“Meditate with a free mental attitude.” “Repeat the meditation sound with as little effort as possible.” “Go back to the sound as gently as you can at the time.” – You knew, that this is what the basic instruction for Acem Meditation says. And in the past it agreed with you. But not today, perhaps not for the past week, not the past month. Perhaps it never did, but you didn’t know. Read more…
Acem Meditation Q&A
Dag Spilde and Maria Gjems-Onstad answer questions about meditation. Dag is a chief advisor and project manager at EDB ErgoGroup ASA, and Maria is a clinical psychologist in Oslo. Both have more than 30 years of experience teaching Acem Meditation.
I usually meditate for 20 minutes once a day (and 30 when I want to be a good student). I have a question about acceptance. When meditation becomes repetitive and things we don’t like come back again and again, should we a) accept that these things repeat themselves in meditation, or b) try to accept that we have a negative attitude towards them?
How do you meet unpleasant thoughts and feelings in meditation? At a recent meditation course in Taiwan, all participants had learnt and understood that when you discover that you are lost in thoughts, you just return gently to the repetition of the meditation sound, while allowing thoughts to come and go. But when one participant told the group about being bothered by recurring thoughts about somebody who had behaved badly in the past, there came at least 4 different suggestions about what to do:
1) continue thinking until the thoughts go away by themselves
2) use the meditation sound to suppress the thoughts
3) make the meditation sound and the thoughts appear in tandem
4) transform the negative thoughts into more positive ones
In fact, all these solutions imply a non-acceptance of the thoughts and therefore of yourself. It’s as if these thoughts require you to do something beyond the general rule. They touch upon deep fears of accepting life as it is – with its imperfections and, at times, pains. The belief that you can relieve yourself from this situation by doing something extra is rooted in an unwillingness to see the actual situation. The paradox is that the only way to begin a lasting process of change is to accept things as they are.
Øyvind Ellingsen, M.D., Ph.D.
The free mental attitude of Acem Meditation involves, on the one hand, a supple, effortless repetition of the meditation sound and, on the other hand, a free and accepting awareness in relation to impressions that appear during meditation. Acting to bring about this free mental attitude is a process. In our daily lives, this process provides breathing space for unprocessed experiences from the day. At meditation retreats, it helps to loosen the grip of undercurrents in our personalities.
The free mental attitude of Acem Meditation is an attitude of acceptance. Thoughts, bodily sensations, moods and evaluations are allowed to enter the mind. We let them appear and disappear in our mental awareness, neither avoiding them nor actively pursuing them.
This accepting attitude is a central and effective element in psychological processing. Like the ‘free-floating awareness’ of psychoanalysis, it allows associations to come and go without censorship. A supple, accepting attitude reduces psychological defence mechanisms and repression: we are more ready to accept and take in whatever is on our minds. Difficult themes that we have suppressed become accessible for processing.
by Øyvind Ellingsen, MD PhD
Do you remember your first meditation? The gratifying feeling of being calm, relaxed and restful. We bring it with us when we sit down to meditate – a longing for peace of mind and liberation from stress. No wonder the advertising industry uses the image of the meditating Buddha. Nirvana is not only global shorthand for inner peace and well-being; it is also the brand name of the perfect mattress. But when the longing for nirvana becomes too strong, we sometimes encounter the thought goblin…
Longing for nirvana
Who does not wish for a breather from stressful routines and incessant demands – a little everyday-life nirvana? You sit down, close your eyes and repeat the meditation sound. And then the miracle happens. The tightness in your shoulders relaxes, your breathing slows down, your thoughts flow almost imperceptibly by. After half an hour you open your eyes, take a deep breath and are – completely rested! Ready to meet the day with renewed energy. Experiences like this create an expectation that good meditation will produce a pleasant feeling. Often this is the case, but not always.