Meditation and the parasympathetic nervous system

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The phenomenological approach

Phenomenology is a school of philosophy (Lavine, 1984), a research paradigm (Keen, 1975), as well as a research method (Creswell, 2007). As a research paradigm, phenomenology has much in common with naturalistic inquiry. In fact, naturalistic inquiry has often been termed phenomenology (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). The ontological premise of phenomenology is relativistic, encompassing multiple subjective views of reality (Creswell, 2007). From an epistemological standpoint, phenomenology is interactive, with the researcher being shaped by, and giving shape to, what is researched (Wertz, 2005).

Research Sample

Non-probability sampling, which is a common sampling method for qualitative research, is used for this study (Creswell, 2007; Neuman, 2000). In non-probability sampling, the emphasis is not on random sampling. Marshall (1996) writes: “A random sample provides the best opportunity to generalise the results to the population but is not the most effective way of developing an understanding of complex issues relating to human behaviour” (p. 523). Rather than gathering a « set of cases that is a mathematically accurate reproduction of the entire population » (Neuman, 2000, p. 241) as occurs in quantitative studies, qualitative sampling, as in this study, explores only a few cases in-depth with regard to a particular phenomenon, that is, meditation. A call for volunteers took place on the college campus where the researcher is a teacher. The decision to recruit participants from the students on campus was based on the efficiency of convenience sampling as participants were readily available and all in the same place at the same time (Neuman, 2000).

Pre-study and post-study administration of the Perceived

Stress Scale (PSS-14) It is reported in the scientific literature that the main therapeutic effect of meditation is its stress-reduction properties (Burns, Lee & Brown, 2011; Lane, Seskevich, & Pieper, 2007; Rubia, 2009). In order to ground this study in the scientific literature, this study examines whether the short-term practice of meditation can reduce levels of perceived stress in novice meditators. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14) is used in this study as a pre-study and post-study measure to assess if any changes in perceived stress occur over the period of the meditation program. The Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-14) is a pre-constructed paper-and-pencil test. It was developed to meet the need for “a psychometrically sound global measure of perceived stress” (Cohen et al., 1983, p. 385). The authors of the PSS-14 (Cohen et al., 1983) describe the scale as possessing “substantial reliability and validity” (p. 394). The PSS-14 has been shown to have satisfactory internal and external reliability with a coefficient alpha reliability of 0.84 and test-retest reliability of 0.85 (Cohen et al., 1983). The authors also report evidence of validity for the scale in better predicting stress-related psychological symptoms, physical symptoms, and health service utilization than commonly used life event scales (Cohen et al., 1983; Candrian, Farabaugh, Pizzagalli, Baer, & Fava, 2007).

Data Analysis and Synthesis

Phenomenological researchers are diverse in their application of the phenomenological method (Finlay, 2009), and a number of phenomenological approaches are practised: Descriptive Phenomenological Psychological Method (Giorgi, 2007) based on Husserl’s work; Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 2010) influenced by the work of Heidegger; the transcendental phenomenological approach (Moustakas, 1994), a method also based on the work of Husserl; and other modified approaches (Priest, 2003; Hycner, 1985). Priest (2003, pp. 58-59) presents a comparison of steps taken by six different phenomenological researchers in the analysis of data that shows the lack of uniformity in procedure. It is thus clear that the phenomenological method as currently practised in the social sciences has little uniformity.

Trustworthiness criteria in qualitative research

The criteria of validity and reliability used in quantitative research provide a standard for determining trustworthiness and scientific rigour that is not easily transferable to qualitative research methods (Golafshani, 2003; Mays & Pope, 1995; Shenton, 2004). Guba (1981) proposed four criteria for qualitative research that correspond to the aspects of scientific rigour in quantitative research. The four criteria for qualitative research are credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability (Guba, 1981, Guba & Lincoln, 1982; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). These criteria correspond to internal and external validity, generalisability, reliability, replicability, and objectivity in quantitative research.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • LIST OF TABLES
  • LIST OF FIGURES
  • CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
    • 1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
    • 1.2 CONTEXT OF THE STUDY
    • 1.3 PROBLEM STATEMENT
    • 1.4 STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
    • 1.5 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
    • 1.6 RESEARCH APPROACH
    • 1.7 RATIONALE AND SIGNIFICANCE
    • 1.8 THE RESEARCHER
    • 1.9 ASSUMPTIONS
    • 1.10 LIMITATIONS
    • 1.11 DEFINITIONS OF KEY TERMS
    • 1.12 ORGANISATION OF THIS REPORT
  • CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
    • 2.1 INTRODUCTION
    • 2.2 A MODEL OF CONSCIOUSNESS
    • 2.3 THE MEDITATION PROCESS
    • 2.4 MEDITATION AND THE PARASYMPATHETIC NERVOUS SYSTEM
    • 2.5 QUALITATIVE STUDIES OF MEDITATION
      • 2.5.1 The Phenomenology of Meditation : A Single Case Study (Walsh, 1977, 1978)
      • 2.5.2 The Phenomenology of Meditation : A Retreat Group Study (Kornfield, 1979)
      • 2.5.3 The Phenomenology of Meditation : Deep States (Gifford-May & Thompson, 1994)
      • 2.5.4 The Phenomenology of Meditation : Pure Consciousness (Travis & Pearson, 2000)
      • 2.5.5 The Phenomenology of Meditation : Light Perception (Prakash, Ul Haq, Prakash, Sarkhel, & Kumar, 2009)
      • 2.5.6 A Qualitative Study Investigating the Effects of Meditation on Relationships (Pruitt & McCollum, 2010)
      • 2.5.7 Qualitative Studies Investigating the Outcomes of Mindfulness-Based Programs
      • 2.5.7.1 A Meta-Ethnography of Qualitative Studies on Mindfulness-Based Programs (Malpass et al., 2012)
      • 2.5.7.1.1 A Qualitative Study of MBSR and Chronic Pain (Morone, Lynch, Greco, Tindle, & Weiner, 2008)
      • 2.5.7.1.2 A Qualitative Study of MBSR and Psychological Change (Kerr, Josyula, & Littenberg, 2011)
      • 2.5.8 A Qualitative Study of Challenges for Novice Meditators (Sears, Kraus, Carlough, & Treat, 2011)
    • 2.6 MEDITATION AS AN ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS
    • 2.7 THE RATIONALE FOR THIS STUDY
  • CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY
    • 3.1 INTRODUCTION
    • 3.2 PART 1: THEORY
      • 3.2.1 Deciding on an Appropriate Paradigm
      • 3.2.1.1 Quantitative research
      • 3.2.1.2 Qualitative research
      • 3.2.2 Research Paradigms
      • 3.2.2.1 Positivism
      • 3.2.2.2 Postpositivism
      • 3.2.2.3 Critical theory
      • 3.2.2.4 Naturalism
  • CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS
    • 4.1 INTRODUCTION
    • 4.2 PRESENTATION OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
      • 4.2.1 Pre-Test PSS-14 Scores
      • 4.2.2 The Research Findings from the Focus Groups
  • CHAPTER 5: DISCUSSION OF THE RESEARCH FINDINGS
    • 5.1 INTRODUCTION
    • 5.2 DISCUSSION OF THE FINDINGS FROM THE FOCUS GROUPS
      • 5.2.1 Discussion of the Verbal Reports of the Key Constituents
      • 5.2.1.1 Relaxing/calming
      • 5.2.1.2 Pleasant
      • 5.2.1.3 Distracted by thoughts
      • 5.2.1.4 Feeling of heaviness
      • 5.2.1.5 Tingles/itches
      • 5.2.1.6 State between asleep and awake
      • 5.2.1.7 Body perception changes
      • 5.2.1.8 Unusual sensations and perceptions
  • CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION
    • 6.1 INTRODUCTION
    • 6.2 ANSWERING THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS

GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
LOOKING INWARDS, SPEAKING OUT: EXPLORING MEDITATION WITH NOVICE MEDITATORS TAKING PART IN A SHORT-TERM MEDITATION PROGRAM

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