This research explored the use of mindfulness to confront mortality. Through attention, curiosity and non-judgment, mindfulness increases awareness of thoughts, feelings and sensations. Given the automaticity of fear and the suffering that can arise in response to death, this study piloted two mindfulness exercises.
It employed a convergent parallel design to analyze qualitative and quantitative data collected from 20 adults, born between 1946 and 1964. After being interviewed about their mortality, participants were randomly assigned to receive either a mindfulness of breath induction, or a mindfulness of mortality induction. Interviews captured responses to the two exercises. Participants completed a demographics questionnaire, and the 21-item State Mindfulness Scale, administered post-induction. Data was analyzed to identify themes, and develop theory about using mindfulness to confront mortality.
Results from the research illuminated the overwhelming value for reflecting on death, and appreciation for a facilitated contemplative exercise. Pre-induction interviews revealed that, in response to thinking about death, subjects oriented around life values and living with purpose. Memories of loss, and relationships were salient. They articulated ambivalence toward thinking about death due to a lack of control, but were able to hold multiple emotions including fear, gratitude and curiosity.
It was concluded that both mindfulness exercises were meritorious, but had somewhat differing effects. Both inductions produced metacognitive and meta-affective awareness, reflective of the construct of mindfulness; both inductions stimulated memories, emotions, cognitive activity, and body awareness. The mindfulness of breath induction seemed to be calming, with more awareness of the body, associations to other meditative practices, and less cognitive activity. Results suggested that it was effective in stimulating state mindfulness in terms of the present condition of the mind and of the body. The mindfulness of mortality exercise evoked a more challenging experience, that most participants found beneficial. It was associated with a variety of emotions, including sadness, fear, peace, and gratitude. It stimulated cognitive processing, and associations to participants’ diverse religious and spiritual identities. As interventions for a population that feels there is value in reflecting on mortality, both may be applied successfully in clinical practice.
|Commitee:||Heide, Frederick, Wyatt, Randall|
|School:||Alliant International University|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-B 78/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Mental health, Clinical psychology, Spirituality|
|Keywords:||Body awareness, Death, Death anxiety, Meditation, Older adults|
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