In our last couple of +1s, we had fun looking at how to cut 15 minutes off the time it takes us to fall asleep by popping the magical meditation pill.
Let’s pull the meditation thread for a moment longer, shall we?
Today we’ll talk about Herbert Benson. He’s a researcher out of Harvard who has been studying the positive effects of meditation for decades.
Only, he’s a bit old-school so rather than call it “meditation” he refers to it as “eliciting the Relaxation Response.” (← Which is the name of one of his books; we have Notes on that one and his more recent book called The Relaxation Revolution.)
Here’s how he puts it: “From the collected writings of the East and West, we have devised a simplified method of eliciting the Relaxation Response and we will explain its use in your daily life. You will learn that evoking the Relaxation Response is extremely simple if you follow a very short set of instructions which incorporate four essential elements: (1) a quiet environment; (2) a mental device such as a word or phrase which should be repeated in a specific fashion over and over again; (3) the adoption of a passive attitude, which is perhaps the most important of the elements; and (4) a comfortable position. Your appropriate practice of these four elements for ten to twenty minutes once or twice daily should markedly enhance your well-being.”
So, here’s a quick recap of the four components to getting our “relaxation response” on:
1. Find a quiet place where we won’t be distracted.
Pretty straightforward but super important. Pro tip: I drop these earplugs in any time I want a little more quiet. And if I REALLY want to go dark on the audio side of things, I throw these bad boys on. Hah. Seriously. They work. Pure silence. (Very helpful when you work from the home office with a couple little ones around. :)
2. Pick a “mental device” such as a word or phrase that can be repeated again and again.
This is our “anchor.” Just as a sailor needs an anchor to throw overboard to make sure they don’t drift in the sea, WE need an anchor to make sure our minds don’t drift.
This can be a word or phrase or even an object we gaze at. The “mental device” simply anchors our mind. Pick one!
3. Adopt a passive attitude.
“Relaxed concentration” is what we’re looking for here. When your mind INEVITABLY slips you say, “Oh, well.” and simply bring it back. You do NOT get all up in your stuff and frustrated.
Another way to think about it that we talk about in Meditation 101 is to simply “brush your brain.” You don’t judge how well you’re brushing your teeth (at least I hope you don’t!). You just brush. Same with this. Just do it. Brush your brain.
4. Find a comfortable position.
Newsflash: You don’t need to be a levitating monk in lotus position to reap the rewards of inducing the relaxation response. Just sit in a comfortable position. If that’s in a chair, awesome. Keep your spine straight. If it’s in something like hero’s pose (what I do! I just use a simple bolster under my butt), awesome.
Pro tip: Sit with dignity. (<— That’s how Jon Kabat-Zinn describes it in Wherever You Go, There You Are.)
Rock it for 10-15-20-whatever minutes. Repeat daily.
That’s Today’s +1.
If you’re an experienced meditator, high fives and carry on!
If you’re just thinking about it, how about a minute Today? (And tomorrow. And…)