- Sit in a comfortable position. Try to sit in the same place each day. Avoid positions that you might fall asleep in.
- The back is long and supports itself.
- Shoulders are relaxed downward, the neck is long, and the chin is pointing neither up nor down.
- The face is relaxed.
- Begin to breathe (preferably through the nostrils). Feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, and the slight movement in the collarbones and shoulders as the breath moves upward. Feel the exhalation.
- Focus on one aspect of the breath:
- The movement of air in and out of the nostrils
- Or the lifting and falling of the belly
- Watch that one aspect of the breath.
- When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath and the aspect you have chosen to watch.
- Do this as many times as you need to.
- There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. (Good and bad are judgments, events in the mind—just note them and go back to the breathing.)
- Start with 5–10 minutes and then increase the time until you can sit for 30 minutes.
The Relaxation Response
The Relaxation Response is a simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieving stress. Discovered by Dr. Benson at Harvard Medical School, it is routinely recommended to treat patients suffering from heart conditions, high blood pressure, chronic pain, insomnia, and many other physical ailments.
Some qualities of the Relaxation Response include:
- Decreased heart rate
- Decreased blood pressure
- Lower respiratory rate
- Lower pulse rate
- The Relaxation Response
- Decreased oxygen consumption
- Decreased muscle tension
- Reduction of cortisol
- Reduction of noradrenaline
Steps for the Relaxation Response:
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position.
- Close your eyes.
- Deeply relax all your muscles, beginning at your feet and progressing up to your face. Keep them relaxed.
- Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word, “one*”, silently to yourself.
- For example, breathe in ... out, “one”, breathe in ... out, “one”, etc.
- Breathe easily and naturally.
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
- You may open your eyes to check the time, but do not use an alarm.
- When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened.
- Do not stand up for a few minutes.
Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon
them and return to repeating “one.”
With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the Relaxation Response.
*Or any soothing, pleasant sound, preferably with no meaning or association, to avoid stimulation of unnecessary thoughts.