Silence has an outer and an inner dimension. Acem’s retreat center at Lundsholm, Sweden provides both. What is it like to meditate there?
Sitting in bed in my room in Sjögården at Lundsholm, meditating. I try my best to keep my attention lightly focused on the meditation sound while a lot of other things are buzzing around in my head. Thoughts and memories come and go. The ice on Mangen Lake tempts me to go ice skating, I think. Someone has plowed an ice rink across the entire lake as far as Mangskog church.
Then my thoughts go to my childhood when my dad took me to the ice skating championships at Bislett in Oslo. Nice memory, 25,000 people cheering. I feel the loss of my father, who died suddenly when I was 18 years old. Then I think about the fact that I actually went to a skating competition at Bislett myself when I was 13 years old. I didn’t win, but I’m proud to have competed there. Bislett was once the mecca of speed skating.
My thoughts move on to the disease I have which has weakened my skeleton. It’s a little sad to think that my body might not be able to skate now because my balance is a little worse. This is how the associations continue.
Stimulated mind wandering
Mind wandering is stimulated when the brain rests during meditation. Glimpses of life events in both the past and present. Things that slow down the free flow of thought take a break during meditation. The control eases a little and the impulses are allowed to flow more freely than usual. An interweaving of everyday events, bodily tensions we become aware of, and perhaps some episodes from more distant areas of the brain.
It is fascinating because it is so spontaneous. None of the thoughts or events are things I have decided to think about – they just appear when I repeat the meditation sound. Processing residues and hang-ups, as well as creativity that is unleashed and allowed to blossom for a little while.
The room has beautiful, soothing colors on the walls, floor, and ceiling. The curtains create a good meditative atmosphere. The windows are large and can be opened in different ways. Nice view over the lake or towards the undulating fields and the landscape beyond. It is winter outside; cold, dark, strong wind, and lots of snow. It is quiet in the room. Yes, so quiet that you cannot hear anything from the next room or the hallway.
You really have the feeling that you are alone with yourself; with your thoughts, memories, feelings, and experiences. Alone in the cell almost like in a monastery. Still, you know it is the same in all 29 rooms. People are meditating.
Cultivating silence is the purpose of deepening meditations. There is an outer and an inner silence. The outer silence is the absence of noise and disturbances. At Lundsholm, the outer silence is palpable. What you hear may be the wind blowing across the lake or the occasional sound of a chainsaw in the distance.
The inner silence
Otherwise, nature is resting – calmly and comfortably. Occasionally you can hear the cranes screeching. I perceive the inner silence more as a kind of dimension in me. An undercurrent that we come closer and closer to the longer the meditation sessions are. As the stream of thought becomes more quiet or soft, the stillness becomes more present. In a way, it embraces you. A feeling of warmth emerges while you are sitting there.
Before the meditation, I have walked along Lundsholm’s own, beautiful hiking trail. It runs along the fields on one side and the lake on the other. The morning sun peeks out over the treetops and creates a beautiful and warming light. I enjoy feeling the sun even in the middle of winter. On the height on the other side of the field, there are views in all directions. South and west towards Mangen and the forests.
To the north, I see all of Lundsholm’s buildings in perspective. To the east, the beautiful neighboring property is located on a headland. Today, four deer jumped across the path right in front of me. They like to be in our field.
Sensing the outer edges of our consciousness
You become more sensitive, and more present in nature when you have meditated for a long time. Your ability to be in the here and now improves. I hear, smell, and feel more intensely when I am in nature.
In meditation, our ability to sense the more peripheral impulses at the outer edges of our consciousness improves. Our inner sensitivity becomes enhanced when we meditate a great deal. This sensitivity stays with us when we leave meditation for a while and go out into nature. Our ability to take in the subtle beauty of nature increases, and enriches our experience.
Then back to my room to continue allowing the subtler nuances of my consciousness to emerge. An easy and free repetition of the meditation sound shows the way during the next 24 hours. It is with both happy expectations – and a little bit of worry – that I sit back in my bed to meditate some more.
By Thor Udenæs
Translated by Eirik Jensen