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Embodiment and Body Awareness in Meditators

Abstract

Mindfulness practice consists of focusing attention in an intentional way on the experience of the present moment, including bodily sensations, thoughts or feelings, and the environment, with an attitude of acceptance and without judging. The body and, especially, body awareness are key elements in mindfulness. Embodiment or the feeling of being located within one’s physical body is a related concept, and it is composed of the sense of ownership, location, and agency of the body. The rubber hand illusion (RHI) is an experimental paradigm that has been used to understand the mechanisms of embodiment, and evidence shows that body awareness modulates this illusion. To our knowledge, no studies have analyzed embodiment processes in meditators. The aim of this study is to use the RHI to analyze the mechanisms of embodiment and its relationship with body awareness and mindfulness in meditators and non-meditators. The sample was composed of long-term meditators (n = 15) and non-meditators (n = 15). Objective and self-report measures for embodiment with the RHI and self-report questionnaires of body awareness and mindfulness were administered. One-way ANOVA revealed significant differences between groups in sense of agency in the rubber hand. Meditators experienced less sense of agency in the rubber hand than non-meditators. Pearson’s correlations showed that this lower sense of agency in the rubber hand was associated with higher body awareness and mindfulness. Results highlight the role of body awareness and mindfulness in embodiment mechanisms. This study has clinical implications, especially in psychopathological disorders that can be influenced by disturbances in these processes.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to acknowledge the “BODYTA” project (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, PSI2014-51928-R), “PROMOSAM” (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness, PSI2014-56303-REDT), and “Excellence Research Program PROMETEO II” (Generalitat Valenciana, Conselleria de Educación, Cultura y Deporte, PROMETEOII/2013/003). CIBERobn is an initiate of the ISCIII. PROMOSAM Excellence in Research Program (PSI2014-56303-REDT), MINECO, Spain.

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Correspondence to Ausiàs Cebolla.

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All procedures performed in the current study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee 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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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Cebolla, A., Miragall, M., Palomo, P. et al. Embodiment and Body Awareness in Meditators. Mindfulness 7, 1297–1305 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0569-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-016-0569-x

Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Embodiment
  • Sense of agency
  • Body awareness
  • Rubber hand illusion
  • Meditation