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Why meditation research?

An extensive research literature deals with meditation (see bibliographies on the „Research“ page) to understand its physiological and psychological bases and to probe its physical effects with regard to applications. Yet, the scientific investigation of meditation entails special problems:

  1. Central for meditation are alterations in consciousness, which can’t be observed directly.
  2. It is hardly possible to ask subjects about experiences while in meditation because this would immediately interrupt the process of meditation.
  3. The retrospective assessment is faced with the problem that meditation experiences are often very difficult to describe.
  4. Finally, to fill in an inventory right after a profound meditation is easily experienced as a disturbance, as well as the fixation of electrodes and other sensors, that convey the impression of being a research object under continuous observation.

Meditation researchers typically practice meditation too and therefore they are familiar with these problems. The meditating persons are seen more as cooperators and companions than as „test subjects“. For science, meditation is an important access road for the study of altered states of consciousness. It is true that meditation is effective even if one doesn’t know what happens in the brain. But maybe more people would meditate if the produced psychological phenomena (e.g. mystical experiences) and their physiological bases would be better understood.