By Elisabeth Heimdal Wærsted
What will Acem look like in 50 years, on its 100-year anniversary? The year will be 2066. Just saying that number feels abstract, futuristic, and far far away. It raises another question: what will the world look like in 2066?
A historical perspective
My maternal grandfather was born in 1913. He bought and owned a car, but neither he nor my grandmother ever learned to drive it, and instead had their children drive them around occasionally. My own daughter might never have to learn how to drive a car, if self-driving cars replace the cars we have today. How such a change would impact our lives is impossible to say, and we can only rely on our imaginations. In 2066, or even sooner, we might be able to meditate in our cars on our way to and from work, or use a long drive to do a long meditation, if cars become comfortable enough. Or we might be able to hold a virtual meditation retreat where we don’t need to travel in order to meet. Further research might have made meditation even more mainstream than today – some workplaces might prefer to hire people who meditate.
A timeless technique
Faced with these unknown changes, I find comfort in thinking that our meditation technique is timeless. No matter how connected our world becomes, no person or thing can meditate for you. You have to do it yourself. Your meditation app may help you to find the motivation to do it, or make it possible to brag to other meditators about how often and much you meditate, but you have to sit down, close your eyes, and repeat the sound softly.
Technology is one thing, society at large is another. Personally, I feel it is even harder to imagine what the geopolitical world will look like in 2066, maybe because it is hard to zoom out from society’s continuous absorption with the latest breaking news. Will Europe become more divided? How will the refugee crisis be handled? What about climate change? These issues are complex and require a thorough, nuanced approach. Unfortunately, today, spreading misinformation is just as easy as – or maybe even easier than – spreading facts and trustworthy information. As a result, society could become even more polarized and more driven by fear and ignorance than it is today.
A technique fit for the future
What can Acem’s voice be in all of this? The meditative experience and the free mental attitude make it possible to transcend borders, as it paves the way for a more open, curious, and grounded mindset. Instead of approaching the world as warriors where we only defend our ideas and attack others, we can become scouts, less invested in being right, and more willing to adjust our opinions in order to make the right decisions. This does not mean that we are naïve, and we can fight when needed, but it does provide opportunities for questioning attitudes and habits that have their origin in culture and habit.
Our meditation technique is universal, independent of culture, religion, and political beliefs. However, while the technique is the same in all countries, the issues brought to the surface by meditation are influenced by our national and personal histories. In Germany, for instance, the war is a topic that transcends generations. How we recruit and teach is also culturally influenced. So even though Acem is an international organization with strong Scandinavian roots, it is at the same time highly local, embedded in communities of meditators, moderators, instructors, and initiators in more than 12 countries. This means that we both need to adapt to the local culture and to follow common paths.
Acem’s meditation technique is timeless and universal, and it gives modern people a real, much-needed break in everyday life. I believe it to be fit for the future.
Preparing for the next 50 years
As an organization, I believe we have prepared for the future, but like the rest of the Western world we are faced with a demographic challenge. The baby boomers are retiring, we enjoy a greater life expectancy, and we will have to work longer. We will have to do more with less, at least in terms of human resources.
Acem is built on voluntary work. An event like the World Retreat showed Acem as a well-oiled and fueled car. But if you look closer, it is a vintage car, even though quality-wise it is a Rolls Royce. Who will drive it in the future? Who will change the oil, polish it, and change the tires when winter comes? Acem is not and will never become a self-driving car.
I said earlier that no one can meditate for you. Similarly, in a certain sense, no one can make Acem live on for you. So ask not only what Acem can do for you, but what you can do for Acem. Acem’s vision is to bring people in contact with the potential for relaxation, recovery, and growth that resides within them. If you think this vision is worth spreading, you might think about what you can do that will make it possible to celebrate Acem’s 100-year anniversary in 2066. No task is too small. Recommend Acem to a colleague, friend, or family member. Initiate a dialogue about a meditation seminar at your workplace, bring a cake to the next long meditation, or become a volunteer. The future begins now, and it continues in the years ahead.
At this year’s graduation at the Swedish School of Textiles, the professor in fashion design said to his newly graduated students: “What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.” Fashion design seems far from meditation, but his words are good advice for Acem as well. We have spent 50 years developing and refining a meditation technique. This makes us strong, but with limited resources, we are also fragile.
Could the students who founded Acem in 1966, and all those involved in the organization in those early years, have imagined what Acem would be like at its 50th anniversary? We cannot know what the future will bring, but we have to create anyway.