Publication 4440

Petitmengin C., Van Beek M, Bitbol M., Nissou J.-M. & Roepstorff A. (2017) Que vit le méditant? Méthodes et enjeux d’une description micro-phénoménologique de l’expérience méditative [What is it like to meditate? Methods and issues for a micro-phenomenological description of meditative experience]. Intellectica 64: in press.
In our society where interest in Buddhist meditation is expanding enormously, numerous scientific studies are now conducted on the neurophysiological effects of meditation practice and on the neural correlates of meditative states. However, very few studies have been conducted on the experience associated with contemplative practice: what it is like to meditate – from instant to instant, at different stages of the practice – remains almost invisible in contemporary contemplative science. New concrete “micro-phenomenological” interview methods have recently been designed to help us become aware of our lived experience and describe it with rigor and precision. The present article presents the results of a pilot project aiming at applying these methods to the description of meditative experience. The first part of the article describes these methods and the adjustments made to them in order to investigate meditative experience. The second part provides micro-phenomenological descriptions of two processes of which meditation practice enables the practitioner to become aware: the process of loss of contact with the current situation and generation of virtual ones in “mind-wandering” episodes, and the process of emergence of a thought. The third part of the article highlights the interest of such descriptions for meditation practitioners and meditation teachers, defines the status of these results and outlines the research directions they open.
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