In everyday life we are often goal directed – we want results. This is an attitude that we can recognize even when we are meditating or sitting in guidance and communication groups. However, the challenge in meditation and group processes is rather to be present and open to whatever arises spontaneously. The result manifests itself not in the form of a product, but in the ability to be closer both to our own feelings and the feelings of others.
Usually, a wandering mind is not facilitated by exercising our will. In meditation, however, we use our will to create an open space for things that we normally are not in close contact with. The gentle repetition of the meditation sound helps us produce a mental attitude that stimulates the mind’s ability to wander freely. Our awareness has a wide and inclusive focus. The main thing is to create a free flow of everything that spontaneously moves through our mind. The meditation sound is the bridge, the methodological means, for creating the necessary openness.
The purpose of meditation is to allow the mind to wander as freely as possible. This is necessary to trigger the processing and working through of inner tension. That is why we should return to the repetition of the meditation sound whenever we have the opportunity to do so. However, the free mental attitude that we generate through the use of the meditation sound is a means and not an end.
Communication groups differ from meditation because the focus is on our relation not only to ourselves but also to others. There is no meditation sound, but gradually a free mental attitude is established at the group level. It may take a few group meetings before this happens, and the climate of free acceptance can easily be blocked if group members become too preoccupied with trying too hard to understand or come up with good advice for each other. Psychological curiosity and an open attitude support the desired group process.
We interpret what we experience both on a conscious and unconscious level. The degree to which our interpretations are consistent with reality varies. While meditation helps us face ourselves and our own psychology, communication groups bring us in close contact with other people, with a focus on how we perceive the other group members, and ourselves in relation to them. Based on this experience, we try to understand ourselves.
Spontaneous activity is always present
Large parts of our spontaneous stream of consciousness pass us by unnoticed. We may often feel that thoughts are a distraction, like when we read something and repeatedly lose track. However hard we try to focus, such distractive impulses take over. In meditation, the aim is simply to invite this stream of spontaneous impulses to play itself out through the repetition of the meditation sound. This will sooner or later lead us into spontaneous concentrations, where we lose our ability to repeat the sound. Something else simply takes over. This happens regardless of whether or not we are experienced meditators.
In the waking state, our mind can be either concentrated or “wandering”. It is concentrated and focused when it is busy with some task, working toward an aim or creating a product. Then, we are goal-directed. When the mind instead is in an unconstrained, “wandering” state, such as during meditation, we are process-oriented. We are more open and accepting of ourselves and our surroundings. We have more room for spontaneous impulses, and we are more emotional and concerned with creating relationships. We get good ideas. We are in a creative mode that facilitates the working through of inner tension. Such spontaneous processes are important for our ability to relate to others and to ourselves. Contact with this spontaneity makes us more involved in what is happening around us.
Acem and the spontaneous processes of the mind
Both in meditation and communication groups the mind’s spontaneous processes are of central importance and embody both our resources and our limitations. The understanding of these processes has been under continuous development in Acem since the start in1966, and Acem has offered communication groups for an almost equally long period. Both meditation and communication training enable us to change our behavior patterns. We confront our character traits, our resources and limitations – and can develop a working relationship with them.
In a communication group, we are not primarily concerned with producing or performing. We try instead to express our spontaneous thoughts about ourselves or the group. The aim is to try to understand more of these thoughts and thereby more of how we perceive our surroundings and ourselves. We can see more clearly how we perceive and interpret others, and also how we act and react based on these interpretations. We do not always have to understand the connections in order to be able to change and make new choices. Hearing that others do not always perceive things the same way as we do gives us an opportunity to reflect on ourselves and our reactions, and achieve a greater distance to them.
Action is the primary thing
In meditation, we work with ourselves by repeating the meditation sound with a free mental attitude, again and again and again. At the same time, spontaneous activity that is actualized through this process also affects our actions. We are influenced or colored by what the spontaneous stream of impulses brings forth. We may continue to repeat the meditation sound in the same way as before, even when facing spontaneous self-critical thoughts. Or we may adjust our actions, follow the inner critical voice, because we think we have to, and then become goal-oriented and concentrated. Sometimes we end up in situations where we simply do not know how to repeat the sound. If we use too much energy, we think perhaps we are too concentrated, and if we do not, we may feel we have become too passive. Whatever we do turns out wrong. Many times we are governed by a fixed opinion about how things ought to be done. This view can be changed or modified through discussing our meditation. Dialogue facilitates new understanding.
The principle of openness is important
Repeating the meditation sound gently helps us establish a free mental attitude and an openness to the process. In the communication group, it is often the leaders or the other participants in the group who contribute to creating this freedom. This attitude of freedom and openness is important to allow irrational impulses to express themselves. When participants in a communication group become too involved in problem solving, the reflective process is inhibited. The same applies, for example, in meditation guidance. Both in meditation and in the communication group, it is important to loosen up these kinds of tensions, or “blocks”.
During a communication course or a meditation retreat, the spontaneous associations or trains of thought that come with the open flow allow themselves to be joined together in larger images or units, so that we see more of our areas of inner conflict. They tell us something about our lives and our life attitudes. We can experience this as the pieces falling into place. The process can also make it clearer to us what is required for us to move forward. Both the way we act in meditation and how we relate in a communication group reflect character traits that govern us in our everyday lives. These forces understandably influence how we handle situations, both inside and outside meditation.
Meditation and Communication Group
Openness and acceptance help us to modify inner limitations and eventually bring permanent change. We develop closer contact inwards and a greater ability to accept ourselves as we are, and thereby also to accept others. We find it easier to achieve nearness to others, and project less of our own needs onto our surroundings.
Both Acem Meditation and communication groups are designed to stimulate openness toward the spontaneous activities of the mind, so that psychological residue can be worked through. This stimulates self-understanding and creates opportunities for contributing more to our surroundings and achieving more realistic views of the world around us.
Author: Pär Westlund is an Acem Meditation instructor, an experimental endocrinologist, and heads a test lab.
Translator: Eirik Jensen
Language editor: Ann Kunish