Psychedelics & Meditation: Theories, Evidence and Future Directions

  • Wed 20th Apr 2022, 7pm – 9pm UK time (UTC +01:00)
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meditation neuroscience consciousness perception self
Hosted by The Psychedelic Society
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How can psychedelics increase the range, depth, and subtlety of meditation practices? 

And how can meditation practices contribute to preparing, shaping, and integrating psychedelic experiences?

To begin answering these complex questions, I will explore historical, theoretical, and empirical perspectives.

First, I will trace the history of Psychedelic Buddhism from the 1950s to the present, highlighting factors that helped forge this unique lineage in the fires of the Buddhist and psychedelic revolutions. By considering this history, I hope to emphasise the complex web of contextual conditions from which meditation and psychedelic practices dependently arise.

Against this historical backdrop, I will map some of the views that characterise present-day discourses on meditation and psychedelics (e.g., “things as they are”, “bare attention”, “cleansing the doors of perception”, “ego death”, “true self”, “all is one”, “I am awareness”). I will invite us to playfully question and probe whether and how some of these ways of looking could, at times, limit rather than open up valuable practice possibilities and freedoms. Any practice is inevitably embedded in a particular framework, and any framework is inevitably steeped in a particular set of views, assumptions, and beliefs. Therefore, rather than framing thought and concepts in practice as a problem to be overcome, we will ask:

- How could the exploration of concepts – whether consciously adopted or unconsciously inherited – become a fruitful and exciting part our meditation and psychedelic practice?
- To what extent does our commitment to certain views participate in shaping how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world?
- How could the combination of meditation and psychedelic practices increase the malleability of perception and thus our capacity to skilfully fabricate perceptions in the service of insight, beauty or meaningfulness?

In this context, I will touch on new modes and images of practice that are emerging in contemporary dharma circles, including ways of looking that seek to expand the phenomenological playground of meditation and stretch our conceptions of what-practice-is.

After these historical and theoretical excursions, I will review research on the use of psychedelics in meditation training. I will discuss the limitations of previous work and highlight how models of the psychedelic experience and theories of meditation could inform and challenge each other. Relatedly, I will outline contextual conditions that potentially shape the effects of psychedelic-assisted meditation training, namely person-related factors (e.g., personality, intentions, worldview), meditation-related factors (e.g., forms of meditation, conceptual frameworks, community/sangha), and psychedelic-related factors (e.g., substance, dose, preparedness). 

Further, I will make tentative suggestions for future work – partly based on reports from expert meditators – for potentially valuable synergies of psychedelic substances and meditation practices (e.g., low-
dose 5-MeO-DMT and jhana practice). I will then present data from the largest study to date investigating regular meditators’ relationship with psychedelics. 

More than 1,000 experienced meditators reported on how their psychedelic use (including microdosing) has affected their meditation practice and vice versa. Further, information was collected about meditators’ most meaningful and most difficult meditation and psychedelic experiences, their personality traits, relationship to set and setting, and perceived changes in life satisfaction and personal ethics. To conclude, I will propose questions and directions that could contribute to the maturation of this budding research field.

About MARCO SCHLOSSER, M.SC.

Maro is a researcher at University College London, Division of Psychiatry. As part of the European Medit-Ageing Research Group, he investigates the impact of meditation training on mental health and well-being in the ageing population. He is also leading the IMPRINT project, which aims to deepen and refine the relationship between meditation and psychedelic research. 

​Marco received his BSc in Psychology from the University of Groningen, his MSc in Clinical Mental Health Sciences from University College London, and research training at McGill University. He has been awarded a fellowship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and is currently completing a PhD in psychology at the University of Geneva. 

Marco has spent one year on silent meditation retreats. 

 

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