Monk socks/Going undercover

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you are enjoying the holiday season! Winter solstice coming up next Tuesday, if you are  interested in marking this with a meditation, then you’d be welcome to come along to my online  Winter solstice balancing & renewing meditation (Online only) , on Tuesday 21st December,  7.30-8.30pm, SG time…

I’m at my parent’s place at the moment. yesterday my brother went up to the loft and brought down a bag with several pairs of burgundy socks, mine from my days as a monk back in the 90’s (see picture). This got me thinking about those times, and the article below is one thing that came out!

In the spirit of integration,


Deep undercover (An ex-monk returning to the market-place)

Some of you may remember the 2002 Hong Kong movie ‘Infernal affairs’ with Tony Leung about a policeman who goes deep undercover in a Triad gang, and then becomes the favourite of the ‘Godfather’ of the gang. The movie then follows his identity crisis as he moves deeper into his criminal role.

“Can I stay in your jail?”
When I was a young Buddhist monk staying in Singapore, I stayed for a number of months in the spare room of a student of mine, who lived in a local HDB apartment. He was a plainclothes policeman who had been undercover for a number of years in the local nightclub and drug scene. Like Tony Leung (but in a different way) he had gone deep into his role, and lost himself in the cars, the booze and the lifestyle of his role. Eventually after losing his marriage and having a bit of a breakdown, he had given up his undercover role, returned to mainstream policing, and become very devoted to Buddhism and meditation practice, which he had used a way of returning to relative normalcy and stability.
My undercover policeman had started coming to my class a couple of months earlier, and I had been staying at a number of different places in Singapore, just improvising really. When I learned that he was a policeman, I figured I could ask him if he had any spare jail cells that I could use to stay in. When I asked him, he looked very serious and thoughtful for a while, then said “No, but I have a meditation room in my apartment, and you can stay there!” And this is how I ended up staying with him.

Coming out of or going back undercover? – Returning to the marketplace as an ex-monk
When I returned to lay life as a monk in 2001, it felt a bit like I was simultaneously coming out of and going undercover:

  • In one way I felt I was coming out of an undercover role, or an alternate reality that I had been living as a monk, and the universe that surrounded that
  • On another level I felt I was going undercover in the sense that I was clearly now coming from quite a different perspective and experience from most of those around me in everyday society. So I was kind of having to ‘look normal’ whilst being quite different in reality!

Transforming but staying the same
Since that time, twenty years ago, I have remained in this situation, in many ways operating according to the same principles that I learned, practiced and created as a monk. Essentially what this means is that my main motivation for being in the world is to help with the evolution of the consciousness of groups and individuals my coaching and teaching meditation and mindfulness. On another level I have changed fundamentally. I am a business owner, I have a couple of kids, I’m married, I have a relatively complex secular life.

The integration is the path, not the problem
To hold these two polarities in places sometimes seems like a tricky process, like holding together two realities that seem to contradict each other. Over the years I have realized increasingly that the task of bringing together these two realities in an integrated way is not in the way of my path, it is my path. The path for me is very much the process of spiritualizing the secular, and secularizing the spiritual, so that together a greater wholeness is created in the world.
In what ways are you ‘working undercover’? And what is the transformation that might be affected within yourself and within society if you were successful in your role?

Related articleAm I happier now than when I was a Buddhist Monk? (Repetition and inner growth)

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   

Tuesday 21st December,  7.30-8.30pm, SG time – Winter solstice balancing & renewing meditation (Online only)

This will be a chance to reflect on the spiritual meaning of Christmas and power of the winter season. We will look at the different ways our own inner light can ‘die and be re-born once more’.

It is a good time to attune to the creative energies within ourselves. We can think about the new year & spring periods that lie ahead of us, what our goals & expectations are, & sow the seeds on an inner level of that which we wish to manifest over the next few months…read full details


Tues & Weds 4th & 5th January – 2022 New year & New Moon releasing and inviting meditation

This meditation session is focused upon setting up the 2022 new year energies in a way that invites the best possible experience moving forward. We will be:

  • Releasing and letting go of energies, events and experiences from the past year that may hold us back from moving into our full potential
  • Developing a flexible, soft, ‘beginners mind’, renewed and ready to be ‘born again’ with energy and enthusiasm in 2022
  • Focusing both consciously and intuitively upon the inviting of new energies, aspirations and goals that we wish to bring in and manifest over the course of the new year…read full details

Begins Tues 11/Weds 12th January – The ordinary path to enlightenment – Meditating with the Ten Ox Herding pictures

This series of 10 classes is an introduction to simple, practical Zen and Taoist meditations that can temporarily help us to reduce our stress and thrive joyfully in daily life. They can also, practiced regularly offer us experiential insight into our true nature and help us to answer some of our deepest life-questions and attain a truly stable sense of inner transformation. The sessions can be attended as a complete course in itself, or each class can be taken as a practice in and of itself…read full details


Life-fullness – The Integral Life-Coaching Program with Toby

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?
Read full details

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

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)

Tuesday 21st December,  7.30-8.30pm, SG time – Winter solstice balancing & renewing meditation (Online only)

Tues & Weds 4th & 5th January – 2022 New year & New Moon releasing and inviting meditation

Begins Tues 11/Weds 12th January – The ordinary path to enlightenment – Meditating with the Ten Ox Herding pictures

Integral Meditation Asia

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