Building Sangha in the American Healthcare Setting for Persons with Chronic Disease

Explore (NY). Mar-Apr 2018;14(2):122-130. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2017.11.001. Epub 2017 Dec 21.


Background: For persons with chronic disease, participation in meditation interventions can reduce anxiety, depression, and chronic disease symptoms in a dose dependent fashion. Unfortunately, information about how to support long-term participation in such an intervention is lacking. Therefore, a recent discovery of persons with chronic lung disease who have maintained a self-led meditation group for more than four years created an opportunity to analyze experiences, meanings and relationship dynamics of this community-based meditation group.

Methods: A focused ethnography was conducted using the following techniques: participant observation of four group meditation sessions, semi-structured interviews of six group participants, the interviewer's reflective practice and collection of demographic information. Analysis of transcribed audio-recordings followed an iterative approach.

Results: Findings highlighted the inclusive nature of the group sessions that supported meditation practice through the processing of ancient wisdom traditions similar to a traditional Sangha. Reflecting the current culture of non-affiliation, the group often moved beyond religious teachings to use the environment, literature and pop culture representations to teach wisdom traditions. Data analysis revealed that the holistic group characteristics of wisdom circling, non-Stopping, organic way-finding and sacred space were supported by identifiable yet inseparable individual and group actions. This holistic pattern is best described through the metaphor of flocking birds.

Conclusions: This self-led group supports long term meditation practice and provides a sense of eudemonic well-being for a diverse group of individuals in an accessible community setting.

Keywords: Sangha; chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD); group meditation.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Group Processes*
  • Holistic Health
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meditation / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive / psychology*
  • Spirituality