Arising and passing: The embodied and emotional experiences of meditators



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Meditation has been recognized for centuries across cultures as a means for personal development and spiritual growth. Over the last 40 years, meditation practices have gained in popularity due to their therapeutic value (Ospina et al., 2007). Scientific research on meditation has grown significantly in recent years exploring the physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual benefits of meditation (Baer, Smith, Hopkins, Krietemeyer & Toney, 2008; Brown & Ryan, 2003; Chiesa & Serretti, 2009; Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt, & Walach, 2004; Keng, Smoski, & Robins, 2011; Shapiro & Walsh, 2003). While there have been significant gains made in understanding the effects of meditation through quantitative studies on the concept of mindfulness, there remains a lack of in-depth phenomenological understanding within the scientific literature of the meditative process. Furthermore, there have been very few studies exploring the lived experiences of long-term meditators, including formal practice through meditation retreats. This study explored the lived experiences of 8 practitioners of Vipassana meditation, a form of insight meditation. More specifically, the study aimed to understand the embodied and emotional experiences of Vipassana meditators through their accounts of intensive meditation practices. This inquiry used interpretive phenomenological analysis of semi-structured interviews to understand meditators’ experiences. Results yielded 10 major themes: Understanding of Meditation, Experience of Sensations, Experience of Emotions, Interpretation of Emotions and Sensations, Awareness, Equanimity, Processes of Change, Changes and Motivations, Challenges and Barriers and Individual Experiences. Each major theme was composed of subthemes, with a total of 52 subthemes which are outlined in detail. The results were consistent with existing literature, while also adding to the theoretical and philosophical understandings of meditation. The investigator has provided additional interpretations in understanding the mechanisms of action and processes of change underlying meditation, as well as implications for research and practice. The findings of this study may guide the development of further research models and provide insight into clinical practice.



Meditation, Mindfulness, Interoception, Sensation, Emotion, Awareness, Equanimity, Vipassana, Qualitative