Acceptance: Expanding Outward

Dear Integral Meditators,

Meditation can be an act of turning inward, but it can also be a way of turning outward, a way of expanding graciously into our world, and by doing so transforming our experience of that world. The article below explores this theme.

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Tuesday 10th February, 7.30-9.30pm – An Evening of Mindful Resilience – Sustaining effectiveness, happiness and clarity under pressure through meditation and mindfulness

Saturday 14th February, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 


Acceptance: Expanding Outward

Meditation means turning inward, away from the busyness of the world, right?
Often meditation is thought of and practiced as a way of turning inward, away from the busyness of the world and the harshness of our outer reality in order to find a peaceful inner space where we can go in order to gather ourselves, to focus, to relax and heal.
This is all well and good, but one thing that we may find over time (if this is the only approach that we have to meditation) is that there emerges a division between our inner, quiet meditative world and our harsh, challenging outer world.
Unless we are careful our meditation can become a contraction away from the challenges of our daily reality, a way of avoiding the things that we find difficult to accept in our lives.

Accepting the world to find a different form of peace
One way in which we can turn this around is by practising meditation as an opening to our daily reality; an acceptance of what is there, whether it be comfortable or uncomfortable, pleasurable or painful, easy or difficult.
To start practising this form of meditation now, sit quietly as you would do in an ordinary meditation, and focus on your heart space. Rather than going inward into your heart space, open it outward to an awareness, acceptance and embracing of the reality that you are experiencing right now; your physical surroundings, the emotions of all kinds flowing through you, the happiness and the conflicts in your relationships, the state of the world. Open to everything that comes into your awareness, turn away nothing. Note and gently resist any impulses that you have to turn away from what comes into your awareness as you are doing this.

Embracing the reality of form
The technique that I am describing above, movement outward accepting all that we find can be quite uncomfortable at first. It brings us into a confrontation with all of the things that we fear or are worn down by in our life. However, if we continue opening to what we find we start to find a new form of peace and inner strength. It is a form of peace that does not rely upon turning inward or away from the world, but accepting and embracing everything that we find in our life and experience, all the mess and the untidiness, the highs and the lows, the romance and the tragedy.

If you like, over the next few days or weeks you can try this. When you sit down to meditate, rather than going within, practice accepting and opening to everything that is in your life right now; make your heart so big that nothing is turned away or left out. Don’t turn away.

Related article: What is it that is keeping me from relaxing in the present moment?

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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 Mind in the Heart

Dear Integral Meditators,

The article below explores the idea and experience of the heart as a mind, and how to listen to it mindfully. I have found it a really important practice for getting and staying in contact with my inner self.
Yours in the spirit of the heart-mind,
Toby

The Mind in the Heart

 

Where is the mind?
Where is your mind? Before you read on, just spend a few moments checking where you yourself experience your mind right now; in the head? Throughout the whole body?
The contemporary person tends to think of the mind as being located and associated with the brain (it is the physiological organ of thought right?) but this has not always been the case. For example I have been practising Qi-gong for many years, and within Qi gong and Taoist philosophy the mind energy is said to be located in the heart, with our spirit energy located in the head and our vital energy down in the solar plexus.

 

The thoughts in your heart
If you think about your mind as being in your heart right now, and ask yourself the question “What are the thoughts arising from my heart-mind” I think you will see that there is definitely a mental language that our heart is speaking to us at all times, a language that is different, perhaps deeper and more direct than our ‘head-speak’.

 

Awareness of the heart and chest
The other thing about the thoughts in our heart is that they speak very directly of and from the way we really feel. With our ‘head language’ we can deny, repress and rationalize away the way we are feeling, but with the language of our heart the feelings are always right there and if we listen we cannot turn away from them.

 

Courage as the root of all mental virtues?
When we are not in touch with the way we feel, then it is possible for these ‘hidden’ feelings to twist and falsify our thoughts. It takes courage to listen to the thoughts within our heart, because it often speaks from a space of emotions that we are uncomfortable, wary or scared of. But if we are to think truly and clearly (with both our heart and head) then we need to be deeply congruent with the way we are feeling at all times. Because this takes courage, or ‘Lion-heartedness’  it is possible to think of courage as the root of all virtues. As Winston Churchill famously said “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities… because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”

 

Listening to the voice of your heart-mind
If you would like a mindfulness exercise to explore this over the next few days (weeks/months/years, it is a deep practice!) then simply sit down and tune into the voice and energy of your heart-mind, listen to what it is saying to you, to the feelings that it is speaking from. Listen to the unified voice of your mind and feelings together. It is not always and unconditionally ‘right’ but it is almost always speaking from a place of truth.

Related article: If you feel properly, you will think clearly

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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 


 

Introducing: Deep Delta 
A 40-minute journey that has you feeling like you are floating in a beautiful, calm ocean, moving deeper and deeper into serenity and relaxation.
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A Mind Like Water

Dear Integral Meditators,

One of the challenging things about meditation and a mind of meditation is that you have to have experience of it in order to ‘get it’. Thus for those who have not experienced it, it can seem very abstract. This is where using images comes in handy, as the image itself can act as a doorway to the experience. This weeks article uses the image of water as a way of approaching the mind of meditation.

Last chance to catch the special offer for 1:1 coaching for January at Integral Meditation Asia over the next couple of days, the offer end on 1st Feb!

Yours in the spirit of a mind like water,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care

Tuesday 10th February, 7.30-9.30pm – An Evening of Mindful Resilience – Sustaining effectiveness, happiness and clarity under pressure through meditation and mindfulness

Saturday 14th February, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 


A Mind Like Water

If you hit water
Let’s say you have a lake, pond or swimming pool. If you hit, slap or punch the surface it will temporarily disturb the water, but as soon as you stop hitting the water, it quickly relaxes back into its original still form. A public swimming pool can be fully of people and disturbed all day, but as soon as the last person gets out, it goes right back to its calm, still form.
This is one of the qualities that we try to bring to our mind as meditators; we enter the world of action each day, get slapped around by the world, but the quality of our mind is such that as soon the action ceases, our mind relaxes back into a still open state. You might think that this is not easy, but if you think about the image of water, it will help you get a feel for it; it is a fluid, relaxed flowing quality that we bring into our awareness and the way in which we consciously respond to the push and shove of life. Note that water never resists, it simply absorbs and then immediately dissipates the force.

Our solid, chunky minds
At the moment whenever our mind takes an emotional or mental ‘hit’ we hold onto the force of that hit; we resist it, deny it, rage with it. It is like our mind is solid and calcified, perhaps like a piece of wet clay. If you punch a piece of wet clay, it will hold the shape of your fist, it will stay there. For many of us this is our response to taking a psychological hit in our life, we hold it in our mind like an imprint in wet clay; its impression continues to affect us long after the event that actually caused it.

Recovering from mental and emotional ‘hits’ 
So, if you want to develop the capacity to recover from the mental and emotional hits, then one perspective you can try out is to practice receiving these hits like water; no resistance, simply absorbing, dissipating the force and then returning naturally a state of inner calm

This does not mean that you don’t hold your shape sometimes
Making our mind like water does not contradict our capacity to build a strong mind, express our will, be mindful of goals and other qualities that require our mind to hold its ‘shape’. Rather it is a complementary capacity that enables us to keep our mind and energy young and flexible, calm and relaxed. It is a quality that is a bit like a soft form of martial art you absorb the energy of your opponent and then redirect it toward him. It might also be described as a form of effortless effort.

The next time you take a mental or emotional hit remember; make your mind like water!

Related articleNon-striving

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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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Meditation as a Way of Life

Dear Integral Meditators,

Is meditation something that you sit down and do each day as a formal practice, or is it more fundamental, a whole way of approaching life? The article below explores that latter option.

Yours in the spirit of meditation,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Special offer for 1:1 Coaching For January at Integral Meditation Asia  (Via skype or face to face)

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care

Tuesday 10th February, 7.30-9.30pm – An Evening of Mindful Resilience – Sustaining effectiveness, happiness and clarity under pressure through meditation and mindfulness

Saturday 14th February, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 

 


Meditation as a Way of LifeThe commitment to contemplate life deeply
One way of defining meditation is simply a commitment to contemplating and investigating life deeply. This definition is useful as it takes us away from the idea of meditation as something that you do as a formal practice for 10minutes, 30 minutes, an hour a day, and indicates that it is really a fundamental stance toward life; to be a true meditator is to be committed to looking at your work, your relationships, your sex life (or lack of it), your philosophy and so on… deeply. It means to be dis-satisfied with superficial surface experiences and hungry for real experience, to make your life your own and not just a pastiche of what somebody else told you life should be.The temptation to stay on the surface
We are without a shadow of a doubt the most educated set of human generations that has ever lived. We have the potential to look deeply into our life and find patterns of meaning and consequence, but do we? Despite having the capacity to look deeply, many of us avoid it. We content ourselves with the superficial, with the easy. We pay attention to that which society guides our attention to, we define ourselves according to the prevailing trends and beliefs, we avoid the voice within us that calls us to look beyond the surface and the comfortable because it makes us uncomfortable, makes us feel vulnerable, and also makes us feel genuinely powerful (which is perhaps the most scary of all).

To be a meditator means to be committed to go beyond the surface patterns of our life each day, and contemplate the depths.

The courage to go deeper
Being a meditator is an act of courage, curiosity and care; commitment each day to connect and heal the hidden parts of ourselves that are damaged, the curiosity and interest to develop the powers of our body-mind-spirit to the next level, and to care about our lives and the lives of others enough to go beyond indifference, numbness and apathy, which each day tempt us to fall back into a state of passive unconsciousness.

It is a 24hour practice!
From this we can see that to be a meditator in the true and broader sense of the word is quite an heroic activity. It is demanding, it is inconvenient, it is sometimes tiring, it causes us to make difficult choices, it may mean we have to spend time alone.
What is the reward of this all? The reward of committing to contemplate life deeply? The reward of being a meditator? It is that we get to feel truly alive in way that cannot be taken away from us.

Related articleLife-fullness

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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 Soft Strength of Mud and Blood

Dear Integral Meditators,

Seems like the theme of my articles since the turn of the year seem to be centering around finding strength through softness, the article below offers a slightly different take on this…

Yours in the spirit of mud and blood,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Special offer for 1:1 Coaching For January at Integral Meditation Asia  (Via skype or face to face)

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care

Tuesday 10th February, 7.30-9.30pm – An Evening of Mindful Resilience – Sustaining effectiveness, happiness and clarity under pressure through meditation and mindfulness

Saturday 14th February, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 


The Soft Strength of Mud and Blood

I a meditation that I did last Sunday with a small group, there was a section in the narrative where we visualized ourselves sitting or kneeling in front of a Goddess embodying the energy of death, regeneration & renewal, and were asked to offer her something.
Within my own visualization I found that I had a small locket in the shape of a heart that had been broken in two, so I offered this to her. In return she offered me a small physical heart fashioned from mud and blood. It felt soft, wet, warm and alive in my hand as I held it.

Honouring the brittle and the broken
Often when life is hard on us, we can become hard and brittle in response; we use the part of us that has been hurt, damaged or broken as a shell that we place around us in order to protect ourselves. This is a natural response to difficult challenges, and it is ok to allow ourselves to go through a stage where we withdraw, wounded into this shell. However, there comes a time, if we are interested in regenerating our life, where we have to let go of what is broken, and emerge anew, soft, vulnerable but fully alive into our world again.

The strength of regeneration
If we are able to do this we discover what I would call the strength of regeneration – The experiential knowledge that if we feel destroyed, damaged and hurt today, this is not a problem. If we relax into our experience, withdraw into ourselves and nurture ourselves for a while, we will be reborn again when we are ready, soft, flexible & different, stronger & more vibrant than that which we were previously.

We can use hardness as a shell when we need to, but if we want to really express the depths of our soul in our life as we are leading it from day to day, we need to discover the strength that comes from the softness of mud and blood.

Related Articles:
The Resilience of Gentleness
A Butterfly in the Wind
Life-fullness

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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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A Butterfly in the Wind

Dear Integral Meditators,

What does inner strength mean to you, and how do you go about trying to obtain it? In this weeks article I offer a personal reflection on this, and how sometimes we can create unnecessary limits on our inner strength by believing that it can only come in a certain way.

Yours in the spirit of delicate strength,

Toby

 


A Butterfly in the Wind

What does inner strength mean to you, and how do you go about trying to obtain it?

Today I facilitated a Greeenworld workshop. One of the meditations involves travelling within the space of one’s creative imagination to an inner landscape where one meets an animal guide who provides some form of learning, support and friendship that can be integrated into one’s life in an appropriate way.
As my life is in a state of relative instability at the moment I was kind of hoping for a monolithic and strong animal, maybe like a bear or something. Instead when I went to my inner landscape I found myself in a meadow with a delicate butterfly. There was quite a strong wind in the meadow, and the butterfly basically spent its time with me showing me how it was able to bend and flow with the wind in order to keep its foothold on the branch or on my shoulder, despite the fact that its body were so fragile and its wings caught so easily in the breeze. It was a demonstration of resilience and adaptability evolving out of skill and flexibility rather than brute strength or sheer power.
Sometimes we long for strength, but sometimes the very way in which we conceive that strength gets in the way of our finding it. How might it be if we tried to express the strength of butterflies sometimes in our life rather than the strength of a bear or a buffalo?

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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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Life-fullness

Dear Integral Meditators,

This mid-week article explores the idea of Life-fullness, if you enjoy it, I’ve recently re-named and re-calibrated my life coaching practice “Life-fullness – The Integral Coaching Program“. If you are interested in finding out more, just click on the link!

In the spirit of life-fullness,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Special offer for 1:1 Coaching For January at Integral Meditation Asia  (Via skype or face to face)

THIS SUNDAY, 18th January,9.30am-12.30pm – Meditations for Connecting to the Green World – An Introduction to the Path of Nature Mysticism

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care


Life-fullness

One of the words that I have been thinking about over the last six months or so is life-fullness.  It has become so significant to me that I’ve even decided to name my life coaching program after it. What does it mean? Here are a few things that it means to me:

  1. To feel full of life – To feel life full means to allow myself to feel life fully, both the good and ‘bad’, to feel my strength and vulnerability, my virtues and your flaws. It means to care enough about the value of my experiences that I don’t reject or turn away from any of them.
  2. To mediate life flow  It means to allow life-force to flow through me, obstructing it as little as possible, and directing it as skilfully as possible toward the best possible inner and outer goals
  3. To be committed and interested in my life and the lives of others – This means to never as far as possible to ‘switch off’ or to become indifferent. If point one (to feel full of life) above is a commitment to caring, this third point is a commitment to being curious
  4. To participate – To practice life-fullness means to get stuck into life, not to be a mere spectator. It means to contribute, to commit, to take wise chances with (sometimes) unknown outcomes. It means to think about the life-values I hold on a deeper level and practice embodying them as best I can

To feel life, to mediate life, to be curious about life, to commit to participating meaningfully in my life; That is what life-fullness means to me. And these are the four aspects that I try and be mindful of in my own life-fullness practice.

When you think about the word life-fullness what sort of meanings and feelings emerge for you? If you could do one thing over the next few days to make your life more genuinely life-full what would it be?

Related Article: Curiosity, Courage and Care – Cornerstones of the Mindful Encounter

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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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Detached Mindfulness, Engaged Mindfulness; Your Inner Scientist and Inner Friend

Dear Integral Meditators,

Engagement and detachment are two different skills. we need to develop both in order to become truly effective mindfulness practitioners. This weeks article explores how, enjoy!

Yours in the spirit of engaged detachment,

Toby

 


Detached Mindfulness, Engaged Mindfulness; Your Inner Scientist and Inner Friend

Detached mindfulness is like developing an inner scientist; it gives you the capacity to look at what is going on within you and in your life with objectivity and calm.
Engaged mindfulness is like developing an inner friend and companion; it gives you the capacity to experience what you are going through with empathy, care and understanding of yourself.

Recently I have been having a lot of strong emotions based around certain life changes that I am having. How can I use mindfulness in an integrated way to deal with these emotions and even make use of them? Let’s take anxiety around the future as an example to work with in this article.

Detached mindfulness (developing my inner scientist) involves me stepping back from the anxiety and observing it in an objective, dis-engaged manner; ‘the anxiety is in my mind but it is not me’, ‘my anxiety is like the clouds, my mind is like the sky, I am the sky, not the clouds’. This type of mindfulness enables me to temporarily reduce my anxiety and calm my body-mind, and the space that it creates in my mind may also enable me to come up with creative solutions and approaches to the challenges that are causing the anxiety.
However, what detached mindfulness does not do is process the actual emotion and anxiety itself, and if I use detached mindfulness only in my approach to my anxiety this may prolong and even make my anxiety worse by causing me to avoid and dis-associate from it in an unhealthy way. To work with my anxiety directly I need to practice engaged mindfulness.

Engaged mindfulness (developing my inner friend) involves me consciously recognizing, owning and experiencing my anxiety; feeling it fully, accepting the reality of it and allowing my body-mind to discharge the emotional force of my anxiety by experiencing it. ‘I now recognize I am anxious around the future’, ‘I can feel my body trembling with anxiety, and I allow this to happen’, ‘I accept I am anxious and take responsibility for it’, ‘I am anxious, but this is not a problem’.
If I practice only engaged mindfulness with my anxiety, I may find myself getting a little over-involved in the emotion, so combining it with detached mindfulness provides me with a ‘safety net’, a place of detachment and observation I can go to when I wish to take a break.

An integrated mindfulness approach involves me using both detached and engaged mindfulness together in order to deal with my anxiety optimally and effectively; I can accept, honour and engage my emotion whilst also having a place of inner calm and detachment I can go to anytime I wish to find temporary relief and perspective from the challenge.

Over the next few days, if you like, keep in mind the image of the inner scientist and the inner friend and practice using both engaged and detached mindfulness alternately as an integrated approach to the challenges you face.

Related article: Engaged Equanimity
© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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 Resilience of Gentleness

One of my meditation words I have taken for 2015 is self-care. Normally I take 2-3 words and focus upon them over the course of a year and let the themes and mysteries within them gradually reveal themselves. Meditation means to dwell deeply, so staying with just one, two or three words for a year and spending time each day investigating them deeply can be a beautiful and rewarding  meditation practice!

One of the things that I have observed about focusing upon and trying to practice self-care each day is that each time I take the time to do a little self-care, I start to feel a little more inwardly resilient; it becomes a little easier to feel happy, a little easier to be benevolent to others, a little easier to acknowledge and face the challenges in my life I might want to wish away.
This is one of the interesting things about developing a quality; when we develop it we find that we start to simultaneously develop its opposite quality in a way in which we may not have expected. Gentleness gives rise to strength; stillness gives rise to dynamism; focus gives rise to relaxation.This week or over the next few days, if you like, try doing something each day that is a deliberate and appropriate expression of self-care. See how you can grow your inner resilience by using the method of gentleness.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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 :

January 9.30am-12.30pm – Regenerating Your Inner Self – Integral Meditation Half – Day Retreat

Sunday 18th January,9.30am-12.30pm – Meditations for Connecting to the Green World – An Introduction to the Path of Nature Mysticism

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care


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The Top Meditation and Mindfulness Articles of 2014

Dear Integral Meditators,

I wrote over one hundred articles over the course of 2014. Of these  the top 10 most read meditation and mindfulness articles are listed below. Were they the best? Maybe, maybe not, but they were the most clicked on. I’ve certainly enjoyed revisiting them and taking a little time to digest the practical messages in them!

Nice recent article from Oliver Burkeman on New Years Resolutions with Making, the first he lists is meditation: “First, just start meditating already. You probably saw some of the eleventy-thousand studies in 2014 on how much difference a few minutes’ daily breath-following can make. Meditation could make you happier, more creativeless anxious, even less racist; it may conceivably ease your arthritisslow Alzheimer’sboost your learning ability and reduce cold symptoms. (Spiritual types might dispute that all this is the “point” of meditation, but they’re nice side-effects.)

Please note the Integral Meditation Day Retreat on the 11th January is now a half-day retreat from 9.30am-12.30pm, but still, no better way to start the new year as you mean to continue!

Yours in the spirit of appreciative reflection,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

January 9.30am-12.30pm – Regenerating Your Inner Self – Integral Meditation Half – Day Retreat

Sunday 18th January,9.30am-12.30pm – Meditations for Connecting to the Green World – An Introduction to the Path of Nature Mysticism

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care


The Top Meditation and Mindfulness Articles of 2014

1. Four Mindful Images for Stress Transformation

2. Non-Striving

3. Motivating Yourself to Meditate (and continue meditating)

4. Complementricizing Your Archetypes

5. If you feel properly you will think clearly

6. Finding Your Spiritual, Physical Home

7. Trusting Your Mind

8. When Your Energy Level Follows Your Mind and Imagination

9. The Three Purposes of Meditation

10.  Seriously Light/Lightly Serious

© Toby Ouvry 2014, 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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