By Turid Suzanne Berg-Nielsen
Sitting down and meditating may seem very straightforward: simply close your eyes and repeat a meaningless sound in your head. A natural question is how this uncomplicated act can lead to both deep reduction of stress and psychological growth. The answer, unfortunately, is rather more complex. Briefly, when you meditate, you activate both an ability to act and a sensitive receptiveness along with freedom of thought. These mental activities are normally regarded as difficult to combine. This article describes how they co-exist during Acem Meditation.
When you Acem Meditate, you develop the ability to perform an act irrespective of what is going on inside you. Admittedly the act is simple: merely the free repetition of a sound in the mind. However, after only a few minutes’ meditation you may discover that your head is full of potential distractions which draw your thoughts away from the sound. Such is the nature of meditation. Sooner or later, however, you usually find your way back to the sound and recover the ability to do what you are supposed to do without too much effort.
This ability to maintain an action can be applied to many things in everyday life. Acem Meditation is not a matter of passively waiting for something to happen. In each repetition of the meditation sound you practise doing something smoothly and easily, even if it feels tedious or your thoughts are in turmoil. An effortless ability to act is slowly strengthened over time, and you develop the power of pursuing a particular course of action regardless of your feelings. The funny thing is that you can exercise this power without having to suppress other parts of your consciousness or personality.
So, even if Acem Meditation is easy to do, it is an advanced mental activity composed of many elements – and to a greater degree than many other forms of meditation. Acem Meditation involves and synchronizes completely different aspects of our psychologies and neurological functions.
Along with the ability to act, Acem meditators adopt a mental attitude of openness and receptiveness. You not only sit and do something in your mind; you let your awareness dwell on what you are doing – in other words, towards the sound that you are inwardly repeating.
Acem Meditation entails an opening towards what is on the inside of your skin and behind your mask, a kind of inner sensing. You listen to what your own act has created. You receive and become aware of signals from the inside, some of which may be so weak that in daily life you are hardly aware of them. This kind of openness can sensitize you to new nuances in your own action, in this case the repetition of the sound, so that you become attuned to subtle differences between intention and execution. You become more aware of factors influencing your ability to act, and equally importantly, the consequences of your own actions.
After a period of regular meditation this receptiveness will naturally tend to spread into daily life as well. It may show itself in increased sensitivity and an improved ability to become attuned to what is going on around you – qualities which are fundamental to being a good parent, partner or leader.
The ability to act and receptiveness are steered by consciousness and will, but in an effortless manner. However, consciousness and will are not supposed to interfere with another part of the mind which is very active in Acem Meditation: free thought.
Free thought consists of all your spontaneous thoughts, be they pleasures or sorrows, impressions from yesterday or last year, plans for tomorrow or the distant future – your entire inner life, whether chaotic or boring. All of this should remain untouched by conscious control during Acem Meditation. Here there is no censorship, no moral police. Behind your closed eyes is an inner space where no thought is stupid, no feeling is misplaced, no desire is forbidden. Nothing is right or wrong in the spontaneous activity during meditation. Like a little child, the mind is permitted to wander around, bounce restlessly from place to place, spin, swing high and low, or slip away to rest in quietness. Allow this child its freedom, however much you might like to keep it in one place or push it away. For a short half hour it is allowed to express itself – exactly as it wishes.
During Acem Meditation you create better conditions for free, spontaneous thought. Why? To discharge residues which may be gathering in the mind. And to release your hidden reserves of vitality and energy, warmth and playfulness, so that they become more accessible to the conscious mind.
We have seen that Acem Meditation involves an act, receptiveness and freedom of thought. Another way of looking at it is to see it as involving three selves: the acting self, the receptive self and the spontaneous self. Schematically this can be set out like this:
There are few other forms of meditation in which all three selves are present at the same time. Some forms emphasize the receptive self and subordinate the acting self: practitioners adopt a more passive position (for example, Zen-derivative techniques where you only observe the breathing). Concentration techniques, meanwhile, involve trying to exclude the spontaneous self, and these appear not to have the same relaxation effect as Acem Meditation.
EEG and fMRI studies show that completely different parts of the brain are coordinated and synchronized during Acem Meditation. Surely, then, Acem Meditation entails a difficult process of coordination, like juggling three balls in the air?
On the contrary: generally it goes by itself, almost like a game or a dance. Arms and legs need a bit of control, but apart from that it is largely a matter of giving yourself up to the music and becoming attuned to your partner’s movements.
Acem Meditation is not a stiff and angular tango, or a wild hip hop, but perhaps something more like a slow waltz, flowing across the dance floor. In one respect, however, the analogy is not quite accurate. Because Acem Meditation is actually not an old-fashioned dance for a couple, but a three-way dance, if such a thing exists. It is about three parts of your psychology trying to find the rhythm together for a little while. The active self leads the dance while the receptive self follows, capturing the active self’s rhythm and movements. The liberating and unconventional part of this dance is the third party, the spontaneous self. Like a small child it runs and jumps around, impulsive and emotional; vulnerable, joyful and demanding in equal parts. Pulling in different directions and tipping the acting self off balance, it can be a nuisance, but it is also energizing.
A psychologically mature personality needs all three selves: acting, receptive and spontaneous. Unfortunately in daily life these three selves are often oppositional. Spontaneity may have to yield when a certain action needs to be performed. Receptiveness and sensitivity to others sometimes disappear when you allow your own spontaneous impulses to take over. Or the opposite may be the case: when you attune yourself to another, your own expressiveness is restrained. In Acem Meditation, one self is not emphasized at the expense of the others. All three are simultaneously stimulated, cultivated and set free.