Dr Ainslie Meares
Dr Ainslie Meares
Ainslie Meares was born in Melbourne in 1910. After graduating in medicine from Melbourne University, Dr Meares spent some time working at an army hospital treating soldiers who had been mentally disturbed by their war experiences. It was this exposure to the suffering caused by anxiety and the insightful link he made between anxiety and its relationship to physical illness that led him to dedicate his life’s work to the field of psychiatry.
After the Second World War, Dr Meares continued practicing psychiatry but became disenchanted with treatments such as psychoanalysis, electric shock and drug therapy. His expertise in clinical hypnosis brought success but within this aspect of his work Dr Meares discovered that some patients recovered without deep-seated problems being resolved. He began to identify the reason for this as a different state of mental function which resulted in healing.
In seeking to learn more about brain function Dr Meares travelled all over the world, witnessing and studying various mental states and the role these played in the lives of people from different cultures. These studies confirmed to him the importance of treating his patients for anxiety, illness and pain by allowing the mind to rest. While honouring the value of traditional meditation, from a medical perspective he originated a theory which differs significantly from meditation per se. His objective related only to assisting people in accessing simply the natural undisturbed calm within themselves through the facilitated therapeutic experience of stillness.
Dr Ainslie Meares first described his work as ‘mental relaxation’ and then coined the phrase ‘mental ataraxis’ meaning absence of disturbance of the mind. Later he adopted the terminology ‘meditative relaxation, and as the idea of meditation generally grew in popularity within Western culture, the broader term ‘meditation’ was employed. To differentiate between the Meares therapeutic meditative approach and traditional meditation techniques, the term Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT) is used today.
Dr Meares was internationally recognised as a prolific author of some 30 books, among them the classic international bestseller Relief Without Drugs (Great Britain: Souvenir Press Ltd, 1968), and over 100 medical papers, published in elite medical journals in Australia and overseas. He was a remarkable man whose innate knowledge and professional skills positively changed the lives of many people. He is owed a huge debt of gratitude.
One of the many people whose lives Dr Meares assisted was Pauline McKinnon, whom he publicly acknowledged as an exponent of his distinctive meditation model. As principal of the Stillness Meditation Centre, for almost thirty years Pauline has made the work of Ainslie Meares central to the services of the Centre and fundamental to our success. Pauline’s own story of recovery is described in her book “In Stillness Conquer Fear”. Dr Meares wrote the foreword and you can read it here. Her latest book, published in December 2011, “Living Calm in a Busy World” offers a contemporary commentary on Dr Meares work, his theory and its application in modern living.
In December 2011, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Dr Meares passing, the City of Melbourne agreed to place a special plaque on a designated bench in the Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne, where Dr Meares used to take his daily walk. The plaque reads “Sit quietly, for it is in quietness we grow” . We invite you next time you are near the Fitzroy Gardens, to take a few minutes out of your busy day, find Dr Meares bench and sit quietly for a while ….
Click here for a map showing the location of Dr Meares bench. Fitzroy Gardens, Lansdown Street, East Melbourne