Path of awareness: the relationship between mindfulness and place

Chen, Anran (2023) Path of awareness: the relationship between mindfulness and place. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Mindfulness meditation has been increasingly used as a tool to address both physical and mental health issues in contemporary society and has gained growing interest and application in various fields. Meanwhile, designers have attempted to use architectural design to help improve people's well-being. However, the relationship between dedicated mindfulness practice and the physical environment in which it is practised awaits further exploration. This study aimed to investigate how spatial design can facilitate formal mindfulness practice. To do so, this research examined a wide range of literature, including related mindfulness theories originating in the Buddhist tradition, architectural and landscape design, and environmental psychology. It established an initial research framework for empirical study and application.

The study first distributed an online survey to over 200 mindfulness practitioners in the UK to gain a quantitative understanding of their views toward the environment in which they practised mindfulness. The case study method was then adopted to explore this topic further. The case of Kagyu Samye Dzong London was selected to qualitatively investigate the influence of a specifically dedicated space for mindfulness and whether setting up a specific space for practice is necessary. Empirical data was collected through spatial analysis, an online questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The results were analysed using architectural interpretation, IBM SPSS (Statistical Package for the Social Sciences) Statistics means analysis and factor analysis (version 27.0), and the Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software (CAQDAS) NVivo (version 11). This research conducted a comprehensive comparison of mindfulness practitioners based on factors such as expertise level (beginner/proficient), religious background (Buddhist/non-Buddhist) practice frequency, and gender, aiming to gain diverse perspectives on how the environment can effectively facilitate mindfulness practice.

The findings of this empirical research provided a systematic and refined research framework consisting of nine main factors, achieved through the quantification of qualitative research. Not only it suggested that setting up a specific physical environment for mindfulness practice is necessary, especially for beginners, but it also provided the order of impact for the elements. Among the elements, quietness was among the top for positively influencing mindfulness meditation; second, the use of tools (such as meditation cushion); and third, the warm room ambience. This framework provided guidance for both designers and mindfulness practitioners to change the environment and better facilitate mindfulness meditation – which leads to long term well-being. Such physical environment, like mindfulness practices itself, is a tool to help people reach their goals. Hence, people would be encouraged to go beyond physical boundaries and obtain awareness, happiness, and well-being with the support given. To sum up, this research holds both academic and practical significance as it enriches the existing field of architectural design through its systematic review and empirical framework. Furthermore, it provides an accessible toolkit for individual practitioners to enhance their mindfulness practice.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Tang, Yue
Hanks, Laura
Keywords: Spatial design; Well-being; Mindfulness practice; Environmental psychology; Physical environment
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Engineering > Built Environment
Item ID: 74371
Depositing User: Chen, Anran
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2023 04:40
Last Modified: 14 Dec 2023 04:40

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