Integral Meditation as a Method of Inducing Altered States of Consciousness in Mindfulness, Psychotherapy and Daily Functioning
Eugene Pustoshkin & Tatyana Parfenova
This material was presented at The Science of Consciousness Online Conference (September 14, 2020) organized by The University of Arizona Center for Consciousness Studies. Below is the full version of the abstract (the shorter version of the abstract is published at the conference’s website).
Integral Meditation (IM) is an integrative experiential system of contemplative/mindfulness development as well as a complex technique of psychotherapeutic intervention that is developed and continuously refined by the authors, a clinical psychologist (Eugene Pustoshkin) and a mindfulness instructor/consultant (Tatyana Parfenova). It is primarily based on Holoscendence (a therapeutic metamethod founded by Sergey Kupriyanov, MD, PhD in Med.) and Integral Theory of Consciousness (developed by Ken Wilber, Allan Combs and others). IM is informed by various paradigms, including Leonid & Dimitry Spivak’s research of altered states of consciousness (ASC) as a natural adaptive function of human psychophysiology and various other disciplines (such as Adult Development Theories, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Trauma Studies and Body Psychotherapy/Somatic Psychology).
IM combines a number of awareness-based psychotechnologies developed by Soviet/post-Soviet consciousness researchers (e.g., advanced deconcentration techniques developed in the practice of psychotherapy, occupational psychology, extreme sports training, etc.—these techniques were originally discovered and developed by researchers-practitioners in Leningrad, Moscow, and Kiev in 1970–80‘s) with an extensive phenomenology of non-pharmacological ASC. IM has been applied extensively in processes of individual psychotherapy & counseling as well as in group work (including hundreds of individual and group online sessions).
An Integral psychotherapy framework inherent to the IM methodology contextualizes both individual and group experiences within a nuanced understanding of the spectrum of psychopathology/therapy (allowing to integrate multilevel “shadow” material—which makes IM applicable to trauma healing and psychedelic experience integration, among other things). IM techniques have been tested in practice by the authors in over 100 workshops (including extended weeklong retreats), both as singular events and within several longterm training programs (involving standalone Integral Meditation courses and as a subcomponent of Holoscendence courses, co-taught by the authors with Sergey Kupriyanov), as well as in countless individual sessions—thus involving, in overall, several hundreds of participants.
IM has been proven to quickly and reliably induce various ASC in both novice and experienced subjects. In novices IM-induced ASC could last from a few moments to 30 minutes and more, while in advanced practitioners these states can be experienced continuously (in a fluctuating or stabilized plateau-like fashion) throughout the day (and sometimes during dreaming states). Specific techniques of stabilizing and anchoring altered meditative states are developed in IM.
Alternations of consciousness have been observed such as significant shifts in perceptive fields (including, most notably, vivid oscillations of the visual field, often described by subjects as “psychedelic” visionary experiences, and shifts in auditory experience), alternations in somatic self-sense (fluctuations of bodily experiences, including changes in subjective feelings of body temperature and alternations in muscle/body tensions), time experience (slowing down, acceleration of felt time), emotional experience (vivid experiences of rupture, joy, compassion, etc.), interpersonal/relational experience (increased rapport, empathy, trust, shared psychoemotional experience, shifts in self-other perception, shifts in facial perception, etc.) and many other experiences (including intense peak experiences and experiences in lucid dreaming).
IM can be used as a meditative tool for working with various objects (including not just immediate sensory objects but also objectifying of stages of child & adult development as well as complex mental concepts such as conceiving hyperobjects), which has also been producing profound experiences of altered consciousness (including resurfacing and reintegration of forgotten traumatic experiences from childhood or enhancement of thinking processes, often described as more pleasurable than thinking in an ordinary state).
Since this meditation is practiced with eyes open—so it can be integrated with most if not all activities of the day—the experiential findings have been shown to be applicable not just to inducing varieties of meditative states but also to communication and daily work activities (including relational work and corporate/personnel trainings).
In overall, accumulated experience of practicing, applying and teaching Integral Meditation allowed us to build a sophisticated system of contemplative phenomenology which can be enacted not only in a relatively introverted formal meditation setting but also in extraverted daily activities that require active participation in one’s surroundings (e.g., in the instances of interpersonal conflict resolution, business meetings, physical sports activities, learning or ordinary intepersonal communication). This system has offered us essential and natural phenomenological data on how human consciousness is functioning in its various states, including subjective and intersubjective dynamics. This kind of meditation, being a deliberate practice of intentionality, allows seeing consciousness as a very plastic, dynamic, and co-enactive dimension of our being-in-the-world.
About the Authors
Eugene Pustoshkin is a clinical psychologist in private practice (with a focus on Integral psychotherapy and counselling) who graduated from St. Petersburg University. He is a co-founder and chief editor of the Eros & Kosmos online journal (http://eroskosmos.org/english), a popular Russian resource about consciousness, mindfulness, spirituality, and psychotherapy. Eugene is the primary Russian translator of Ken Wilber’s works on Integral theory & practice (among other works, he translated Wilber’s Journal of Consciousness Studies paper “An Integral Theory of Consciousness” to Russian). With an interest in scientific studies of altered states of consciousness, Eugene co-founded Altstates.Net, an academic website on the topic. He teaches Integral Meditation and Holoscendence and facilitates group workshops and mindfulness retreats. Personal website: http://integralmeditation.ru/en
Certified mindfulness instructor & Holoscendence (Integral Psychology) practitioner/facilitator, Tatyana Parfenova graduated from an Integral Theory course in Moscow. She is a facilitator and explorer of constructive states of consciousness beneficial to raising the quality of life. Tatyana has been organizing workshops and programs in Integral psychology for several years in Russia. She teaches workshops on Integral Theory & Practice and Vertical Adult Development. Personal website: http://tatyanaparfenova.ru/