Engagement with meditation as a positive health trajectory: Divergent narratives of progress in male meditators
Objective: Studying personal narratives can generate understanding of how people experience physical and mental illness. However, few studies have explored narratives of engagement in health positive behaviours, with none focusing on men specifically. Thus, we sought to examine men's experiences of their efforts to engage in and maintain healthy behaviours, focusing on meditation as an example of such behaviour. Design: We recruited 30 male meditators, using principles of maximum variation sampling, and conducted two in-depth interviews with each, separated by a year. Main outcome measures: We sought to elicit men's narratives of their experiences of trying to maintain a meditation practice. Results: We identified an overall theme of a 'positive health trajectory,' in particular, making 'progress' through meditation. Under this were six main accounts. Only two articulated a 'positive' message about progress: Climbing a hierarchy of practitioners, and progress catalysed in other areas of life. The other four reflected the difficulties around progress: Progress being undermined by illness; disappointment with progress; progress 'forgotten' (superseded by other concerns); and progress re-conceptualised due to other priorities. Conclusion: Men's narratives reveal the way they experience and construct their engagement with meditation - as an example of health behaviour - in terms of progress.