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Chapter 8

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Department
Psychology
Course
Psychology 2011A/B
Professor
Imants Baruss
Semester
Spring

Description
Alter States of Consciousness: Transcendence Variety of Transcendent Experiences Flow • Csikszentmihalyi – found that one thing that can improve quality of life is to be faced with challenged that are more demanding than everyday living - Flow – a state of consciousness that occurs when skills match the difficulties of the challenge, in which there are joyous and creative total involvement with life • Eight components of flow 1. Engagement in challenge – when we have the requisite skills 2. Absorption – in the challenge where ones awareness merges with ones actions (not effortless, involved full engagement of physical or psychological self) 3. Setting of clear goods – that the goals are being reached 4. Presence of feedback - that the goals are being reached 5. Attenuation of one’s usual concerns 6. Opportunity to exercise control 7. Loss of self-awareness - can be accompanied by identification with one’s environment (e.g. prof and his connectedness with other choristers) 8. Freedom from the uniform ordering of time Peak Experiences • Maslow asked people to describe the best experience of their lives, accordingly he characterized the changes of cognition and self-identity that occurred during these peak experiences - Always described as good and desirable, never evil or undesirable, sometimes using the word sacred - In other peak experiences the whole world is seen as unity, as a single rich live entity - Absorption can also be disorientation in time and space Mystical Experience • Some peak experiences can be mystical experiences • 20% to 74% of the population claiming to have had some sort of mystical experience - About 35% of those sampled affirmed some intense spiritual experience • Consciousness survey (Baruss & Moore) - 47% of respondents claimed to have had an experience that could be best described as a transcendent or mystical experience - Another experiment where 34% of participants agreed to have had been close to a powerful spiritual force, however further analysis showed only 1% met criteria for mystical experience Examples of Spontaneous Transcendence Mitchell • Astronaut reflected on his journey, looked beyond the earth to the larger universe and experienced a profound shift in his understanding of reality • Rejected others to call it a religious experience • Shaken to the core by silent authority of his feelings of connectedness to an intelligent natural process • Convinced what he felt will always be an ineffable experience • Returned to earth and changed his career and became a student of the totality of consciousness Allan Smith • While watching sunset he noticed the light level in the room and sky increased from an external source other than the sun and his mood improved, time slowed down and after a while time stopped entirely and finally merged with the light • Most significant aspect was his knowledge, beyond words, that the universe worked as a harmonious whole and that God, which he became united with, was the ground of being • The cosmic consciousness appeared to last 20 minute before fading • Changed from science research to exploring spirituality Wren-Lewis • On a bus with wife in Thailand and ate poison-candy laced with morphine and went into coma • When awakened he found the hospital room transcendentally beautiful, realized that before awakening he had emerged from a deep but dazzling darkness that remained with him behind his ordinary consciousness • Felt as if he was looking through wrong end of the telescope, his brain was exposed to the infinity of space, perceiving everything sharply from an immense distance • The presence of darkness was accompanies by a sense of surprised satisfaction, love, bliss and joy beyond joy • His mystical state of consciousness persisted indefinitely, only slips out for a short period of time without noticing until the shining dark would come flooding back • Wouldn’t call it an alter state on consciousness as he saw it as a normal state in which things are truly what they are • Purposed that transcendent consciousness is blocked by hyperactivity of a psychological survival mechanism within each of us, coming close to death broke this because the survival mechanisms give up at this point allowing a person the knowledge of what consciousness is Comparison of Transcendent and Psychedelic Experiences • Wren-Lewis had been a participant in long series of high dosage psychedelic experiments but none like his endarkenment. In Psychedelic experiences he was high where as his mystical experience felt normal and obvious • It has been argued that LSD experiences are imitative, can be misleading, and could possibly prevent a person from being able to realize the real thing • Baker expresses concern that although alcohol and psychedelics can induce transcendent experiences, they damage subtle aspect of a person’s physiology that may not heal within their lifetime Meditation • Refers to mental strategies whose purpose is to effect transcendent states of consciousness • Used in the west largely to enhance physical and psychological well-being, particularly to lower blood pressure and stress • Scientific approach has largely consisted of measuring the physiological and cognitive aspects in order to establish clinical benefits without considering different effects from differing styles Transcendental Meditation (TM) • A type of meditation that was introduced by Yogi in his arrival to North America • Basic technique consist of repeating a word that have no meaning over and over again while sitting with eyes closed for 20 minutes • The word, mantra, is one of a number derived from standard Sanskrit sources based on age group • Tart reported after one year of TM that he was more relaxed and able to still his mind but did not experience a joyful, oceanic feeling as advertised by the TM organization. Had increased resistance to cold and decreased enjoyment of alcohol Physiology of Meditation • Benson reported the results of physiological studies of TM practitioners - Found a pattern of decreased physiological arousal during the time of meditation (relaxation response) which could be induced in other ways - Regardless, it lowers blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumption • Some investigators claim that therapeutic benefits of TM may be the result of time spent asleep during meditation - Study where 5 experienced meditators monitored after either meditating or napping for 40 minutes. Each person participated in 5 nap and meditate sessions - Found that 40% of meditation time was spend in sleep stages 2, 3, and 4 with those sleep stages appearing for more than a quarter of the meditation time. Participants indicated afterward that they had fallen asleep in that meditation time - No significant difference between the meditation and nap sessions with regard to time spent in staged 2, 3, or 4, although differences were found for one of the 5 meditators • In general, meditation has been associated with increases first in alpha activity, then theta activity, followed by some cases of deep meditation by beta activity around 20 cps • Suggested that meditation consist of the ability to sustain hypnagogic state, or periodically falling asleep, or lucid dreaming • Difference between meditation in sleep, where during meditation there is uniformity in waveforms in the brain, known a coherence, which does not occur when falling alseep Styles of Meditation • Three man patterns of attention, introspection, and volition that can be identified as styles of meditation 1. Concentrative meditation – one seeks to confine attention to a single object of thought (e.g. repeatition of a word, imagine Buddha, or keepings one’s mind on a particular theme such as love for significant other)  Consequence is keeping the mind on a particular object leads to exhaustion, relinquishing control by the rational faculty can causing intrusion of latent transcendent aspects of the mind revealing hidden meaning of the object  Point is to attend to a chosen object of consciousness  Discursive meditation – a single topic of meditation is replaced with a sequence of topics along a theme 2. Witnessing meditation – purpose is to provide the pr
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