Since childhood, Inga Cheng had known that in order to get where she wanted, she needed to deal with her own personality as well as external forces. This helped her keep up her motivation when some of her early meditation experiences were less pleasant than expected. And her perseverance paid off.
She has come a long way. At 59, Inga is now a senior lecturer at the prestigious Chunghwa Telecom Training Center outside Taipei, Taiwan. She is happily married and the proud mother of three daughters, who never cease to surprise her with their intelligence and social skills. ”Can these really be my children?” she asks with a characteristic self-deprecating laugh. She has been practising Acem Meditation for more than twenty years.
Inga’s life hasn’t always been idyllic, and reminiscences of her childhood bring tears to her eyes. She was born in rural Taiwan as the oldest of six children in a poor family that was prone to conflict. When she was 12, she moved on her own to the city to attend school, taking with her a sense of inferiority and a belief that all the city kids were much brighter than she was. She learned early on to work hard to achieve her aims, and did indeed become the pride of her family, with the highest education (a master’s in management) and the most prestigious professional position of all the brothers and sisters. Success, however, came at a price.
”I became a very nervous person. I often had breathing difficulties, headaches, and sometimes even bleeding ulcers. Medicine did not help me. I knew I had to find a way out of my problems, and that it would have to involve personality issues. I heard about Acem Meditation when an instructor from Europe came to my workplace to give a lecture. He was very young and spoke in what to him was a foreign language, but still did not seem to be afraid of standing in front of so many people, in sharp contrast to my own anxiety. I wanted to make better use of my own abilities, and I hoped meditation would help. Unlike methods I had heard about before, this technique did not require you to sit in difficult postures or to get rid of all thoughts, and this suited me well.”
Inga meditated every day, but it took a while for her to experience beneficial effects. For a month or so she felt weak and uncomfortable – the opposite of what she was looking for. But she believed that meditation would help her in the long run, and that her initial resistance was part of a long-term beneficial process. And after some time she discovered that her physical ailments had indeed gone away. She was no longer seriously troubled by headaches or breathing problems, and she no longer required hospital treatment for bleeding ulcers. Most importantly, her personality also changed. She became less nervous, more emotionally stable and less prone to indecisiveness and ambivalence. Her ambitions were still there, but they no longer made her tense and anxious.
So why did she continue to meditate, if her basic problems had been solved?
Self and others
”To me meditation was not only about getting rid of these symptoms. I wanted to get further in my life. Meditation helped me to become a better teacher. I no longer lost track whenever a student asked me a question. I began to communicate better, and could sense that the students liked me better too.” This was probably one of the reasons why she was handpicked as one of the new administrative leaders of the training centre a few years later. In spite of opposition from the old guard, some of whom were jealous of her position, and in spite of her own lack of leadership experience, she managed to restructure the entire educational programme.
Meditation also improved her relationships with her daughters. At some point it dawned on her that her need to control everything they did was not only a source of frustration for both parties, but also detrimental to the daughters’ development. She managed to give them more freedom and trust, and this yielded good results.
Later, meditation would help to increase her self-understanding and self-confidence. ”I used to blame myself for so many things, and this had become an obstacle in my work. Now I realised I was not so bad as I thought, and could assess my own strengths and weaknesses more clearly. I also became more sensitive towards others, even if my new assertiveness could sometimes make me a little pushy and stubborn.”
Acem Meditation gave Inga a sense of being in charge of her own life, instead of being pushed in all directions by other people.
”There is only one drawback,” she says with a mischievous smile. ” It seems that meditation has made me more forgetful. Or is that just age? Actually, forgetfulness is sometimes an advantage. Many things aren’t worth remembering anyway. I think forgetting things makes me happier!”
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Hi, I wonder if I’ll receive some insight here.
It was mentioned that mindfulness made Inga forgetful. This seems to be happening to me as well. However it’s sometimes very much a hindrance, as in our lives, a good or decent memory is still required to carry out mundane tasks, relay information etc.
I realize that I’m becoming “unreliable” as a result of this forgetfulness, and have sometimes caused others to be inconvenienced because of the inaccurate nature of my memory.
If anyone can provide any insight – should I resign to this forgetful state, or is it even related up meditation/mindfulness in the first place, it would be much appreciated.
The more typical reaction is that meditation helps you remember, at least the kind of nondirective meditation that lets the mind flow freely, because then the mind catches up with thoughts and impulses that had been relegated to (or even beyond) the periphery of the conscious mind.
But meditation also helps you let go of things. In cases where you have spent too much energy keeping track of everything I guess that may bring you to the opposite side, to a certain amount of forgetfulness. That’s just a healthy response as long as it is temporary, which it usually is.
Both in Inga’s case and in yours it is difficult to say if meditation actually plays a role in the forgetfulness at all.
Thank you for the explanation :)