Special Issue "Meditation and Spiritual Practice"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Health/Psychology/Social Sciences".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 July 2022) | Viewed by 12597

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Terje Sparby
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Psychology and Psychotherapy, Witten/Herdecke University, Alfred-Herrhausen-Straße 50, 58448 Witten, Germany
Interests: Meditation; first-person methods; phenomenology; consciousness studies; philosophy of mind; German Idealism; Anthroposophy

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The research on meditation and spiritual practice has been growing over the recent years. A central research focus remains the potential benefits to psychological and physical health, but the research topics are also expanding to include for example pro-social effects and challenging meditation experiences. This research is mainly taking place within a context removed from the ones within which meditation was originally conceived and practiced. Common to the traditional approaches to meditation is that they were in some way or another “spiritual”, i.e., connected to personal experience and meaning, transcendence, contemplative insight, liberation/moksha, the sacred, God, gods, etc. This dimension of meditation and spiritual practice has received little attention in research. This Special Issue invites contributions that broaden the scope of research on meditation and related practices to address their spiritual aspect, broadly defined.

This Special Issue is open to all the methods and forms of analysis that are generally included within the scope of Religions, e.g., theology, comparative studies, theoretical/methodological discussions, philosophy/psychology of religion, sociology of religion, religious ethics, etc. (see full list here: https://www.mdpi.com/journal/religions/about). Furthermore, we wish to specifically encourage submissions based on first-person methods, including phenomenology, micro-phenomenology, phenomenological psychology and similar approaches. Such methods are generally underrepresented within the field and can be conceived of as inherently spiritual in that they rely on direct experience.

Examples of topics include

  • Meditation experiences;
  • Meditation techniques and other techniques of spiritual practice;
  • Hindrances in meditation practice;
  • The concept of awakening;
  • The concept of spirituality in relation to meditation or prayer;
  • The notion of stages of progress in meditation/spiritual practice;
  • The relationship between community and practice;
  • Embodied practices such as Qigong or Neigong.

Dr. Terje Sparby
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • meditation
  • spirituality
  • awakening
  • liberation
  • hindrances
  • meditation challenges
  • stages of spiritual experience
  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Christianity

Published Papers (6 papers)

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Research

Article
Achieving a Sensing Body: Visualization and Bodily Attention in Alternative Spiritual Practices
Religions 2022, 13(8), 714; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080714 - 06 Aug 2022
Viewed by 194
Abstract
This article explores the learning process to develop a sensing body through visualization and bodily attention in alternative spiritual practices held at Brittany’s megaliths, located in northwest France. Drawing on the sensory ethnography approach, this article argues that participants achieve the experience of [...] Read more.
This article explores the learning process to develop a sensing body through visualization and bodily attention in alternative spiritual practices held at Brittany’s megaliths, located in northwest France. Drawing on the sensory ethnography approach, this article argues that participants achieve the experience of their sensing body following four main actions: Practicing visualization techniques to interact with summoned entities, learning another sensory language, establishing relationships between bodily techniques and somatic imagery, and cultivating and verbalizing bodily sensations. Collected data provide an understanding of practitioners’ elaboration of a meaningful experience, while also suggesting how meditative and bodily techniques partake in these activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
Article
All Is Burning: Buddhist Mindfulness as Radical Reflection
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1092; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121092 - 10 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1120
Abstract
This paper consists of two parts. In the first part (Section 1, part of Section 2), I put forward a critique of what I refer to as the ‘received’ or ‘standard’ view of mindfulness in the Western cultural milieu. According to the received [...] Read more.
This paper consists of two parts. In the first part (Section 1, part of Section 2), I put forward a critique of what I refer to as the ‘received’ or ‘standard’ view of mindfulness in the Western cultural milieu. According to the received view, mindfulness is the acontextual ‘core’ of Buddhism whose determining characteristic is bare (present-oriented, non-judgmental) attention to the flow and content of experience. As noted by many researchers, this conception is in stark contrast to the traditional Buddhist understanding, where mindfulness is not only embedded in a broader context that provides it with a specific philosophico-existential orientation (normative aspect) but is also construed as a reflective activity (noetic aspect). In the second part (part of Sections 2–4), I argue that one of the main issues with the standard view is that it frames experience in terms of what Maurice Merleau-Ponty calls ‘objective thought’ (using objectivity, or ‘thinghood’, as an onto-epistemological standard of reality), which makes the two aspects of the traditional conception (normative and noetic) unintelligible. I then provide an alternative view based on the phenomenological work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty that attempts to integrate the two aspects into a broader conception of experience. By drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s notions of ‘phenomenal field’ and ‘radical reflection’, I argue that mindfulness needs to be understood as a reflective attitude that allows one to discern not only the content but also, and primarily, the context of each experience, and that this also includes seeing itself—the act of reflection—as an act that stems from, and returns back into, the pre-reflective current of existence. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
Article
“Like a Vibration Cascading through the Body”: Energy-Like Somatic Experiences Reported by Western Buddhist Meditators
Religions 2021, 12(12), 1042; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12121042 - 24 Nov 2021
Viewed by 1527
Abstract
There are numerous historical and textual references to energy-like somatic experiences (ELSEs) from religious traditions, and even a few psychological studies that have documented related phenomena. However, ELSEs remain an understudied effect of meditation in contemporary research. Based upon narratives from a large [...] Read more.
There are numerous historical and textual references to energy-like somatic experiences (ELSEs) from religious traditions, and even a few psychological studies that have documented related phenomena. However, ELSEs remain an understudied effect of meditation in contemporary research. Based upon narratives from a large qualitative sample of Buddhist meditators in the West reporting meditation-related challenges, this paper offers a unique glimpse into how ELSEs play out in the lives of contemporary meditation practitioners and meditation experts. Departing from studies presuming a “kundalini awakening” framework, this paper presents a broader scope for understanding ELSEs by describing the metaphors practitioners used when speaking about them; the trajectories and impacts of ELSEs, including the factors that were reported as influencing their nature or trajectory; the various ways in which they were interpreted and appraised by practitioners, teachers, and specialists, such as doctors and therapists; and how practitioners responded to them or managed them with particular remedies. Deciding how to interpret and manage ELSEs entailed recruiting frameworks from within and/or beyond the meditator’s specific Buddhist lineage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
Article
Conserving the ‘Container’ of Tantric Secrecy: A Discussion with Western Śākta Practitioners
Religions 2021, 12(9), 729; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12090729 - 06 Sep 2021
Viewed by 1696
Abstract
Secrecy has long limited the possibility of gaining emic insight into the spiritual experiences of tantric practitioners. By sharing reflections obtained via semi-structured interviews, the present article examines how a contemporary community of Western Śākta practitioners not only interprets the functions of secrecy [...] Read more.
Secrecy has long limited the possibility of gaining emic insight into the spiritual experiences of tantric practitioners. By sharing reflections obtained via semi-structured interviews, the present article examines how a contemporary community of Western Śākta practitioners not only interprets the functions of secrecy and the necessity of maintaining it, but re-defines it in a way that divorces it from the negative connotations that have commonly been ascribed to it. In light of the latter, this article also evaluates the scope of applicability that certain existing scholarly interpretations of secrecy in tantric traditions have in the context of present intercultural exchanges of such practices. Moreover, it identifies the conditions according to which this group of practitioners was willing to discuss practice-related experiences of both a challenging and transformative nature with non-initiates, including what motivated them to do so, and what benefits they expect might result from such bridge-building. In doing so, it demonstrates the negotiable boundaries of secrecy and the ground of possibility for dialogue, thereby providing an example of how future research on the spiritual experience and impact of tantric meditative practice may be further expanded and explored. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
Article
Effect of Raja Yoga Meditation on the Distress and Anxiety Levels of Women with Breast Cancer
Religions 2021, 12(8), 590; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12080590 - 31 Jul 2021
Viewed by 1161
Abstract
Objective: To evaluate the effect of Raja yoga meditation on the level of distress and anxiety in women with breast cancer. Method: A randomized, controlled, clinical trial was carried out in a specialized center between February and December 2019. The patients in the [...] Read more.
Objective: To evaluate the effect of Raja yoga meditation on the level of distress and anxiety in women with breast cancer. Method: A randomized, controlled, clinical trial was carried out in a specialized center between February and December 2019. The patients in the intervention group (n = 25) participated in four group meditation sessions for one month, and the participants in the control group (n = 25) were exposed to an educational activity for the same period and frequency. Cohen’s d was used to evaluate the effect size. Results: A significant reduction in the level of distress and anxiety was found in the intervention group (p < 0.001). The effect of meditation was average in reducing distress, anxiety, depression, and vital signs. There was also an average effect on the increase in saturation of peripheral oxygen (SPO2). Conclusion: The practice of meditation reduced distress and anxiety more effectively than the usual care practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
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Article
The Technology of Awakening: Experiments in Zen Phenomenology
Religions 2021, 12(3), 192; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030192 - 13 Mar 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 4406
Abstract
In this paper, I investigate the phenomenology of awakening in Chinese Zen Buddhism. In this tradition, to awaken is to ‘see your true nature’. In particular, the two aspects of awakening are: (1) seeing that the nature of one’s self or mind is [...] Read more.
In this paper, I investigate the phenomenology of awakening in Chinese Zen Buddhism. In this tradition, to awaken is to ‘see your true nature’. In particular, the two aspects of awakening are: (1) seeing that the nature of one’s self or mind is empty or void and (2) an erasing of the usual (though merely apparent) boundary between subject and object. In the early Zen tradition, there are many references to awakening as chopping off your head, not having eyes, nose and tongue, and seeing your ‘Original Face’. These references bear a remarkable resemblance to an approach to awakening developed by Douglas Harding. I will guide the reader through a series of Harding’s first-person experiments which investigate the gap where you cannot see your own head. I will endeavour to show that these methods, although radically different from traditional meditation techniques, result in an experience with striking similarities to Zen accounts of awakening, in particular, as experiencing oneself as empty or void and yet totally united with the given world. The repeatability and apparent reliability of these first-person methods opens up a class of awakening experience to empirical investigation and has the potential to provide new insights into nondual traditions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Meditation and Spiritual Practice)
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