Meditation and the perception of change in long-term meditators : a comparison between meditators and psychotherapists
A study was undertaken of long-term meditators within the Sahaj Marg Raj Yoga practice
to investigate how change was perceived through time and how this altered constructs of
self and interpersonal behaviour. Comparisons were made with psychotherapists in
training as a control group involved in personal and attentional development procedures.
The study used qualitative, quantitative and experimental methodology.
Semi-structured interviews were carried out with 31 meditators who had been meditating
for an average of 16 years. Using Grounded Theory Analysis, thematic content was
constructed into a hypothetical theory of the process of change. A similar qualitative
method was applied with a small group of psychotherapists. The overall core theme of
'deepening search' described the processes of change and was compared with Wilber's
theories of development.
Some of Quekelberghe's scales for Altered States of Consciousness were applied to 61
meditators and 67 psychotherapists: comparisons were made with scales relating to
positive mystical states, life change, hypersensitivity, dreams and changes in experience
of body, space and time, and a specially devised scale to measure changes in perception
and empathy. Significantly higher scores were obtained for meditators than
psychotherapists for Positive Mystical Experience, Change and Subtle Perception.
Based on an experimental study by Brown, Forte and Engler, a series of abstract
watercolours was used as a perceptual cue and responses from 9 meditators and 9
psychotherapists were analysed. Significantly higher scores were found for the meditators
in categories related to an increase of phenomenal aspects of perception.
The results of the three studies taken together suggested that affective experiences were
more significant than attentional development in contributing to changes in self-construct
and interpersonal behaviour. The finding was discussed in relation to current theories of
Wilber and Damasio.