08 SES 12, Embodied Conceptions of Wellbeing in Education
Meditative practice and its effects on the human mind have recently became a hot topic for quantitative and experimental research (Lazar et al. 2005; Lutz et al. 2002; Lutz et al. 2008). Researchers within the qualitative tradition seem to have recognized this topic with some delay and consequently the literature is less developed. However, qualitative research is relevant to the study of meditation for at least two reasons: the ontological subjective nature of human experience (no view-from-nowhere is possible), which can be well captured by qualitative methods (Roth 2011; Zahavi 2005), and the increasing demand for meditative practices in areas such as education, medicine, nursing, and clinical psychology, which requires the implementation of qualitative research models for the promotion of psychophysical wellbeing. In this paper, I present an overview of the main qualitative methods employed to study meditative practices and some relevant data about the embodied dimension of wellbeing. The debate on first-person perspective and methodological ways to investigate consciousness has recently been rejuvenated by contributions from sectors of phenomenology and cognitive-neuro sciences, mostly working within the Embodied Cognition Theory (Overgaard et al. 2008; Petitmengin 2006). Examples of this are the snapshot method (Francesconi, in press), the micro-phenomenological method (Petitmengin 2006; 2010), the Descriptive Experience Sampling method (DES) (Hurlburt, & Akhter 2006), and the neuro-phenomenological method (Lutz et al, 2002). The debate on which method fits best for studying meditative practices generally focuses on certain concerns: 1) the problem of the temporal gap between the experience and the description of the experience (descriptive delay distortion). Indeed, some authors encourage immediate pristine description over retrospection and reflection, and this is related to the old issue of descriptive attitude vs. narrative/interpretative mode (presentation vs. re-presentation, Thompson, 2007, p. 24). 2) The issue of subjects who received training in describing their own experience vs. subjects with no training in describing their own experience. I will then present how qualitative methods help to uncover aspects that cannot be seen with quantitative or neurocognitive methods, in particular the embodied/enacted dimensions of wellbeing. Especially for beginners, a meditation session can have the effect of “an immediate sensorial blast”, a perceptual peak, a “dive into” the experience, a return to the body. During my presentation, I will show how the embodied dimension of wellbeing emerges from meditation practitioners reports.
Lazar, S.W., Kerr, C., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport 16: 1893-1897. Hurlburt, R. T., & Akhter, S. A. (2006). The descriptive experience sampling method. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, 5(3-4), 271-301. Lutz, A. (2002). Toward a neurophenomenoloy as an account of generative passages: A first empirical case study. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Science 1: 133-167. Lutz, A., Slagter, H. A., Dunne, J. D., & Davidson, R. J. (2008). Attention regulation and monitoring in meditation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences 12: 163-169. Overgaard, M., Gallagher, S. & Ramsoy, T. Z. (2008). An Integration of First-Person Methodologies in Cognitive Science. Journal of Consciousness Studies 15: 100-120. Petitmengin C. (2006). Describing one’s subjective experience in the second person: An interview method for the science of consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Science 5: 229- 269. Petitmengin, C. (2010). A neurophenomenological study of epileptic seizure anticipation. In S. Gallagher and D. Schmicking (eds.), Handbook of Phenomenology and Cognitive Science. Dordrecht: Springer. Thompson, E. (2010). Mind in life: Biology, phenomenology, and the sciences of mind. Harvard University Press. Zahavi, D. (2005). Subjectivity and selfhood. Investigating the first-person perspective. Cambridge, London: MIT.
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