Editor’s Introduction

David Orme-Johnson (real name) has a Ph.D. in psychology. While currently self-employed as a writer and consultant, he was the Chair of the Psychology Department, the Dean of Research, the Director of the Doctoral Program in Psychology, and the Co-Director of the Doctoral Program in the Neuroscience of Human Consciousness at Maharishi University of Management during the 23 year period of 1973 to 1996. Dr. Orme-Johnson has written or edited over 300 scientific papers and chapters in the areas of psychophysiology and other areas of psychology, and is co-editor of five books of research papers. He was project leader for a large-scale, six-month project to treat the psychological after effects of earthquake trauma in Armenia and has directed numerous major field studies, including two health care utilization studies involving 2,600 participants. He was a consultant for four years on an NIMH grant to study anxiety reduction and self-esteem enhancement in black adults, and in 1995 was invited by the NIH Office of Alternative Medicine to present research on the effects of meditation on chronic pain and insomnia at their technology assessment conference. Currently Dr. Orme-Johnson is on the Advisory Board of a very large NIH grant to study alternative medicine in minorities.

His experience occurred in 1949 when he was 8 or 9 years old, living in El Paso, Texas. Like several other TASTE experiences submitted to date, it is quite interesting to see how a transcendent experience in childhood can be the primary motivation for becoming a scientist.

Falling Awake
David W. Orme-Johnson

One night as I was falling asleep my mind suddenly stopped its ceaseless activity and became still. It was as if it had turned inward and collapsed onto itself. I felt a soft effusion of supreme comfortableness engulf my being and my mind was for a moment unbounded with no thoughts or perceptions. I was filled with a profound feeling of well being and happiness. I felt wrapped in a blanket of love and safety, or rather I was That, the wrapper and the wrapped all at once. There was no differentiation of experience. I WAS that state, nothing else. It was not me experiencing something outside of me. It was not happiness about any particular thing, but an unconditional, all pervading bliss that depends on nothing outside of itself. It was as if the river of ever-active consciousness moving in streams of thoughts and perceptions had arrived at the ocean of silent, ever full, unbounded awareness.

I had no idea what it was, no frame of reference to explain it, and it didn’t even occur to me to try to talk to someone about it. Many nights I would “try” to make it happen again, try to capture it, but trying only seemed to push it away. I was about eight or nine years old at the time.

Contributor’s Comments on the Experience

I think this experience was the impetus for my interest in psychology as a profession, and for my interest in Eastern thought. I have since come to realize that my experience was “transcendental consciousness” (TC), “samadhi”, the “Self”, which has been described by these and many other names in virtually all major cultures and ages. It was probably my early experience of “falling awake” that made me resonate with and try Maharishi’s Transcendental Meditation technique in 1970, which then led to a lifetime career of studying TC and its influence on different aspects of life. Though my TM practice over the years I have had many more personal experiences of TC and of higher states of consciousness. In 1972, I participated in founding Maharishi University of Management (formerly called Maharishi International University) as an educational experiment to add TM practice to the usual college curriculum and as a place dedicated to studying TC and its effects.

Those doing research on the TM technique have discovered that TC is correlated with respiratory suspension, increased EEG coherence, etc. (Badawi, Wallace, Orme-Johnson, & Rouzeré, 1984; Dillbeck & Orme-Johnson, 1987; Farrow & Hebert, 1982; Orme-Johnson & Haynes, 1981; Travis & Wallace, 1997; Travis & Wallace, 1999; Wallace, 1970) . Regular experience has wide-ranging benefits, including increased autonomic stability (Orme-Johnson, 1973) , improved cardiovascular function (Alexander, Schneider, Staggers, Sheppard, Clayborne, Rainforth, et al., 1996; Castillo-Richmond, Schneider, Alexander, Cook, Myers, Nidich, et al., 2000; Schneider, Staggers, Alexander, Sheppard, Rainforth, Kondwani, et al., 1995) , improved general health (Orme-Johnson, 1987; Orme-Johnson & Herron, 1997) , increased creativity and intelligence (Alexander, Davies, Dixon, Dillbeck, Oetzel, Druker, et al., 1990; Cranson, Orme-Johnson, Gackenbach, Dillbeck, Jones, & Alexander, 1991; Dillbeck, 1982) , and! resolution of conflicts (Hagelin, Rainforth, Orme-Johnson, Cavanaugh, & Alexander, 1999; Orme-Johnson, Alexander, Davies, Chandler, & Larimore, 1988) .

Thirty years have passed since I first learned the TM technique and began to recapture that first of experience of childhood. That and the continued unfoldment of such experiences has fueled my career in research and writing.


Alexander, C. N., Davies, J. L., Dixon, C. A., Dillbeck, M. C., Oetzel, R. M., Druker, S. M., Muehlman, J. M., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1990). Growth of higher stages of consciousness: Maharishi’s Vedic psychology of human development. In C. N. Alexander & E. J. Langer (Eds.), Higher stages of human development: Perspectives on adult growth (pp. 386-340). New York: Oxford University Press.

Alexander, C. N., Schneider, R. H., Staggers, F., Sheppard, W., Clayborne, B. M., Rainforth, M., Salerno, J., Kondwani, K., Smith, S., Walton, K. G., & Egan, B. (1996). Trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans II. Sex and risk subgroup analysis. Hypertension, 28(2), 228-237.

Badawi, K., Wallace, R. K., Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Rouzeré, A. M. (1984). Electrophysiologic characteristics of respiratory suspension periods occurring during the practice of the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine, 46(3), 267-276.

Castillo-Richmond, A., Schneider, R. H., Alexander, C. N., Cook, R., Myers, H., Nidich, S., Haney, C., Rainforth, M., & Salerno, J. (2000). Effects of stress reduction on carotid atherosclerosis in hypertensive African Americans. Stroke, 31, 568-573.

Cranson, R. W., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Gackenbach, J., Dillbeck, M. C., Jones, C. H., & Alexander, C. N. (1991). Transcendental Meditation and improved performance on intelligence-related measures: A longitudinal study. Personality and Individual Differences, 12, 1105-1116.

Dillbeck, M. C. (1982). Meditation and flexibility of visual perception and verbal problem-solving. Memory and Cognition, 10(3), 207-215.

Dillbeck, M. C., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42, 879-881.

Farrow, J. T., & Hebert, J. R. (1982). Breath suspension during the Transcendental Meditation technique. Psychosomatic Medicine, 44(2), 133-153.

Hagelin, J. S., Rainforth, M. V., Orme-Johnson, D. W., Cavanaugh, K. L., & Alexander, C. N. (1999). Effects of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation program on preventing violent crime in Washington, DC: Results of the National Demonstration Project, June-July 1993. Social Indicators Research, 47(2), 153-201.

Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1973). Autonomic stability and Transcendental Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 35, 341-349.

Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1987). Medical care utilization and the Transcendental Meditation program. Psychosomatic Medicine, 49(1), 493-507.

Orme-Johnson, D. W., Alexander, C. N., Davies, J. L., Chandler, H. M., & Larimore, W. E. (1988). International peace project in the Middle East: The effect of the Maharishi Technology of the Unified Field. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 32(4), 776-812.

Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Haynes, C. T. (1981). EEG phase coherence, pure consciousness, creativity, and TM-Sidhi experiences. International Journal of Neuroscience, 13, 211-217.

Orme-Johnson, D. W., & Herron, R. E. (1997). An innovative approach to reducing medical care utilization and expenditures. American Journal of Managed Care, 3(1), 135-144.

Schneider, R. H., Staggers, F., Alexander, C. N., Sheppard, W., Rainforth, M., Kondwani, K., Smith, S., & King, C. G. (1995). A randomized controlled trial of stress reduction for hypertension in older African Americans. Hypertension, 26(5), 820-827.

Travis, F., & Wallace, R. K. (1997). Autonomic patterns during respiratory suspensions: Possible markers of Transcendental Consciousness. Psychophysiology, 34, 39-46.

Travis, F., & Wallace, R. K. (1999). Autonomic and EEG patterns during eyes-closed rest and Transcendental Meditation (TM) practice: A basis for a neural model of TM practice. Consciousness and Cognition, 8, 302-318.

Wallace, R. K. (1970). Physiological effects of Transcendental Meditation. Science, 167, 1751-1754.