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Open Access 'I Have This Feeling of Not Really Being Here': Buddhist Meditation and Changes in Sense of Self

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A change in sense of self is an outcome commonly associated with Buddhist meditation. However, the sense of self is construed in multiple ways, and which changes in self-related processing are expected, intended, or possible through meditation is not well understood. In a qualitative study of meditation-related challenges, six discrete changes in sense of self were reported by Buddhist meditators: change in narrative self, loss of sense of ownership, loss of sense of agency, change in sense of embodiment, change in self-other or self-world boundaries, and loss of sense of basic self. Changes in sense of self could be transient or enduring, positive or distressing, enhancing or impairing. These changes were also given varied appraisals, ranging from insights associated with Buddhist doctrines to psychopathologies such as depersonalization. In this study of practitioners reporting meditation-related challenges, more global changes in sense of self were associated with higher levels of impairment. These results have implications for both Buddhist meditation as well as mindfulness-based interventions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Religious Studies, Brown University., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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