How does 'meditation' feel like?

An in-depth investigation of first-person experiences based on Micro-phenomenological Interviews in the context of a longitudinal mental training study, 'The ReSource Project'

Participants 

Dr. Marisa Przyrembel and Prof. Tania Singer, Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences,
Department of Social Neuroscience, Leipzig, Germany

Contact

Marisa Przyrembel : marisa.przyrembel@hu-berlin.de

Funding

European Research Council (European Community’s Seventh Framework Program (FP7/2007-2013 European Research Council (ERC), Grant Agreement Number: 205557)

Max Planck Society (Germany)
Mind & Life Institute (USA)

 

Status

Data collection ended in February 2016. Papers are in preparation.
 

Summary

In the context of The ReSource Project, a multimethod longitudinal meditation study (see Singer, T., Kok, B. E., Bornemann, B., Zurborg, S., Bolz, M., & Bochow, C. (2016). The ReSource Project: Background, design, samples, and measurements.), 107 one-hour Elicitation Interviews have been conducted on three types of contemplative mental exercises: breathing meditation (BM), observing-thought meditation (OTM), and loving-kindness meditation (LKM). For analyses of these comprehensive first-person data, we performed a) linguistic computer-based quantitative analyses, b) ratings of the quantified rich first-person data by four independent raters (Kappa=.85), followed by statistical tests, and c) semantic investigation of the specific experiences. All kinds of analyses reveal clear differential experiential fingerprints of the meditations. These findings marshal evidence for the merit of micro-phenomenological interviews as a valuable scientific to
ol, as  the in-depth experiential patterns would have been difficult to extract on the basis of conventional first-person measures, such as rating scales or questionnaires.

Publications

Several investigations of the micro-phenomenological data are in progress, for example:

1) Investigating differential (affective, bodily, cognitive, etc.) experiences during different kinds of mental training by diverse kinds of analyses (e.g., linguistic inquiry, coding from independent raters, qualitative illustrations).

2) Assessing the interrelations of first-person reports with third-person data (e.g., autonomic measures, oxytocin, cortisol) during specific meditation sessions.

3) Examining the role of Elicitation Interviews as a potential tool to enhance introspection and mindfulness.

Updated on 2/01/2017

Becoming Aware of the Micro-phenomenological Dynamics of Ecological Connectedness

Participants 

Jennifer Obbard, PhD researcher, University of Aberdeen, UK

 
Contact

Jennifer Obbard:  r02jo14@abdn.ac.uk

 

Funding

Self-funded

 
Status

Data collection March – October 2017

Due for completion by February 2019

 

Summary

This empirical study is focused on how meditative processes may impact the awareness of one’s environment and the relational dynamics that may be present yet outside of everyday awareness.  The study also seeks to understand how the natural environment may influence the microdynamics of the meditative processes, particularly the attentional processes.  The inquiry will compare experiences of expert contemplative practitioners, practicing both indoors and outdoors, with persons who have expertise in nature connection practices, and compare the findings with the known generic structures of experience to determine if there are structural or qualitative differences related to role of nature in shaping experience.  Participants will be invited to spend four days in a wilderness location and participate in a microphenomenological interview on the final day.  The findings may provide new insights regarding situatedness and the choices regarding where contemplative practice and research takes place. 

Updated on 10/3/2017

PHENOTANK project

Microphenomenology and contemplative experience: Exploring the intra- and intersubjective dynamics of language and embodied experience

Participants 

Andreas Roepstorff, Martijn van Beek, Interactive Mind Center, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Anne Klein, Dept of Religious Studies, Rice University, US

Michel Bitbol, Claire Petitmengin – Archives Husserl, ENS Paris

Contact

Martijn van Beek : mvanbeek@cas.au.dk

Funding

Mind & Life Institute

 

Status

Finished

Abstract

The project consists in bringing together scholars from the humanities and sciences with contemplative practitioners to explore and develop the use of micro-phenomenology in the study, practice and application of contemplative practice. The meeting, which will take place in Paris in late January 2017, is intended to help develop a modest, empirically grounded, and explicitly intersubjective phenomenology to aid in the study of processes and states associated with learning and engaging in contemplative practice. The meeting will specifically explore the intra- and inter-personal dynamics of language and embodied experience.

This workshop builds on an earlier pilot project exploring the usefulness of micro-phenomenological interview techniques in the study of contemplative practices (the PHENOPILOT project).

Meeting report

Updated on 21/05/2017

PHENOPILOT project

Methods and issues for a micro-phenomenological description of meditative experience

Participants 

Michel Bitbol, Claire Petitmengin – Archives Husserl, ENS Paris

Martijn van Beek, Andreas Roepstorff – Interactive Mind Center, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Jean-Michel Nissou, psychotherapist, France

Contact

Claire Petitmengin : cp@clairepetitmengin.fr

 

Funding

Mind & Life Europe

 

Status

finished

 

Summary

In our society where interest in Buddhist meditation is expanding enormously, numerous scientific studies are now conducted on the neurophysiological effects of meditation practice and on the neural correlates of meditative states. However, very few studies have been conducted on the experience associated with contemplative practice: what it is like to meditate – from instant to instant, at different stages of the practice – remains almost invisible in contemporary contemplative science. New concrete "micro-phenomenological" interview methods have recently been designed to help us become aware of our lived experience and describe it with rigor and precision. The objectives of the project are 1) to verify whether these methods actually enable us to collect accurate and reliable descriptions of different dimensions and stages of contemplative practice; 2) to evaluate the usefulness of

Publications

Petitmengin C., Van Beek M, Bitbol M., Nissou J.M., Roepstorff A. (à paraître).

What is it like to meditate? Methods and issues for a micro-phenomenological description of meditative experience. Journal of Consciousness Studies.

Petitmengin C., Van Beek M, Bitbol M., Nissou J.M., Roepstorff A. (soumis).

Que vit le méditant ? Méthodes et enjeux d'une description micro-phénoménologique de l'expérience méditative.

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