Bormann ’76 Earns Three Major Research Awards

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Jill Bormann '76August 18, 2011

Jill Bormann, Augustana class of 1976, has spent the last eleven years conducting research on “Mantram Repetition” at the San Diego VA in San Diego, Calif. In her role as a research nurse scientist, Bormann recently received three major awards for research projects, and she will serve as the Principal Investigator for all three projects.

The three awards include:

  • A $125,000 from the VA's Office of Patient Center Care Models of Innovation Award to conduct a series of webinar trainings on "Mantram Repetition as a StressBuster" for VA employees to be followed up by a 2-day Mantram Facilitator Training in September (to be completed in 2012).
  • A $544,000 demonstration project for the "Dissemination of Mantram Repetition to Veterans with PTSD" which will be a 2-site comparison of the Mantram program to the standard "PTSD Educational Groups" at Loma Linda and San Diego, CA. We will also measure heart rate variability as a physiological marker.
  • The most prestigious award was being selected as 1 of the top 3 research proposals to receive 1 million dollars to conduct a rigorous randomized controlled trial on Mantram Repetition compared to a Present Centered Therapy control group at 2 sites (San Diego and Bedford, MA) in Veterans with PTSD on symptoms of PTSD, insomia and depression.

All these funds are from the VA because of an unprecedented interest in meditation.

Bormann describes “Mantram Repetition” in her own words:

“Now, for those of you wondering why this is called "Mantram" and not "Mantra" repetition, I'll explain briefly. The Sanskrit word "mantra" refers to a powerful word or phrase, often in the form of a Holy Name, that is repeated to calm the mind and spirit. For Christians, some examples include, "Jesus," "Lord Jesus" or "Hail Mary" or "My God and My All" (which was from St. Francis of Assissi). From other spiritual traditions, "Rama" (joy within) or "Shanti" or "Shalom" (meaning peace), "Om Mane Padme Hum"--Buddhist for lotus of the heart, etc. This practice of repeating such words or phrases has been found in nearly all cultures and traditions for millions of years because these words have an "effect" on the person who says them.

The term mantra in today's world, however, has become "secularized" to mean ANYTHING that one repeats....and not a "spiritual" word, per se. You will see and hear that term being used indiscriminately in the media. A spiritual teacher named Eknath Easwaran who died in 1999 developed an 8 point program for spiritual living and out of that program, he used the term "MantraM" (which actually distinguishes his work from the mid-60's popular Transcendental Meditation-TM). All of my research uses his books, teaching and guidelines.

Through my own clinical nursing experience, I learned firsthand that when people are sick, they want relief from suffering. Although types of sitting meditation offer great health benefits, many people are unable or just not willing to set aside 20 or 30 minutes per day to meditate. Mantram Repetition, however, is something they can do literally "on the run" as it does not require eyes closed, any particular position, nor any particular time or place. Thus, it has been coined a "portable stress buster!" The research questions is whether or not this type of practice can reap some of the same benefits of other treatments.

In our modern age of technology and use of so-called "time saving" devices, we are bombarded with information overload and interruptions. Repeating a mantram serves as a "pause button for the mind" or a brief respite from the demands of the day. It serves to bring us immediately into the present moment for a rest. My favorite analogy for Mantram Repetition is a "Screen Saver for the Mind" that when we are not thinking, planning, problem solving, worrying, or engaged in some other mental activity, we can "default," so to speak, to repeating our mantrams. (Everyone selects their own).

The practice itself, is very simple, but often not "easy," as it does take some effort, concentration and practice to develop it as a habit. We recommend repeating a mantram every night as you fall asleep to develop a "mind-body" relaxation response. We recommend repeating it during waiting periods (waiting in traffic, for the elevator, in line at a grocery store, etc.) It serves as a way of connecting to God (or Higher Power or whatever you believe) during the day or night.”