Building a Science of Consciousness

by Qualia Research Institute

The Qualia Research Institute (QRI.org) is a California 501(c)(3) non-profit research group studying consciousness in a consistent, meaningful, and rigorous way. Our goal is to spread the ideas of our institute in a more accessible way and to support the research being done by our members.

Podcast episodes

  • Guided Meditation: Don't Pay Attention

    Guided Meditation: Don't Pay Attention

    Normally in meditation we are focused on what IS in experience, but to be able to notice the absence of phenomena is key as well! Where there once were qualia, now there aren’t - what does that reveal to us about their nature?Roger Thisdell guides a meditation starting with a taste session on the major ingredients which make up our experience. Then after paying attention to these components, we deliberately try to not pay attention to them. What we find is the move to let go of paying attention to anything is a universal move - no matter the object of attention - how convenient!The ability to take attention off of more and more aspects of experience is an essential skill which eventually culminates in the ability to not pay attention to time,space and consciousness, resulting in cessation.For more guided meditations by Roger, check out his Patreon page where he releases a new guided meditation, on a variety of techniques, every week: https://www.patreon.com/rogerthis

  • Guided Meditation: A Clap of Thunder

    Guided Meditation: A Clap of Thunder

    In this guided meditation, our invited facilitator, Wystan, leads participants through meticulous body scanning techniques designed to cultivate an acute consciousness of the immediate present. Transitioning seamlessly from body scanning to methods of introspection, and further incorporating the nuanced technique of finger-following to “spread out the vision”, Wystan imparts a spectrum of methodologies that promise to augment the meditative practice of individuals across all levels of expertise.For more content from Wystan Byant-Scott, see his YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@wystantbs488/videos

  • Guided Meditation: Metta - Fabric Soften for Your Consciousness

    Guided Meditation: Metta - Fabric Soften for Your Consciousness

    Metta is a Pali word that can be translated as benevolence, friendliness, or good will. It is a key state of mind for meditative practice; it has the capacity to heal, invigorate, and center the mind.The majority of guided Metta meditations emphasize the ways in which you can trigger this state of mind with semantic content and imagery. For example imagining a loved one, a pet, or even a beautiful scene, and tuning into the feeling of friendliness that such an image sparks.In this meditation we instead emphasize the phenomenal character of Metta as a way to develop it, establish it, and understand it deeply. For example, we discuss how one can use different varieties of attention in order to kindle this feeling. We also tune into one’s intentions and background mood in order to nudge the mind towards Metta. More so, we carefully study how technical phenomenological features such as rhythm, wave envelope, and energy affects the quality and intensity of Metta.May this meditation be of benefit to sentient beings!Relevant Links:Metta Practice, and a few things about Piti (Instructions), by Rob Burbea (https://dharmaseed.org/talks/60871/)Guide to Writing Rigorous Reports of Exotic States of Consciousness (https://qri.org/blog/rigorous-reports)Guided Meditation: The Varieties of Attention (https://youtu.be/YYSkKgwH4Bg?si=okgPbqKSGt8MvIHq)Buddhist Annealing: Wireheading Done Right with the Seven Factors of Awakening (https://qualiacomputing.com/2021/04/04/buddhist-annealing-wireheading-done-right-with-the-seven-factors-of-awakening/)Metta: The Fabric Softener of Reality (https://youtu.be/SN-Wfk8bYo0?si=jpSS3lYSvOR6V-7P)

  • Guided Meditation: Goldilocks Zone of Oneness

    Guided Meditation: Goldilocks Zone of Oneness

    In this guided meditation, we delve into the phenomenology of various conceptions of personal identity. Specifically, we observe the experiential nuances of believing that we are individual souls (Closed Individualism), that we are a single universal consciousness (Open Individualism), that we represent ephemeral moments of experience (Empty Individualism), and that we encompass all these identities concurrently (Goldilocks Zone of Oneness).As with the "The Phenomenology of Ontology" meditation, our objective here is to discern the qualities of experience that shape a specific worldview. In essence, the phenomenology of personal identity is a pivotal subject for any holistic consciousness research initiative, regardless of the metaphysical veracity of these perspectives. The capacity of these conceptions to modify experiential attributes—such as refining internal boundaries or amplifying the choppiness of sensations—underscores the importance of this topic for both phenomenological and scientific exploration.More so, many exotic states of consciousness involve implicit alterations to our conceptions of personal identity. Therefore knowing how to detect the experiential features that make these beliefs feel more or less plausible is essential to successfully navigate exotic states of consciousness without compromising one’s epistemology.Relevant Links:Ontological Qualia: The Future of Personal Identity (https://qualiacomputing.com/2015/12/17/ontological-qualia-the-future-of-personal-identity/)For more extensive definitions, see the Glossary of the Qualia Research Institute (https://qri.org/glossary)Guided Meditation: The Phenomenology of Ontology (https://youtu.be/QRExq_sf6No?si=G1cA1b0fAaE1oGjP)

  • Guided Meditation: Self Organizing Principles

    Guided Meditation: Self Organizing Principles

    There are many spiritual and yogic practices that utilize “elemental” objects of meditation. For example, the guided meditation by Michael Taft called “Five Elements Meditation” (link below) centers the mind around mental formations evocative of earth, water, fire, air, and space. Alas, it is natural to be skeptical of the value of these practices on the basis that science has shown that the universe is made up of particles, forces, and fields, and not the traditional elements of ancient ontologies.Nevertheless, within the paradigm of Qualia Mastery in meditation, we affirm the significance of specific states of consciousness, irrespective of the techniques used to induce them. Adhering rigidly to a modern scientific worldview might, in fact, impede one's engagement with such meditative practices. Engaging fully with a meditation that posits, for instance, fire as a fundamental entity, can often yield richer results when one genuinely subscribes to the idea. Continual internal rebuttals, such as "fire isn't foundational; electrons are!" can inhibit deep immersion into these states.So how can we rescue what is valuable from this style of meditation without having to buy into an implicit “elemental ontology”? Here is where the relevance of “self-organizing principles” comes into play. Namely, where we realize that the nervous system is capable of instantiating a cornucopia of diverse self-organizing principles that are used to render one’s inner world-simulation. Thus, when you imagine and embody “the element of fire” you are, in a way, instantiating a collection of self-organizing principles that roughly emulate the behavior of fire. Therefore, we can use a more generalized conception of “elemental meditation” as a window into these self-organizing principles. This is what this meditation does.Relevant Links:Five Elements Meditation by Michael Taft (https://www.youtube.com/live/p_1BPl39orA?si=uyF-hcVoDKp3IWgW)Digital Sentience Requires Solving the Boundary Problem, where the computational properties of self-organizing principles are discussed (https://qri.org/blog/digital-sentience)