Book Reviews and Links Benson, M.D., Herbert, with Proctor, William, Beyond the Relaxation Response, 1984.

Back in the ‘70s, Benson used medical research to demonstrate the benefits of meditation to a cynical mainstream audience. He coined the term “relaxation response” to describe the condition induced by meditation techniques, including a lowered heart rate, decreased rate of breathing, lowered blood pressure and slower brain waves.

Benson was among the first to use Western scientific methods to show that regular meditation can counteract the harmful impact of stress. He demonstrated that you can improve your health and well-being by regularly following a four-step process:

  • Find a quiet environment;
  • Consciously relax your muscles;
  • Focus for 10 to 20 minutes on a mental device – something as simple is repeating the word, “one;” and,
  • Assume a passive attitude when thoughts intrude.
In minutes a day, Benson says, you can interrupt the cycle of anxiety and alleviate some of today’s most serious health problems. In my own early attempts at meditation, I was heartened by Benson’s finding that you can achieve measurable benefits from the relaxation response, even when it feels like nothing is happening.

Building on Benson’s earlier works, “Beyond the Relaxation Response” explains why even the simplest meditation techniques do work. It goes further, however, to say that a Relaxation Response technique will work better if you link it with your deeply fest personal system of belief. In other words, Benson now argues that repeating a neutral word like “one” is less effective than using a word or phrase that has meaning for you. If you are interested in meditation, but not quite convinced, Benson’s books will answer many of your questions, and this book is a good starting point.
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