Herbert Benson, who wrote The Relaxation Response and Maximum Mind, discovered that measurable physical benefits accrue from practicing any form of meditation which depends on the silent repetition of a mantra - a word-sound. This can be done by repeating any word over and over while the eyes are closed and the body is in a quiet state.
Meditation using a mantra has a long tradition. Some mantras are said to be sacred words that have particular sound vibrations which transmit particular powers. Each tradition has its own mantras such as Guru Om, Om mani padme hum, La ilaha illa 'lla or, in the Catholic religion, Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Whether their magic aspects are true or not, the technique works beautifully to replace the habitual chatter that runs through one's mind, worries about things past and things yet to come.
Benson suggests you find a word that is pleasing to you. It could be anything, say, `flower', `peace', or `love'. He likes the word `one' as it is simple and has the connotation of unity about it. Here's how.
- Find a quiet place where you won't be disturbed for fifteen to twenty minutes and a comfortable chair that supports your back.
- Sit down and close your eyes. Give yourself a moment to settle in and you are ready to begin.
- Simply sit there, feet on the floor and eyes closed, quietly repeating your word over and over to yourself: `one...one...one...'
- Whenever your mind wanders or you are disturbed by a sound or thought, simply turn your mind gently back to repeating the word again.
- That is all there is to it. After fifteen to twenty minutes, stop repeating the mantra and get ready to open your eyes.
- Open your eyes, stretch, and go about your everyday activities. This is a particularly useful technique once you have practiced it a few times because you can do it in so many different places, such as in a waiting room or on a commuter train or bus.