Ainslie Meares

Ainslie Meares

Infobox Person
name = Ainslie Meares

image_size =
caption =
birth_date = birth date|df=yes|1910|3|3
birth_place = Malvern, Victoria, Australia
death_date = death date and age|df=yes|1986|9|19|1910|3|3
death_place = Melbourne, Australia
occupation = psychiatrist; hypnotherapist; psychotherapist; advocate of meditation.
spouse = Bonnie, née Byrne (died 1979)
parents = Albert and Eva Meares
children = Russell, Garda, and Sylvia
Dr Ainslie Dixon Meares (3 March 1910-19 September 1986) was an Australian psychiatrist, scholar of hypnotism, psychotherapist, authority on stress, and a prolific author, who lived and practiced in Melbourne.


The son of Albert and Eva Meares, he was born in Malvern, Victoria on 3 March 1910. Both of his parents died when he was 16.

He married Bonnie Byrne on 18 June 1934. They had three children: Russell, Garda and Sylvia.


He was educated at Melbourne Grammar School, where he boxed and played tennis, and at the University of Melbourne.

He graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science (1934) and a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (1940) from the University of Melbourne, he gained the Diploma in Psychiatric Medicine (London) in 1947; and, on the basis of his presentation of a collection of seventeen published papers relating to medical hypnotism (with each paper being independent of the others), he was awarded the higher degree of Doctor of Medicine by the University of Melbourne in 1958.

He also served as a Captain in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps (1941-1945).

He was a Founding Fellow of the RANZCP ("Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists"), and, for a time, the president of the "International Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis".


He was an internationally recognised expert in the medical uses of hypnotism and wrote a textbook describing his approach.

Meditation research

He came to use meditation as a means of treatment of psychosomatic and psychoneurotic illnesses in the late 1960s.

Developing on his unrivalled expertise in medical hypnotism, he came to develop an interest in meditation as a treatment for the psychological component of their chronic organic pain. In time, he began research on the biological mechanisms of pain. Unconventionally for his field at the time, he visited India and Nepal in order to document the ways Eastern mystics or yogis influenced their perceptions through spiritual practices, particularly meditation.

In Kathmandu, Nepal he met Shiva Puri Baba, believed to be 134 years old. This man taught Meares a simple (i.e., non-complex) meditation technique that Meares applied in his approach to the treatment of pain, amongst other things, in cancer patients. [ in French]

In 1976 he reported in the "Medical Journal of Australia" about a regression of cancer he attributed to intensive meditation. It is highly significant that his system of meditation did not involve any sort of mental imagery (or "visualization") such as that demanded by other sorts of mind-based interventions such as that promoted in "Getting Well Again" (1978) by Simonton, Simonton, and Creighton. He reported a number of his cases in which his patients, having gone into full remission from his methods had decided, without consultation with him and without his approval, regressed to full-blown cancer consequent to using Simonton-type imagery (he reported also that, having resumed the exclusive application of his techniques, his patients once again went into full remission).

Meares, who was reluctant to lecture in public for various legitimate reasons, went on to write a number of popular books, including his best-seller "Relief without Drugs".


Meares' method included relaxation, emptying the mind and stillness. This approach to meditation reduced it to the most simple essence, which was termed both atavistic regression [The term atavism, derived from the Latin "atavus", a great-grandfather's grandfather and, thus, more generally, an ancestor, denotes the tendency to revert to ancestral type:: "The atavistic hypothesis requires… a regression from normal adult mental function at an intellectual, logical level, to an archaic level of mental function in which the process of suggestion determines the acceptance of ideas. This regression is considered to be the basic mechanism in the production of hypnosis" (Meares, 1960, p.59).] and mental ataraxis [The term ataraxy is derived from the Greek άταραξία ("ataraxia"), "impassiveness", and means "detached indifference" or "a freedom from disturbance of mind or passion".] by Meares; that is, in contrast with the far more conventional approaches to meditation involving mechanics such as watching objects, using mantras, reflecting on spiritual concepts or other thought frameworks involving willpower.

In essence the outstanding difference between Meares' approach and others was his stress on mental relaxation and mental stillness, rather than physical relaxation; and, one of the unusual features of his teaching process was that he often demanded that those learning his techniques would sit in very uncomfortable configurations and, at the same time he would usually have the windows of his Spring Street rooms open so that the noise of the busy city, and especially the sound of the trams passing to and fro, would emphasize that the student's goal was to gain an inner stillness despite the external tensions.

His method was radical in its non-aligned, non-religious, reductive approach. As well, it was clearly a pioneering drug-free alternative to health and as well as being non-chemical it was non-mechanical. For Meares, "The key to our management of stress lies in those moments when our brain runs quietly in a way that restores harmony of function..." ("Life Without Stress").

In "Life Without Stress", he describes it this way, "In the meditation that I would advise you to practise there is no striving, no activity of brain function, just quietness, a stillness of effortless tranquility." For him, brain function meant the brain was engaged even when using classical ways of attention to the breath, visualisation or counting.

The letting-go approach encourages achieving stillness by simply letting go thoughts when they arise. By inviting stillness, at first in fragments, stillness increases until it becomes a continuous flow. He stressed the importance of being uncritical of oneself, and of not assessing the process. Meares used the term "just being" rather than being about something or otherwise engaging the mind, "We are seeking a form of relaxation which arises in the brain itself..."

In an undramatic way, he encouraged the meditator to just let the mind be still for anything from a mere ten minutes a day. By allowing the mind to "rest" the meditation would affect the flow in other areas of the body, the mind and in functioning in the outer world.


Ian Gawler

One well-known patient was Australian decathlete and qualified veterinary surgeon Ian Gawler, whose search for a cure for his own bone cancer took him far and wide, including the Philippines.

Gawler, whose disease necessitated the amputation of his right leg, eventually gained remission from the cancer through hours of intensive meditation in sessions with Meares.

Gawler now lectures widely and heads The Gawler Foundation [] , offering lifestyle based educational self help programs for people affected specifically by cancer and by multiple sclerosis, as well lifestyle programs for the general public. All these programs feature meditation as a main component.

Gawler has written widely on meditation and describes his version as mindfulness-based stillness meditation. This is a combination of deep physical relaxation, mindfulness and the stillness based practices of Dr Meares. Gawler also teaches contemplation and imagery as adjuncts to Meares' main style of meditation. [Dr I. Gawler (personal communication, October 7, 2008)]

Pauline McKinnon

Pauline McKinnon, therapist, author of "In Stillness Conquer Fear", and initiator of the Life Development Centre in Melbourne with its emphasis on "stillness meditation" attributed to Dr Meares, to reduce anxiety and alleviate anxiety-related states. [ [ Life Development Centre - Pauline McKinnon - ] ]

McKinnon recovered from agoraphobia through her sessions with Meares before going on to become a therapist.


Meares died suddenly, of pneumonia, in a Melbourne hospital on 19 September 1986.

His wife Bonnie had predeceased him in 1979. He was survived by their three children, Russell Meares (also a psychiatrist), Garda Meares Langley, and Sylvia Meares Black.

Selected bibliography

* Meares, A., "A Dynamic Technique For The Induction Of Hypnosis", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.I, No.18, (30 April 1955), pp.644-646.
* Meares, A., "A Form of Intensive Meditation Associated with the Regression of Cancer", "The American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis", Vol.25, Nos.2/3, (October 1982/January 1983), pp.114–121.
* Meares, A., "A Note On Hypnosis and the Mono-Symptomatic Psychoneurotic", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", Vol.8, No.2, (Winter 1956/7), pp.2-4.
* Meares, A., "A Note on the Motivation for Hypnosis", "Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis", Vol.III, No.4, (October 1955), pp.222-228.
* Meares, A., "A Working Hypothesis as to the Nature of Hypnosis", "Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry", Vol.77, (May 1957), pp.549-555.
* Meares, A., "An Atavistic Theory of Hypnosis", pp.73-103 in Kline, M.V. (ed.), "The Nature of Hypnosis: Contemporary Theoretical Approaches, Transactions of the 1961 International Congress on Hypnosis", The Postgraduate Center for Psychotherapy and The Institute for Research in Hypnosis, (New York), 1962.
* Meares, A., "Anxiety and Hypnosis", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.1, (1966), No.10, (5 March 1966), pp.395-397.
* Meares, A., "Anxiety Reactions In Hypnosis", "British Medical Journal", Vol.I, (1955), (18 June 1955), p.1454.
* Meares, A., "Atavistic Regression As A Factor In The Remission Of Cancer", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2 (1977), No.4, (23 July 1977), pp.132-133.
* Meares, A., "Cancer, Psychosomatic Illness, and Hysteria", "Lancet", Vol.II (1981), No.8254, (7 November 1981), pp.1037-1038.
* Meares, A., "Defences Against Hypnosis", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", (Spring 1954), pp.1-6.
* Meares, A., "Group Relaxing Hypnosis", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2 (1971), No.13, (25 September 1971), pp.675-676.
* Meares, A., "History-taking and Physical Examination in Relation to Subsequent Hypnosis", "Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis", Vol.II, No.4, (October 1954), pp.291-295.
* Meares, A., "Hypnography — A Technique In Hypnoanalysis", "Journal of Mental Science", Vol.100, No.421, (October 1954), pp.965-974.
* Meares, A., "Hypnotherapy Without the Phenomena of Hypnosis", "International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis", Vol.XVI, No.4, (October 1968), pp.211-214.
* Meares, A., "Meditation: A Psychological Approach to Cancer Treatment", "The Practitioner", Vol.222, No.1327, (January 1979), pp.119–122.
* Meares, A., "Mind and cancer (Letter)", Lancet, Vol.I (1979), No.8123, (5 May 1979), p.978.
* Meares, A., "Non-Specific Suggestion", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", Vol.7, No.2, (1956).
* Meares, A., "Non-Verbal And Extra-Verbal Suggestion In The Induction Of Hypnosis. Part 1. Non-Verbal Suggestion", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", (Summer 1954), pp.1-4.
* Meares, A., "Non-Verbal And Extra-Verbal Suggestion In The Induction Of Hypnosis. Part 2. Extra-Verbal Suggestion", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", (Autumn 1954), pp.1-4.
* Meares, A., "On The Nature Of Suggestibility", "British Journal of Medical Hypnotism", (Summer 1956), pp.3-8.
* Meares, A., "Our attitude of mind in the psychological treatment of cancer", "Australian Nurses Journal", Vol.9, No.7, (February 1980), pp.29-30.
* Meares, A., "Psychological Control of Organically Determined Pain", "Annals of the Australian College of Dental Surgeons", Vol.1, (December 1967), pp.42-46.
* Meares, A., "Psychological mechanisms in the regression of cancer", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.1 (1983), No.12, (11 June 1983), pp.583-584.
* Meares, A., "Rapport With The Patient: Symbolic Significance Of The Doctor's Behaviour", "Lancet", Vol.II, (1954), No.6838, (18 September 1954), pp.592-594.
* Meares, A., "Recent Work In Hypnosis And Its Relation To General Psychiatry. Lecture I", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.I, No.1, (7 January 1956), pp.1-5.
* Meares, A., "Recent Work In Hypnosis And Its Relation To General Psychiatry. Lecture II", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.I, No.2, (14 January 1956), pp.37-40.
* Meares, A., "Regression Of Cancer After Intensive Meditation Followed By Death", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2 (1977), No.11, (10 September 1977), pp.374-375.
* Meares, A., "Regression of Cancer After Intensive Meditation", "The Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2, 1976, (31 July 1976), p.184.
* Meares, A., "Regression of Cancer of the Rectum After Intensive Meditation", "The Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2, 1979, (17 November 1979), pp.539–540.
* Meares, A., "Regression of Osteogenic Sarcoma Metastases Associated With Intensive Meditation", "The Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.2, 1978, (21 October 1978), p.433.
* Meares, A., "Regression of Recurrence of Carcinoma of the Breast at Mastectomy Site Associated with Intensive Meditation", "Australian Family Physician", Vol.10, No.3, (March 1981), pp.218-219.
* Meares, A., "Stress, meditation and the regression of cancer", "Practitioner", Vol.226, No.1371, (September 1982), pp.1607-1609.
* Meares, A., "Teaching the Patient Control of Organically Determined Pain", "Medical Journal of Australia", Vol.1 (1967), No.1, (7 January 1967), pp.11-12.
* Meares, A., "The Clinical Estimation of Suggestibility", "Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis", Vol.II, No.2, (April 1954), pp.106-108.
* Meares, A., "The Hysteroid Aspects Of Hypnosis", "American Journal of Psychiatry", Vol.112, No.11, (May 1956), pp.916-918.
* Meares, A., "The psychological treatment of cancer: The patient's confusion of the time for living with the time for dying", "Australian Family Physician", Vol.8, No.7, (July 1979), pp.801-805.
* Meares, A., "The Quality of Meditation Effective in the Regression of Cancer", "Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine", Vol.25, No.4, (1978), pp.129–132.
* Meares, A., "The relief of anxiety through relaxing meditation", "Australian Family Physician", Vol.5, No.7, (August 1976), pp.906-910.
* Meares, A., "Theories of Hypnosis", pp.390-405 in Schneck, J.M. (ed.), "Hypnosis in Modern Medicine (Third Edition)", Charles C. Thomas, (Springfield), 1963.
* Meares, A., "Vivid Visualization and Dim Visual Awareness in the Regression of Cancer in Meditation", "Journal of the American Society of Psychosomatic Dentistry and Medicine", Vol.25, No.3, (1978), pp.85–88.
* Meares, A., "What can the Cancer Patient Expect from Intensive Meditation?", "Australian Family Physician", Vol.9, No.5, (May 1980), pp.322-325.
* Meares, A., "A System of Medical Hypnosis, Julian Press", (New York), 1960.
* Meares, A., "A Way of Doctoring", Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1985.
* Meares, A., "Cancer: Another way?", Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1977.
* Meares, A., "Hypnography: A Study in the Therapeutic Use of Hypnotic Painting", Charles C. Thomas, (Springfield), 1957.
* Meares, A., "Relief Without Drugs: The Self-Management of Tension, Anxiety and Pain", Fontana, (Sydney), 1970.
* Meares, A., "The Door of Serenity: a Study in the Therapeutic use of Symbolic Painting", Faber & Faber, (London),1958.
* Meares, A., "The Wealth Within: Self-Help Through a System of Relaxing Meditation", Hill of Content, (Melbourne), 1978.

Other works

:*"The medical interview; a study of clinically significant interpersonal reactions" (1957):*"The Introvert" (1958):*"Shapes of sanity : a study in the therapeutic use of modelling in the waking and hypnotic state" (1960):*"The management of the anxious patient" (1963):*"Where magic lies" (1968):*"Strange places and simple truths" (1969):*"The Way Up: The Practical Psychology of Success" (1970):*"How to be a Boss: A Practicing Psychiatrist on the Managing of Men" (1971):*"Dialogue with youth" (1973):*"The New Woman" (1974):*"Why be old?: how to avoid the psychological reactions of ageing" (1975):*"From the Quiet Place: Mental Ataraxis: Thoughts on Meditation" (1976) :*"Marriage and Personality" (1977):*"The hidden powers of leadership" (1978):*"My Soul and I" (1982) :*"Life Without Stress: the Self Management of Stress" (1987):*"The Silver Years" (1988)

ee also

* Atavistic regression
* Health applications and clinical studies of meditation
* Mind-body intervention


* "Dr Ainslie Meares, Cancer Victim's Guru", "The Sydney Morning Herald", Monday 22 September 1986.
* Bower, H., "Obituary: Ainslie Dixon Meares", "Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry", Vol.21, No.2, (June 1987), pp.251-252.
* Simonton, O.C., Matthews-Simonton, S. & Creighton, J.L., "Getting Well Again: A Step-by-Step, Self-Help Guide to Overcoming Cancer for Patients and their Families", St. Martin's Press, (New York), 1978.
* [ in French]
* []

External links

* [ Meditation Blog: Ainslie Meares On Meditation] - includes excepts from "Life Without Stress"
* [ Factsheet - Meditation] - Excerpt from "Life Without Stress"
* [;cs=default;ts=default;pt=4345] - Description of the source material gathered for book on Ainslie Meares by Lily Brett (the book was never completed).
* [] - A photograph of Meares in his Spring Street consulting rooms, with St Patrick's Cathedral in the background.

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