Some Precautions for the Relaxation Response
As briefly covered in the Traditions section, the experience of the Relaxation Response has a tremendously long history. There are many stories from the various traditions about how our minds might be affected from these experiences. Although the majority of experiences are positive, sometimes experiences from these traditions may be difficult from a mental or emotional standpoint. These experiences are often acceptable in these traditions in order to achieve some higher goal that the tradition holds as important. Or the tradition may have advice about how to avoid these difficulties.
An example of how a tradition may have advice about how to avoid difficulties can be found in this presentation to the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists. In this video, he suggests that a meditator who experiences difficulties may need to be more immersed in the study of the different texts surrounding Buddhism. The presentation in this video was given by Dr. Willoughby Britton. She has gone on to found the Cheetah House to help support those who may find challenges in their meditation experience. The Cheetah House is one of the best resources for those who want more information about possible negative experiences.
The records of difficult experiences from the traditions might be a concern for those practicing a technique for the Relaxation Response. However, many of the validated benefits of the Relaxation Response have been found to be of a mental or emotional nature, including lessening of anxiety, depression, and phobias. Overall then, experiencing the Relaxation Response should have positive benefits both in our body and our mind.
It also appears that the difficult experiences during meditation have arisen during retreats and long periods of meditation. If someone is interested mostly in the health benefits to their body and mind, then this is a reason to keep to the recommended times of the open techniques. This means limiting the times to only 15 to 30 minutes per session and to limit the sessions to a maximum of twice a day.
If someone is interested in pursuing longer times of experiencing the Relaxation Response, then it would seem prudent to be more grounded in the traditions of their belief system or be more knowledgeable about the science of the Relaxation Response. In this way, if questions or challenges come up they should be better prepared to be able to resolve them in a satisfactory manner.