Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation
Cassandra Vieten, Adam Cohen, and Marilyn Schlitz
Institute of Noetic Sciences
SummaryThere is a great need to conduct rigorous research evaluating the effects of lay spiritual practice programs in a prospective manner. This project has tracked 50 individuals participating in Integral Transformative Practice, a community-based transformative practice program that includes The goals of this project are to 1) develop and pilot test a survey instrument, based on our cross-sectional measure, that that is applicable across spiritual practice programs, but can also be tailored to a limited extent to be relevant to the specifics of each program; and 2) to prospectively (i.e. following people over time) track how participation in spiritual practice programs predicts outcomes related to health and well-being. We believe that development of the instrument will be a useful contribution to the field of research on transformation. In addition, this project will contribute to the development and support of spiritual practice programs intended to promote love, forgiveness, and other positive outcomes in individuals and communities.
BackgroundNeed for Research on Spiritual Practice Programs Intended to Promote Love and Forgiveness
A growing number of programs intended to promote spiritual development in laypeople have been developed that incorporate spiritual practices, study and readings, group discussions and activities, and contemplative introspection. Despite the proliferation of these programs, very little rigorous research has been conducted to explore the extent to which these programs result in measurable changes in outcomes such as love and forgiveness. Learning more about how effective these programs are in promoting spiritual development in their participants, what specific elements of the programs account for the outcomes observed, by what mechanisms these changes occur, and how background and inherent characteristics of participants (such as ethnicity, membership in different religious or spiritual communities, etc.) affects their response to these programs would represent a major contribution to the rapidly emerging field of research on spiritual practices and transformation.
The extant literature on the effects of religiosity/spirituality and spiritual practices almost completely explores traditional religions: Protestant Christianity and Catholicism for the most part, and to a lesser extent, Buddhist practice, Judaism, Islam, and other religions (Cohen, Hall, Koenig, & Meador, 2005; Snibbe & Markus, 2003). While it is true that Christianity accounts for the overwhelming majority of people in the U.S., there is arising a significant movement of people who are engaging, either in addition to their religion or instead of a formal religion, in spiritual practice movements that incorporate religious principles but are not formal religions themselves (Batson, Schoenrade & Ventis, 1993; Hill & Pargament, 2003; Kripal & Schuck, 2007, Zinnbauer, Pargament, Cole, et al., 1997, Zinnabauer, Pargament, & Scott, 1999). This fast growing segment of the population (Shahabi, Powell, Musick et al, 2002) has been the subject of little formal research, despite the fact that such practices of lay spirituality appear to be increasingly influential parts of people’s spiritual development.
The lack of rigorous research on outcomes of spiritual practice programs is unfortunate for three reasons. First, programs could benefit from knowing more about the extent to which they are achieving their intended goals, and potentially improve their programs by fine-tuning them based on empirical findings. Second, anecdotal evidence suggests that many of these programs do in fact have a transformative effect, and they therefore provide valuable opportunities as natural laboratories in which to study what factors mediate the development of love, forgiveness, and other outcomes related to spiritual transformation. Finally, evidence for the ability of programs to foster outcomes positive outcomes will encourage participation in and support for them.
MethodA survey instrument that already exists to study the relationship between spiritually transformative practices and experiences and several variables of interest will be modified to collect data longitudinally over the course of one year in those participating in Integral Transformative Practice – a human potential oriented spiritual practice program. This survey will be administered primarily online, with the option of paper and pencil completion and mail-in submission for those who prefer it.
Specific Aims for Step One
Our goals for the pilot longitudinal survey project are to:
1. Refine the current online survey to collect data longitudinally and tailor it to collect data from two spiritual practice groups: ITP and Approaches.
2. Assess the feasibility, and refine the methods where necessary, of administering and managing data from the online longitudinal survey to participants.
3. Collect data at three time points (baseline, mid-point, and one year), and conduct hypothesis testing and exploratory analysis including:
3a. Determine the effects of quantity, frequency, and quality of transformative practices on outcomes .
3b. Determine how baseline variables of personality and religious/spiritual upbringing mediate the relationship between transformative practice and outcomes.
3c. Determine whether the development of transformative outcomes such as love, forgiveness, and self-transcendence over time are associated with psychological, emotional, and physiological quality of life outcomes.
Marilyn Schlitz, PhD., Dean Radin, Ph.D., Cassandra Vieten, Ph.D, Collin Cherot, MS, and Artie Konrad, B.S.
A perennial problem in parapsychology is difficulty of replicating psi effects under controlled conditions. One possible reason for the replication problem is that most participants in experiments are often not trained to perform psi tasks. But this is not to say that sophisticated training systems are unavailable. A research program at the Institute of Noetic Sciences has been studying how people transform their consciousness through transformative mind/body/spirit practices. Many transformative practices share a common claim that through training many aspects of intuition are enhanced, including psi abilities.
Recently, we have embarked on a prospective study following a cohort of individuals engaged
in a one-year transformative training program that specifically trains people in intuitive and psi abilities, including the perception of others’ intentions. In this Psi Training experiment we are studying the ability of these participants to consciously sense the feeling of being stared at before, during and after training, and then compare this performance with individuals who have not been through the training program. The experiment uses an innovative web-based means of conducting controlled distant staring experiments over the Internet.
To test the claim that transformational practices may lead to enhanced psi experiences, we are using the “distant staring” paradigm that has been well established in our laboratory. The method involves examining an individual’s sense of whether someone is directing intense mental intention (often described as staring) at them from a distance. In these experiments, a sender (S) is typically asked to “send” or “not send” an intention towards a distant receiver (R) in a randomly counterbalanced order. The experimental results are evaluated by examining R’s guesses during staring and non-staring trials. These experiments have been conducted in natural settings (Sheldrake 1998; Sheldrake 2001), under controlled conditions making use of one-way mirrors, or under conditions that make use of a closed circuit video system in which physiological parameters are monitored (Schlitz and Braud, 1997; Radin and Schlitz, 2005; Schlitz, Wiseman, Milton and Radin, in press).
Objectives / Aims
Aim 1 : To test the efficacy of a long-term “integral transformative practice” on individuals’ success in a distant staring paradigm.
Aim 2 : To assess the degree of transformation that emerges over the one-year program and to correlate this measure with success at distant staring detection.
If a training effect is observed on psi ability, it will have implications for future explorations of psi. Specifically, it will point to the necessity of assessing training as a potential covariate in analyses of convenience sample participants, and it may lead to recommendations for including training as a component of projects that wish to increase the likelihood of demonstrating psi effects in order to explore what mediates them. Our covariation analysis of personality, frequency of psi experiences, and personality and demographic correlates will contribute to the literature concerning the circumstances under which psi phenomena are most likely to manifest. Finally, our results have the potential to contribute to our understanding of the often-claimed link between psychospiritual development and the development of intuitive capacities.
Project III: “A Longitudinal Study of Spiritual Engagement, Self-transcendence, and Human Flourishing.”
Cassandra Vieten, John Astin, Adam Cohen, Marilyn Schlitz
This project is being conducted as part of our collaboration with California Pacific Medical Center and is funded by Duke University’s Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health as part of a grant competition in which it was chosen as one of seven proposals from an original 232 letters of intent. In it, we will follow participants in three spiritual practice communities over the course of one-year to determine to what extent engagement in spiritual practices results in health and well-being outcomes, and to what extent those effects are mediated by variables such as self-transcendence, perceived closeness to a Higher Power or God, and capacity for surrender/acceptance.
A growing body of literature links involvement in religious activities with a range of physical and mental health benefits. Evidence suggests that religious/spiritual engagement may make a unique contribution to health outcomes, independent of the effects of social support, health behaviors, income, education and other potential confounders. George et al.20 reviewed research on psychosocial mediators of religion and health relationships, concluding that most of the shared variance between religiousness and health is not accounted for by potential mediating factors such as stress, social support, and health behaviors. It appears that some proportion of the effect of religiousness on health outcomes remains unexplained, and the mechanisms through which religious/spiritual involvement lead to improved mental, physical, or spiritual well-being remain poorly understood. There is a need for studies that address in sophisticated ways the factors that mediate the relationship between religion/spirituality and health, and explore with greater precision, which aspects account for the variance in health outcomes.
Specific Aim 1: To examine how involvement in a spiritual practice community and engagement in spiritual practices (including lay caring) affect physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well being over a one-year period.
Hypothesis: Frequency, quantity, and quality spiritual involvement/engagement will be positively correlated with measures of physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
Specific Aim 2: To test the extent to which the relationship between spiritual involvement/engagement and well-being is mediated by an individual's a) acceptance/surrender; b) perceived closeness to God/Spirit/Higher Power; and c) self-transcendence.
Hypothesis: The relationship between spiritual involvement/engagement and well-being will be mediated by acceptance/surrender, perceived closeness to God/Spirit/Higher Power, and self-transcendence.
Specific Aim 3: To explore whether spiritual involvement/engagement results in greater resilience such that over time, psychological well-being becomes increasingly less dependent upon external circumstances (e.g. stressful life events or daily hassles).
Hypothesis: The correlation between negative affect/perceived stress on the one hand and stressful life circumstances/daily hassles will reduce as a function of spiritual involvement/engagement. In other words, well-being will be less determined by external circumstances and more a function of internal spiritual resources.
Specific Aim 4: To characterize the relative predictive value of the different aspects of spiritual involvement/engagement on well-being, separating out the effects of specific factors such as attendance, perceived engagement, amount of private spiritual practice, and amount of lay caring practices and activities.
Hypothesis: We anticipate that different aspects of spiritual involvement and engagement will differentially contribute to the variance in health outcomes, and will utilize multilevel modeling to determine which specific aspects of spiritual involvement/engagement, individually or in combination, best predict health outcomes.
We will recruit 50 participants each from three lay spiritual practice communities. Each of these communities has participants who are willing to participate in research, are committed to the spiritual path, engage in daily practice, and meet regularly. We have recruited from each of these communities a theologian/spiritual leader who will provide input into our research design, measures, procedures, and interpretation of results. Every three months over the course of one year, we will administer a battery of carefully selected psychometric assessments, including quantitative and qualitative measures. In addition, we will engage in a two-week period of daily experience sampling at each measurement point to reduce recall bias, and will collect data using implicit assessments and corollary reports to reduce self-report biases. Hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), and structural equation modeling (SEM) will be the primary analytic tools used in the study, which will begin in February 2008.
Leaders in the field of religion and health have identified gaps in the field and made several recommendations for future directions. Our proposal addresses many of these gaps and takes many of these recommendations for future directions. These include: 1) a need for research on non-traditional forms of spirituality; 2) a need to determine mediators of the link between religious/spiritual engagement and health outcomes using sophisticated designs and analytic methods; 3) a need for greater precision and creativity in measuring the multidimensional constructs of spirituality and health outcomes; 4) a need for prospective studies that test predictive models over time, rather than inferring from cross-sectional correlations; 5) a need to address self-report biases by using implicit measures, and to find creative ways to minimize recall biases. We believe the results of this study will advance the field of spirituality, theology and health.
Marilyn Mandala Schlitz, Cassandra Vieten, and Kathleen Erickson Freeman
Education is arguably the most influential societal force shaping young people today. It is also an institution that is in a time of crisis. This is true on various fronts, including academics and social relations. The prevailing worldview is that the primary function of education is the development of cognitive skills. Analytical and memory skills are currently equated with the highest form of intelligence (e.g. I. Q.). But a growing number of educators, researchers, and parents are questioning this assumption. For example, Robert Sternberg at Yale University argues that while analytical and memory skills may be necessary for success in life, they are certainly not sufficient. He makes the case that the goal of education should not be only imparting knowledge, but also developing wise use of such knowledge, and suggests that complete education involves a balance of both explicit knowing (facts and figures) on the one hand, and tacit knowing (implicit or subjective) on the other hand. How we know is at least as important as what we know.
Recent advances in psychology and neuroscience indicate that educating for the whole person is an idea whose time has come. From Gardiner’s theory of multiple intelligences to the identification of variability in learning styles, there is an ever-expanding view of intelligence and human potential that our educational models need to catch up with. While efforts to address some of the basic skills has been embraced under programs such as the No Child Left Behind initiative, a new report on skills needed for the 21st century workforce says that this is not enough. While we need to increase our competence in traditional academics, we need much more. The Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce, a bipartisan assembly of education leaders, recently concluded that what our society needs are new types of skills and capacities. These include: knowing more about the world, thinking outside the box, learning to discriminate reliable information at a time of information overload, and developing good people skills when the global community and America are facing increasing cultural diversity and social complexity. In short, what is being called for is a new model of learning that includes global students embracing a new kind of literacy that appreciates and incorporates different worldviews and ways of knowing about the world and our place in it.
Whole Person Curriculum
Whole-person education is a term that has been used in varying ways to describe elements of what is being called for as we seek to address our emerging needs. We use it here to refer to curricula and forms of pedagogy that 1) include body, mind, and spirit, 2) are interdisciplinary rather than hyper specialized, 3) recognize individual differences in learning styles, 4) recognize multiple forms of intelligence and multiple ways of knowing, 5) incorporate first person, second person, and third person forms of observation, 6) are experiential as well as didactic, and 7) recognize that the development of wisdom must accompany the accumulation of knowledge.
Some formative work has been done on the inclusion of worldview and whole person curricula into schools, and progress has been made toward evaluating the effects of such programs on outcomes such as child and teacher health and well-being, academic achievement, and the emotional and behavioral health of children. However, there have been few systematic attempts to 1) evaluate the quality of the existing data assessing the effects of worldview and whole person curricula, 2) identify significant gaps in our knowledge base regarding the effects of worldview and whole person education, 3) amass the best evidence base for worldview and whole person education, 4) identify barriers to inclusion of those forms of curricula that have proven valuable, and 5) develop a model program that can be used at a national and international level.
Based on a decade of research on diverse worldviews, belief systems, and ways of knowing, summarized in our new book, Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life and the accompanying DVD, Living Deeply: Transformational Practices from the World’s Wisdom traditions, The Institute of Noetic Sciences is uniquely poised to help address this growing need for an expanded model of education. Over the past decade, researchers at IONS have conducted a detailed program of study on consciousness transformation. This included a narrative analysis of hundreds of people’s personal experiences, three focus groups of approximately 20 teachers of transformation in each, an in-depth interview study with 60 masters of the world’s transformative traditions, and a survey study of over 1000 individuals reporting significant transformations in their own lives. We have examined the triggers, mediators, and outcomes of transformation and have developed a model that can be applied in the context of this proposed program. The results of this work are summarized in our new book, “Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life,” which will be published by New Harbinger in January, 2008
Our goal is to translate our research findings into a curriculum that unite the rigors of science with the deep wisdom of the world’s traditions by creating a nondenominational, multicultural map to help guide students into the 21st century global community.
This curriculum, which can be part of the world history standards for the public school component and part of a life long learning program for adults, will offer a sturdy bridge between the various ways to understand truth, represented by the various worldviews that co-exist in our country, as well as an exploration of some of the answers that are emerging about who we really are and what we can really become as whole people.
By building on our research on change and transformation, the curriculum will help strengthen participants’ roles as social navigators who are vitally contributing to a global society. The program will make use of all of our intelligences—including the intellectual, social, emotional, intuitive, spiritual and ecological dimensions and will be designed to foster respect and appreciation for different cultures and belief systems. A research component will measure the degree to which we succeed in this goal. Our premise is that the inclusion of worldviews in the context of whole person learning as a viable source of information into curricula and pedagogy will have far-reaching individual, social, and global benefits.
H1: Focusing on multiple worldviews and whole person curricula will help address the need for a new literacy in the American public school system and in the form of life long learning. Identifying gaps in our knowledge base will clearly direct the field toward the most efficient programs that are needed to increase the applicability of education for the 21st century global citizen.
H2: This curriculum will lead to improvements in emotional and social intelligence, cultural appreciation, and an expanded sense of “in-group,” thereby reducing ethnic and cultural conflicts. Through rigorous research and creative curriculum development, the efficacy of such programs can be objectively evaluated and a model can be created that can be implemented in classrooms across America.
H3: This curriculum can and should be utilized in the form of life long learning, recognizing that whole person education does not end with standard education.
In order to develop a curriculum on multiple worldviews and cultivating the whole person, we will convene a working group of educational thought leaders who have begun to develop this area of scholarship. We will identify already existing curriculum, gaps in our knowledge, and articulate strategies for moving whole person/worldview curriculum into mainstream education. We believe the education system is at a tipping point, and that great progress is possible with a well thought out strategy of creating positive change towards whole person curricula that delves deeply into the nature of worldviews and cultural pluralism.
We will create and pilot test our curriculum and use appropriate outcome assessments to measure emotional and social intelligence as well as a greater degree of inclusivity toward different worldviews and cultures as measurable outcomes of our curriculum. Our results will be published in a peer reviewed journal in order to share the information with the broadest possible audience of educators. These results (including what works and what doesn’t work) should be effectively communicated to the academic community and general public, and translated into evidence-based recommendations for curricula in the schools.
We will develop a plan for adapting this public school program to life long learners. We will consider different applications and formats including discussion guides, lectures, one or multi-day conferences and/or workshops and year long certificate programs.
©2008 Marilyn Mandala Schlitz.