Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The "Relaxation Response"

Why is it that people in the medical profession need to create new jargon for perfectly acceptable techniques? I'm talking about Dr. Herbert Benson and what he calls "The Relaxation Response." Benson conducted a study showing that teaching his patients this technique resulted in decreased metabolism, rate of breathing, blood pressure, muscle tension and heart rate. It was effective in the treatment of a wide variety of disorders including hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, chronic pain, insomnia, mild to moderate depression, infertility, PMS, migraine and cluster headaches, even dealing with symptoms associated with cancer and AIDS.

What is this miraculous technique? Meditation. Mantra-based meditation to be specific. Benson teaches his patients to repeat any word, sound or phrase that has meaning for them. "Peace", "Om" or something longer like "The Lord is my shepherd." He tells them to passively disregard any intrusive thoughts that come to mind and return to the mantra instead.

That's it. Meditation. I remember when he announced this amazing new "Relaxation Response" technique. I was at a seminar on Spirituality and Health put on by Harvard University several years ago and he did a highly-touted presentation on his findings at that event. I remember wanting to shout from my seat "Where were all you people in the 60's and 70's when Transcendental Meditation was shown to have the exact same effect? Why the hell did it take a doctor giving it a socially-acceptable name to make it alright to come out of the closet and say 'yes' to something millions of people have trusted and used effectively for hundreds of years?"

I better go practice my "relaxation response." The inanity of this situation makes me want to gnash my teeth.

Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum, Om mani padme hum...

Ah.... much better.

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