A Qualitative Analysis of Experiential Challenges Associated with Meditation Practice
Although empirical interest in meditation has flourished in recent years, few studies have addressed possible downsides of meditation practice, particularly in community populations. In-depth interviews were conducted with 30 male meditators in London, UK, recruited using principles of maximum variation sampling, and analysed using a modified constant comparison approach. Having originally set out simply to inquire about the impact of various meditation practices (including but not limited to mindfulness) on men’s wellbeing, we uncovered psychological challenges associated with its practice. While meditation was generally reported to be conducive to wellbeing, substantial difficulties accounted for approximately one quarter of the interview data. Our paper focuses specifically on these issues in order to alert health professionals to potential challenges associated with meditation. Four main problems of increasing severity were uncovered: Meditation was a difficult skill to learn and practise; participants encountered troubling thoughts and feelings which were hard to manage; meditation reportedly exacerbated mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety; and in a few cases, meditation was associated with psychotic episodes. Our paper raises important issues around safeguarding those who practise meditation, both within therapeutic settings and in the community.
KeywordsMasculinity Men Meditation Mindfulness Mental health Wellbeing
- Bergin, A. E., & Garfield, S. L. (1994). Handbook of psychotherapy and behaviour change (4th ed.). Oxford: John Wiley and Sons.Google Scholar
- Engler, J. (2003). Being somebody and being nobody: A reexamination of the understanding of self in psychoanalysis and Buddhism. In J. D. Safran (Ed.), Psychoanalysis and Buddhism: An unfolding dialogue (pp. 35–79). Somerville: Wisdom Publications.Google Scholar
- Fredrickson, B. L., Cohn, M. A., Coffey, K. A., Pek, J., & Finkel, S. M. (2008). Open hearts build lives: Positive emotions, induced through loving-kindness meditation, build consequential personal resources. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95(5), 1045–1062. doi: 10.1037/a0013262.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Matchim, Y., Armer, J. M., & Stewart, B. R. (2008). A qualitative study of participants’ perceptions of the effect of mindfulness meditation practice on self-care and overall well-being. Self-Care, Dependent-Care and Nursing, 16(2), 46–53.Google Scholar
- Mental Health Foundation. (2010). Mindfulness report. Retrieved from http://www.livingmindfully.co.uk/downloads/Mindfulness_Report.pdf.
- Minichiello, V., Aroni, R., Timewell, E., & Alexander, L. (1995). In-depth interviewing: Principles, techniques, analysis. Melbourne: Longman Cheshire.Google Scholar
- Obadia, L. (2008). The economies of health in Western Buddhism: A case study of a Tibetan Buddhist group in France. In D. C. Wood (Ed.), The economics of health and wellness: Anthropological perspectives (pp. 227–259). Oxford: JAI Press.Google Scholar
- Schalow, P. G. (1992). Kukai and the tradition of male love in Japanese Buddhism. In J. I. Cabezón (Ed.), Buddhism, sexuality and gender (pp. 215–230). Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
- Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & Biegel, G. M. (2007). Teaching self-care to caregivers: Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on the mental health of therapists in training. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 1(2), 105–115. doi: 10.1037/1931-3922.214.171.124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1998). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Thousand Oaks: Sage.Google Scholar
- Teasdale, J. D., Segal, S. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (2003). Mindfulness training and problem formulation. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 157–160.Google Scholar
- Van Rossum, I., Dominguez, M., Lieb, R., Wittchen, H.-R., & Van Os, J. (2011). Affective dysregulation and reality distortion: A 10-year prospective study of their association and clinical relevance. Schizophrenia Bulletin, 37(3), 561–571. doi: 10.1093/schbul/sbp101.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
- White, H. (1987). The content of the form: Narrative discourse and historical representation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar