Astrid and Gry Iverslien – mother and daughter – share the interest in meditation, and both have made use of meditative processes in their creative professional activities.

 A better understanding of myself

Astrid is what you would call a creative person. She has made drawings, painted, and written books. Now, at 86, her neck doesn’t permit drawing and painting any longer, but she still meditates every day. One of the most important choices in Astrid’s life was to learn meditation at an early age. She participated in summer retreats in Norway, where the evening seminars and guidance groups became important experiences. «Gradually, I understood how meditation, combined with guidance, helped me understand myself and my life better. I am impressed by the quality of Acem’s meditation activities,» she says.

A break without the mobile

Astrid liked to share her positive experience with meditation and inspired her daughter to learn meditation as well. Her daughter Gry moved from Norway to England in her early twenties and has worked as a photojournalist and writer (Iverslien Katz).

I saw what meditation did for my mother, and I noticed that she had changed. She became calmer and appeared to be wiser as well. I wanted to try it myself. Besides, I needed to have some breaks in quiet surroundings, without the mobile. For me, meditation became an anchor in a hectic life. In the beginning, I had to pull myself together to meditate, but I gradually started longing for the daily meditations. I am an introvert and need to be on my own in-between. My husband is an art dealer in London. Compared to me, he is very extroverted, but he is increasingly respectful about my meditation. He claims that I become calmer. Thus, meditation contributes to a balance in our relationship.

Working through trauma

Despite living in different countries – Astrid in Norway and Gry in London – they often talk together, and they rarely do so without saying something about meditation. Both of them are creative and have a fine sense of aesthetics. They express themselves through photo, art, and writing. It has been important for both of them to get a better understanding of their life history. Astrid’s traumatic childhood experiences from the war and a dramatic history of illness resulted in the book «Astrid and the war» with her own illustrations. For a whole year during the war, from she was 9 to 10, she was in a hospital. After hip surgery, she was in a cast from her armpits to her feet. While she was in bed, there were several occasions with air raid sirens, and once there was a big explosion – in 1943 – not far from the hospital, with a lot of casualties. The windows were smashed to pieces. Astrid and others who were unable to escape were left alone in the hospital while those who could, ran away to safety.

«Later on, I have understood what kind of trauma this was and how deep the psychological scars were.» Astrid believes that meditation has helped her to work through these traumas over time, besides a period of psychotherapy.

The importance of silence

Gry lives in London, but also has a house in Kent with a fantastic garden, which has been presented in the media. She enjoys life in London but also loves the silence of being alone. When she spends time in her house in Kent, she loves to work with her garden and to read and meditate.

She has written a book about the Norwegian artist Joronn Sitje, also called «the Karen Blixen of painting». Much of the story takes place in Africa. The book was very well received.

Gry took part in the first activities of Acem in England, and several of her friends learned to meditate. Not all of them became steady meditators, but she has kept to her regular practice.

A shared interest

With growing age, Astrid’s life has become much quieter, and she finds it important to have a good structure in her daily life. Meditation is part of that structure. Astrid and her partner Johan also listen to music and read. «Music is a path towards our inner life,» Astrid declares.

Both my daughter and I are grateful for what we have got from Acem. I have thought for some time that I would like to make a donation to Acem since meditation has given me so much. With the corona situation, it felt right to do it now. Like so many others, Acem has had to cancel many courses and retreats, with the economic losses that involve. Maybe others also see that support is needed in this period. For me, Acem and meditation is more important than ever before.

Interviewed by Maria Gjems-Onstad

Translated by Anne Grete Hersoug