Mindfulness Meditation: A Secular Religion for Unbelievers

PI: Dr Masoumeh Rahmani, Religious Studies, Coventry University, UK

Masoumeh Rahmani
Miguel Farias
Valerie van Mulukom

 

 

 

 

 


Project team:

Dr Masoumeh Rahmani, Coventry University, UK (Principal Investigator)
Dr Miguel Farias, Coventry University, UK (Co-Investigator)
Dr Valerie von Mulukom, Coventry University, UK (Co-Investigator)

Dates: 1 July 2017- 30 June 2019
Award: £59,535


This project carries out a cross-cultural investigation of the nature of unbelief among practitioners of Mindfulness Meditation (MM) to identify whether it functions as an equivalent of religion for unbelievers. MM inhabits a niche in the life of many individuals who desire fulfilment through self-transformation, yet wish to keep religious traditions at arm’s-length. For instance, it is estimated that one-fourth of non-religious Americans meditate on a weekly basis (Pew Forum, 2017).

We will adopt a mixed method, with a longitudinal approach. Our team will develop psychological surveys, and conduct indepth interviews in the UK and the US, to assess both explicit and implicit beliefs about MM. We will explore the extent of which MM’s teachings and language function as a coherent system of meaning, thus shaping the practitioners’ self-concept, values, and worldviews, and providing them with emotional and motivational support. Our analysis will thematically outline the variations of unbelief by taking account of biographical, sociocultural, and linguistic structures that influence and support each position. We envisage that this project will generate two peer-reviewed articles, one book chapter, two popular science articles for non-academic audiences, four conference presentations, and that our findings will receive coverage from popular press. Given that MM is becoming increasingly mainstream in Western societies, it is important to account for the gamut of unbeliefs that are constructed and maintained within the Mindfulness subculture, if we are to arrive at a comprehensive understanding of the phenomena we commonly label as ‘unbelief.’