Swimming against the stream: investigating psychosocial flows through mindful awareness

Stanley, Steven; Barker, Meg; Edwards, Victoria and McEwen, Emma (2015). Swimming against the stream: investigating psychosocial flows through mindful awareness. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12(1) pp. 61–76.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14780887.2014.958394


In this paper, we extend psychosocial research methodology by integrating a breaching experiment, influenced by ethnomethodological sociology, with aspects of mindfulness practice, influenced by Buddhist traditions. We offer an empirical investigation of what happens when researcher-participants subtly ‘swim against the stream’ of normative public social conduct in a capital city setting. Our qualitative analysis explores a single case from a corpus of 172 first-person retrospective accounts of standing still and ‘doing nothing’ in a busy, public place. We investigate the qualitative aspects of how one researcher-participant arguably adopted a mindful, ‘beginner’s mind’ orientation toward the flow of psychosocial consciousness. We empirically investigate this psychosocial orientation of mindfulness by integrating Wetherell’s concept of affective-discursive practice with James’ stream of consciousness. Mindfulness offers a specific, embodied reorientation toward psychosocial flows. We discuss the methodological implications and limitations of this reorientation for psychosocial research.

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