Meditation Alters Sense Boundaries

Meditation Alters Sense Boundaries

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“higher states of consciousness are a natural development of long-term meditation practice facilitated by regular daily experience of transcendental consciousness.” – Ravinder Jerath

 

Millions of people worldwide seek out transcendent experiences by engaging in practices, such as meditation, yoga, and prayer. Transcendent experiences have many characteristics which are unique to the experiencer, their religious context, and their present situation. But, the common, central feature of transcendence is a sense of oneness, that all things are contained in a single thing, a sense of union with the universe and/or God and everything in existence. This includes a loss of the personal self. What they used to refer to as the self is experienced as just a part of an integrated whole. People who have had these experiences report feeling interconnected with everything else in a sense of oneness with all things. Although transcendent experiences can vary widely, they all contain this experience of oneness. Unfortunately, there has not been a great deal of systematic research on the alteration of the self, produced in meditation practice.

 

In today’s Research News article “Self-Boundary Dissolution in Meditation: A Phenomenological Investigation.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8235013/ ) Nave and colleagues recruited healthy adults who were experienced meditators and provided them a 3-day intensive meditation training. They had brain activity measured with magnetoencephalography (MEG) while performing 2 meditation tasks, the first to envision the boundaries between self and the external world, the second to envision a loss of those boundaries. Before and after the meditations they completed several tasks and questionnaires and a phenomenological interview regarding their experiences during meditation.

 

They found that the participants were able to produce altered states of self-awareness during the meditations. Analysis of the interviews yielded 6 categories of alterations; sense of agency, self-location, first-person perspective, attentional disposition, affective valence, and body sensations. They report that during the loss of boundaries meditation the participants reported lower levels of self-location, loss of body sensations, and greater experience of space. They report that participants “letting go” was the most effective technique producing a dissolution of self-boundaries. “Letting go” reduced attentional disposition and the sense of agency, that is a loss of attentional focus and sense of control of experience.

 

This study demonstrates that it is possible to experimentally investigate phenomenological states experienced during meditation. In particular, it demonstrates that a dissolution of body boundaries can be produced and studied in the lab. These kinds of investigations are important as a loss of boundaries is essential for the oneness experience and oneness is central to spiritual awakening. So, the study of this dissolution should help in understanding the most profound experiences of meditation.

 

So, meditation alters sense boundaries.

 

mindfulness training alters practitioners’ experience of self, relaxing the boundaries of the self and extending the spatial frame of reference further beyond the physical body.” – Adam W Hanley

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Nave, O., Trautwein, F. M., Ataria, Y., Dor-Ziderman, Y., Schweitzer, Y., Fulder, S., & Berkovich-Ohana, A. (2021). Self-Boundary Dissolution in Meditation: A Phenomenological Investigation. Brain sciences, 11(6), 819. https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci11060819

 

Abstract

A fundamental aspect of the sense of self is its pre-reflective dimension specifying the self as a bounded and embodied knower and agent. Being a constant and tacit feature structuring consciousness, it eludes robust empirical exploration. Recently, deep meditative states involving global dissolution of the sense of self have been suggested as a promising path for advancing such an investigation. To that end, we conducted a comprehensive phenomenological inquiry into meditative self-boundary alteration. The induced states were systematically characterized by changes in six experiential features including the sense of location, agency, first-person perspective, attention, body sensations, and affective valence, as well as their interaction with meditative technique and overall degree of dissolution. Quantitative analyses of the relationships between these phenomenological categories highlighted a unitary dimension of boundary dissolution. Notably, passive meditative gestures of “letting go”, which reduce attentional engagement and sense of agency, emerged as driving the depth of dissolution. These findings are aligned with an enactive approach to the pre-reflective sense of self, linking its generation to sensorimotor activity and attention-demanding processes. Moreover, they set the stage for future phenomenologically informed analyses of neurophysiological data and highlight the utility of combining phenomenology and intense contemplative training for a scientific characterization of processes giving rise to the basic sense of being a bounded self.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8235013/

 

Change the Experience of Music with Mindfulness

Change the Experience of Music with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

“Music and meditation both allow a fuller and richer experience of our emotions: They stop our incessant and often negative mental chatter and offer us an opportunity to inhabit the present moment more fully and meaningfully.” –  Darin McFadyen

 

Mindfulness practice has been shown to improve emotion regulation. Practitioners demonstrate the ability to fully sense and experience emotions but respond to them in more appropriate and adaptive ways. In other words, mindful people are better able to experience yet control their responses to emotions. This is a very important consequence of mindfulness. Humans are very emotional creatures and these emotions can be very pleasant, providing the spice of life. But when they get extreme, they can produce misery and even mental illness.

 

Music also evokes emotions. These appear to be somewhat different from those evoked in everyday life and so they are given a different term “aesthetic emotions”. These are one of the reasons that music is so universally popular. Mindfulness has been shown to improve the appreciation of music. It is not known, however, is mindfulness changes the emotional appreciation of music; aesthetic emotions.

 

In today’s Research News article “Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Musical Aesthetic Emotion Processing.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648062/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1689544_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20210727_arts_A ) Liu and colleagues recruited college students who did not have any musical training or mindfulness meditation training. They were measured for mindfulness and positive and negative emotions and randomly assigned to either no further training or to receive a 10-minute mindfulness meditation training. After the training they listened to “15 music clips (duration 1 min) from the Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works” in a randomized order. Five of which were happy, 5 sad, and 5 calm. After each clip the students completed Likert scales of the recognition, experience, tension, beauty, and liking of the clips and the emotions experienced by the students when listening to the clips.

 

They found that in comparison to the control group, the group that received brief mindfulness meditation training were significantly less accurate in identifying the emotion portrayed in the clips, experienced significantly less emotion in themselves while listening to the clips, experienced reduced body awareness, and experienced a faster passage of time while listening to the music. The mindfulness training group also found the clips significantly more beautiful than the control group.

 

The brief mindfulness meditation reduced the recognition of the emotion of the music and the magnitude of the emotional responses to it. This is likely due to the ability of mindfulness to improve emotion regulation, allowing them to experience the emotion but not overly respond to it. Mindfulness also increased the experience of the beauty of the music, perhaps as a result to mindfulness increasing their attention to the music itself. The faster musical time perception experienced and lower body awareness by the mindfulness group may also be due to the increased attention to the music.

 

These are interesting results that suggest that mindfulness influences the effect of music on the listener, reducing emotional intensity, body awareness and time perception while listening, but increasing the perceived beauty of the music. Mindfulness appears to alter the aesthetic emotional appreciation of the music.

 

So, change the experience of music with mindfulness.

 

Combining music with meditation can deepen the positive effects of both, and bring you greater stress relief.” – Elizabeth Scott

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Liu X, Liu Y, Shi H and Zheng M (2021) Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on Musical Aesthetic Emotion Processing. Front. Psychol. 12:648062. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648062

 

Mindfulness meditation is a form of self-regulatory training for the mind and the body. The relationship between mindfulness meditation and musical aesthetic emotion processing (MAEP) remains unclear. This study aimed to explore the effect of temporary mindfulness meditation on MAEP while listening to Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works. A 2 [(groups: mindfulness meditation group (MMG); control group (CG)] × 3 (music emotions: calm music, happy music, and sad music) mixed experimental design and a convenience sample of university students were used to verify our hypotheses, which were based on the premise that temporary mindfulness meditation may affect MAEP (MMG vs. CG). Sixty-seven non-musically trained participants (65.7% female, age range: 18–22 years) were randomly assigned to two groups (MMG or CG). Participants in MMG were given a single 10-min recorded mindfulness meditation training before and when listening to music. The instruments for psychological measurement comprised of the Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire (FFMQ) and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS). Self-report results showed no significant between-group differences for PANAS and for the scores of four subscales of the FFMQ (p > 0.05 throughout), except for the non-judging of inner experience subscale. Results showed that temporary mindfulness meditation training decreased the negative emotional experiences of happy and sad music and the positive emotional experiences of calm music during recognition and experience and promoted beautiful musical experiences in individuals with no musical training. Maintaining a state of mindfulness while listening to music enhanced body awareness and led to experiencing a faster passage of musical time. In addition, it was found that Chinese classical folk instrumental musical works effectively induced aesthetic emotion and produced multidimensional aesthetic experiences among non-musically trained adults. This study provides new insights into the relationship between mindfulness and music emotion.

https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.648062/full?utm_source=F-AAE&utm_medium=EMLF&utm_campaign=MRK_1689544_a0P58000000G0YfEAK_Psycho_20210727_arts_A

 

Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

Have Better Sex with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

Mindful sex involves being able to observe and describe what’s happening inside your body and mind without sorting experiences into “bad” and “good” or trying to change your feelings. When we are able to do that, we can “turn off the autopilot.” – Gina Silverstein

 

Sex is a very important aspect of life. Problems with sex are very common and have negative consequences for relationships. While research suggests that sexual dysfunction is common, it is a topic that many people are hesitant or embarrassed to discuss. Women suffer from sexual dysfunction more than men with 43% of women and 31% of men reporting some degree of difficulty. Hence, sex has major impacts on people’s lives and relationships. Greater research attention to sexual activity and sexual satisfaction and the well-being of the individual is warranted.

 

Mindfulness trainings have been shown to improve a variety of psychological issues including emotion regulationstress responsestraumafear and worryanxiety, and depression, and self-esteem. Mindfulness training has also been found to improve relationships and to be useful in treating sexual problems. But there is little empirical research on the relationship of mindfulness with sexuality in normal, non-clinical, individuals.

 

In today’s Research News article “Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/ )  Sánchez-Sánchez and colleagues recruited online adults who were meditation naïve or who practiced meditation for at least 5 months. They completed measures online of mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies.

 

They found that the meditation practitioners were significantly higher in emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, sexuality, and leisure and significantly lower in perceived stress. They were also significantly higher in mindfulness, body awareness, sexual satisfaction, sexual activity, and sexual fantasies. They also found that the higher the levels of mindfulness and the amount of mindfulness practice, the higher the levels of body awareness sexual satisfaction and sexual activity. Also, they found that the higher the levels of mindfulness the lower the levels of body dissociation.

 

It should be kept in mind that there was no random assignment and so the groups may be quite different, People who meditate may be systematically different from those who don’t in many ways including the variables measured in this study. But previous research including randomized studies demonstrated that mindfulness produced higher levels of emotion regulation, family, academics, relationships, sociability, attention, health, and sexuality, and lower levels of stress. So, the present findings likely also represent causal connections.

 

These findings suggest that mindfulness is associated with better psychological and physical health and well-being. They also suggest that mindfulness is associated with better sexual function in terms of sexual activity, satisfaction with sex, and relationship quality and even a better sexual fantasy life. Sex is such an important aspect of life that many of the other psychological and physical benefits of mindfulness may emanate from the improved sex life of the individuals. Much more research is needed.

 

So, have better sex with mindfulness.

 

Think of mindful sex as an invitation, as an opportunity to explore the mystery of sex. The reward is deeper intimacy, more meaningful connections, and (fingers crossed) greater physical pleasure.” – Kayti Christian

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Sánchez-Sánchez, L. C., Rodríguez, M., García-Montes, J. M., Petisco-Rodríguez, C., & Fernández-García, R. (2021). Mindfulness in Sexual Activity, Sexual Satisfaction and Erotic Fantasies in a Non-Clinical Sample. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(3), 1161. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18031161

 

Abstract

The goal of this study is to better understand the relation between the practice of Mindfulness and the sexual activity, sexual satisfaction and erotic fantasies of Spanish-speaking participants. This research focuses on the comparison between people who practice Mindfulness versus naïve people, and explores the practice of Mindfulness and its relation with the following variables about sexuality: body awareness and bodily dissociation, personal sexual satisfaction, partner and relationship-related satisfaction, desire, subjective sexual arousal, genital arousal, orgasm, pain, attitudes towards sexual fantasies and types of sexual fantasies. The sample consisted of 106 selected adults, 32 men and 74 women, who completed six measures on an online survey platform: (a) Mindfulness Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS), (b) Scale of Body Connection (SBC), (c) New Sexual Satisfaction Scale (NSSS), (d) Scale of Sexual Activity in Women (SSA-W) and Men (SSA-M), (e) Hurlbert Index of Sexual Fantasy (HISF), (f) Wilson’s Sex Fantasy Questionnaire. In the MAAS, Body Awareness subscale (SBC), NSSS, SSA-W and SSA-M, HISF and intimate fantasies subscale (Wilson’s questionnaire), people in the Mindfulness condition showed higher scores and these differences were statistically significant. These results may have relevant implications in the sexuality of clinical and non-clinical samples.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7908537/

 

Improve Body Awareness with Mindfulness

Improve Body Awareness with Mindfulness

 

By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.

 

We are so caught up in thought, distracted by everyday life and media, or simply in a hurry that we hardly feel anything anymore. Our life often only takes place in the head. But we are so much more! It is also very nourishing and beneficial to gradually develop a sense of appreciation and gratitude for the incredible performance that our body provides on a daily basis. Breathing, walking, eating and digesting, talking, hugging children, – let alone the five senses.” – Being mindful

 

Most of us spend the majority of our lives lost in thought. Even when we become aware of our surroundings it is principally of the sights and sounds surrounding us. It is usually only when something is very wrong that we become aware of our bodies, what is called interoceptive awareness. We are generally unaware of the signals from our bodies such as the breath, movements in the GI tract, heart beats accompanied with surges in blood pressure, the sensations from our muscles and joints, even the sensations from our skin.

 

Body awareness can be a good indicator of stress and emotional state. The lack of body awareness can be a real problem as this interoceptive awareness is needed to regulate and respond appropriately to the emotions. Being aware of the state of our bodies is also important for maintaining health, both for recognizing our physical state and also for making appropriate decisions about health-related behaviors. Interoceptive awareness is even fundamental to our sense of self and world view. Most contemplative practices focus attention on our internal state and thus improve our body awareness. There is a need to review and summarize what has been learned about the ability of mindfulness to improve body awareness.

 

In today’s Research News article “The relationship between mindfulness and objective measures of body awareness: A meta-analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874545/), Treves and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the published research literature on the effects of mindfulness on body awareness. They identified 15 published studies involving a total of 879 participants. Seven studies were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) while 8 were comparisons of long-term meditators to meditation naïve controls.

 

They found that overall the published research literature reports that there is a small but significant positive relationship between mindfulness and body awareness such that the higher the levels of mindfulness the higher the levels of body awareness. This relationship was only significant with the randomized controlled trials.

 

These findings are suggestive that mindfulness training produces a small but significantly greater sensitivity to bodily states. But these findings must be interpreted cautiously as the effect sizes were very small and only present in manipulative studies (RCTs). The fact that the relationship was only present for RCTs and not when long-term meditators were compared to meditation naïve participants suggests that something about the experimental procedure is critical in producing the effect. This may be contaminants such as participant or experimenter biases, demand characteristics, or sensitization effects. It may also suggest that short-term meditation practice increases sensitivity that habituates over time.

 

So, improve body awareness with mindfulness.

 

With the mind in the body, we can regulate our responses to events, people, and situations, set up an early warning process to detect fight, flight, and freeze while making better, more conscious choices, notice muscular tension and release it within minutes, observe which areas of the body are habitually tight, tense, and need extra relaxation effort, be more aware of signs of tension or perceived danger in others and adjust our responses skillfully.” – Elad Levinson

 

CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies

 

This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ https://plus.google.com/106784388191201299496/posts and on Twitter @MindfulResearch

 

Study Summary

 

Treves, I. N., Tello, L. Y., Davidson, R. J., & Goldberg, S. B. (2019). The relationship between mindfulness and objective measures of body awareness: A meta-analysis. Scientific reports, 9(1), 17386. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-53978-6

 

Abstract

Although awareness of bodily sensations is a common mindfulness meditation technique, studies assessing the relationship between mindfulness and body awareness have provided mixed results. The current study sought to meta-analytically examine the relationship between mindfulness operationalized as a dispositional trait or a construct trained through short- (i.e., randomized controlled trials [RCTs]) or long-term mindfulness meditation practice with objective measures of body awareness accuracy. PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and Scopus were searched. Studies were eligible if they reported the association between mindfulness and body awareness, were published in English, and included adults. Across 15 studies (17 independent samples), a small effect was found linking mindfulness with greater body awareness accuracy (g = 0.21 [0.08, 0.34], N = 879). When separated by study design, only RCTs continued to show a significant relationship (g = 0.20, [0.02, 0.38], k = 7, n = 505). Heterogeneity of effects was low (I2 < 25%), although with wide confidence intervals. Effects were not moderated by study quality. Low fail-safe N estimates reduce confidence in the observed effects. Results suggest a small but potentially detectable relationship between mindfulness and body awareness accuracy. Future investigations could examine individual differences in body awareness as a mechanism within mindfulness interventions.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6874545/