Meditation in a culture of comparison – The Meditation Blog

From Jonas Meyer

There are other ways to understand our society as we speak, however one perspective that is sensible to me is that we stay in a tradition of comparability. In such a tradition, there tends to be a cut up between the constructive, which we favor to speak about, and the unfavorable, which we are likely to maintain at bay. In distinction, Acem meditation helps us to fulfill existence because it really is. Technology will anchor and anchor us extra firmly in society as we stay in as we speak's society with all its calls for, beliefs and distractions. Meditation facilitates our growth another way than the tradition round us.

Negative results of comparisons

What does it imply that we stay in a tradition of comparability? The growth of recent applied sciences has made it doable for individuals to match themselves to others in numerous new methods – particularly by way of social media. When we open Facebook, we in all probability don't suppose, "Now I'll compare myself to the others." But that's precisely what we're really doing. Social media maintain us commonly up to date on different individuals's lives: their holidays, their meals, and their new jobs.

Many have warned in opposition to an excessive amount of comparability, from the Stoic philosophers and the apostle Paul within the New Testament. Scientists additionally inform us that too many comparisons with others can have unfavorable results. An American research

as of 2014 indicated a doable hyperlink between evaluating individuals with others and the incidence of melancholy.

People who spent a variety of time on Facebook gave the impression to be deeply affected and one doable clarification may very well be the quite a few methods it may be in comparison with others. A extra world impact is described by Pankaj Mishra within the e-book Age of Anger. He means that comparisons may add to anger in the direction of the West in some elements of the world. Comparing your high quality of life to these on the opposite aspect of the world can evoke bitterness and anger.

Social comparability and PR

Since Festinger launched the “social comparison” concept within the 1950s, scientific research have investigated the phenomenon. The concept is that people consider their very own opinions and talents by evaluating themselves to others as a way to cut back their uncertainty about themselves. This is a fundamental human trait and as such just isn’t a unfavorable, however it’s attention-grabbing that classes realized from this concept have been utilized in PR. Much PR makes use of the essential human pattern to match itself to a really perfect. PR presents the right, good life, the right way of life, the right physique, and will help create a separation between the constructive issues we like to speak about and the unfavorable issues we favor to cover.

Whether you visited Facebook as we speak, noticed PR on-line, or noticed PR posters when you have been strolling outdoors, the comparability tradition influenced you. Cultivated world residents might declare that they’re conscious of this and that they aren’t being influenced, however we are usually extra affected than we perceive. In as we speak's society, individuals – consciously and unconsciously – evaluate themselves to others extra typically than 20, 30, 100 or 200 years in the past.

The indignant monkey

A video from a Ted Talk by Frans de Waal (2013) reveals very clearly how a comparability takes place. Two monkeys obtain items of cucumber as a reward for finishing a easy job.

Then, when the second monkey receives an enhanced reward – a grape – the primary monkey will get indignant. He throws away his cucumber and hits the glass wall of his cage. He refuses to simply accept any much less worthwhile reward than his neighbor. His anger is justified. He was handled unfairly. The purpose of the research was to analyze this. The experiment can be an instance of how a comparability could cause dissatisfaction. If the primary monkey had obtained his cucumber with out seeing the opposite acquired something higher, he would have been simply as pleased as earlier than. His anger was solely aroused when he understood that the opposite monkey was getting one thing higher than him.


The monkey video reveals some views which might be related to meditation. Sometimes after we meditate we might really feel a bit like the primary monkey. When meditation just isn’t what we wish it to be, we are able to understand it as a deficit or a scarcity of reward. We really feel like we’re getting cucumbers whereas we wished grapes. We get stressed and “shake the cage”.

The message within the monkey video just isn’t that if we observe unfair remedy, we should always not react appropriately. We do, in fact, and Acem Meditation will help create each authority and peace of thoughts. But there aren’t any unfair spontaneous actions in meditation. You can’t ship a criticism about your spontaneous exercise to somebody who requests that they modify it. You at all times get the spontaneous exercise you want.

Meditation beliefs

We all have beliefs of meditation. These can come from one thing others have mentioned or written about meditation, or perhaps one thing we skilled earlier than, for instance in the course of the idyllic retreat this specific summer season.

The e-book The Power of the Wandering Spirit (Eifring, 2019) describes the Default Mode Network (DMN) within the mind. The DMN contains the elements of the mind which might be activated after we are at relaxation and varieties the premise of the wandering thoughts. Acem meditation facilitates the DMN. The extra we intervene within the DMN and attempt to management it, the extra we disturb the processing and integration impact of the DMN within the mind. The processing impact of meditation will increase after we let spontaneous exercise come because it comes with out attempting to manage it. In this fashion we let unfinished fragments come up within the head and convey remaining experiences one step nearer to processing and integration. The extra we attempt to obtain one thing, for instance to pursue a really perfect of meditation, the much less the impact of the meditation turns into.

Living with metathoughts

In meditation, we are able to typically act like our personal enemy. We can get concepts about our meditation observe that disrupt the stream of spontaneous exercise. We might really feel that the spontaneous exercise just isn’t calm sufficient, comprehensible sufficient, straightforward to understand, or thrilling sufficient. These are metathoughts that aren’t simply ideas about ideas. A metathought includes an evaluation of our meditation, often a unfavorable one which we imagine in with out objection. It's a score that doesn't have in mind any nuances. Metathoughts and dissatisfaction in meditation nearly at all times contain a component of comparability. We evaluate our meditation – the cucumber – with the perfect meditation we wish – the grape. If we imagine within the metathoughts, we might turn into detached and suppose, "I don't care." We can start to repeat the sound of meditation in distant and distant methods. However, a extra frequent reply is mobilization. We turn into fooled by the unstated comparability with the perfect and start to disturb the spontaneous stream, for instance through the use of a bit power or attempting to flee the shortage of readability and attempting to form ourselves. We use energetic focus to attempt to change the state of affairs. We act just like the monkey within the video. We shake the cage and ask for one thing else.

A fundamental precept of Acem meditation – and an essential supply of development and progress – is to simply accept the metathoughts and stay with them with out reacting to them. It is useful to acknowledge the impulse to behave, however on the similar time to let the important ideas be solely a part of the spontaneous exercise – to maintain repeating the meditation sound with out suppressing the metathoughts and with out performing on them. This just isn’t a passivity, however an exercise that leaves extra room for our personal spontaneity. In this fashion we don't let ourselves be fooled by unattainable beliefs.

This type of observe improves integration. Emotions, ideas and evaluations are allowed with out making radical adjustments on the exercise degree. Active focus would contain suppression and pushing away. Meditation is an train in asserting oneself within the tradition of comparability and its beliefs. What you do is sweet sufficient. You maintain practising within the storm. Hence, the event facilitated by meditation is radically totally different from what stimulates the remainder of our tradition. Acem meditation can function a correction for the extreme and unhealthy tendency to match.

Silent confrontation

The reference tradition can induce a separation between the constructive and the unfavorable. We can even see a cut up in individuals's expertise of meditation. We need silence, bliss and concord and are dissatisfied when the want just isn’t fulfilled. When I examine meditation methods, I typically get jealous of the outcomes others appear to be getting. One approach guarantees to "transcend normal levels of consciousness to enter another realm and experience blissful divine energies". Another approach describes it like this: "Meditation enables you to get in touch with your core being, the pure consciousness that is always free, luminous, and full of boundless joy." It sounds good. But after I sit in a day by day acem meditation, typically I really feel like I solely get the cucumbers whereas others get the grapes.

We people have a tendency to recollect tales reasonably than details. Stepping into "another sphere" and having the ability to get pleasure from "bliss" and "pure awareness" is a narrative. You shall be upset when meditation doesn't provide you with what the story says. If you follow a narrative like this, you will have a meditation drawback. The spontaneous stream doesn’t observe a set recipe or path.

The level right here is to not criticize different meditation organizations, however to spotlight one of many strengths of Acem Meditation – the power to confront. The observe of Acem meditation is a silent confrontation with life because it really is. Acem meditation is often nice, with leisure, stillness, and calm. But not at all times. To get the constructive results of meditation over time, one has to simply accept the nice with the dangerous. This is a standard expertise amongst those that have practiced lengthy meditations. You undergo totally different phases. Calm and restlessness alternate. And when you have a nice meditation in the future, the subsequent day could also be a bit totally different. Acem Meditation presents us with the entire ghost of ourselves – not simply the perfect.

This silent confrontation can be a part of Acem's coaching in Interpersonal Communication. Here you’re a part of a bunch with skilled managers and provides one another suggestions. The purpose is to not reward or assist each other by way of constructive feedback, however reasonably to realize a extra practical understanding of how you’re employed with others.

This realism can be a part of Acem's understanding of meditation. Probably no different meditation college has verbalized the phenomenon of resistance in meditation so clearly. This down-to-earth perspective was one of many causes Acem broke with the TM motion within the early 1970s.

Meditation Habits for the Young Generation

One latest dialogue in Acem is how greatest to convey the significance of standard meditation for younger individuals. We might ponder whether it’s tougher for the youthful era as we speak to ascertain day by day meditation habits. In this case, a number of explanations are doable. We stay in a time of many distractions. The tradition of comparability often lets us deal with one thing outdoors of us reasonably than inside. Frequent use of screens can negatively have an effect on the mind and its skill to focus and be alert. I not too long ago spoke to a author who has attended many faculties over the previous 20 years. His impression was that the scholars' consideration spans had been decreased considerably.

For a era with an excellent stronger comparative tradition affect than earlier than, it has in all probability turn into tougher to take a seat down to fulfill what is definitely there and attempt to take care of challenges for what they’re.

Silence within the midst of the noise

When we notice that Acem meditation just isn’t a feel-good approach, it may initially induce a considerably sad feeling. Meditation doesn’t give consolation or prompt reward each time. If we need to use the processes that Acem Meditation initiates, we’ve to simply accept all the totally different elements of it – each the stillness and the restlessness. Acem Meditation is a coaching in existential confrontation and teaches us to not evaluate, however to work together with spontaneous exercise. Then we have to let go of a few of our meditation myths and beliefs – for instance, the concept meditation empties the thoughts, that on a regular basis ideas are nugatory in meditation, or that restlessness is meaningless.

When we meditate, we attempt to not put sure states of thoughts above others. This is, in fact, simpler mentioned than executed for a number of causes: A hierarchy of values ​​that choose elements of spontaneous exercise as extra worthwhile than others can lead us to shortly reject the one second we’ve – the right here and now. When we are saying no to sure elements of spontaneous exercise, we’re additionally saying no to these facets of ourselves that should be expressed now. Then we miss the prospect for processing, for reconciliation, for the depth of our life, for existential coaching, but additionally for the potential for silence, calm and perception – in brief, many worthwhile moments. In Acem meditation we attempt to not discard the meditative cucumbers. We can say that there are two paths to stillness in meditation: One is to attempt to maintain the noise out. Then we’re pushed by a really perfect to empty the minds, to calm issues down. This requires a specific amount of effort. And ought to it succeed, the satisfaction could be short-lived.

The different approach is to develop a free psychological perspective in the direction of the noise – to not see the noise as a disturbance. To be current in what arises within the spontaneous exercise means to be current in our meditation, however another way than we are able to typically see. Silence can require a sensitivity and subtlety that contradicts the pursuit of a selected best. If we pursue the silence and beliefs that the “perfect PR texts” promise, we are able to miss the silence that’s really there as it’s within the second.


Pankaj Mishra: Age of Wrath (2017). Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Juggernaut Books. ISBN 978-0-374-27478-8.

Halvor Eifring (ed.): The energy of the wandering spirit (2019). Dyad Press. ISBN 978-82-91405-55-1.

Social Comparison Theory:

Translated by Anne Grete Hersoug


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