Research Projects

Extraordinary Experiences and Performance on Psi Tasks During and After Meditation Classes and Retreats

Cassandra Vieten, PhD
Status: Complete

A robust body of literature indicates that the practice of meditation appears to be helpful for a wide variety of stress-related conditions, as well as enhancing people’s positive qualities and improving overall quality of life. But in addition to these benefits, there are a host of experiences people report having during or as a result of meditation practice that could point to new and expanded understandings about human potential and the nature of reality.

Anecdotal reports and a small amount of research indicate that those who practice meditation have experiences of precognition; telepathy, clairvoyance, and other psychic abilities; increased synchronicities; memories of past lives; out-of-body experiences, and sometimes report anomalous physical phenomena (such as clocks stopping or lights going out). However, these reports have rarely been empirically investigated, so little is known about them. How prevalent are these experiences? What types of experiences do people report? Are they important to people, or merely passing curiosities? Do people in fact experience enhanced psychic ability as a result of meditation retreats or classes?

Because of the limits inherent in such retrospective surveys, we propose to prospectively study people entering both meditation retreats and medical center mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR)-type interventions, assessing the prevalence of these experiences in both populations, and finding out how important they are to the people having them. In addition, we will investigate changes in performance on online or mobile device psi tasks before and after meditation classes or retreats to examine whether meditation practice enhances psychic ability.

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