A breakthrough study has found a remarkable similarity between meditation techniques and psychedelic experiences. The research, published in the journal Neuroscience, shows that we experience the same chaotic activity during both meditation and psychedelics.
Science On Psychedelic Meditation
In my experience as a meditation teacher, I’ve found that it is possible to achieve a psychedelic experience through certain forms of meditation.
Personally, I’ve been meditating for 15 years, and I have encountered out-of-body experiences. And now there is research that confirms this.
Scientific studies are showing the potential benefits of psychedelics. Enzo Tagliazucchi, professor at the University of Buenos Aires and director of the Computational Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, tells THE DAILY MEDITATION “Psychedelics are being reconsidered as comparatively safe tools to investigate the relationship between brain, mind and consciousness. They are a promising clinical alternative to treat certain psychiatric disorders, such as depression.” 
Research has already revealed the impressive benefits of meditation for depression. Psychedelics could potentially have similar effects to some forms of meditation have similar effects on the brain. Therefore, it is reasonable to consider that they may offer the same benefits.
Professor Tagliazucchi states “[I was interested in studying the] overlap between the phenomenology (i.e. ‘what it feels like’) of some meditation techniques and the psychedelic state. For instance, both states have been consistently linked to a collapse of self-boundaries and a merging of the subjective and objective sides of reality.”
“My colleague Robin Carhart-Harris, one of the leading figures of the psychedelic renaissance, has put forward a theory of the psychedelic state as a brain state of increased entropy. And I became interested in finding out whether meditation could also be associated with increases in the entropy of brain activity.”
Brain entropy is the term used to refer to the randomness of brain activity . This is heightened during psychedelic experiences. Limited research suggests that heightened entropy could increase intelligence. If meditation induces this state, it could explain why meditation improves intelligence.
In the study, Tagliazucchi measured participants’ brainwaves while they were meditating. The test participants included 28 Himalaya Yoga meditators, 20 Vipassana meditators, 27 Isha Yoga meditators, and 30 people with no experience of meditation.
The results showed that Vipassana meditation caused the highest increase in brain entropy. Specifically, increases in alpha and gamma brainwaves. So, if you have ever wanted to use meditation to become more intelligent you might like to start practicing Vipassana at home.
Tagliazzuchi tells THE DAILY MEDITATION that we do not notice this brain activity during meditation. However, whenever there is a change in conscious experience there is always a corresponding change in the brain physically.
These alternative states of consciousness are one thing that meditation and psychedelics have in common.
“The acute effects of psychedelics and some meditative practices both lead to states departing from ordinary conscious wakefulness. They are experienced subjectively as richer in information and capable of sustaining an ample repertoire of contents. Because of this, we hypothesized that meditation would be associated with the increased information content of brain activity recordings, which was confirmed in the study.”
Default Mode Network
The Default Mode Network is the part of the brain used when planning, reflecting and remembering and forms the basis of our sense of self.
A study compared people on LSD, psilocybin, and ayahuasca, to experienced meditators. They found similar brain states in both psychedelic experience and meditation. They both affected the DMN. This can create an experience similar to a deep state of relaxation and insight.
Best Psychadelic Meditations?
According to the research, one of the best psychedelic meditation techniques is vipassana. This is a Buddhist meditation in which we focus on the breath. We then label thoughts, emotions, and sensory information.
I have used this method for years and I have taught it to many people. It does indeed lead to a shift in consciousness that could be like psychedelics.
Another option would be Tibetan Dream Yoga, which is a method in which we lucid dream. We achieve consciousness while sleeping. I find this to be one of the most “out there” experiences I’ve had as a meditator.
Finally, Kundalini meditation is one experience I’ll never forget. It’s a method where you meditate to awaken Kudalini energy. When I did this, I found my skin tingling and it was like my whole body was alive.
The spiritual community tends to be at odds about the use of psychedelics. Some believe they are unhealthy and have no place in yoga and meditation training. Others consider them valuable tools that can help with spiritual healing.
This latest research suggests that indeed meditation and psychedelic do have similar effects. Should we use them for spiritual development?
Giving Is Caring
Paul Harrison BSc is a qualified meditation teacher who believes in genuine, authentic meditation. He has more than 15 years experience in teaching meditation and mindfulness both to individuals and to corporations and is the author of four books on meditation. He has been featured in Psychology Today, Breathe Magazine, Healthline, Psych Central and Lion’s Roar.
Paul studied meditation in beautiful Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University.
Paul’s biggest inspirations include Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat Zinn, and Jack Kornfield.
“My goal is to provide the most authentic meditation sessions so you can harness the power of your own mind for personal transformation” – Paul Harrison