Research assistance sought

General discussion of issues related to Theravada Meditation, e.g. meditation postures, developing a regular sitting practice, skillfully relating to difficulties and hindrances, etc.
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Ben
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Research assistance sought

Postby Ben » Mon Apr 06, 2009 11:33 am

Dear Dhamma friends,

Please see below message from Michael Ireland who is a PhD Student at the University of Queensland:

Hello friends

I am very sorry for any cross posting or if you have received this already.

I am currently conducting scientific research at the University of Queensland to validate the beneficial effects of meditation.
However, I need help with completing a simple and confidential online survey. The survey explores meditation, happiness/wellbeing, personality, and psychological development. Participants have found it quite easy and interesting.

The results will be publicly available and have the potential to greatly improve our scientific understanding of meditation, how it works, and its potential benefits.

To learn more, please visit: https://surveys.psy.uq.edu.au/wellbeing.survey

I also need your help with forwarding this information to anyone else who practices meditation so we can include their input as well. Anyone can participate by clicking on the web address below or by typing it into a internet window/browser address bar.

Thank you very much your help is greatly appreciated.

Michael Ireland
PhD Student, UQ
https://surveys.psy.uq.edu.au/wellbeing.survey
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Rui Sousa
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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby Rui Sousa » Mon Apr 06, 2009 4:08 pm

Answered, hope it is helpful.
With Metta

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby genkaku » Mon Apr 06, 2009 5:08 pm

I only managed one question -- do you practice meditation? -- and figured that wouldn't help anything much. Sorry about that.

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Mon Apr 06, 2009 7:06 pm

Hi, I did the survey and I signed up to do it again in six months. I hope it helps this researcher.
:namaste:

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby pink_trike » Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:44 am

Did it, and will do again in 6 months.

I hope the next survey has "neutral" as an option more frequently.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.

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Ben
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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:07 am

Hi

I contacted Michael Ireland and told him I posted his note on ZFI, e-Sangha and Dharma Wheel as well as here. He responded this morning and was very appreciative of the assistance.

Adam

If you've got the time and inclination, I would encourage you to go back and complete the survey. Someone of your experience, with over 3 and a half decades of regular meditative practice, would have some very worthwhile experiences to share. I actually found it really useful exercise as it made me think about what it is and why I am doing what I am doing.
Metta

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby appicchato » Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:42 am

This probably reflects on me more than our friend, but the typo in the very first sentence of the survey doesn't bode well for a PhD candidate... :popcorn:

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby nathan » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:10 am

appicchato wrote:This probably reflects on me more than our friend, but the typo in the very first sentence of the survey doesn't bode well for a PhD candidate... :popcorn:
My father has two phdz and still c'ant spell wright without some kind of spell checker. We've all love him dearly and proofread for him as well as periodically enjoying his creativity. An educated man might pity anyone who only knows one way to spell a word but as you say, expectations can be high in the seats of higher learning. Maybe we can send him a note to amend that error and any others as well. I'll try it, maybe we will learn something.
:smile: :coffee:

edit- either fixed already or I'm not sure what typo you mean. Onwards.
:anjali:
But whoever walking, standing, sitting, or lying down overcomes thought, delighting in the stilling of thought: he's capable, a monk like this, of touching superlative self-awakening. § 110. {Iti 4.11; Iti 115}

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Ben
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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby Ben » Tue Apr 07, 2009 8:21 am

I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of you guys not making judgements about my fitness to moderate based on my butchering of the Queen's English.
I think I'll just go and sit in the corner and mangle some words!
Anyway, back to topic!
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com

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zavk
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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby zavk » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:20 am

Interesting.... will do it. Sadly, it seems to me that the Uni of QLD (which happens to be my alma mater) has shut down their Centre for Buddhist Studies. I believe there was a report from 2008 about how staff and students of the centre were feeling discriminated by the uni, which they claimed had a certain bias towards certain dominant religious traditions.
With metta,
zavk

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pererin
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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby pererin » Tue Apr 07, 2009 10:33 am

appicchato wrote:This probably reflects on me more than our friend, but the typo in the very first sentence of the survey doesn't bode well for a PhD candidate... :popcorn:


Tell me about it. I once misspelt my own name in a book I wrote ...

:tantrum:

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:56 am

genkaku wrote:I only managed one question -- do you practice meditation? -- and figured that wouldn't help anything much. Sorry about that.

Sorry i don't understand. could you please clarify?

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:58 am

appicchato wrote:This probably reflects on me more than our friend, but the typo in the very first sentence of the survey doesn't bode well for a PhD candidate... :popcorn:


ha ha ha! well spotted my friend. it all helps to keep me very humble.
thank you for your eagle-eye!

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:00 am

zavk wrote:Interesting.... will do it. Sadly, it seems to me that the Uni of QLD (which happens to be my alma mater) has shut down their Centre for Buddhist Studies. I believe there was a report from 2008 about how staff and students of the centre were feeling discriminated by the uni, which they claimed had a certain bias towards certain dominant religious traditions.

Yes this is very sad indeed! Within the school of psychology, there are a couple of academics who are either Buddhist or interested in meditation and mindfulness. Otherwise, it certainly is a topic still just outside the mainstream.

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:07 am

Hello Dharma friends
I just wanted to say I am incredibly grateful and indebted to everyone who has given their precious time to help me with this research project.
I wish I could personally thank every one who has contributed.
I very much appreciate your time and effort and your personal contribution has made this research project successful.
Thanks to all your efforts, I now over 505 completed surveys form meditation practitioners and I am well on the way to reaching our goal of 600 with about 6 months to spare.
So if you have any friends or family who also practice meditation please feel free to share the link with them
https://surveys.psy.uq.edu.au/wellbeing.survey and invite them to have their say also.
If you have any questions or ideas please do not hesitate to email me at mireland NO_SPAM @inbox.com (remove NO_SPAM before sending)
Thank you again
Yours sincerely
Michael Ireland

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby forestmat » Thu Apr 23, 2009 8:16 am

Done, sent, and agreed to follow-up.

Metta

forestmat

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Apr 23, 2009 9:11 am

forestmat wrote:Done, sent, and agreed to follow-up.


Ditto.

Though I must admit I found it difficult to benchmark myself given that I don't have the ability to penetrate minds, nor remember past lives.... thus relying entirely on my own subjective experience.

Such is the limitation of such surveys I imagine.

When I was younger, I thought I was pretty good at Microsoft Excel... I knew how to do equations, absolute cell references, random numbers and so on.... then I find out there's things like VLOOKUP tables, links across spreadsheets, macros, conditional formatting, data validation and all manner of things... and then I decided that I didn't know diddly squat.

But did I actually know less than I did when I thought I was pretty good at Excel?

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:30 am

Hello friends
below is some more information on the research for those who are interested =)

To give you a very brief overview of the project: the broad aim is to provide empirical evidence to support the idea that meditation leads to increase in psychological health and happiness and a reduction in psychological suffering and distress. I take the point that some people have made that meditation doesn’t actually make you happier but more emotionally stable, greater equanimity or less actual emotional highs and lows. I agree with this however, it is clear that meditation is expected to reduce mental suffering and I believe that through this it is more likely that a person would be likely to report a great sense of overall happiness when compared with someone who doesn’t meditate. Additionally, I am looking at around 10 outcome variables in order to try get a clear picture of what beneficial effects are produced by meditation.
These outcome variables are happiness, compassion, resilience, wellbeing, life satisfaction, anxiety, depression, stress, self-actualization, and physical health.

This will be done in three stages:

Firstly, I am indexing mediation practice across four dimensions (frequency, intensity, duration, and proficiency) and assessing the degree of association between these and the psychological health outcome variables. Furthermore I am exploring the role of mindfulness (state and trait), transcendence, and insight as mediators of this relationship. This will be accomplished with structural equation modeling which will simultaneously test the fit of the overall model as well as strength of individual relationships.

Secondly, I will be comparing meditators with a control group of non-meditating subjects across these variables. These comparisons will statistically control for any existing differences between the groups on religiousness, personality variables, as well as socially disenable responding bias (answering so you look good). This stage will not only involve a comparison between meditators with non-meditators but also compare advanced meditators with novice meditators and with non-meditators as it is hypothesized that increased in psychological heath and wellbeing will be observed across these three groups.

Finally stage 3 involves testing change over time (over approximately 12 months) in meditators across these outcome variables. This is to test the hypothesis that if meditation practice is positively related to psychological health and wellbeing than as meditators practice over time we expect their scores on the outcome variables to improve over time (this effect is likely to be more evident for beginning meditators as for someone who has meditated fro 40 years may not experience a great deal of change over a single year).

So far I have been running preliminary analyses on the data and the results seem to be confirming what I expect.

At this stage, we only need a few more participants and we can proceed with data analysis so if anyone is interested please complete the survey or pass it onto a friend.

If you have any questions as always please do not hesitate to contact me

Take care

Michael

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby rowyourboat » Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:46 pm

Hello Michael,

Thanks for that. Incidentally wanted to ask you how you feel this research differs from what has been done in this field before?

with metta

RYB
With Metta

Karuna
Mudita
& Upekkha

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Re: Research assistance sought

Postby michael ireland » Mon May 04, 2009 5:53 am

rowyourboat wrote:Hello Michael,

Thanks for that. Incidentally wanted to ask you how you feel this research differs from what has been done in this field before?

with metta

RYB


Thank you for this question. I am more than happy to answer =)

The basis of this research (and basically any research) are the gaps and limitations in the literature to date.
Firstly, the absence of a clear and consistent definition of meditation has critically restricted prior research and the interpretation of results. Past research has either neglected to operationalise meditation practice into key measurable components, or has considered just one of these components in isolation (e.g., either length or frequency of practice). Conceptually, the term meditation in its typical use refers to an extremely wide range of practices (Lutz et al., 2007) and thus, it is difficult to make general conclusions about the effects or processes of meditation practice when specific techniques vary widely. However, to date, very little research has attempted to compare meditation practices to explore differential impacts on outcome variables. Therefore, one of the key strengths of the present research is the measurement of multiple components of meditation practice (including style or form of practice) and the investigation of each component’s unique role in predicting various outcome variables. As a behaviour, several basic behavioural measurements will be used to index meditation practice: frequency, intensity, proficiency, and duration as well as the nominal assessment of the participants’ style/form of meditation practice (Martin & Bateson, 1993). In exploring differences between the various styles/forms of practice, the current approach is to begin at the broadest level assuming meditation practices share certain core elements and then measure practice in purely behavioural terms, and finally, explore differences between different styles/forms of meditation and their relationship with predicted outcome variables as well as potential mediators.
Prior research has also tended to neglect the outcomes of meditation practice that are proposed by the contemplative teachings in which meditation practices have their origin; and this is particularly the case concerning positive outcomes. As a result, research has largely focused on the effect of meditation on negative psychological outcomes reflecting clinical symptomatology (i.e., anxiety and stress). This reflects a broader issue in meditation research in which researchers have attempted to remove meditation from its original contexts and traditions. As a result, the majority of research has not been guided by or established in theoretical formulations of mediation. Therefore, the philosophical bases of meditation have not been well linked with outcome measures and, thus, research to date has not been theory-driven and has consequently neglected important outcomes proposed by meditation teachings as central intended effects of practice. For example, outcomes such as happiness, life satisfaction, and personal maturity have not been investigated in prior research; and only one or two studies to date have included variables measuring emotional stability/equanimity and self-actualisation. The present research overcomes this by reviewing primary meditation teachings and recent theoretical formulations to determine intended effects and examining these as outcome variables.
In addition, almost no research to date has investigated potential mechanisms of the observed/proposed outcomes of meditation practice. Therefore, it is still unclear what processes are responsible for the proposed relationship between meditation practices and positive outcomes. The present research will overcome this limitation by examining the role of several theoretically derived variables in mediating the relationship between meditation practice and potential outcomes. To do this, structural equation modelling will be used to test mindfulness, transcendence, and insight as meditational mechanisms for the proposed outcomes.
Finally, in exploring effects of meditation, prior research has often compared a group of novel participants taught to practice a particular meditation technique over a limited time (often a period of weeks) with a comparison or control group. However, this approach has resulted in small sample sizes and, more importantly, does not represent an authentic or even optimum method of meditation training. In fact, many meditation techniques take months or even years of training to master and success is almost always achieved “through great effort” (The Upanishads: A New Translation, 1986, p. 84). Therefore, there may exist a long ‘learning period’ in meditation where the practice itself is mastered before any positive effects emerge (Compton & Becker, 1983). Furthermore, even if the technique can be mastered relatively quickly, there is little basis, if any, for expecting positive effects in the short term. In fact, there are almost no claims of short-term positive benefits anywhere in original meditation teachings and some teachings even warn newcomers to expect great difficulties when they begin meditation training (Ming Zhen Shakya, 2004). To overcome these limitations, the present research will seek to recruit a large sample of participants with established meditation practices from a variety of sources attempting to sample across all levels of proficiency to capture the full spectrum of meditation experience and expertise.


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