Deep Mental Rest
Since the sixties, several Eastern meditation techniques were spread throughout the western world. These techniques mostly
originate from yoga, in which one takes on challenging physical positions; and
from Buddhist and Hindu sources, in which one usually sits in a tranquil
cross-legged lotus position.
The position itself is
in fact not important. This widespread, Eastern lotus position originated from
the fact that Orientals tend to get used to sitting in similar positions from
an early age. Due to the lack using chair in their culture, they would rather
sit cross-legged on the floor or on rocks, sometimes with folded feet etc., making
it much more comfortable for them to sit like this, since this caused their hip
joints to become slightly distorted. Westerners on the other hand tend to find
this much more challenging; except perhaps for slim women.
Since the position one takes on whilst meditating
is merely intended to accommodate comfort, we can just as well sit in a chair
or sofa. What is much more important is our mental activity; our consciously
controlled train of thought that attempts to restrain our spontaneous,
freewheeling daydreams. With reference to this, there are two approaches: the
Buddhist one and the use of a mantra.
In the Buddhist
method one tries to neutralize every distracting thought or sound (whether
these come from within or outside our body) by calmly naming it: "cars
driving", "birds chirping", "intestines rumbling",
etc. Moreover, by putting the verb behind the noun like this, we increase the
triviality of what is happening around us. Since our inner peace should remain
intact when doing this, we wont be as easily inclined to become irritated,
draw conclusions or start making resolutions etc. Other methods are: hyper-concentration,
where one focuses on, for example, a burning flame, on sea waves or on parts of
the body (e.g. the body scan) etc., or performing specific, simple actions in
an extremely slow and concentrated way (e.g. carefully devouring a raisin
during a 15 minute time span).
With the mantra
method one internally repeats a neutral word (or mantra). The most well known
mantra is aoem (aum, ohm), but there are many others. A mantra essentially
has a dual function: (1) it serves to continuously abort and quench any
distracting associations one might make, and (2) within a few weeks it develops
into a conditioned stimulus that will almost automatically evoke this sense of
profound mental tranquillity. An effective mantra should therefore be free of
meaning or associations. A word such as "relax" would consequently be
a bad mantra.
Since both these methods are drenched with a hint
of religion (which is commonly not very appealing to Westerners), several
attempts were made in the fifties of the twentieth century to capture and distil
the essence of these methods, and consequently spread around as such.
Two such transformations have been highly
successful thus far: Transcendental Meditation and Mindfulness.
Meditation (T.M.) drops all religious connotations and
references, even though an initiation process takes place in which the mantra
is granted in front of some kind of Hindu altar accompanied by oriental chants.
The mantra is allegedly adapted to the personality of the initiated, and has to
be kept a secret. Later on it was revealed that there was no logic behind this,
but that all the fuss was merely intended for commercial purposes. One can find
more information about this on the Internet.
Nevertheless, the method is pretty effective and
it has resulted in spectacular effects concerning blood pressure, EEG patterns
(more alpha waves), mood (less depressed or irritable), colica intestinalis, cardiac arrhythmias and creativity. On average, the effects are 3
times stronger than is the case with "normal" relaxation and
meditation techniques. The learning process takes place in days, not months as
with analogous methods.
Similarly to most other meditation techniques, TM
is applied by meditating twice a day for about 20 minutes, which is equivalent
to two dreaming stages during the core sleeping
cycle (= the first 4 hours of sleep). In neurology, these dreaming stages are
known for their emotional recovery and memory refreshing qualities. Regularly
disrupting them cause depression and memory disorders.
Although the method was very popular until the
eighties, it almost faded from the scene due to increasing commercialization,
superstition (that one could float and levitate - sidhi's - as long as one
meditated sufficiently) and due to financial scandals surrounding the founder,
an Indian engineer named Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.
An analogous method is Mindfulness (MFN), a simplification of Buddhist meditation
techniques. The Sanskrit Smrti (in Pali sati) actually means: that which
is remembered, and not attention or mindfulness; even though this
forgotten, ancient word was used in the 19th century by the British
in India to signify awareness. In the West, this meditation technique - that
mainly consists of a delayed focussing on the body or on simple activities
was linked to a popularized form of cognitive behavioural therapy (i.e. offering
oneself rational-emotive and positive thoughts).
The measurable results of MFN are almost as good
as those of TM, even though it is difficult to determine which proportion of
the results is to be attributed to meditating and which to the cognitive behavioural
therapy. The method is currently very popular and has become a real hype due to
our cultures combined demand of spirituality and increased professional achievements.
The most recent modernization of the TM is the
Deep Mental Rest (DMR). This method was developed by the Italian astrophysicist
professor Fabricio COPPOLA from the remarkable Scientia Institute (in Massa,
between Carrara, Pisa and Florence), and was first called "Deep
Meditation" and later "Tecnica Naturale Anti-Stress". Americans
then marketed this under the name "Natural Stress Relief" NSR®.
Nonetheless, we prefer the term DMR, since integrative psychology aims to
promote the positive (deep rest), rather than fight the negative (anti-stress).
The technique is identical to TM, except for the
fact that the whole fuss with mantras is omitted. It is suggested that we use
just one single mantra, i.e. Lam, but since in Dutch this word holds many
negative connotations (e.g. paralyzed), and is therefore not entirely universal
or free of associations, we (in the Academy) suggest to simply use the traditional "aum" instead.
Technique: Resting seated in a quiet place one
mentally repeats (or mumbles) the mantra for 15-20 minutes. Gradually this results
in a continuous, virtually image-free state of clear, deep relaxation. Once one
finds that distracting associations resurface, one continues repeating the
mantra until it naturally fades away again. The results can already be felt after
a few days in the form of reduced irritation and increased alertness and