During lunch at work, we discuss our holiday plans. After I have told my colleagues that I am going on a meditation retreat in the summer, the conversation turns to meditation. I do not divulge to them how many hours I will meditate, but tell my colleague, who like me has ‘Manager’ in her job title, and two smaller children, that I meditate every day during the rest of the year as well. Once a day for three quarters of an hour or twice for half an hour. My colleague says that she also tried meditation once many years ago, but did not succeed.
This brings us to three meditation myths that I will now discuss:
Myth 1: The task of meditation is to try to relax
When I ask my colleague what she specifically tried to do, she says that it was a kind of guided joint meditation that took place on a weekday afternoon. She says she was not able to relax – she simply couldn’t do what the instructor told her to. She therefore concluded she was not able to meditate, she simply could not do it.
Here we encounter one of the most widespread misconceptions about meditation: that the task of meditating is actively to relax. Fortunately, this is not the case with Acem Meditation. For what could be more stressful than having to relax for the next half hour? In Acem Meditation, our only task is to repeat the meditation sound as easily and effortlessly as we can – whenever we can. Relaxation comes as a natural response from doing this, whether we are aware of it or not.
Myth 2: The goal of meditating is to become mindless
When my colleague says she was unable to meditate, it is probably because she had a great deal of thoughts going on in her mind that afternoon. Thoughts she was absorbed in, while she was trying to follow the instructions of the person who was guiding the meditation. In some way there was a mismatch between her actual experience of her inner self and the inner self that the person guiding the meditation was trying to help her achieve.
In Acem Meditation, all thoughts are permitted. You are allowed to think/feel/daydream anything. ANYTHING. Sleep. Dreams – anything. Everything in the meditation that is not your own repetition of the meditation sound is called spontaneous activity, often abbreviated SPA. The abbreviation is actually pretty accurate, because you can think of SPA as the mind’s way of relaxing. SPA cleans up the mind by processing its unfinished business. SPA is what happens spontaneously in meditation.
The interaction between what you do (repeating the meditation sound as easily and effortlessly as you can – when you can) and what happens is what gives meditation its processing effect, and which ultimately brings relaxation.
Myth 3: I need a meditation guide or a meditation app every time I meditate
In Acem Meditation you are not dependent on a meditation guide (a human being), or an App on your phone for that matter. The battery on your phone may happen to be empty.
When you are meditating, you should shield yourself from strong sounds and light, and sit in a good comfortable chair. It is also possible to meditate in a bright and noisy environment (e.g.an airplane) if you have earplugs and a sleep mask, and even if you don’t. You can set the alarm on an old-fashioned alarm clock if you want, or just simply look at a completely analogue wristwatch. The bottom line this: Once you have learned the technique, you only need yourself.
After taking the basic course, you can in principle meditate on your own for the rest of your life, if you want to. The vast majority of meditators still find it valuable to meet other meditators to discuss their own meditation, hear about other people’s experiences, and learn more about meditation psychology, in order to meditate better themselves.
Anyone can do Acem Meditation. With this method, relaxation comes as a natural result of repeating the meditation sound without effort, and not because we want to achieve it. Acem Meditation is a non-directive meditation technique, where what is in the mind is allowed to play itself out on its own terms, no matter what it is. It is not a goal in Acem Meditation to become empty of thoughts. On the contrary, processing takes place precisely by allowing your thoughts to flow freely and meeting them with a free mental attitude whenever we are not completely absorbed by them. Once you have learned Acem Meditation, you can in principle meditate on your own for the rest of your life, and only need yourself and a time piece. However, most meditators find they get more out of meditation by exchanging and discussing their experiences with other meditators.
To conclude: Based on their own experiences with other techniques, or on what they think they know about meditation, there are quite a few who believe that meditation is not for them. For them, Acem Meditation may very well (also, and perhaps especially?) be the meditation technique that suits them the best. Including my work colleague.
By Elisabeth Heimdal Wærsted – an initiator in Acem
Translated by Eirik Jensen
Photo: From the surroundings of Acem’s retreat center Lundsholm, Sweden