Don’t just “be” something!

dance or fightI recently read an interview with Jon Kabat-Zinn about mindfulness meditation. One of his main points was that we are too concerned with doing, instead of just “being”.

Sit there!
It all sounds very well, and quite poetic, and it’s easy to see that modern hectic life-styles have too strong a focus on what you do and achieve, and that something is lost along the way. A similar feeling has been conveyed by Buddhist teachers advocating seated meditation through the humorous twist on an old phrase: “Don’t just do something! Sit there!”

Beyond the clichés
This easily leaves the impression, however, that meditation is not about doing, just about “being”. This fits well with a view of meditation as a specific state, perhaps a state of “just being” where you’re “totally present in the here and now”, as some of the clichés go. For sure, meditation may lead to states of intense presence or contentedness, but it also includes phases of restlessness and boredom, or even pain and sadness.

The important thing is how it transforms your way of relating to yourself and the world around you. Such transformations, I’m afraid, are not achieved by trying to achieve specific mental states, but by changing your mental behaviour.

Adjusting the way you act
There are two aspects of this. Common to both mindfulness and Acem Meditation is the challenge of making your attention become more inclusive and less rigid. This is probably what Kabat-Zinn refers to as “being” or being “present” (though of course using your attention is also a kind of behaviour). In addition, Acem Meditation emphasises adjusting the way you act, so that your actions don’t come in the way of your mindful presence, the way they easily do when you’re stressed, nervous, angry or even euphoric. This kind of adjustment happens through long-term psychological processes that bring unconscious material to the surface, so that its negative influence on your behaviour is reduced.

So don’t just “be” something! “Do” something too!

7 Comments

  1. Karan Sewani

    very enjoyable article! specially the part “Acem Meditation emphasises adjusting the way you act, so that your actions don’t come in the way of your mindful presence, the way they easily do when you’re stressed, nervous, angry or even euphoric.”
    There’s one quote by anonymous “A man can rest only by taking one task after another.” so Acem Meditation being process oriented gives us the opportunity of doing this in terms of volitional and spontaneous activities but of course effortlessly.

  2. Per S.P.

    This snippet is the single piece of writing which best outlines the simularities and differences between “the mindfullness movement” and Acem Meditation, in my opinion.
    Will be distributed to friends of mine who are psychologists/students of psychology who have been introduced to Mindfullness through their studies or practice.
    Thanks!

  3. Halvor

    Thanks to both of you for supportive comments!

  4. Josefina

    Inteligent & insightful article!
    My feeling is that it reflects quite well the innovative and gently transgressive side of Acem vision.

  5. JMA

    What great tips on how to meditate. I often find that people graze on a topic and then quickly move on. Your information is well defined and deliver plenty of useful. A truly remarkable read!

  6. Jens K

    Thanks for your eloquently put insights, Halvor!

    I’m nevertheless a bit sceptical about your last point: “This kind of adjustment happens through long-term psychological processes that bring unconscious material to the surface, so that its negative influence on your behaviour is reduced”.

    Sure, from a phenomenological viewpoint it seems plausible, but other than that, how can you know that this is a valid explanation of how meditation works? Please enlighten me! 🙂

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