Have you ever thought about taking a workshop to enhance your intuition, deepen your meditation practice, or better understand yourself? In recent years, these types of personal development workshops have taken off, especially ones that promise to be transformational for participants, or cause long-lasting shifts in the way one experiences and relates to themselves and others.
But, there has not been much research on whether these workshops truly help ignite transformation. To address this question, we published a new study using data from our previously launched research program where we measured the outcomes of a wide variety of personal development workshops. The workshops covered popular personal development topics, such as mental health, physical health, self-awareness, and more.
The Study: Exploring Transformation through Personal Development Workshops
In our initial study, we found that participants reported feeling increased interconnectedness and well-being after participating in personal development workshops.
This time, we were curious to know: did participants report having transformative experiences in these personal development workshops? Did they have a prior history of transformative experiences before they attended?
Transformation is thought to include a shift in consciousness and involve a more intuitive interconnected relationship with the surrounding world, one that is not limited by space and time. So, we were also curious about noetic experiences, which can range from gut hunches, mediumship and trance channeling, to mind-to-mind communication (telepathy), accessing information not normally knowable through the traditional five senses (remote viewing or clairvoyance), and contact with the dead. Noetic experiences can be profoundly transformative and commonly occur in personal development workshops, so we were interested in whether workshop participants also experienced noetic experiences.
Lastly, transpersonal experiences are also frequently reported in workshops and are experiences that allow individuals to feel a sense of identity that goes beyond their personal selves to encompass the broader aspects of humanity and even the universe. Since transformational experiences are also transpersonal experiences, we wanted to know whether participants experienced transpersonal events.
Since transformative, noetic, and transpersonal experiences have been found to increase the sense of connection to others, happiness, and well-being, we wanted to know if having one of these experiences in a workshop was related to our previous finding of participants feeling more interconnected and having higher well-being.
Thus, to explore transformative, noetic, and transpersonal experiences, we surveyed 522 participants of various personal development workshops, with topics including: meditation, positive psychology, spirituality, health and healing, intention, intuition, nature practices, embodied practices, art, death and dying, sound healing, parapsychology, technology tools, altered states of consciousness, and dreamwork.
What Did We Find?
Our results showed that a majority of participants (74%) reported feeling aspects of transformation, such as a moment of clarity or profound insight. They endorsed statements such as, “I have been positively changed as a result of this workshop,” and “my behavior and relationships will change as a result of this experience.” We also found that participants had a history of transformative experiences prior to attending a workshop.
A majority of participants (66%) reported experiencing at least one noetic experience during a workshop, with the top three experiences being: (1) nonlocal consciousness, (2) gaining information without the use of the traditional five senses, and (3) intuitive hunches.
Additionally, most participants (84%) reported a transpersonal experience, with the top three being: (1) meaningful experiences with a person, place, or thing, (2) a strong connection with the teacher, and (3) a strong connection with other participants.
Lastly, none of the transformative experiences were associated with an increased feeling of interconnectedness or well-being after the workshop, but one of ten noetic experiences – contact with the dead – was. In other words, participants who felt they had contact with the dead reported feeling more interconnected and having higher well-being. Additionally, we found that participants who had a meaningful experience with wildlife or animals during the workshop reported feeling more interconnected, and those who had a meaningful experience with a person, place, or thing reported feeling increased well-being.
What Does This Mean?
With this new research, we show that across a wide variety of workshop types, participants reported having transformative, noetic, and transpersonal experiences, supporting the idea that they can be positively transformative. Personal development workshops increase interconnectedness and well-being regardless of whether participants had transformative, noetic, or transpersonal experiences – although these experiences do appear to be common during the workshops.
Future research might look at whether these transformational changes are long-lasting, as well as which parts of the participants’ lives are most affected. Since participants reported that their behavior and relationships would change as a result of their workshop experience, future research might focus here to see if and how this plays out.
Today, many people seek authentic and meaningful experiences in which a deep sense of connection and transformation is achieved. We define transformation as an essential and positive development in a person’s consciousness, worldview, or perspective that results in long lasting changes in how an individual experiences and relates to themselves, others, and the world. Part of a transformative or awakening experience is transcending “our normal sense of separateness from the world,” including from other people and nature, and personal development workshops seem to be one avenue for achieving this.
Learn more about the IONS Discovery Lab (IDL) at noetic.org/science/idl.