Eliciting the Relaxation Response in Meditation

Elicitation of the Relaxation Response in meditation as taught by Dr. Herbert Benson is not difficult.

Meditating is one of several activities that produce the relaxation response, and meditating for 20-30 minutes a day, over time, can lead to a generalized feeling of relaxation in many areas of your life.

There are two essential steps to eliciting the Relaxation Response:

  1. Repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity.
     
  2. Passive disregard of everyday thoughts that inevitably come to mind and the return to your repetition.

Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches You The Relaxation Response Basics

The following is the generic technique taught at the Mind/Body Medical Institute:

  1. Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as “one”, “peace”, “AUM”, “The Lord is my shepherd”, “Hail Mary full of grace” or “shalom”.
     
  2. Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
     
  3. Close your eyes.
     
  4. Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
     
  5. Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
     
  6. Assume a passive attitude. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, “Oh well”, and gently return to your repetition.
     
  7. Continue for ten to 20 minutes.
     
  8. Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
     
  9. Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.
     

Regular elicitation of the Relaxation Response has been scientifically proven to be an effective treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. In fact, to the extent that any disease is caused or made worse by stress, the Relaxation Response can help.

The Relaxation Response can be brought forth through many techniques in addition to the method above, such as imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, repetitive prayer, meditation, repetitive physical exercises, and breath focus. Each person should choose a technique that conforms to his or her belief system.

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