Discovering Meaning in Ireland: Megalithic Spiritual Experiences
by Paul M. White
The mere sight of a stone circle embedded in the landscape elicits a deep sense of awe and wonder for many people; they are mysteriously drawn to these structures, experiencing a strong desire to connect with the ancient community who created them. Others view such locations as an interesting mark from history and endeavor to apperceive them through scientific measurements and record their findings for the larger contemporary society to be intrigued by. On yet another level, spiritual traditions from around the world incorporate pilgrimages to ancient megalithic sites as they are deemed sacred for their association with history and events in throughout time. The Irish landscape has an abundance of megalithic sites which have been left largely undisturbed for centuries. The people of the Emerald Isle hold a special affinity for these locations for reasons that run the gambit from pure historical significance to a fear of disturbing the beings who reside in the mounds and around the stones (Cochrane, 2006).
The purpose of this research study is to outline the details of my inquiry into spiritual experiences at heritage sites in Ireland. I have approached the study through the lens of the descriptive phenomenological method as developed by Giorgi (2009). I have taken into consideration deeper methodological issues as I developed the guidelines for my dissertation; issues such as: creating a clearly articulated research question aligning to the methodology and interests of the researcher; determining the appropriate fit of participants; and the recruiting and screening of said participants. One important aim of the research has been to determine meaning units define the essential psychological constituents of such experiences as noted by the participants. I understood potential findings would likely uncover related, but underlying themes of what a spiritual experience within a stone circle or burial mound could mean for the wider community of humanistic researchers, spiritual seekers, and mental health professionals. My research has added richness to the ever-growing field of ecopsychology, spirituality, natural philosophy, and phenomenological research. As a mental health professional, this research is directly applicable to those seeking connection to a deeper sense of meaning and purpose in their lives – allowing adequate space to explore and address symptoms of anxiety, stress, and
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