Towards an Integration of Counselling,Clienting and Meditation

2.2 Theoretical Discussion

Most research to date into the phenomena of meditationhas been performed via the vehicle of traditional quantitative empiricalanalysis. Walsh(1993) asserts that there were more than 1500 publicationsdemonstrating a variety of psychological, physiological and chemical effectsof meditation. He states, however, that:

"the variables examined to date, such as heartand respiration rate, have often been relatively objective and gross comparedto the subjective and subtle shifts in awareness, emotions,and values thatconstitute the traditional goals of meditation.................more attentionhas been paid to heart rate than to heart opening"

(in Scotton,B; Chinen,A; Battista,J p167 &174)

As a relative newcomers to the psychological researchfield it is perhaps not surprising that the fraternity of meditation researchers,eager for acceptance within the scientific community, have at first chosenthose methods most acceptable to traditional science. Recalling, however,Bohm’s (1980) [Meditation p.18] description of meditation as ‘tryingto reach the immeasurable’ then, we may rightly ask, how will quantitativeanalysis measure this? Clearly, within this paradigm, some questions willsimply not be asked.

Qualitative methodology has often been definedin contradistinction to the quantitative approach - eg, "words ratherthan numbers" (Miles&Huberman, 1984). or "any kind of researchwhich produces findings not arrived at by means of statistical proceduresor other means of quantification" (Strauss&Corbin,1990) McLeod(1994),noting that this reflects, maybe, the possibility that "much qualitativeresearch has been explicitly conducted in opposition to, or in defianceof, the dominant positivist paradigm in psychology and social science."identifiesa set of 15 interlocking themes, strategies and values characteristic ofmost qualitative research (p.77) and goes on to offer a brief definition:

"...a process of systematic inquiry into themeanings which people employ to make sense of their experience and guidetheir actions"

Here it is the word ‘meaning’ which provides thekey to the door opened by qualitative research.

McLeod(1994), describes Co-operative Inquiry asrepresenting:

"a synthesis of all other qualitative methods,in the context of a distinctive philosophical stance concerning the aimsand purposes of research"

Reason and Heron(1995) go further when they say:

"While co-operative inquiry overlaps with qualitativeand naturalistic research methods, it is also significantly different fromthem because it invites people to join in the co-creation of knowledgeabout themselves."

Arising originally out of a critique of the theorthodox positivistic methods, early researchers saw themselves as contributingto a ‘new paradigm’ (Reason&Rowan, 1981) for human inqiry. At the coreof this new approach were

a) an acknowledgement that people are self-determiningand should be regarded as active co-participants in research rather thanas passive subjects.

b) a resolve to carry out research in a way whichrespects the whole potential for being human: feelings and spiritual dimensionsas well as cognitions, behavior and physiology.

c) a recommendation that the propositions or theoreticalknowledge expressed in research reports needs to be ‘rooted in and derivedfrom the experiential and practical knowledge of the subjects in the inquiry’(Reason&Heron 1986)

In "A Layperson’s guide to co-operative inquiry"(App2.4 - externallink) Heron(1996) - in a formulation which is very similar to Chinen’s(1996)five concepts of truth [see Transpersonal section] - has this to say aboutthe epistemology of the method.

"Co-operative inquiry involves at least fourdifferent kinds of ways of

knowing. We call this an "extended epistemology"-epistemology meaning a theory of how you know, and extended because itreaches beyond the primarily theoretical knowledge of academia. Experientialknowing is through direct face-to-face encounter with person, place orthing; it is knowing through empathy and resonance, and is almost impossibleto put into words. Presentational knowing emerges from experiential knowing,and provides the first form of expression by drawing on expressive formsof imagery through story, drawing, sculpture, movement, dance and so on.Propositional knowing"about" something, is knowing through ideas and theories,expressed in informative statements. Practical knowing is knowing "howto" do something and is expressed in a skill, knack or competence."

Whether or not the phrase ‘new paradigm’ is appropriate,it does not mean that, in co-operative inquiry , all the the values ofthe ‘old paradigm’ should be discarded. In his introduction to a compilationsub-titled ‘developments in new paradigm research’ Reason(1988, p13.) states:

"the old world-view, with it’s fragmented andalienated metaphors, is discarded as we move into a participatory universe.But I think this move can be seen as a synthesis in which, while much isnegated and discarded, significant aspects are retained and re-integrated- for what we keep of the old scientific view are the ideals of criticaland public knowledge. Indeed the notion of critical subjectivity meansthat we are more demanding than orthodox science, insisting that validinquiry is based uon a very high degree of self-knowing,self-reflectionand co- operative criticism. Good co-operative inquiry is both whole-heartedlyinvolved and intensely self-critical"

Critical subjectivity

Qualitative researchers, under the influence ofpostmodern sentiments, have begun to attend to the perspective on whichtheir inquiry is based, seeing that:

"any gaze is filtered through the lens of language,gender, social class, race and ethnicity" (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994,p. 12).

In co-operative inquiry, the co-researchers haveto develop a particular form of consciousness which takes into accountboth the potential benefits and distortions of ‘where they’re coming from’

"Critical subjectivity involves a self-reflexiveattention to the ground on which one is standing and thus is very closeto what Bateson (1972) describes as Learning III and which Kegan(1994)refers to as fourth order consciousness. " Reasonand Heron(1995).

Inquiry then becomes:

"consciousness in the midst of action"(Torbert, 1991 p. 221)

The practice of co-operative Inquiry

The practicalities of conducting co-operativeinquiry are easier to describe than to carry out (Reason,1988) Descriptionis enabled by considering four phases :

In Phase One a group of co-researcherscome together to explore an agreed

area of human activity. They talk about theirinterests

and concerns, agree on the focus of their inquiry,and develop a

set of questions or propositions. They agree toundertake some exploratory action or practice, and agree to some meansby which they will observe

and record their own and each other's experience.

In Phase Two the group apply their agreedactions in their everyday life and

work: they observe and record the outcomes oftheir own and each other's behaviour. They may at first simply watch whatit is that happens to them so they develop a better understanding of theirexperience; they may try out new forms of action.

In Phase Three the co-researchers becomefully immersed in their experience.

They may deepen into the experience so that superficialunderstandings are elaborated and developed. Or they may be led away fromthe original ideas and proposals into new fields, unpredicted action andcreative insights. There may be practical crises, they may become enthralled,they may simply forget. They encounter their each other and their worlddirectly, as far as possible without preconception, bracketing off anyprejudicial influence of the ideas they started with in phase 1.This phaseis in some ways the touchstone of the inquiry method, and is what makesit so very different from conventional research, here people are deeplyinvolved in their own experience so any practical skills or new understandingswill grow out of this experience.

The co-researchers then re-assemble to considertheir original questions in the light of their experience-this is phasefour of the inquiry. As a result they may changetheir questions insome way; or reject them and pose new questions. They

then agree on a second cycle of action and reflection.They may choose to

focus on the same or on different aspects of theinquiry. The group may choose to amend its inquiry procedures, forms ofaction, information gathering -in the light of experience of the firstcycle. (Reason,1988; Heron1996)

Thus, co-operative inquiry proceeds with a numberof cycles of action and reflection. A cycle may or may not be ‘provoked’by a specific ‘proposition’ generated in phase one or, as a result of reflectionin phase four. A useful visual metaphor for this manner of generating knowledgeis the upward spiral where each cycle of inquiry builds up from the insightsgleaned during the previous cycle of inquiry.


Co-operative inquiry is threatened by unawareprojection and consensus collusion.(Reason and Rowan, 1981b, p. 244; Heron,1988a, pp. 53-55) Unaware projection means that we deceive ourselves. Wedo this because to inquire carefully and critically into aspects of ourexperience which we care about is an anxiety-provoking business which stirsup our psychological defences. We then project our anxieties onto the contentwe are supposed to be studying (Devereaux, 1967) Consensus collusion meansthat the co-researchers may tacitly band together as a group in defenceof their anxieties, so that areas of their experience which challenge theirworldview are ignored or not properly explored. There are a variety ofvalidity considerations - expressed in terms of attending to appropriatebalance between polarities - which were discussed during the inquiry andappear in the appendix (App3.2.p4.para5- p6.para3).

Co-operative Inquiry as the appropriate method

The positioning of this researcher, and this researchers’sco-researchers - indeed the concept of co-researcher, which is so comfortablyat home both within a peer self-help community such as CCI, andcentral to the co-operative inquiry method - all these inter-related factorsrecommend the adoption of the co-operative inquiry method.

Updated 16 June 99
by Martin Wilks