Vipassana Research Institute

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Vipassana Research Institute
Study - Effect of Vipassana meditation on Psychological Well Being of employees & impact of demographic factors
Vipassana Research Institute


Ms. Pradhan Seema

Research Scholar, Symbiosis International University, Pune, India;
Consultant Psychologist and Psychotherapist, Fortis Hospitals, Bangalore, India Email Id: smprdhn@gmail.com
Dr. Ajithkumar V.V.

Research Guide, Assistant Professor, Skyline University College, University City of Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
Email Id: ajithkumarvv@gmail.com

Abstract

Vipassana meditation is an ancient technique whose numerous benefits are described in the literature. In this twofold empirical study the impact of this technique, when used as an intervention on the Psychological Well Being (PWB) of employees is measured and analyzed. Secondly, an attempt has been made to determine whether demographic factors influence meditation outcomes in meditators. It was hypothesized that the meditator group would score higher on the standardized PWB instrument as compared to the non-meditator control group. For this purpose an experimental group comprising of meditator employees and a control group comprising of non-meditator employees each having 260 respondents was used and the results were analyzed statistically. Also in this study total 15 parameters on employee behaviour, personality and mindfulness were measured using four instruments after implementing Vipassana Meditation as an intervention.The impact of demographic factors was studied on these 15 measures of meditation outcome by statistical analysis using SPSS 20.0 software. The results showed that 1) Scores of PWB for the experimental group were higher and the difference was statistically significant. This result was in agreement with the research objective and validated the use of VM as an intervention; and 2) demographics have no effect on meditation outcomes. This indicates that meditation helps to develop intrinsic characteristics and brings about an inner transformation.

Key words: Vipassana meditation, PWB, employees, demographics, meditators.

Introduction


Employees have a major role to play in any organization. For this they need to have a repertoire of skills such as interpersonal skills, empathy, non reactivity, self confidence, positive outlook to name a few. With this view, organizations are conducting many programs and workshops for the development of these skills in the employees. Also, the fast pace of life is responsible for increasing stress levels among individuals and employees to an unheard proportion. In a study conducted to understand stressors and stress relieving techniques, meditation was shown to be one of the options of employees to relieve stress (Nalawade and Pradhan, 2016). Research has shown that meditation is an effective intervention in reducing stress and enhancing personality, behaviour and communication between employees as it helps them to undergo inner transformation. At the same time, the benefits of any intervention differ from employee to employee or person to person. Therefore it is important to consider the effect of employees’ demographic variables, on the effectiveness of meditation intervention. Keeping this in view, in this study, Vipassana meditation is used as an intervention to study its impact on employees’ behaviour and personality and the effect of demographic variables such as age, gender, marital status, work sector, position held etc on meditation outcome.

In addition to capturing the responses of the individuals to the situational questions in the instruments enumerated below, information related to the demographic factors, the number of Vipassana courses completed by the meditators and daily meditation practice hours was also collected. In order to capture responses about the 15 parameters of interest four questionnaires were administered to 260 meditators each in control and experimental group. The four questionnaires are:

  1. Behaviour Measure Scale (BMS), developed for this study purpose: (Pradhan and Ajithkumar, Appendix I)
  2. Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-SF: FFMQ-SF (Bohlmeijer et al., 2011)
  3. Psychological Well Being: PWB ( Mehrotra et. al., 2013)
  4. Life satisfaction scale SWLS (Diner et. al., 1985)

The last three questionnaires are standardized questionnaires whereas the Behavioural Measure scale is developed by the researcher during the course of the research (Appendix I).

Also, a comparative study of 260 non-meditators and meditators each was undertaken by administering the PWB questionnaire . The empirical findings of the conducted study are presented and practical and theoretical implications are discussed.

Literature Review

Vipassana Meditation:


Vipassana is an ancient Indian technique of meditation. Vipassana in Pali language means insight, "to see things as they really are." It is to see the things again and again in a special way (Goenka, 1980). It was rediscovered by the Buddha more than 2500 years ago. The insight meditation consists of three sub-units:

  1. Anapanasati: Mindfulness of breathing
  2. Vipassana: Insight meditation
  3. Metta Bhavana: Universal love and compassion

‘Annapana’ is to observe one’s natural incoming and outgoing breath as an observer and Metta Bhavana is wishing for the wellbeing of all beings.
Vipassana or insight meditation (VM) is to observe objectively what is happening inside your body in the form of sensations in an iterative manner i.e. a mind-body phenomenon. This self- observation enables the practitioner to develop an ability to quieten the mind by getting out of habitual compulsive thought patterns. This makes the mind more aware and conscious of what is happening in the present moment and experience it in totality. The purification of mind helps one to get out of repetitive and unwanted mental conversations and the person is able to respond in a new healthier manner which is based on reality and not on preconceived notions. It paves the way to sustainable intra-psychic changes in the individual (Nanamoli, 1976).

Thus VM facilitates clarity of thought, concentration, better decision making capacity and ability to handle different life situations amicably; as slowly but surely one gets out of controlling mental patterns such as perceptions, judgments and prejudices (Chandramani, 1994). Vipassana “increases self-awareness, promotes integration of subjective experience, and facilitates acceptance and tolerance to sufficiently reduce physical and psychological distress” (Fleischman, 1999).
Fleischman, stated that mindfulness awakens in the individual, a sense of well being that motivates a person to further improve his personal and real self.
As individuals practice VM they improve themselves as human beings irrespective of their socio-economic conditions and religious beliefs (Goenka, 1991). If influential persons in Indian society can get people to practice VM, then in addition to bringing harmony and well being to Indian society it can help spread the benefits to other countries across the globe as well (Hetherington, 2003).

Parihar, 2004, documented that practicing VM helped government officials to have a more positive outlook professionally as well as personally. Also, VM and mindfulness increases managerial effectiveness at personal and professional level (Kumar, 2012). Banerjee, 2012, confirms that when employees practice VM they tend to be more focused and composed, and will be better off than other employees. Avey et al., 2008, have stated that they are more aware of their adverse thoughts, and this awareness helps them to be more optimistic during changes in the organization. Bhatnagar, 2014, reported that it reduces anxiety in employees and increases productivity. Shiera and Graham, 2014, documented that it positively impacts Subjective Well- Being (SWB). Marques and Satinder, 2009, believe that VM can transform wellbeing at the work place and thereby productivity.

Mindfulness


Epstein, 2001, says, “Mindfulness means paying attention, on purpose, to one’s own thoughts, feelings and judgments ... It is the practice of being fully present in our attention to where we are, what we are doing, and what is happening at the moment”, (p. 64).
By being mindful, one is attending to one’s breath, bodily sensations, thoughts and feelings, as well as sights and sounds in a holistic manner rather than focusing on a specific stimulus. Mindfulness reduces the chances of being overwhelmed and getting carried away by one’s thoughts and emotions. Even though mindfulness is a trait it can also be acquired and developed as a skill (Kabat-Zinn, 1996; Ayyar, 1990). The many fold benefits of mindfulness practice can be seen in areas like health and well being (KabatZinn, 1982), care giving (Shiera et al., 2011), jail inmates (Khurana and Dhar, 2002), child education (Adaviyappa, 1994) and, organizational (Avey et al., 2008), as well as personnel growth (Ruedy and Schweitzer, 2011) to name a few.

Psychological Well Being (PWB):


PWB is defined as “engagement with existential challenges of life” (Keyes et. al., 2002).
PWB is the measure of an individual’s perception about the purpose and overall control of his or her life, the degree of achievement of one’s potential, and the nature of interpersonal relationships built. It is a measure of a person’s perception about meaning in life (Frankl, 1963).
Empirical studies have documented relationship between PWB and meaning in life (Zika and Chamberlain, 1992).They in their study on college students documented that meaning in life predicted PWB amongst the students. Also work enjoyment is related to meaning in life (Bonebright et. al., 2000) and coping with adverse circumstances has a positive relationship with meaning in life (King et. al., 2006).

Satisfaction with life (SWLS):


Life satisfaction is a measure of how people perceive the quality of their life (Peterson et. al., 2005). It is the cognitive aspect of subjective well-being (SWB). SWB tends to measure an individual’s perception about how his/her life is progressing (Lucas & Donnellan, 2007).
Argyle et al., 1989, documented that it can be taken as one of the elements of happiness. Sergin and Taylor, 2007, reported a correlation between life satisfaction and happiness and it includes quality of life and PWB.

Objectives of the study:

  1. There is an effect of Vipassana Meditation on employees’ Psychological Well Being.
  2. There is an effect of demographic factors on meditation outcomes.

Methodology

Study Context & Sample

The research design adopted for the study was After-Only with Control Design (Kothari & Garg, 2014). Convenience sampling method was used for the collection of data. The overall approach taken to empirically test the research hypothesis was a main instrument comprising of four questionnaires. The main instrument also had a section to collect demographic details of respondents. This instrument was administered for data collection. The data was collected from two groups namely, 1- non meditator and 2- meditator employees of various organizations at Bangalore. The non-meditator group comprised of employees who had enrolled for the first time to do a10-day residential Vipassana course and the meditator group comprised of employees who had enrolled to do more Vipassana courses and had already completed minimum three 10 –day Vipassana courses (Pradhan et. al., 2016). Total 260 samples each were collected from both the groups for the purpose of research.

Scale Development and Research variables


1- Behaviour Measure Scale (BMS): Pradhan and Ajithkumar, 2017.

For developing BMS to measure behavioural and personality measures, the initial scale with 70 questions on behaviour and personality was designed based on four constructs. The four constructs were emotional intelligence, workspace spirituality, coping with stress and interpersonal relationships. This self report scale was pilot tested on a sample size of 150 respondents. Based on the analysis of pilot data by Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA), items whose factor loadings were > .5 were retained. A new questionnaire comprising of 46 items was formed which was administered to 396 respondents from control group for fine tuning the scale further. This resulted in a final scale with 22 questions and 5 factors which was subjected to Confirmatory Factor Aanalysis (CFA) (Pradhan and Ajithkumar, 2017). Further this questionnaire was validated for a sample size of 260 respondents. A 5-point Likert scale has been used to capture the responses. 1= “Never or very rarely true” and 5= “Very often or always true”. One of the items is “I like to challenge myself in a healthy and challenging way”.
The 5 research variables measured by this scale were:

  1. Self confidence
  2. Interpersonal skills
  3. Equanimity
  4. Empathy
  5. Self awareness


2- Five Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire-SF (FFMQ-SF):Bohlmeijer et al., 2011.

Trait mindfulness was measured by self-report FFMQ-SF 24 item scale (Pradhan et. al., 2016). This scale was developed and validated by Bohlmeijer et al., 2011, which is a shorter version of 39-item FFMQ scale developed by Baer. (Baer, 2006). FFMQ-SF was selected as it has a broad- based psychometric design. A 5 point Likert scale has been used for FFMQ-SF. 1= “Never or very rarely true” to 5= “Very often or always true”. One of the items is “I notice the smells or aromas of things”.
The 5 research variables or facets measured by this scale were:

  1. Non React(NR)
  2. Observe(OB)
  3. Act Aware (AA)
  4. Describe (DS)
  5. Non Judgement (NJ)


3- Psychological Well Being (PWB):Mehrotra et. al., 2013.

The PWB scale is a modified version of the Ryff’s original 39-item model of PWB (Ryff and Keyes, 1995; Ryff, 1989). It is revised to suit the Indian cultural context and contains 20 items (Mehrotra et al., 2013). For scoring a 6 point Likert scale was used. 1= “Strongly Disagree” to 6= “Strongly Agree”. One of the items is “I feel that I get a lot out of my friendships”.
The 4 research variables measured by this scale are:

  1. Self Acceptance
  2. Mastery & Competence
  3. Positive Relations
  4. Engagement & Growth


4- Satisfaction With Life Scale (SWLS):Diener et. al., 1985.

For measuring life satisfaction SWLS developed by Diener et al., 1985, was used (Pradhan et. al., 2016). The scoring of this scale is done on a 7-point Likert scale with 1 = “Strongly Disagree” and 7= “Strongly Agree”. One of the items is “The conditions of my life are excellent”.
Only 1 research variable is measure by this scale:

  1. Satisfaction with Life


In addition to the variables enumerated above the following salient research variables were also recorded. Details of all other variables recorded are given in the Appendix II.

  1. Demographic variables such as Age, Gender, Marital Status, education, work sector, work position among others.
  2. Meditation experience oriented variables such as Number of Vipassana Courses completed, Daily hours devoted to Vipassana meditation among others.


Results and Analysis


SPSS 20.0 version is used for statistical calculations (George and Mallery, 2011). Both the groups were compatible on demographic factors. Comparative studies of both the groups between non meditators and meditators have indicated higher scores of meditator group when analyzed by t-Test, in case of FFMQ-SF and SWLS (Pradhan et. al., 2016) and BMS (Pradhan and Ajithkumar, 2017). It is to be noted that, in case of BMS instrument when the t-Test was performed for a sample size of 260 each for both the groups t-Test showed significant results in case of all the five factors including Self-confidence factor; which was statistically not significant for a sample size of 220 each for both the groups (Pradhan and Ajithkumar).

1) Study I: PWB Study

The data collected was subjected to Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) Measure of Sampling Adequacy. KMO and Bartlett’s test showed a value = 0.884 (a meritorious value). The scores for PWB measures clearly showed that meditator group had higher mean scores than the non- meditator group (Table 1).
Table 1.

Independent Sample T-Test for PWB Factors

The higher scores for meditator group for all five factors in case of meditator employees signify that meditation intervention helped them to improve their psychological well being. This further indicates that they were more hopeful, accepting and satisfied with themselves and life in general. They felt confident and in charge of their life situations and also enjoyed warm and trusting relationships with others as compared to non-meditator employees. As shown in the table an Independent samples t-Test was performed to verify that the differences in the mean PWB facet scores of both the groups were significant.

The results of the t-Test shown in Table 1 indicate that for all the PWB factors the differences in the means are significant as Sig (2- tailed) < 0.05. Therefore the first objective was fulfilled. (Alternative Hypothesis is accepted). As t- values are all negative there is a positive impact on the PWB of the employees who meditate. Earlier similar results were obtained for FFMQ-SF and SWLS (Pradhan et. al., 2016) and also for BMS (Pradhan and Ajithkumar, 2017).



2) Study II : Demographic factors

For the analysis of effect of demographic factors, only the meditator group is considered as the effect is studied using the scores of each instrument with respect to meditation courses undertaken and the number of hours of meditation practice done daily, both of which are indicators of progress in meditation. Results were obtained by Anova and Manova analysis.
The results are summarized in the table below: Table-2:


From the table above it can be seen that for all the interactions between Course Category and Daily Practice Hours with age, marital status, educational qualifications, work sector, position held and regular exercise for all the four instruments, namely, BMS, FFMQ-SF, PWB, and SWLS, sigma or p-value is not significant as all the values are >.05; and there is no significant main effect for these demographic factors. Therefore the objective number two could not be achieved (Null hypothesis is accepted). It can be concluded that these factors do not have an impact on the meditation practice and outcomes of meditation. Also gender has no effect in case of BMS, PWB and SWLS, as p value is > 0.05 for all of them.
In addition to this in case of total FFMQ score significant main effect for gender is not observed as sig. = 0.081. However, in case of some of the 5 facets of FFMQ-SF, namely, NR, OB, AA and AA there is a significant main effect for gender as level of significance value sig. is = 0.001 (<0.05). The significant effect is indicated by the following values:

FFMQ-NR [F (1, 49.6) = 5.511, p = 0.02]; Mean Score Female= 16.30 < Male = 17.43
FFMQ-OB [F (1, 38.75) = 0.031, p = 0.031]; Mean Score Female= 15.06 > Male = 13.92
FFMQ-AA [F (1, 35.6) = 10.06, p = 0.002]; Mean Score Female= 19.09 > Male = 17.38

This is in agreement with earlier research findings which indicate that gender has an effect on FFMQ scores (Rojiani et al., 2017; Katz and Toner, 2013). FFMQ-NJ and FFMQ-DS were insignificant as p >0.05 for both of them.


Conclusion


1) The result on PWB was in consonance with the research objective and validated the use of VM as an intervention. As validated in this research and in agreement with available literature, experience in meditation strengthens and enhances psychological well being. The results suggest that meditation experience significantly contributes to PWB and in turn to meaning in life. Since maintaining a sustained positive work ethic and harmonious atmosphere at work is predicated on the PWB of employees, practicing VM may foster overall business growth.Furthermore, it can be concluded that businesses that wish to improve employee team work, reduce work place conflicts, and employee goal congruence may adopt VM as an intervention strategy.

2) The study objective of showing that demographic factors have an effect on mindfulness scores was not achieved. The MANOVA results showed that demographic factors have no effect on the outcomes of meditation except in the case of some of the traits of mindfulness. However total FFMQ score was not impacted by gender. Also, it is to be noted that mindfulness is a skill that can be cultivated (Kabat-Zinn, 1996). This substantiates the earlier findings and literature that VM brings about an intrinsic change in the practitioner irrespective of socio economic variables (Goenka, 1991).

Limitations

  1. For conducting the study self-report questionnaires are used.
  2. A study with ‘Before’ and ‘After’ research design could not be included due to time constraints.

Future Studies


1 –A detailed study by using ‘Before- and- After’ research design over longer time duration can be conducted. It will help to give more insight into the findings.
2 -The study can be conducted with equal number of male and female meditator participants to get more insight in understanding the role of gender.

Acknowledgements


One of the authors Ms. Pradhan would like to thank Vipassana Research Institute (VRI) for giving her permission to initiate research in Vipassana meditation and to facilitate collection of data. Thanks are also due to Dr. Nikhil Mehta for his guidance and support and to Mr. Sachin Bhorghare for his help in statistical analysis.

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