current religious affiliation.
Baseline comparisons were made between the meditation group and the control group. The meditation group reported higher levels of mindfulness and beliefs in paranormal experiences compared to the control group. There was also a positive correlation between paranormal beliefs and experiences, as well as between psi beliefs and reported psi experiences.
Correlations were examined between self-reported paranormal experiences variables and meditation, mindfulness, and self-transcendence variables at baseline. Positive correlations were found between openness and paranormal experiences, as well as participants' religious or spiritual practice and both paranormal beliefs and experiences.
Baseline characteristics and performance on psi tasks were analyzed. Those with a history of meditation practice had better performance on a jar intuition task. Trends were observed between higher paranormal beliefs and more accurate time estimation, and between the importance of religion and spirituality in one's life and better performance on remote viewing and presentiment tasks.Pre-post comparisons were made to assess the prevalence and salience of psi and paranormal experiences during the retreats. The meditation group reported higher levels of paranormal experiences and greater meaning attributed to those experiences compared to the control group.
The study aimed to investigate the impact of intensive meditation retreats on performance in psi tasks and the occurrence of paranormal experiences. The results showed that there were no significant improvements in psi task performance after the meditation retreats, except for a control group that showed better accuracy in time estimation. However, individuals in the meditation group reported greater paranormal experiences compared to the control group both before and after the retreats.
The study also found correlations between meditation practice, mindfulness, and paranormal beliefs and experiences. Individuals with a history of meditation practice were more likely to report paranormal and psi beliefs and experiences. Psychosocial measures improved over the course of the meditation retreats, and mindfulness scores were positively associated with reporting higher levels of paranormal experiences.
The authors recommend further research with larger sample sizes and controlled designs to better understand the relationship between meditation, paranormal experiences, and psi performance. They also suggest incorporating historical lifespan variables and conducting prospective studies that follow participants for longer durations. Future studies could explore the impact of meditation on intuitive abilities and the significance of these experiences to individuals.
Meditators and Non-meditators: A Descriptive Analysis Over Time with A Focus on Unusual and Extraordinary Experiences (University of Virginia School of Medicine)