Date of Award

8-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Psychology

Major Professor

Howard R. Pollio

Committee Members

Miriam Levering, Leonard Handler, Sandra Thomas, Jack Barlow

Abstract

This phenomenological look at the experience of mindfulness in everyday life situations is framed against the background of traditional Theravadin Buddhist descriptions and contemporary Western psychoanalytic ideas of the experience of mindfulness. The research laid out by Pollio, Henley, and Thompson (1997) and by Thomas and Pollio (2002) was used. In-depth, open-ended interviews are conducted with none participants who were judged to have stable, long-term (four years or longer) vipassana meditation practices, as determined by three full-time vipassana teachers. The emergent thematic structure includes six major themes and several subthemes: (1) Present and Aware, (2) Spacious and Open, including subthemes, (a) Spacious and (b) Open (Not Judging), (3) Clear and Knowing, with subthemes (a) Alive and Embodied, (b) Seeing Clearly, and (c) Knowing Wisdom, (4) Not Separate (Connected), (5) Not Identified (Self-less), and (6) Free, including subthemes (a) Freedom and (b) Choice. Additional results include relationships among the themes and three non-thematic aspects that relate to the experience of mindfulness over time: (1) Mindfulness Comes and Goes, (2) Facilitating Factors, and (3) Changes Over Time.

This work empirically validates the experience of mindfulness as described in the Buddhist literature and the psychological literature although interesting differences in emphasis were found among the three perspectives: traditional, psychological, and first-person participant accounts. It is my hope that this study will further understanding of mindfulness from both theoretical and practical perspectives.

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