– first time outside of Scandinavia

Are Holen helped Taiwanese instructors Joy Lu, Susan Cai, and Denise Chang enhance their guidance skills.

Few things are more distinctive of Acem’s way of teaching than its various forms of meditation guidance.

Other schools of meditation often give standard answers to common questions about the practice: «repeat the sound effortlessly», «let thoughts come and go», «don’t try to pursue pre-set goals», etc. In addition to such general advice, meditation guidance in Acem often deals with personal and existential issues. The meditation experience is always the starting point, but quite often a guidance session develops into an exploration of the meditator’s life issues and personal mindset.

Being a meditation guide requires extensive training. During the past few years, Acem’s founder Dr. Are Holen has been in charge of guidance training, working with experienced Acem instructors in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. The training programme is based on discussions of anonymized excerpts from guidance sessions that these instructors have conducted. The discussions stimulate their theoretical understanding as well as their technical skills and empathic sensitivity.

Last autumn, this type of guidance training was brought outside Scandinavia for the first time, to Taiwan. Three Taiwanese instructors had transcribed excerpts from their anonymized guidance sessions and were ready for comments and discussion. Each of the excerpts contained quite a few pages – in Chinese. All the material was translated into the course language, which was English. Since subtle linguistic distinctions can play a central role in the interpretation of a guidance session, it was by no means obvious that this would work well. There was a risk that too much of the core meaning would be «lost in translation», and that the value of the entire training programme would thereby be reduced.

Fortunately, the experience turned out to be quite fruitful. Though some details may have been lost or distorted on the way from Chinese to English, by and large, guidance training based on translated excerpts proved to be quite valuable. A few days after the training sessions, all three instructors led guidance groups at a week-long retreat outside Taipei. The participants expressed great satisfaction with the depth of the guidance discussions. The guides’ expertise had clearly reached a higher level.

By Halvor Eifring

Copy editor: Ann Kunish