By Monika Wirkkala
It is beneficial to deep dive once in a while, at retreats with longer meditations and with repeated guidance during the week. It gives you the power and the tools to deal with challenges of everyday life.
It’s a hot summer day. The heat lingers in the seminar room. Light curtains, covering the windows, are fluttering slightly in the wind. The guidance group has assembled after four hours of meditation; two women, two men, and a group leader. It’s the third day of the retreat. The conversation starts, a little cautious and thoughtful to begin with.
“My meditation was unclear today. I don’t really know what was going on. I had the feeling of being stuck in something. It was the same with the meditation sound. It was stuck and not easy to repeat without putting some effort into it. Then time disappeared, and I was “gone”, swept away. I got back to the meditation sound again, and it worked out in a way. Time passed quickly.” The man goes silent, gazing into the distance.
The young woman says: “I had this dream that we were on holiday, my family and I, and I was in my late teens. We were packing for going home. All of us were up and about in the house that we rented in the countryside. My parents said I had to keep track of all my things floating around. But when I started packing, I discovered the gear was not only mine but also my brother’s and my mother’s. So, I was annoyed and shouted: ‘Should this be thrown away, huh? Or should I pack it as well? It’s not mine!’ And I kept on like that.” She goes quiet for a while, thoughtful. “I think it has something to do with my role in the family … I have to take care of things, sort things out.” She looks at the others. The door of the seminar room is wide open onto the lawn outside. An insect is buzzing, and a light breeze grabs hold of the fold of the curtain.
“For me, it was kind of restless today,” says the middle-aged man, tilting his foot and changing his position. “I don’t know exactly how the meditation was. I slept a lot, AGAIN! I can’t quite understand where all this fatigue comes from. Or maybe … yes, I know. It’s tough. I work hard, and I have a family, small children, which is demanding. I wish I could be more mindful or “present”, when I’m with the kids, also in my meditation, in what I do, and in everyday life. Otherwise, I lose touch … I need to touch base.”
The insect keeps buzzing, circling around in the room, not finding the door opening. Trapped in its own circles.
“For me, the thoughts revolved around what I should say here in the group. I was thinking about that, back and forth, over and over, and over again. I don’t really know what’s expected here, and I tend to want to meet expectations. Do ‘the right thing’, you know. Be okay, fit in. And why is that?” pondered the middle-aged woman. She looks around at the group, then at the young woman with the dream: “I was also the one who took care of my family, took responsibility. But really, I was too young for that, just a child. Now I’m sorting out what to say about my meditation. Taking responsibility, wanting the thoughts to look neat and tidy here in the group,” she smiles, a bit embarrassed.
The timer makes its call. Time is up, for this guidance session. The middle-aged man gets up, helps the insect escape out through the open door, into the summer, and turns to the others: “Anyone up for a swim in the lake?”
This was a glimpse of the process in a guidance group, after long meditations on a retreat. The same group meets with one or two leaders each day, sharing experiences, reflecting upon emotions, pictures, dreams, bodily sensations, etc., initiated by the meditation. The talk might revolve around the repetition of the meditation sound, the inner mental attitude towards the sound or the different spontaneous activities. This in combination with pictures, thoughts, dreams – patterns of the individual – play together and give shape to new insights.
The aim of the guidance is to create and emphasize an inner environment that is more open, more free, and more accepting for the individual. A regular week retreat begins with two four hour meditations and increases to six at the most. For most people, the transition to longer meditations is surprisingly easy. Long-meditations are not that much different from everyday meditations but meditating longer for several days in a row makes us see ourselves more clearly, being able to grasp life residuals in another way.
Understanding more of oneself through process-oriented guidance is unique to Acem Meditation. The talk after the meditation is guided by the meditator’s initiative and does not follow a scheme, as in some other meditation methods. The process is exploratory. The meditator tries to express the experiences from the meditation, and what he/she is still emotionally in touch with. The meditator returns to the process in the meditation, to the dynamic of the meditation sound and the spontaneous activities, explores them, associates with them, and processes them. Letting the mind wander is a method and an asset in guidance, grasping residuals from the meditation that linger on in the mind.
The exchange and conversation in the guidance group can be emotionally actualizing and relieving, providing increased understanding of ourselves and our action patterns, as they are mirrored in meditation. Thus, the guidance focuses on both the spontaneous activities (including the assessments we make of ourselves along the way), emotions that arise, and the repetition of the meditation sound with a free mental attitude. The attitude during guidance is the same as in meditation; open, accepting, free.
The process in the guidance group is in a way a continuation of the meditation. We share our inner world with others. Thus, it’s being acknowledged by us and others – and as in meditation, hopefully met with acceptance. We are not alone in confirming what we are experiencing, so it gets more manifested and powerful – the activities in your meditation are seen, confirmed, and received by you once again. This has great potential and processes your residuals more strongly. The external manifestation is important, it brings you a step further.
During a retreat week, we have time to dwell on what life is to us, there and then, in that time and space. We let different moods, meta-thoughts, self-images, fragments of various kinds, bodily sensations, and such like, dwell, and linger. This may ease emotions and even finish and integrate some of the residuals. Having the time to reflect, in an open and accepting atmosphere, makes loose ends find their match. A thought evokes a memory, a brief association is linked to another … It is beneficial to deep dive once in a while, at retreats with longer meditations and with repeated guidance during the week. It is easier to accept and acknowledge one’s feelings and thoughts when others embrace what you are saying. It gives you the power and the tools, to deal with challenges of everyday life.
There is an Acem saying – you are always where you ought to be in your meditation, no matter what is going on, be it fatigue, restlessness, challenges with the meditation sound, or something else. Your psychology is guiding you to the conflict areas that need to be processed. This is what the opening of the free inner mental attitude does to you. We may wish for a different inner reality, but with Acem Meditation we are always at the important spots, where we need to make a change. Where there is more of life to conquer.
Now, the summer retreat opportunities are awaiting, for us to immerse in our meditation and in our process. A week of meditation is a gift to you, an opportunity to broaden the horizons of your life, and to expand your inner spaces.
-> Link to Acem’s international retreat calendar.
Language editor: Alice Cameron
Is there anyone having a problem of concentration during meditation?
This will help you greatly:
Peter, I think what helps best is to practise a form of meditation that doesn’t require you to concentrate, one that lets thoughts come and go, and which vacillates freely between the relaxed mental repetition of a meditation sound and periods where the flow of spontaneous thoughts take over. Too much concentration easily keeps your meditation on the surface.