Journeys with Mindfulness

 

Chloe Asker writes about her experience putting together a zine based on her doctoral research

My doctoral research (funded by the SWDTP) was based on the lived experiences of and ‘journeys’ with mindfulness. As part of the research I worked with a group of participants, tracing their experiences of mindfulness as both a meditation practice but also as a way of living. Over the course of two mindfulness courses and follow up interviews I witnessed the transformative effect that mindfulness had on their lives. Giving my participants a space in which to recount their relationship with the practice offered an opportunity to reflect on their journey, which in turn prompted them to realise the deep effects mindfulness had on their life.

One participant was nervous to meet with me, she thought she had nothing to say about her relationship with mindfulness:

“I said to [my partner] “oh Chloe’s coming to see me, but I don’t think I’m going to be much of a project, to write about! I’m not that interesting, because I haven’t done anything else, any of the things!” But actually it’s been a revelation for me to talk to you cos I [laughs}….”

“Yeah, so it’s another blessing really that you’ve come, and I’ve been able to find inside me the things that mindfulness has done for me that I didn’t know.”

[Transcript from interview with a participant 5/6/2019]

As she spoke it became clear that her journey, although at times challenging, had certainly been transformative.

Frustrated with the unreadability of a 100,000 word PhD thesis, I wanted to create an output from the research that would be short, enjoyable to read, interactive and easy to share. I was keen to create something accessible that could communicate the transformative experiences that my participants had shared with me. I also wanted to gently push back against the overwhelming and overarching critiques of mindfulness as ‘McMindfulness’ (Purser, 2019), to show that the practice could be life changing for those involved. I decided to write a zine based on a chapter of my thesis that explores their journeys.

Zines are ‘cheaply made printed forms of expression on any subject’ (Todd and Watson, 2006, p. 12) and are bolstered as the ‘ultimate expression of the do-it-yourself ethic’ (Brent and Biel, 2014, p. 15). Zines are open and diverse in their format, structure, and content. The DIY philosophy at the heart of zines means that they are ‘inherently democratic’ (Bagelman and Bagelman, 2016, p. 366). You do not necessarily need specific resources or artistic competencies. Furthermore, the ability to self-publish means that there are few barriers to production. Throughout my doctoral research I experimented with the zine format – finding the open format and structure useful to creative and participatory research. I was inspired by geographical work that uses zines as a critical-creative methodology and output (Bagelman and Bagelman, 2016; Marie Hall, 2017). However, lacking in artist competency myself, I worked with an illustrator, Isabel Mae Abrams, to design the zine together.

To fund the project I used a top-up to my Research and Training Grant (SWDTP, ESRC) to fund the illustration and publication of the zine. I would highly recommend applying to the SWDTP for an RTSG top-up – it allowed me to complete this project alongside writing my thesis. Originally, the top-up was intended for conferences and in-person events. Due to the pandemic these opportunities were cancelled, with the support from the SWDTP I re-routed the funding to complete this project.

The zine stories several journeys with mindfulness based on the participants’ stories (including my own). To make the booklet interactive and mindful in its format, we worked on a colouring page in the centre fold, along with pauses and a body scan meditation at the end. The zine also comes with three illustrated postcards – you can use these however you’d like. But one option is to write your experiences with mindfulness/meditation and send them back to us in order to continue the conversation on the benefits (or frustrations with) the practice (if you’d like to do this use our contact page to request more information).


Journeys with mindfulness is free to download here as a pdf, or you can read it on issu here. You can also request a printed copy of the zine and postcards here (these are free but I am asking for a postage contribution).

We would love to know what you think of the zine! Get in contact with us here.


References

Bagelman, J., and Bagelman, C. (2016) ZINES: Crafting Change and Repurposing the Neoliberal University. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies 15(2).

Marie Hall, S. (2017) Everyday Austerity. https://everydayausterity.wordpress.com/zine/

Purser, R. (2019) McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality. Watkins Media.

Todd, M., and Watson, E. (2006) Whatcha Mean, What’s a Zine?: The Art of Making Zines and Minicomics. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.