Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Meditation in schools


I think we can anticipate that there will be plenty of naysayers about this proposal to teach meditation to children in our schools. Even though daily meditation has been found by doctors and scientists to have a calming effect on the body and brain and a positive effect on the ability to think clearly, this idea may not be welcomed by all because it is called "Transcendental Meditation" (which might sound too scary, too foreign to the beliefs of religious mainstream Americans). There are still in our country those folks who fear anything "different" (i.e., than what they were taught by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. They call it "tradition"--but it could also be termed "a fear of growth" or of thinking for oneself). Yet these same people, without complaint, will allow modern medicine to drug their children on daily doses of Ritalin and other "behavioral modification" chemicals. We have come a long way in our understanding of the mind/body connection in regard to health, but perhaps not quite far enough for a proposal of meditation being taught in our schools to be wholeheartedly approved by the entire mainstream public. Let's hope that a small minority will not prevail over the intelligence of the majority.

One doctor who wrote a book (way back in 1975) about the practice of meditation and the positive effects it has had on lowering blood pressure (and other health problems) called it simply The Relaxation Response--a term that might be more acceptable to tradition-following parents. Instead of a foreign-sounding mantra like "Om" to focus the mind, the author suggested using the word "One." This book is by Dr. Herbert Benson, Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School and Chief of the Division of Behavioral Medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Mind/Body Medical Institute. Following is a review of that book, which became an all-time best-seller:

Amazon.com Review
When you look at the popularity of mind-body medicine today, it's hard to understand what a groundbreaking book this was when it was first published in 1975. Based on studies at Boston's Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Dr. Herbert Benson showed that relaxation techniques such as meditation have immense physical benefits, from lowered blood pressure to a reduction in heart disease. The Relaxation Response demystifies the mantra meditation used in the transcendental meditation program, explaining how anyone can reap its advantages. If you want to understand the beginnings of today's alternative medicine movement, or if you're simply looking to learn a simple meditation technique without a lot of metaphysical trappings, this is a good place to start.

Description of Book

When Dr. Herbert Benson introduced this simple, effective, mind/body approach to relieve stress in The Relaxation Response twenty-five years ago, the book became an instant national bestseller. Since that time, millions of people have learned the secret of the relaxation response--without high-priced lectures, drugs, or prescription medicine. The tremendous success of this approach has turned The Relaxation Response into the classic reference recommended by most health care professionals and authorities to treat the harmful effects of stress.

This revitalizing, therapeutic approach, discovered by Dr. Benson and his colleagues in the laboratories of Harvard Medical School and its teaching hospitals, is now routinely recommended to treat patients suffering from heart conditions, high blood pressure, chronic pain, insomnia, and many other physical ailments. Requiring only minutes to learn, and just ten to twenty minutes of practice twice a day, the Relaxation Response has proven to be one of the most effective ways to relieve the tensions of modern-day living for a richer, healthier, more productive life.