The meaning of acceptance

Acem Meditation Q&A

Dag & MariaDag 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?


A basic principle in Acem Meditation is to let whatever comes to mind just be there. When we accept everything as it is, without getting too involved, it helps the processing of inner tension. But when emotional IMG_0774residue is part of the spontaneous activity during meditation, we tend to be preoccupied with it. When thoughts about something we should have done differently or something somebody said to us occur, it doesn’t always feel easy to let go without getting involved. Emotional residue activates parts of our personality that are difficult to handle. Such thoughts might be about a quarrel and how to be self-assertive in an adequate way in the situation, or about controlling anger towards a partner.

Let go

When such difficult aspects of our personality emerge, it tends to trigger our characteristic patterns and reactions. Some of us withdraw, others become aggressive, or try to find a quick solution. Such typical reactions show up in meditation as well as in daily life.

odd meditatingThe challenge is to let go and not get too involved in the difficult emotional residue, and just repeat the meditation sound as gently as the situation allows. This may create more freedom of the mind and a mental attitude that gradually includes the emotional residue that has been activated. It becomes easier to work through the tension involved.

No quick solutions

When we try to accept issues that we weren’t able to accept at first, such as negative thoughts, we may easily start to strive to achieve a predetermined goal. Instead of releasing the tension, we get stuck in it. Trying to convince ourselves that we like something we don’t like means manipulating our thoughts, which is the opposite of what we should do in Acem Meditation.

Therefore, we should not be too preoccupied with the emotional content of our spontaneous activity, and not try to find quick solutions. If we want release of tension, it works better to accept the thoughts and emotional reactions we actually have and to do as little as possible, apart from repeating the meditation sound gently. We need to be patient with residue that needs time before it can be processed or worked through.

Translated by Anne Grete Hersoug
Language editor: Ann Kunish


  1. Karan Sewani

    Thanks for sharing this with us, this article has a tone that itself makes me accepting of things at the moment and it very well describes free mental attitude that should be practiced in Acem Meditation.

  2. I was thrilled to read your response to such a profound question. I recently explored the topic of observation in practice. The negative thoughts are hard-wired into our minds typically from a personal experience or learning from another that has experienced it. I find success by releasing any emotion about it. I treat it as a data point not something to be judged. A simple for instance, if an important deadline that is looming is invading my sitting, I release judgement all together. It is not something here with me in the present and therefore not something I need to predict the stress or outcome of and create imagery to. A future point does not warrant the strength to generate stress or negative thoughts today. To your point pretending you are excited for said thought solves nothing, however accepting that it is there and releasing it, allows the space to be cleared. This does not happen overnight, though through practice, like most things, it can be honed.

  3. Thank you for that – I find it quite difficult when an angry or frightening thought appears during meditation. Sometimes it feels like a panic attack. I took your advice and focused on the sound but without forcing it and gradually the emotion began to dissipate without me getting too attached to it.

  4. As I was practicing the last of our 18-day challenge meditations this morning, I realized that I am the “difficult person” that I live with on an even more intimate level than the “difficult person” I always think of whom I see at work most days of the week! I have always heard that difficult people are a mirror for what one finds unacceptable in oneself, but this time I really saw it! I also saw that the “I” who was witnessing this unruly child in me could send her lovingkindness thoughts as a loving parent might embrace and comfort a child. That “I” who was witnessing all this is bigger, more spacious, kinder, gentler than that “child”. I AM the guide and the abandoned child who seeks to be loved, and find a home, safe in the arms of something bigger, and I am the “something bigger”. This is a real breakthrough for me! Thank you!

  5. Michelle

    Am excellent question. I agree with ‘letting go’ meditation is not about emptying your mind or forcing thoughts from your head, as this could lead to negative connotations, which we wish to avoid. If you push the thoughts away and return time and again may give you a sense of failure, in reality it is almost impossible to empty ones mind. Instead, acknowledge the thoughts when they appear do not follow them but simply let them slide away… I encourage you to visit if you are interested in learning more on this and other topics…

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