Christmas Post: Three of the Central Teachings of Jesus, Three Types of Love to Practice, and a Winter Solstice Meditation

Hi Everyone,

Well, its Christmas time, which is essentially the celebration of the birth of Jesus, so I thought it might be a nice time to reflect on his teachings in this post. Cynthia Bourgeault in her book The Meaning of Mary Magdeline: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (recommended reading) outlines three of the central mystical teachings of Jesus. When I say mystical teachings I mean instructions that are meant to be practiced in order to bring about inner transformation:

1) Gnosis– The letting go of, or detaching from the egoic self and its self-centred concerns

2) Abundance  – Letting go of the concerns of the egoic self enables us to access the unlimited resources of the Kingdom of Heaven (found within our own hearts), thus tapping into a source of unlimited of universal abundance

3) Relational Love– This is basically the special ability of learning to love in relationships (to lovers, family, friends, pets etc…) to teach us how to spot and let go of our egoic self (thus teaching us Gnosis), and thereby access a direct personal experience of the abundance of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is something that we find within ourselves. There is something about the nitty gritty of learning to love in relationships that opens our hearts in a real and tangible way that cannot be achieved by loving God in an abstract or meditative way. 

Three types of relational love

Christmas, lots of opportunities to meet with family and friends and practice relational love. Here are three main types of relational love, they all really interpenetrate each other in an organic way:

  • Eros, or erotic love– The creative and passionate love most commonly associated as being between lovers, but can also exist in other situations. For example if we have someone with whom we share a common cause, our creative efforts to further that cause could be considered a type of non-sexual Eros in relationship.
  • Agape– The love that empathizes with others,  feels keenly their suffering and practices compassionate understanding and care.  The classic image of this would be the mother caring for her  child, but it infuses any situation where we open our hearts to others with compassion.
  • Philia– So called brotherly or sisterly love, found between literal brothers and sisters, spiritual brother and sisters, between good friends.

Christmas can be a time to consolidate and rejoice in all of these wonderful expressions of relational love.

Winter Solstice Meditation recording

Christmas was superimposed on an older pagan festival, the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated on the 21st/22nd December. Last Tuesday We did a Winter Solstice meditation which you can listen to here:

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Or download the entire meditation and talk here:

Winter Solstice talk and medi Dec 21 2010

All proceeds from the class went to the Riverkids Project , a charity dedicated to stopping child trafficing in Vietnam. If you feel guided to, you could spread the love a little more this christmas by visiting their website and making a donation 😉

Thanks for reading, and have a great Christmas!

Yours in the spirit of relational love,

Toby

Overview of upcoming events, classes and workshops with Toby in January

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On meditation and miracle powers

Hi Everyone,

As a meditation teacher I am regularly asked by enthusiastic beginners whether if they meditate they are going to develop miracle powers like telepathy, clairvoyance and the like. In the course of the conversation it quite often also comes out that these people are also struggling mightily to deal with stress and anxiety in their life. So, with this in mind here are a few things to think about:

1)      Before you have got on top of your daily stress and anxiety, the main objective of your meditation should be to manage that stress and anxiety effectively, and thus to develop a happier, more grounded and centred life. This is the basis upon which you can be of greater service both to yourself and others.

If you think your life is stressful now, try adding the additional stress, energy and information overload of any kind of any substantial inner power, and you will just find a new, possibly dangerous level of stress.

2)      You are not going to develop startling new inner powers before you become fully aware of the way in which telepathy, synchronicity and other inner powers are ALREADY operating in your life.

Start to notice what is already there by learning to observe and listen to the dynamics of each moment of your life closely and attentively. When you become more conscious of what inner powers are already under your nose, then that conscious awareness will help you grow them carefully and consistently.

3)      Don’t think the development of inner powers is going to make your life any easier. They bring challenges and complexities. This is why you need to focus on point 1 above, and not hope for too much too soon.

4)      Be prepared to work very thoroughly on your psychological baggage. Psychosis, neurosis, or existential crisis plus greater inner powers generally equals bigger psychosis, bigger neurosis and bigger existential crisis! You need to be working to:

a)       Have a right relationship to yourself, and

b)      Becoming stabler, saner and increasingly loving/compassionately motivated to effectively use any powers you might develop.

5)      Inner powers are real, but they are frankly only really useful to a psychologically stable, developmentally mature person. The best advice is to work on a disciplined daily meditation practice, and on your strength and modesty of character. Then let your inner powers find you in their own time!

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby

PS: If you are in Singapore on the evening of Tuesday 21st December, please feel free to join us for the Winter Solstice Charity Meditation!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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Two things that you need to do before you sit down and start to meditate

Firstly, before you do the two things, you need to actually set aside the time to meditate, and, when the appointed time comes you need to sit yourself down and get on with it!

There seems to be a never ending stream of excuses that our distracted mind uses to avoid the things that will make us most happy, like meditation, so take a NO EXCUSES APPROACH!

Having done this and sat down, here is what you need to do:

1)      Create a safe space – Decide that for the next 5, 10, 15 minutes, or however long you have set aside, you are in a safe space where you can relax. Draw the boundary around your meditation time. After you arise from meditation, the world may indeed come to an end, or your worst fears may be realized. Alternatively, when you get up from meditation you may win the lottery, or get asked for a date by George Cluny, Yelena Isinbeyeva (or insert God/Goddess of choice). The point is that for the time you have allocated for your meditation is down time, relaxation time, YOUR time, time to be present with yourself and not worry about the past or future.

2)      Make a strong decision to focus! – Beyond relaxation, meditation is also about building the strength and focus of your mind. It is like inner weight training or fitness training where your mind is building muscle and stamina. If you start your meditation wishy-washy, then you are probably going to continue that way, so it is really important to get focused and stay focused during the short period of time you have set aside for your meditation practice.

Two life skills that you will develop from this:

If you practice like this at the beginning of your meditations you will learn

1)      That it is possible to create a “safe space” at many times in your day, not just when you are meditating

2)      How to FOCUS. Now, there are many more things that could be said about focus, but for now let’s just reflect on the fact that ALL SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE, IN WHATEVER DISCIPLINE KNOW HOW TO FOCUS!

That last sentence is a good object of meditation in itself…

Yours in the spirit of relaxed focus,

Toby

PS: For those of you in Singapore, this coming Tuesday 21st December there will be a special Winter Solstice meditation at Sanctuary on the Hill with myself. All proceeds will be going to the River Kids Project. See you there!

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Free meditation recording on passion

Here is a free meditation recording on passion from the classes on Romantic Love that I recently did, enjoy!

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With metta,

Toby

© Text and audio Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not use without permission

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Is your religion esoteric or exoteric?

 

For the purposes of this conversation, lets say there are here are two types of religion that can be distinguished, exoteric and esoteric

  • Exoteric religion is the outer form of religion, the unique stories and myths behind each of the great faiths, Chrisitanity, Buddhism, Islam and so on…
  • Esoteric religion is the inner expereinces that one can achieve through the spiritual PRACTICES that are taught by the great religions, and also the less well known ones. Sometimes esoteric religion is termed simply “Spirituality”

Exoteric religion is DIVERGENT. That is to say that generally each of its stories are different. Externally for example Buddhism, Paganism, Taoism and Buddhism all look different. Almost inevitably people who are only familiar with exoteric religion will see their religion as different from and better than other religions. Exoteric religion when misunderstood can  be deeply divisive and result in war, hostility and agression as we all know.

Esoteric religion is CONVERGENT. This means to say that when you study esoteric religion, what you tend to find is common or universal patterns amongst all the different faiths and religions of the world. Esoteric religion, meaning inner spiritual experiences resulting from engaged spiritual practices reveals common, universal patterns that unite and bring together the diverse religions of the world.

Esoteric religion has become known as the “Perenneal Philosophy” or “Perenneal Religion”, meaning the common religion and spirituality that we all share.

What are the basic patterns and insights of the Perinneal Philosophy? Here is a brief summary by Ken Wilber, from his book “Grace and Grit”chapter 11:

“Let me start with a short and simple list. This is not the last word on the topic, but the first word, a simple list of suggestions to get the conversation going. Most of the great wisdom traditions agree that:
1. Spirit, by whatever name, exists.
2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.
3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, or duality — that is, we are living in a fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.
4. There is a way out of this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony), there is a Path to our liberation.
5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which
6. marks the end of sin and suffering, and
7. manifests in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.

Does a list or something like it make sense to you? Because if there are these general spiritual patterns in the cosmos, at least wherever human beings appear, then this changes everything. You can be a practicing Christian and still agree with that list; you can be a practicing Neopagan and still agree with that list.”

So, which religion and spirituality are you practising? Exoteric or esoteric?

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first!

PS: A brief reminder of this coming Saturday December 11th’s workshop “Three simple steps to managing stress through meditation” Follow the link for full details.

 

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One minute meditation on concentration

How long does it take to expereince the benefits of meditation? Oftentimes it can be shorter than you think. Just taking a minute at strategic intervals in your day can really make a difference!

Now and again I intend to post some “One minute meditations” on the blog. Here is the first on concentration, which was the meditation topic that recieved the most votes last week when I asked on the Facebook page. Enjoy!

Have a great day filled with relaxed concentration!

Toby

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PS: Please note the upcoming 90 minute mini workshop entitled “THREE SIMPLE STEPS TO MANAGE STRESS THROUGH MEDITATION” on the 11th December. Very suitable for beginniers, and he proce includes both a recording of the workshop and three short “five miute meditations” in MP3 format.

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Act your rage – Three useful ways of thinking about and using your anger

One of the things that was emphasized in my Buddhist meditation training (and this holds true for most contemplative spiritualities) was that there is really nothing useful about anger, it was entirely destructive. This is further backed up by statements such as “one moment of anger is enough to destroy the merit (good karma) that you can create over aeons” and “a moment of anger can cause you to have a hundred negative rebirths in the future”.

My present take on anger is that it is a powerful emotion that is basically neutral in nature, and that can be used in positive or negative ways.

Anger is NOT the same thing as raw aggression, cruelty, bullying, hatred, acting to deliberately harm. It can just as easily be expressed as personal power, positive assertiveness, the powerful/wrathful expression of compassion and so on…

With this in mind, here are three useful analogies* for what positive anger can be like:

  • Anger is the T cells, or white blood cells of our psychological immune system – It is the aspect of our mind that becomes alert when there is a threat to our wellbeing, and acts to defend
  • Anger is the protector of our psychological boundaries – When there is someone or something that is causing  an abuse of our psychological self, positive anger can act to defend and ward off that abuse and restore appropriate boundaries
  • Anger is like an illuminating fire – Yes anger is hot like a fire, but it can also be illuminating like fire. In Tibetan Tantric Meditation the higher expression of anger is said to be ‘clarity’. If we can separate our anger from our confusion, sometimes we say things in a much clearer and more wise way than we would ever have the courage to do without the impetus of anger

Dealing with anger is not easy, but that does not give us an excuse to shy away from the responsibility that we have for harnessing it to our compassionate impulses and using it for the best and highest purposes of ourself and the World.

*These analogies if first heard from the work of Ken Wilber and Robert Masters

Related article:

In order to find real happiness, first you have to get mad as hell!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first

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Nine Factors that you need to have in place for your romantic relationship to produce bliss and ecstacy in your mind and body

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

Tomorrow I will be doing a class entitled “The transformative power of bliss and ecstasy – Connecting to the experience of enlightened love” . So, I gave myself 20 minutes to write down some conditions that I felt were important for developing bliss and ecstasy in our life in general, and romantic relationships (as in all 5 types of romantic relationship). Here is what I came up with:

  1. You need to have a right relationship to sex and sexuality, avoiding the extremes represented on the one hand by imbalanced religion: Sex is sinful, and on the other hand by secular culture where indulgence in debasing and carnal sexuality are encouraged. Avoid the extremes of  either guilt or over-indulgence.
  2. You need to have a healthy diet and take appropriate exercise. This means a diet that nurtures and preserves the long term health and wellbeing of your physical body. Blissful and ecstatic states cannot be sustained by a body that is filled with impurity and low vibrations. For example a sugar high may bring short term pleasure, but in the long term exess sugar desensitizes and degrades the body, making it very difficult for consistent, stable blissful states to be maintained in the body or mind. Similarly and physically unfit body that you don’t value enough to take care of is not going to provide you with a stable basis for deep bliss.
  3. You need to be open and have the courage to face both deep pleasure and deep pain in your romantic relationship. Bliss and ecstasy cannot flow through a body mind where deep levels the emotional being has been repressed. Go beyond your comfort zone!
  4. You need to know that you are deserving of bliss. If you don’t like yourself and love yourself, you won’t let bliss into your life even if the conditions are staring you in the face
  5. You need to meditate and create special time to experience the divine each day. Bliss and ecstasy can be stimulated occasionally by outer objects and circumstances, but fundamentally deep, stable bliss relies upon some form of inner connection to source.
  6. You need to enjoy the experience of being naked! The natural sensual spirituality of your own body and of your partners (even if you are well over 45!) J
  7. You need to practice joy, gratitude and appreciation each day, and practice communicating these to your romantic partner
  8. You need to be able to accept deep bliss. Superficially it seems like anyone would say yes to bliss. However, to our ego, bliss is as threatening to our self sense as pain and misery. If you really open to bliss, you will be transformed and changed. Your negative ego won’t like this and thus will try and close you off to too much bliss.
  9. For sensual pleasure to be connected to inner spiritual bliss, they need to be combined with awareness and restraint
PS: If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out how you can use the latest meditation technologies to enhance your bliss and joy, then click here: Digital Euphoria

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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From desire and attraction to spiritual passion – The journey from conventional romance to post-conventional or transpersonal romance

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

Conventional romantic love is temporary and transient, based around stimulation from an external object. Post-conventional romantic love is a lasting and deep seated experience of passion and ecstasy that arises from a deep connection to the infinite love and the reality of spiritual union that we find within ourself.

  • Conventional romantic love is thus a temporary high that arises from the pleasurable stimulation that we get from something or someone outside of ourself.
  • Post-conventional or transpersonal (meaning a sense of romance beyond the ordinary boundaries of our ego) romantic love is a type of happiness that comes from a sense of connection to the universe that we find inside ourself.

Conventional ideas of romantic love really centre around the ideas of desire and attraction in the sense that I have outlined in my previous article on these two qualities.

Our initial desire and attraction to a person or a pursuit causes us to temporarily connect to a sense of transcendence where all our problems seem to fall away and we experience joy, pleasure and feel great. The problem is that this only lasts as long as the novelty lasts. As soon as we start to get used to the person that we are in love with, or the work that we have fallen in love with starts to get tough, our old ego re-emerges and we crash back down to earth and all of our old problems find us again (and perhaps a few more that we did not think that we had before!).

The post-conventional or transpersonal view of romantic love is that the initial high that we experience when we fall in love is in fact real, but we mistake the person with whom we have fallen in love with the state of mind that our contact with them evokes.

It is indeed possible to experience a lasting romantic passion in our life (in any one of the Five types of romantic relationship that we may have) and for our life. However, in order for this to take place we need to shift that basis of our search for romantic love

  • From an external person or object that gives us pleasure
  • To an internal object (love and spirit) that gives rise to lasting, sustainable happiness and passion as an internal state of mind within ourselves.

Happiness arises always primarily from an inner source, pleasure comes mostly from an external stimuli. Knowing the difference between these two is a big part in negotiating our way to peace of mind.

Other observations about transpersonal or post-conventional romantic love:

  • It can hold paradox. This means for example that you can be at once passionate and ecstatic, and at the same time be in touch with deep centeredness and peace
  • It recognizes the external person or thing that initially stimulated our love as a doorway to the spiritual experience of romance. It does not confuse the state of mind with the object
  • Our sense of love may be inspire by a person, place or type of work, but we can transfer that sense of love and see all things and events in our life through loving eyes
  • Our life becomes characterized by creativity, flow and a sense of effortlessness (Or perhaps I should say here an awareness of the creativity, flow and effortlessness in our lif that was there all the time, but that we could not access)

How do you get to this post-conventional experience of romantic love?

Through the doorway of relationship, the second stage of romantic love as we are looking at it in these articles. It is through the challenges that we face with the people and things that we love that we are able to identify and clear all the aspects of our ego that are blocking our love. If we understand this then we will welcome the challenges that come into our romances, as we recognize that we can use them to travel toward longer term states of romantic passion and ecstasy.

What happens if I have not yet met my romantic “Soul mate”, or the person/spouse I am in a relationship does not want to use our problems as a way to deepen our love, but just wants to stay stuck in ego?

The journey to transpersonal romance often involves a level of patience and fortitude that most people did not think themselves capable of, so you need these qualities.

But, even if you never meet someone, or have to put up with a limited experience of love in your relationship with your principal human partner, remember there are five types of romantic love, and thus five different doorways through which you can experience romance in your life. If the human aspect has not come together, then you can still enjoy the other four and be deeply fulfilled in this way!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you MUST seek Toby’s permission first!

UPCOMNG EVENTS:

2nd November:  Meditation class with Toby  “Building passion as the central fulcrum of creative love in your life and relationships”

14th November:  Workshop “How to use stress to your advantage”

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Devotion to relationship; What happens to romantic love after the peak of attraction and desire has been passed?

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

In my last article I write about the validity of including the experiences of attraction and desire in our experience of love and in particular our romantic relationships. In these articles I am breaking romantic love goes up into four stages:

  1. The first stage is attraction and desire
  2. The second stage is relationship
  3. The third stage is union
  4. The fourth stage is creativity

Each of these four stages can happen in five types of romantic relationship:

  1. The inner romance between the soul and personality
  2. The romance between ourself and the divine
  3. The romance between two humans (or two evolved life forms, I guess you could include some animals and some nature devas in this bracket too)
  4. The romance we can experience between ourself and landscape, or sense of place
  5. The romance between ourself and our “art” or the work that we love.

So, after the initial intensity of attraction and desire (which is a natural and enjoyable phase of romantic love) has started to fade, what happens then? The answer is we move to the next stage, which I have termed “relationship”. This starts to emerge when:

With a lover:

  • You no longer see the person that you are engaged in a romance with through an idealized projection. It starts to become obvious that the person you are with is not perfect. He or she has faults and eccentricities that you were previously prepared to gloss over and “not see”, but now there they are in plain sight.
  • It is an effort to control your ego in your interaction with your partner. When filled with attraction and desire for him/her, the ego was prepared to take a back seat, but now the novelty of the romance has worn off, your ego come back, and starts to act as crankily and grumpily as ever
  • The first obvious arguments and disagreements occur
  • You start thinking “Is this person as right for me as I thought s/he was?”
  • Issues cannot be resolved simply by having sex or schmoozing

With our soul and the divine: (I will place the two of these together here in the context of, let’s say a daily meditation practice)

  • Our initial awakening or expansion of consciousness becomes the norm, the novelty wears off
  • We start to wonder if the sense of connection and oneness that we previously felt was real. Maybe it was an illusion
  • All that is not oneness, not love, not peace starts to re-emerge in our mind
  • We become intensely aware of all the parts of our mind that our broken, hurt or otherwise suffering or in pain
  • Meditation becomes “work” no longer effortless play
  • The complexity, cruelty, difficulty, negativity of our world comes back into focus with a jolt

With landscape or sense of place:

  • The novelty of the new place becomes ordinary, we start to see the dirt on the sidewalk rather than the beauty of the overall ambiance
  • Our daily routine in the new place becomes effortful
  • We realize the damage that may have been done to the place or environment, and the amount of work that we will have to do to heal or restore the landscape

With our art or work:

  • When the initial enthusiasm for the discipline that we have been attracted to dies
  • We have our first few technical setbacks, it is going to be more complicated that we thought!
  • We have to face our work or art being critiqued (positively or negatively) by others
  • As Michelangelo said: “If people knew how much work it took to make my art, they would not think it so beautiful!”

So, what to do when this starts to happen?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Recognize what is happening in your romance is a natural part of its unfolding. If it is going to flower into the stages of union and creativity, then it has to go through this testing phase of relationship
  • Know that the tools that will help you at this stage are things like tenderness, honesty, love and compassion (for self and others equally), integrity, a wiling-ness to see the unpleasant without blinking.
  • Don’t mourn the loss of the initial bliss of desire and attraction! If you persevere with the relationship stage desire and attraction will re-emerge in your relationship in the deeper, creative forms of passion and ecstasy (another good word for ecstasy might be rapture)
  • Recognize that the emphasis in your romance has shifted from a temporarily pleasurable phase to a phase of deeper healing, confrontation and self-enquiry (mutual self enquiry if with a person)
  • Understand this is a phase that will require effort, mindfulness, consistency and devotion
  • Don’t be attached to quick results, the challenges in this phase can last years, even decades
  • Don’t be afraid of dark times; true, non-idealized love is a treasure hard won!
  • This phase of the romance will test you to see whether the person, work, place or spiritual practice really is right for you. Whilst recognizing that work will be involved to make the relationship succeed, sometimes the work reveals that the relationship is not in fact right for you. If so, be prepared to let go. The best one liner I ever heard for this is from the Zen Roshi DT Suzuki “In relationships is it not a matter of letting go of what is there, but rather recognizing what has already gone”. You know if a relationship is over because it has already gone.

Contemplation on developing a devotion to your romantic relationships:

Consider any of your romantic relationships with any of the five types of object above. Think about the difficulties that you face, the things about it that you fear, hate, find tiresome etc…Allow yourself to feel the reality of the challenges, and the emotions that you feel.

When you have done this, then focus on developing a mind of devotion to the relationship. Devotion is a mind that has the patience, endurance and love to see the difficulties in your relationship through to their successful resolution.

Simply sit and breathe with your devotion for a while, allow it to strengthen your resolve to build a romantic relationship based around deep love, not just changeable pleasure. Know that if you follow this devotion it will lead you on the long term path to bliss and romantic fulfillment.

Click HERE for Toby’s meditation classes on the stages of romantic relationships

Click HERE to find out about the upcoming workshop “How to use stress to your advantage”

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyoury.com

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