Elsa Roussel, 29, an immunologist-in-training based in Zurich, joined an Acem Meditation course in 2017 and has since been exploring various levels of self-awareness in her personal relationships and interactions.

More daring

“I have learned how to set boundaries, be more balanced between what I feel and how to act on my feelings, making me better at decision making. I’m also more daring and less ashamed to express my thoughts at work,” she says. “I ask questions, trust my instincts more and I feel anchored in my inner self,” she adds.

She explains how long meditations at deepening retreats often brought her to uncomfortable places in her mind but helped her evolve a freer mental attitude. “There is more psychological resistance during deepening retreats but it brings you to deeper topics when you overcome this resistance,” Elsa says. “I also find it fascinating to experience that it is beneficial to talk about the uncomfortable feelings and emotions we face,” she adds on discussions in the guidance groups at meditation retreats. “It’s such a privilege and a relief in a way because we usually don’t have access to the psychological residues that can cause so much stress in our daily lives,” she says.

The result? Meditation helps Elsa be more open to tasks she might find unpleasant, challenging, or tedious at work or in interpersonal communications.

Easier to refocus attention

Talking further on sharing the subjective experiences of meditation in the objective but empathetic environment of a group discussion at the deepening retreats, Elsa says: “As a scientist, I understand the need for science to be objective. But if we don’t integrate subjectivity, we could lose out on ideas. Meditation has given me ideas of how to explore and investigate differently. It has expanded my creativity.” Elsa is currently studying the role of immune cells in the placental maternal-fetal interface and during lactation for a Ph.D. in immunology.

Elsa, who often spends long hours in the laboratory, finds that by meditating she not only copes better with the stress of work but also improves her focus. “The Acem techniques have made it easier for me to refocus my attention when needed,” says Elsa.

She attended the Young Retreat in 2018 and 2019 and two deepening retreats thereafter. “I like to attend deepening retreats because I get more time to sleep and meditate and therefore, I get to be more in contact with deeper life themes than during the regular retreats. Things get clearer in my mind afterward. For example, I can recognize my metathoughts and how they influence my perspective and my behavior, says Elsa.

Elsa’s older sister also learned to meditate the Acem way. “Acem has helped us communicate better with each other, helping us get past our individual defense mechanisms,” she says.

Interview by Nivedita Prahbu