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!