Meditation – the quiet stillness that directly impacts on your parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing muscles and dilating blood vessels, and, in particular restoring to normal the balance in the operation of many of your body systems. It is the great health regulator, and in combination with a good diet and a regular, vigorous physical activity program, is the basis of good health.
Ainslie Meares worked for 30 years in Melbourne as a psychiatrist and used meditation extensively in the treatment of psychosomatic and psychoneurotic illnesses. He died in 1986, but his books are widely read and still available. We encourage you to read them. Here is some of what he had to say about meditation.
You may well ask: ‘What is the purpose of experiencing this meditative state for a few minutes each day?’ The answer is that it reduces the level of our anxiety.
The effects of meditation include inner peace, better interpersonal relationships, clearer thinking, increased work capacity, better sexual relationships due to less tension, absence of disturbing dreams, and smoother physical reactions often shown in better performances in sport.
The key to management of our stress lies in those moments when our brain runs quietly in a way that restores harmony and function.
There are quite different forms of meditation in which the brain functions in quite different ways.
In classical meditation as in yoga, in Zen Buddhism meditation and in the meditation practiced by the early Christian mystics, the thought processes of the mind are helped by will power concentrating on some object or spiritual concept. The mind is active, striving to attain and maintain this ideal.
In the meditation I would advise you to practice, there is no striving, no activity of the brain function, just quietness, a stillness of effortless tranquility.
This is not the tranquility of drowsy somnolence. The mind is clear but still.
For the type of meditation I advocate, we must start our meditation in some position of slight discomfort. Then we let our mind run quietly, with as little thought as possible, and we are soon no longer aware of any discomfort. This transcendence of slight discomfort is an essential feature of successful meditation.
It does not require long periods of meditation to obtain relief from stress. Ten minutes twice a day has produced dramatic relief in some hundreds of people who have consulted me professionally.
To get the full effect of meditation, it is important not to do it when too tired. The effect is greatest when we are alert and frisky.
Ainslie Meares Life without Stress. Viking O’Neill 1991
Ainslie Meares Relief without drugs. Angus and Robertson 1995
I recommend that part of your meditation be the stillness that Meares suggests. Focus on thinking about nothing. If thoughts return, dismiss them and focus on thinking about nothing.
Having the time to do what you want to do and what you need to do is one of the great freedoms.
How Meditation Works
The brain operates on a range of brain-wave patterns, measured in cycles per second.
|Brain Wave||Cycles Per Second||Characteristics|
|Beta||14 - 20||Awake|
|Alpha||7 - 14||Daydreaming, suggestability|
|Theta||4 - 7||Sleep|
|Delta||Below 4||Deep sleep|
When you are sitting relaxed and calm with your eyes closed there is a good chance that the brain will be operating at the Alpha brain wave level. The parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated; muscles relax, blood vessels dilate and you begin to achieve a more balanced state of health.
At the Alpha level you experience the state of deep relaxation which is very useful in managing stress, by calming the body and re-establishing equilibrium within the nervous and endocrine systems. It is also the zone of suggestibility, the point at which you can feel new thoughts, ideas and programs into the sub-conscious mind. It is the zone of imagination and creative visualization.
If you are not completely familiar with meditation and deliberately getting into the Alpha state, you may have experienced it while waking up as you drifted in and out of consciousness. In those periods when you are half awake, you are in the alpha state.
To get into the Alpha meditative state, follow the sequence of instructions listed below.
Sit down in a straight-backed chair, close your eyes, take a deep breath, hold it for a short while, then breathe out and relax.
Start breathing using stomach breathing, so that every time you breathe in your stomach goes out. Stomach breathing slows your breathing down dramatically, increases the amount of air you can get into your lungs, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system so blood vessels dilate and muscles relax, stimulates alpha brain waves and produces a feeling of calm.
Once you are comfortably relaxed begin focusing on relaxing various parts of your body, imagining them relaxing more and more with every breath you breath out. eg, feel your scalp relaxing, your forehead, your face and jaw, your shoulders, your back …, all the way down through various parts of your body.
Once you’ve become relaxed, sit for a few minutes, breathing slowly, deeply and rhythmically, using stomach breathing, and thinking about nothing. If thoughts come to your mind, dismiss them.
Once you’ve become relaxed, take five or ten very slow, deep breathes using stomach breathing.
Imagine breathing in a circular fashion, starting the breathing in cycle at the bottom of a large circle, deep inside your stomach.
Keep breathing in until you reach the top of the circle at the top of your head. Hold the breath for a moment and then slowly breathe out, taking as long to breathe out as you did to breathe in. With practice you’ll find that ten breaths takes a very long time, sufficient for you to become very relaxed.
Inner Mental Training – Can You Picture That?
Inner mental training is a form of meditation in which you creatively visualize a particular goal. In the case of achieving your ideal physique, you can use inner mental training to establish harmony between the goals of your conscious and sub-conscious minds.
At the Alpha brain wave level you can begin to feed visualisations into the sub-conscious, the aim being to reprogram the sub-conscious so that it starts to work toward the achievement of your goal. This means that the unconscious is working toward your objective, even while you are not!
Imagine a large screen in front of your eyes and visualize on that screen a picture of yourself as a fit and healthy person. Visualise yourself doing all the things you need to do to reach and then maintain your ideal physique. In particular focus on establishing a clear picture in your mind’s eye of the things you want
- the physique you’d like to have
- the type of food that’s good for you
- the right amount of food to eat
- the amount of physically activity you need to do
- the job you’d really like to be doing
Autosuggestion – Emile Coué
In the early part of this Century, Emile Coué established an autosuggestion clinic in a Paris suburb. Coué became famous for an autosuggestion which he encouraged his patients to repeat out loud to themselves twenty times, twice each day. He described it as his general formula.
‘Day by day, in every way, I’m getting better and better.’
The success of his clinic in restoring people to good health was based on the premise that
‘The unconscious, in its character of surveyor over our mental and physical functions, knows far better than the conscious the precise failings and weaknesses which have the greatest need of attention. The general formula supplies the unconscious with a fund of healing, strengthening power, and leaves it to apply this at the points where the need is most urgent.’
Harry Brooks ‘The Practice of Autosuggestion by the Method of Emile Coué, George Allen and Unwin 1922.
The auto-suggestion works in the quietness of meditation, when brainwave activity is in the alpha range.
You are encouraged to adopt Coue’s general formula and use it twice a day, preferably just on waking and just before going to sleep. We recommend that you use the auto-suggestion at the end of your meditation.
RELAXATION MP3 file
The relaxation recording starts with waves gently lapping the shore. Listen as the voice on the tape gets you to relax your body from the top of your head down to your toes.
The waves form the background and continue for a minute or so after the muscular relaxation part of the recording has finished.
You will then be woken up.
The recording takes a little over 8 minutes. It is ideal for use in the workplace or at home, just you get you sitting quietly, breathing deeply and relaxing off.
BETTER AND BETTER MP3 file
The mantra, ‘Day by day I’m getting better and better’ was devised by Emile Coue in the first few decades of the last century.
The recording begins with the waves lapping the shore and your body being relaxed from the top of your head down to your toes.
Then the voice on the tape then repeats, ‘Day by day I’m getting better and better’ twenty times.
Your subconscious mind has a fair idea of what needs to get better. It’s also got a pretty good idea of what needs to be done for things to get better and better. Play this tape a couple of times a day for a few weeks, and start doing the things you need to do for things to get better.
There is a good chance that things will get better.