Meditators' Mental Training Can Cause Mind-Over-Matter Quantum Events Beyond Non-Meditators’ Ability

Meditators' Mental Training Can Cause Mind-Over-Matter Quantum Events Beyond Non-Meditators’ Ability
(Shutterstock - Jack Frog/
Michael Wing

Quantum physics confronts the would-be discoverer with one of the most enduring conundrums modern science has to offer, what renowned physicist Richard Feynman described as “the only mystery." The name it has been given—the double-slit experiment—sounds far simpler that its enigma.

This experiment has been made more mysterious now with research revealing a strange connection between mind and matter and how mental practices like meditation may even influence quantum phenomena.

But let's begin by reviewing that foundational experiment which launched us into this new, post-Newtonian paradigm of the quantum world.

The Double-Slit Experiment

One way to explain this conundrum would be to begin looking at its single-slit counterpart: Try to imagine a beam of photons (light particles) being shot into a light-proof box through a single slit, then hitting a piece of photographic paper inside. What would appear but a pattern matching that slit on the paper as one would expect? The exposure would be strongest in the places where a straight line emanates from the light source, passes through the slit, and touches the paper. Naturally, some light would scatter randomly to the sides, getting fainter and sparser the farther away, as photon particles tend to shoot straight, not sideways; such outliers are predictable, nevertheless. The outer edges of the paper would appear least exposed. This pattern is just what you'd expect from a light beam shining through a slit—like little bullets, photons shoot like particles. Nothing strange here—yet.
An illustration of the single-slit experiment. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)
An illustration of the single-slit experiment. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)

The strangeness appears when a second slit is introduced. Light shot through two slits produces an entirely different, and unexpected, pattern; the reason for this breaks the old scientific paradigm. As the single slit produced one exposure, you might now expect two exposures but, oddly, that's not what happens. Instead, multiple of bands, of varying intensities with gaps in between, appear, spanning the width of the paper—not following straight lines as before, but shooting in all different angles. This is recognized by science as an "interference pattern," but it's not something particles (like little bullets shooting through space) produce. Not at all. Interference patterns are caused by waves (the beach instead of bullets), which aren't particles; and when multiple waves cross paths, either they multiply or cancel each other out at various intervals, generating such patterns. Photons were always considered particles; somehow, the double-slit experiment made them stop acting as such and instead made them behave like waves.

Seeing this, scientists were confounded. Particles aren't waves. Waves aren't particles. Bullets are bullets. The beach is the beach. Something was missing in the old Newtonian paradigm.

Illustration of the double-slit experiment. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)
Illustration of the double-slit experiment. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)

So, they began examining more closely what was happening between the light source and the paper. They tried shooting single photons one at a time through the slits, without knowing which slit it would enter, and amazingly still ended up with an interference pattern. That's surprising because one would expect the photon to have to "choose" either one slit or the other in order to shoot in and hit the paper; how could it enter through both slits, like a wave, then multiply so as to produce this pattern? Somehow, the single photon avoided "choosing" as particles would do. The scientists were stumped, so they looked even more closely.

They zoomed in to intimately spy on each photon to tell for sure what slit it entered. And something amazing happened: The act of looking itself seemingly caused the pattern to switch! Gone was the interference pattern; appearing instead were two cluster exposures—as one would expect from little bullets flying through, like in the first experiment! What could have caused this to happen?

Illustration of the double-slit experiment with collapsed probability wave. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)
Illustration of the double-slit experiment with collapsed probability wave. (Illustration - grayjay/Shutterstock)
Multifarious theories have been posited. The act of conscious observation was proven instrumental in causing a "quantum event." Some theorized that certain matter (e.g.: photons) do, at times, occupy not just one spot in space and time but multiple potential places. Then, under certain conditions, it "chooses" some spot or another and pops into our time-space from the quantum world. It so happens that photons in that non-state take on a wave form—not material waves but waves of probability: where the particle would most likely appear. It also just so happened that the event of observation—a quantum event—triggered the collapse of those probabilities, causing the particle to pop into being here on this side. At last, consciousness joined the matter equation. The universe, it was discovered, is far more mysterious than Newton dreamed of!

Quantum physics doesn’t fit the model of classical physics, which has prevailed for centuries: where matter and mind are forever separated from one another. In the quantum world, the conscious, objective observer loses his objectivity, for the act of observation itself distorts the results.

In order to further understand how mind can affect matter, some scientists have gone on to test the mind's capabilities. How better to look at these crucial interactions than by getting out the old double-slit experiment for another run?

Experiment: Meditators' Mental Powers Statistically Significant

Enter Dean Radin and colleagues, who conducted a series of experiments to explore how mind might affect matter. In their tests, participants were first familiarized with the double-slit experiment by being shown a 5-minute cartoon; then they were taken into an electrically shielded steel room, sat down a few meters from a double-slit apparatus, and given instructions to attempt, on cue, to influence the beam of light using their minds alone.

During randomly assigned periods, lasting between 15 and 30 seconds, participants were asked either to sit idle or attempt to affect the apparatus. Each session lasted about 15 minutes. They found that during periods when participants focused on the device, interference patterns appeared significantly less frequently compared to when the device was active without anyone present. Human concentration, it seemed, makes a difference.

As far as controls go, they controlled factors such as electrical shielding, temperature, and vibration—none of which could explain away the results. Radin and colleagues also examined how fluctuations in the Earth’s geomagnetic field affected the data, as previous studies have shown magnetic variations to be linked to certain human behavior (e.g.: stock market activity, suicides, cardiac health, experiments on extrasensory perception, and so forth). They found the experiments weren't discounted by such variations, though they did contribute to the results, affirming the impacts that such influences have.

To see such results by chance, they determined, one would have to run the same set of experiments 150,000 times, while most psychology studies would consider 1 in 20 a valid outcome.

The mental capacity to concentrate, they revealed, was key in the experiments' outcomes; focused attention affects the nature of light, determining whether photons behave as waves or particles. Furthermore, participants who were experienced in meditation showed considerably greater ability to affect the patterns; those who didn't meditate typically failed to show statistically significant impacts. The statistical evidence speaks for itself: meditation can play a role in catalyzing quantum events.

Which raises a host of new questions: Precisely what is the connection between focused attention and quantum phenomena? How are meditators different from those who don't meditate? How does concentration effectuate such results? Does volume of practice or degree of mastery matter? If so, to what extent? How might certain meditation methods or techniques affect the results? The road is being paved, quite possibly, toward a new scientific world where mind and matter are one and the same.

How Long Do You Have to Meditate to Change Your Brain?

It was discovered that MBSR, which entails practising meditation for 24 to 30 hours over two months, increased gray matter volume and density in various brain parts, including the hippocampus, posterior cingulate cortex, and the temporoparietal junction. These measurements indicate how much cortical gray matter is present in a particular brain area. The study authors interpreted the results as evidence that meditation might quickly increase learning, memory, and emotional regulation because these regions are involved in these processes.

What Are The Four Meditation Techniques?

There are many different techniques for meditating because various cultures have established their own distinctive and peculiar meditations.
Mindfulness, body scan, loving-kindness, and transcendental meditation are the four most popular styles of meditation. There are many advantages to meditation, but some of them include lowered anxiety, better self-control, better self-care, and reduced discomfort.
Perhaps mindfulness is the most researched and popular kind of meditation in the West. It consists of  Vipassana, Zen, and MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), among other practices. It's fantastic for sharpening focus and de-stressing. In actuality, the Pentagon instructs PTSD-affected soldiers in this. In most mindfulness practices, you develop your ability to train your mind by paying close attention to your breath, physical sensations, thoughts, sounds, or emotions.