Autonomic patterns during respiratory suspensions: Possible markers of Transcendental Consciousness


  • We thank the two anonymous reviewers for their extensive comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We also thank Chris Durchholz, Thom Richards, and Ted Wallace for their help in data acquisition and analysis.

Address reprint requests to: Frederick Travis, Ph.D., Department of Psychology, Maharishi University of Management, Fairfield, 1A 52557, USA.


In two experiments, we investigated physiological correlates of transcendental consciousness during Transcendental Meditation® sessions. In the first, experimenter-initiated bells, based on observed physiological patterns, marked three phases during a Transcendental Meditation session in 16 individuals. Interrater reliability between participant and experimenter classification of experiences at each bell was quite good. During phases including transcendental consciousness experiences, skin conductance responses and heart rate deceleration occurred at the onset of respiratory suspensions or reductions in breath volume. In the second experiment, this autonomic pattern was compared with that during forced breath holding. Phasic autonomic activity was significantly higher at respiratory suspension onset than at breath holding onset. These easily measured markers could help focus research on the existence and characteristics of transcendental consciousness.