Research Projects

The Science of Transformation

Cassandra Vieten, PhD
Status: Completed

The Transformation Project is a long-running project at IONS that is focused on the predictors, meditators, and outcomes of fundamental transformations in consciousness that lead people to more meaningful, service-oriented, positive and rich, full lives. This research program area focuses on the phenomena of consciousness transformation: how it occurs, how it can be stimulated, and how it can be translated into long-term beneficial changes for oneself and one’s community. A series of studies including narrative analyses, focus groups, surveys, in-depth interviews, and longitudinal studies conducted by our research team has shed light on experiences and practices that can catalyze fundamental shifts in worldview. Continuing studies are focused on mechanisms by which people’s worldviews transform, and we are translating what we’ve learned into training programs and curricula for youth and adults. Since 1997, our team of researchers has actively investigated processes through which people make significant shifts in the way they experience themselves and view the world, focusing in particular on positive transformations of consciousness, or those that result in improved health, well-being, a sense of meaning, purpose, belonging, and engaged action to make the world a better place.

This project included three main areas of inquiry:

  1. Surveys of nearly one thousand people about life-enhancing transformations;
  2. In depth interviews with over 60 teachers and masters of the world’s spiritual, religious, and modern transformative traditions; and
  3. Longitudinal studies with hundreds of people engaged in learning and spiritual practice programs for the express intention of transforming their worldviews in positive ways.

While the experiences people shared differed widely, in each, a radical broadening of worldview and redefinition of relationship to the world around them took place, leading to significant changes in motivations, priorities, and quality of life. Our IONS Consciousness Transformation Model resulted from this work.

These findings have been published (Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life, New Harbinger, 2008), and this work is also being applied to helping people become more effective through our C3: Consciousness, Communication and Change program, and projects using laboratory inductions of transformative experiences.

We would like to acknowledge the following for supporting this project: Peter Baumann, Raymond Benton, The Clements Foundation, Richard and Lois Gunther, The Lee and Louis Kuhn Foundation, H. B. McEver & Christina Weltz, Claire Russell, The Synthesis Foundation, Ian and Victoria Watson, Claudia Welss, The Fetzer Institute and the Templeton Foundation.

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