“Meditate with a free mental attitude.” “Repeat the meditation sound with as little effort as possible.” “Go back to the sound as gently as you can at the time.” – You knew, that this is what the basic instruction for Acem Meditation says. And in the past it agreed with you. But not today, perhaps not for the past week, not the past month. Perhaps it never did, but you didn’t know.
And there you sit, wanting to meditate, but the thought alone of repeating your meditation sound gently makes you angry. You feel it in your stomach, you feel it in your fists. You want to shout: “I’m not gonna be nice and repeat gently. I’m not gonna force myself to. I’m not gonna give in. I won’t sit still. I will not endure, not anymore.”And how wonderful it is. To be angry, to take the space that is yours to take, to draw a line, to say “no more”. To see that you don’t have to do anything. That you are free to choose. And so you breathe the breath of relief, take the pause of feeling yourself and your freedom, and rejoice in it, fully. A part of yours has woken up, knocked at your door until you opened it. How little you knew about this friend before you allowed him in. He had been locked away for such a long time.
You still want to meditate. You want to, but your new friend is clear that it will not be the way it used to be. The terms will have to be renegotiated. No action without including him too.
Is that possible?
You start to re-evaluate the “free” in “free mental attitude”. Isn’t a free mental attitude the opposite of anger in meditation? How can meditation be good for you and have beneficial effects when you sit there angry? That is almost unimaginable to you. Allowing anger to take so much space seems a bad idea. Or will meditation simply suppress this anger, pacify you into being a pleasing sheep, and put you back in the square where you started? Your new friend roars in agony and you value him and yourself too much to let that happen. Both scenarios look gloomy to you, but you have faith and meditation experience. Both tell you that in meditation you can – through doing – find solutions to your meditation problems where your intellect sees no way.
And you sit down, as you are used to. You close your eyes knowing that you want to let everything in you have the space to manifest and express itself. And you feel the anger growing, the meditation sound becoming louder and louder. You don’t intervene, not this time. No making nice, no softening of the repetition of the sound, no making gentle. You let be what is. At some point you realize that you are screaming your meditation sound inside. You’re mentally stomping. It is the opposite of what you knew to be a good meditation, yet you feel that censoring any of it now is not an option if you want your meditation to remain open for all parts of you. And so your “crazy” meditation goes on, and so does your anger and its expression of it in you. And you allow it because you couldn’t do it differently whilst giving freedom to your new friend. You are confused, it is not the kind of meditation you know, but you allow it to happen nevertheless.
Towards the end of your meditation you feel mentally exhausted. It is almost like you had jumped around the room for real. Although you feel exhausted, you also feel strengthened. Not a big change, rather a very subtle shift. Your friend is still new, but he also feels like he was always meant to belong in you. It is a step on a path home for him and for you to become more whole. It marks growth in your understanding of what it means to meditate with a free mental attitude, and also what it doesn’t mean.
It serves as a reminder for you to continue to question your understanding of the “free mental attitude”. You note down questions to help you do that in the future.
In your meditation: if you were free to repeat the meditation sound any way you wanted to, how would you repeat it now? Or put differently: if your repetition of the sound was truly allowed to be a manifestation of “what is” in you, how would that repetition be at that moment?
You take note that a free mental attitude is not about repeating the meditation sound gently, but about repeating it freely enough so that any spontaneous activity coming up in you has room to express itself in your meditation in any form, be that an emotion, thought, picture, sensation or change of the meditation sound itself. A free repetition then is one that is as close to the spontaneous activity of the meditation as possible. It is one that gives room to anything that is in you to manifest in your meditation at any given moment.
You write this text to serve as a reminder for yourself and perhaps a reflection for others to allow more freedom in their meditation. In any case, for you it is one snapshots of your ongoing journey as a meditator.