Eric Bakker N.D.March 30, 2022

When we meditate, we bring far-reaching and long-lasting benefits into our lives. These benefits include lowering our stress levels, becoming more aware of our discomfort, improving our ability to connect with others, sharpening our attention, and being kinder to ourselves.

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Benefits Of Meditation

Have you ever noticed how some people have an inner calm about them? They appear serene like a calm pond whilst others seem more turbulent like the Florida coast during the hurricane season. The difference is often in the state of mind and with a little practice and effort you will be surprised how easy it is to “cultivate your calmness”. Once you start to work on relaxing your mind regularly you will be astonished at the difference it can make to your daily life, you will have less conflict with others, achieve a lot more and be free from the nagging pain that muscular tension causes to so many unsuspected people each day.

Just Twenty Minutes Three Times a Week

Have you got twenty minutes three times a week, or just one hour a week to spare? This article will focus on tension and how you can learn to relax your mind and start to reduce the amount of tension you develop and store around your body. Many patients I have seen over time suffer from tension and are blissfully unaware aware how stress not only affects their moods, but can also result in a tight neck and shoulders or result in a period pain, digestive upsets or a tension headache which is the most common reason why people get headaches and rely of pain pills. By adopting a few simple techniques you will be able to free yourself from this avoidable torment and rarely ever have to resort to pain killing drugs again. It is especially important to find the cause for tension because this will allow you naturally to prevent it in the first place.

First Doctor To Teach Patients Meditation

I’d like to talk about a well known “pioneer of relaxation” in Australian medical history, Dr. Ainslie Meares. My work has been influenced by different mentors over time, and if I could have spent time with just one doctor learning about the mind, stress and meditation, I would have picked Dr. Ainslie Meares.

I can recommend Dr. Meare’s book called “Relief without Drugs”, a small out of print book from the 1970’s. Meares was born in 1910, graduated with a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery in 1940 from the University of Melbourne and gained his Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine in London in 1947. On the basis of his presentation of a collection of seventeen published papers relating to meditation and relaxation therapy, he was awarded Doctor of Medicine by the University of Melbourne in 1958. Dr. Meares was no “ordinary” doctor, he was the first Australian doctor to use hypnotherapy, relaxation and meditation in an actual clinical setting as a means of treatment of psychosomatic and psychoneurotic illnesses in the late 1950’s and early 60s, instead of prescribing powerful drugs like benzodiazepines, anti depressants and various other mind altering drugs aimed at “treating” the many faces and manifestations of anxiety, fear, depression, nervous tension and phobias.
I picked up a copy of Dr. Meare’s book “Relief without Drugs” in the early 1980’s at a garage sale, and remember how much his advice helped me overcome my own state of anxiety and nervous tension.It is almost impossible to treat the body without looking at how the mind “feeds” it and I’ll elaborate more later with my tips on how you can deal with tension in your life.
I simply won’t believe it if you tell me that you are never tense, I’ve yet to meet a patient who doesn’t have some form of tension in their life. Life is all about tension and relaxation, expansion and contraction, day and night, the yin and the yang. A healthy life is the sensible balance and moderation of all things in life that we should be striving for, as well as the ability to use stress and tension to our advantage and not to our detriment. A trick to understanding tension in your body is to understand that the best knowledge you can have is knowledge about yourself, and who or what “pushes your buttons” particularly, more about this later.

The Original Mindfullness Meditation

relief without drugsDr. Meares came to develop much more than a passing interest in relaxation as a treatment for the psychological component of his patient’s chronic ill health, it ended up being his life’s work. He visited India and Nepal in the 1960’s in order to study and document the ways Eastern mystics influenced their perceptions through spiritual practices, particularly meditation. On his return he began research on the biological mechanisms underpinning stress and understood that patients who suffered from anxiety, tension and stress suffered more intensely not only with pain, but in addition were the patients who went on to develop sleeping disorders, cognitive dysfunction like poor memory, a poor clarity of mind, easy confusion and brain fog.
Stressed and tense patients were also more prone to developing high blood pressure and diabetes and various immune problems such as allergies, infections and cancers and a whole host of other chronic and degenerative diseases. And all this was discovered in the 50’s and 60’s when there was no such thing as an “integrative” doctor of medicine. Doctors prescribed drugs, simple as that, and patients would never question the doctor who like the bank manager was “always right”. Those were the days before computers and internet, no Google to check on the doctor’s diagnosis.
Patients today are even becoming more informed than their doctors. Doctors who combine natural and Western medicine were unheard of in Dr. Meare’s time, professional natural therapists were considered witch doctors, or commune loving hippie types and many were even viewed as fraudulent. Australian naturopath Dorothy Hall, an Australian pioneer of natural medicine, told me that when she stayed at a large hotel in Sydney in the late 1960’s and asked for muesli for breakfast she was told “we don’t serve that foreign muck here”.

The First Doctor to Learn to Meditate

In Nepal, Dr. Meares was taught a simple meditation technique that he applied in his clinical approach to the treatment of cancer patients. In 1976 he reported in the Australian Medical Journal about a regression of cancer he attributed to intensive meditation.
Dr. Meares went on to teach other notable doctors in the 70’s such as cancer survivor Dr. Ian Gawler opened the Gawler Foundation in 1983 as the first cancer support group in Australia. Since then, more than 50,000 people have attended healthy lifestyle, disease prevention programs with a strong emphasis on meditation conducted Gawler and his team.                              .
I recommend in my clinic the same methods as Dr. Meares, including regular periods of relaxation, awareness of tension in the body and “letting go”, emptying the mind and stillness. Meares favoured a very simple approach to meditation which reduced it to the simplest essence in contrast with more conventional approaches to meditation such as reciting mantras or other “thought frameworks” involving willpower.
The difference between Meares’ approach and most others was his emphasis on mental relaxation and mental stillness, rather than actual physical relaxation like breathing patterns or tightening then relaxing muscles; and, one of the unusual features of his teaching process was that he often would  have the windows of his inner city Melbourne clinic rooms open so that the noise of the busy city, especially the sound of the trams, would emphasise that the student’s goal was to gain an inner calmness or stillness despite external tensions in his or her environment. I find that when I have a relax session in my clinic room myself, I am still aware of what is going on in the room next to me yet am in a world of my own.

Dr. Meare’s Meditation Method

Dr. Meare’s method was non-religious, offering a pioneering drug-free alternative to relaxation. He mentions in his book: “The key to our management of stress lies in those moments when our brain runs quietly in a way that restores harmony of function “. He encouraged the patient to just let the mind be still for a mere ten to twenty minutes a day. By allowing the mind to rest, the meditation would affect the flow in other areas of the body and mind. This was one clever doctor years ahead of his time, and one of the first to understand the “mind-body” connection which we are only just beginning to understand.
In his book “Life without Stress”, Dr. Meares describes it this way, “In the meditation that I would advise you to practise there is no striving, no activity of brain function, just quietness, a stillness of effortless tranquillity.” The letting-go approach encourages achieving stillness by simply letting go thoughts when they arise. By inviting stillness, at first in fragments, stillness increases until it becomes a continuous flow of inner calm. Meares stressed the importance of being uncritical of oneself, and of not assessing the process. He used the term “just being” rather than being about something or otherwise engaging the mind. I tell patients that when they are lying on the floor, to “never think of any problem which requires a solution”. And by thinking of a very pleasant place or time in your life, you can instantly transport your mind there. Allow your mind to wonder, and as the mind relaxes it starts to become more creative which in turn allows you to focus more about nice events rather than stressful ones. The state of meditation is really like being in a daydream, you are aware of what is going on around you but you are happy to stay in this dream like state because it feels good. And feeling good is addictive, you want to keep going back for more of the same.

Regular Twenty Minute Meditation Sessions

This is where I am asking for a commitment, I would like you to start regular relaxation sessions for yourself at least three times weekly for about twenty minutes at a time. Now tell me honestly, is sixty minutes a week too much?
How would you like to have a sense of inner calm and reduced tension and irritability like you haven’t experienced for years? It is so simple, just pick a carpeted floor, not a bed, and lie down on your back. Take your shoes off and loosen your waistband. Make sure you won’t get disturbed – no kids, pets or cellphones around you, etc. I want you to just relax and take a nice slow deep breath in, being sure to breathe in “through your tummy”, don’t breathe in a shallow pattern.
It is all weird and foreign I know but it doesn’t involve weird chants or religious beliefs. I can assure you that very soon you will get the hang of it, these mini siestas will rejuvenate your energy, allowing you to stay relaxed and focused well into the evening instead of collapsing on the sofa never to stir again until bedtime.
This extra burst of energy will allow you to spend time with your family. The ultimate time to have your TPM (twenty peaceful minutes) sessions are between 2 – 4.00pm, this is because cortisol (your main stress hormone) is then at its lowest point of production during the day and you will naturally feel a sense of “three thirty-itis”.
With these sessions, your heart rate will drop, your digestion will relax and you will soon start to experience a sense of inner calm. With a sense of inner calm comes a release of tension – you will actually become aware of the muscles that tighten up when you are more relaxed. I think that it is as important to schedule these relaxation sessions as it is to schedule your weekly business meetings. The most progressive organisations realise that a highly productive workforce is not achieved by people pushing themselves until they drop.
You don’t need to lower your performance standards; you just need to recognise that being at home with the kids or being at work and expecting a high level of productivity requires a high amount of energy which in turn requires your body to recover as well. Look at the big picture, how much time do you take off each week? And how many weeks a year do you schedule for fun? I “must be available” is the passionate excuse today for having a cell phone with all the whistles and bells. Do you “have to” monitor urgent calls, most of which aren’t urgent at all? By slotting in regular TMP sessions you can dramatically help to reduce the amount of tension in your life and you will soon realise that being available at all times can be a trap as well.
How did our grandparents survive I sometimes think without cell phone technology or computers. I think they coped fine and always appeared to have the time to talk. By making sure you take regular “time out” from your busy life, you will start to begin to replenish your mental and emotional energy levels and actively diffuse tension in your life.

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