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David Yaden on Self-Transcendence, Psychedelics, and Behavior Change
Self-Transcendence and the Varieties of Spiritual Experience

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–►Purchase David’s book The Varieties of Spiritual Experiences: 21st Century Research and Perspectives with Oxford University Press: 

David B. Yaden, Ph.D. obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania and is currently an Assistant Professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. His work in The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness Research focuses on the psychology, neuroscience, and psychopharmacology of so-called spiritual, self-transcendent, and other positively transformative experiences. His scientific and scholarly work has been covered by outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.

I study brief experiences that have long lasting, persisting positive effects. I am particularly interested in experiences that we could call an altered state of consciousness. And interestingly, sometimes these fairly brief experiences can have effects that lasts for weeks, months, years, even decades.

David Yaden

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What I Discuss With David Yaden

David Yaden joins us to discuss self-transcendence and the varieties of spiritual experiences. Specifically, he is interested in understanding how these altered states of consciousness can result in long-term changes to well-being, mental health, and prosocial behavior – while also studying their risks.

  • We discuss Self-Transcendent Experiences and how awe differs from being in a flow state, a peak experience, or a mythical experience.
  • Dr. Yaden explains how we are transformed during a self-transcendent experience and why it can be challenging to define.
  • We look at self-transcendence through the lens of what astronaut experiences called the Overview Effect.
  • We discuss how his mentors, Andrew Newberg, Martin Seligman, and Rolan Griffiths, shaped his path.
  • His upcoming book The Varieties of Spiritual Experience with Andrew Newberg.
  • His interest in psychedelics and the psychedelic research center at Johns Hopkins.
  • I ask David about his interaction with the Dalai Lama and why the Dalai Lama’s teachings are revolutionary.
  • We end by discussing the phenomenon of “being called” and why this transcendent sense of purpose is surprisingly ordinary.
  • Have any questions, comments, or stories you’d like to share? Drop us a line at [email protected]m!
  • And much more…
152 | Self-Transcendence, Psychedelics, and Behavior Change | David B. Yaden | Passion Struck with John R. Miles
152 | Self-Transcendence, Psychedelics, and Behavior Change | David B. Yaden | Passion Struck with John R. Miles

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David Yaden And I Discuss Self-Transcendence, Psychedelics, and Behavior Change

The Varieties of Spiritual Experience by David Yaden and Andrew Newberg for passion struck

During our interview, David and I discussed different types of self-transcendent experiences ranging from awe to what Maslow described as a peak experience to mythical experiences, which William James was really involved in. I asked David about some of the different experiences and how they differ?

David Yaden explains, “I think we can call these experiences self-transcendent experiences. There are many different ones, but they seem similar in that they’re all intensely altered states of consciousness, involving some degree of self diminishment and feelings of connectedness. And these range in intensity.

So you have the kinds of more subtle daily experiences like flow, when you’re really absorbed in a challenging task and time you look up at the clock and hours have gone by, and you didn’t even realize it, or mindfulness. And then, on the other end of the spectrum, you have these more transformative, intense once-in-a-lifetime type experiences, which we can call those peak or mystical experiences. And then, somewhere in the middle, we have things like awe where we perceive the vastness, our jaw drops, and we get chills.”

Thanks, David Yaden!

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Resources From The Show With David Yaden

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David Yaden quote on self-transcendent experiences from Passion Struck

* Yaden, D. B., J. Haidt, R. W. Hood, D. R. Vago, and A. B. Newberg (2017). “The Varieties of Self-Transcendent Experience.” Review of General Psychology 21(2): 143-160. [Link]

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About Today’s Guest David Yaden

Passion Struck podcast album cover episode 152 with David B. Yaden

David Yaden, Ph.D., studies the measurement and experimental manipulation of mental states called altered states of consciousness. These mental states are often among the most transformative and meaningful moments in people’s lives, yet little is known about how they are triggered, the neurophysiological processes that underlie them, or how they impact the beliefs and behavior of those who have them. His research is currently focused on the therapeutic potential of psychedelic substances for mood and substance use disorders.

His scientific research and scholarly writing generally aim to provide a quantitative and empirical 21st-century update to William James’s classic book on the topic, The Varieties of Religious Experience, using: 1) psychometric instruments, 2) computational linguistic analysis, 3) neuroimaging, 4) non-invasive brain stimulation, and 5) psychopharmacology. Psychopharmacologist Roland R. Griffiths, Ph.D. is his previous Postdoctoral advisor.

He previously studied with neuroscientist Andrew B. Newberg, MD, and completed his doctoral training with psychologist Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. He has authored over 40 scientific and scholarly publications and edited two books that provide a scientific perspective on practices and experiences traditionally associated with religion/spirituality: Rituals and Practices in World Religions and Being Called

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John R. Miles is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of Passion Struck. This full-service media company helps people live intentionally by creating best-in-class educational and entertainment content. John is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, and author named to the ComputerWorld Top 100 IT Leaders.

John is the host of the PassionStruckPodcast. A show focused on exploring the mindset and philosophy of the world’s most inspiring people to learn their lessons to living intentionally. Passion Struck aspires to speak to the humanity of people in a way that makes them want to live better, be better and impact.

Stay tuned for John’s latest project, his upcoming book, which will be published in summer 2022.

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