Saturday, 6 December 2014

What have Weston Price, Ainslie Meares, Yoga & Meditation got in common

Weston Price is comparatively well known as the Dentist who travelled around the world in the 1930's and studied the diets of many cultures with far reaching findings. Less well known is the work of an Australian Psychiatrist, Dr Ainslie Meares (b1910-d1987). Dr Meares was a Founding Fellow of Royal Aust & NZ College of Psychiatrists and, for a time, the President of the Int. Society for Clin & Exp Hypnosis.

Like Weston Price, but in the 1950's-1960's, Dr Meares travelled around the world, witnessing and studying various mental states and the role these played in the lives of people from different cultures. In particular, he learnt an ancient method of meditation from a wise old yoga in Nepal who he describes as "different from any other man I have ever met"  "he was serene" "When you were in his presence the calm of it was all through you"  (Strange Places, Simple Truths pg25).

While respecting the value of traditional meditation, he developed a theory which differs significantly from meditation per se. His objective was to assist people in accessing the natural undisturbed calm within themselves. His method essentially consisted of treating his patients for anxiety, illness and pain by allowing the mind to rest.

He called this mental state atavistic regression. Some have misunderstood that term. Atavism which translates from Latin as "primitive". Regression means to go backwards. A better translation would be to use the word "primordial". Atvastic regression meaning returning to the original or elementary way that has existed from the very beginning. A return to a purer simpler state of mind- a mind free of disturbance. Meares definitely did NOT mean barbaric or uncivilised mind or anything like that.

He later changed to the term mental ataraxis to better communicate the idea of this mental state where there was a state of freedom from, and absence of, dis-stress and anxiety.

Many, many years before anxiety and stress were acknowledged as contributing to illness, Dr Meares had identified that. Long before the term mind-body medicine was coined, he emphasised it’s critical importance. And long before meditation was widely advocated as a potential means of healing, Dr Meares had established a solution to counteract mind- body distress.

It is believed that Meares meditation augments a natural physiological mechanism that restores ease to the mind. Undoubtedly, our hunter gatherer ancestors experienced this naturally as part of their way of life. Today, the search for it can be seen in the increasing numbers of Western people looking for answers in various Eastern practices. However, most of us are not Easterners. We are Westerners born in a Western culture with a Western mindset. Eastern mystics devote their lives to practice; they live for practice. By contrast, Meares Meditation (also called Stillness Meditation), is non-religious and non-sectarian. It was created as a mental restorative practice to assist modern Western people to live a better quality of life.

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