“The main point about a koan is that it is a dynamic and experiential way to break through you overactive, anxious conceptual mind into a direct, non-thinking experience of awareness itself.”
In the spirit of dynamic peace,
Dynamic peace – The Zen Koan
Defining the Koan
The Zen koan is a device traditionally employed by a Zen Master in order to help the disciple let go of his or her over dependence upon their conceptual mind, and to help them to engage with their reality in a direct and non-conceptual manner. It also serves to awaken the disciple to their intuitive, creative and/or awakened mind. The koan can take the form of a saying, a story, a conversation or an action.
Three examples of Zen Koans
Firstly, here is one of the most famous:
‘What is the expression of your face before you were born’
Koans are not designed to be explored like a crossword puzzle, and there is no neat and tidy conceptual answer to them. There are however meanings that we can see within them that could be expressed in a conceptual manner. For example, ‘Your face before you were born’ encourages us to look deeply at what we really consider to be our true face, is it this physical form? Is it our psychological profile or personality? Or is our original face the radiance of our consciousness that lies prior to thought, feeling or physical form?
Second example, the story of Bodhidharma, the founder of Chan and Zen Buddhism’s journey from India to China, and his meeting of the Chinese Emperor:
“Upon seeing the greeting party that had been arranged for him, and hearing the Chinese Emperor begin to engage in a long and somewhat pompous speech, Bodhidharma took of one of his shoes, and placed it upon his head!”
As the emperor engages in his speech, Bodhidharma does something to short-circuit the flow of conceptual activity, and bring us right back into the moment through his unconventional activity. Perhaps something you can try with one of your more boring and pompous uncles or Aunts at Christmas, New Year or Deepavali(!)
Another favorite of mine is taken from a Zen Poem by a musician called Deuter:
‘The body cannot become the Buddha, the mind cannot become the Buddha, only what cannot become the Buddha can become the Buddha.’
Two creative examples
Recently, I created two Koan-like images for my Zen class students, the image of a broken-arrow as a koan for aimlessness, and a sign with nothing on it for the meditation practice of signlessness.
A path to dynamic peace
The main point about a koan is that it is a dynamic and experiential way to break through you overactive, anxious conceptual mind into a direct, non-thinking experience of awareness itself. Within this direct awareness we find peace, calm, and a doorway to the awakened state, not sometime in the future, but right here and now.
Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2021, 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
Integral Mindfulness & Meditation Online Program with Toby September ’21-March ’22
Start date: Wednesday 8th September
Early Bird offer until Thursday 2nd September, $50 off (see pricing below)
This is a 24week, online integral mindfulness and meditation program. Each week a 45minute class and mindfulness session recording will be sent to you. You can then listen to it in at a time that is convenient for you. The recording will be accompanied by reading material and short articles.
In the sessions you will learn a multitude of practical mindfulness skills and capabilities that you can integrate into your daily life and personal practice. Included are breathing techniques, flow methods, ways of developing your emotional and cognitive intelligence, building concentration and focus and many more. You can see a complete list of the subjects covered below.
Listen to Toby introducing the Program:
Complete list of course sessions:
- How to build mindful flow
- Integrating mindfulness of the body and breathing (Integral body-mind scanning)
- How to practice unstructured mindfulness – Turning and facing
- Building concentration in an age of distraction
- Building benevolence and goodwill toward yourself and others
- On Compassion, and how to create your own meditation objects
- On non-judgmental Awareness, and making better judgments
- Overcoming distractions, and even using them as aids to meditation
- Natural breathing and wave breathing forms
- On bare attention and witnessing
- Letting come letting go, going with the flow
- Resting in safety and thriving wisely on risk
- Meditation as a positive mindfulness game
- On being mindful of emotions
- How to balance thinking with feeling
- How to think less and think well (Think better or don’t think)
- Finding the hub of the wheel of your mind
- Connecting to natural happiness
- Mindfulness of the present and non-present moment
- How to transform frustrations into motivation
- Becoming a man or woman of no rank
- The Yin and yang of mindful thinking
- Choiceless awareness and making conscious choices
- Balancing knowledge with wisdom (Balancing accumulating and letting go)
The cost of the program: Early-Bird up until Thursday 2nd September, save $50! SGD$470 (Price goes up to $520 after that).
To make payment: If in Singapore you can use PayNow on +65 96750279, or if you are abroad you can use the Paypal link HERE.
This is eight-month coaching program with Toby is designed to facilitate your own personal mindful self-discovery process. It focuses on:
- Awareness of how your past experience has influenced who and how you are today
- Confidence in approaching your present experience with playful fullness and enthusiasm
- Giving you the inner tools to face your choices and your future in an empowered, dynamic, and authentic manner. Read full details
Are you looking a coach who can help you to:
- Meet the challenges, stress and changes that you face in a more effective and mindful way
- Become happier within yourself, in your relationships and at work
- Be actively accountable for finding a sense of balance/well-being in your life and fulfilling your personal potential?
- Guide you to find and operate from a deeper sense of meaning, motivation and connectivity in your life?
All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:
Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)
Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (East Coast)
Starts 6th&7th July – Integral Meditation from the Perspective of Zen – A 10 week series
Starts Wednesday September 8th – The Integral Mindfulness & Meditation Online Program with Toby September ’21-March ’22
Integral Meditation Asia