Meditation and mindfulness are commonly understood and studied as solitary practices with personal benefits. Recent research has begun to explore the interpersonal nature of meditation and mindfulness practices, especially in regard to close relationships (Gale 2009; May and Reinhardt, Mindfulness, 9(1), 105–116, 2018). This study sought to build upon and improve the development of an observer measure of mindfulness and further understand the interpersonal benefits of meditation practice. The study recruited 30 meditators and a close other (CO) for an online survey study. COs were defined as: Significant Others, Close Friends that are seen daily/near daily, Close Roommates, or Family Members Living Together. A robust correlation was found between the main participant’s (MP) self-score on the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAASM) and their CO’s rating of the MP’s mindfulness (MAASO), providing support for MAAS’s construct validity, and the use of the MAASO as an observer measure of mindfulness. MAASO was also shown to highly correlate with the CO’s relationship satisfaction and perception of MP’s attunement during conflict. An exploratory measure of Buddhist Values was also investigated and exhibited equally strong correlations with these relationship variables as the MAASO. This suggests that how present and attuned in relationship a CO rates their meditating partner depends on the additive effect of their partner’s meditation practice and the ways in which they are able to thread their meditative mindfulness skills into daily interactions. Further, this study found that observer measures out-performed self-report measures in predicting all outcomes, indicating important next steps in the field.
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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee (New School for Social Research Human Research Protection Program (HRPP), Protocol #2017-1058) and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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Measure 1 Exploratory Measure: Buddhist Values
Buddhist Values is a 20-item scale measuring the extent to which one experiences themselves as possessing certain “meditation trait” qualities, as described in Buddhist teachings, on a daily basis. This scale is best used in conjunction with the 8-adjective task and a thorough meditation demographic. Items 1, 2, 3, 6, 13, 15, 16, and 18 are reverse coded.
Instructions: Below is a collection of statements about your everyday experience. Using the 1–6 scale below, please indicate how frequently or infrequently you currently have each experience. (1 = Almost Always, 2 = Very Frequently, 3 = Somewhat Frequently, 4 = Somewhat Infrequently, 5 = Very Infrequently, 6 = Almost Never).
1. I often feel bored.
2. I have difficult letting go.
3. In situations when I’m waiting, I get impatient quickly.
4. I make an effort to be honest, even when a “white lie” could make the situation easier for me.
5. In difficult conversations, I will pause or stop before responding.
6. In difficult conversations, I do not consider the other person’s viewpoint.
7. I make choices based on important values or ethics I hold.
8. I am aware of when I experience strong dislike or like, and try not to act immediately on it.
9. I appreciate different or multiple perspectives.
10. I am accepting of change.
11. I consider the consequences of my actions, not only for myself, but also for others.
12. I accept responsibility for my actions, take appropriate measures to correct/apologize if needed, without holding onto guilt or blame.
13. It is nearly impossible for me to resist things I crave.
14.My own needs come before those of others.
15. I am unable to control my anger and it can be damaging to my relationships.
16. I poorly handle stress.
17. I am generous (time, money, affection, etc.) with others.
18. I have difficultly fully enjoying the moment.
19. I carefully consider each situation and choose an appropriate response for that situation.
20. I exhibit care and concern for the welfare of others.
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Whitney, J., Chang, D.F. Inner tradition made visible: the interpersonal benefits and effects of meditation practice on close relationships. Curr Psychol 41, 2207–2217 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-020-00738-9