Finding your neutral gear

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would happen if instead of your mind thinking all the time, you were able to find a ‘neutral gear’ that you could shift it into whenever you wanted or needed? This weeks article explores how to do this, and the value of it.

Quick reminder that my new book ‘Engaged Mindfulness‘ is still on special launch offer until the end of the month. You can find out about the book talks that I will be doing on it in September here.

In the spirit of the journey,

Toby


Finding your neutral gear

A car resting stationary and in neutral gear is the most inactive, or still that an engine can be whilst still being switched on.
‘Finding out neutral gear’ in mindfulness or meditation terms means to learn to relax our mind to the greatest degree that is possible whilst still being alert, awake and aware.
If you imagine you are in a car, perhaps waiting at a traffic lights. The engine is gently ticking over in neutral gear, expending as little energy as possible whilst remaining switched on. The engine is resting, but ready to go when the circumstances change. That is the type of state of mind that you are trying to cultivate when ‘finding your neutral gear’; you are alert and aware, but you your mind is as relaxed and inactive as it can be. It is resting deeply at ease, saving energy but ready to get into gear when circumstances change.

Recovering your psychological and physical energy in daily life
Recently I’ve been going thru an exciting and positive period of my life, traveling some, completing my first book project and other things. It’s been good but it has also been exhausting. Examples of when I use the ‘neutral gear’ technique to help me conserve and regenerate my energy include:

  • When I’m on a plane and can’t actually sleep (tall person, small seat etc….), but want to rest as deeply as I can
  • When driving or doing other mundane activities I consciously do no more than is required for the actual task at hand, and put the rest of my mind in neutral, regenerative mode
  • If I am awake at night and too wired to go to sleep immediately
  • When I feel emotionally sprangled

Neutral gear as a gateway to the unitive state
One basic way of understanding meditation is moving from a fragmented, diverse and busy state of mind to a unitive, whole and singular state of mind. When the neutral gear technique is done as a formal meditation it offers a very ergonomic, energy efficient route to this fundamental unitive meditative state.

Going from a neutral state to love
Once you have cultivated your fundamental unitive state, you may find (as I do) that sitting in a state of relaxed, neutral focus is only one short step away from a state of love. If you like you can bring to mind other people in your life as you are resting in your neutral gear, and just gently (in your mind’s eye) share this feeling of unity and wholeness with them as a gesture of love. This is a very simple and ergonomic way of building the basic experience of mindful love in yourself and in your relationships.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Toby’s new book ‘Engaged Mindfulness’ is out!

Dear Integral Meditators,

I’m really happy to announce that my new book ‘Engaged Mindfulness – What mindfulness is and how we can apply it to our daily lives’ is out!

I’ve been writing blog articles on meditation and mindfulness or a long time now, this first book of mine looks specifically at some of the most practical ways to understand and work with mindfulness in your daily life that I have discovered through my own experience over the last twenty years or so. It is only available in hard copy.

Engaged Mindfulness is on special launch offer (20% off) until the end of the month, full details are below, do feel free to share the news of the launch with any friends you think may be interested!

In the spirit of the mindful journey,

Toby


About ‘Engaged Mindfulness’: 

‘This is a book on applied mindfulness. It aims to present clear, practical ideas and exercises on how to integrate mindfulness practice into your daily life. The different sections of the book were originally written as articles, reflections on the authors own practice of mindfulness, and the ways that he has found most useful to integrate mindfulness into his life as different challenges have presented themselves.
Each section details mindfulness exercises and practices which you can either try out in a systematic way, one chapter after the other, or in a more organic manner, picking out the practices that you feel most drawn to.
Those who have no experience of mindfulness previously, might like to go to section entitled ‘Some Simple Focusing & Relaxing Practices’, which detail exercises for building basic mindful concentration.
The book is the first of a series, and deliberately kept short. The text is meant to be read slowly rather than in a rush. Taking it a page or two at a time, combining it with a little time for personal reflection is a good way to go.’

You can click here to view the front and back covers, have a read of the introduction and survey the contents: Engaged Mindfulness preview

SPECIAL LAUNCH PRICE FOR 1 WEEK: 20% OFF! – SGD$10 SGD$8 per copy (OFFER GOOD THRU END 31ST AUGUST)

TO PURCHASE YOUR COPY/COPIES:
Click HERE to purchase your copy if you are in Singapore (or Malaysia).
Click HERE to purchase your copy if you are ordering from outside Singapore.
Click HERE if you wish to purchase without mail delivery (i.e: You will pick up your copy).

Click here to find out about the book talks by Toby on ‘Engaged Mindfulness’ on the 8th & 17th of September.


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The freedom of limitation

Dear Integral Meditators,

If we normally think of limitations as an obstacle to our freedom, how can deliberately creating limitations in our life paradoxically help us find the freedom that we crave? The article below explores this theme!

In the spirit of liberated limitation,

Toby


The freedom of limitation

One way of thinking about meditation is as the freedom of limitation. In meditation we spend a period of time deliberately limiting the activity of our mind. The purpose of this is threefold:

  • In order to gain freedom from the limitation of our own compulsions, addictions and psychological habit patterns.
  • In order to specifically work on developing our mental strengths in a focused manner and
  • To gain access to progressively higher, deeper and more powerful states of conscious awareness.

Normally in our daily life we are not really setting mindful, conscious boundaries around or thoughts and what we focus on. Our mind goes here and there, darting from one object to another. When we sit in meditation, we deliberately set ourself a task, the boundaries of which we remain within to the best of our ability for the duration of the practice. Examples include:

  • Focusing on the body in order to release stress and regenerate energy
  • Focusing on the breathing in order to build concentration
  • Taking the position of the witness or observer of our mind rather than the participant
  • Extending sustained feelings of compassion toward ourself and others
  • Watching the spaces between our thoughts in order to slow our thinking and gradually become comfortable with a state of pure conscious being, or non-thought

The number of examples is as varied as the types of meditation that there are, the thing that they have in common is that each involve limiting our activity in order to gain benevolent control over our compulsive mind, build mental strengths that lead to greater wellbeing, and access deeper, more powerful/peaceful (I put those two adjectives together deliberately) states of consciousness.

The freedom of limitation in daily life
Practising the freedom of limitation can also be applied mindfully to daily life to enhance happiness and increase our productivity (If we practice the freedom of limitation in meditation, this will improve our ability to practice in daily life, but it is not essential).
Here is an example: I got back mid-afternoon today to my apartment, I now have a couple of hours to devote to the things I most want to achieve next. There are many options crowding my mind, many things I could be doing. I mindfully sift through the options and isolate three that I want to focus on in the time I have; that I most need/want to do:

  • Hanging the laundry (sometimes after long neglect this has to come to the top!)
  • Write my newsletter article (right now)
  • Shower and meditate

So, for the next two hours, these are the three activities that I limit myself to and focus my attention upon, a bit like a moving meditation. By limiting myself to these three activities, my mind has the freedom to relax, stop worrying about other stuff, and I can apply my full creative attention to the task at hand (Yes, creative laundry hanging!) The result of this mindful limitation is increased productivity, greater peace of mind and the satisfaction of coming to the end of those two hours having done that which I most want/need to do. I find if you break up the significant periods of your day like this, using the freedom of limitation technique, it’s a naturally mindfulness-strengthening process.
There you are then. Two ways to practice the freedom of limitation, in your daily life and in formal meditation practice!

Related article: The yoga of limitation and choice

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Finding the center of the wheel

Dear Integral Meditators,

Do you have to still your mind to experience inner stillness and centeredness? The article below explores how to mindfully sustain the experience of stillness amidst all the busyness and activity of your mind and daily life….

If you are in Singapore, the Wednesday meditation class re-starts this evening!

In the spirit of mindful spinning,

Toby


Finding the center of the wheel

The image of the wheel and hub is found in various traditional (Buddhist and Hindu) meditation traditions as a way of describing the meditative process. It can be useful to work with this image in your own practice as a way of finding your inner center faster and more effectively, even when under duress.
Imagine the emotional, mental, relational and logistical activity of your life as being like a wheel spinning in motion. If you are stuck in the rim of the wheel, then you find yourself spinning at a fast pace, running to keep up, feeling dizzy and generally having to work quite hard! If, however you are sitting in the center of the wheel, then you can simply stay still and watch all of the activity spinning around you whilst remaining comfortable and at ease.
In our own lives, we tend to spend a lot of time being identified with the movement in our mind, chasing after it or being chased by it, like being stuck on the rim of the spinning wheel. If we can learn to dis-engage with the contents of our consciousness, then we can move ourself toward the ‘hub’ of the wheel of our mind, watching the movement rather than being pulled around by it.

Resting in the hub as a meditation
Imagine the busyness of your mind and life as like a wheel spinning on a horizontal axis around you. Imagine yourself as sitting on or in the stationary hub or axis in the center. You are able to relax and remain still as the motion and activity spins around you. You don’t need to get rid of the activity and busyness in your mind, you just need to find your center and let the activity ‘spin’ around you. In physical terms you might think of your body and breathing as the hub of the wheel; find your breathing and focus on the central area of your torso (perhaps around the chest level). You are in the middle, in the hub, the thoughts, emotions and activity are spinning around you. Focus upon and relax into this experience for as long as you wish.

Keeping the image in mind in your daily life.
Out of meditation we can continue to bear this image in mind as we go about our daily life, using it as a way of bringing ourself back to our center when we feel ourselves getting pulled out of shape by the events of our life and our reactions to them.

Practising with different emotions.
In both formal mindfulness meditations and informally as you go about your daily life you can practice with different emotions and circumstances:

  • When anxious or stressed
  • When excited or experiencing pleasure
  • When playing your sport
  • When you are dealing with sadness or depression

After practising this technique for a while you will develop a certain amount of equanimity about what you are experiencing. For example, you might be experiencing fear, but you don’t have a problem with experiencing fear; you are in the center of the hub, the fear simply spins around you like the rim of the wheel!

Enhancing your enjoyment and participation in the movement
Practising this technique doesn’t mean that you become permanently detached from your life, in fact it means that you can actually enjoy the movement, emotion, excitement and challenge of your life more fully, because you have a place you can go to which gives you a way of controlling your response to your experience, enabling you to appreciate it more, even when it is not all bliss and rainbows!

Related article: Detached mindfulness – Engaged mindfulness

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Practical Rapture (On rapture, beauty and mindfulness)

Dear Toby,

Rapture is a state of mind and body that we all experience sometimes, the article below explores how we can build our experience of it through mindfulness, and then start putting it to use…

In the spirit of rapture,

Toby


Practical Rapture (On rapture, beauty and mindfulness)

Rapture –  a state or emotion of wonderment, bliss and heightened perception. A state of feeling deeply and primally connected to life and aliveness felt not just in the mind and heart, but in the body.

Peak rapture
We are all familiar to a greater or lesser degree with times when we have had a peak experience of rapture; when listening to music or contemplating art, in moments of new love or romance, in powerful landscape, when we are in a highly creative state, enthused by an idea or an ideal, the temporary peaks we dip into in good meditations. What are the moments in your life where you have felt most closely connected to a state of rapture? Memories like this are important for us to be mindful of as often they are powerful enough to re-trigger a little bit of that peak rapture in the moment we are in right now.

Everyday rapture
If we are mindful, we also start to notice that there are quiet invitations to rapture all around us; in the wind through trees, in the sight or a flower or cloudscape in the sky, in the feeling of comfort on our skin as we sit in a comfy chair. Rapture almost seems like the ‘hum’ of life that you can connect to anytime that you dip your awareness beneath the surface of your mind and what you are experiencing in the moment. To be in touch with your life and the feeling of being alive is to feel slightly blissful, slightly rapturous.

Accessing rapture through mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation by its nature invites us to dip below the surface of our attention, moving to deeper states of awareness that naturally contain some rapture. For example, within the forest monk tradition of breathing meditation there is a stage called ‘the beautiful breathing’. At this stage, which comes after achieving a certain level of competency focusing attention upon the breathing, the body starts to feel effortlessly comfortable, the breathing becomes smooth and even, and the mind moves toward a state of calm rapture. Once this is achieved, then we become able to access a feeling of quiet, everyday rapture at will, or at least more and more often in our daily life.

Thinking and acting from a place of rapture
You can cultivate your experience of rapture then by:

  • Being mindful of your past experiences of peak rapture, and the ones that come up for you in your daily life.
  • Noticing the everyday moments of rapture that are available to you whenever you take the time to notice them.
  • Cultivate a daily practice of mindfulness, where to learn to consciously dip into sustained states of calm rapture regularly.

One fun thing that you can then try doing is thinking and acting from a place of rapture, which is to say:

  • A place that is creative, playful and a little wild.
  • A place that is fulfilled in the moment.
  • A place that contains natural compassion.

Within the boundaries of what feels appropriate, try bringing your rapture mindfully into your everyday life, relationships and tasks. What might start to change in your life today if you did??

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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The ordinary and the unexceptional (the everyday, the unremarkable)

Dear Integral Meditators,

When does striving for something special get in the way of our attempts to be mindful? This weeks article explores this theme.

In the spirit of the journey,

Toby


The ordinary and the unexceptional (the everyday, the unremarkable)

One of the challenges that we often face finding peace of mind through mindfulness and meditation is that we feel it must be somewhere other than where we are right now. It has to be some kind of exceptional state of mind. For example:

  • I must attain a ‘perfect’ state of concentration by focusing on my breathing or meditation object so everything else disappears.
  • The presence of my everyday, daily thoughts as I meditate makes me feel like I am not where I ‘should’ be.
  • It should feel like I’m really in an altered state, or ‘in the zone’ somehow.

Our struggle to escape four types of experience in particular prevents us from finding a state of mindful, centered peace in the present moment:
The ordinary – The boring everyday inner mental/emotional and outer physical experiences that we have each day. For example, the bus commute to work on a weekday; somewhat hot, crowded, slightly irritating, perhaps tired and foggy; a totally ordinary everyday experience.
The unexceptional – I sit down to do my best work in the morning, I lose my focus slightly, I get distracted by hanging the washing…by the end of the day it just feels like nothing exceptional has happened.
The everyday – washing, emails, a ‘quite’ pretty, but dry looking tree, a mindfulness session that is 70% perspiration and 30% ‘some’ peace, all the things we do out of habit without thinking about too much
The unremarkable – Stuff we are so familiar with that we no longer notice; our slightly worn shirt, our gradually ageing face, topping up our travel card.
How can any of these help us find the peace we long for? Of course we should be looking somewhere else right?

Accepting the ordinary
The mindfulness technique I am suggesting here involves simply relaxing into, accepting, noticing and not struggling with the ordinary. The act of accepting the unexceptional nature of the moment you are in immediately places you in a space where you start to feel a degree of peace. The choice to be satisfied with the very ‘everyday’ type task that you are doing makes the act of doing it more relaxing and enjoyable. Choosing to notice fully the unremarkable nature of what your experience is makes it a place where you can start to rest and regenerate your energy.

  • As a formal sitting mindfulness practice you do this practice simply by fully accepting and being aware of where you are with no attempt to go anywhere else.
  • As an active mindfulness practice you simply note the ordinary, everydayness of where you are during any given activity, and don’t try too hard to be anywhere else.

As I’m writing this I have been in a plane for several hours; a set of very ordinary, intractable experiences; the dry air, the fatigue, the noise, the in-flight entertainment, nothing exceptional. By simply accepting and resting in the ordinary it has been very easy to relax and feel centered without having to ‘find’ that peace or do anything unusual at all.

Finding the remarkable in the unremarkable
If you practice this, the curious thing about accepting all of this ordinariness and unremarkabilty is that you start to discover all sorts of extra-ordinary, remarkable and exceptional states of mind and being lie there hidden in plain sight, amidst the very ordinariness of it all.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Allowing your mind to be messy

Dear Integral Meditators,

Often when we need most to be mindful is often the time when we feel like doing it the least. The article below explains a method of being mindful that you can use when your mind and life are at their most chaotic and mindfulness seems most difficult!

In the spirit of the happily messy,

Toby


Allowing your mind to be messy

Often when we need most to be mindful is often the time when we feel like doing it the least. The meditation technique below is for when your mind and life feel chaotic, messy or when it is difficult for you to focus. For example:

  • When you are so anxious or exited by something that your mind won’t settle
  • When you are ill or taking a medication that impairs your ability to focus
  • When your life feels disorganized
  • When fatigue or pain in the body inhibits concentration
  • When you have jet lag or you can’t fall asleep due to the activity of the mind and emotions

The technique is very simple; you take one slightly deeper, centering breath to focus your attention, then you practice being aware of and accepting the messiness of your mind. Observe how it feels; the sprangled thoughts, the tension in the body, the texture, the dis-orientation and so forth. Watch and observe the messiness of your mind in this way, every now and again coming back to a single centering breath, and then continuing to watch and accept the messiness. That’s basically it!
The ‘technology’ here is that the act of accepting and observing itself allows the mind to start to settle and relax. By accepting the mess, you start to build a tidy little spot in the middle of it that you can rest in.

Today I am tired and sleep deprived, I have a number of appointments I’m working my way thru before packing tonight and flying for a trip tomorrow. My mind and circumstances feel ‘messy’, unsettled, frenetic. The technique above is simply the one I have been using myself to approach my circumstances mindfully; to relax and enjoy the mess.

It’s possible to be messy and mindful at the same time!

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

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Structure and flow – mindful plumbing

Dear Integral Meditators,

Are your thoughts and feelings working together like a team in your daily life, or does it often seem like they are often working against each other? In this weeks article we have a look at how we can integrate our mind and emotions together into a team using mindfulness.

In the spirit of mindful plumbing,

Toby


Structure and flow – mindful plumbing

One of the keys to mindful thinking is ‘structure’. One of the keys to mindful emotion is ‘flow’. As a mindfulness practitioner, you are trying to consciously create a set of thought structures through which your emotions can healthily flow.

The house of the self
Think of your inner self as being like a house, with the plumbing system being like your thought structures through which the ‘water’ of your emotion flows. The aim of a plumbing system is to allow the water to flow freely in an uninhibited manner, and to direct it where it needs to go; the sinks, the bath/shower, the garden hose, the kitchen, toilets and so forth. In a similar way the aim of the ‘inner plumbing’ of your thought structures is to direct the flow of your emotional energy in a healthy and appropriate way toward expression in your relationships, work and life.

Every thought affects emotion
If you watch your mind for a while, with the above image in mind, you will start to notice how every thought that you have affects how you feel, and the way in which you feel it. As you watch your thoughts in this way, ask yourself the question ‘Which thoughts are helping my emotions to flow in a healthy and appropriate way? And which ones disrupt, repress, block my emotions, or cause them to flow in a negative way?’

Examining your current structures
By being mindful in this way you will become aware of the thought structures in your mind that are ‘healthy, positive plumbing’ so to speak. It is these thought structures that you want to consciously use more and more as the ‘bread and butter’ of your approach to your life and emotions. Conversely, thought structures that create blockages, tension, negative flow and so on are the thoughts that you want to try and take out and replace within your inner plumbing system.
You’ll note here that I haven’t told you what or how to think. Instead I have asked you to watch and learn from your own direct observation and experience. The approach of mindfulness is to take as much of your learning as you can from your own experience of what works and does not work for you in the here and now.

The key to emotional flow is simply to feel
Looking at the emotional end of things, ask yourself the question ‘What emotions am I feeling right now?’ Don’t try and change those emotions, simply feel them as they arise, let them flow. Emotions are of different types, but essentially they all want to flow, like water. We can allow them to flow simply by feeling them. Let emotions come into your awareness, happiness, sadness, depression, elation, excitement, disappointment, breathe in and feel them, breathe out and relax with them, let them flow from moment to moment.

Combining structure and flow mindfully
In summary, the practice of mindful plumbing involves:

  • Being aware how your thought structures affect your emotional flow, and leveraging on the thoughts that, in your experience affect your emotional flow in a healthy way
  • Facilitating your emotional flow by staying connected to how you are feeling in the here and now, in all its richness and variety
  • Bringing these two practices together into a healthy combination of emotional flow and thoughtful structure.

You are the house, your thoughts are the plumbing, your emotion is the water.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

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The yoga of limitation and choice

Dear Integral Meditation,

Is choice always a good thing for us? How can we use limitation to our advantage? The article below looks at how we can use mindfulness to approach both choice and limitation with confidence…

In the spirit of the journey,

Toby


The yoga of limitation and choice

The yoga of limitation and choice are two types of mindfulness practice centered around the process of decision making. In situations where our choices are very limited and where we have multiple choices there are both:

  • Opportunities for specific types of inner growth, happiness and wellbeing.
  • Challenges to our peace of mind and factors trying to sabotage our sense of inner wellbeing

Allowing ourselves to be disciplined by limitation
When I was a monk I deliberately chose to limit my options in life:

  • A very minimal income
  • No sexual or romantic relationships
  • No intoxicants (except the odd expresso!)

Because of this my choices became very limited, which meant I had to practice ‘the discipline of limitation’ living within my means and boundaries. My limitations also enabled me to focus and accomplish the goal of becoming a meditation and mindfulness expert, but even without that I observed that simply having fewer choices makes your life clear and simple; the limitations of your choice give rise to a certain amount of peace if you are able to accept them.
So, to practise the yoga of limitation simply means to be content and accepting of the limitations of your life as you find them each day. This doesn’t mean that you don’t make plans to increase your choices and opportunities in life; it just means you are take advantage of the limitations you find each day, and are not made unhappy by them.

The discipline of choice
Now that I am a layperson in the middle stages of my life I have many choices and options

  • Which personal and business relationships do I pursue?
  • How best to spend and save my money?
  • Am I insured enough?
  • Private or public education for my child?
  • Where to go on holiday?
  • Where to live?

Endless choices, and the more wealth I have, the more choices are born from that…
The interesting thing that I note as I observe my own experience of choice (and many of the people that surround me) is that having all these options can give rise to a lot of anxiety and unhappiness (what if this is the wrong choice? Someone tell me what to do!) In order not to be made unhappy and over anxious by my many choices, I have to be disciplined, decisive and mindful.  When you no longer have the luxury of limitation, mindful, conscious decision making really comes at a premium.

What are the circumstances in your life right now where you need to practice the yoga of limitation; allowing yourself to be disciplined by and content with your absence of choices?
What are the circumstances where you need to practice the yoga of choice; managing the anxiety of having options, and making choices consciously, responsibly and positively?

If you are a mindfulness practitioner, you will know how to take advantage of both types of situation, and have an ongoing experiential grasp of the saying that the time to be happy (in whatever form you understand that) is always now.

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

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Going beyond the mind (The spaces between your thoughts)

Dear Integral Meditators,
How can you use meditation and mindfulness to go beyond your mind? This is the subject of this weeks article!

In the spirit of the spaces in between your thoughts,

Toby


Going beyond the mind (The spaces between your thoughts)

I was taking a mindfulness class the other day and one of the participants was relating a story about how relieved she was to discover that practising mindfulness did not require you to stop your thoughts (which she, like many of us considered a near impossible goal); to be mindful she just had to focus on the breathing or watch the thoughts as they came and went. This was a relief to her, and gave her both heart and confidence pursuing her practice.

Going beyond the mind as a goal
Whilst it is true that you don’t need to stop your thoughts when you practice mindfulness meditation, it is also true that one of the capacities that we are trying to develop in the medium and long term is to become able to create and sustain states of mindful awareness where we do actually go beyond or ‘behind’ the thinking mind. We can then start to explore this open space of silence and regeneration that is unknown to the vast majority of people, and leverage upon the developmental potential that it offers us. Below is a technique to begin learning to do this now, starting small and building consistently.

The practice: Watching the spaces between the thoughts

Stage 1: Begin by focusing on your breathing for three breaths, then for the next 10-30seconds mindfully watch your thoughts coming and going as a witness and observer. Then go back to another three breaths to center yourself, after which you then return to watching your thoughts. Alternate between the breath and the watching of your thoughts for a while.
Stage 2: Continue to come back to the breathing for three breaths, but now in the 10-30second gaps in between, rather than watching your thoughts, pay attention to the spaces in between your thoughts, and gently try and extend them for a moment or two longer each time one appears.
Stage 3: Once you get a feel for stage 2, you can start to use the three breaths in a slightly different way; as you breathe in feel yourself opening to the spaces in between your thoughts, and as you breathe out feel yourself relaxing into them as deeply as you can. This way each time you come back to the breathing you use it to deepen your ability to relax into the spaces between the thoughts.

Building comfort in the space beyond or behind the mind
The practice above is designed to be a simple way of gradually building your familiarity and comfort with the inner space in your mind that surrounds, interpenetrates and contains your thoughts. Your thoughts are like clouds, your mind itself (or your consciousness) is like the sky. You are learning to relax into your inner sky, and become comfortable in the space beyond your thoughts.

Leveraging on fatigue and exhaustion to go beyond the mind
Another space you can use to go beyond your mind is when you are really tired. Let’s say you are commuting back from work after a long day, mentally and physically exhausted; to exhausted even to think. Consciously ‘give up’ thinking for a while as you sit or stand in the carriage – let your mind become an open thoughtless space, do absolutely as little as possible, almost as if you were falling asleep (which you may do!) Relaxing into this experience will give you some insight into a state of consciousness ‘beyond the thinking mind’ as well as giving you a bit of a rest!

© Toby Ouvry 2016, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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