Meditation & Psychadelic Experience: What’s The Link?

A breakthrough study has found a remarkable similarity between meditation and psychedelic experiences. The research, published in the journal Neuroscience, shows that we experience the same chaotic activity during both meditation and psychedelic experiences.

Link Between Meditation And Psychadelic Experience


In my experience as a meditation teacher, it is possible to achieve the psychedelic experience through meditation.

Personally, I’ve been meditating for 15 years and I have encountered out-of-body experiences with meditation, similar to the psychedelic experience, and the latest research confirms it.

This news comes at a time when major scientific studies are showing potential benefits of psychedelics. Enzo Tagliazucchi, professor at the University of 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, as well as promising clinical alternatives to treat certain psychiatric disorders, such as depression.” [1]

Similar benefits between meditation and psychedelic experience?

Major scientific research has already revealed impressive benefits of meditation for depression. And if psychedelics and meditation have similar affects on the brain, it is reasonable to consider that they may share some of 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 traditions 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 [2], which is heightened during psychedelic experiences.  Limited research has suggested that intelligence may increase when the brain has heightened entropy. If meditation induces this state it could explain why meditation improves intelligence [READ: 100 Benefits Of Meditation ].

The Research

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, most noticeably in alpha and gamma brainwaves. So if you have ever wanted to use meditation to become more intelligent you might like to start practicing Vipasanna at home.

Tagliazzuchi tells THE DAILY MEDITATION that although we do not notice this brain activity during meditation, 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 psychedelic experiences have in common.

“The acute effects of psychedelics and some meditative practices both lead to states departing from ordinary conscious wakefulness, and 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 increased information content of brain activity recordings, which was confirmed in the study.”  

Default Mode Network

It’s hard to discuss the link between meditation and psychedelic experiences without mentioning the Default Mode Network (DMN). This is the part of the brain used when planning, reflecting and remembering. It forms the basis for 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 effected the DMN. This can create an experience similar to a deep state of relaxation and insight.

Best Meditations For Psychadelic Experience

According to the research, the following are the best meditation for psychedelic experience is vipassana.  This is a Buddhist meditation in which we focus on the breath and then label anything we notice, including thoughts, emotions and sensory information. I have used this method for years and I have taught it to many people, and it does indeed lead to a shift in consciousness that could be similar to psychedelics.

Another option would be Tibetan Dream Yoga, which is a method in which we basically 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.

Conclusion

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 consider them as part of our spiritual development?

Leave a comment and remember to subscribe .


Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a qualified meditation teacher and writer with more than 15 years experience in meditation and mindfulness. He studied meditation in Oxford, UK, and Hamilton Ontario Canada, and earned his degree at Staffordshire University. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential through mindfulness, yoga and meditation. You can read his books on Amazon

Leave a Reply