What contributes to wellbeing gains – proficiency or duration of meditation related practices?
Keywords:spirituality, wellbeing, survey, Brahma Kumaris, Rajayoga
Several studies have shown physical and mental health benefits associated with different schools of meditation. However, reviews have recommended interpretation of study outcomes in the context of school specific traditional practices. In the literature, practice proficiency is often conflated with hours or years of meditation practice and it is difficult to attribute wellbeing gains directly to the proficiency of practice. We carried out two studies to examine wellbeing, practice proficiency, and duration of practice amongst Brahma Kumaris Rajayoga (BKRY) practitioners from India. In Study 1, we surveyed participants (n = 1009) to record the socio-demographics, spiritual lifestyle components, and wellbeing enhancement attributed to their spiritual practice. We developed new measures for evaluating proficiency of BKRY practice and for assessment of progress in wellbeing attributed to BKRY practice. Both measures had high internal consistency scores (alphas 0.95, 0.93). Block-wise hierarchical linear regression analysis showed that after accounting for demographic variables, BKRY practice proficiency strongly predicted progress in wellbeing, explaining over 51.6% of the total variance. In Study 2, we took three well-matched groups (n = 86) that were distinct on the basis of duration of practice (long term, short term and zero term). We examined wellbeing differences in these three groups and the extent of correlation of wellbeing with practice proficiency, progress in wellbeing and duration of practice. We conclude that meditation practice does improve wellbeing and that proficiency of practice is better correlated with most aspects of wellbeing than duration of practice but there are a few aspects of wellbeing that increase with sustained practice over a long time. We recommend that studies involving other schools of spiritual/religious practice incorporate tradition-specific proficiency assessment (instead of using years of practice as a proxy) and also use the Progress in Wellbeing scale for assessing practice-aided improvements in wellbeing.
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