How does it feel to lack a sense of boundaries? A case study of a long-term mindfulness meditator

Yochai Ataria, Yair Dor-Ziderman, Aviva Berkovich-Ohana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


This paper discusses the phenomenological nature of the sense of boundaries (SB), based on the case of S, who has practiced mindfulness in the Satipathana and Theravada Vipassana traditions for about 40. years and accumulated around 20,000. h of meditative practice. S's unique abilities enable him to describe his inner lived experience with great precision and clarity. S was asked to shift between three different stages: (a) the default state, (b) the dissolving of the SB, and (c) the disappearance of the SB. Based on his descriptions, we identified seven categories (with some overlap) that alter during the shifts between these stages, including the senses of: (1) internal versus external, (2) time, (3) location, (4) self, (5) agency (control), (6) ownership, and (7) center (first-person-egocentric-bodily perspective). Two other categories, the touching/touched structure and one's bodily feelings, do not fade away completely even when the sense-of-boundaries disappears.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-147
Number of pages15
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Inc.


This research was supported by the Mind and Life Institute, Francisco J. Varela Research Award 2012-Varela-Berkovich, and by a grant from the Bial Foundation (27/10) to A. B-O. We deeply thank Dr. Stephen Fulder for assisting in the design of and collaborating with this experiment. Finally, we would like to thank the two anonymous referees for helping us to improve this paper.

FundersFunder number
Mind and Life Institute2012-Varela-Berkovich
Fundação Bial27/10


    • Mindfulness meditation
    • Neurophenomenology
    • Phenomenology
    • Sense of agency
    • Sense of boundaries
    • Sense of ownership


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