Reconciliation is an important area to work in for all meditators, no matter what phase of life we are in – when we are young as well as when we get older. It is existentially important to achieve some degree of reconciliation with the way life happens to be. This also applies to the way our meditation is at every given moment.
Reconciliation with our past means to be able to live with unfortunate choices we may have made in the past, without allowing them to ruin our lives in the present. We may be sad or perhaps ashamed when we think about challenges or opportunities we avoided, or when we chose the easiest rather than the best alternative. The challenge is to accept such feelings without becoming bitter or permanently regretful. This kind of reconciliation becomes especially important the older one gets. Meditation may be helpful in finding a way to achieve it.
Meditation consists of constant practice in dealing with challenges with a free mental attitude; for instance resisting the urge to try to get rid of what we dislike, to keep out of our mind things that may not feel pleasant or right, to accept that we sometimes struggle. When we repeat the meditation sound in a way that is close to the spontaneous activity, we allow challenging mental content to present itself in our minds. Working on achieving an attitude of reconciliation is essential in this endeavor, for all meditators. The meditation practice promotes this process via the free mental attitude.
Reconciliation takes place when we approach all thoughts, moods, and emotions in meditation with an effortless, open, inclusive repetition of the meditation sound. We do not reconcile with the contents of the spontaneous activities directly, but rather indirectly by way of residues that are associated with our thoughts and emotions. Sometimes difficult personal issues may present themselves to us in meditation in a clear fashion, but more often, the content is unclear, and we may for example simply feel very restless. Finding a way to reconcile with our restlessness may represent a substantial contribution to the process.
Sometimes we are aware of the personal issues we are working through; at other times, they may be vague or subconscious. What emerges in meditation is often associated with central themes in our lives. For example, you may be thinking about your difficult relationship with your colleague and the strain it is causing in your life. Discomfort and restlessness are the residues that emerge during meditation. Although the relationship with your colleague feels important enough, the thoughts about this relationship may be followed by further thoughts about even more important and formative relationships in your life. When we deal with the thoughts, feelings, and restlessness in an inclusive way, this paves the way for reconciliation in a broader sense, which again impacts our relationships with others.
At times, we may grasp some new connections. For example, a feeling of being offended and angry may emerge during meditation, which may be followed by a memory from a past episode when you felt humiliated by a friend who criticized you. By repeating the meditation sound gently while letting the offense be, just the way it is, you may modify your urge to react emotionally when someone criticizes you. Reconciliation is a dimension you bring into your meditation when you work on finding a way to deal with the spontaneous activity with a freer mental attitude.
By Maria S. Gjems-Onstad and Dag Spilde
(Translated by Anne Grete Hersoug. Language editor: Eirik Jensen.)