The difference between SMT and other methods of meditation

The question is often put to me ‘what’s the difference between Stillness Meditation Therapy and other methods of meditation’?  Here are my thoughts from over 25 years’ teaching!

First, some clarification!  The concept of Stillness Meditation (SMT) is significantly different from classical meditation which primarily involves the principles of Hindu or Buddhist teachings.  SMT is a Western style of meditation and a medically based form of therapy.  It is unrelated to classical or sectarian meditation and it does not use method or technique.

Classical meditation, linked to the Hindu practice of Yoga, uses techniques such as mental focus, breathing, visualization, music, reflection or prayerfulness in order to gain stillness of mind.  The term ‘stillness meditation’ is frequently used generically to describe that objective.  By way of example, here’s an extract from ‘Yoga Concepts’ via the internet, explaining their Stillness Meditation program. ‘This program offers the individual further self enquiry by reflecting more deeply within, with the aim of stilling the thought waves and connecting deeply with the soul.

Mindfulness Meditation originates in Buddhist teachings and involves the technique of self-awareness to reach stillness of mind.

In understanding the modern concept of mindfulness, it was the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nat Hanh who first popularized this when he published ‘The Miracle of Mindfulness’ in 1975.  He teaches the discipline of ‘following one’s breath to nourish and maintain calm mindfulness, even in the midst of the most difficult circumstances’.  Being conscious, being aware of one’s participation in life is essential to mindfulness within the technique of paying attention.

The mindfulness style that has become popular today from the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn is a contemporary version of part of the Buddhist philosophy.  The aim is to assist people to manage their lives and to manage stress through the ability to appreciate the present moment.  Professor Kabat-Zinn says: ‘mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’.

These styles of meditation particularly appeal to those who find comfort in activity and who feel the need of a ‘technique’.  Technique can make meditation easier, but technique may get in the way of the therapeutic potential of meditation.

Here are the main facts surrounding Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT).

  1. SMT is the original therapeutic concept of meditation conceived in the 1950’s by Melbourne psychiatrist Ainslie Meares
  2. It is unrelated to culture, philosophy or religion
  3. It involves only simplicity, naturalness and effortlessness – without formal technique
  4. Its aim is essentially that of mental rest
  5. The skills of  a trained SMT teacher can hasten the process of change

At the Stillness Meditation Therapy Centre we have observed that when a technique is used, mental rest becomes elusive.  Mindfulness, for example, can incite more anxiety in already anxious people.  So the situation worsens.  It may be helpful to remember that for stressed and anxious people, paying attention, on purpose in the present moment is not always a desirable place to be.  This can be so too, for example, in the use of visualization or repetitive processes.  In Chapter 14 of my new book, Living Calm in a Busy World, (2011) you can read of some cases when mindfulness wasn’t helpful in certain circumstances.

Stillness Meditation Therapy (SMT) doesn’t require the complexity of having to ‘do something’ mentally or in sensory form to find healing – doing nothing can be a huge relief for many!  And interestingly, one of the numerous natural outcomes of SMT is the capacity to become mindful, anyway.  SMT seems to go straight to the heart of the matter – healing, expanding consciousness and replenishing a wholly better life without any kind of effort.  Simplicity, naturalness and effortlessness mark a significant difference of note!