Planning Grant for Mindfulness Meditation and Virtue Development: Examining the Effects of Secular Versus Spiritual Meditation on Empathy
August 1, 2015 - March 2, 2017
Core Funding Area:
Character Virtue Development
Director: Dr. Joey FungInstitution: Fuller Theological Seminary
The overarching purpose of this study is to examine the efficacy of two forms of mindfulness meditation in promoting empathy. Our driving big question is whether the benefits of meditation are compromised to the extent that it is divorced from its spiritual traditions. Despite its deep roots in Eastern and Western spiritual traditions, mindfulness meditation has been researched almost exclusively within Western psychological frameworks.
The primary set of purposes of this planning grant is to empirically examine: (1) the effects of mindfulness meditation on fostering empathy among young adults; (2) the extent to which the effects may differ if the mindfulness practice involves an explicit spiritual component; and (3) associated moderators and mediators of change. The second purpose is to prepare materials to be delivered and tested cross-culturally, specifically in Hong Kong.
The first set of activities of this planning grant includes: (1) compiling an extended literature review on Western, Christian and Buddhist conceptualizations and practices of mindfulness meditation; (2) writing a manual on spiritual mindfulness meditation; and (3) translating the secular and spiritual mindfulness meditation manuals into Chinese. The second set of activities includes: (4) running a randomized controlled treatment trial of secular mindfulness meditation and spiritual mindfulness meditation in the United States; and (5) running a feasibility study in Hong Kong.
Anticipated outcomes include research and clinical training for graduate students, extension of the empirical research on spiritual meditation, creating a manual on spiritual meditation, manuscript publications, conference presentations, and preparation of the larger study on mindfulness meditation and virtues in cross-cultural settings. The results of this planning grant may have implications for character development training in religious and educational institutions. In the short run, educators and faith leaders will benefit from materials created out of this project, including the Chinese and English manuals on spiritual meditation. In the long run, they will benefit from knowledge in implementing best practices for developing character in young adults.
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