Table of Contents

Groundbreaking perspectives on how nondirective meditation interacts with brain and body, mind and culture.

The Power of the Wandering Mind—Nondirective Meditation in Science and Philosophy

Chapter 1 • Active relaxation
What is nondirective meditation? 
Halvor Eifring, Svend Davanger, Are Holen

Many types of meditation seek to empty the mind of thoughts. In contrast, nondirective meditation activates brain areas linked to mind wandering, providing deep relaxation and processing of memories and emotions.


Chapter 2 • Back to the savanna
How a free mental attitude restores energy and strength 
Svend Davanger

Concentration is tiring. Allowing our attention to float freely, as in nondirective meditation, activates parts of the brain that help us process stressful experiences, and increases self-awareness and creativity.

Chapter 3 • The brain is made for mind wandering
Nondirective meditation and the default mode network
Svend Davanger

Nondirective meditation integrates the spontaneous stream of thought as an important part of the practice. Where in the brain do these thoughts come from, and why is the brain built to generate them?


Chapter 4 • From brain to body
Autonomic relaxation and mental processing during nondirective meditation
Øyvind Ellingsen

Physiological measurements and functional MR scanning show how the changes in brain function during nondirective meditation induce deep bodily rest. Spontaneous mental processing is associated with marked relaxation responses in the autonomic nervous system.

Chapter 5 • A marker of stress reduction
Blood pressure and disease prevention
Øyvind Ellingsen

Some of the most convincing scientific evidence of the stress-reducing effect of nondirective meditation is a modest reduction in blood pressure. Experts agree that even a small reduction can improve health and longevity.

Chapter 6 • Less stress—more energy
Improving mental health and quality of life
Øyvind Ellingsen

Several studies indicate that meditation increases energy by reducing pain and worries associated with everyday stress. Effects are stronger with nondirective meditation than with directive techniques for muscle relaxation.


Chapter 7 • Self-control
Controversies in psychology and meditation
Turid Suzanne Berg-Nielsen

What we need to control is external behavior, not thoughts and emotions, as cognitive psychologists and mindfulness practitioners claim. Nondirective meditation facilitates freedom of thought and creativity.

Chapter 8 • Acem Meditation in the workplace
A useful tool for stress management
Anne Grete Hersoug, Morten Wærsted, Bjørn Lau

Professionals who practice nondirective meditation find it easier to cope with pressure at work. They experience less muscular pain, fewer sleep problems, fewer worries, less nervousness, and less mental distress.

Chapter 9 • Opening minds
Stories of change
Anne Grete Hersoug

How can adjustments in the repetition of a meditation sound bring about personal development? This chapter describes two of the many real-world cases that have contributed to our understanding of processes of change.


Chapter 10 • Morality without alienation
Toward an ethics of nondirective meditation
Eirik Jensen

According to both rationalists and sentimentalists, morality requires that we look at ourselves from a distant and impersonal point of view. Nondirective meditation points toward a more integrated ethics.


Chapter 11 • From esoteric science to neuroscience
The history of research on nondirective meditation
Halvor Eifring

Ideas, self-reports, and measurements all play a role in our understanding of meditative practice and its effects. In name, at least, a science of meditation has existed since the early nineteenth century.

Chapter 12 • The psychological potential
Acem Meditation and other types of nondirective meditation
Halvor Eifring

Despite their similarities, various types of nondirective meditation are taught and explained in different ways. Acem Meditation has developed a distinctive approach to the processing of deep-seated psychological issues.

Chapter 13 • Learn to meditate without a teacher? 
Online courses in nondirective meditation
Halvor Eifring

Mobile apps like Headspace and Calm claim to have taught millions of users mindfulness and related forms of meditation. Similar solutions for nondirective meditation are entering the market—how do they work?

Chapter 14 • Self-observation or effortlessness?
Mindfulness vs. nondirective meditation
Halvor Eifring

Mindfulness and nondirective meditation have much in common. However, the former emphasizes top-down, intensive self-observation, whereas the latter builds on a bottom-up and relaxed free mental attitude.

Chapter 15 • Histories of mind wandering
Spontaneous thought in meditative traditions
Halvor Eifring

“Nondirective meditation” and “free mental attitude” are modern concepts. However, part of what these terms imply has been expounded on in meditative traditions for hundreds or maybe thousands of years.