Zen Practice, Adult Development and Equanimity: An Exploratory Study
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AbstractThis study was motivated by the researcher's observations about Zen Buddhism practitioners and was grounded on previous research about contemplative practices and adult development. The purpose of the study was to understand whether Zen practice, beyond spiritual awakening, was also related to being even-minded and psychologically mature. The study hypothesis posited that a positive association existed between Zen practice and these variables whereby longer-term Zen experience will be related to higher level of equanimity and psychological development as understood by constructive developmental theories.
Through a cross-sectional design, the researcher looked at the relationship between these variables and explored the nature of the experience of change, if any, related to Zen practice. The study sample was a group of 10 Zen meditators categorized into two groups according to practice experience. Quantitative evidence gathered through the analysis of self-report measures of equanimity and assessments of level of psychological development in relationship to the meditators' length of Zen practice experience was used to explore the hypotheses. Qualitative data obtained through the analysis of semi-structured interviews about the practitioners’ experience of change related to Zen practice helped to illuminate findings from the quantitative analysis.
The results from the analysis led to mixed findings. The hypothesis that longer Zen practice experience was associated to higher equanimity was not supported by the analysis of equanimity measures. However, the findings from the interviews analysis in connection to equanimity were inconsistent with the quantitative results and revealed a different story. The hypothesis that longer Zen practice experience was associated with higher level of psychological development was supported by the results of the quantitative analysis. The findings from the interview analysis were consistent with the outcome that supported the association between length of Zen experience and level of psychological development. Nonetheless, these latter results raise important questions such as what portion of level of development variability was accounted for by length of Zen experience, age or other confounding variables. The small sample size of study limited the possible statistical analysis required to solve these issues.
Using a larger sample size in future studies will allow for a stronger statistical analysis helping to further understand the association between length of Zen practice experience and psychological development as well as the existing discrepancies between quantitative and qualitative findings relating to equanimity. These issues remain an open challenge for future investigations.
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