Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope Uncategorized Zen Meditation

Finding Your Best Response to Anxiety – An Existential Perspective

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article focuses on existential anxiety. The discovery of the idea of existential anxiety has been I think the most informative and transforming single factor in my approach to the challenge of anxiety over the last year. It has really made a big difference to the way I see and experience myself in the world. The article is an attempt to give a taster of existential anxiety and what an important influence it is in our life, I hope you enjoy it!


Yours in the spirit of being,


Article of the Week:

Finding Your Best Response to Anxiety – An Existential Perspective 

How do you think about your anxiety, and what you need to do to overcome it? For many people, meditators included, anxiety comes under the section of “things that need to be overcome” or “things that need to be gotten rid of”. In this article I would like to suggest that specific aspects our anxiety should come under the section “things that need to be understood and responded to effectively” rather than gotten rid of.

Two types of anxiety
In order to help us understand anxiety it is helpful to distinguish two fundamental types of anxiety. For these definitions I am drawing upon the work of Rollo May in his book “The Discovery of Being” which is an excellent introduction to the field of existential psychology and philosophy:

Causal Anxiety– Causal anxiety is anxiety in our life and mind that has a cause. We are in debt, our child or loved one is sick, we have been dumped or sacked, our cat is keeping us up all night meowing, we are repressing unresolved emotion. All of these are examples of anxiety and stress in our life that is caused by something specific. The way to work with causal anxiety is to become aware of its cause and to work to alleviate it.

Existential Anxiety– This second type of anxiety is the type that arises simply from existing or being alive. We exist as human beings, with a sense of self, and as such we find ourselves continually having to affirm that existence or aliveness against the forces that are continually trying to destroy us.

There are two fundamental points about existential anxiety: Firstly, we can never get rid of it. It is ontological, or inherent in the process of being alive. You will only get rid of your existential anxiety on your deathbed as you release your being to the process of death and dissolution. Secondly existential anxiety is fighting a battle that we can never “win”.  It is the struggle of our being against non-being or, put another way, the struggle of our life against the threat of death. The only way to “deal” with our existential anxiety is to accept the inevitability of our death and dissolution, and to live our life while it lasts in the most courageous manner possible.

Why is understanding existential anxiety important?
Understanding existential anxiety is important because, if we are not aware of it then we will find ourselves projecting it onto other areas of our life, and when we do so this anxiety will then become neurotic and even pathological. For example if I project my existential anxiety on my career, then my work will become an expression of my unconscious fight against the reality of death, rather than an expression and celebration of my highest and best self.
Secondly understanding existential anxiety is important because if we can see it and experience it clearly in our life, then we can respond to it effectively. If we remain unaware of it, the chances of us articulating a positive response to it are hugely reduced.

The classic response of the masses to existential anxiety.
How do most people deal with their existential anxiety? It’s simple, conformity. They de-emphasize themselves as an individual being and instead adopt the consensus of opinions, habits and ways of being prevalent in their society at the time. Along with this conformity comes a corresponding loss of awareness, sensitivity and ability to articulate whatever it is that characterizes you as a unique human being. In short, the unconscious response of most people to their own existential anxiety is to lose themselves in the trance of mass consciousness, which serves as a kind of placebo or tranquilizer. It is an avoidance technique really, but since we do it all the time, most people have no idea that they are doing it.

Three possible responses to existential anxiety to meditate upon.
These are not necessarily easy or immediately pleasurable, but if stuck with lead to a much deeper and more authentic response to our life, our existence and the challenge/opportunity it poses:

  1. Even though I will inevitable lose the fight of my life against death I can nevertheless use the time I have to articulate the beauty and uniqueness of my individuality whilst it lasts.
  2. Does the fact that my individual being is impermanent and transient, like a flower in spring not make it all the more beautiful and valuable? I can choose to enjoy it and cherish it whilst it lasts.
  3. My appreciation of the beauty and transience of my own individual existence can help me value the unique individuality of other living beings around me, and cause me to help their individualities to flower fully. I can choose to care for them, value them deeply and, help them articulate their own response to the challenge of life and death.

In conclusion
Existential anxiety is something that you will have to deal with all your life. You can never get rid of it, or even meditate it away (that is to say you can lose your sense of it in deep meditation, but upon your return to daily life it returns). You can only work with it or try and avoid it, your choice!
Existential anxiety is potentially one of our most powerful and constructive driving forces in our life. Unfortunately for many people the standard response seems to be conformity and avoidance (and the consequent neurosis and pathology), or selfishness and egoism.
The primary requirement for making friends with existential anxiety is courage, the courage to confront the forces of life and death as they exist in your life right now, and to live your being fully now in the light of your inevitable non-being.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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Mindfulness of the Sacred

Hi Everyone,

How much of your day is spent in expereintial touch with a sense of the sacred as you understand it? How would your life be different if you were to deliberately cultivate that connection to the sacred? This weeks article explores this question.

You can also find below the dates and titles for classes in March.

Yours in the spirit of the sacred,

Upcoming Meditation Classes and Events in March (Full details to follow next week)

Wednesday March 14th, 7.30-8.30pm Meditation Class at Basic Essence: “Awakening to the Sacred – Discovering the benefits of developing a contemporary spiritual practice and meditation practice.”

Wednesday February 21st 7.30-9pm – Zen Walking and Sitting Meditation: “Meditating on The Present Moment: Gateway to Eternity”.

Wednesday March 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th 10.30-11.30am – Qi gong meditation classes at Basic Essence.

Article of the Week:

Mindfulness of the Sacred

We are moving apartments at the moment, and one of the ways that I have been trying to glide through all of the confusion and monotony of box packing is to cultivate regular mindfulness of the sacred or, to put it another way, to bring a sense of the sacred into my day at regular intervals.

What is a sense of the sacred? One way of defining a sacred state of mind is this:
“Sacred awareness is a state of mind where we are simultaneously aware of the wholeness and universality that pervades all life, whilst at the same time having a sense of the preciousness of our own unique individuality, and how the flowering of that individuality is continually cared for and nurtured by God/the creative forces of the Universe/the Tao(or insert expression of choice)”.
So, looked at this way we could say that when we are aware of the sacred we feel life as a whole is a precious and beautiful thing, and that we in whatever small way may have something to add to that preciousness and beauty by living out our life in the best way we can.

So, working with this basic definition of the sacred, you might like to ask yourself, “What stimulates a sense of the sacred within me? What objects, memories or people? How can I bring my mind back to this sense of sanctity at regular times in my daily life in order that I can live my life within the context of a living sense of its sanctity?”

When it seems more than ever before there is more opportunity for cynicism, and for feeling over burdened simply by the over demands of the logistics of our life, deliberately reconnecting to a sense of the sacred at regular times in our day can be an invaluable tool for navigating the challenges of our life more smoothly, humanely and courageously.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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Meditating on the Music of the Mind

Hi Everyone,

This weeks newsletter article describes a meditation form that I am very fond of; meditating on the inner music of the mind. The basic technique is quite simple, but the practice itself has many different levels, so I hope you enjoy exploring it!

Yours in the spirit of the inner music of the mind,


Article of the Week:

Meditating on the Music of the Mind

Meditating on the music of the mind, or put another way the contents of the mind as music tone and vibration is a technique and perspective that I find very useful, insightful and relaxing. I find that it helps to open up my intuitive awareness, and give objectivity to thoughts, emotions and images within my mind that I would otherwise struggle to see in a new, fresh and wise way.
The method that I describe below is a simple way that you can begin to explore this type of meditation form for yourself.

Meditating on the contents of your mind as music

Step 1: Tuning into the general vibration of your mind
As you sit in meditation, or simply in a spare moment in between appointments, first ask yourself the question “What is the general mood and tone of my mind and awareness right now, if it were a musical note, how would it sound?”reflecting in this way try and experience your mind and its contents purely in terms of its overall “sound”, vibration and tone.

Step 2: Observing the tone of individual thoughts
After you have practiced step 1 for a short while, continue to observe your mind, and the coming and going of the thoughts, images and feelings within it. As each thought or image arises, rather than looking at it as a thought or image, relate to it as a tone or musical note. Tuning into your minds vibration in this way, note which thoughts/images/emotions have a healthy, positive, melodious note/vibration, and which seem to have a dissonant, off-key one. Watch your consciousness in this way for a while.
In order to do this you need to learn to ignore the content of the thought, and just focus on its vibration. So for example if you are thinking about a particular person, you do not focus on who it is or why it is appearing, rather you focus on theresonance and the pitch of the image as it appears. This takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have a little familiarity it is not so difficult. It is just training yourself to approach what appears to your mind in a slightly different way.

Step 3: Focusing on the more harmonious “notes”
As you continue to listen to the musical qualities of your mind and its contents, start tofocus your attention more upon the aspects of your consciousness that seem to be producing the most melodious, resonant and harmonious sounds and vibrations. Relax as much as you can into the positive ambience and vibration of these sounds as much as you can, allowing your whole body and being to flow with them.

Step 4: Awareness of the silence that surrounds and contains the music of the mind
The final stage of the meditation on the music of the mind is to spend a period of timebeing aware of the silence that surrounds and contains the vibrations and tones of mind. Let go of the “musical content” of your mind and relax as deeply as you can into the experience of still, silent awareness. Meditating on silence after this form of “musical meditation” is particularly pleasant as the tonal and vibrational quality of stages 1-3 leads the mind naturally into an expansive and open condition of awareness.

Step 5: Awakening to cosmic melodies
A final step or aspect of this meditation is that it may awaken us to more “cosmic” or spiritual dimensions of awareness that we can experience as actual music or melody of incredible beauty. This is an experience that many meditators have periodically, but most often than not it comes and goes without or really having too much conscious control over it. It arises spontaneously without any effort on our part, and it can go away just as easily. Sometimes it can happen, if so we can enjoy it, but stages 1-4 of this meditation is a complete meditation in itself, I just thought I would tag this fifth stage on as an event that sometimes happens!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Please feel free to share this newsletter with people you think may enjoy it. The only thing we ask of you is to please forward the entire newsletter including the contact and copyright information. Thank you.

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What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

Hi Everyone,

This weeks creative meditations article looks to gain a little clarity with regard to the meaning of spirituality which is certainly not the easiest of topics to pin down!

Underneath the article you can find the details of the final meditation class of 2011, which I have entitled “From no self to the Expanded Self”.


Yours in the spirit of the spiritual,

Article of the Week:

What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

As a ‘spiritual teacher’ I get to hear and engage in various conversations about spirituality. One thing that often stands out for me is the absence of a clear idea of what we really mean by spiritual. With this in mind, here are five working definitions of what the word spiritual can mean. If you think about your own spiritual path in the context of each of these definitions in turn, you will find that each of them shows you a different aspect of it:

1. The spiritual can refer to the very subtle, formless or causal dimension of existence and experience that lies beyond the coarse physical world of the senses and the subtle energetic world of the mind. It is formless because it is beyond the dimension of physical or mental appearances or ‘forms’. It is called ‘causal’ because it is the dimension from which mental and physical form arise and to which they disappear when they cease. Contact with, experience and exploration of this realm is one of the main aims of meditation.

2. The spiritual is that which is of most fundamental meaning and importance in our life. This is the definition that theologian Paul Tillich uses often. One major reason why the contemplation of death and impermanence is a universal practice in the world’s great wisdom traditions is that doing so helps us to urgently clarify the meaning and purpose of our life in the light of its fleeting and transient nature!

3. Spirituality is the process and discipline of developing a progressively loving and selfless intention. The more genuinely pure and selfless a persons intention, the more spiritual they can be said to be. This process of balanced refinement takes continuous work!

4. Spirituality is the progressive transcendence of the ego, and the opening up to awareness of our expanded or Universal self.

5. Spirituality is the courage and faith to confront and be with the real issues in our life as they arise from moment to moment. To quote Alan Watts in his book ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’ – “Faith is an unreserved opening to the truth, whatever it may be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown.”

As an adjunct to the above list here are a few of the things that spirituality does NOT mean but is sometimes confused for:

1. Escaping from the ‘real world’ and our real practical/psychological issues by creating our own subtle meditative fantasy world, and imagining that a state of formless meditation is the answer to all our problems.

2. Avoiding appropriate worldly responsibilities and emotional/relational issues we may have by pretending we have more important ‘spiritual’ activities to do.

3. Imagining we have become totally selfless and have transcended our ego whilst our ego runs rampant in a subconscious level. Ken Wilber refers to this as “boomeritis”, Robert Augustus Masters calls it “spiritual bypassing” and Chogyam Trungpa called it “spiritual materialism”. Unfortunately it is still pretty pervasive.

4. Being nice all the time because that what we think being loving and compassionate is all about.

5. Thinking that just ‘being in the present’ means that we don’t need to deal with our past issues or plan for the future.

6. Mistaking trans-rational spiritual states for pre-rational infantile states, similar to point 3. No, children, animals and trees are not enlightened, however they are unconsciously or intuitively in touch with their spiritual natures much of the time. Spirituality is a process of evolution not regression!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Meditation Class 14th December:

From No Self to the Expanded Self: How Buddha’s Teaching on the Emptiness of the Self Can Lead us to an Awakening of Universal Love and Compassion

Facilitator: Toby Ouvry

Date and Time: Wednesday 14thDecember, 7.30-8-30pm

Location: Basic Essence, 501 Bukit Timah Road, 04-04 Cluny Court. 
For directions click HERE

Superficially it can see like the Buddhist perspective on “no self” the absence of any kind of permanent of fixed identity of both ourself and all phenomenon can seem a little bit frightening and perhaps even nihilistic.  In this one hour meditation class we will be looking at how in reality the realization of no-self awakens within us the capacity to go beyond our ordinary ego boundaries and awaken to our “expanded self” or “great self”, that possesses unconditional love and compassion for all living beings (including ourself!).

This class will be a chance to learn and experience a simple but profound meditation that we can use as a way of liberating our sense of self from limiting patterns and perceptions, and awakening to our true human potential.

On a day to day practical level the understanding that we gain from the meditation can also be applied to help us improve our relationships with others and develop a feeling of pervasive warmth and empathy toward others.

The class will consist of a 30-40 minute practical meditation, and a twenty minute or so talk.

Cost for Class: $25, includes MP3 recording of talk.

To register for class: Contact Basic Essence on 64684991 or email

Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

Our Anxiety in the Face of Inner Space and Stillness

Transcribed from a five minute talk that I gave at the end of a Qi gong meditation class last week (23.11.11), enjoy!

I just want to say one or two things before we end. I mentioned whilst guiding the meditation that one thing that you may become aware of over time is that our mind resists inner space and stillness. If you ask people “Do you want inner peace?” they’ll generally say “Yes, yes, I want inner peace!” but deeper down actually they don’t. To be able to open to inner space and allow it to change you over time takes a lot of courage. This is a major reason why although meditation is free and it has been practiced for millennia as a way of developing mental peace, relatively few people will do it. This is because from the perspective of the ego, the ego has what you might call an existential fear of inner space. Part of the reason why we like to keep ourselves busy all the time, and when we are not doing anything physically our mind likes to think all the time is because we feel as if we have to keep affirming our existence, otherwise we feel like we are going to disappear! It is like a moment to moment fear of death, of dying. Essentially in this context dying means to have no future, becoming nothing. We feel like “If I am not doing something physical then I need to imagine myself doing something physical, because I still want to exist, and if I stop thinking or doing, then I will stop existing”.

This is a little bit of meditational psychology; it is the way in which our mind thinks, but unless we have examined it closely, for most of us this will be a subconscious pattern. And we need to understand that it is natural to have this type of anxiety (the anxiety of becoming non-existent), and simply having this anxiety is not a problem, it is existential anxiety, the natural tension that arises from being alive and wanting to stay that way. So, this in itself is not a problem, what is a problem is if you are not dealing with that anxiety well, if you are repressing it. A lot of psychological pathologies arise from the repression of this natural anxiety which then becomes pathological anxiety, compulsive doing, and compulsive thinking, compulsive everything!

So the natural anxiety of being alive will always be there, even if you continue to meditate. With a bit of practice in meditation you will start to find you can find a sense of inner space and stillness within yourself, but then it becomes an act of courage to keep opening to that space (which to the ego appears to be a type of death, a type of non-existence) and allowing it to inform your experience of life.

So I just thought I would throw that little thought in at the end of our meditation because it is common to find people having a great initial experience of inner space and stillness in their meditation, but then over time drifting away from their practice and this is one of the main reasons. It is not just because we are logistically busy all the time, although life these days is demanding upon our time and energy (although show me a time in history when life has not been such!), it is because our existential anxiety causes our ego to instinctively veer away from inner space and stillness and find excuses not to meditate. Our ego is actually happy to put up with a lot of stress and a lot of pain/problems, fear and anxiety because all of those things are affirming its existence, you know what I mean? Ego is not a bad thing, but the ego has a lot of fears that aren’t really founded upon anything wise and concrete, so it takes a bit of time for it to learn to trust that empty space, that stillness. So we need to keep if you like holding our ego’s hand and saying “Come on, come on, it is not going to be so bad, just relax and let go” like this!

So this is just and aspect of meditation practice that everyone needs to be aware of if you want to sustain your practice, because your mind and ego will try and find a lot of ways to duck out in order to avoid the anxiety of confronting empty space and stillness.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

A Mind of Ease Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques

Why is it so Easy to Think Negatively?

Contemporary neuroscientists now believe that our brain has a built in negativity bias. This is because biologically speaking in the thousands of years we spent as primitive tribesmen and women it was actually more useful survival-wise to be able to spot threats and dangers quickly than it was to be loving and relaxed. When you have a genuine threat from predators and aggressive humans from the next tribe, it really paid to be paranoid and think about the worst case scenario!
However, fast forward to 2011, and we have undergone 2-300 years of very fast cultural, social and industrial evolution, and now find ourself in a situation where we are actually physically SAFE most of the time. Unfortunately our biological brain has not evolved as fast as our environment, and so we still find our brain primed to seek out threats, spot the negatives in life, and remain generally neurotic.
Because our brain has not adjusted fully, but retains its built in survival negativity bias, we find that in our everyday life it is much easier to think negatively than  positively. As neuroscientist Rick Hansen (author of “Buddhas Brain”) puts it “Our mind is Velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity”, negativity sticks with no effort, whilst positivity has to be drummed in with effort!!

So, what to do?
The first take away from this understanding is that in order to enjoy a positive mind and perspective we should expect to have to exert effort everyday to think positive and let go of the negative.
The second take away is that we should realize that our mind will naturally exaggerate threats and negativity, so we need to be prepared for this, and make sure we do not give our power away to these over-reactions!

A Daily Practice
Here is one of the things I do each day to keep my mind oriented positively, and I do it religiously each day if I feel negative in any way. It is really very simple, but in the context of the above neuro-psychology you can see how important it is. All I do is write a list of reasons to feel good, positive, fortunate and so on. I write at least three things that I feel good about, but if I have time I write more. To show you exactly what I mean here is my list of three or more things that I feel good about right now:

– I feel good about the soul portrait artwork that I am doing for a client right now, and feel fortunate to be able to do art as a part of my living.
– I’m very excited about a new neighborhood that we may be moving to in the future, it has many of the characteristics that I am looking for!
– I’m enjoying the book I am reading right now “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” by Ken Wilber (recommended by the way!)
– Its good to have the wife around after her absence on a trip for a couple of weeks!

As you can see there is nothing unusual about the above list, but every time I do it what I am training and re-wiring my brain to pick up on the positive and use it as the basis for the way I feel about my life.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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Seven Ways of Creating a Mind of Ease and Inner Wellbeing

One of my favorite personal growth “formulas” was coined by a guy called Timothy W Gallway (of “The Inner Game of Tennis” fame) who said that performance = potential minus interference. What this formula points out is that as often as not is we ourselves that get in our own way at least as much if not more than anything else in our outer environment.

So, the first stage of getting rid of our “inner interference” is learning to create a mind of ease and relaxation. Here are seven short meditative methods for creating a mind of ease and relaxation. They can be done on their own, either as super-short practices done for as little time as 15 seconds, or they can be done in combination with each other, taking a few moments to focus on each one, and then moving onto the next. Here they are:

  1. Create a time for safe space – For a specific period of time consciously recognize that you are at this moment not in any manifest physical danger. Make a decision also to abstain from inner criticism of yourself, and try to feel the Earth and your immediate environment as friendly rather than hostile. Allow your mind to rest in the safe physical and psychological space of these three recognitions for the time you have set aside.
  2. Extend a feeling of warmth and friendliness to yourself – Chose to be a friend to yourself. Focusing on your self-sense, gently extend a feeling of warmth and welcome to it. Relax as deeply as you can into this warm feeling of liking who you are, just for now!
  3. Find something positive to focus on – Mentally search through the last 24 hours. Find some positive achievement, experience of good fortune, recognition of a kindness that you have given someone or other such positive event. Having found such a positive thought focus on it, developing a sense of appreciation and enjoyment for what has transpired.
  4. Concentrate on a single object for a short while – Take a single object such as the breathing and focus on it exclusively for a short period of time. You can temporarily forget about the causes of your stress simply by learning to focus. your mind in this way.
  5. Utilize the exhalation – Following on from point 4, we can combine our focused concentration with a deeper release of stress by imagining inner tension leaving our body and mind on the exhalation. There is a natural releasing or letting go mechanism that happens in our body when we breathe out that we can leverage on consciously.
  6. Abstain from inner criticism – Expanding a little upon point 1, we can set aside a short period of time where we decide that no critical thoughts about ourself are allowed in our mind. Discover that it is possible to shut the door on self criticism for a while, and enjoy the inner space and ease that is created! Excluding critical thoughts of others can also be included in this section.
  7. Be aware of the space between your thoughts – Normally we focus on the content of our consciousness, the thoughts and feelings in our mind. In doing so we become completely oblivious ever present “inner space” that is constantly there in our mind. Setting aside time to focus exclusively upon the space between our thoughts helps us to find a source of wellbeing that is there all the time but that we often overlook!

Meditation is a mind that focuses on a positive object, an object that when we focus on it makes us peaceful and happy. All of the seven points above are simple objects of meditation that, through focusing on we can begin to build our own mind of ease.

A final point, you may find that when you try to use any of the above techniques and you find your mind resisting. For example you may  find that it is very difficult to develop a feeling of liking yourself when you try technique 2. If this happens then rather than struggling and trying to force yourself to get to that feeling simply be aware of your resistance to liking who you are, and take that resistance as your object of meditation. Accepting inner resistance that you encounter in meditation is one way of beginning to let go if the inner tension and blockages that are causing the resistance in the first place.

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Meditating On The Tree Of Yoga – Coming Back to the Body

Later this year I will be beginning a series of classes with meditations upon the “Tree of Yoga” as a focus point, so in my articles over the next few weeks I will be focusing upon themes relating to this. In this article I explain some basic working definitions of yoga from a meditative perspective, and how we can begin working with these ideas in a practical fashion.

Three Levels of the Meaning of Yoga That can be Distinguished
One of the main meanings of the Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ is ‘Union’. From this we can see that the many different practices of yoga aim fundamentally at achieving a state of union.We can distinguish three types or stages of union in the path of yoga:

  1. Accomplishing the union of the mind and body
  2. Accomplishing the union of the body-mind with the environment
  3. Accomplishing the union of the self with the Cosmos

So, here we can see the three basic stages; the first stage focuses on unifying or synchronizing the body and mind into a singular, harmonized unit. The second stage focuses on expanding our self sense beyond the body mind so that our self-sense includes greater aspects of our internal and external environment. The third stage involves releasing all boundaries between our personal sense of self and the Cosmos, thus achieving the ultimate union of self and cosmos into the primal or Universal Self. This final stage, the recognition, embodiment and articulation of the Universal or True Self is really the endgame of all yoga’s whether you are talking about hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga or any of the other forms of yoga. For the remainder of the article we will be focusing on the first level of union in the path of yoga.

A Closer Look at Stage 1: The Two Stages of Unifying the Body-Mind

Oftentimes the start of many peoples IDEA of the spiritual path involves an attempt to “go beyond the limitations of and attachments to the body and its appetites”. The body is seen as the obstacle to inner growth, continually getting in the way of our spiritual aspirations, and “detachment” from the body is where a lot of people place their efforts.
However, in reality, and this is a really key understanding, most people are already detached from the body in the sense of being mentally disconnected to it! So, the first goal for almost 100% of us is to reconnect our mind to our body as they exist in the present moment, here and now.

How did we disconnect from the body in the first place?

Our body-mind disconnection takes place in two stages:

  1. The separation of the ego from the body.

As we grow up our self-sense develops in stages. As young children we identify with our body, as teenagers we identify with our emotions. By the time we get to young adulthood almost all of us identify ‘self’ as being our mind, and the relationship to our ‘self’ to the body is like a rider to a horse; the mind or ego is like the rider, and the body is like the horse. Thus our mind and body have now become experientially separate; ‘I’, or my ego possesses my body which is a separate object. This is the first separation or disconnect of mind from body

  1. Stage 2: The Mind/Ego Divides Against Itself – The Separation of Persona from Shadow

So, our ego is now separated from our body, unfortunately it gets worse. Having now identified our ‘self’ as our ego, our ego then splits into what in psychological terms is called the ‘persona’ and the ‘shadow’.

What are the Persona and Shadow?
The Persona– The persona is that part of the contents of our mind and ego that is acceptable to our self-image. The persona is the conscious perception of who we think we are, that part of the contents of our consciousness that we allow ourself to see.
The Shadow – The shadow is the parts of our mind and ego that is not acceptable to our self image. The shadow is all the parts of our mind and ego that we refuse to consciously acknowledge and so as a result gets repressed or ‘pushed down’ into our unconscious mind. You can find more on the shadow self in my previous article on the shadow: Six Tips for Releasing the shadow Self. Another word for the shadow would be the repressed unconscious.

Bringing this all together
So, from this we can see that in order to re-unify our body-mind into a synchronized whole we need to go through two stages:

  • Unify our mind by healing the divide between our persona and shadow, thus creating a healthy functional ego.
  • Unify our body and ego by bringing our awareness and attention back into the body and the present moment.

There are a lot of practices that are specifically designed to help facilitate these two stages. For example traditional psychotherapy (eg: Freudian and Transactional Analysis) aim at creating a healthy ego through unifying the shadow and persona. Hatha yoga, Qi gong and Tai-Qi are all helpful methods for the second stage of unifying the mind-body. There are also psychological therapies that aim at unifying the body-mind such as gestalt therapy and aspects of the humanistic psychology approach of Carl Rogers.

The Centaur
The Centaur is a mythic beast that is half human and half horse. Centaur or centauric is sometimes used as a name for the state of consciousness where the body-mind are unified. The centaur is not a human riding a horse, the centaur is both the human and the horse as a single entity, no division.
The centauric state of consciousness is a state of being where our body intelligence and mental intelligence are always working in harmony. When we accomplish this union our body-mind union becomes more than the sum of its parts, we start to be capable of achieving things that ordinary people would consider ‘impossible’ or ‘beyond them’. Much of the Human Potential Movement is aimed at accomplishing the centauric state, the unity of the body-mind.
The centauric state of a unified body-mind acts as the stable basis upon which we can then go onto explore higher and more expanded levels of consciousness and being. If we try and ‘expand’ our consciousness too extensively and quickly before stabilizing our centaur we will quite rapidly find ourself struggling with the unhealed elements of our ego, persona and shadow.

Awareness Practices to Start Unifying the Body-Mind: Meditating on the Body as a “Consciousness Sponge”.

So, I’ve covered quite a lot of ground above, and what I want to do is finish with a really simple two stage practice to help you begin integrating your body-mind. It can be done as a short 1-5minute practice, but just as appropriately and easily it can be done as a 15-30 minute form.

Stage 1: Noticing Resistance.
Simply sit quietly and notice the resistance that your mind has to entering fully into the present moment and into your body. Notice how it is always jumping away from present moment awareness of the body, diving into the past and forward to the future. Take your observation of this resistance as your object of awareness for the first part of the meditation. Don’t try and overcome it, just notice it.

Stage 2: Your body as a Sponge
In the second stage imagine that your physical body is like a dry sponge and your mind and consciousness is like water. Feel all the thoughts and feelings in your mind being gradually absorbed into your body as it sits in the present moment, just like water being absorbed by a dry sponge. Feel your mind fully inside the skin of your body, fully present in the here and now, in communion with your body. For the remainder of the meditation explore this feeling of a unified body-mind as deeply and fully as you can, rest your awareness on it and in it as fully as possible.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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Meditating on The Difference Between Your Evolving Self and Your Biological Self

Hi Everyone,

Evolutionary Spirtuality, or the idea of Conscious Evolution is one of the most exciting and cutting edge areas that is being explored in spirituality today. Luminaries include people such as Barbara Marx Hubbard, Andrew Cohen and Craig Hamilton.

This week’s article is a short contemplation on learning to identify your own Evolutionary Self and distinguish it from your biological self. Enjoy!

Yours in the spirit of the evolving universe,


Meditating on The Difference Between Your Evolving Self and Your Biological Self

In this article I want to draw a distinction between two aspects of self that are often placed together, but are in fact very different. What I will do is define them both first, then explain how to begin working with the Evolutionary Self effectively in daily life.

The Biological Self is the sense of self that we have that is based around our biological programming. This programming is very ancient, and primarily works of past patterns that have evolved over thousands of years. Its needs are primarily based around survival/fight or flight, and it almost exclusively looks to the past for its inspiration. It sees patterns that have worked to fulfill our survival needs in the past, and it seeks to mimic them in our current behaviors. It works out of areas of the brain that are very ancient, and exerts a tremendous influence on our lives. It can be a very good and able servant to us, but if we allow it to be our master then it will lead us along a very limited life path, based around patterns of consciousness that are essentially survival based and aimed at staying in our comfort zone.

Our Evolutionary or Evolving Self is that part of cosmic evolutionary consciousness that is embodied within us. You could say that it is that part of evolution (as in the 13.5 billion year process that began with the Big Bang) that is becoming conscious of itself through us as an individualized human. Our evolutionary self is focused on the future, on becoming, on creating the new, on innovating. The Evolving Self is uninhibited by past patterns of biology and of ego and feels exited and motivated to make our life and life on earth fulfill as much of its potential as possible. The Evolving Self is naturally a good leader, and placing it in the forefront of our awareness enables us to lead other parts of our self and ego int the future without being inhibited by our “past baggage”. The Evolving Self is always looking to reach its highest potential, and to make the biggest and most meaningful contribution to the evolution of the Planet and of humanity that it can.

Our Evolving Self embodies the energy of evolution itself and seeks to catalyze conscious evolution in all situations.

Starting to connect and work with your Evolving Self

Imagine the Big Bang 13.5 million years ago: From out of nothingness an immense explosion of matter, energy and consciousness that gradually transforms over time into our present Universe.

See it continuing to evolve now in our present Universe, in our Planet, and in you, in the core of your own consciousness and being.

Feel within you now the momentum of that cosmic drive toward evolving the new, a dynamic spark of light within you that is focused the future, on becoming, on creating a better and greater life and world. 

Once you have felt your Evolving Self within you, as yourself the question “What is my Evolving Self asking of me right now, today, in this moment?”

After you have finished your contemplation, write down the ideas that came to you try and isolate one action that you can do today, or this week that will be a direct expression of your Evolutionary Self.

In general, whenever you are faced with a challenge in your life, ask yourself the question “What is my Evolving Self encouraging me to do here?”

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Thoughts As Affirmations: Three Questions To Help Make Your Thoughts Your Allies

“It’s repetition of affirmations that leads to belief, and once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen – Muhammad Ali”

The practice of affirmations – positively worded statements about your life repeated to yourself verbally or mentally or written down – has been given a lot of credence in recent years and appears in various forms of therapy. For example; cognitive psychology, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, creative visualization and some forms of meditation.

From the perspective of transforming our experience through affirmations, one of the most important things to realize is that each thought that we think and word that we say is an affirmation, positive or negative, that re-enforces a belief that we have about our experience and reality. So, from this point of view, the most important aspect of mastering affirmations is being more aware of everything that you think and say, and being as careful as possible to energize only those thoughts and beliefs within you that are helpful and beneficial.

For example if I have injured my body in some way, and mentally I start to complain to myself about how unjust it is that I am injured and how the Universe always seems to be against me, then those thoughts are affirming a negative perspective on the situation. As a result, if I don’t check my thoughts and make appropriate adjustments, then my experience of that injury is going to be a negative one.
If on the other hand I notice that my mind has started complaining, and I ask myself “Is this way of thinking really serving me and helping me to have the best experience of the circumstances?” My answer will most probably be “no!” If I then make the effort to find a new perspective and way of thinking about my situation, then it will become an affirmation that I can use to directly change my experience. For example if I have an injury I may choose to see the situation as a chance to rest my body and allow it to recharge its energies.
Mindfulness of our thoughts is a big part of daily meditation practice. As meditators we understand that each thought is affirming something positive or negative about our experience, and our job is to focus on and energize the thoughts and beliefs that are most helpful, benevolent, and evolutionary to ourself and the other people involved in the situation.

Asking Yourself Three Questions – A Practical Exercise For Turning Your Thoughts Into Positive Affirmations

Step 1: Select a particular life situation to work on that is happening to you at this time, and where you sense that your mind is affirming negative beliefs and thoughts that are hindering your ability to deal with the situation.
If you can it is good to do this exercise in a notebook where you can actually write down your questions and answers as the written word is a more powerful affirmation than an affirmation that is simply thought or verbalized. BUT it is still worth doing as a mental exercise if you really don’t have a pen and paper available!

Step 2: Ask yourself three questions. Write down each question and your reply to it in turn:

  1. What are the negative thoughts and affirmations that I am holding with regard to this situation?
  2. What are the thoughts and affirmations that I can hold in this situation that will enable me to gain a better experience, and that will enable me to respond in the most creative and life-affirming way?
  3. What is the kindest and most compassionate (to both myself and the others involved in the situation) mental approach and perspective that I can affirm in this situation?

Step 3: Practice affirming your answers to these three questions.

  • Your answer to the first question shows you what thoughts and beliefs you want to avoid affirming and energizing.
  • Your answers to the second and third question are the thoughts, perspectives and beliefs that you need to affirm. Whenever you think about your life situation, immediately bring your mind back to your answers to these three questions and affirm accordingly!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website