You relax more in meditation when you welcome the Wandering Mind – and do not try to monitor or control it.
We All Know the Wandering Mind
Sit quietly down, close your eyes and do nothing. What happens? You hear sounds, register body sensations. Thoughts about this and that come and go, and you feel vague emotions and moods. This is something that we all are familiar with–the activity of the wandering mind.
Why does the mind actively wander, even when we are resting? Brain researchers were surprised by this phenomenon–and even more when they discovered that larger areas of our brains are actually more active when we rest than when we concentrate on a specific task. Studies show that we use as much as 40% of our time when we are awake during the day for such mind wandering.
The Mind’s Own Healing Process
This became a hot research topic. At first mind wandering was identified with ruminations –recurrent and irritating like the thoughts that distract us when we try to concentrate on a task or when we try to fall asleep at night. But more and more scientific research has made it clear that mind wandering is a basic human resource which has important functions for our survival and quality of life. Mind wandering helps us to remember the past, plan for the future, work creatively, imagine alternative scenarios, emphasize with others, understand ourselves, process experiences and difficult emotions and access energy and potentials that reside within us.
Welcoming Rather Than Trying to Control
These findings have fundamental implications for meditation. Many meditation methods train you to try to reach blissful states of mind, to empty your mind of all thoughts or avoid all things negative and bring forward only positive thoughts and emotions. Or they involve vigilant observation and monitoring of the activity of the mind – mindfulness. Increasingly, however, research shows that trying to control or direct the spontaneous activity of the mind towards predefined goals, or vigilantly monitoring them, limits the release of stress and tensions and the processing of experience and emotion that mind wandering can facilitate.
Stimulating Mind Wandering at Deeper Levels
The approach of nondirective meditation methods such as Acem Meditation is fundamentally different. Acem Meditation not only welcomes mind wandering as a natural part of the meditation process. This meditation method actually stimulates mind wandering on deeper levels, by training the meditator to create greater freedom for the spontaneous activity of the mind to express itself. The meditator does this by effortlessly repeating of a neutral and meaningless meditation sound with a free, open, accepting and unconstrained attitude. This induces a relaxation response in the mind and body that reduces stress and tension, and allows the spontaneous ability of the mind to process experiences at deeper levels.
Acem Meditation with Well-Documented Results
The effects of Acem Meditation in the short term are now well documented: deep relaxation of the mind and body beyond the levels of ordinary rest and even sleep, and a reduction of the heart rate, blood pressure, and other indicators of stress. Physiological measurements and functional MR scanning show how the changes in brain function during non-directive meditation induce deep bodily rest. Spontaneous mental processing is associated with marked relaxation responses in the autonomic nervous system.
On the longer term, the training in openness and acceptance that Acem Meditation provides can become an important aid to deeper personal reflection and growth.
Rolf Brandrud is a certified teacher of Acem Meditation and has taught it since 1975. He has served as a journalist/editor at the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation for 30 years.
Don’t Miss this 4 Weekly Class: Acem Meditation: Discover the Power of the Wandering Mind with Rolf Brandrud. Free intro session on Monday, April 8, 2019 at 6:00 pm (4 Sessions) Mondays, April 15 – May 6, 2019, 6:00pm – 7:45 pm