Meditation As a Form of Buddhist Coping
Sponsored by Missouri Western State University Sponsored by a grant from the National Science Foundation DUE-97-51113
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The proper APA Style reference for this manuscript is:
HICKMAN, W. J. (2008). Meditation As a Form of Buddhist Coping. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, 11. Available online at Retrieved April 25, 2017 .

Meditation As a Form of Buddhist Coping

Sponsored by: RUSSELL PHILLIPS (
Few studies have examined religious coping in the United States Buddhist population. Though studies have examined the stress-reducing effects of meditation, few have looked at how Buddhists employ such techniques when stressed. The present study created a quantitative measure of Buddhist coping given to 550 western Buddhists. Factor analysis revealed 14 types of Buddhist coping, one factor representing meditation. Meditation predicted general outcomes from stress over and above demographic variables and general spirituality. Individuals who practiced meditation as a way to deal with a stressful event reported better outcomes from that situation. Implications of the study are examined.

Meditation as a Form of Buddhist CopingResearch indicates spiritual well-being plays a role in health, however measuring and interpreting spirituality is a challenge (Shapiro, Schwartz & Bonner, 1998). Buddhism offers many ways to cope with stress, yet few studies have examined religious coping in the U.S. Buddhist population. With the relevance of Buddhism increasing in the United States (Smith, 2002) studying the benefits could be fundamental. Meditation, a common Buddhist practice, has been researched extensively in many nonBuddhists across the United States, and become a popular way of helping people cope with physical and psychological problems (Miller, Fletcher, Kabat-Zinn, 1995; Shapiro et al, 1998; Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Many meditative practices focus on heightening awareness, known as mindfulness meditation. Multiple programs in the US have been developed that include mindfulness meditation to help people overcome their problems. For instance, 78 medical students who were given a common 8-week meditation program, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), experienced reductions in anxiety and depression, and enhanced levels of empathy (Shapiro, et al, 1998). In a meta-analysis conducted by Grossman, Niemann, Schmidt & Walach (2004), MBSR was found to lead to moderately effective gains in mental and physical health. Meditation programs in the U.S. typically are taught in a nonreligious format to individuals who are not Buddhist (Grossman, et al, 2006; Shapiro, et al, 1998). It is unknown if meditation is a form of coping with stress for Buddhists in the United States. The current study will create a reliable and valid measure of Buddhist coping, examining various ways Buddhists in the United States use their religion to cope with stress, including meditation. It is expected that the meditation items will form their own subscale, as determined by a factor analysis, and that meditation will offer multiple mental health benefits, as determined by correlations between the meditation subscale and measures of adjustment to stress.


Of the 550 participants, 42.4% were male. The average age of participants was 44.9 (SD=13.5). The ethnic background of the participants varied, with 14.2% of the sample being non-European American. Participants were from the following religions: 24.2% Theraveda, 28.4% Mahyana, 39.6 % Vajrayana, 6% Other. Participants had practiced Buddhism for an average of 12.4 years (SD=10.6). Participants averaged a 3.42 on a four-point rating scale (SD=.716) of spirituality, indicating they fell between moderately and highly spiritual. Eighty- seven percent of participants reported they were from the United States. Those not from the United States had spent on average 17.42 years (SD=15.24) in this country.

Items we re created from a literature review and from participant responses in a qualitative study that examined how Buddhists use their religion to cope with stress (Phillips et al., under review). Originally there were 18 subscales with ten items per subscale. Prior to the present study, ten experienced Buddhists were asked to determine which subscale each item belonged to. For an item to be kept, at least 8 of the 10 Buddhists had to correctly identify the subscale to which the item belonged. A total of 95 Buddhist coping items were kept for use in this study, 5-8 items per subscale. There were eight items dealing with meditation (example item: “Meditated to quiet my mind”). Participants in the present study were asked to consider a stressful life event they were currently experiencing, and answer how much they were presently using each item to deal with that stressor on a four-point rating scale (‘Not at All’ to ‘A Great Deal’). Participants completed the General Outcomes Scale (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), which has demonstrated good reliability and validity (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). This scale contains five items, rated on a five-point Likert scale from 1 (“strongly disagree”) to 5 (“strongly agree”).

IRB approval was granted from the local university. The survey was posted online through, and consisted of the measures mentioned previously, as well as demographic questions and other measures of adjustment to life stress. Participants were recruited through a Buddhist social group on an online social website (Facebook), or through their sangha via e-mail. The email address of sangha leaders across the United States were provided through the website and these leaders were asked to invite their sangha members to complete the online survey. Participants interested in participating in winning one of three $50 gift cards for completing the survey were directed to a second survey in which they provided their email.

Principal Components Analysis was conducted with a Promax rotation because the factors were expected to correlate (Pett, Lackey, & Sullivan, 2003). Given the high number of cases that had at least one Buddhist coping item missing, cases were excluded by replacing missing values with the mean item score. Participants who skipped five or more of the 95 Buddhist coping items were eliminated (9 cases were dropped). The Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin statistic for sampling adequacy was adequate at .928, and Bartlett’s Test of Sphericity was significant (÷2 = 25046.5, p < .01). The scree test revealed a cutoff of 3 factors, and the K-G rule would leave a total of 21 factors with eigenvalues over 1. Given the limitations of these two tests, statisticians have noted the importance of using theory to determine where to cut off the factor structure (Pett, Lackey, & Sullivan, 2003). The first 14 factors were interpretable when using the factor loadings minimum standard for oblique rotations of 0.45 and therefore kept. One item cross-loaded on the first 14 factors, and was eliminated. The final seven factors with eigenvalues over 1.0 were uninterpretable (i.e., multiple cross-loadings with previous factors, high load items with no particular pattern), or similar theoretically to the first 14 factors. Factor 6 of the factor analysis contained only four items with factor loadings greater than 0.45, four of the eight meditation items in the survey. Table 1 lists the factor loadings for the meditation items. All 550 participants completed the meditation items, with a mean of 12.0 (SD = 2.8) for the total subscale score and 3.0 for each individual item, a rating of ‘Quite a Bit.’ Descriptive statistics for all major variables can be found in Table 2. Hierarchical regressions were conducted to determine the ability of meditation to predict adjustment to stress over and above demographic and general religious variables (see Table 3 for results). To correct for Type 1 error, a Bonferroni correction was conducted, meaning for ÄR2 to be significant, p had to be less than .008 (.05/6). This was because there were originally six dependent variables – general outcomes and five other measures of adjustment to life stress. However, this study will focus on the results of general outcomes from the stressor. Meditation predicted general outcomes from a stressful life event (ÄR2 = .034, p < .001), over and above demographic and general religious measures. Those participants who reported meditating more to deal with a stressor reported better outcomes from the stressful event (â = 0.19, p < .008).

The objective of the present study was to create a reliable and valid measure of Buddhist coping, and, specifically, to determine if meditation contributed to Buddhist coping with stress. Meditation items formed their own factor in a factor analysis, and showed evidence of adequate internal reliability. Meditation predicted outcomes from stress, after controlling for general spiritual variables and demographic variables. When faced with stress, individuals who practiced meditating reported better outcomes from the event.Limitations to this study include its correlational design; therefore causal relationships cannot be determined. A monomethod bias could exist because the present study used only self-report instruments, thus the measures might have correlated because they are of a comparable design, and not because the two variables actually relate. The survey was only offered in English which may have led to interpretation problems in the immigrant population. The study was an internet survey; therefore conclusions may be limited to computer competent individuals with access to the internet. Despite these limitations, the present study adds significantly to the research on religious coping through the creation of a reliable and valid measure of spiritual coping for Buddhists. A longitudinal study in this area could reveal that religious coping leads to modification in stress, demonstrating the sequential order of the relationship between Buddhist coping and outcomes. Clinically, therapists might find the Buddhist coping measure useful when dealing with clients. They might discover what strategies – useful and less useful – that their Buddhist clients use, and act accordingly.

Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: A meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35-43.Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Miller, J., Fletcher, K., Kabat-Zinn, J. (1995). Three-year follow up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders. General Hospital Psychiatry, 17, 192-200.Phillips, R.E. III, Colvin, S.D., Abarr, A.N., Dunn, M.W., & Reed, A.S. (under review). A qualitative study of Buddhist forms of religious coping. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.Ramel, W., Philippe R.G., Carmona, P. E., & McQuaid (2004). The effects of mindfulness meditation on cognitive processes and affect in patients with past depression. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 28(4), 433-455.Shapiro, S.L., Schwartz, G.E., & Bonner, G. (1998). Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(6), 581-599.Smith, T.W. (2002). Religious diversity in America: The emergence of muslims, buddhists, hindus, and others. Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, 41(3), 577-585.Walsh, R., Shapiro, S.L. (2006). The meeting of meditative disciplines and western psychology: A mutually enriching dialogue. American Psychologist, 61(3), 227-239.

 Factor Loadings from Factor Analysis for Meditation______________________________________________________________________________Meditation Item							Exploratory Factor Loadinga______________________________________________________________________________6.  Meditated to quiet my mind.		    					0.777 44. Practiced meditation (i.e. breathing walking, chanting, koans, etc.). 	0.79963. Meditated to become more aware.						0.73771. Meditated to gain clarity for dealing with my problems.			0.753______________________________________________________________________________aFactor loading from exploratory factor analysis, principal components analysis with promax rotation. 

Descriptive Statistics for Major Variables______________________________________________________________________________Variable		       Alpha	M	SD	Range______________________________________________________________________________Age				N/A	45.0	13.6	18-75How Spiritual Are You	        N/A	 3.4	 0.7	 1-4Years Practicing Buddhism	N/A	12.4	10.6	 1-59

Meditation .851 12.1 2.8 4-16General Outcomes .805 20.3 3.5 7-25______________________________________________________________________________

 Summary of Hierarchical Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting General Outcomes from the Stressful Event______________________________________________________________________________Variable		B		SEB		â______________________________________________________________________________Step 1: Demographic Variables 					

Gender 0.54 0.32 0.08Age -0.02 0.01 -0.06Immigrant/US Native 0.92 0.46 0.09

Step 2: Global Religious Measures Years Practicing Buddhism -0.01 0.02 -0.02Spirituality 0.62* 0.22* 0.13*

Step 3:

Meditation 0.24* 0.06* 0.19* ______________________________________________________________________________Note. R2 = .018 for Step 1; ÄR2 = .027 for Step 2 (p < .008); ÄR2 = .034 for Step 3 (p < .008).*p< .008

Submitted 4/28/2008 7:54:01 PM
Last Edited 4/30/2008 7:12:34 PM
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