Dr. Are Holen on Acem Meditation retreats: Meet, Meditate and Discuss!

“Long meditations bring us closer to the universal and the timeless aspects of existence, shared by all mankind, beyond language, image or thought,” says Dr. Are Holen. Every summer, he directs weeklong international retreats of Acem Meditation.

Over the years, many people have benefited from Dr. Holen’s dialogues on meditation and existential questions. Summer retreats build on the experience that Acem has accumulated during almost 40 years. Participants are brought up to date with the latest developments in the psychology of Acem Meditation.

A retreat is an opportunity to meet Acem meditators from many countries and cultures. Some are beginners, while others have been meditating for many years through different stages of life.

“To meditate is profoundly enriching. When we solve a meditation dilemma, we expand our psychological freedom in everyday life,” says Dr. Holen.

Since the mid-1990s, many of the advances in Acem’s understanding of meditation have been introduced at deepening retreats with long meditations. Meditation teachers and instructors have used these opportunities to further explore the potentials of the technique, to the benefit of all meditators. A retreat provides an ideal setting for exchange, growth and learning.

Inspiration from abroad

Teaching Acem Meditation to people of different cultures, in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia, over the past 10-15 years, has given new insights into Acem Meditation. So has the fact that many Scandinavians have participated in Acem retreats in both India and Taiwan. These encounters have broadened the perspective and understanding of meditation.

A retreat will offer opportunities for cross-cultural encounters that may provide inspiration for one’s meditation and daily life. Cultural diversity makes the perception of our existence both richer and subtler.

Idealistic and personal

Dr. Are Holen has been a pivotal person in the development of Acem Meditation since he founded the organisation in 1966. By profession, he is a medical doctor and a psychologist. A specialist and consultant in psychiatry, he is particularly interested in group therapy and individual psychotherapy. He is internationally recognised for his research on stress and disasters, and he has lectured at numerous universities around the world. After the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, he was called to New York to assist with debriefing.

Today, Dr. Holen is the chairperson of the Department of Neuroscience, Faculty of Medicine, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He has been central in his university’s development of problem-based learning and in the establishment of behavioural medicine. He is a highly esteemed lecturer and teacher.

Dr. Holen’s persisting interest in meditation is both idealistic and personal. He has practised meditation on a daily basis ever since his high-school years, and instructed – either personally or through others – tens of thousands of individuals, in different countries and cultures. As a young man he also taught at the Acem School of Yoga, which he founded in the late 1960s.

“As a high-school student I was interested in yoga. I practised some exercises and was fascinated. As my interest grew, I came in contact with meditation, and my involvement has continued to this day.”

You were 20 years old when you founded Acem. Why did you to start a meditation organisation?

“To stimulate the growth process, we need to share experiences and reflections with others. Accordingly, I felt a need to give my interest in meditation an organisational expression. Acem was founded when I was a student at the University of Oslo.”

How does Acem Meditation work?

“The mental repetition of a sound activates psychological structures that influence our experience and behaviour. When we meditate in a technically correct way, we gradually begin to make ‘mistakes’. Distortions of our experience enter our meditation practice. We encounter inner paradoxes where we do not see our own contributions to the problems that we face – in our meditation and in everyday life. To advance further, we need to transcend some of our inner boundaries in the silence of our meditation practice. This is not an intellectual task, it can only be resolved by changes of the inner practice.”

Introspection and empathy

You have published a book and an audio CD called Inner Strength. What does this title connote to you?

“Meditation brings us beneath the surface. We get in contact with parts of ourselves that are easily overlooked. Exploring and reflecting on our lives gives inner strength. This makes it easier to understand feelings, contradictions and conflicts in self and others. The capacity for introspection is closely related to the capacity for empathy, and both profit from practising Acem Meditation.

“In the silence of meditation, we become aware of parts of ourselves that daily life may fail to address. Meditation improves our understanding of what we are and what our needs are. It also helps us to see more clearly how we can adjust our lives to make our existence more satisfying. Retreats offer opportunities for insights and reorientation.”

Acem International Newsletter No. 1 2003

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