Simon Bihagen on watercolors and meditation
He was only a teenager the first time he saw the watercolors of Swedish painter Lars Lerin. He felt like he’d had a revelation. The paintings spoke to him in a way he hadn’t been spoken to before. Then he learned Acem Meditation. Meditating with closed eyes twice a day also opened new vistas and a different kind of dialogue.
Simon Bihagen is now 25 years old, a social worker in his hometown Uppsala. When he learned to meditate five years ago, he imagined he would be able to get rid of all the thoughts that bothered him, the distractions that took his concentration away from his studies. Instead he learned to live with their presence, to reduce their stressful impact, and to move on to deeper issues in life.
“What now interests me most about Acem Meditation is the way it stimulates personal development. This was completely unexpected. I have become much more open, both inwards and towards other people. It helps me in my work. As a social worker, I often find myself in emotional situations with people whose lives aren’t easy. Their fates are often heartrending. I now find it easier to handle difficult situations without being carried away by all the negative emotions, but also to maintain my warmth and human interest and not become cold and closed. To me, stress reduction and personal development are two sides of the same coin.”
Simon is a moderator in Acem Uppsala. He helps to recruit other young people to beginner’s courses, and to arrange follow-up activities for those who have already learned to meditate. He has finished his studies and likes his job, but would also like to spend more time pursuing his art interest. He has studied a little art history, and ever since he discovered what watercolor can do, he has himself taken much pleasure in painting.
Strength and humor
“In a way, meditation resembles art. It speaks to me in a way nothing else really does. It touches a nerve. I love the meditative silence of a deepening retreat. But I also love the way we talk about meditation and life issues in the guidance groups and walk-and-talk sessions afterwards. Again it’s a different kind of dialogue, something I don’t often encounter in my daily life. I have been to Acem’s student retreats as well, and that was great fun, with lots of social activities. I know people who come back to the student retreats year after year. To me, however, the slower pace of a deepening retreat has even greater value.”
Despite the almost transparent fluidity of watercolor, Lars Lerin’s pictures have a forcefulness to them. And although Simon is a quiet young man, there’s a strength beneath his gentle appearance. And humor, as when an audience at one of the retreats asked him to speak more loudly. “I’ll try,” he said, “but after all I’m Swedish.”
Language editor: Ann Kunish