The Key to Dealing with Stress, the Challenge of Dealing with Anxiety

Dear All,

How are you? This weeks article looks at the perennial themes of stress and anxiety, and takes what I think is a relatively new or at least novel approach to the issues that you may find interesting!

Yours in the spirit of an appropriate relationship to stress and anxiety,

Toby


The Key to Dealing with Stress, the Challenge of Dealing with Anxiety

The key to dealing with stress is learning to take life less personally.
The key to deaing with anxiety is learning to take life more personally.
Here is what I mean:

The key to dealing with stress, such as for example you might face with living in a city is not to take the natural friction of such environments personally. This type of friction is simply a natural extension of living in a large community and it is unavoidable. If you take this natural friction personally, then it is going to cause you stress, if you don’t, then it won’t, or at least the stress will be manageable.
For example the old person who tries to jump the que at the bus stop is a natural feature of the city landscape, as are periodically obnoxious customers, co-workers and bosses. The heat and friction of daily life in a crowded 21st century environment is just that, heat and friction, no need to take it personally. Simply learn to detach appropriately and don’t make a problem out of the natural dynamics of the situation.
Similarly in our relationships with friends and family, a certain amount of friction is quite natural, it is not unusual and there is no need to make something unnecessarily personal of it.
In the same way it is quite natural to have a certain amount of friction in our mind as competing concerns crowd into our awareness and make noise to try and attract our attention.
Learning not to take natural friction personally is a major key to managing our stress, and learning to direct the natural stress of our daily situations in an appropriate, mindful and constructive direction.

The key to dealing with anxiety is to keep trying to answer the questions that your deeper sense of self is asking you about the meaning of your life. Anxiety (as I am defining it in this article) is the tension and apprehension that we feel in our mind when we feel our deeper, or evolving self pushing us to develop ourselves, to articulate meaningful action, to move toward our highest potential, to make positive changes, to think independently and courageously, to make a difference. Anxiety is the inner tension that we feel when we hear that inner evolutionary to move out of our comfort zone.
People who have no connection to their deeper self suffer only from stress in life, not anxiety. Anxiety is a call to action that comes from the depths of our being, a call to become who we really are, and to express that without fear or apprehension.
One major coping strategy that many people use to cope with their anxiety isconformity. They hope that by simply working hard at conventional goals that will give them conventional “respect” in society, they can simply be accepted by the status quo and thus they can avoid the challenge of doing something that is truly their own, truly an expression of their deeper self and deeper potential.
However, this superficial strategy of avoidance leaves the inner anxiety un-dealt with, and as a result many people find themselves with a sense of anxiety that is always there, gnawing at them, and they don’t even understand where it is coming from.

Mindful awareness of stress and anxiety

The basic “meditative moves” to deal with stress and anxiety are quite different:

  • Dealing with stress mindfully involves observing when we have started to take the natural friction of our life personally, and consciously stepping back, detaching, releasing, and smiling at ourselves for taking the whole thing rather too seriously.
  • Dealing with anxiety means each day to look into our deeper self and ask; “What is my evolutionary potential asking of me today?” The next thing to do is to start something/make the change/make the decision/begin to create that which is the answer to this question.

The two types of happiness that arise from dealing with stress and anxiety

  • The happiness of dealing with our stress through detachment and not taking it personally is primarily a relaxational type of happiness, learning to go with the flow of life.
  • The happiness that comes from dealing with anxiety is the deep and vibrant happiness of feeling fully alive, awake and engaged with life.

The consequences of not dealing with stress and anxiety:
Interestingly, the consequences of not dealing with stress and anxiety seem to be different and yet similar; the experience of irrational fears and projections in our mind.

  • When we don’t deal with stress well, we find the days’ stressful events “sticking” to our mind, and we re-live them in a state of anger, frustration and fear.
  • When we don’t live to our potential, the anxiety that this creates is a slightly more complex fear, a fear of our own power, and an absence of deeper self confidence, which causes us further anxiety, and makes it more and more difficult to discover what we really need to do in order to make our life a reflection of who we are and what we really want to give.

Conclusion
The main point that I think I am trying to make here is that stress and anxiety (as I am defining them in this article) are different problems that require different solutions.

  • The principle solution to stress that I am putting forward in this article is the practice of appropriate detachment
  • The principle solution to anxiety is the courage to engage more deeply with our idea of who we are, and act every day to make our life a reflection of the deeper meanings that we really wish to make our life an expression of.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Energetic Dynamics of Love

Dear Everyone,

This weeks article looks at the inflow and outflow of love in our life, and how we can start to make conscious, meditative adjustments to improve this flow for the better, I hope you enjoy it.

Yours in the spirit of benign flow,

Toby


 

The Energetic Dynamics of Love

The fundamental energy dynamics of love are those of giving and receiving. In order to be a love giver, there needs to be enough love being received within your being in order for you to give. When speaking of love in this article, I am simply referring to feelings of warmth and friendship, care and benevolent attention. There are four basic levels of receiving and giving love that we will be looking at:

  • In our relationship to self
  • In our relationship to others
  • In our relationship to the world and the Cosmos at large
  • A synthesis of the above three

Receiving love from self
All of us have blocks in our relationship to ourself; things that we don’t like about ourself, reasons why we withhold love from ourself and so forth. However, learning to receive love from ourself is really an act of great simplicity. It is just a matter of sitting quietly, bringing our attention onto ourself and our body, relaxing our chest and heart area, and allowing ourselves to receive the natural healing and caring energy that starts to flow when we focus our attention gently upon ourself without judgement. The act of directing conscious caring attention toward ourself is in itself an activity that naturally directs love toward ourself. We then simply need to sit within that space and allow ourselves to receive that energy from…ourself. You can try it right now it is really as simple as that!

Giving love to self
Once we have some basic familiarity with receiving love from self, we can then practice giving love toward self, which is really just a slightly more active and dynamic way of receiving love from self. When actively giving love toward myself, I normally just raise the corners of my mouth a couple of millimeters, so that the expression on my face is in a half smile. This half smile carries a natural positive warmth and friendship that I then direct toward myself, breathing it in as I inhale, feeling the energy expand thru-out my body as I exhale.

We are all communal beings, and tend to define ourselves to a greater or lesser degree by our relationships to others, but it is surprising how much healthy, loving energy we can create within ourself just by paying attention to the above two practices. This then gives us a healthy “not overly needy” basis upon which we can then practice giving and receiving love from others.

Receiving and giving love from and to others
If we habitually block love from ourself to ourself, we can also bet that we also habitually block the reception of love from others to us, and deprive ourselves of the positive support we could be receiving from them. To practice receiving love from others, just think about the people who love and like you, friends and family. All of them have a loving intention toward you (even if sometimes on the surface there is annoyance etc…). At any time we choose we can simply be aware of this positive, loving intention from those that are close to us, and open our hearts and minds to receiving that energy fully. It is energy that is available to us all the time (even if we are not always physically close to them) that we can benefit simply by being aware of and opening to.
Consistent awareness of this flow of love toward us practiced over time gives us an inner feeling of having a lot of love inside us, and consequently, in our relationships with others it becomes more and more easy to give love to others, both as an act of awareness in meditation, and as actual acts of kindness and generosity in the world.
Practices together in a balanced way, receiving and giving love should actually build upon each other, creating an ever increasing cycle of love and care in your life.

Receiving and giving love from the Universe
In this world there is a lot of free energy around, in the sense of ambient life force and life-giving subtle energy. I became most prominently aware of this when I started a Qi gong practice over fifteen years ago, and saw how it is possible to receive huge amounts of energy from the universe (that is already there) just through attuning my awareness to it, and learning to direct that energy into and through my body.
Similarly, there is a huge (infinite?) amount of ambient love and warmth on a universal level that we can start tapping into just by becoming aware of it, opening to it, and allowing ourself to receive it.
Essentially it seems to be the loving energy of a creative source (conceptualized by some as God, or alternatively for example that which Was, before the big bang) which flows naturally out into creation, and we can be on the receiving energy of that energy just through an act of conscious awareness.
I remember being in Brazil one time and passing a river where a whole line of small alligators were lined up at the bottom of a small waterfall with their mouths open, waiting for the fast current to wash fish into their mouths. Receiving love from the universe is a bit like this; you just open your heart (like the alligators mouth), and let the love flow in.
Once you have a sense of receiving love from the universe in this way, you can then practice giving love to the Universe, just as an act of joy and communion.

A short integral or synthesis meditation on giving and receiving love
Once you have a sense of the above three ways of giving and receiving love, you can then use a very simple breathing exercise to facilitate that flow in your meditation:

  • As you breathe in, feel yourself receiving love from yourself, from others, from the Universe into your heart and mind. If you like you can see that loving energy as a light in your heart being fed and brightened by streams of energy coming into your body as you inhale.
  • As you breathe out see and feel yourself giving love out from your heart-space; to yourself, to others in your life, and to the Universe at large.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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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Building the Inner Power of Your Mind – Gross Subtle and Formless Objects of Meditative Concentration

The nature purpose of training in concentration

The meaning of concentration in a meditative context is similar to the mainstream usage of the word; it simply means to develop the ability to focus our mind upon one object or task single pointedly without distraction. Developing concentration through meditation has many benefits, whether you simply want to become more effective at work, become a better tennis player, become mentally stronger and more resilient, or achieve enlightenment, concentration can help you in your goal.
In general the side effect of concentration is peace of mind. All of us are familiar with the pleasure of being so deeply involved in a task or hobby that all our troubles and worries are forgotten. The flow of concentration creates space and comfort in our mind, and an appropriate detachment between ourself and the challenges we face in our life, enabling us to take better perspectives and make more appropriate choices.
In a specifically meditative context, concentration gives us the power to shift from one state of mind to another at will, making the inner goals of meditation far more eminently achievable.

Should we stay with just one object of training when developing concentration, or can it change?

In the great wisdom traditions of the world generally we find the advice that sticking with one object of meditation is best when training in concentration, if we keep shifting our object of concentration, the act of changing the object in itself becomes a bit if a distraction. However, what I personally recommend is that as your concentration practice evolves, you alter your object of meditation slightly to reflect your developing ability.
Initially when our concentration is quite week, it is best to stick with a relatively gross or manifest object that is easy to find and focus on. Once you become more accomplished you can then switch to a more subtle mental object. Once you can focus clearly for extended periods on a subtle mental object, you can then switch to a very subtle or formless object of meditation. Here are three practical examples of what I mean.

Example 1: The light of a candle flame

Beginners – Gross object: You take an actual candle flame as your object of concentration, fixing your gaze upon it without distraction.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: You take the mental image of a candle flame as your object of meditation, visualizing it clearly and focusing on it without distraction.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: You take the inner, empty luminescence, or inner light of your mind as your concentration object.

Example 2: The breathing

Beginners – Gross object: You begin by simply taking the gross breathing as your object of concentration, developing the capacity to follow it without getting distracted.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: If you keep focusing on your breathing consistently, you will find that it will naturally transform into what in the Thai Forest Monk tradition is called “the beautiful breath”. The breathing becomes very smooth, natural and comfortable as the energy winds or prajna, or qi in our body becomes very balanced, blissful and harmonious.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: If you keep focusing on the beautiful breath, then breathing will then (over a period of time of practice) slow right down .You can then change your focus to the living inner space and silence that you experience in the pauses between your breaths.

Example: The flow of thoughts in our mind

Beginners – Gross object: Initially you just learn to focus on the flow of thoughts and images in the mind as they arise from moment to moment, watching them as an observer.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: Once you are competent at the beginners stage, you can then switch to focusing on the inner space and silence between your thoughts, taking this as your object of concentration.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: Once we are comfortable focusing on the inner space between our thoughts, eventually we can switch to focusing on the open expansive emptiness of our inner awareness, and develop deep concentration on this very subtle object of meditation.

So, I hope these three examples give a clear idea of how we can change our object of meditation as our meditation practice evolves, and our ability to focus on progressively more and more subtle objects increases.

Concentration in daily life

Of course concentration should not be confined to formal meditation practice. In these days of furious multi tasking, it can be a nice practice just to select one activity a day where we choose to consciously focus on that task and nothing else, keeping our mind as present to the task as possible. It does not need to be complicated. It can be hanging out the washing, our daily half hour responding to emails, our daily jog, even mindfully watching TV (Caution, potential capacity for self delusion here “Oh, so all I need to do to develop concentration is watch TV intensely!”).

Developing our concentration requires consistency in our practice, but the benefits really are deep and far reaching in terms of our quality of life, I hope this article contributes to your personal inspiration to develop your own concentration!
© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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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Isn’t it About Time You Got Your Inner Self in Shape? (Integral Inner Fitness Training)

Dear Everyone,

Isn’t it about time you got your inner self in shape? Its time to stop procrastinating and get your mind looking looking sleek, svelte and sexy!

Yes, the Integral Meditation Asia meditation term starts this Sunday with the three hour Mind of Ease workshop (full details below), and then continues with the Mind of Ease Five Week Course beginning on Wednesday 5th September. Seriously, if you have been wanting to get your mind in shape for a while, and are looking for the opportunity, these courses are a great opportunity to get yourself up and running.

This weeks article looks at the interface between inner fitness and outer fitness, and the different ways in which meditation promotes your own integral inner fitness.

Toby


Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia

Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice

Date: Sunday 2nd September
Time: 9.30am-12.30pm
Location: SCWO Training Room 4, 96 Waterloo Street, Singapore. For map click HERE

This three hour workshop offers a practical introduction to meditation that aims to integrate the fundamentals of traditional meditation practice with contemporary insights from psychology and neuropsychology.

What you will learn
Simple meditation techniques which can be condensed into a ten minute daily practice that:

  • Reduces and transforms anxiety and stress, releases unwanted tension from your body-mind.
  • Helps you to build an intention toward yourself and others genuinely  based around warmth, friendship and love
  • Trains your mind to take in, focus upon and appreciate the positive in your life
  • Develop your concentration skills (the ability to focus one-pointedly upon a single object/task)
  • The ability to find and relax deeply into the natural  inner space and silence of your mind
  • An increased capacity to witness the contents of your consciousness as an observer, rather than being completely identified and wrapped up in it.

Again, all of these skills can be consolidated into a daily meditation practice that can be done in ten minutes!

The Structure of the Workshop:

1st Hour – An explanation of what meditation is, followed by an introduction to and practice of  the basic seven stage meditation on how to develop a mind of ease, relaxed concentration and positive intention.
2nd Hour – Questions and answers, followed by meditation on awareness of our stream of consciousness, and learning to orient our mind around thoughts and perspectives that give rise to happiness, wellbeing and appreciation.
3rd Hour – Talk on how to develop inner focus and concentration, and how to relax into the natural inner space and silence of the mind. Practice of meditation for developing concentration and awareness of the inner space and silence of the mind.

You will also receive:

  • Extensive workshop notes giving a detailed of the meditation practices that are taught.
  • Three ten minute MP3 meditation recordings that you can take away and listen to as a support for your personal practice

Cost of Workshop: Sing $85 per person

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE MIND OF EASE  WORKSHOP BY CREDIT CARD

TO PURCHASE BOTH  THE THREE HOUR MIND OF EASE WORKSHOP AND THE THE FIVE WEEK MIND OF EASE COURSE AT A SPECIAL DISCOUNTED RATE OF SING $145 (SAVE $30!) CLICK HERE!

To register or for further enquiries: Email info@integralmeditationasia.com, or call 65-68714117


Isn’t it About Time You Got Your Inner Self in Shape? (Integral Inner Fitness Training)

As someone trying to live and integral life, I try and practice (in however rudimentary a way) an integral form of physical fitness. I have six basic categories with I try to arrange my physical fitness activities. The idea is that each of these activities keeps a different aspect of my physical body and brain ability used and in good shape. Here they are:

  • Strength training – The development of muscle strength through weights etc…
  • Stamina or cardiovascular training – Eg: Jogging·
  • Flexibility – Stretching, Yoga, Qi gong and so on…
  • Hand-eye co-ordination – Through Racquet sports, or other ball sports for example
  • Spatio-temporal awareness – The ability to think and visualize in three dimensions, for example in order to apply         strategy in ball games
  • Diet and Rest

Each of these activities has its own important and crucial role to play in the overall development of integral physical body fitness.
I have to say that integral physical fitness training is a great way to get your mind in shape as well, but what I want to do now it to talk about how meditation is a type of integral inner fitness training.
What I have done below is to take each of the categories of outer fitness above and show how practicing meditation has a corresponding inner fitness benefit!

The six ways in which you get your inner self in shape through meditation:

  1. Strength Training – Meditation helps us to develop a strong mind by developing our ability to focus our mind on a single object for an extended period of time, thus increasing our mental strength. Done correctlyconcentration training in meditation helps us to find more inner and outer energy.
  2. Stamina training – Meditation increases our awareness, appreciation and gratitude for the good, the beautiful and the true in our life, giving us access to deeper levels of happiness and wellbeing. Thus in turn makes us more resilient to temporary setbacks and able to “keep on keeping on” with the goals that are important to us where other people would give up
  3. Flexibility – Integral meditation makes our mind soft and pliable, able to adopt the optimally “positive” perspective on any given situation, rather than getting stuck in viewpoints that are negative or toxic and that are not serving our happiness in any meaningful way.
  4. Mental hand-eye co-ordination – Meditation gives us greater awareness of the way in which our mind, feelings and bodily energies are co-ordinating themselves together. This awareness alerts us when our thoughts and feelings are out of alignment, and encourages us to get them back on the same page
  5. Spatio-Temporal Awareness – Meditation makes us deeply appreciative of and able to rest in the inner space and silence of our mind enabling us to retain clarity of mind even it is busy or when we are under a degree of stress. Meditation also gradually increases our ability to see and visualize objects in our minds eye clearly and vividly and to use this skill consciously to our advantage.
  6. Diet and Rest – One of the central practices that I teach in my meditation coaching is how we can create a safe space, enabling us to rest and regenerate our energies, and also to improve the quality of our sleep. As mentioned in the “strength and stamina” categories above, meditation encourages us to feed ourself a steady diet of positive and energy enhancing thoughts and feelings, rather than negative and toxic emotions and thought patterns.

Finally, for those who may be interested, there are three interesting books by integral practitioners that look at the relationship between physical fitness training and inner meditation training, all very interesting reads in their own way:

 

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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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Finding Permanence Within the Impermanent and Fulfillment Within the Dissatisfying

Dear Integral Meditators,

One of the main qualities that I teach in my “Mind of Ease” meditation classes is that really core to the “Ease” is to learn to identify aspects of our moment to moment experience that are permanent, solid and reliable. In the article below I explore this theme, I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby


 

Finding Permanence Within the Impermanent and Fulfillment Within the Dissatisfying

It is well known that the one of the Buddha’s main teachings was that of impermanence, that ourself and all the people, things and events around us are in a state of continuous change. From the this point of view Buddha taught that our ordinary everyday existence has the nature of transience and, when we cling to any of the changeable things around or within us, dissatisfaction, pain and suffering.

What is not quite so well known or understood is that Buddha also taught that by closely observing that which is impermanent and unsatisfactory we can discover in that very same act of observation that which is permanent, reliable, liberating and fulfilling. Liberation and permanence exist in the same space as impermanence and dissatisfaction.
So, where is this permanence and fulfillment? When we are looking for permanence in the here and now, we are looking for that which is not changing from moment to moment. Within the world of form this type of permanent object is unfindable; our body and mind are changing from moment to moment, our world is changing everyday, friends and acquaintances come and go, we live and die in a state of continuous flux and change.
Amidst all of this change two things stay the same, and they are right under our nose; Our experience of inner and outer space, and our experience of awareness itself:

  • While all the outer world is in a state of change, the outer space that contains and provides a context for that change remains.
  • While the inner world of our mind is in a state of constant flux, with thoughts coming and going, the inner space and clarity of our mind is always present, and fundamentally unchanging, like the sky that forms the background for clouds and the changing qualities of light during the day.
  • Whilst our sense of self in the world of form (based on our ego, or psychological self image) always changes (good person, bad person, successful, failure, good looking, ugly etc) the core experience of witnessing awareness itself remains unchanging, always constant, always non-judging, and completely steady in the face of all change.

So, when we look for something reliable, permanent, something within which we can truly rest at ease and find liberation from all our travails, the Buddha and similarly the teachers of all the great wisdom traditions teach that it is not found as something separate from your moment to moment experience, it is just that at the moment we are looking in the wrong way.
To find a place of permanence where you can rest at ease and find respite from the challenges and travails of your life, you simply need to look at your moment to moment experience right now and notice three aspects of it; the inner and outer space that provides a context for our inner and outer world, and the experience of pure awareness itself. Awareness has no qualities other than to observe, to bear witness to what is appearing in this moment.
Having become aware of the pervading sense of space, and of awareness itself, you simply allow your sense of self to rest in that sense of spacious awareness, and enjoy its stability and reliability, how it does not change in the face of the continuously changing world of form.

One of the main points of meditation is simply this; to be able to rest your sense of self that sense of spacious awareness, and identify that spacious awareness as you, your true self, or “real” self. Doing so enables us to enjoy the ever changing and transforming world of form, whilst at the same time resting secure in an identity that is no subject to that change, that is reliable, solid and liberated.
© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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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What Does it Really take to Develop a Mind of Ease? Meditation Classes and Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in September 2012

Hi Everyone,

In September Integral Meditation Asia will be offering two courses on How to Develop a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention, the first is a three hour workshop on the 2nd September and the second is a five week course on Wednesday evenings, starting on the 5th September . In this message I want to talk a little bit about the courses, and why they are a little bit different from a traditional course in meditation, or any other course that you might find around.

Is the course for beginners or advanced meditation practitioners?

Firstly, the Mind of Ease course is a very good basis for beginning a meditation practice in the sense that it teaches all the basic fundamentals of how to develop and sustain a stable, enjoyable daily meditation practice. Also included within the price of the course are three MP3 meditation recordings (5mins, 10mins and 20mins in length) that will be sent to you after the first class that can guide you through your meditation practice if you don’t feel confident just sitting and doing the practice by  yourself at home.
However, I would also say that this course has a lot to offer more advanced meditation practitioners, especially if you find that your daily meditation practice sometimes seems to have only a limited ability to keep your mind peaceful during the day, and you are looking for a meditation model that includes techniques to deal with many of the negativities and obstacles that continue to bother us even when we become competent meditators.

The meditation techniques that I teach on these courses arose from my own meditation experience over the last fifteen years (including five years as a Buddhist Monk), and anobservation of how traditional meditation methods often leave out some important key components to developing a peaceful mind on all levels of our being. This is not because there is anything “wrong” with those traditional techniques per-se, it is just that the world and our minds have been evolving fast, particularly over the last 20-100 years or so, and so the particular challenges that we now face in developing a really deep mind of ease are different and more complex than when traditional meditation techniques evolved, often hundreds or thousands of years ago.

With the Mind of Ease courses I have put together the simplest set of practices that I believe is possible to deal effectively with the ever increasing complexity of our outer world and inner self. The mind of ease courses will not drown you with excessive information, but at the same time will give you the information that you truly need in order to stay simple, dynamic, happy and focused in the face of the ever increasing complexity and challenge of our evolving world.

An Inner “Kata” or Martial Practice to Protect and Nurture Your Mind and Inner Wellbeing

To conclude I just want to give you the briefest resume of the content of the “Mind of Ease” courses. The analogy I give is that it is like an internal “Kata” or martial arts practice that gives you all the necessary “moves”, perspectives and practices to conserve and develop your inner sense of wellbeing:

1. Relaxing into a space of physical, mental and spiritual safety, placing your mind and body  consciously at ease

2. Reducing and releasing tension and stress, gently energizing the body-mind using the breathing.

3. Extending a feeling of warmth, friendship and compassion toward self, sharing it with others

4. Being aware of the flow of positive, negative and neutral thoughts within the mind, focusing gently upon the positive, or framing whatever is arising within a positive mental framework

5. Practicing conscious gratitude, appreciation and enjoyment for that which is good and benevolent in your life, soak your awareness in this appreciation and gratitude

6. Focus your mind upon a single object, such as the breathing, to the exclusion of all other objects. Learn to be able to focus your awareness like a laser beam for short periods

7. Become aware of the natural inner space and stillness within your mind that is there even when you are experiencing thoughts and feelings. Relax into that natural inner space and stillness.

8. Become aware of awareness itself, that part of your mind that is pure formless witnessing awareness. You cannot observe it as an object, but you can nevertheless learn to relax into it, rest in it and BE it.

Ok, so do check out the full information on both the three hour workshop, and the five week course , please note the five week course is available to participate in as a recording if you are not based in Singapore!

Finally, please feel free to check out the Mind of Ease section of my meditation blog, where there is a lot of free articles relating to the subject of developing a mind of ease.

Yours in the spirit of a mind of deep ease.

Toby

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Resting in Safety, Thriving on Risk

Dear Everyone,

Do you ever have the experience when you sit down to meditate but you find that your mind and body are so tightly wound up that it takes three quarters of the session to stop fighting with them and actually enjoying some peace of mind?

The practice of “Resting in Safety” is one that I have found very helpful for myself, and that students seem to respond very well to when I teach it.

Yours in the spirit of a mind of ease,

Toby


Resting in Safety, Thriving on Risk

Learning to Rest in a Sense of Safety
Sit comfortably for a moment, and simply imagine these three things:

  • That right now you are safe from any physical threats to your wellbeing.
  • That all psychological attacks and threats to your wellbeing, whether from others or from within your own mind have ceased temporarily; you can relax psychologically.
  • That the creative forces of the Universe are fundamentally friendly toward you and wish you well, rather than disliking you or wishing to destroy you. You are surrounded by the “spiritual” energy of the Universes friendship and good intention toward you.

Now, having taken in these three points, simply rest in the feeling of ease and wellbeing that comes from recognizing and relaxing into these three experiences; physical safety, psychological safety and “spiritual safety”arising from the Universes benevolent intention toward you.
Breathe with this mind of ease for a short while and really allow your mind and body to “soak” in the experience.

Learning to rest in the experience of physical, psychological and spiritual safety is one of the practices that I teach people to help establish a stable context for their meditation practice. Once the mind is relaxed and resting in the experience of safety, it is comparatively easy to then start focusing the mind in a concentrated way, and move into deeper meditative states.

Thriving in a World of Risk
Of course in the “real world” we are all experiencing almost continuous low intensity risk and danger, and occasionally relatively high intensity danger.

  • When we cross the road, without an awareness of the danger and risk we could have an accident.
  • Without having a positive,  appropriate capacity for self-criticism, we would have no way of making adjustments when we are behaving inappropriately.
  • When our office colleague is attacking us verbally or psychologically, it is naïve to pretend it is not happening, and we sometimes need to make quick and appropriate steps to protect ourself.
  • The Universe, whilst on one  level creating and sustaining our life, also seems quite prepared to treat us with complete indifference sometimes, and sometimes as entirely expendable.

The basic point with learning to rest in a sense of safety is that very often our biological and psychological self is exaggerating the real threats to our being, and thus we spend much of our time in a state of worry and high tension, when actually we could be relaxing and enjoying our life a whole lot more.
Moreover, when a real threat does come along if we are feeling relaxed and well rested, then there is a far greater chance that we will be able to respond to the risk appropriately, dynamically and decisively.
Learning to mindfully rest in safety is a simple and wonderful practice that you can do for a couple of minutes at a time, a few times a day to create a habit on your mind that will serve you for the rest of your life.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Tobyas the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Three Levels of Self, Three Levels of Focus-in-Time

Dear Everyone,

Meditation practice encourages us to keep asking the question “who am I?” and to continue to bring awareness to the different aspects of self that we become aware of as we continue to ask this question. This weeks article looks at three different aspects of self, and how we can start to use our awareness of these three selves to improve the way in which we co-ordinate our experience of past, present and future.

You can also find below the schedule for classes over September and October, for those who are not in Singapore, recordings of the classes Will be available if you wish to participate!

Yours in the spirit of the integration of past, present and future,

Toby

 


Three Levels of Self, Three Levels of Focus-in-Time

Our “Egoic Self”, or personality, or habitual self sees life from fundamentally through the eyes of the past. It experiences the present through the context of our past experiences, and projects our past experiences forward whenever we contemplate the future.

Our “Spiritual Self” or our pure witnessing awareness sees life always within the context of the present moment, seeing things as they are, without judgment of preconception. It is entirely present focused.

Our “Evolving Self” or creative self (or perhaps “ever-learning self”?) sees our life through the eyes of the future, of potential, or what could be.

In its higher expression our egoic self gives us an appreciation of the past, of our story. It informs us  how we can use our past experiences to best effect with regard to our present and future.
In its lower expression the ego keeps us clinging to past patterns that prevent us from engaging fully in the present and realizing our creative potential in the future.

In its higher expression the spiritual self or pure witnessing awareness gives us a full and rich appreciation of that which is arising in the present, and a living engagement with that part of every experience that is perfect just as it is.
In its lower expression the spiritual self (as it is being used in this context)holds us back from investing fully in the passion that is necessary to bring change to that which really needs to be changed, both in our life and in the world at large.

In its higher expression the evolving or creative self keeps us awake to the potential for the future that is arising in every moment, encouraging us to mindfully nourish and rejoice in that creative possibility.
In its lower expression the creative self lives only in the future, never stopping to appreciate that which is present in the here and now, and give the necessary focus to past experiences that perhaps still need attending to, either to heal or resolve the past, or to draw upon its wisdom.

In terms of developing an integral awareness we need all three aspects of time-awareness in their higher expression; The appropriate attendance to the past of our ego, the appreciation of the present moment of our spirit, and the attendance to and enthusiasm for the future of our evolutionary or creative self.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Tobyas the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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The Birth of Integral Meditation Asia

Dear Everyone,

I just wanted to write a quick email to you to announce the birth of Integral Meditation Asia.

IMA is a project I have been working on in quite a focused way over the last month, and that I have had in mind for the best part of 2012. It is something I am exited about and I just wanted to tell you a little bit about it.

The Mission of Integral Meditation Asia (IMA) is to help people to live more integral, fulfilling, harmonious and dynamic lives by providing high quality meditation courses, coaching and training to both groups and individuals.

Integral meditation aims to provide practices and methods whereby people can effect lasting change in their lives for the better. In particular integral meditation provides people with simple daily practices that will give them a grounded, peaceful and centered experience of their inner being or self, and the ability to exert benevolent and integrated control over their mind and emotions.

IMA is not affiliated to any religious or spiritual group, although it does draw upon material from the great wisdom traditions of the world in combination with contemporary psychology and neuroscience.

In particular, IMA takes its inspiration from integral thinkers and practitioners such as Ken Wilber, who along with a host of other inspirational figures have created an integral movement. The integral movement is one within which people across all disciplines from business to the arts to science to environmentalism use the “Integral approach” to solve contemporary problems and provide an in depth, creative vision for the future of humanity.

You can check out the new website, and the new classes and workshops for the September-December program here: www.integralmeditationasia.com

I have also created an  facebook page that you can follow, with quotes, articles an updates on integral meditation here:  https://www.facebook.com/IntegralMeditationAsia

OK, thanks for reading, I’ll be back with the latest meditation article next Monday!

Yours in the spirit of the ongoing integrative journey,

Toby

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The Three Stages of Non Dual Meditation

Dear Everyone,

At the end of this weeks article below, you will see a reference to something called Integral  Meditation Asia, I will be writing a separate message to you about this later in the week, as it is a new project that I have been working on over the last month or so.
In the mean time enjoy the article on non-dual meditation below. If you ask me what is my primary alternative “healing modality” I would say that it is the meditation on non-duality. Experiential contact with the non-dual state has a completely re-aligning effect on our body mind that I have found effective even in the most difficult and demoralizing mental and physical environments.

Yours in the spirit of the natural union,

Toby



The Three Stages of Non Dual Meditation

There are three stages that you need to engage in order to be a competent non-dual meditator:

  1. Firstly you need to be able to sit in meditation and enter a state of pure formless awareness, where no thoughts objects or perceptions are arising. You should be able to sustain that awareness gradually over longer and longer periods of time, until you can do it at will.
  2. Secondly you need to develop your experience of pure formless awareness so that you can sustain it at the same time as being aware of thoughts, sensations and other objects. Robert Forman calls this second stage a “Dual Consciousness Event”. We are simultaneously aware of both pure formless awareness and the world of form. At this stage the world of form and pure formless awareness appear separate. We simply practice holding awareness of them both at the same time until we can do it naturally and at will.
  3. Thirdly, after a (usually) substantial period of time meditating on stages one and two we start to experience a unitive or non-dual state of awareness, where the experience of pure formless awareness and the appearance of form (ie: mental and sensory objects in our mind and environment) merge together into a single experience. To use the Buddhist expression form appears as empty, and emptiness appears as form. This third stage is paradoxical and cannot be understood by the mind alone(logically how can no-form be form, and form be the same as no-thing?) and it can only really be experienced, understood experientially.

So, three stages; empty the mind and rest in pure formless awareness, secondly learn to be simultaneously aware of both pure consciousness and form, third let them merge together into a natural unitive or non-dual awareness.

Natural Enlightenment
The essential non-dual experience described in stage three above, the unity of form and emptiness is the primary experience of full classical enlightenment as described by the great non-dual schools of meditation, such as Zen, Hindu Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana and Djogchen and so on. The funny thing about the non-dual state is that it appears as completely ordinary, “nothing special” as they say in Zen. Once you have realized this essential non-dual state, all you then really need to do to stay connected to this enlightened state is simply rest in your own natural moment to moment awareness. Everything that appears to that awareness, form or formless, “good or bad”, sacred or profane is seen simply as a manifestation of the primal and perfect non-dual enlightened state, it is perfect just as it is!

How Long do I Need to Meditate to Develop a Stable Experience of the Non-Dual State?
Starting as a scratch meditator, let’s say meditating for 30mins-1hour a dayevery day and taking occasional retreat-type experiences, it might take you five years to stabilize an experience of stage one; being able to meditate in a state of pure formless awareness.
It might then take you another five years to stabilize your experience of stage two, being able to rest at will in a state where you are simultaneously aware of both the form and formless levels of being.
further five years would probably be needed until you had then built the capacity to rest in a unitive state, where the form and formless domains of experience appear to arise simultaneously as a single unified reality.
So, fifteen years to a stable working experience of non-dual enlightenment. Whether you choose to do it within the context of a traditional school of enlightenment such as Zen or Dzogchen, or whether you do it within the context of a more contemporary path such as the meditation courses offered at Integral Meditation Asia, with focus and dedication this is perfectly possible for all of us.
If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of the three meditative states outlined above, you can read a very good article by Robert Forman entitled “What Does Mysticism Have to Teach Us About Consciousness”.

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