Children’s Spirituality and the Practice of Meditation in Irish Primary Schools: A Phenomenological Exploration

Noel Keating

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    This thesis explores the child’s experience of meditation in the context of a whole-school practice in Irish primary schools and its impact on children’s spirituality. There has been limited research into the impact of meditation on children, in particular on its spiritual fruits in their lives. This research seeks to discover and describe how children experience the practice of meditation, the practical benefits, if any, they consider they gain from it, and the nature of its impact, if any, on their spirituality. The research uses a phenomenological, hermeneutic, mystagogical methodology. Using purposive sampling, seventy children, aged from 7 to 11 years, were interviewed. The study is original in that the interview protocol contained novel processes designed to elicit from children their experience, if any, of the transcendent in the practice of meditation and in its depth of analysis of the spiritual fruits of the practice. These processes include photo-elicitation and an original method, the Selection Box, designed to enable children to reflect on the comments of their peers. These methods proved to be very effective in giving voice to the views of the children, enabling them to give metaphorical expression to their experience of the transcendent through the practice of meditation. These methods may have application in other areas of human sciences research. The research identifies four themes linked to the experience of meditation: simplicity, serenity, self-awareness and heart-awareness and presents a phenomenological description of the child’s experience of meditation. It identifies three pragmatic benefits: that meditation calms and restores, generates energy and confidence, and improves decision-making. Regarding spiritual fruits of the practice, the work presents a heuristic model showing how meditation deepens children’s self-awareness, awakens the heart to the true-self, nourishes their spirituality and inspires them toward more authentic living. The study stresses the importance of personal spiritual experience and concludes that the regular practice of meditation has the capacity to enkindle and nourish the innate spirituality of children, counter the tendency toward ‘true-self denial’ and build community self-presence. It supports the introduction of meditation in primary schools on a whole-school basis.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Howlett, Michael, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2016


    • Children's spirituality


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