Forgetting the self: nondual awareness as a key component of self-transcendent experiences
Canning, Brian A., author
Steger, Michael F., advisor
Dik, Bryan J., committee member
Davalos, Deana B., committee member
Snodgrass, Jeffrey G., committee member
Self-transcendence (ST) and self-transcendent experiences (STEs) have been described as a positive component of human experience and as predictors of wellbeing across a diverse and multidisciplinary literature. As a trait, self-transcendence (ST) has been conceptualized as a developmental process (Levenson et al., 2005; Tornstam, 1996), a coping mechanism (Reed, 2014), an aspect of personality (Cloninger, 1987), and as a value (Kasser, 2019). STEs have been described as a type of experience marked by a reduced sense of self and greater feelings of connectedness, as seen in awe, flow and mystical experiences. Recent scholarship has suggested that these diverse approaches have hampered the development of ST theory (Yaden et al., 2017), and identified a need to conceptually link these independently studied domains. There is need for a subject-agnostic measure of STE—an instrument that can measure STE irrespective of the type of experience. Nondual awareness (NDA)—a blurring of the distinction of self and other—is proposed as the construct best suited to these ends. Two studies were designed to improve our understanding of this construct and how it relates to STEs and ST. Study 1 was a correlational study to expand the nomological net of a new measure of NDA (the NADA-T) and examine connections to other ST/STE constructs and wellbeing variables. Study 2 utilized a sample of experienced meditators, with measurements before and after an intensive meditation retreat to track co-occurrence of awe and flow states, and connect them to increases in NDA. These studies found evidence of a strong connection between awe and NDA, and a weaker connection with flow. Some initial but limited support was found for the notion that NDA may lead to development of trait ST. The implication of these findings and limitation of these studies is explored, as well as suggestions for future research.
Includes bibliographical references.