By Jonas Meyer
In Norway, children will often get what they want for Christmas or birthdays. This is not always the case in meditation. Meditation is unpredictable.
When our meditation doesn’t turn out the way we would like it to be, we easily get frustrated or simply give up.
- You wanted a propeller airplane, you got a broken stick.
- You wanted a PlayStation, you got a book.
- You wanted a Barbie doll, you got a grey sweater.
- You wanted a calm meditation, you had to struggle with an unclear, vague wall of spontaneous activity.
- You wanted coping skills and ended up with a feeling that you ought to have done better.
- You wanted a meditation filled with many repetitions of the meditation sound, but you lost the sound all the time.
The wishes we have for our meditation come spontaneously. They are natural and welcome parts of the spontaneous flow of thoughts and emotions. What would be wrong in Acem Meditation is to act according to these wishes: to try to manipulate the meditation to make it exactly the way we want it to be. Acem Meditation focuses on process, not on particular feelings or experiences. We should not try to actively change our mental state during meditation. The only thing we should do is to repeat the meditation sound in an open, inclusive way, using as little energy as possible. This way of repetition provides the best conditions for the spontaneous flow of thoughts and feelings and for working through whatever emerges in our meditation.
Our wishes for our meditation may tell us something about who we’d like to be. Such wishes are never «wrong», they are spontaneous and beyond our control. They are often a kind of longing: longing for calm or contact with the meditation sound; longing for a sense of coping: «I manage my meditation perfectly.» Let’s say we want a calm meditation where time passes quickly. Many of us will recognize this wish. It will come spontaneously for most of us at times. Calmness is part of the human mind, in the same way as restlessness and more chaotic parts. But if meditation isn’t quite the way we want, we should not try to use the sound to calm down the spontaneous activities.
The task is rather to be present in our own sense of uneasiness and repeat the sound from there. The meditative challenge is to meet the spontaneous flow as it is, whether it is calm, chaotic or unclear, or something in between. The freer mental attitude we have in relation to the spontaneous flow, the better conditions we give it, and the more relaxation and processing we will obtain.
Although we do not always get the meditation we want, we may trust that we always get the meditation we need. The spontaneous flow is an expression of contents in our unconscious mind. What emerges in meditation is never coincidental. Somehow, it tells us something about where we are at the moment, it tells us something about our personality. The spontaneous flow is an expression of the tensions that are being released at the moment. Therefore, what we «get» in meditation will be the best we could get, or phrased differently: It couldn’t have been anything else. An important task in meditation is to reconcile ourselves with this. Sometimes we get a rewarding spontaneous flow (calm, silent, comfortable), at other times we get challenging spontaneous content (unclear, noisy, vague sound etc.), and at still other times, we get something in between. But our spontaneity is always correct. The content of the spontaneous flow may not always be what we want or wish for, but it is always the «gift» we need.
And sometimes, luckily, we get exactly what we want in meditation – not because we actively tried to achieve it, but because that’s what we needed there and then.
Jonas Meyer is a Norwegian Acem Meditation Instructor