J Happiness Stud (2011) 12:575–589 DOI 10.1007/s10902-010-9218-6 RESEARCH PAPER
Doing and Being: Mindfulness, Health, and Quiet Ego Characteristics Among Buddhist Practitioners Heidi A. Wayment • Bill Wiist • Bruce M. Sullivan Meghan A. Warren
Published online: 12 September 2010 Ó Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010
Abstract We examined the relationship between meditation experience, psychological mindfulness, quiet ego characteristics, and self-reported physical health in a diverse sample of adults with a range of Buddhist experience (N = 117) gathered from a web-based survey administered to Buddhist practitioners around the world between August 1, 2007 and January 31, 2008. Practicing meditation on a regular basis and greater experience with Buddhism was related to higher psychological mindfulness scores. Psychological mindfulness was correlated with a latent variable called ‘‘quiet ego characteristics’’ that reflected measures based on Bauer and Wayment’s (Transcending self-interest: psychological explorations of the quiet ego. American Psychological Association, Washington, DC, pp 7–19, 2008) conceptual and multidimensional definition of a ‘‘quiet ego’’: wisdom, altruism, sense of interdependence with all living things, need for structure (reversed), anger/verbal aggression (reversed), and negative affectivity (reversed). In turn, quiet ego characteristics were positively related to self-reported health. Our findings provide continuing support for the key role psychological mindfulness may play in psychological and physical well-being. Keywords
Mindfulness Quiet ego Health Well-being Meditation Buddhism
H. A. Wayment (&) Department of Psychology, Northern Arizona University, Box 15106, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA e-mail: Heidi.Wayment@NAU.edu B. Wiist College of Health & Human Services, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA B. M. Sullivan Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA M. A. Warren Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, USA
H. A. Wayment et al.
With its roots in Buddhism and other contemplative traditions, the concept of mindfulness has received a great deal of research attention because of its demonstrated links to psychological and physical health benefits (Baer 2003; Grossman et al. 2004). Studies of mindfulness have typically focused on one of two forms: trait psychological mindfulness or mindfulness-based meditative practices. Psychological mindfulness is a trait-like quality in which an individual maintains an ‘‘open, accepting, present focus of attention during dayto-day life’’ (Thompson and Waltz 2007) whereas mindfulness-based meditative practices include a type of mindfulness meditation where an individual focuses attention on something specific, such as breathing or some other object, to serve as a way to bring his or her attentional focus to the present moment.
1 Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation and Psychological Mindfulness A great deal of research identifies the physiological, social, and psychological benefits of mindfulness-based meditative practices (Walsh and Shapiro 2006). For example, mindfulness meditation practices appear to positively alter the structure and neural patterns in the brain, strengthen brain regions dedicated to attention and sensory processing and heightened empathic response (Lazar et al. 2005; Lutz et al. 2008). Even among novices, brief mindful meditation interventions produce increased positive affect, better immune system responses (Davidson et al. 2003), and better physiological responses to stress and negative emotions (Tang et al. 2007). Mindfulness training has also been shown to improve one’s social relationships (Barnes et al. 2007; Carson et al. 2004), relationships with strangers (Hutcherson et al. 2008), and familial relationships (Singh et al. 2006, 2007a, b). Multi-week mindfulness-based interventions, such as the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) have been shown to be successful in reducing a number of clinical outcomes, including stress, depression, and anxiety in both adults (Semple et al. 2005; Teasdale et al. 2000), adolescents (Singh et al. 2007a, b; Zylowksa et al. 2008), and children (Lee et al. 2008). In a recent study, intensive mindfulness training (10–12 h a day for one month) was related to increases in subjective well-being and resilience as well as reductions in negative psychological symptoms (Orzech et al. 2009). Psychological mindfulness has also been reported to be associated with numerous psychological benefits, including happiness, eudemonic well-being, and physical health (Brown and Ryan 2003; Brown et al. 2007). Individuals higher in trait mindfulness report greater well-being and positive psychological qualities such as self-compassion (Baer et al. 2004). Investigations of trait psychological mindfulness with the Big 5 personality characteristics have found positive associations with openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness, a negative association with neuroticism, with no relationship with extraversion (Brown and Ryan 2003; Thompson and Waltz 2007).
2 Link Between Mindfulness-based Practices and Psychological Mindfulness Brown et al. (2007) delineate four important aspects of psychological mindfulness: an awareness that is clear, non-conceptual, and flexible, an empirical stance toward reality, a present-oriented conscientiousness, and continuity of attention and awareness. The general assumption guiding much of the work on mindfulness-based therapies, namely, that a greater ability to practice mindful meditative practices should ultimately increase an
individualâ€™s ability to practice mindful awareness in their everyday life (i.e., psychological mindfulness), has not received a great deal of empirical study. A notable exception is the recent research of Orzech et al. (2009) who examined the impact of intensive mindfulness practice in two groups engaging in month-long mindful meditation training. These researchers found that intense mindfulness training (10â€“12 h a day) was related to increases in trait psychological mindfulness, and that this increase in psychological mindfulness was associated with improvements in well-being and resilience over time. Thompson and Waltz (2007) measured trait psychological mindfulness as well as the amount of self-reported mindfulness reported while engaged in meditation. In a sample of college students, they found a negative, albeit modest, association (r = -.14) between mindfulness reported during meditation and trait-level psychological mindfulness. In their second study comparing college students with and without meditative experience, psychological mindfulness was assessed with a more differentiated measure of psychological mindfulness (The Five-Factor Mindfulness Scale; FFMQ). Among the experienced meditators, the amount of mindfulness reported during sitting meditations was unrelated to all five mindfulness factors of the FFMQ. Among novice meditators, self-reported mindfulness during sitting meditation was positively associated with one of the five subscales (observing thoughts and feelings). Taken together, in what they called the first study to investigate the overlap between everyday mindfulness and mindfulness mediation (p. 1976), Thompson and Waltz (2007) found very little evidence that the level of mindfulness reported during sitting meditation was related in any way to differing levels of psychological mindfulness. They did report, however, that experienced meditators, compared to novices, reported greater mindfulness during sitting meditation, suggesting something about the importance of experience with meditation that could relate to the ability to be mindful during meditation. Brown and Ryan (2003) examined the relationship between psychological mindfulness and meditative experience in a community sample of Zen Buddhists (N = 74). They found that those with higher levels of psychological mindfulness were more likely to report that their meditative practice carried over into daily life. Even though the amount of time practicing meditation during a typical meditative session was unrelated to psychological mindfulness, the number of years the Buddhists had practiced was indeed related to greater psychological mindfulness in everyday life. Orzech et al. (2009) found a similar result among their sample of community adults engaged in month-long mindfulness training (N = 69). Years of meditative experience were associated with higher trait level mindfulness as measured by the MAAS and the FMI mindfulness scales.
3 Study Goals Results from these three known investigations suggest that an accumulation of meditative practice is associated with greater psychological mindfulness. The individuals examined in these three studies range from college students (with little to no meditative experience), to Zen Buddhists and highly motivated community members attending a month-long retreat. Whether engaging in meditative practice is related to higher levels of psychological mindfulness remains an important question. Further, it may be important to examine this issue in a sample of adults with more meditative experience than college students, but with perhaps less experience than those meditating 10â€“12 h a day. Thus, the first goal of our study was to investigate the assumption that experience with meditative practice is
H. A. Wayment et al.
associated with greater levels of psychological mindfulness. We expected that individuals who spent more time in their typical meditative practice and those who had been involved in Buddhism for a longer time (and the associated emphasis on meditation that such involvement implies) would report greater psychological mindfulness. A second question raised by researchers concerns the relationship of the specific qualities or skills developed during the course of engaging in mindful meditation that are related to better psychological and health outcomes. Orzech et al. (2009) found that two of three cognitive skills developed by mindfulness meditation (mindful attention and acceptance) were related to actual improvements in psychological well-being. Or, mindfulness meditation may be related to better physical health through the direct impact on physiological processes. For example, a recent meta-analysis found that transcendental meditation significantly reduced blood pressure (Anderson et al. 2008). Similarly, we could also ask what is it about psychological mindfulness that is so beneficial to one’s mental and physical health? It could be that psychological mindfulness is associated with lower levels of Type D personality (negative affectivity; Denollet 2005) or levels of hostility (Diamond 1982), both known to negatively impact cardiovascular health. Brown and Ryan (2003) speculated that well-being may be especially affected by psychological mindfulness due to the greater number of high quality or optimal momentto-moment experiences and that better health may be due to an indirect effect of psychological mindfulness on self-regulated functioning and attention to psychological, somatic, and environmental cues. McIntosh (1997) argued that psychological mindfulness could be beneficial because this trait reflects individuals’ ability to lose their strong attachment to ‘‘self’’. In fact, a loss of self-focus or self-absorption has been long believed to be an important factor in health and well-being. Wayment and Bauer (2008) coined the term ‘‘quiet ego’’ to denote a balanced recognition of one’s strengths and weaknesses that paves the way for personal growth and compassion for the self and others. These authors speculated that the major aspects of quiet ego functioning include greater levels of objective self-awareness (such as psychological mindfulness), compassion, and interdependence, coupled with lower levels of self-focus, self-protection, and defensiveness. Thus, our second goal was to examine the viability of a multidimensional latent variable that represented the as-of-yet unmeasured ‘‘quiet ego’’ characteristics (Bauer and Wayment 2008). Given the proposed centrality of psychological mindfulness to quiet ego characteristics, we hypothesized that quiet ego characteristics could be modeled as a latent variable consisting of affective (e.g., empathy; negative affectivity, affective component of wisdom), cognitive (sense of independence, need for structure, cognitive and reflective components of wisdom), and behavioral elements (e.g., aggression, altruism). In turn, quiet ego characteristics were expected to be positively related self-reported health. We expected: (1) psychological mindfulness to be an important component of quiet ego characteristics (e.g., strongly correlated), (2) psychological mindfulness to be indirectly related to physical health via its relationship with quiet ego characteristics, and (3) meditation practices to be indirectly related to better physical health via their relationship with psychological mindfulness and quiet ego characteristics. To summarize, in order to address our study goals we examined the relationship between meditation experience, psychological mindfulness, quiet ego characteristics, and self-reported physical health in a diverse sample of adults with a range of Buddhist experience (so-called Buddhist practitioners). Our hypotheses are depicted below in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1 Path analysis model of hypothesized relationships between variables. Rectangles indicate manifest (or measured) variables, circles denote latent variables
4 Method 4.1 Participants and Procedure A Web-based survey was administered to Buddhist practitioners from around the world (see Wiist et al. 2008, for a more detailed account of the original study procedure). Participants were recruited into the study via e-mails to Buddhist organizations, paid advertisements in Buddhist electronic newsletters, paid advertisements on Buddhist list serves, and paid advertisements in Buddhist magazines (e.g., Tricycle Daily Dharma, Tricycle E-Newsletter, Shambala Sun and Buddhadharma). The survey was open to participations for six months from August 1, 2007 to January 31, 2008. During the 6 months that the survey was available on the Web, 1,237 individuals began the survey by completing the initial questions about Buddhism and 775 (63%) completed the demographic questions, which were positioned at the end of the survey. During the early period of administration of the survey a programming error in the database resulted in the responses to two of the eight psychological measures not being recorded, resulting in loss of data from about 690 respondents for those two psychological measures. As a result of this unforeseen technical error, we were able to analyze the data from all of the psychological study variables for just under 10% of the total sample (N = 117). The average age of our survey sample was 47 years (SD = 12; range 18â€“81 years). Fifty-eight percent of respondents were female and 42% were male. Three percent of respondents had a high school education or less, 31% were college graduates, and 50% had a graduate or professional degree. Forty-seven percent of respondents were working for pay at a job or business; the remainder were not employed, or were retired, housewives, students or unable to work. Ten percent of respondents had annual family incomes of less than $20,000; 7% had an annual income greater $150,000, including 2% above $300,000. Eighty-two percent of respondents resided in the USA. Seventy-nine percent of respondents were born in the USA or its territories. Ninety percent of respondents identified themselves as White. Naturally, given the large gap between the number of individuals who participated in the study and those for whom we could capture the psychological data, we were interested in understanding if our 117 individualsâ€™ data differed in any systematic way from the larger sample. We statistically compared our smaller sample with the larger
H. A. Wayment et al.
sample on demographic characteristics and on psychological variables that were available for both groups and found no significant differences. 4.2 Measures 4.2.1 Daily Meditation Respondents were asked if they meditated once a day (yes or no). 4.2.2 Duration of Typical Meditative Session Respondents were asked to indicate the duration of their typical meditation session. The mean length of meditative session for our sample was 50.38 min (standard deviation = 108.1 min). 4.2.3 Years Practicing Buddhism Participants were asked how many years they had been practicing Buddhism. On average, participants reported a wide range of Buddhist experience (range 0–64 years; average = 11 years, standard deviation = 10.3 years). 4.2.4 Psychological Mindfulness The 15-item Mindful Awareness Attitude Scale (MAAS; Brown and Ryan 2003) was used to assess psychological mindfulness, or the ability to pay attention to what is taking place in the present. Each item was rated on a six-point scale (1 = almost always; 6 = almost never). The mean rating across all items was computed with higher scores indicative of greater psychological mindfulness. Coefficient alpha for this scale in our sample was .91. 4.2.5 Self-rated Health The item ‘‘Would you say that in general your health is’’ with a choice of responses (1 = excellent, 2 = very good, 3 = good, 4 = fair, and 5 = poor) was used to assess selfreported health (SRH; Idler and Benyamini 1997). SRH is used universally in healthrelated research and is sensitive to health changes, able to predict important health outcomes across socioeconomic status levels, and is central to health surveillance efforts around the world (Barger 2006). The average rating for our sample was 2.09 or ‘‘very good’’ health. In our correlational analyses this variable was recoded so that higher scores indicated better health. 4.2.6 Quiet Ego Characteristics Bauer and Wayment (2008) describe the quiet ego as consisting of four key components. The first component, objective self-awareness, is essentially psychological mindfulness, and we predicted that psychological mindfulness would be a strong correlate of our measured quiet ego characteristics. Therefore, we created a latent variable that captured the remaining three components of the quiet ego as described by Bauer and Wayment (2008): sense of interdependence with others (allo-inclusive identity), compassion (altruism), and
growth (wisdom). Three additional measures were expected to negatively load onto the latent variable because they reflected personality characteristics associated with excessive self-protection and defensiveness such as aggression, negative affectivity, and personal need for structure. 4.2.7 Sense of Interdependence To measure the extent to which an individual identifies with all living things, Leary and associates Allo-Inclusive Identity scale (Leary et al. 2008) was used. For each of nine items describing the connection between the respondent and some other entity (e.g., the person with whom you feel closest, a homeless person on the street, the universe, all living creatures), respondents selected from a set of seven pairs of circles, one circle representing ‘‘you’’ and the second circle representing ‘‘other’’ (1 = widest separation between ‘‘you’’ and ‘‘other’’; 7 = closest overlap between ‘‘you’’ and ‘‘other’’). All nine items were combined for a scale that had a coefficient alpha of .88. 4.2.8 Altruism The widely used Self-Report Altruism (SRA; Rushton et al. 1981) scale was used to assess compassionate behavior. Using a 5-point scale (1 = never; 2 = once; 3 = more than once; 4 = often; 5 = very often) respondents rated how often they engaged in 18 different altruistic behaviors (e.g., I have given money to someone who needed it (or asked for it), I have done volunteer work for charity). Coefficient alpha for this scale was .89. 4.2.9 Wisdom Ardelt’s three-dimensional wisdom scale (2004; 3D-WS) consisting of 39 items was used to measure an individual’s commitment to psychological growth. The Cognitive dimension captures the individual’s ability to accept the positive and negative nature of human nature, the limits of knowledge, and an acceptance of life’s uncertainties. The Reflective dimension refers to the ability to perceive the world and self from multiple perspectives. Finally, the affective dimension captures people’s sympathetic and compassionate love for others. Items were rated on one of two 5-point scales (1 = strongly agree; 5 = strongly disagree, or, 1 = definitely not true of myself; 5 = definitely true of myself). In order for these response scales to be similar to the others used in our study, we reversed the direction of both of these scales. All 39 items were combined to form a wisdom score with a coefficient alpha of .70. 4.2.10 Negative Affectivity A personality measure known as ‘‘Type D’’ was measured with the 14-item scale of the same name (Denollet 2005). Respondents rated each item using a 5-point scale (1 = definitely not true for me; 5 = definitely true for me). Items included ‘‘I am often irritated,’’ ‘‘I take a gloomy view of things,’’ and ‘‘I often feel inhibited in social interactions.’’ Type D personality has been linked with early death due to cardio-vascular disease related outcomes. The suggested links between the ‘‘distressed’’ personality and such adverse health outcomes includes heightened physiological stress reactivity (e.g., heightened blood pressure and arterial inflammation as well as depression, anxiety, and poor social connections, each of which has been linked with heart disease (Denollet 2005). Coefficient alpha for this scale was .90.
H. A. Wayment et al.
4.2.11 Anger/Verbal Aggression The Anger and Verbal Aggression subscales of the Buss and Perry (1992) subscales Aggression Scale were used to measure affect and behavior that we believed would be negatively correlated with quiet ego characteristics. Given our concern with the length of our questionnaire, we did not include two of the subscales in our questionnaire (physical aggression and hostility). Respondents indicated their degree of agreement with 12 items (e.g., I flare up quickly but get over it quickly, I tell my friends openly when I disagree with them, When frustrated, I let my irritation show) using a 5-point scale (1 = extremely uncharacteristic of me; 5 = definitely characteristic of me). Coefficient alpha for our combined measure was .87. 4.2.12 Need for Structure The tendency to prefer organization in perception and cognition (e.g., black-and-white thinking), especially under stress, is tapped by the Personal Need for Structure (PNS) scale (Thompson et al. 1989). Individuals high in PNS tend to feel discomfort in ambiguous situations and exhibit inflexible thinking. PNS is positively correlated with authoritarianism and stereotyping (see Neuberg and Newsom 1993, for review). Respondents indicated their degree of agreement with 12 items using a 6-point scale (1 = strongly disagree; 6 = strongly agree). Sample items include ‘‘It upsets me to go into a situation without knowing what I can expect from it’’ and ‘‘I don’t like situations that are uncertain.’’ Coefficient alpha for this scale was .81.
5 Results 5.1 Initial Analyses Before testing our hypotheses, all variables were examined for multivariate normality and found to be in order. We examined the means, standard deviations, and intercorrelations among all study variables (see Table 1). The number of years an individual practiced Buddhism was not related to the typical duration of a meditation session (r = .04, n.s.). Female participants reported higher levels of Sense of Identification (r = .22, p \ .05) and Wisdom (r = .23, p \ .05), whereas male participants reported higher levels of the Need for Structure (r = -.21, p \ .05). The remaining correlational relationships among variables will be discussed in the next section where the full model was tested. Finally, a oneway ANOVA revealed that individuals who said they meditated at least once a day, compared to those who did not, reported greater psychological mindfulness (F(1,116) = 12.2, p \ .001). This result partially supports our first hypothesis, that those who practiced meditation more often would report higher levels of psychological mindfulness. 5.2 Path Model Analysis 5.2.1 Measurement Model The goal of Structural Equation Modeling (SEM is to compare a covariance matrix generated from a particular sample with a covariance matrix generated by a hypothesized model. Such analyses provide parsimonious analyses of multiple regression equations by
4. Self-rated health
7. Sense of interdependence
8. Negative affectivity*
9. Anger/Verbal aggression*
10. Need for structure
* p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001
Means (standard deviations) listed on the diagonal
3. Psychological mindfulness
2. Years practicing Buddhism
1. Duration of typical meditative session
Table 1 Model correlation matrix for measured study variables (N = 107)
H. A. Wayment et al.
testing these equations simultaneously (Newcomb 1994). Kline (1998) discusses the issue of model fit and argues that because indices reflect different aspects of model fit, researchers should report 4 indices of model fit: (1) the Chi-square (v2) statistic, degrees of freedom, and significance level; (2) an index that describes the overall proportion of the explained variance (such as the Bentler CFI); (3) an index that adjusts the proportion of the explained variance for model complexity (such as the Bentler-Bonett NNFI), and (4) an index based on the standardized covariance residuals such as the SRMR. Kline (1998) suggests that ‘‘favorable’’ model fit values are as follows: a non-significant goodness-of-fit v2 statistic, a v2:df ratio less than 3; values on the CFI and NNFI greater than .90; and a favorable value of the SRMR of .10 or less. The CFI and NNFI range from 0 to 1, with 0 reflecting no fit, and 1 indicating a perfect fit. In order to test our hypothesized model a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) was performed using the EQS structural modeling program (Bentler 1995). This analysis hypothesized that our selected measures, Altruism, Wisdom, Allo-Inclusive Identity, Anger/Verbal Aggression, Negative Affectivity, and Need for Structure, formed one latent variable, which we termed ‘‘quiet ego characteristics’’. Higher scores on this latent variable represented greater levels of quiet ego characteristics. The initial CFA provided an inadequate fit to the data (Chi-square with 9 df = 28.78, p \ .01, CFI = .73, RMSEA = .14). Inspection of LaGrange Multiplier Tests revealed that by adding four correlated error terms of the latent variable indicators the fit of the CFA model could be improved. We followed the guidelines issued by Hooper et al. (2008) about the relatively acceptable practice of using correlated error terms to improve model fit when the error terms are within the same latent variable. With these additions the CFA model was supported: Chi-square with 5 df = 5.48, p = .36, CFI = .99, RMSEA = .03). The factor loadings are presented in Fig. 2. All beta coefficients are significant at the p \ .001 level. 5.2.2 Path Model In order to examine the hypotheses regarding the direct and indirect relationships between meditation practices, psychological mindfulness, quiet ego characteristics, and self-rated health, a structural equation model (SEM) was tested using EQS (Bentler 1995). For identification purposes, the variance of the latent factor (quiet ego characteristics) was fixed at 1.00 and the indicators were allowed to load freely. The hypothesized paths were entered. The initial model did not provide an adequate fit to the data (Chi-square with 44 df = 90.33, p \ .001, v2:df = 1.92; CFI = .72, NNFI = .65, RMSEA .10). However,
Fig. 2 Confirmatory factor analysis. Rectangles indicate manifest (or measured) variables, circles denote latent variables. All paths were significant at p \ .0001
Fig. 3 Path analysis model depicting analyzed relationships between variables. Rectangles indicate manifest (or measured) variables, circles denote latent variables (* p \ .05; ** p \ .01; *** p \ .001)
inspection of LaGrange Multiplier Tests revealed that adding two pairs of correlated error terms (among the indicators of the quiet ego latent variable; Hooper et al. 2008) and allowing time spent in a typical meditative session to predict the Sense of Interdependence scale improved model fit (Chi-square with 45 df = 45.15, p = .30, v2:df = 1.06; CFI = .98, NNFI = .97, RMSEA .03). Model results supported all of our predictions and are depicted in Fig. 3. Our first hypothesis was that psychological mindfulness would be significantly associated with experience with meditative practices. As predicted, psychological mindfulness was significantly associated with having spent more years practicing Buddhism (beta = .23, p \ .05) and with spending a longer time in a typical meditative session (beta = .17, p \ .05). Although not predicted, spending more time in a typical meditative session significantly predicted a greater Sense of Interdependence with all other living things (beta = .28, p \ .01). Our second hypothesis concerning our prediction that psychological mindfulness would be directly and positively related to ‘‘quiet ego’’ characteristics was supported (beta = .58, p \ .0001). Female participants also reported higher levels of quiet ego characteristics (beta = .27, p \ .001). Forty percent of the variance in quiet ego characteristics was accounted for by psychological mindfulness and gender. We also found support for our prediction that quiet ego characteristics would be positively related to self-reported health (beta = .24, p \ .001). Six percent of the variance in self-reported health was accounted for by this relationship. Finally, we expected and found that psychological mindfulness (beta = .14, p \ .01), being female (.06, p \ .05), and practicing Buddhism for a longer time (beta = .03, p \ 05, one-tailed) were indirect predictors of self-rated health.
6 Discussion This study examined the potential contribution of years of Buddhist experience and length of time spent in meditation to general levels of psychological mindfulness among Buddhist
H. A. Wayment et al.
practitioners from around the United States who had, on average, practiced Buddhism for 11 years. A second goal of this study was to examine whether psychological mindfulness was related to quiet ego characteristics, and in turn, self-reported general health. 6.1 The Importance of Cumulative Meditative Experience We found that spending more time in meditation per week and having practiced Buddhism for a longer period of time were both related to greater levels of trait psychological mindfulness. These findings are consistent with those of Brown and Ryan (2003) who examined psychological mindfulness among a community sample of adults in a Zen Buddhism group. Most meditative practices require a level of mindfulness. Thus, those who have practiced Buddhist meditation over a longer period of time (years) and for a longer period of time during their average meditative sessions reported greater psychological mindfulness. Those who reported meditating at least once a day, compared to those who did not practice daily meditation, also reported higher scores of trait psychological mindfulness. Although not predicted, we also found that time spent in meditation was positive correlated with Allo-Identity (Leary et al. 2008), or the capacity to feel a sense of interdependence or connection with all living things. This suggests to us that the reason meditation practices may lead to higher levels of psychological mindfulness is in the capacity of meditation to loosen one’s attachment to the individualistic sense of self (McIntosh 1997). More specifically, participants in our study were provided an array of possible choices in an effort to provide more detail about what ‘‘meditation’’ might mean to them. The most frequently cited types of meditation were noticing the breath without counting, mindfulness, mantra recitation, and cultivation of loving-kindness (Sullivan et al. 2010; Wiist et al. 2010). Other findings in our study revealed that regardless of the type of meditation practiced, our, large percentages of our respondents indicated they ‘‘often’’ (4 on a 5-point scale) or ‘‘very often’’ (5 on a 5-point scale) engaged in ‘‘Buddhist practice that includes conscious efforts to increase your altruism and compassion’’ (88%), ‘‘Buddhist practice that includes conscious efforts to increase your loving-kindness’’ (88%),’’Buddhist practice that includes conscious efforts to decrease your anger and/or hatred’’ (82%) and ‘‘Buddhist practice that includes conscious efforts to decrease your attachment and/or greed’’ (82%). Taken together, our results contribute to the growing literature suggesting that, at a minimum, trait levels of psychological mindfulness may be cultivated by increasing the amount meditative practice (Brown and Ryan 2003, Brown et al. 2007; Orzech et al. 2009) that focuses on one or more traditional Buddhist ideals, irrespective of the actual meditation type. 6.2 The Role of Mindfulness in Quiet Ego Characteristics Results from this study also extend and strengthen recent research on the idea of the importance of quiet ego characteristics (Bauer and Wayment 2008). The quiet ego construct differs from traditional definitions of well-being or happiness in that it consists of affective, cognitive, and behavioral characteristics that reflect a less defended stance toward the ‘‘self.’’ Given the relative novelty of the quiet ego construct, there is not yet an established set of component measures. Thus, we carefully selected standardized measures that we believed captured the essence of Bauer and Wayment’s definition of the quiet ego. Our latent variable of quiet ego characteristics contained affective (e.g., empathy; negative affectivity, affective component of wisdom), cognitive (sense of independence, need for structure, cognitive and reflective components of wisdom), and behavioral elements (e.g.,
aggression, altruism). Our results clearly identified psychological mindfulness as an important correlate of quiet ego characteristics (as expected). Given that psychological mindfulness was associated with meditative experience, it is possible that the higher-order construct of quiet ego characteristics may also benefit from meditative experience. Our examination of quiet ego characteristics also suggests that the quiet ego construct may provide some promising research avenues about the kinds of psychological characteristics that are associated with physical health. As predicted, we also found that quiet ego characteristics provided an indirect pathway between psychological mindfulness and general health. For example, our measurement of quiet ego characteristics included not only key indices of a more balanced, more empathic, more compassionate, and less defended ‘‘self’’, but also lower levels of traits known to be associated with cardiovascular disease (Type D personality, aggression). Thus, our findings suggest that among a diverse sample of Buddhist practitioners, quiet ego characteristics may suggest an important pathway by which psychological mindfulness is positively related to better physical health. 6.3 Strengths and Limitations Our study adds to the literature on the benefits of mindfulness by finding further support for the idea that more and prolonged experience with meditation may increase or strengthen people’s trait levels of psychological mindfulness. However, there are several limitations that should be noted. First, our study participants, as a whole, were extremely well educated (50% completed post-graduate study) and thus our findings may not be generalizable to the broader population of Buddhist practioners. For example, time spent in mediation may be a luxury more easily afforded by individuals who have lifestyles and means that come more easily to those with higher levels of education. It would be important for future studies to examine the impact of income and education on meditative practices. In spite of this limitation, our adult sample of Buddhist practioners varied greatly in the quantity of their meditative experience as well as in the type of meditative practice (including both classical Buddhist techniques such as visualization, mindfulness, reciting a phrase as well as nonspecified meditation techniques; see Wiist et al. 2008 for further description). Although our study was cross-sectional and correlational in nature, our study results were found in a sample that was more experienced than college students, but perhaps (as a whole), not as extreme as those studied by Orzech et al. (2009). Thompson and Waltz (2007) speculated that their weak findings regarding the link between mindful meditation and psychological mindfulness may have been due to the inexperience of their sample with meditative practices. Another limitation concerns our self-reported measure of general health. Although this measure has been shown to be associated with mortality and morbidity and is a very reliable measure of physical health (Barger 2006), it was limited by its self-report nature. Future studies would most likely benefit from examining specific biomedical health outcomes.
7 Conclusion Results from this study add to the literature on how mindfulness may contribute to psychological and physical health. Our results suggest that individuals who practice meditation on a regular basis are more likely to possess the ability to orient themselves to the present moment and maintain a non-judgmental attitude toward day-to-day living.
H. A. Wayment et al.
Furthermore, our findings not only replicate those reported in a handful of studies to date on the same topic, but fill in an important gap in that our study respondents consisted of a diverse sample of adults who represent a wider range of meditative experience than previously reported in the literature. We also found some preliminary empirical support for Bauer and Wayment’s conceptual and multidimensional definition of a ‘‘quiet ego’’ in this sample of diverse Buddhist practitioners. Although this pattern of results was expected from our sample of motivated and highly educated Buddhist practitioners, we suspect that the development of psychological mindfulness and other quiet ego characteristics in the general population would also be beneficial to the improvement of psychological and physical health.
References Anderson, J. W., Liu, C., & Kryscio, R. J. (2008). Blood pressure response to transcendental meditation: A meta-analysis. American Journal of Hypertension, 10, 1224–1230. doi:10.1038/ajh.2007.65. Baer, R. A. (2003). Mindfulness training as a clinical intervention: A conceptual and empirical review. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 125–143. Baer, R. A., Smith, G. T., & Allen, K. B. (2004). Assessment of mindfulness by self-report: The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills. Assessment, 11, 191–206. Barger, S. D. (2006). Do psychological characteristics explain socioeconomic stratification of self-rated health? Journal of Health Psychology, 11, 21–35. Barnes, S., et al. (2007). The role of mindfulness in romantic relationship satisfaction and response to relationship stress. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(4), 482–500. Bauer, J. J., & Wayment, H. A. (2008). The psychology of quieting the ego. In H. A. Wayment & J. J. Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego (pp. 7–19). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Bentler, P. M. (1995). EQS: Structural equations program manual. Los Angeles, CA.: BMDP Statistical Software. Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: Mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848. Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Creswell, J. D. (2007). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211–237. Buss, A. H., & Perry, M. (1992). The aggression questionnaire. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 63, 452–459. Carson, J., et al. (2004). Mindfulness-based relationship enhancement. Behavior Therapy, 35, 471–494. Davidson, R., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570. Denollet, J. (2005). DS14: Standard assessment of negative affectivity, social inhibition, and type D personality. Psychosomatic Medicine, 67(1), 89–97. Diamond, E. L. (1982). The role of anger and hostility in essential hypertension and coronary heart disease. Psychological Bulletin, 92, 410–433. Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43. Hooper, D., Coughlan, J., & Mullen, M. R. (2008). Structural equation modelling: Guidelines for determining model fit. Electronic Journal of Business Research Methods, 6, 53–60. Hutcherson, C., et al. (2008). Loving-kindness meditation increases social connectedness. Emotion, 8(5), 720–724. Idler, E. L., & Benyamini, Y. (1997). Self-rated health and mortality: A review of twenty-sever community studies. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 21–37. Kline, R. B. (1998). Principles and practice of structural equation modeling. New York: Guilford Press. Lazar, S., et al. (2005). Meditation experience is associated with increased cortical thickness. NeuroReport, 16(17), 1893–1897. Leary, M. R., Tipsord, J., & Tate, E. B. (2008). Allo-inclusive identity: Incorporating the natural and social worlds into one’s sense of self. In H. Wayment & J. Bauer (Eds.), Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego (pp. 137–148). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Lee, J., et al. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for children: Results of a pilot study. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 22(1), 15–28. Lutz, A., et al. (2008). Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS One, 3(3), 1–10. McIntosh, W. D. (1997). East meets West: Parallels between Zen Buddhism and social psychology. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 7, 37–52. Neuberg, S. L., & Newsom, J. T. (1993). Personal need for structure: Individual differences in the desire for simple structure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 113–131. Newcomb, M. D. (1994). Drug use and intimate relationships among women and men: Separating specific from general effects in prospective data using SEM. Journal of Clinical and Counseling Psychology, 62, 463–476. Orzech, K. M., Shapiro, S. L., Brown, K. W., & McKay, M. (2009). Intensive mindfulness training-related changes in cognitive and emotional experience. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 212–222. Rushton, J. P., Chrisjohn, R. D., & Fekken, G. C. (1981). The altruistic personality and the self-report altruism scale. Personality and Individual Differences, 50, 1192–1198. Semple, R., Reid, E., & Miller, L. (2005). Treating anxiety with mindfulness: An open trial of mindfulness training for anxious children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 19(4), 379–392. Singh, N., et al. (2006). Mindful parenting decreases aggression, noncompliance, and self-injury in children with autism. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 14(3), 169–177. Singh, N., et al. (2007a). Mindful parenting decreases aggression and increases social behavior in children with developmental disabilities. Behavior Modification, 31(6), 749–771. Singh, N., et al. (2007b). Adolescents with conduct disorder can be mindful of their aggressive behavior. Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15(1), 56–63. Sullivan, B. M., Wiist, B., & Wayment, H. (2010). The Buddhist health study: Meditation on love and compassion as features of religious practice. CrossCurrents, 60(2), 185–207. Tang, Y., et al. (2007). Short-term meditation training improves attention and self-regulation. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 104, 17152–17156. Teasdale, J., et al. (2000). Prevention of relapse/recurrence in major depression by mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 68(4), 615–623. Thompson, M. M., Naccarato, M. E., & Parker, K. E. (1989). Assessing Cognitive Need: The Development of the Personal Need for Structure and the Personal fear of Invalidity Scales. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the Canadian Psychological Association, Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thompson, B. L., & Waltz, J. (2007). Everyday mindfulness and mindfulness meditation: Overlapping constructs or not? Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 1875–1885. Walsh, R., & Shapiro, S. (2006). A meeting of meditative disciplines and Western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61, 227–239. Wayment, H. A., & Bauer, J. J. (Eds.). (2008). Transcending self-interest: Psychological explorations of the quiet ego. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. Wiist, W. H., Sullivan, D. M., & Wayment, H. A. (2010). Buddhists’ religious and health practices. Journal of Religion and Health. doi:10.1007/s10943-010-9348-5. Wiist, W. H., Sullivan, B. M., Wayment, H. A., & Warren, M. (2008). A Web-based survey of the relationship between Buddhist religious practices, health, and psychological characteristics: Research methods and preliminary results. Journal of Religion and Health. doi:10.1007/s10943-008-9228-4. Zylowksa, L., et al. (2008). Mindfulness meditation training in adolescents and adults with ADHD: A feasibility study. Journal of Attention Disorders, 11(6), 737–746.
Published on Dec 17, 2011
B.Wiist CollegeofHealth&HumanServices,NorthernArizonaUniversity,Flagstaff,AZ,USA B.M.Sullivan DepartmentofComparativeCulturalStudies,Nor...