“I feel more relaxed and calm, and my relationships with fellow prisoners have become easier,” says a participant at a beginner’s course in Acem Meditation in Spain. He recently also completed a follow-up course.

Tor teaching meditation Tor Hersoug has become used to teaching Acem Meditation to Spanish prisoners.

The course venue was Cuatre Camins, a prison outside Barcelona, with prisoners convicted of drug crimes, violence and murder. Those who go through a rehabilitation programme may be rewarded with leaves and possibly even earlier release. The programme includes learning Acem Meditation and practising the techinque for at least two months, after which continued meditation practice is optional.

Herminio Gonzales

Herminio Gonzales had practised Acem Meditation for several years and thought it would be good for the prisoners as well.

Acem has had regular activities in Spain since 2001, and the course in Cuatre Camins was a kind of social contribution, with no economic compensation to Acem. Mr Herminio Gonzales, the leader of the rehabilitation activities of the prison, had himself been practising Acem Meditation daily for five years and thought this might help the prisoners as well.

Acem initiator Tor Hersoug from Norway gave the beginner’s course. He has learnt Spanish and regularly gives courses in Spain. It was not the first time he taught Acem Meditation in a Spanish prison, but earlier the prisoners had had no opportunity to practise the technique, since there were no rooms for meditation — they shared cells with others during the nights, and it wasn’t possible to meditate there. In Cuatre Camins, group meditations were organised every morning in a large, separate room, and Mr Gonzales meditated together with the participants.

After the first two mandatory months, continuing the group meditations in the morning was optional. Of the fifty prisoners who took part in the beginner’s course, approximately twenty continued to join the group meditations. They were also invited to participate in a follow-up course. Local Acem moderator Tona Calvo visited the prison four times to teach the course.

“Since I learnt meditation, I have slept much better,” says one of the prisoners. “I feel more awake and have increased my capacity to think,” says another. All of those who continued to meditate report that they have had positive effects.

Many of the prisoners have grown up under difficult conditions. They have committed serious crimes and have to live with the consequences of what they’ve done. Creating a free mental attitude in meditation isn’t always easy, but they appreciate the opportunity to calm down and feel that the method helps them.

Mr Gonzales wrote to the authorities:

Acem Meditation started in Norway fifty years ago. Acem was founded in 1966 by Dr. Are Holen, psychologist, psychiatrist and professor of medicine at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim. He is a renowned expert in the psychology of stress. Acem is an idealistic international organization dedicated to developing a psychological understanding of meditation. A main aim is to offer people the possibility to get in contact with their inner potential for relaxation and development of more energy. Scientific studies indicate that Acem Meditation has physiological and psychological effects for those who practise regularly. The method reduces fatigue and stress, improves sleep, reduces pain and bodily complaints, improves self-esteem, modifies perceptions of oneself and others, improves relationships and increases one’s capacity for empathy.

Recently, another beginner’s course was given in Cuatre Camins prison.