Abstract for the 2005 Conference of the
American Psychological Association
Subjective and Objective Markers of Advanced Development
in Subjects Practicing Transcendental Meditation
A 10-year longitudinal study of 34 subjects practicing the Transcendental Meditation (TM) technique showed significant increases in ego development (Loevinger’s SCT) in contrast to three matched control samples (Chandler et al., 2005). At posttest, 38% of the TM subjects scored at the highest Autonomous and Integrated stages, compared to 1% of the controls. The TM subjects’ posttest mode (Autonomous) was three levels above the mode for controls and two above the highest of 30 samples surveyed.
The hypothesized mechanism for increases in self-development through TM practice is the experience of one’s universal nature during the practice. Subjective and objective measures distinguish this experience, called Transcendental Consciousness, from simple eyes-closed rest. Subjectively Transcendental Consciousness is characterized by “Silence,” “Unboundedness” and “Loss of boundaries of time, space and body sense.” (Travis et al., 2000) The very framework that gives meaning to waking experience appears to be absent. Objectively Transcendental Consciousness is characterized by high frontal EEG coherence, spontaneous breath quiescence, and bursts in autonomic nervous system activity followed by quiescence (Travis et al., 1997).
Recent research has further investigated subjects reporting the permanent integration of Transcendental Consciousness with waking, dreaming and sleeping. This is the state of Nirvana in the Buddhist tradition, or Cosmic Consciousness in the Vedic tradition. Subjective measures of Cosmic Consciousness have been summarized in an Object Referral/Self Referral Continuum of self-awareness (Travis et al., 2004). These subjects’ sense-of-self has de-embedded from thinking and acting. Objective measures include higher frontal EEG coherence, higher alpha EEG and lower gamma EEG, and preparatory responses that better match task demands. These variables have been summarized in a Brain Integration Scale (Travis et al., 2002).
This talk presented these phenomenological and cortical patterns and related them to the model of ego development developed by Loevinger and extended by Cook-Greuter.
References:Chandler, H., C. Alexander and D. Heaton (2005). Transcendental Meditation and Post-Conventional Self-Development: A 10-Year Longitudinal Study. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 17(1): 93-122.
Travis, F., A. Arenander and D. DuBois (2004). Psychological and Physiological Characteristics of a Proposed Object-Referral/Self-Referral Continuum of Self-Awareness. Conscious Cogn 13(2): 401-20.
Travis, F. and C. Pearson (2000). Pure Consciousness: Distinct Phenomenological and Physiological Correlates of “Consciousness Itself”. The International journal of neuroscience. 100(1-4).
Travis, F. and R. K. Wallace (1997). Autonomic Patterns During Respiratory Suspensions: Possible Markers of Transcendental Consciousness. Psychophysiology. 34(1): 39-46.
Travis, F. T., J. Tecce, A. Arenander and R. K. Wallace (2002). Patterns of Eeg Coherence, Power, and Contingent Negative Variation Characterize the Integration of Transcendental and Waking States. Biological psychology. 61: 293-319.
Fred Travis, Director, Center for Brain, Consciousness and Cognition, Maharishi University of Management