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The lived experience of meditation : a phenomenological study of meditative and mystical states of consciousness
thesisposted on 2017-01-16, 05:26 authored by Barnes, Jennifer Marie
This thesis presents a Phenomenological investigation of the meditative and mystical experiences, lived by 12 Western meditators. Their voices are presented throughout this text. They tell the reader about their understanding of the ultimate reality, which underlies our human existence. The 12 interviewees were called co-researchers as the data gathered over two years was analysed in a collaborative way. While the open-ended and exploratory interviews were being conducted, the researcher completed an heuristic diary, which informed the topic of the final chapter of this thesis. The co-researcher's themes informed the other four discussion chapters of the thesis. The data was analysed using Moustakas' (1990, 1994) Heuristic Phenomenology, which was underpinned by Husserl's (1931/1958) Transcendental Phenomenology. The co-researchers were from various religious traditions: namely Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sufism, and Islam. There were two Atheist meditators. The co¬researchers were aged between 26 and 64. They had meditated between 18 months and 30 years. The Phenomenological method was adjusted to accommodate the spiritual experiences described by the co-researchers. Essentially, Husserl assumed that there was an internal or external object of consciousness, experienced by an Egoic subject. In everyday experiencing the subject and object of consciousness may seem separate. However, in meditation one transcends everyday consciousness to a mystical state whereby the subject and object of consciousness are one. In this study, the Phenomenological method was expanded to accommodate the unified structures of meditative and mystical experience. This extension to the Phenomenological method is one of the several original contributions advanced in this thesis. One finding of this study was that meditation was not a technique. One can sit cross-legged and simply think. Meditation is a state of consciousness, which is distinct from ordinary states such as waking, sleeping and dreaming. What was common to each meditator in this study was that their meditation involved reaching a state of present moment awareness. The Christians were in the present moment while sitting cross-legged or in a chair. The Buddhists walked while baring attention to the present moment. The Sufi meditated and whirled with the dervishes, immersed in divine energy.