Date of Award

Winter 2-25-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy


Doctoral Program

First Advisor

Terrence Keeney

Second Advisor

Lily Fessenden

Third Advisor

Ulas Kaplan


The intention of this study was to increase understanding of how Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teachers cultivate embodied mindfulness. Recent publications reveal that embodied mindfulness is an essential competency for teaching mindfulness-based interventions. However, there is a gap in the literature related to how MBSR teachers learn or develop this competency. A qualitative phenomenological study influenced by a constructivist paradigm was designed to uncover the essence of MBSR teachers’ experiences of learning and developing embodied mindfulness. The participants were 10 MBSR teachers, defined as adults who received the designation of Qualified or Certified MBSR Teachers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted to collect data to address the overarching research question: What learning and developmental experiences, patterns, or processes associated with the embodiment of mindfulness do MBSR teachers report? Each interview was conducted in three segments. The first segment included open-ended questions about participants’ experiences. The second segment included direct questions about experiences associated with the operationally defined qualities of mindfulness. In the third segment, participants shared—through creative expression—a significant turning point associated with the cultivation of embodied mindfulness. This segment was designed to allow participants to access internal and perhaps subconscious experiences in a way that did not require language. Interviews ranged from one to two hours in duration. The methodological framework used for analysis and interpretation of data was based in Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis. Eight themes of learning and development were identified as contributors to the cultivation of embodied mindfulness: informational learning, experiential learning, learning through other, motivation, perspective change, spiritual learning, shifts in ways of knowing, and embodied transformation. This study expands upon research in Adult Learning and Development in that it reveals new information that can be helpful to those who deliver, design, or improve MBSR teacher training programs, those who mentor MBSR teachers or teachers-in-training, and those who teach new MBSR students. The processes and theories identified in the findings can subsequently promote enhanced dialogue, facilitate teacher growth, and contribute to program improvement.

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