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4.3 out of 5 stars
4.3 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 19 January 2008
I read this little book nearly 30 years ago, and was mildly surprised to see that it was still in print (it popped up in my Amazon recommendation list).

I was even more surprised to see that one reviewer called it 'overblown guff' and gave it a one-star review. Way back in the 70's, this book had a profound effect on me, and vastly changed my life for the better - in ways that still continue.

Anyway, the one-star review prompted me to buy it again and reread it, just to see if it was so hopelessly outdated as to deserve the bad review.

Having read it again, I'm left with the feeling that it's a true classic - and like most classics, that means that while it has a continuing relevance, it is also 'of its time,' and CAN feel somewhat dated.

This is an 'updated' version, though the main change seems to be a new 45-page introduction. I found this interesting as a commentary on the book's history, but have to admit that I found the overall tone a bit off-putting (for my taste it was a tad too self-congratulatory and smug).

After the introduction, the book seems to be pretty much as I remember it, and I think I can see why the other reviewer didn't like it. Much of the content now seems totally self-evident to us: Stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes; Our state of mind can have a profound effect on our body and our health. It almost seems too obvious to need saying.

But the thing is, when the book was first published, this was revolutionary stuff. This book was a crucial part of the paradigm shift that took us to our present position, where meditation is no longer seen as the preserve of weirdos and oriental monks.

So why is the book still relevant? Well, this handy little volume still gives, in my opinion, one of the easiest forms of meditation you'll find anywhere, offering the benefits of Transcendental Meditation without costing you the megabucks that the TM movement would charge you. And the scientific data is still relevant for anyone who's interested in the physiological effects of meditation.

In conclusion, yes, in the twenty-first century some aspects of the book will seem too obvious to need saying - but that's largely because this very same book first said them thirty-odd years ago! It's still worthwhile reading for anyone who's interested in meditation or the mind-body connection.
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on 18 August 2008
"A Customer" was clearly expecting a step-by-step self-help book, which is exactly what this book isn't.

While it does offer instruction in bringing about the relaxation response through meditation, there is also much supporting medical evidence, and examples of the approaches taken by practitioners of different religions through time. The idea is, of course, that you can take or leave whichever bits appeal to you, and it's emphasised repeatedly that meditation needn't be a faith-related activity and can be undertaken by those who are entirely godless (my words, not the author's!)

Overblown guff? Not at all. Stating the obvious? Up to a point. But it's so much easier to accept the necessity or usefulness of doing something obvious if it's backed up by some well-reasoned argument.

This book will take just a few hours to read unless you're a really slow reader, and if, like me, you've suffered from chronic depression I'd certainly recommend it - but as a complement to drugs rather than an alternative.

I've given it five stars for its potential beneficial effects; if I were to be hyper-critical, I don't much like the prose style, but it's easy enough to read. And in any case, it scarcely matters that the book isn't great literature.
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on 14 January 2014
I bought this book a while ago, a 2nd hand copy from 1975. It's not as flowery & friendly as modern 'self-help' books but i prefer it that way. It's not really a self-help book, more a factual book about meditation. It gives really interesting background gobbets of information - quotes & anecdotes about meditation from well-known historical sources. It explains how Transcendental Meditation uses a similar method - a method that has been used for centuries. Like others have said - considering the cost of TM courses - this book is worth a try. Chapter 7 alone is worth the money because it just gets to the point - it's all you need.
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on 6 January 2008
The book claims to teach an alternative to the TM technique that is just as effective. As TM costs a fortune to learn and this book costs just a few quid, well worth the cost of the book.
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on 29 July 2014
This book is interesting as an insight into what was considered revolutionary in 1975 (ie. the health benefits of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system). It is however somewhat dated, as science and common understanding on this subject has since moved on. For example, the book analyses the link between stress and high blood pressure, but it doesn't mention the other ways in which the nervous system, the circulatory system and the respiratory system inter-relate. There are even a few claims which have more recently been disproved (such as the part discussing cholesterol and diet).

There is much more to the book than plain science, however. For example, Chapter 4 lists various 1970s "alternatives" to meditation devised by contemporary physicians and neurologists. And Chapter 5 provides a background to the subject of meditation in a historical, religious and geographical context.

I especially enjoyed reading the "Forward" (later written in 2000) where Bensen discusses his career and personal experiences from the 1960s onwards, including the initial resistance he faced from contemporary academics who were reluctant to find links between physical health and relaxation/meditation.
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on 4 May 2015
This book was recommended to me by my shrink ( in actual fact I was given some photocopied sheets of relaxation exercises by her which mentioned the book , hence I purchased off amazon

Flicking though it looked such a good book that I gave my copy to my brother who has a very stressful job in a hospital and ordered another copy for myself .....
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on 7 May 2015
So many 'bells and whistles' have been added to the fundamentally basic practices of relaxation and meditation over the years that it's extremely refreshing to read the first forays into this field without what some may call the 'mumbo jumbo' that has developed as a culture around the topic.

By approaching the topic from an academic point of view, one of the (I believe unintended) consequences has been to lay bare just how simple relaxation and meditation is, by stripping away the extraneous and leaving behind an entirely generic 'method' to meditate. No Eastern religious/mystic nor Western hippie/new age lenses required.

It shows its age when it comes to correlate some of its hypotheses with medical science at the time. Crucially, this doesn't detract from the message, it just needs an update on some of the biological and medical presumptions. Wasn't a big deal for me.

I've bought this book at least ten times for other folk to read with the message "chill out :) here's a present - a clear no-nonsense, scientific and very simple guide to de-stressing and none of you may be put off by (mumbo-jumbo) "
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on 21 February 2013
It is important to make time to sit down and give yourself a couple of hours to get into this book. a bit difficult if you just pick it up and try to red bits at a time! once you get the swing of the ideas it is well worth it. try and get his video on line too
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on 15 July 2015
This book is brilliant, already using the Relaxation Response and it working brilliantly. Buy this book if you want something that actually works, is easy to learn and can be done anywhere.
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on 10 June 2000
This is a book which I personally bought in it's original hardback form around about 1975 and it is amazing to see that this book and it's 'teachings' have stood the test of time, and even today in this the new millennium, we can still find a book which is capable of explaining more about a simple yet powerful technique than all of the electronic multimedia devices ever could. It's a tribute to Herbert Benson himself, but it's also a work of great significance and when I read it way back all those years ago, somehow I just knew that it was destined for greatness and would be around for a very long time to come. I am glad to see that I was not wrong! This book is a necessity in this day and age probably even more so than it was in the mid-seventies of the last century as it shows you just how it is that you can come to a state of true relaxation and explains the effects of medititation on the mind and body, the benefits of which are worth more than anything I can think of in this hectic, fast-paced world in which we live. Never mind the date of the first edition, just buy this book and I can tell you right now that it will be the most worthwhile investment you will ever make in your entire life. You're life and your world will be so much better for having read it! Believe it, it's all true! George Blades.
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