Evoking Equanimity: Silent Interaction Rituals in Vipassana Meditation Retreats

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Studies on the benefits of meditation show that the practice reduces stress and helps achieve a feeling of equanimity and peacefulness. These studies have tended to view meditation as an individual endeavor; however, many people learn to practice meditation in a group. Drawing on literature that connects the self, emotional experience and social interaction, I suggest that meditation-based equanimity is not only a psychological state but also a social attitude that is cultivated and learned in a unique silent interaction order. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with participants in vipassana meditation retreats in Israel and the United States, I analyze instances of silent social interaction that take place in meditation centers. The analysis reveals a sociological understanding of equanimity as a sociality of “non-engagement” which serves as a grey zone between full engagement and complete disengagement. As I show, participants in meditation retreats go through a gradual process of learning how to be with others while not directly attending to them. This form of being together allows for the emergence of silent social attunement that facilitates equanimity. Participants purposely cultivate and perform equanimity with and for others, but eventually it takes over the self, leading to an experience of self-transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-56
Number of pages18
JournalQualitative Sociology
Issue number1
Early online dateDec 2014
StatePublished - Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.


  • Equanimity
  • Interaction-rituals
  • Meditation
  • Self
  • Silence


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