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Stop, Breathe, and Be

The latest Spark was a workshop in mindfulness for moderators, and as Graham Brown reports, it can be a startlingly effective tool.

Mary Coyne and Kat Slater’s workshop was a really well balanced and powerful introduction to mindfulness, as well as an excellent refresher course for those attendees with prior experience.

Mindfulness, far from being a complex or necessarily ‘spiritual’ concept, can be a startlingly effective tool for becoming more focused on the present moment. This helps to increase awareness of your thoughts and feelings and has been shown to have a significant impact on general health and wellbeing. And, it turns out, it can have some potentially useful applications for qualitative researchers — something about which the session provoked some interesting ideas.

The evening was a highly engaging mix of discussion and practical exercises that helped everybody to understand the concept of mindfulness, get some practical experience and also highlight ways in which it can become a real part of the researcher’s toolkit.

We discussed how, as qualitative researchers, our heads are often filled to bursting with everything we’ve heard across a range of different projects that may be all happening at one time. A little mindful meditation can be an effective way of ‘resetting’ a busy mind before analysis sessions to help you to focus on the things that matter.

There was also a really fun and illuminating example of how the use of mindfulness with research participants can help to surface much richer and more diverse associations with a particular product or service — especially where sensory elements are important (it was the first workshop I’ve been to where eating a whole bag of popcorn was an integral part of the learning experience).

We even discussed how it might be used with clients before important meetings or presentations to ensure everybody was ‘in the room’ and focused on what they’re hearing — effectively giving your work greater impact.

So, overall a most enjoyable and thought provoking evening. I’d urge anyone to embrace moments of mindfulness, the personal and professional benefits really could be surprising. Check out one of the videos they showed:


Graham Brown
Research Director, Verve Partners Limited

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, February 2016
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2016