Most readers of this blog share two things: Meditating and being in the midst of a pandemic. Do these two phenomena have anything in common?
By Ole Gjems-Onstad
Coping and enduring
A basic principle of Acem Meditation is that one should not try to influence the spontaneous activities. This does not mean that Acem Meditation is about passivity, and definitely not about apathy, but rather about being sensitive, and finding the most appropriate way of acting. In a long meditation, we do not know when the spontaneous activities will change, just as we do not know when and if a vaccine will be here. In both cases, we just have to cope and endure.
Governments must try to tackle the pandemic, and we should help the authorities by following guidelines, etc. As individuals, however, we have to accept the pandemic as a fact. We all wish that this pandemic would go away, but this is not our choice.
And, we may ask ourselves, has our daily meditation practice, balancing spontaneous and deliberate activities, helped us in any way to tackle this pandemic? Has meditation helped us to cope and endure? In other words, has our individual meditation practice helped us to act as responsible citizens during a collective crisis?
I shall not conclude, that may be up to each one of us. As so often in Acem, the method is something we have in common, but the experience, the results, the reflections, and the answers are yours.
On our own – and connecting
Covid-19 is about sickness, and for more than one million people worldwide about death. Being sick and dying may represent the ultimate experience of being left to ourselves. Fearing getting sick and being on our own, we have lost a security we have taken for granted. In addition, many regulations limit our social interaction and relationships.
So, another question: What does our meditation do to our loneliness? Seen from the outside, meditation might be the last thing you would need during a pandemic full of loneliness. During meditation, you do not meet other people, and you close your eyes to all kinds of diversions and stimuli that remind you of the social world out there.
However, closing your eyes in meditation is also about connecting, about touching an inner base, about universality.
Some people would deny that. No, meditation may actualize or intensify many emotions like shame, guilt, and inferiority, which increase our feeling of being isolated, of being islands on our own.
But our consciousness has many dimensions. Our spontaneous activities also include an element of renewal, of freshness, of energy, of what one may quite simply see as the power of spontaneity or, as the book is called, the power of the wandering mind.
The spontaneity, the power of the wandering mind, reflects a universal, ahistorical dimension in the mind, to which our meditation may help us connect.
It is not a tactical marketing argument when Acem says that it is a non-ideological organization, non-religious and non-political. That is a basic meditative and philosophical commitment. Meditation may bring us into contact with a dimension in our consciousness that may be available to all human beings across historical periods and across cultures, independent of time, geography, and beliefs. Meditation utilizes universal aspects of the mind. It does not exclude, it includes.
In a polarizing, splitting, angry and antagonistic world, the non-ideological commitment of Acem and meditation has a profound message. Yes, as citizens of this highly diverse world we disagree about many things. But we also have something in common, and what we share may be part of our most important potential, a universal inner strength.
Again, however, the method is something we have in common, while the possible experience, including the experience of universality, is personal, individual, and belongs to you alone. As part of living through the loneliness of this pandemic, we might ask ourselves: Does my daily meditation help me, not only to relax, not only to gain some extra strength to cope and endure in my daily life but also by making me touch some inner universal base so that during meditation I take part in two human dimensions at the same time? I am on my own, yes, but there is also an inner universal anchorage, a common ground.
In a speech about the pandemic, the Swedish king said: “I am an old man. I have seen many different crises. They all have one thing in common: Sooner or later they end.”
Until then: Have a good meditation!