The Wisdom of Age, the Shadow of Time

Dear Integral Meditators,

In the same why that thee is a child within all of us, there is also an old man or an old woman. The article below explores this theme, it may be considered in some ways a companion to my previous article on the shadow child.
The old wo/man and the child self are examples of two themes that we will be exploring in the upcoming “Meditations for Developing the Language of the Shadow Self“.

Yours in the spirit of aged brightness,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

JULY
Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self – A Three Hour Workshop 

AUGUST
Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


The Wisdom of Age, the Shadow of Time

The four stages of life
From the perspective of the seasons and the ‘wheel of life’ according to nature spirituality you have four stages to your life: Birth and childhood corresponding to spring, your youth and young adulthood corresponding to summer, mature adulthood/parenthood (the age of responsibility) corresponding to autumn, and old age/death corresponding to winter.

These four stages of life are literal, physical stages that we go through, but they are also perspectives that we can take on our life at any time. For example if we are in middle age physically we can still consider what our child self might think of any situation we are experiencing, as well as our old or wise self.

At which stage are you the wisest?
Each stage of these four life stages has its own particular wisdom and perspectives, but generally you would say that old age would represent the greatest opportunity for wisdom because it looks back upon the previous three stages using those life experiences to glean wise conclusions. Would you agree? Optimally then, the greatest opportunity for wisdom comes from considering our life from the end and looking back – from the perspective of ourself in old age.

Which stage do we tend to resist and avoid the most?
So if we assess our life from the perspective of old age and death, even if there is currently quite a long way for us to go before we reach that literal physical stage, there is much wisdom and benefit to be gained.
However, if you are like the vast majority of people then you will avoid thinking about old age, and when you do you will do so with feelings of discomfort, displeasure and even at times outright fear. The bottom line is we cling to our youth and fear aging. What is more society and culture seem to worship youth increasingly, making old age an even less appealing topic for contemplation.

The dark shadow of frail old age
Close your eyes now and see a picture of yourself in old age; bent, frail, youthful looks faded. Sense your resistance to this image of yourself, even as the signs of aging are present within your physical body right now. Open to this image of yourself as a frail old person, note and be aware of your resistances to it, your fears, perhaps even your disgust and anger. Try and open to, acknowledge and accept these resistances as deeply as you can.

The bright shadow of wise old age
Now look a bit deeper at this image of yourself. Perhaps you may find yourself looking into the eyes of your old self and see the wisdom of a life lived for many years. Sense the wisdom arising from suffering and the wisdom arising from joy that lives within the body, mind and soul of your old self; perhaps also the humor and kindness of your old self. You may even discover bright qualities within your old self that you absolutely did not expect.
Open as deeply as you can to the wisdom of your old self, his strengths, his knowledge and quiet inner fire.

Opening to aging and its bright counsel
Think of a situation in your life right now that you may be struggling with. Perhaps you might like to ask your old self for her perspective on what is going on. If you opened your heart and explain your desires and fears to your old self, it is possible that you might find a new experience of self-compassion and kindness. Maybe there is even a wily-ness and worldly wisdom that your old self has that can help you get what you want at the same time as satisfying the other people involved as well?

If we have the courage to pass through our resistance to our old-self, there is a bright and unexpected reward that lies on the other side.

© 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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Appreciating the Past to Liberate the Present

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would happen to our experience of the present if we learned to have a deeply good relationship with our past, even that part of our past that is wounded and damaged? This is the theme that I explore in the article below.

Yours in the spirit of the healed psyche,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

JULY
Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self – A Three Hour Workshop 

AUGUST
Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


Appreciating the Past to Liberate the Present

I was recently listening to a recording of ocean sounds, although the sound itself was generic, I found that as I listened I was immediately transported back to a tiny volcanic beach that I used to visit as a child in the Philippines called the secret cove. As I listened the memory of this tiny cove with the waves breaking on the black sandy beach came back to me with great clarity and power, even though it is thirty years since I have visited that place.

This is a neutral example of how when we experience something in the present our unconscious mind and memory can almost instantaneously free-associate our present experience with a past memory, and that memory then powerfully influences our present experience.

A negative past-present cycle
At its worst our past memories can keep us locked in cycles of pain, limitation, fear, blindness and so on. If when I was a child I learned the best way to protect myself from emotional wounding was to shut down my emotions, those memories as an adult can keep me emotionally shut down for life. Even though every day opportunities for emotional growth and health present themselves, my past memory and habit immediately shuts down any possibility of a new approach. My experience of the present is a prisoner of my past.

A positive past-present cycle
At best we learn to distinguish our useful and positive past experiences from our un-useful ones. We use our useful experiences to enhance our present experiences and to solve problems.
When we sense that our present circumstances are stimulating a difficult or limiting memory, we can use our self-awareness to be sensitive to that, and use the situation to ‘re-write our script’ so to speak. To take the example of the person who has learned in her past to shut-down emotion to survive, if he has enough self-awareness he may be able to sense the past memory, acknowledge and accept it, but then deliberately act in the present to expand his emotional self by feeling, acting and behaving in a new way.
We can also see how past memories create depth and texture to our present moment experiences, giving them richness and quality. A beach that we see today as an adult can stimulate a rich field of past memory which we can delve into with pleasure and appreciation.

An open ended future

If we can establish an effective past present cycle where we

  • Use useful past experiences to problem solve in the present
  • Use present experiences to move consciously beyond the limitations of our past memories, and
  • Use past memory to enrich and appreciate a present moment experience

Then these are some of the characteristics that we can say make us ‘liberated in the present moment’.
We can also say that such a positive past-present cycle means that our future always looks exiting and creative, even when facing adversity or inertia.

A practice

To begin the journey toward a positive past-present cycle, take a present situation in your life and ask yourself the question ‘How is my past experience of similar situations influencing my present experience in the here and now?’ Focus your attention on this question and see what it starts to bring into the field of your awareness.

  • What from your past memory is useful to solve the present challenges?
  • What from your past is limiting and stunting your present experience?
  • What richness and texture from your memory can you use to bring appreciation and pleasure to what is going on in the present?

© 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 Shadow Child

Dear Integral Meditators,

Our shadow self takes on various forms and expressions, one of which is the child. The article below is an exploration of our shadow child-self; what it is, why we should be interested in it, and how we can start working with it contemplatively. I hope you enjoy it!

For those of you in Singapore, tomorrow, Monday will be the last day that you can catch the early bird rate for the upcoming  “Meditations for Developing the Language of the Shadow Self” workshop, so if you are interested in a somewhat reduced rate, then do register today or tomorrow!

Yours in the spirit of the healed psyche,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

JULY
Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self – A Three Hour Workshop 

AUGUST
Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


The Shadow Child

The shadow is 
The ‘shadow self’ is that part of our mind and self that we have rejected and pushed so deeply into our unconscious awareness such that often we are not even consciously aware that it exists. However, from its position within the unconscious mind our shadow self remains active, influencing our behaviour and causing us to behave in ways which seem to be difficult for us to understand. The shadow has both a ‘dark’ side and a ‘bright’ or golden side.

The child self is
That part of us that is child-like in nature. You could say it has three aspects:

  • That part of us that is simply child like in nature; playful, naive, creative, innocent, gullible, needs looking after and so on
  • The historical child, that is the child within us whose character has been shaped and informed by our own literal historical upbringing; experience with parents, peers and other significant others, what happened to us in school, how we were treated and learned to gain approval and so on. The child within us now that is a product of our personal historical experience, and our response to that
  • The spiritual child within us – that part of us that is ever young, ever new, ever creative, ever both innocent and wise, whose light helps us begin again each time we burn out.

The shadow child is
Any part of our child like nature, historical child or spiritual child that we have repressed and rejected, that we are afraid of, that we have neglected, which remains unhealed and damaged, which we have turned away from.

Why you need to connect and make friends with your shadow child
Because if you do not do so parts of your damaged, fearful and disowned child will continue to sap your energy, sabotage your happiness and make joy, love and wellbeing difficult goals for you.

Because if you do not the radiant, optimistic, strong joyful and creative child that lives within you will remain un-expressed, un-enjoyed and undiscovered.

A personal example
Earlier this week I went on holiday to the beach. On the first night I woke up in the early morning in my beach hut. For some reason I started thinking about things like insurance, what could go wrong in my life and was overwhelmed by a feeling of stress and anxiety. I asked to my mind “Why are you feeling so anxious all of a sudden?” A small, scared, high voice replied “Because the world is such a large and scary place”. That voice was an example of one of the ways in which my shadow child exists and speaks within my psyche. I relaxed, opened to the feelings of my child self, accepted them with care and allowed them to wash over and through me. After a while they subsided and I went back to sleep feeling fine.
From this short example you can see that one of the reasons we often reject our child self is because the voice that it speaks in is so child-like. We often dismiss it as nonsense and bury the feelings that are attached to the voice and the inner child that it came from. As a result the fear remains within us, and continues to affect us even thought we have dismissed it from our conscious mind.
To connect to our child self we need to connect with it on its level without judgment, to learn to speak its language.

Connecting with your shadow child
See yourself in a room. In the centre of the room there is a chair, opposite it is a standing mirror. It is in this mirror that you are going to connect with your shadow child.
You may like to decide that you are going to connect specifically to the darker, damaged side of your shadow child or to the brighter, positive side of your shadow child. Alternatively, you may decide you are just going to connect with whatever part of your shadow child wishes to come forward. Make your choice and form your intention.
Now see yourself walking over to the chair and sitting down. As you do so, rather than seeing your literal, physical reflection in front of you, you see a child sitting or standing opposite you in the mirror. It is your own shadow child.
Take him/her in visually, feel her emotions. Is he pleased to see you? Does she trust you? Do you feel distant or close from him? Work with these observations and questions for a while.
Is there anything that he wishes to communicate with you? Is there anything that he is asking of you at this time? How can you help each other?
This is a place and a space that you can come to any time to commune, heal the wounds of and get to know and draw strength from your shadow child, bringing him back into your conscious awareness to participate in your life fully and actively.

© 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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Mindful Learning

Dear Integral Meditators,

These days there is absolutely no doubt that capacity to be adaptable, flexible and to learn quickly are necessary for successfully negotiating both the professional and personal challenges of your life. How can mindfulness help you with this? This is the question that I explore in the article below.

In the ‘whats on’ section below, you will see that this months workshop on the 27th of July is on developing the language of your shadow self. This is another skill that I would put at a premium for living an evolved, happy and successful life. Click on the link for full details.

Yours in the spirit of mindful learning,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

JULY
Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self – A Three Hour Workshop 

AUGUST
Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


Mindful Learning

One of the main functions and benefits of a mindfulness practice is that it helps you to increase your natural intelligence and problem solving capacity. How does it do this? By helping you to become more observant. The more you are really looking and observing in your life the more you will see, the more you see the more you will understand about the way reality works, and the more you will learn

Obstacles to mindful learning
Even with effort mindful learning can be difficult because of a variety of factors, amongst them:

  • Our capacity to make reflex judgments
  • Our tendency to focus on what is wrong and who is to blame

So, in order to make ourselves mindful learners we are trying to replace our habitual tendencies to label an experience good or bad, and to focus on who is to blame and replace them instead with two questions:
What can I learn here? And
What can be done?

An example
I’m in a hut looking out on a beach now, but yesterday morning my alarm went at 6am for me wake up to start travelling to my destination. Unfortunately I had gone to bed at 3am the night before finishing work tasks before I left. And well, ok, I was following the Wimbledon final a little as well (very compelling it was too!)
So you know how it is when you get up with three hours sleep, very dis-orienting, body out of balance, mind all over the show. In the taxi on the way to the ferry lots of judgments in my mind “Should have gone to bed earlier, your paying for it now!”, “Shouldn’t have gone on holiday, your too busy”, “Wish the bloody tennis hadn’t been on!” – You know the sort I’m talking about.
About half way through my taxi ride I remembered I am a meditation and mindfulness teacher (Dan-dan-daaaa! Kung-fu panda moment) “Hold on, what can I learn here?” I thought to myself. I noticed that simply the process of abstaining from judgment and taking a curious and observational stance had an immediate clarifying effect upon my mind, and reduced the amount of pain and discomfort in my body. So there is a lot of learning there already. I then discovered that really my fatigue and the circumstances around being tired did not signify that anything was wrong; I had stuff to finish because I’m busy doing fulfilling work, I’m getting up early because I’m going to take a relaxing break on a beach; the temporary suffering coming from a late night and early get-up are just what has to be accepted to get what I want in both ways. The rest of the journey as spent both happily and productively.
The net result; my mood and my experience change for the better, and I start learning good things from what I am experiencing.

A mindful learning practice
If you want to take the content of this article into your week just keep these two questions at the forefront of your awareness during your daily experiences:

  • What can I learn here?
  • What can be done or not done?

Allow them to unlock your natural intelligence and problem solving capacity.

© 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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Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

Dear Toby,

What if the things that most disturb you in your meditation practice could become the springboards to a deeper experience of meditation? This weeks article explores how they can become that.

Yours in the spirit of inner freedom,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

JULY
Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self at Basic Essence, full details shortly.

AUGUST
Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

One of the main purposes of training in meditation and mindfulness is to gain access to that part of our consciousness that lies beyond or behind our thinking mind. It is in that spacious, thoughtless, timeless space that we gain access to both higher levels of our intuitive and creative self, as well as to a level of being that is deeply renewing and regenerating.

The challenge is often that in our daily meditation practice we find that there are particular thoughts, memories and emotions that are bothering us and that refuse to go away despite our best efforts to ‘push’ them out of our mind.
The technique that I describe below is designed to help resolve and harmonize the psychological discord that underlies the thoughts that are bothering us (thus resolving the issue on the level of the thinking mind) and allows us to pass through the distraction to access the open space of consciousness that lies beyond our thinking mind.

It is a useful technique to have because it enables us to use the distraction itself as the stepping stone to a deeper meditative state. Thus the ‘problem’ becomes the method to obtain the desired goal.

Step 1: Identify the thought or issue that is bothering you. 
Sitting in meditation, identify the issue in your life that is most bothering you, or most present in your mind at the time. So for example you might find that your minds primary issue is:

  • I resent my partner for something he has done
  • I am anxious because of the lack of ideas that I have regarding an important project at work
  • I am irritable because my child seems to be incapable of following basic instructions

During this first stage you are simply bringing awareness to your primary issue; the one that your mind is preoccupied with and that is getting in the way of your meditation.

Step 2: Ask yourself; “Why it is good that I have this issue?”
The second stage involves thinking of a good and positive reason that your personal challenge exists, for example:

  • It is good that I am having this issue with my partner because it is helping me learn how to express and assert my needs and wishes to him, which up to this time has been a problem for me in my relationships.
  • It is good that I am feeling anxious about ideas for the project at work because it shows me that I am at the edge of my creative powers and pushing myself to a new level
  • It is good that I am having these issues with my child because it is helping me to see more clearly the levels of development she is at, and to adjust my expectations accordingly

You get the idea; you are framing the issue positively, so that you can see the value in having it. At this stage you can even write down your positive framing if you like, just to make it clear.

Step 3: Express appreciation for this issue
This next stage involves sitting and focusing on the issue and developing feelings of appreciation, acceptance and even enthusiasm for having this issue present in your life. As you breathe in breathe in your appreciation of the issue into your body and cellular structure, as you breathe out feel yourself becoming comfortable and appreciative with the issues existence in your mind and life.

Step 4: Let go of the issue, relax into the thoughtless space behind your mind
Having accepted and harmonized your relationship to the issue that you were struggling with, now gently let go of it and relax into the formless timeless space that lies beyond the thoughts in your mind relaxing into it in a state of meditation for as long as you wish.

What seemed like your obstacle to meditation has now become the tool through which you enter meditation.

Of course this technique also has broader applications; you can use it to build a positive relationship to any existing issue in your life, transforming it into an ally rather than an obstacle.

© 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 Dance of Relaxation and Alertness

Dear Integral Meditators,

Normally when we think about meditation the image that comes to mind is that is stillness and sitting still. In the article below I describe meditation and mindfulness as a dance, and how we can take this dance into all areas of our life. I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of the dance,

Toby


The Dance of Relaxation and Alertness

When I first learned meditation I was taught an analogy for how to concentrate in meditation that after all these years still holds good in my understanding. It is like holding a bar of soap in the shower; if you hold it too loosely it will slip out of your hand, but if you hold it too tightly then the tension of the grip will cause the soap to ‘ping’ out of your hand. So in order to hold the bar of soap you need to have the right balance of grip strength and gentleness, too much of either and the soap will slip from your grasp.
Concentration in meditation and mindfulness is like this; you need the right balance of relaxation and alert effort. If your concentration is too relaxed then you will keep forgetting and loosing the object of your contemplation. Conversely however, if you try too hard to focus then the tension of your effort itself will cause your concentration to be impeded. So you have to hold this ever delicate balance of relaxation and alertness in order to sustain your focus over time. This balance is one way of interpreting what Buddha meant by ‘the middle way’; we avoid the extremes of over-exertion or laziness by hitting this combined, balanced state of alert-relaxation.

So you could say that meditation and mindfulness are a perpetual dance of relaxation and alertness; you are trying to find a complementary and mutually supportive combination of these two qualities so they are like dance partners that mutually enhance each other’s qualities as opposed to being like two opposing fighters that are continually trying to knock each other down.

Generally this is a skill that we have to learn because for most people relaxation and alert effort are two different habitual modes of our being, either we are relaxing and reducing our level of alertness, or we are expending effortful alertness at the expense of our experience of relaxation.

So when we learn the dance through meditation and mindfulness we can then start taking it into all sorts of practical domains in our life, for example:

  • What might the dance of relaxation and alertness look like when dealing with challenging emotions, avoiding the extremes of crushing and repressing the emotion or allowing it to completely control us?
  • What might the dance of relaxed alertness look like in a business meeting?
  • What might it look like when making love?
  • When trying to get to sleep?
  • When dealing with disappointment or elation?
  • When focused on a sporting activity?

All questions to dance with.

This week if you like you can just spend a few minutes focusing on your breath specifically as a method of getting a feel for the dance of relaxation and alertness. Then in your daily activities keep experimenting with how the dance can help you with your daily activities, choices and challenges, increasing both your happiness and performance.

© 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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Street Mindfulness – Three Key Questions

Dear Integral Meditators,

What is the core of your personal mindfulness strategy for a happy, empowered and effective life?. In this weeks article I share my own, and invite you to think about what yours might be.

Yours in the spirit of the right questions,

Toby


Street Mindfulness – Three Key Questions

We all know the saying if you can find the right question, the answer will come. One of the keys to the effectiveness of my own mindfulness practice I have found is to find the right questions that will direct my mind and consciousness toward the place that I want it to go. Here are the three questions that are currently pasted to my fridge on a piece of paper. I have found them particularly effective for optimizing my happiness, self-empowerment and effectiveness each day:

  • What is good about my life?
  • What am I willing to do to make it better?
  • What do I need to focus upon now?

What is good about my life?
As I’m sure you will know, when we are busy and stressed it is all to easy to start reacting to all the things around us and within us that seem to be not going so well or outside of our control. Particularly when I can feel a downer coming on in my mind, I just pop this question in there and focus on it for a little while.  Answers start coming naturally from focusing on the question, resilience from unhappiness does not need to be super effortful; sometimes it is just a matter of asking the right question and following where it takes you.

What am I willing to do to make it better?
Whatever the situation we always have some volitional control over what is going on and how we choose to experience it. This question reminds me that I always have choice, and that it is always a matter of how much responsibility I am willing to take. It helps me to focus on what I (or we if in a group) can actually do to make circumstances and experiences better, rather than casting around for something or someone to blame and then acting like a victim of circumstance.

What do I need to focus on now?
Our awareness is like a torchlight, it is always shining somewhere (as long as we are awake). For me the problem is that often my mind is not focusing my awareness where it needs to be in order to be most effective in the moment. So, this third question just prompts me to be mindful of where my attention is, and direct it toward where it needs to be to tackle the issue at hand most effectively.
I find this question to be particularly effective because it is all too easy in challenging situations for my focus to go AWOL not because I am tired or incapable, but because the emotional charge around the challenge makes me uncomfortable. So it is all too easy to ‘zone out’ or stick my head in the sand as an avoidance tactic. As an effectiveness tactic however this is a disaster! Hence the importance of ‘What do I need to focus on now’ as an mindful effectiveness tool to help me pay attention when I really need to!

So there you go; three questions that you can use if you like. I think of them as my ‘street mindfulness’ practice as I ask them when I am going about my daily activities, they don’t require a special sitting meditation session, or indeed a belief system, you just need to be willing to pose the questions and follow their consequences.

What might be the key mindfulness questions for you in your life?

Related article: Fridge magnet spiritual happiness

© 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 


I-Awake Technologies product offer of the month
(lasts until Tuesday, 1st July)

Get 25% off  Heart Wave Meditation; “A new discovery in Meditation Technology for engaging the heart”
Click on the link to listen to the free sample and find out more.

To get the 25% discount simply type in the coupon code NEWSJUNE25OFF into the relevant box during purchase and checkout

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Liberation from Social Metaphysics

Dear Integral Meditators,

Every time you discover a new word or term your universe expands. If you had a good teacher at school you may have heard this saying from her or him. One of the new terms I’ve been enjoying exploring in my own practice recently is ‘social metaphysics’, the article below explores this powerful idea in terms of mindfulness practice.

For those in Singapore a final reminder of the Enlightened Flow Workshop this Sunday, 29th June, start time 9.30am!

Special Soul portrait summer sale offer closes this Thursday, 26th June.

Yours in the spirit of trusting your mind,

Toby


I-Awake Technologies product offer of the month

Get 25% off  Heart Wave Meditation; “A new discovery in Meditation Technology for engaging the heart”
Click on the link to listen to the free sample and find out more.

 

To get the 25% discount simply type in the coupon code NEWSJUNE25OFF into the relevant box during purchase and checkout


Liberation from Social Metaphysics

“Social metaphysics is the psychological condition of one who holds the minds and perspectives of other people, not objective reality, as the ultimate authority and frame of reference”- Nathaniel Branden

What does liberation mean? Many things to different people no doubt. As a mindfulness teacher sometimes I have trouble shaking off the preconception that people sometimes to come to the discipline of mindfulness with, which is the idea the our mind is inherently untrustworthy.

I think one of the problems that people (myself included) have is that we don’t trust and use our mind enough. Rather than being confident in and trusting our own mind’s capacity to process our reality and give us reliable feedback , it can be super tempting to look for someone else to tell us what to think, to tell us what is really there, to tell us what to do, to save us, anything to stop us having to really use our mind more consciously,  take responsibility for the choices that we make and from  engaging in the actions that will really  get us where we want and need to go in life.

This temptation to give up our trust in our mind and the facts in front of us, and to hand over authority to the minds and opinions of others is the problem that Nat Branden calls social metaphysics (metaphysics being the study of ultimate truth). One of the main things that I am trying to do as a mindfulness teacher is to help people to liberate themselves from their own personal social metaphysics and to really learn to trust their own mind and judgment.

Friends, parents, culture, the media, gurus, churches, temples, partners, rich people, poor people, Marxists, politicians, the sources of our social metaphysics are varied and many. To liberate yourself from social metaphysics does not mean that you don’t listen o the opinions of others, it’s just that you don’t hand over your personal authority, integrity and autonomy to them, any of them.

Of course if you take real responsibility for your life, your choices and your happiness then it can be scary, it can be inconvenient making yourself accountable for your life, and of course you are going to make mistakes sometimes.

But can anything be more precious than trusting yourself and your mind deeply and fully, and to act in the real-time of your life centered in this self-trust and confidence?

© 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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Complementricizing Your Archetypes

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks a little at our personal experience of archetypes and how we can create a complementary harmonic between the different ones that we have within ourselves.

Yours in the spirit of harmony,

Toby


Complementricizing Your Archetypes

When I was around 19 I read a book by Herman Hess called Narcissus and Goldmund. Narcissus is a venerated monk in a monastery, Goldmund is a child who is left at the doorstep of the monastery, and who, once taken in seems to be heading for the life of a monk. However, as Goldmund reaches puberty Narcissus recognizes that Goldmund is not of the right temperament and type for the austere life of the monastic, and so he basically kicks him out of the Monastery. Goldmund then embarks on a series of worldly adventures that leads him into the lap of many women, and he becomes a passionate and sensual artist, dying somewhat early after a life very fully lived.
I can remember when I read this that both characters made an extremely powerful impact upon my mind; I could associate with them BOTH almost equally. After a while I forgot the novel, but in my forgetfulness I them went to art school and became an artist. Then after that I trained in meditation and became a monk for a decade or so. One reason I did not remain as a monk was because I felt a strong urge to start doing art again. So now I am an artistic ex-monk who teaches meditation and mindfulness, and creates art when he can.

So, l if I look back over the last twenty years I can see within myself an exploration of the themes of these two archetypes within me; the monk and the artist, the aesetic and the sensualist, the worldly and the divine, the highly controlled and the passionately released. At times there is no doubt that these archetypes an energies have been in conflict within me as they are (superficially) so different, but overall the journey for me has been toward learning how to create a complementary harmonic between these two aspects of myself so that they feed, inform and strengthen each rather than being in conflict. I have learned that it is perfectly possible for these two powerful aspects of who I am to live in harmony with each other within my own body-mind-soul. One does not have to destroy the other to live, or vice versa.
My basic point in this article is that, like me, you will have these powerful and very different archetypes and themes within you. You may have seen them articulated in a book, poem or movie like I did with Narcissus and Goldmund, or you may simply have observed them as they play out in your life over time; the warrior and the peacemaker, the wise man and the fool, the gentle reconciler and the powerful changemaker, the vulnerable child and the capable adult, the radical and the establishment wo/man, the list goes on.

  • What are the most powerful character archetypes in you?
  • Are they working together to make you stronger and wiser, or are they in conflict, ripping you apart?
  • How can you ‘complementricise’ them? That is means create a complementary harmonic between your contrasting archetypes so that they are making you more whole, complete, capable, wise, loving?

I want to end this article with a quote from Narcissus and Goldmund where Narcissus speaks to Goldmund about their relationship: “We are sun and moon, dear friend; we are sea and land. It is not our purpose to become each other; it is to recognize each other, to learn to see the other and honor him for what he is: each the other’s opposite and complement.”

So it should be when we harmonize our own inner archetypes.

© 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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Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

Dear Integral Meditators,

This is an article that I prepared with some corporate clients in mind, it is another answer to the ever young question “what is mindfulness?”. Also, the practical exercise at the end is short but can have HUGE results.

Yours in the spirit of mindful flow,

Toby

 


Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

Mindfulness is the art and practice of bringing more conscious awareness to your activities, relationships, thoughts, emotions, desires and motivations. It functions primarily (though not only) as a method of strengthening the conscious mind and its attendant natural intelligence.
In each moment we are making choices about how much conscious attention and awareness we bring to our activities; mindfulness guides us to bring a high level of consciousness to the activities in our life where it is most important to be fully awake and engaged both personally and professionally.

Mindfulness functions to bring two main effects to our life:

  • We become happier
  • We become more effective at our chosen tasks

More than this, mindfulness helps create a win-win relationship between these two; the happier we become the more effective we tend to be at work and at home, and the more effective we are the happier we tend to be both in our professionally and in our personal life.

Up to this point in time the majority of people practising mindfulness have been doing so because they have come to understand the benefits of mindfulness to their own personal wellbeing and health. More recently organizations are coming to understand that mindfulness offers one of the best ways to improve employee engagement at work and to improve productivity. But why should this be so? Let’s take a closer look using three examples:

Personal happiness and effectiveness at work
Positively disposed people are more likely to find ways of being happy in their work (rather than looking to find work that makes them happy, which is a crucially different thing), when you feel happy your mind is relaxed, you feel good and so it is actually enjoyable to put effort in to your tasks at work. Enjoyment and effort combine to produce greater effectiveness and engagement at work. Greater effectiveness and engagement in tasks as we all know have a feel-good factor, and so our greater productivity gives rise to more personal happiness in a mutually complementary dance.

The way you feel about yourself directly influences how you manage change
Mindfulness is a way of leaning to bring a conscious appreciation of yourself and what you bring to the world; it helps to create what psychologists call a good self-image or self-concept. People who have solid, secure and positive self concepts are less threatened by external change and thus when change happens in the workplace they tend to have the capacity to respond to it rationally, consciously and intelligently. The capacity to manage change well in turn further re-enforces a positive self-image and concept, so again here we see a mutually re-enforcing relationship between the a strong self-concept and the capacity to manage change, both facilitated by mindfulness.

Confidence and personal responsibility increases both creativity and problem solving capacity
Mindfulness is a space where we can learn to consciously cultivate confidence in ourself and learn to take responsibility for the important things in our life. As we all know, confidence and the capacity to take responsibility are essential qualities that we need to bring to the table to creatively solve problems and put forward new ideas in our professional life.
Conversely, whenever we solve a challenge or come up with a new idea at work both our confidence and our tendency to take responsibility for tasks and problems. So again we see a mutually re-enforcing pattern where mindfulness improves our personal qualities and wellbeing which in turn strengthen and enhance our engagement at work and in life.

It turns out that the best way to improve professional engagement is to work on a person’s personal growth and wellbeing; whether a CEO or a cashier, a happy and centred person is always a more effective professional.

Two questions to begin working with your own mindfulness practice

So what does a mindfulness practice actually look like? Actually there are a variety of mindfulness practices that you can engage in. Here is a two minute one:
Or the first minute focus your conscious attention upon the question “What is good in my life right now”. For that time simply focus upon mentally noting the good and the positive in your life.
For the second minute focus upon one particular situation in your life and ask the question “What is the most important aspect of this situation that I need to pay attention too?” For the duration of that minute see what answer this question takes your mind to.
If you find it helpful you can write down your principal answers to both questions.

Two minutes of mindfulness practice right there. Try it for a week, see where it takes you.

© 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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