Paradox as Therapy (and the difference between a spiritual and a psychological crisis)

The difference between a psychological crisis and a spiritual crisis is that:

  • With a psychological crisis the problem is that there is some part of the mind that is not working properly. If you think of your mind as a motor engine, and a crisis as being like one of the parts going wrong and needing to be fixed or replaced
  • spiritual crisis is a crisis of meaning. This means that it is not that any one of the parts of your existing mind have gone wrong, rather that you have a new, deeper level of mind and self emerging within you, and that none of the existing ways of thinking and feeling that you have are adequate to cope with the new, deeper level of meaning that is emerging. The ‘solution’ to a spiritual crisis is to find, grow and articulate that new level of meaning in your life.

Spiritual and psychological crises are often quite similar, and often confused with each other, and yet they are fundamentally different. One of my tasks as an integral meditation coach is to distinguish between these two types of crisis for clients and provide advice and therapies that are appropriate for the type of inner problems and challenges that they have.

The paradox of a spiritual crisis
One of the challenges of a spiritual crisis is that, even when you have identified you are having one, it can feel like it is taking an awfully long time to develop clearly. For example I spent a good year before I decided to leave my life as a monk knowing that there was something changing within me, but not knowing clearly whether it would be the right thing for me to do or not to leave and enter lay life again.

One of the ways that I dealt with this waiting period was with a technique of awareness that I have cone to call “Paradox Therapy”. This involves becoming aware of the contradictions in your life, and learning to hold them together in the same act of awareness. This creates and experience of comfort and relaxation in the mind that is able to cope with the inner stress and contradictions of life with lightness, humour and patience.

For example in the year before left my life as a monk I would notice that:

  • I was in a state of inner conflict much of the time (“Things are bad”)
  • Simultaneously there was much in my life to feel fortunate for (“Things are good”)
  • There was always a part of my mind that was separate from and observing the positive and negatives (“Things are beyond good or bad” )

So, what I would do would be to sit with these three paradoxical perspectives in my mind, holding the “goodness”, the “badness” and the “beyond good or bad” in the same act of awareness.
This did not “solve” my predicament, but it did give me the peace of mind, patience and sense of inner wholeness and wellbeing to allow my path to unfold and relax into that unfolding, allowing the crisis to teach me what was emerging, and how to start to express and embody it in my life.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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 20 Second Rule – Guerilla Tactics for Peace of Mind and Wellbeing

Dear Integral Meditators,

Its all too easy to let life’s best moments slip by without noticing them fully, this weeks article outlines a practice you can do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you any more, from this moment on!

Wishing you all the best,

Toby


 

The 20 Second Rule – Guerilla Tactics for Peace of Mind and Wellbeing

This is a very simple idea that can have far reaching benefits. The basic logistics of it are:

  • As you may know, our brain has an inbuilt “negativity bias” that evolved for survival reasons. This means that it only takes one or two seconds for a negative experience to be committed to our long term memory. Our brain even has special neural pathways specifically designed for relaying negative information fast.
  • Conversely you have to focus your attention for at least 10-20 seconds upon a positive experience for it to become hardwired into your long term memory and to seriously impact your current mood and perception of life. Our brain does not have specially designed neural pathways for relaying positive experiences to our long term memory, so generally we have to work harder to make our positive experiences “stick”.

Over time and with training our brain can and does become quicker at registering and appreciating positive information about our life (this is the idea of so called “neuro-plasticty – you can change your brains physical structure by consciously training your attention and thought processes), but it takes effort extended consistently over a relatively long time.

One minute mindfulness:
With the above understanding in mind, here is a short practice that you can do to regularly commit your positive thoughts, feelings and experiences to your long term memory, and learn how you guide your daily experience toward greater happiness.

  1. Break your day up into set periods when you will do this one minute practice, for example once and hour, once every three hours, once in the morning, afternoon and evening, something like that.
  2. Look back over the last hour/the morning/the evening and pick out a positive experience or something that happened that is worthy of your appreciation, gratitude, and enjoyment ect…
  3. Focus on your remembrance of that positive experience with relaxed, focused awareness for around 20 seconds, so that it slips into your long term memory and starts to directly influence your mood right now, in the present moment.

We’ve all got busy lives, but I think you’ll agree that the above practice is not beyond any of us. If you practice it consistently there is no doubt it will empower you to take greater control of your peace of mind and inner wellbeing.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope this weeks newsletter finds you well, and that you have had a good week. The meditation and mindfulness article in this weeks edition of the integral meditations newsletter looks at the quality of our attention and the effect that it can have on our enjoyment of life or not. I’ve tried to keep it as simple and practical as possible.

Yours in the spirit of focused attention,

Toby

Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

Meditation and mindfulness can be thought about as types of attention training. If you can control what you focus upon, and the way in which you focus upon it, then to that extent you can control your experience of life. For example an annoying person is only “annoying” in so far as he or she is able to cause us to focus upon what he is doing in way that appears negative and annoying. A situation is only a “disaster” in so far as it causes us to pay attention to its destructive aspects to the exclusion of any positives.
So, if you can control your attention in any given situation then to that extent you can consciously control your experience of it how it makes you feel and what you do about it.

I sometimes think of attention as having three aspects; neutral, constructive and catalytic. Each has its own strengths and set of applications.

Neutral Attention
Neutral attention is when we choose (either in formal meditation or less formally during our day) to focus upon an object that does not cause us any intense feelings of pleasure or displeasure, but rather places us in a space of relaxed, peaceful attention. One of my favorites of this type of objects is “the sound of silence”. If you sit down in a quiet space and listen to the silence, after a while you will perceive a high pitched “ringing” in your ears. It does not seem to be coming from anywhere, it is constant and continuous. If you place your attention upon it you may find that it is very easy to relax into a focused, neutral space of concentrated awareness, with the sound of silence as your object of attention.
Other examples of neutral objects might be; the breathing, the blue of the sky, the sound of wind in trees, a white wall. There are any number of neutral objects.
Neutral objects help us to relax, empty the mind and slow down, and they become very pleasurable in a gentle way when practised over time. They also help us to gradually open to and gain experience of states of formless, timeless awareness that form the basis for the fundamental “enlightenment experience” taught in traditional wisdom schools (whether eastern or western).

Constructive Attention
Constructive attention happens when we make a conscious choice to focus on the positive side of any situation, thus developing the ability to use our attention to create positive feelings and experiences.

  • Lost your job? Maybe this is the opportunity to find one that you like better, great that it happened
  • Girl friend gone away for the week? Great, a chance to catch up on some reading and downtime

The basic principle with constructive attention  is that you are empowering yourself to create a more positive experience of whatever is arising by paying attention to the sides of the experience that cause you to feel optimistic, empowered, glad etc…

Catalytic Attention
Catalytic attention is where we focus our attention upon feelings or experiences that we find difficult or challenging and “stay with them” without repressing, running away from or being intimidated by them. The aim with catalytic attention is to strengthen and empower our mind and self to go beyond its current limitations, and learn to thrive amidst situations where we would otherwise get stressed out, fearful and intimidated.
For example:

  • If I consciously stay with the challenging feelings of loneliness and isolation that come up for me, over time I will develop the capacity to be comfortable and even enjoy being alone
  • If I know I am afraid of the disapproval of someone (eg: an authority figure in my life), I can consciously stay with these fears and at the same time consciously voice a difference of opinion to the person in question
  • If a situation you are in makes you feel like a bit of a looser, you can pay conscious attention to these feelings of inferiority and try and see where these feelings come from in terms of your fundamental beliefs about who you are and how you value yourself.

Catalytic attention is generally quite hard work, but you always appreciate having done it. As one writer said, “I don’t like writing, but I like having written”. It’s the same with catalytic attention; it makes you uncomfortable and takes effort, but having practised it over a period of time you always feel like you have achieved something worthwhile and effected some level of inner transformation afterwards!

Practice for the week:
This week simply

  • Practice using attention neutral objects to relax and clear your mind
  • Use constructive attention to improve the quality and enjoyment of your daily experience
  • Use catalytic attention to stay with and develop your capacity to transform  difficult emotions and experiences into positive ones

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Dealing With Energy Stress

Dear Integral Meditators,

Is there anyone who is not under some form of energy stress these days? It seems like there are so many things that can take up our time and energy these days that learning to make effective use of what energy we have has become an essential survival skill in today’s world. This weeks article looks at how we can begin to make better use of our energy in our daily life through a simple self-enquiry mindfulness technique.

Last week I gave a short talk entitled “Lessons from the Monastery to Contemporary Business” in which I reflected on my own time as a monk and how some of the skills that I learned may be applicable to a modern secular business environment. I have posted it on the Integral Meditation Asia Site, if you wish to have a listen just click on the link HERE!

Yours in the spirit of high functioning energy levels,

Toby

Dealing With Energy Stress:
Is it Worth Giving Your Energy To?

There are two ways in which we can create financial resources; firstly we can find a way of making more money, secondly we can find ways of spending less of the money that we already have coming in so that we save more.

Similarly there are two ways in which we can get more energy in our body-mind; the first is to find ways of generating more energy, the second is to prevent the loss of energy that we already have in our system.
It seems like one way or another we are all under quite a lot of energy-stress these days, this article looks at how we can begin to use a simple mindfulness and meditation technique to make us more energy efficient and less inclined to
lose or dissipate the energy we have un-necessarily.

Making a general enquiry into the ways in which you tend to lose energy:

Ask yourself the question “What are the situations and circumstances where I tend to lose energy, feel exhausted psychologically, dissipate my energy unnecessarily, or otherwise waste or lose physical or psychological energy that I could be  saving or otherwise using for better purposes?

Think about this and write down your answers. There are a wide variety of possible answers to this question, for example:

  1. When I meet with my colleague I can feel him/her making me angry, but I don’t/can’t express it, rather I just find myself feeling angry inside for hours after seeing him
  2. When I log onto my computer to work I surf the net for 20mins rather than getting the actual tasks I need to do out of the way
  3. I spend time complaining about the injustices that happen to me rather than simply looking for a solution to what has happened
  4. When I become tired I tend to become sloppy in my tasks, which as a result take even longer and even more energy to complete

The point about this exercise is to isolate real time situations in your life where you actively losing energy, are dissipating it, or could be using your energy more ergonomically. Having isolated these real-time situations where you are losing energy, you then arrive at specific conclusions designed to remedy this energy loss. For example for the person who has written the four points above, conclusions might be:

  1. When I meet my colleague I may not approve of his behavior or manner, but at the same time I will not waste my own emotional energy getting angry and resentful with him. It is not worth it.
  2. I should ensure that when I sit down at my computer to work I start work strait away, and create a separate time to surf the net if I wish to.
  3. I shall try and catch myself complaining about what happens to me, and refocus my energy on what can be done and/or moving into a space of acceptance about what is happening/has happened
  4. When I am tired I will make a special effort to focus on getting what needs to be done done, or  if  possible I will take a strategic break and return to my tasks refreshed.

With your conclusions in mind you then have several specific areas in your life that you can begin to work on being more energy-efficient with or put another way creating more energy by expending less. The mindfulness exercise from this point on is to bring your full awareness to the task of re-patterning your daily habits to this new, more energy efficient way of using your life force.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article explains a Zen meditation technique that I teach in my Zen walking meditation workshops, the next of which is coming up next Sunday May 19th May, so if you like what you read, there is a chance to get out and practice it then if you like!

On the walking meditation theme, I have scheduled in a new walking meditation workshop Walking Meditations for Connecting to the Energy of Nature  in the 3rd week in June, which will be another opportunity to walk your way to peace of mind…

Yours in the spirit of clear seeing,

Toby


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

MAY
Saturday 11th May, 9.30am-5pm: Uncovering the Hidden Power of Your Shadow Self – A One Day Workshop

Sunday 19th May, 8-1030am – Zen Walking Meditation 2.5 Hour Morning Workshop

JUNE
Saturday 15th June, 9.30am -12.30pm – Living Life From Your Inner Center – Meditations for Going With the Flow of the Present Moment

Sunday June 23rd, 8.00-10.30am – Walking Meditations for Connecting to the Energy of Nature 


Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming 

You know that you have a busy mind, you’ve heard about meditation, but find that focusing on the breathing is (in the beginning at least) quite a tough and laborious technique for slowing down your mind; sometimes it works well, but other times you feel as if you are fighting against the tide of your mind as it motors along regardless of your efforts to calm it down!
The Zen meditation form “Seeing without naming” is a meditation form that I have come up with myself (thus it is “in the spirit of Zen”, rather than being one that I received from a Zen teacher or got from a book). With this technique you don’t try and stop the mind per-se, rather you approach the moment to moment experience of your mind using atechnique of observation that enables you to encounter your world in a different way, with a heightened sense of awareness.
It is designed to temporarily bamboozle the usual automatic conceptual processes in your mind, and by doing this you can temporarily achieve a calm and insightful space in your life.

Some of the possible results of this meditation are:

  1. The ability to reduce the amount of conceptual thought in your mind and achieve greater clarity
  2. An enhanced, renewed and sharpened relationship to your process of thinking and labeling what is going on in your life
  3. A greater appreciation of whatever you are experiencing right now in the present moment
  4. A renewed sense of wonder in your life
  5. The ability to be in the midst of a busy mind without getting stressed-out about it

Seeing without naming outer forms.
Seeing without naming means to encounter the various physical forms and sensual experiences that you see, hear or feel whilst you are sitting in meditation, or walking, or just going about your daily life without labeling what you see or experience conceptually.
For example if you are walking past a tree, you really try and observe and experience the tree ”as it is”, without placing a mental label on it.
The object is to try to get yourself into a space where you feel as if you are experiencing the outer world for the first time, and everything that you are encountering is new and fresh, as if you have never seen it before. You are seeking in this exercise the classic Zen “beginners mind”.
One of the reasons why life sometimes seems stale and lacking in vibrancy is that we become trapped in a conceptual world where our mind assumes that it knows what it is seeing, and stops really looking at it and encountering it. By engaging in a process of ”looking without naming” you try and take away these conceptual assumptions/filters and place yourself fully back in touch with your living world as you encounter it in each moment, moment by moment.

Seeing without naming inner forms:
This meditation form is similar to the first except, rather than focusing on your outer and sensual environment we focus on the inner world of thoughts and feelings. It is a little more subtle than the first exercise, and you may find that at first it is best to do as a contemplation whilst sitting down and focusing. With familiarity however you will find that you can do it anywhere.
As you sit focus your attention on the thoughts, feelings and images arising in your mind. As they arise  simply try to accept them as they are without naming or labeling them as good, bad, or otherwise placing value judgments upon them. Imagine that you are experiencing thoughts and feelings for the first time, and allow yourselves to develop a sense of wonder and appreciation that you are able to have the miraculous experience of being a living, thinking, feeling human being.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

Dear Integral Meditators,

The theme of this week’s integral meditations article is quite simple, but at the same time often difficult to do. It is this; if you can control your attention then you can control the way in which you experience your life. We can’t always choose the way our life turns out, but we always have a choice with regard to what we are paying attention to in our life at any given moment. Exercising the power of that choice is the essential discipline of attention training.

Yours in the spirit of the empowering power of attention,

Toby


Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

Any advertising executive will tell you that the most important thing you need to do in order to sell people your product is get their attention. If you can get their attention then there is a chance you can convince them to buy your product. If you cannot get their attention then you can’t sell anything to them.
Consequently, when you go out onto the street or go online, you are not going into a neutral environment, you are going into a ‘hostile’ environment where people are trying to get your attention all the time. By controlling your attention they control the way you think, the beliefs you have, the way you behave, how you act and what you consume.

The corollary of this is that whatever you yourself choose to place your inner or outer attention upon at any given time affects how you think, what you believe (about yourself and your world), how you feel and behave, and what you consume.

From this it is easy to see then why it is crucial if you are trying to lead any kind of considered, evolved and directed life that you learn to be aware of what you are placing your attention on, and be as sure as possible that it truly where you want it to be.

To give a simple example if your attention is entirely consumed by ideas from the mainstream media, then your ideas about what “happiness” is will not actually be your own, but rather simply a reflection of what the mainstream media sources tell you happiness is.
How are you ever going to be really happy if your idea of happiness is a product of what someone else wants you to think?
Another simple example is that we have a strong tendency to pay attention to what is wrong with ourselves, or with our life, without regularly placing our attention on appreciating and enjoying what is right with ourselves and our life. Training in attention in this example involves definitely focusing on what is going well and positively in our life.

Controlling your attention is one of the keys to living a self aware life where you are the one making the choices about how you think, feel and act rather than these things being an unconscious product of ideas that you have been fed by someone else.

Practising mindfulness and meditation are major ways of developing the capacity to consciously control your attention.

Beginning to consciously control your attention

You can start to become aware of, direct and control your attention by doing the following short exercise once or twice a day over the next week, and then subsequently whenever you feel the need.

  • Pick a quality that you wish to develop within yourself that is pertinent and helpful to your life right now. For the sake of an example I’m going to choose “the qualities of lightness and playfulness”.
  • Ask yourself “What has my attention been focused on for the last hour or two? How much of that time have I been consciously integrating the qualities of lightness and playfulness into my life, and into my attention training?”
  • Then ask yourself “Where is my attention placed right now? Where can I focus my attention in order to regain or enhance my experience and development of the qualities of lightness and playfulness?”
  • Finally ask “How can I focus my attention on for the next hour or two in order to continue integrating lightness and playfulness into my life?” Your answer to this final question gives you your “attention training” for the next hour or two of our day.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Meditating on Enlightened Love the Easy Way

Dear Integral Meditators,

The weeks article looks at the simplicity and ease of the deep forms of meditation, such as meditating on enlightened love. The nice thing about this type of meditation is that anyone can practice on the level that they are at, but it remains deeply relevant and satisfying as our meditation practice develops and grows over time.

Yours in the spirit of awakened love and loving,

Toby


Waterfall - Punch Bowl Falls, Oregon Columbia River GorgeMeditating on Enlightened Love the Easy Way

The recipe for easy meditation on enlightened love is as follows, you will need:

  • A good practical working definition of love in its most universal sense
  • The ability to relax your body and mind fully without losing a basic degree of mindful awareness, or put another way, the ability to keep your mind simultaneously relaxed and yet focused at the same time (a basic meditation skill that we develop gradually through consistent practice)

What is enlightened love, and why is it different from everyday love? Enlightened love does not discriminate; it shines its light and energy on anyone and everyone regardless of their deeds, intention or nature. This is different for example from love as we normally experience it in our mind, emotions and body, where we easily feel love for some people, withold it from others, and feel pretty much indifferent to those that we do not know.
So you could say that enlightened love is a bit like the sun, shining its light on all, sharing its energy with all.
The benefits of developing our experience of enlightened love is that is gives us a very stable and deep rooted base from which we can experience all of the other types of love in our relationship to ourself and others, and as we express it within our body, mind and emotions. To connect to enlightened love is to connect to love in its primal state, and learn to draw on the inexhaustible nature of this primal energy in order to facilitate a happy and deeply considered life.

Step 1: A working definition of love:
This is a definition from Ken Wilber’s work, and one that I find very useful. In his work Wilber defines love as “the tendency of the individual parts of the universe to come together in order to form greater and greater wholes”. This goes all the way from the basic building blocks of the physical universe up to the most complex relations between humans. For example:

  • Atoms come together to form molecules
  • Molecules come together to form cells
  • Cells come together to form bodies (plants, animals, humans etc…)

Each of the individual units come together form greater and greater units of wholeness. This tendency to come together is love. Another example:

  • Humans come together to form families, families evolve into tribes, tribes into nations, nations into world communities (the UN etc).

Individual humans come together to form progressively bigger and bigger states of wholeness and unity.
Love then is this universal force within all of us that drives us toward relationship, co-operation, connectivity and wholeness.

Once you have gotten a decent understanding of what love is conceptually, you are then ready to meditate on love, and cultivate an enlightened awareness of it.

Step 2: how you then meditate on love:

  • Sit quietly and relax your mind and body as full as possible, allow them to become as open and spacious as you can.
  • Tune into the essential life-force that you feel within our body-mind. Feel its presence and flow within you.
  • Identify this essential life force within you as being the universal energy of love, the impulse of the universe toward greater and greater levels of unity and wholeness.
  • Rest in this experience of love and wholeness in two ways; firstly receiving it deeply into yourself as you rest in a state of deep relaxation. Secondly, experience it as yourself, be the love, recognize that it is who you are in your most essential state.
  • Rest in this awareness with as little mental activity as possible, just resting in, receiving and being love.

When you going about your daily life, try and stay connected to this state and feeling of receiving and being enlightened love. Without losing our discernment, practise shining the light of love on the people around you however you may feel about them, or whatever mental judgments you may be tempted to have about them.

A practical reflection
Today I had a one hour bus ride with my daughter, both to and from our destination. For some of that time we were talking and reading, but for quite a lot of the time I simply closed my eyes, relaxed into a state of lucid, open concentration (kind of like sleep but not being fully asleep) and focused on receiving and being love in the way just described. The result was that I had the benefits of having had a bit of a nap, but as well as that I connected deeply to a state of being where universal love felt totally real, a direct, moment to moment part of my real experience in the here and now. The effort involved was no more than simply deciding to have a nap and rest my mind, but the effect was very different.

So there you go, the easy path to enlightened love! A final point is that simply connecting and developing your experience of enlightened love will not solve all your problems regarding love and its expression in your everyday psychological self, or in your relationships. However it makes the journey toward wholeness on the psychological and relational level so much more enjoyable and easy, and it also gives us the strength to make the difficult calls in our journey toward love in daily life

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you have had a good week, the last few weeks for me seem to have been a period of adjustment making on different levels, and challenges that reflect those adjustments. Of course adjustments, changes and the challenges that go with them are all a fundamental part of the fabric of our life. One thing that I find with a daily meditation practice is that it really helps me to negotiate these periods of change and adjustment in an energetically ergonomic way; one learns to expend enough energy to meet the demands of the situation, and enjoy the learning that comes from it, without chasing ones tail unnecessarily and getting exhausted…

This weeks article focuses on love as the journey toward wholeness, I hope you’ll find that it treads the line between looking at “big”ideas and staying grounded and practical!

Yours in the spirit of wholeness through love,
Toby
 



Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

There is a close relationship (ideally) between the experience of love and the practice of meditation. If we say that love is essentially the journey toward the experience of wholeness within ourselves, and define meditation as a practice that takes our mind from the experience of distraction and diversity toward a state of unity and oneness, then I think it is not difficult to see how they support and enhance each other:

  • Whenever we experience love (for example toward another person), our heart and mind expand, connect and unify in a way that closely resembles a relaxed, open, meditative state
  • Whenever we focus the mind in an un-distracted, unified state in meditation, we can begin to feel the flow of love and life-force in our body

In this article I want to look at three ways in which we can use meditation and mindfulness as a part of our journey toward wholeness and love.

Meditation as an inward journey toward love and wholeness
The first way in which we can experience love through meditation is by journeying deeper into the true nature of our own consciousness. If we go beyond the awareness of ourself as a physical body, and then beyond our awareness of oursef as a psychological collection of habitual thoughts, feelings and images, we discover the formless, timeless, witnessing dimension of self that lies beyond.
This formless, timeless self is referred to in the great wisdom traditions as the True Self, so called because it is the self within us that remains constant and unchanging through-out our life. It is also called the Universal Self, because the formless, timeless, witnessing self within me is exactly the same as the formless, timeless, witnessing self in you, in all human beings, animals, plants and indeed anything that possesses consciousness. So, by connecting to the formless, timeless self we connect to a dimension of our being that is constantly and experientially in a state of oneness, wholeness and love with everything else in the Universe.

Meditation as an outward journey toward love and wholeness
The second way in which we can experience love and wholeness through meditation is by making the effort each day to expand our circle of concern so that it becomes progressively larger and larger. We start by extending love empathy toward ourself, then our family and friends, then people we don’t  know, then people we may not like, expanding ever outward to include all living beings (yep, animals and plants too).
To experience love in this way is to be mindful that everyone matters, and to make our decisions based around this recognition. Of course we can’t avoid making decisions that hurt others at times, or that will harm them one way or another, but to live in a state of love means to live in a state where everyone is included, and we make our decisions based around an awareness of this inclusivity.

Opening the heart; facilitating the ongoing giving and receiving of love in our life
The third way we can grow our love each day is to make sure that our heart is energetically open to the giving and receiving of love. You can feel whether your heart is energetically open right now by tuning into the centre of your chest-space. Is this area of your body open and dilated, allowing energy to flow? Or is it contracted and closed, unable to give or receive love or life energy? If you spend most of your time with your heart energetically closed, then you will end up like so many of us do feeling starved of loving energy and feeling isolated and  alone even when surrounded by others.
Yes, when you open your heart to the world you may feel more vulnerable, and yes it does take courage (and discernment), but if you take that risk then you will feel alive each day with the energy of love, and allow your life to be informed by that love. The alternative is to live in a mental “ivory tower” heart closed, risking nothing but gaining nothing. You can deaden the pain in your life by closing your heart, but by doing so you cut yourself off from the flow of love, which is a high price to pay indeed.

One Minute Mindfulness for Practically Integrating the Three Above Techniques:

  1. Spend a minute dropping your mental baggage and resting in the formless, timeless, witnessing dimension of your consciousness, recognize that on this level of your consciousness you are actually and literally always in a state of oneness and wholeness with all other living creatures, and the whole living universe. Rest in the love baby!
  2. Take a minute each day to care about someone (human, animal, plant) that would normally be outside of your circle of concern. Make the effort each day to include more and more living things in your circle of love and wholeness
  3. Through-out the day be mindful of your physical heart space. Is it energetically closed, defended and dead, or open, alive and flowing? Try and consciously increase the amount of time in your day that your heart is in a dilated, open state of giving and receiving love.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

Dear Integral Meditators,

I spent a lovely morning doing walking meditation In the Singapore Botanic Gardens today, many thanks to all those who came along! There is always something very pleasant about meditating in the out-of -doors!

This weeks article focuses on the issues arising from the increased power that can come from meditation and yoga practice, in particular looking at the effects kundalini can have our consciousness. I think this is an important area to be aware of in terms of negotiating it appropriately, and recognizing that it s a natural stage that we go through as meditators.

Please note I have changed the topic of the meditation workshop on the 28th April to All You Need is Love; An Integral Guide to Bringing Love and Compassion Into Your Life Through Meditation I’m looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into this subject over the next couple of weeks as I prepare!

Yours in the spirit of balanced inner power,
Toby

Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Wednesday evening’s 10th and 17th April 2013: Integral Depth Meditation Classes
Overview: These one hour meditation classes led by Toby are specifically focused on developing deep states of meditation. The emphasis is on developing good meditation technique and giving ample time for training in the actual practice of meditation itself. Because of this the class will mainly be spent meditating with only a minimal introductory talk (5-10mins) and time for Q&A afterwards….(click on above link for full details)

Sunday Morning, 9.30am-12.30pm, 28th April: All You Need is Love; An Integral Guide to Bringing Love and Compassion Into Your Life Through Meditation

Saturday 11th May, 9.30am-5pm: Uncovering the Hidden Power of Your Shadow Self – A One Day Workshop

 


Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

In my final year of University I reduced my “hard exercise” routine and took up yoga for the first time in order to make more time and energy for my studies, and to rest my body a little which was getting tired from me throwing it around all the time. The book around which my yoga practice was based (which I did religiously for between 30mins to 1.5 hours a day) was a set of asanas such as you would find in a lot of common yoga classes. So I just did these poses as well as I could, and felt better for it.
On the final page of the book there was a short description of what it felt like when your kundalini, or life force energy got activated by the yoga poses; how it felt like a snake curling up the spine from the base toward the crown of the head. I read this and did not think about it too much, but duly after a few months of practice I could feel it rising from the base of my spine at the end of each session as I lay on the floor relaxing.
There were three principle effects of this initial stimulation of my kundalini:

  1. My Sex drive increased fairly dramatically (when the kundalini rises the first chakra it rises into is the sacral chakra, which is the sexual/emotional centre)
  2. My awareness of inner and outer conflict, and feelings of superiority/inferiority with regard to others in social situations was substantially and not very pleasantly increased (the second chakra that the kundalini moves into when it rises is the solar plexus chakra which is to do with ego and the power drives of the personality)
  3. I started to experience regular and consistent “expanded” states of transpersonal awareness (a result of the kundalini hitting the higher energy centres from the heart level upward)

With regard to the fist effect I was relatively lucky in that I had a compassionate and frankly very tolerant girlfriend at the time who was able to absorb that part of my personality change with somewhat bemused amusement.
The second effect, the increased awareness of (perceived) conflict or negative emotions around other people made me rather more reclusive and more reluctant to engage socially, as the experience of doing so was not all that pleasant in the face of the energy changes in my body and the effect that it has on my mind.
The third effect, that of expanded states of awareness (I had not done ANY meditation at this stage of my path) was that I became even more of a space kadet than I had been before! Quite fun, but not exactly enhancing of my fundamental inner peace OR my functionality as a person…

So, my first basic point here is that when yoga and meditation really start to awaken our inner powers (through kundalini and other factors), the effect can actually be quite volatile, and needs careful thought and awareness to negotiate. In the long term, and treated in the right way, increased sexual energy, a sense of power at the personality level, and access to expanded awareness have the potential to make our life far more happy and fulfilling. However there is also a lot of potential for any one of these factors to go wrong, and start causing problems on one level or another…

Dealing with Kundalini Awakening in Meditation
Subsequent to my initial kundalini awakening described above, I then did actually start meditating, and periodically found myself grappling in my meditation either with sexual imagery that would NOT go away, or with powerful images of conflict, sometimes violence. Initially I found it quite perplexing, but in the long term I found that the best thing to about it was nothing much. When I sat down in meditation and started to focus my mind, my kundalini would naturally start to rise into my sacral chakra (cue sexual images; “Hello ladies!”). If I then left these images alone and relaxed, the energy would continue to rise up into my third, or solar plexus chakra, often giving rise to images of conflict and power struggle (“Hello violent, sweary people!”), but again if I just left them alone (not feed them or fight them) then the kundalini would just continue to rise up to my heart and the higher energy centres, and by the 5th minute or so if my meditation I was up and running in a state of expanded awareness. Eventually over time this process became reduced to

  • an initial strong feeling of sensual bliss shortly after sitting down
  • followed by and enhanced feeling of power in my personality
  • followed by a release into a consistent state of formless meditation, nice simple and minimal.

I feel like a bit of an old man taking about this now, as this stage of my practice was a long time ago, but I think it is a stage that we all go through as we practice (with different subjective experiences resulting), and it is important to negotiate it well…
Of course you still have to learn to deal with sex, power and expanded awareness as it applies to your daily life and relationships (bit more complex as you can imagine), and get it right on that level. But that is a subject of another time!
© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Your Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article features a reflection on a period of my own meditation practice in the year immediately following my ordination as a Buddhist Monk. Our life challenges come in a variety of different ways, sometimes they come in ways we can anticipate and other times not so much!

This coming week has two events, the first is the Integral Depth Meditation Classeson Wednesday 10th, and the Introduction to Walking Meditation on Sunday 14th. You can click on the links below for full details.

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Wednesday evening’s 10th and 17th April 2013: Integral Depth Meditation Classes
Overview: These one hour meditation classes led by Toby are specifically focused on developing deep states of meditation. The emphasis is on developing good meditation technique and giving ample time for training in the actual practice of meditation itself. Because of this the class will mainly be spent meditating with only a minimal introductory talk (5-10mins) and time for Q&A afterwards….(click on above link for full details)

Sunday Morning, 8-10.30am, 14th April: An Introduction to Walking Meditation Workshop

Sunday Morning, 9.30am-12.30pm, 28th April: Meditation and Mindfulness as a Healing Art – A Three Hour Workshop


Your Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

In the mid-nineties I returned from a Buddhist festival the Newcastle, England having been newly ordained as a young Buddhist Monk. One main reason I thought I had gotten ordained was to make sure that I had plenty of decent open space in my life for meditation practice, and I was looking forward to getting onto my meditation cushion and making some serious progress that year.
The place where I was staying at the time was not actually a meditation center  it was the spare room of a friend’s flat in an inner city council estate with a lot of poverty, and a lot of substance abuse all around. Our little meditation group had recently moved out of our previous residential space, and were looking for somewhere to buy. So, in the meantime I was holed up in this small room with a bed on one side, a meditation cushion in the middle, and all the furniture and other materials from the meditation center piled up to the ceiling all around me.
The circumstances weren’t ideal for meditation, but nevertheless I was anxious to sit down and get started. However, as soon as I sat down a pattern of occurrences happened that lasted for a whole year. Basically it would be like this:

  • I would sit down to meditate, close my eyes, start setting my motivation and begin my pre-practice prayers
  • Simultaneously in my mind’s eye (not physical eye please note) I would see a bunch of wrinkly, sour faced old men assemble in a circle above my head. Some of them were dressed in old police and military uniforms, some had big sticks in their hands, others stones.
  • As I would start my prayers they would start shouting, spitting on me, chucking rocks down and “hitting” my head aggressively with their sticks (again please note this is in the subtle realm, not the physical one!). Then basically they would stick around for the duration of my meditation, making life as difficult as possible, and then just as I was about to finish they would go away cracking smiles and patting each other on the back!
  • I would then emerge from my meditation session rather disturbed, disoriented and confused, and with something of a headache!

After a couple of weeks of this as I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty sick of this, and it really was not much fun. Nevertheless I kind of hoped that it would last a month or so and then they would leave me alone. Unfortunately not, this basic pattern repeated itself for the year that I was living in that small room. Every time I sat down to meditate I had to endure a shower of psychic abuse from these weird old men. I tried to pray them away, do protection circles, to call on the Buddha’s for help, all to no avail. It seemed like it was just up to me to face off with this every day (and often it persisted during the night and when I was out walking etc…) and take what it was teaching me. What did it teach me? Well, that open to debate really, but here are a few things that occur:

  • To endure and to be very resilient. Sounds like a bit of a cliché, but it did make me mentally tougher to sit myself down for hours at a time knowing that basically I was going to get a lot of abuse and very (very) little bliss
  • To direct compassion and care toward myself. I was alone for long periods of time in this rather hostile location, and if I was not going to direct care and compassion toward myself to deal with the trauma, it was not going to come from outside
  • To appreciate the friends I had. I was not able to talk about what I was going through with anyone, it just felt a bit bizarre, but I did learn to deeply value the basic human warmth and care that I received periodically from people I learned from, taught and who otherwise shared my life.
  • The equanimity of a big mind. I could not control what was appearing to my mind (which was all pretty horrible) but I could be aware that all that was happening was happening in the context of an infinitely large experience of spacious awareness that was always the same, always tolerant, always reliable.
  • A deeper sense of trust: I struggled with the feeling that, despite my belief and experience of benevolent higher powers, they basically seemed to have left me literally and completely to the dogs. Over time I came to see that the skills and insights that I was developing in such a hostile environment were actually ones that could not be developed in other ways. So I (not without a certain amount of chagrin) accepted and trusted what was happening as part of a bigger process.

I just want to say that if you take up meditation it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY THAT ANY OF THE ABOVE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU! And if you come to one of my meditation classes the environment is conditioned to be conducive to developing states of inner peace and wellbeing.
However, I thought it might be interesting for me to share a bit every now and again about my own (somewhat eccentric and off the main road) personal path and process.
…and finally to point out the title theme of this article, that your own personal meditation practice, which is to say your own path to genuine inner liberation and enlightenment (in whatever way you understand it) may not be quite what you think it is going to be.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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