Book Recommendation: “The Relaxation Response” — very Zen

16 May

I just love it when I read a book and it just ties back to something within my very core that I’ve always known to be true but then someone goes a does a bunch of research with monkeys and human test subjects to give that eternal truth scientific backing.
“The Relaxation Response,” written by Herbert Benson, M.D. and first printed way back in the ’70s and then updated and printed again and again does just that, back eternal truths. Benson, a cardiologist originally was just looking into various avenues of helping his patients recover and prevent further heart problems. He was finding all kinds of problems with the side effects of the blood pressure medication he was prescribing his patients and eventually stumbled upon meditation as a treatment for lowering blood pressure and preventing hypertension and other diseases. He talks about how they trained monkeys to control their blood pressure by turning on colored lights they’d been conditioned to react to. They continued their study with human subjects having them regularly practice meditation and relaxation practices and found after several weeks they all had a significant drop in blood pressure.
He sugests practicing meditation once or twice a day but not after eating a large meal, during meditation his subjects repeated the word, “one,” to drown out internal dialoge help them relax. Another technique for meditation is to chose a prayer from your religious practice to utter and drown out other thoughts. A quiet place is generally the best place to practice meditation but he says some prefer to do it on subways or trains as well, obviously the chanting would be internal in these situations.
I am a religious person and have always thought it was important to pray and meditate because it makes me feel better, calmer. After reading this book I had the thought that they commandment that God gave to pray always wasn’t really for his benefit, it’s not like he doesn’t already know what we need or want. I think perhaps he gave it to us, to help us feel better and prevent high blood pressure and eventually heart attacks. Interesting.
I found my copy of this book on Amazon, used for super cheap but I am sure they must have a version down at the local library since it’s been around long enough.

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