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My Assumptions on Mindful Inquiry

Bentz and Shapiro (1998) suggest the researchers to observe the complex milieu that they necessarily will have to recognize, understand, and manage. In the chapter 1, the researcher is alerted to the proliferation and diversification in conceptions of how knowledge is produced, organized, shared and linked, transmitted, accessed and integrated, stored and retrieved, and represented (p. 1). To complete it, a new and larger set of research techniques and methods that are quite different from those implemented only a generation ago, is discussed (p. 2). This change is attributed to an epistemological crisis concerning the legitimacy and validity of knowledge. The authors go on to indicate the emerging world-scale problems with which human and social scientists must deal (p. 3). They introduce mindful inquiry as a basic orientation for researchers so that they can successfully handle the situation that now confronts them. The implicit theme of this chapter is that research conducted without careful knowledge of these many diverse changes risks ideological misrepresentations and displays ethical irresponsibility.

Mindful inquiry is an essentially, but not exclusively, qualitative research approach. It is based on four knowledge traditions which Bentz and Shapiro describe as follows:

  • Phenomenology: a description and analysis of consciousness and experience
  • Hermeneutics: analysis and interpretation of texts in context
  • Critical Social Theory: analysis of domination and oppression with a view to changing it
  • Buddhism: spiritual practice that allows one to free oneself from suffering and illusion in several ways, e.g., becoming more aware (1998, p. 6).

The research practitioners must become qualified in their field and familiar with the cultures of inquiry. “Far broader than research methods, [cultures of inquiry] are general approaches to creating knowledge in the human and social sciences, each with its own model of what counts as knowledge, what it is for, and how it is produced” (p. 9). According to Bentz and Shapiro in Backhaus (2001), the researcher should choose an approach that is both suitable to the personality of the researcher and adequate for the objective of the research. In addition, the researcher is required to enter into a culture of inquiry as a member of its community.

The process of pursuing an inquiry begins with identifying a personally important question that intrigues or challenges us and proceeds by using the above four knowledge traditions as applicable during the course of the inquiry. The methodology of mindful inquiry is characterized by circular movement that spirals into new experiences and understanding and returns repeatedly to different aspects of them on other levels or in other contexts. There is no fixed order for using them. They can be used flexibly according to the learner’s need. A mindful inquiry question provides a focus throughout the course that helps students to identify and to engage with whatever is most relevant to them of what they are learning. The mindful inquiry question may remain the same, may evolve into a slightly different question as new understandings emerge, or it may change significantly, even completely (Nagata, 2006).

Mindful Inquiry is based on 13 philosophical assumptions. I will only explain the assumption that I consider useful for me.

Assumption number 1: Awareness of self and reality and their interaction is a positive value in itself and should be present in research processes. The first assumption emphasizes the importance of mindfulness, being present in the moment, throughout the process of inquiry. This is particularly appropriate for me, who focus on case study in which I need to be aware of my state of being in order to communicate skilfully. I should increase my self-knowledge and reflected on how what I discovered about my bias and style of interaction would affect my research.

Assumption number 3: It is important to bracket our assumptions and look at the often unaware, deep layers of consciousness and unconsciousness that underlie them. Bracketing assumptions is emphasized in phenomenology and is also one of the main outcomes of working hermeneutically when interpreting texts. Intercultural encounters offer ongoing opportunities to develop awareness of our assumptions. I did this when I committed to trying to learn to appreciate and learn more about my own nationality and culture,

Assumption number 4: Human existence, as well as research, is an ongoing process of interpreting both one’s self and others, including other cultures and subcultures. I did this throughout my writing as I described and interpreted my experience interacting with people of different cultures. I am from multicultural country. The contacts I had with non-Indonesian people stimulated self-examination and appreciation for the transformative impact of intercultural communication.

Assumption number 5: All research involves both accepting bias—the bias of one’s own situation and context—and trying to transcend it. I am becoming aware of my own bias and stereotypes and committed to confronting it.

Assumption number 6: We are always immersed in and shaped by historical, social, economic, political, and cultural structures and constraints, and those structures and constraints usually have domination and oppression, and therefore suffering, built into them. I consider these but in different ways. I focused particularly on the education and cultural structure. I Interact with non-Asian students and I begin to explore my experience of being culturally Asian.

Asumption number 13: The development of awareness is not a purely intellectual or cognitive process but part of a person’s total way of living her/his life. My awareness is based on my experience and my daily process. I agree with this assumption. Globally I need greater awareness of ‘what is’, a sense of presence in the moment. It directs us within to the wisdom.


Backhaus, G. 2001. Researcher Meets New World: The Pedagogical Re-Framing of the Human/Social Scientist. Human Studies, 24 (3). Springer Netherlands

Bentz, V. M., & Shapiro, J. J. (1998). Mindful Inquiry in social research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Nagata, A.L., 2006. Cultivating Researcher Self-Reflexivity and Voice Using Mindful Inquiry in Intercultural Education Journal of Intercultural Communication No.9,  pp. 135-154

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