Future directions in meditation research: Recommendations for expanding the field of contemplative science.

Author: Vieten C1, Wahbeh H1,2, Cahn BR3, MacLean K4, Estrada M5, Mills P6, Murphy M7, Shapiro S8, Radin D1, Josipovic Z9, Presti DE10, Sapiro M1, Chozen Bays J11, Russell P1, Vago D12, Travis F13, Walsh R14, Delorme A1,6
Author Information:
1Research Department, Institute of Noetic Sciences, Petaluma, California, United States of America.
2Department of Neurology, Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, Oregon, United States of America.
3Department of Psychiatry, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, United States of America.
4Center for Optimal Living, New York, New York, United States of America.
5Institute for Health and Aging, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, United States of America.
6Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California, United States of America.
7Center for Theory and Research, Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California, United States of America.
8Department of Counseling Psychology, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, California, United States of America.
9Department of Psychology, New York University and Nonduality Institute, New York, New York, United States of America.
10Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of California, Berkeley, California, United States of America.
11Randall Children's Hospital, Portland, Oregon, United States of America.
12Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee, United States of America.
13Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, Iowa, United States of America.
14School of Medicine, University of California, Irvine, California, United States of America.
Conference/Journal: PLoS One.
Date published: 2018 Nov 7
Other: Volume ID: 13 , Issue ID: 11 , Pages: e0205740 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205740. eCollection 2018. , Word Count: 261


The science of meditation has grown tremendously in the last two decades. Most studies have focused on evaluating the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions, neural and other physiological correlates of meditation, and individual cognitive and emotional aspects of meditation. Far less research has been conducted on more challenging domains to measure, such as group and relational, transpersonal and mystical, and difficult aspects of meditation; anomalous or extraordinary phenomena related to meditation; and post-conventional stages of development associated with meditation. However, these components of meditation may be crucial to people's psychological and spiritual development, could represent important mediators and/or mechanisms by which meditation confers benefits, and could themselves be important outcomes of meditation practices. In addition, since large numbers of novices are being introduced to meditation, it is helpful to investigate experiences they may encounter that are not well understood. Over the last four years, a task force of meditation researchers and teachers met regularly to develop recommendations for expanding the current meditation research field to include these important yet often neglected topics. These meetings led to a cross-sectional online survey to investigate the prevalence of a wide range of experiences in 1120 meditators. Results show that the majority of respondents report having had many of these anomalous and extraordinary experiences. While some of the topics are potentially controversial, they can be subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. These arenas represent largely uncharted scientific terrain and provide excellent opportunities for both new and experienced researchers. We provide suggestions for future directions, with accompanying online materials to encourage such research.

PMID: 30403693 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0205740

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