Mindfulness Training Encourages Self-Transcendent States via Decentering

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JournalPsychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice
DateAccepted/In press - 18 Jul 2020
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Self-transcendence is theorized to be a core, mechanism of mindfulness. Yet, no known
empirical study has investigated the process by which self-transcendent experiences emerge in
novice practitioners. To address this gap, this study explored whether changes in decentering in
response to mindfulness training translated into increases in self-transcendence over the course
of five mindfulness training sessions. Participants (N=26) were randomly allocated to either a
mindfulness training condition or an active listening condition. Results indicated that
mindfulness training increased both decentering (p=.023) and self-transcendence (p=.001)
relative to the active listening condition. Furthermore, greater decentering at the mid-point of
training predicted greater self-transcendence at the training’s end, suggesting that those
participants that become better able to non-reactively observe their thoughts, feelings and
physical sensations while meditating were also more likely to experience self-transcendence.
This study provides the first empirical evidence that mindfulness training can cultivate self-
transcendent experiences through the process of decentering from internal phenomena.

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