Interview with Ursula Flatters
Ursula Flatters, born 4.1.1955 is a doctor at «Vidarkliniken» in Sweden, which she also co-founded. She has a comprehensive practice in teaching both in Sweden and internationally. This also includes numerous seminars on meditation.
How did you start meditating?
I started in my early 20s, actually. I became a member of the anthroposophical society when I was 19. It was a very strong feeling. I simply belonged to it, I couldn’t do something about it. When I was 22, I was thinking of becoming a member of the High School, as I knew it was about meditation.
I remember my first meditation. It was a very beautiful mantra from Rudolf Steiner, it was a strong experience for me, immediately. First time I tried it, I felt there was a door, there was another level of consciousness and it simply just showed up on my very first attempt. I felt so at home, I felt that this will be my way to go.
I wasn't allowed to be a member of the High School then, because those were other times, I had to wait until I was finished with my studies. But then, during that time, I began meditating regularly.
Who was the first person you've met that you knew that he/she was meditating?
It’s hard to say. I think I met several persons at that time, quite early in my life. One of the important persons was Herbert Sieweke, he was a physician and I was learning from him since I was 19. He was quite orientated, when studying anthroposophy, in making it an exercise, not only pure thinking, but an exercise. He was very open to young people. So he was open for us to go into the High School or being able to meditate.
Another person was Håkan Kumlander, whom I was in love with. He was also very strong already, as a young person, in exercising his soul. He was very special. He died then, the day before I was 23. We had an accident, he lived after it for three months, but then he still died. He was, of course, very important in my life. He was deeply exercising, even when he was so young.
His father, Åke Kumlander was a very active person here in Sweden, but he was also into meditating. He was the one who said that I had to wait before attending the High School. There was also Jörgen Smit. It was a lot of people, not only one.
Why did you choose anthroposophy as the basis?
I can’t say. I just felt at home. I was 16, when I first came to a camp for young people. My family was not an anthroposophist. My mother was Catholic. My father was very materialistic and I was growing up as a Catholic, but when I was 13 I found out that this was not my way. I also found out that I had to talk to God. I had a strong relation to the spiritual already, then.
I was allowed to go to this anthroposophical youth camp, and when I came there, I just knew, once and forever: here, I'm home. I was very intuitive. I didn't know anything about Anthroposophy, but I knew that this is where I belonged. It was just like that, so I came home and I knew - this is my way. Then I started to read on it, later on, when I was 18 or so.
Why do you meditate?
It's part of my life. I cannot imagine a life without meditation. Through the years, I have been meditating very much on the contents of the High School, the first class. I have a strong relationship to it. I became a member when I was 24 and the first time I meditated on class mantra was the second major experience for me.
It was also just like opening a door. I have been meditating very much on that stuff and I feel it's the right thing for me, even because I always feel how it's connected to life. That is where I feel at home, I feel like I'm more awake in life, that I am stronger. It’s just very connected to the Michael’s verses, just this aspect. I have been doing other meditations, too, but I cannot imagine myself without the contents of the class. I feel that it's just an aspect of being me, all the time going into this space.
I cannot say why, though. I love that i don’t want something from it. I decided once not to have a purpose directly, I just observe what happens, when I do it. I love to do it. It’s a life project to find out how meditation and life are connected. I feel I cannot be a human being without meditation, it just belongs to me as a human. I don't know if this is an answer.
I just feel that it's important to me that I don't have a purpose, other than finding out what it is to be a human being. I don't want something, I just want this to be something that I don't want something from.
What is the uniqueness of the anthroposophical meditation?
I think it's just this aspect that I feel so strongly: that it really is a meditation to make us more human, to find out what it means to be human as a life project to me. It's not the meditation only for me, but for all life and what I am able to do in my life for other people. I think I get strengthened, I get another focus too, maybe.
If I'm thinking back, I am very much focused on human development, inner development. I have been working as a leader, as a physician and everywhere I feel I have a certain focus on making it possible for people to grow inwardly. You can get a little bit more awake in this aspect and I feel there is so much love in it.
I feel that meditation gives more capacity for love, spiritual love and even self-knowledge, of course, which is not always so nice, but it is necessary. This is Anthroposophy to me, that you don't only meditate for your own development, but for other people's development.
This loving impulse, I love it. In our time, with all the obstacles, with all the difficulties, meditation is not isolated from it, but makes us more awake. I don't know if that’s anthroposophic, but I'm also meditating on the world situation, on other people, on things that I want to keep in my heart. I have also been working a lot with courses on meditation and giving courses on meditation
The anthroposophical point is the connection to life, especially. It has a potential to make us a bit better human beings whatever our life-situation might be if we even work with the ethical aspects of life. But Anthroposophy even means to create culture and that's important to me.
That is new for Anthroposophy, that you want to influence culture as i.e. medicine, pedagogic, agriculture out of initiation. That even means to take the whole heaviness of the earthly destinies with you. You don't only want to go to heaven yourself in Anthroposophy. It's not to free myself from the difficulties of the Earth, but to be more able to carry them and being engaged.
What is the basic anthroposophical meditation and exercise to you? Examples?
The basic meditation is the class mantras. I'm also class reader, so I feel very, very connected to it. I think that basic anthroposophic meditation and exercises are very individual. In my experience, there are people who want to meditate on pictures and others don't have pictures at all, they want words. There are also meditations with nature.
I think that it can differ from person to person and that's very sensitive, so I don't want to tell somebody what's basic. I found out in my meditation workshops, that people really are different, so I have to listen to what's basic for them. They have different ways.
I think it’s individual, and that is also a big task for us to be open to everybody and everybody’s doors, so to say.
I even have been in workshops, where somebody offered a meditation and didn't himself or herself understand the participants. Somebody might have an experience deeper than the instructor ever had. We have to be prepared for that. We need to be very open and modest and listening when we come together about meditation. I am not certain anymore what is basic myself, but I am certain that I have not come that far.
Where do you see your focus within the anthroposophical meditation?
I think I already answered that. Of course, it is always changing, but my main focus is the class mantra, but then I also have other focuses, sometimes, because I'm also a physician, so I do exercises with the plants, sense-based meditation and I have the medical meditations which I work with. I also meditate on diseases or patients. There are different focuses, but my personal focus is on the class mantra and some few other mantras which I love. Nowadays, I’m also a little bit creative, so I can sometimes find my own meditations too.
How has the meditation helped in your development/life?
I think it’s existential. I don't think I would be the person I am without it, it really has widened my perspectives very much. It’s close to everything that I do. I don't want to live a life without meditation because you can explore the mind as well as the outer world. Why should we renounce? It is a capacity that we have! Another perspective is the importance of self-knowledge. When you work on it you can feel a little bit more distance to yourself, so maybe it's more possible step-by-step to perceive things more freely or more clearly, when you are not obsessed with your wishes and emotions, which you are not conscious about.
So this is a way to get more conscious about oneself and making oneself more clear to perceive reality. That means very much to me, even as a physician, I want to help my patients best I can. So you can put yourself away a little bit better, use yourself as an instrument better with meditation. I think it's also a very, very important instrument for peace, because when you really exercise a lot, then you get aware that in relation to other people we are not free from wishes or anxiousness or all of these things. When you get more aware of this, then you are much more able to not project things on others, but to perceive and accept them as they are. And that creates peace in social life.
Apart from that, meditation is, of course, a big area for enquiry about diseases or patients or medical plants or destiny or whatever. By meditation you can get more knowledge, higher knowledge. It’s true. There are so many fields, and I think anthroposophic meditation is fantastic.
What role do people who practice anthroposophical meditation play to each other?
They can mean very much to each other if we are able to cultivate our being together around the topic of meditation. To me it has long been very sensitive. I have been really working with this for many years. I was very quiet about my meditation for about 20 years. I didn't talk to anybody. But then I attended a workshop with Arthur Zajonc and the delicate way he conducted it was life-changing to me. I felt how a community could be created, how we could share experiences, learn and respect each other. A new period began and I found that we can experience more, when we are doing meditations and exercises together. We have to create a certain culture to be very careful with each other. When I then started my own workshops I always had an introduction where I talk about meditation as a field where we never share opinions, because we're talking about authentic experiences. We have to respect them. When we create that culture, I always feel there arises much love and peace.
So I think it's just a possibility of having a deeper, more peaceful and more loving relations or relationships. Meditation really makes that possible. I get a deeper connection with people who I have been meditating together with. When you meet that person again, you know that there's a certain connection between you two, that has a certain spiritual quality and it will always be there.
What are opportunities and challenges of shared meditation?
The challenge here is that we need to create a culture where we really respect each other. That is very important, because you can really hurt another person in that open situation. If we do meditate together, then we have to do it in trust, in a peaceful mood, and with respect. I think it's also important that we don't take theoretical things into meditation, no opinions or discussions.
You really must be interested in every participant's authentic meditation or contribution, you have to even work with your inner comments, not only with your outer, not only with your mouth, but even with your heart. There should be no comments, just love, just thankfulness, and then I think it's a field where we really can help each other to be more human. There is a great future in the possibility of doing meditation work together.
I have my little classwork in Umeå in the north of Sweden. I started it there – far from Dornach all the historic things. It was wonderful opportunity. I had one participant who never said anything, always came but never said anything. Different people had to prepare for our workshops on Saturdays - we had the class on Sundays. On Saturdays we met and worked with the class in our ways. One day, after maybe 10 years, I asked him to lead a section on a Saturday. After possibly weeks, he called me and said okay.
Then the day came and then we met and he was just white in his face. And then he said that «the guardian at the threshold», that is really serious, and then he didn't say anything else, not a word. Then we had a conversation after that and in the end of the conversation, everybody thanked him. It was absolutely clear that he had given in so much that we had a wonderful conversation together. Everybody knew that it was him who had created the space.
After that I asked him how he felt, he said that he didn’t sleep a minute, the night before, that he had been thinking for weeks, but he had no more to say. I told him that he didn't need to say anything more. We all learned that there are other laws in the esoteric work that don't have to do with how much you know, but who you are.
What he offered was so deeply felt, so much HIM and it had a huge impact on that meeting. We have to learn another capacity of attention and openness. It is different, compared with our intellectual world. We get in touch with beings, not thoughts.
Where are we now as an anthroposophic community and what future wishes do you have?
I think that we are in a situation where we should be very, very open to where we really are. I don't think it's all easy to name the point we are in. Everybody feels that there is a big change, but what is it demanding from us? We have to be interested in how Michael’s call is really moving now.
We don't easily know how the Michael-school is moving in the spiritual world as members of the High School, but I hope and believe that we can do something for it. What can we do? We certainly have to be very open and try to be aware how our efforts really work. Maybe there is a tendency of being too busy, having too little space for stillness and listening.
I had the seventh class lecture last Sunday in Umeå. It’s the class where Rudolf Steiner talks about the resistance that we will get. He says that we won't understand the light of the Michael’s call, if we won't look at the resistance that we get. The resistance is very strong in Sweden right now. Tragic things happen. It's a really hard time. I think that it shows the possible light of the Michael’s call and that we could misunderstand things. How does the Michael’s light move in it? I'm asking every day.
I cannot define anything. I want to be open, just open, even for new steps. I think it's difficult to have to overcome an opinion. We have to look in each person's life's possibilities. Everybody has to live his or her possibilities and karma and we have to help each other simply, and be more and more aware to see the Michael’s part in each other and then trust each other.
Do you have an advice for someone who would like to be begin to meditate?
A person who would like to meditate, should spend a little time and find the inner space of the heart. One can go into one’s heart and find out what's there. Who am I? What’s there? Often, when somebody asks me, after I find out more about the person, I can make some proposals. But I don't have any general advices.
I often try to find out what kind of person I am talking to. If the person is related to art or to science, or to nature, or to religion, or prayer, or if it’s a very social person and so on. My advices are going to be different. I feel I don't know any more myself THE good way to begin the meditation with. I think I try kind of to “listen it out” of the person I talk to. By this I remember my own first experiences which were not with exercises “for beginners”. So I think this is a very delicate question andin the end everybody has to find out himself.
Would you like to add something at all?
I think that one of our main tasks in the anthroposophical movement is to develop a culture of meditation and even moral strength. The challenge is to enhance the ability for our own judgements in the spiritual field and even in life. Steiner will always be our great teacher and we should not deny his great contribution, but we cannot cite him to emphasise our own opinions or to convince somebody. Meditation means to explore the mind, that is the whole inside of the world!