Dr. Duckworth’s Studies and Practice (Part 2)
Being in the moment is furthered through sound.
Use of mantra is an excellent method for reducing stress, tension and other stress-related symptoms.
Herbert Benson, MD, coined the term Relaxation Response, “a state that is opposite to the stress response”, after he investigated Transcendental Meditation and found that people who practiced TM could lower their heart rate, their blood pressure and slow their breathing by significant percentages.
The practice of focused attention on a prayer, a sound or a mantra, is a multi-thousand-year-old practice. The repetitious use of a word, group of words or vocal utterance has long been used in spiritual traditions to achieve and maintain a “super-state” of relaxed awareness. It is the practice of repeating a word, prayer, sound or phrase to exclude other thoughts or mental activity. Mahatma Gandhi uttered the word, “Ram” (GOD) all his life; so much so, that at the moment of his assassination, the last word he uttered was ‘Ram’.
How to Do It
The wonderful thing about using sound for meditation and relaxation is that you can do it anywhere and anytime, alone and with others. It is incredible to sit with several hundred people and chant a sacred sound repeatedly.
This is how you can begin your practice and use it for your own private mental health exercises.
1. Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable position. Relax your muscles. (I have read instructions that stated “try and relax your muscles” but this is a contradiction of terms, if you TRY to relax, you aren’t relaxing. Don’t try to relax, relax.)
2. Close your eyes. Breathe into and out of your tanden (belly).
3. Use a focus word, phrase, or prayer that has special meaning to you; one that is rooted in your belief system, or makes you feel peaceful. For example, the word "peace",“Om”, “shalom”, “Ram”, “Shiva”; the phrase "The Lord is my shepherd", "Hail Mary full of grace", or the prayer “Lord have mercy on my soul”, “Lord, Jesus Christ, have mercy on me”, “Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna, Krishna, Krishna, Hari, Hari”, “Shri Ram, Jai Ram, Jai Jai Ram.” I commonly utter the sounds “SU”, “Su A Wa” or “Rama”.
4. Breathe slowly and naturally. Inhale through your nose and pause for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth, again pausing for a few seconds. Quietly say your focus word, phrase, or prayer as you exhale. You may silently say your sound but it is more powerful if you can hear yourself utter your ‘prayer’.
5. Don't worry about how well you are doing and don't feel bad if thoughts or feelings intrude. Just say to yourself “and this too” and return to your repetition.
6. As the time ends, continue to be aware of your breathing but sit quietly. Becoming aware of where you are, slowly open your eyes and get up gradually.
This technique is usually practiced for ten to 20 minutes per day and at least three to four times a week.
If you must keep track of the time, try using an alarm or timer set on the lowest volume, so you don't have to keep looking at your watch or clock.