Critical theory, transformative learning and mindfulness: A case study of a mindfulness training programme
Mindfulness and the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programme is becoming increasingly popular in the Western world. These days, there are many institutes and organisations that support and promote mindfulness, while there is also a growing body of research and academic literature on the topic. Yet, despite the implicit connection to social change, the focus of secular mindfulness in the Western world has primarily remained on the benefits that mindfulness hold for the individual. This notion prompts the question whether there is a relationship between mindfulness and social change. The key theoretical constructs that constitute the theoretical framework of my study include Habermas’s critical theory and his emancipatory-cognitive interest in knowledge creation, and Mezirow’s transformative learning theory, which expanded the Habermasian theory in terms of adult education and learning. Guided by my theoretical framework, the primary research question was formulated as follows: ‘What are the relationships between mindfulness, emancipatory learning and social change?’ In order to address this research question, I selected a case study research approach and collected data using both quantitative and qualitative instruments. For my empirical investigation I selected, as my case study, an MBSR programme offered in Cape Town, South Africa. The data were collected from 55 adult learners who participated in the programme. To my knowledge, this is the first academic research study that investigates the MBSR programme in the field of adult education and learning in a South African context.