Finding meaning in mindfulness : an interpretive phenomenological analysis : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science in Psychology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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With deep origins in Eastern Buddhist philosophy, mindfulness practice (MP) has risen in popularity in Western culture due to an increased secular delivery of the practice in both clinical and non-clinical settings. Research has focussed largely on measuring the quantitative physical and psychological effects of MP and determining the efficacy of MP for treatments of various physical and psychological conditions. Through research, increased meaning in life has been correlated with positive well-being, and examinations into the link between meaning and MP has generated several theories. Negative experiences of MP have also been the subject of more recent research, with issues arising such as non-identification, depersonalisation, and depressive experiences. The current study attempted to answer the call for qualitative research into the experiential aspects of MP, to understand how MP may influence paths to meaning in secular individuals. This study aimed to complement existing quantitative data surrounding MP through qualitative Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Six participants took part in a semi-structured interview subjected to IPA by a single researcher. Three overarching themes as paths to meaning were apparent – ‘Awareness’, ‘Non-judgment’, and ‘Enhanced Connection’. The overarching theme ‘Enhanced Connection’ comprised of four themes – ‘Connection with Others’, ‘Authenticity – A new way of connecting to the self’, ‘Positive Perceptual Shift – A new way of connecting’, and ‘ Connection and Spirituality’. ‘Connection with Others’ consisted of four subthemes – ‘Belonging’, Co-creation of Meaning’, ‘Cycle of Positive Contribution’, and ‘Authenticity’. Negative experiences presented by participants consisted of issues of non-identification, performance expectation, the need for supervision/guidance, and a lack of holistic understanding within the Western secular framework of MP delivery. Despite the interpretive and subjective nature of analysis, and the small sample size, results of the current study were compelling, highlighting humanity’s inherent social nature, while touching on issues of decontextualisation of MP from the Buddhist framework.
Mindfulness (Psychology), Meaning (Psychology)