Kornfield revealed that, “Unusual experiences, visual and auditory aberrations, “hallucinations”, unusual somatic experiences, and so on, are the norm among practiced meditation students”.1
Jack Kornfield, Insight Meditation Society co-founder published his 1977 PhD dissertaion “The Psychology of Mindfulness Meditation”. In it he conducted interviews with 163 participants during long-term mindfulness meditation retreats in the U.S.2 Kornfield’s research data revealed the unusual experiences of intensive mindfulness meditation practice.
The “unusual” effects Kornfield reported get erased from contemporary research and advocacy of mindfulness.3 His findings showed eighty-percent of mindfulness meditators have “unusual experiences”.4
Some Reported No Benefits
Some people were unable to meditate. Others reported no positive benefits from mindfulness practice. These phenomena are left out of the current discussions of mindfulness for the masses. Whereas positive effects are emphasized by mindfulness advocates: such as the elimination of anxiety, resolution of psychological tension, reduced eating, improved concentration, and greater feelings of love.
In Kornfield’s dissertation, he was not as concerned with low-level “unusual” or positive effects of mindfulness practice. He emphasized that the greatest results were due to classical Buddhism itself, that mindfulness transforms the meditator to see through the illusion of the ego-self and to recognize the impermanence of an illusory world.5 The “unusual experiences” are erased from contemporary mindfulness.
Norm Among Meditators
The monastics in the ashrams, where I lived and practiced meditation for 14 years, were discouraged from discussing “unusual experiences” lest these distract us from our ultimate aim: self-realization, god-realization, soul liberation. Paranormal, yogic and siddhic powers were considered “lower level”. Yet, our books, classes, and conversations were rampant with fascinating and magical stories of yogis and monks who had unusual experiences and supernatural abilities.
These visual and auditory aberrations, “hallucinations”, and unusual somatic experiences are the norm among practiced meditators, Kornfield writes. Why don’t mindfulness advocates discuss “unusual experiences” with the masses?
1 This is the 1979 version of Kornfields dissertation, Intensive Insight Meditation: A Phenomenological Study revised for Journal of Transpersonal Psychology. p51
2 ibid p43
3 Jeff Wilson, Mindful in America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture, p 82-83
4 Kornfield, Intensive Insight Meditation: A Phenomenological Study, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology p43
5 Jeff Wilson, Mindfulness in America: The Mutual Transformation of Buddhist Meditation and American Culture, p 83