Monday, October 3, 2011

"Relax" or "Reflect" - both are good

About 1980 or so, I learned that some professors on campus were teaching classes in relaxation.  I thought to myself: "What are they going to do?  Sit round and relax?  Ha, ha, ha!".  Well, odd as it may seem: YES, EXactly!!!  Then, I read "Superlearning", about the physical improvement in muscle performance when opposing muscles are more relaxed and the mental improvement when the mind is not stressed nor the memory.  I read books like The Inner Game of Tennis and The Relaxation Response.  

Recently, I learned of the books The Relaxation Revolution and The Mindfulness Revolution.  Just two days ago, I learned about MindUp, the program created and sponsored by the Hawn Foundation and the book "10 Mindful Minutes" by the sponsor of the Hawn Foundation, the well-known actress Goldie Hawn.  Since the 1970's, and the Beatles who used some of the techniques now emerging in virtually every field, there has been a steady increase in the pile of evidence that emotional, mental, physical and social aspects of our lives are improved by steady practice of a very simple, quick and inexpensive exercise.

One of the main obstacles to more people realizing and making use of the exercise is its history.  Another is the usual language to describe the exercise.  In the last couple of days, I have been thrilled to learn about the Hawn efforts.  One aspect of them is a talk given at the TED-Med Conference of 2009 by Goldie Hawn and the psychiatrist Dr. Daniel J. Seigel.  Seigel is one of my current big three of Kornfield, Kabat-Zinn and Seigel, authors that help me learn more in this area.  [My big three keeps threatening to become the big 30 or 300 as I find more and more excellent related materials.]  The link in this paragraph goes to their 20 min. talk, which is totally worth watching.  

Siegel is the most pediatric and school-oriented of the authors I have been reading.  He realizes some of the thought and language obstacles to opening this tool to others.  He uses the word "reflect" in counseling and writing sense, as in "reflecting" on one's past, hopes or behavior.  More than 30 years ago, as the Harvard medical professor Herbert Benson grasped the value, wholesomeness and speed of this exercise, he chose the word "relaxation" for it and used it in subsequent writing. 

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