Sound or breath

After an interview with Acem’s founder Dr Are Holen in the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, one of the several hundred readers who went ahead and learned the technique asked for the advice of a local yoga teacher who writes for the paper:

I joined a beginner’s course and found it very stimulating. Years ago I practised meditation based on maintaining the right attitude towards the world and oneself, as well as visualisations. In contrast, the Acem method places no importance on any of this, but is simply based on repeating a sound mentally for half an hour twice a day. Nor is there any emphasis on the breath. And instead of the classic lotus position, you sit in a chair with support in your lower back. … What do you think?

The yoga teacher appears to be open-minded:

As I often tell my students: “If you’re ok with it, then it’s ok.” Let each person take advantage of whatever can help him become more mature, more balanced and more wise.

In a funny twist of logic, however, he ends up recommending breathing meditation:

But of course meditating on the breath is most ideal. It is both highly reassuring and a good means to enhance concentration and achieve one-pointedness of the mind.

There is nothing wrong with breathing meditation, and it is often taught as part of yoga both in Acem and in other contexts. In our experience, sound-based meditation goes deeper than breathing meditation and other body-based techniques, but the simplicity of a breathing technique also has its charm. The most problematic aspect of the yoga teacher’s answer lies in his emphasis on concentration and one-pointedness. True, meditation sometimes brings about a kind of calm and mental absorption that is both pleasant and beneficial. But techniques that open the mind also do the opposite. They bring you in contact with the tension and unease that resides within you, and so enable you to deal with these things rather than just letting them stay put. Too much talk of concentration tends to restrict the mind and stop the process.

Download the original piece in Spanish.

1 Comment

  1. Kaif

    I practice mindfulness of breathing once in a few days and I agree that meditation on sound seems to have a much greater potential for manifesting things from the unconscious. I also feel that it puts more of the onus on you to allow or not allow this manifestation, and how you do it is different all the time, making the meditation continually new.

    Mindfulness of breathing seems to do a bit of all this as well, but the emphasis seems to be more on realising the impermanence of all experience.

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