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6552 Meditation: DMR (E)

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 won’t 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.

Transcendental 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 culture’s 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 creativity.