Taking Control of Your Happiness and Mental Wellness Through Lifestyle Therapy

As witnessed in a recent article in the “American Psychologist Journal” by transpersonal psychologist Roger Walsh there are eight “lifestyle therapies” that have been proven by scientific research to have a positive effect on our mental wellness. The slightly scary thing is that, in the same article Walsh observes that currently less than 10% of mental healthcare professionals (in America) are actually recommending these lifestyle therapies to clients, and are relying all too heavily on the prescription of psychiatric  drugs for mental health problems such as depression. These lifestyle therapies are FREE, have no unpleasant side effects, and the list of them below offers a “go to” set of strategies that you can employ for your own mental wellness, and also recommend to friends and family experiencing mental stress and unhappiness.

Here is the list:

1. Exercise – Psychotherapy has been shown to be positively effective for approximately two thirds of people experiencing mental problems, with the same success rate for psychiatric intervention (ie: drugs). What is the activity that has been shown to have an almost 100% success rate on improving mental health? No, not electric shock treatment, EXERCISE! Enough said, find a sport or exercise form that you enjoy and engage in it regularly! We have so many options these days, weights ping pong, brisk walking, belly dancing, do something.
Another thing that the benefits of exercise highlight is that an excessively sedentary lifestyle gets you down.

2. Nutrition and Supplements – Ok, huge area, two things that research has shown to have the most positive effect on mental health: Avoiding excessive calorie intake and eating a diet with multi-coloured fruits and vegetables. The supplement that has been shown to be most effective for mental wellness is fish oil. I’m a vegetarian, but this is what the research shows so I’m putting it in. Anyway, the basic thing is that “You are what you eat” is an expression that holds true mentally as well as physically!

3. Time in Nature – Nature has been a source of healing and inspiration for humans for Milena. How much time have you spent in nature recently? If the answer is not much then there is a very good chance your lack of exposure to it and your over exposure to artificial environments is contributing to your mental stress. What has been obvious to generations of humans has now been proven beyond doubt by the science. Go hug a tree, dance barefoot on the lawn  and swim naked in the sea. Or y’know at least go for a regular walk in the park…

4. Relationships and the Acquisition of Friends – Feeling mentally out of balance can often cause us to recede into our shells and shun contact with people. Cultivating good friends and supportive relationships is fundamental to most people’s inner balance and mental health. Learning to leverage positively on your relationships in an appropriate way is a mental wellness life-skill not to be neglected!

5. Recreation and Enjoyable Activities – Yes, having fun regularly is good for your mental health and happiness, now proven by science, so go have some!

6. Relaxation and Stress Management – Activities include meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Qi, Yoga, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, visualization and hypnotherapy. Currently under utilized by many, but gradually becoming main stream.

7. Religious and Spiritual Involvement – Big area with a lot to consider, but basically some form of spiritual community and support for your inner wellbeing has been shown to have very positive effects on mental health. If you are like me and have no local church or temple that really resonates deeply, at least you can make the effort to keep active contact with people of a spiritually like mind virtually and when possible in person.

8. Contribution and Service – Giving happiness to others has a definite and undoubted effect on the sense of meaning, inner fulfillment and happiness of the person giving.

A Special Shout Out For Meditation!
Here is a quote from Roger Walsh directly from the above mentioned article: “In addition to its benefits for relaxation and stress management, meditation may also enhance measures of psychological capacities, health, and maturity in both patients and nonpatients (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Particularly important to health care professionals are findings that meditation can enhance valued caregiver qualities such as empathy, sensitivity, emotional stability, and psychological maturity while reducing distress and burnout (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009). On the cognitive side, studies suggest that meditation can enhance some measures of cognition and may reduce age-related cognitive losses and corresponding brain shrinkage (Pagnoni & Cekic, 2007; Xiong & Doraiswamy, 2009).”

A final point from me here, most of the research on meditation to date have been short term studies on relative beginners. I feel pretty certain that when the results of longer term research is done on more advanced practitioners there will be many more remarkable additional benefits to meditation that will come to light!

Starting to Make Practical Use of the Above List:

As mentioned, each of these eight “lifestyle therapies” now has a large body of scientific research behind it indicating that it is of real and tangible benefit to mental health and well being. Again for a fuller breakdown of the actual research please refer to the article by Roger Walsh.
For Yourself:
Go through the above list and with each of the lifestyle therapies simply ask yourself “How well am I leveraging on this activity at the moment?” In the areas that you feel you have been neglecting, write down a couple of things that you can do over the next week or so to start re-integrating them into your life in an effective way.
For Other People:
When you have a friend or family member under mental duress, the above list is a useful one to bear in mind, as you will almost always be able to suggest one or more of them as a way of helping them to deal with their challenge more effectively. The good thing about this list is that (with the exception of number 7) it is totally non-denominational and complex-philosophy free. From your teenage daughter or son, to your partner to your Mum or Dad, this list is going to be easy for them to understand and implement!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Tapping Into Your Invisible Sources of Love and Support, A Contemporary Interpretation of the Process of Prayer

One of the great illusions that we often battle with is the feeling of being isolated and alone. This feeling of loneliness and isolation can exact a heavy toll upon our psyche. There are three approaches that we can take to this challenge:

  1. Get more comfortable with being alone
  2. Reach out to other people and build more of a sense of external community
  3. 3. Tap into sources of invisible love and support that surround us all the time

This article looks at the third option, which in many ways can be understood as tapping into the power of prayer. The meaning of prayer as I am referring to it here is as follows:

“Prayer is a way of invoking and requesting support from the invisible sources of love that surround us at all times” .When I say “invoking” here this can be done in both an active and a passive way. To pray actively means to make a specific request to any invisible source of support. Prayer can also be done in a more passive way simply by becoming aware of the invisible source of support and focusing on consciously receiving supportive energy from that source.

So, what are these invisible sources of loving and supporting energy? Here is a list of examples:

From Yourself – We can prayers and requests to the higher dimensional aspects of ourself that we can term in many ways, for example our Higher Self, our Divine Spark or our Buddha Nature. Since these higher aspects of consciousness are literally a part of who we are, it is safe to assume that they are always wishing us success and happiness, and are sending us that support all the time. Through the practice of prayer we can leverage on this invisible support much more.

From those who love and like you, and from your Ancestors – We are energetically and mentally connected to friends and family all the time, and there is potentially a constant stream of positive energy and support that we can be receiving from them even if they live in a far away land. Moreover there is also an ongoing stream of invisible love, support and wisdom that flows through our life at all times in the form of our ancestral group as a whole.

From the “Power of the Common Good” – This level of support is really about remembering that there is within the group mind of humanity a common intention to benefit, do good and support. Easy to forget amidst the mass of seeming negativity and chaos, but it is nonetheless there for us to tap at will!

From the Wise – Those Saints Saints, Sages and Great Souls, the great and the good, past and present who are filled with love, wisdom and compassion, and are at the cutting edge of human evolutionary consciousness.

From the Earth and from Nature – Sit in a park surrounded by trees for a while and any problem or pain that you have will reduce. I’m reading the Ramayana with my daughter at the moment, where all the characters pray for support from rivers, tress and mountains. It is a bit of a forgotten art in modern society that we could well do with remembering and practicing more!

From Spirit or Source – By this I mean the formless creative energy that creates and sustains all of the above, call it God or what you will…

A One Minute Prayer/Meditation Method for Tapping into Your Invisible Support Network

Pick one of the above invisible sources of love and support and focus on it mentally. You can then either:

  • Offer a specifically worded prayer requesting support for a particular area in your life, or
  • Just recognize this invisible source of love and acknowledge its readiness to support you.

Having made your prayer or recognized this source of invisible love, feel it surrounding you and supporting you, breathe with this feeling of receiving love and support for a few breaths, share your burden and release your worries.

A slightly longer Prayer/Meditation Method for Tapping into Your Invisible Support Network

Take the time to go through the above list of sources of love and support. Having offered your prayer for support, spend a few moments breathing with and feeling the support of each of these sources in turn. Take the time to recognize and feel the support of each of them. Feel the love you are receiving increasing with each source that you focus on. End by focusing on a feeling of having released your worries and burdens, and of being NOT ALONE!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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 Detached-Compassion and Divine Playfulness

The first of the five enlightened powers that I outline in my meditation technique “The Five enlightened Powers” is the power of embodiment. This involves, quoting from my previous article on the subject:

Remembering that you are, in essence a spark of Universal spirit experiencing (temporarily) a physically embodied life on Earth as a human. Whatever situation you find yourself in, grounding your awareness in your true identity and not getting caught up in your small or egoic identity is the power of embodiment. Wherever you are, remember WHO you are!”

A question that we may then ask ourselves is “So then what is it actually like to experience ourself as such a spark of Universal Spirit? What qualities and emotions would we experience?” In this article I intend to highlight two specific qualities and perspectives that we can seek to bring into our daily life that will enable us to function more authentically as a divine spark amidst the push and pull of our daily lives. These two qualities are detached-compassion, and divine playfulness.

Detached-compassion

Detachment and compassion are qualities that often we think of as being separate because they appear to exclude each other.  We think that when you are detached you are disconnected from others, and so cannot feel deep compassion for them. Likewise if we are truly being compassionate we cannot be detached because that would mean disconnecting from our feeling nature, which is where our compassion is located.

However, viewed from the perspective of our spiritual being, it is perfectly possible to bring deep compassion together with as sense of detached, witnessing observation. This is because from the perspective of spirit:

  • We can be detached from any situation because we are always viewing things from the “big picture” perspective; nothing is truly personal in the egotistic sense of the word.
  • At the same time we feel totally close and intimate with all living beings because we realize that on the essence level we all share the same common identity. Ultimately we are all one being viewing the world from billions of pairs of different eyes!

So, from the perspective of our spiritual being we experience our life as impersonally-personal, as deeply involved and at the same time not involved, as passionate at the same time as being totally even minded.

The main take away from this is that if you practice bringing detached compassion together simultaneously in life situations, gradually improving your ability to do so, then you will consistently increase your experience of what it is like to be a spiritual being embodied in a physical body.

Divine Playfulness

One of the fundamental qualities of spirit is playfulness and a corresponding sense of humor. From its perspective the whole process of creating and evolving a universe is done as a type of game, a way of creatively expressing itself and its potential.

Consequently, if you want to increase the level of spirit in your daily life then entering into your daily tasks in the spirit of divine playfulness is a great practice to have.

Most of the time we tend to get a little too serious about things and as a result allow our life to become unnecessarily stressful and unhappy. Thinking about the challenges in your day as playful games and puzzles set you by the universe and your own spiritual being in order to help you evolve and grow is a technique that both relieves stress and enhances the deeply felt spiritual nature of your human experience.

One to Five Minute Meditation to integrate Playfulness and Detached Compassion into Your Daily Life

Step 1: Mentally select a particular life situation/challenge  that you wish to work on in the meditation. One of the characteristics of meditating with the Five Enlightened Powers technique is that you are always trying to work directly with a practical “real time” situation in your life. It should never be allowed to become totally abstract.

Step 2: Recollect your understanding of detached compassion. Open your heart to the feelings that you are experiencing and the other people that are involved AT THE SAME TIME AS mentally taking a step back and seeing what is happening from the big picture perspective. Experiment and try to feel both empathic compassion and witnessing observance SIMULTANEOUSLY. Breathe with this combined feeling experience for a while.

Step 3: Introduce playful humor to your perspective of the challenge. Think of the challenge as a game that you as a spiritual being are being set by the Universe to stretch and improve yourself as a human being. Stay with this perspective and the experiences it gives rise to for as long as you wish.

If you do this brief exercise a few times over the next week or so you will find that compassionate detachment and divine playfulness will become a real experience for you in your daily life that can help you to gain an authentic experience of what it is like to be a spiritual being appearing as a physical body!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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The Role of Courage in Meditation

Two Types of Courage

In order to build a successful and authentic meditation practice you need courage, and the two types of courage that I want to highlight today are the courage to initiate, and the courage to persist. You need the courage to initiate to get through all the excuses and distractions that are in the way of you starting or restarting your meditation practice, and just ‘put your bum on the seat’ so to speak. You then need the courage of persistence, which is really a steady type of willpower, to simply keep going on a regular basis week in week out, so that your practice has a chance to bear fruit. Without these two types of courage, the inner clarity, wellbeing and centeredness that is within the grasp of anyone who persists in meditation will remain out of your reach.

Two Types of Meditation: Sitting With the Silence and Sitting With the Noise

When many people approach me for the first time to talk about meditation, the most common reason for them wanting to start meditating is that they want to find some headspace, some inner silence that they can relax with. They then tell me that they simply cannot stop their mind chattering, and so they find it “impossible” to actually start a meditation practice. What we need to realize (and this is really important) is that before we can enjoy “sitting with silence” we first need to enjoy the process of “sitting with the noise”, that noise being the inner noise of our mind incessantly chattering with itself!

The way to learn how to sit in silence is first to get comfortable sitting with the noise of your mind. Over time and out of your daily or regular practice of sitting with the noise of your mind you will gradually start to notice an inner silence emerging, at first only occasionally in brief flashes, but the gradually emerging more and more fully as time goes by.

The Story of Tom

Back in the 90’s, when I was a Buddhist monk teaching meditation in the north of England I had a man in his 70’s come to my meditation class called Tom. Tom was an ex coal miner. He was in constant discomfort due to rheumatism, and his wife was a mental and physical invalid (Parkinson’s disease I think) to whom Tom was the sole care giver. He arrived at my class for the first time in deep despair regarding the loss of his wife, of his own physical fitness and of many of the other good things in his life that had previously made it enjoyable. He made a courageous choice to sit down for 20minutes at the beginning of each day to meditate, a choice to which he stuck to. He used to describe his meditation to me, saying that usually for the first 5-10 minutes all of the anger, despair and sadness would well up within him about his life and about how unfair it all was. Then, at some point in the middle of his meditation, patches of silence would start to appear, and the noise in his mind would quieten. Usually, for the last few minutes of his meditation he said, he would find a state of deep peace, and those few minutes at the end of his meditation were enough to get him through the rest of the day.

Tom’s story is a simple story of courage and persistence in meditation. His description of his own meditation experience shows the truth of how very often before we experience peace in meditation we first have to sit with the “storm” so to speak. The way to meditate in silence is first to get comfortable with sitting with the noise!

Practical Work: Get Comfortable Sitting With The Noise

Pick an amount of time that you can commit to every day, from 3-20minutes. Resolve each day during that time to generate courage and self-compassion, and then simply “sit, breathe and be” with the noise inside your mind. Forget about immediately making your mind silent, just focus on sitting breathing and being with what is there, pleasant or unpleasant, happy or sad.

If you do this consistently each day the inner silence will emerge in its own time. If you make this a lifetime practice the inner silence will grow organically within your life a tree. A tree grows too slowly to spot the changes from day to day, but from month to month, year to year it grows from a fragile seedling to a mighty tree.

Long Term Results

The final thing that I want to mention about meditating on inner noise and inner silence is that eventually, after you have been meditating for quite some time you will discover that you are equally happy to experience inner noise or inner silence, you realize that they are really just two sides of the same coin and not so different in reality.

This can be difficult to grasp conceptually without experience, but an analogy may help: In the same way that a bright, sunny day and a thunderstorm are both “weather”, so a loud noisy mind and a silent one are just “mind”. If you are sitting in a strong house looking out of your window, a storm and a sunny day can both be interesting and enjoyable to experience. Similarly once we have grounded our awareness in the centre of our being through meditation, both noise and silence are equally enjoyable 😉

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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 with Animals and Starlight – Shamanic Journeying

Meditating with animals and animal spirits is one of the main practices found in ancient shamanic traditions worldwide. The ancient shamans were really the pioneers of the first meditation techniques and these techniques (which are mainly the technique of “inner world journeying”) are deeply embedded within the psyche of human beings, including you and me. The result of this is that most people who actually try shamanic meditation techniques actually find that they are able to gain some success quite quickly. Michael Harner, one of the pioneers of modern proto-shamanism reports that fully 85% of people participating in his shamanic journeying workshops are able to gain tangible results and experiences from their first attempts at journeying meditation.

As mentioned above, the main meditation “technique” found in shamanism is the “inner world journey” where contact with animal and ancestral spirits is sought for the purposes of gaining guidance, wisdom and healing. When meditating with animals and animal guides the sequence of the meditations would tend to go something like this:

  1. The shaman (or you and I if we are choosing to meditate in this way) goes on a journey, either within his imagination, or actually physically into a landscape to meet his or her animal guide
  2. Once the specific animal has been contacted, the shaman requests to be taught or shown the wisdom or healing method that the animal has to impart to him.  There then follows a communion between human and animal, trust is hopefully gained and the relationship proceeds. It should be noted that the animal chooses the shaman, not vice-versa. If you are met by an ant or a rat when you wanted a lion you cannot do a trade in! Experience will show you that in reality the animal that comes is invariably the best one for you and for the job at hand!
  3. A series of meditations can then be embarked upon where the mediator then goes on journeys and receives teachings, techniques and insights from the animal. Initially the meditator travels WITH the animal, but over time s/he may feel as if he is merging with the animal’s body and actually BECOMING the animal for periods of time.
  4. Over time a stable working relationship is established with the animal spirit which is mutually enriching for both parties, and the wisdom and abilities of the animal are imparted to the meditator.

What “abilities” and wisdom do you get from an animal guide?

The way in which animal guides impart wisdom is non-intellectual, experiential and mainly done through images. To take an example, if your guide is a spider, and in meditation you experience what it is like to have eight sensitive legs picking up information from all directions around you then this will give you a heightened awareness of your inner sense of touch which you can apply to appropriate life situations and challenges.

Starlight meditation with a pigeon

One animal that I have developed a relationship with since the beginning of 2010 is the pink necked green pigeon a number of which hang out in the park near my office. My animal journeying-type meditations are mostly spontaneous these days, done whilst napping or just sitting having a quiet moment. Animal journeying really just becomes an integral part of life once you have been doing it a while. So anyway, here is the last journey that I experienced with the above mentioned green pigeon, maybe a week or two ago:

I am having a ten minute meditation break in my office. My mind becomes quiet and tranquil. Quite suddenly I feel myself to be sitting in the next door park, staring up at a tree, where the green pigeon is sitting looking at me. After an initial contact we fly up into the sky going high above the cloudline.

With the clouds below us and the blue sky above, I become aware of rays of starlight flowing down from the heavens, bathing our bodies in white light. The rest of the meditation is then spent simply enjoying the starlight, absorbing it and being it. We then fly back down to the park, the vision breaks apart and I am sitting in my office meditating. I say thankyou to the green pigeon and get on with my day!

For many people the idea of meditating in this way may seem a bit far-fetched. However there is HUGE value for urbanized humans to do this type of meditation, as it re-connects us to a truly living relationship with nature and animals. The other thing that we discover is that it is actually quite easy, it is just a matter of re-awakening our visualization and imaginative skills, and pointing them in the right direction.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or reproduce this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission forst. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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The Self-Healing and Self Evolving Power of the Mind and Six Tips For Releasing the Shadow Self

Whenever we engage in meditation or any other activity that promotes greater self awareness, we automatically begin to activate two innate capacities within our mind: Its capacity for self-healing and its capacity for self-evolving.

The minds capacity for self-healing is basically means that, whenever we move into a meditative state, the process of being aware of our mind, whether it I in a state of bliss or pain (or somewhere in between) has a beneficial healing effect upon our mind. Awareness heals.

The minds capacity for self-evolving means that the process of sitting and being alert and aware in meditation brings to the surface of our mind all the latent higher qualities and talents that we might not be aware of or, may even be afraid of.

Meditation makes you more aware of your creative gifts and talents and will over time create an energy in you that actually DEMANDS that you start expressing these talents in your life.

From this we can see that, as well as bringing you greater peace of mind, meditation can also be quite challenging in the sense that:

  • You become more aware of all that is damaged and that needs healing within you
  • You start having a lot of creative urges that start to PULL you toward higher and greater achievement in your life.

If you are not prepared for these side effects they can actually be a bit shocking, and you might even feel that you may be doing something wrong. Actually as often as not it is just your minds capacity for auto-healing and auto-evolving kicking in!

So, although the minds capacity for self-healing and self-evolving  are good things they also challenge us, bringing us face to face with the two aspects of our shadow self:

  • The DARK part of our shadow self; the damaged part of self which we have disowned and rejected, and
  • The LIGHT part of our shadow self; that latent greatness and talent within us that is as yet unknown and unexpressed.

With this in mind here are six tips for starting to get friendly with your shadow self. They are the basic elements of what I call a “Six point shadow reclamation process” that I use with coaching clients, and teach in Integral meditation Asia classes and workshops.

Step 1:

See it – Pay close attention to both strong positive and negative emotions that get triggered in you by people, events, places  or things. Be alert to the meaning that there is in the fact that your mind has been triggered in this way.

Step 2:

Feel it – Rather than immediately repressing or pushing away the strong emotions, thoughts or images that get triggered in your mind, get used to feeling into them, holding them within your conscious awareness

Step 3:

Communicate with it – Once you have some experience of steps 1&2, you can then try inwardly communicating with the person or thing that is triggering the shadow emotion. For example if a person fills you with revulsion, try visualizing them in front of you and asking “what is it about you that is creating such strong feelings of dislike?” – see what answer comes back. (Please note you are not actually communicating with the physical person, but trying to connect to that part of yourself that has been triggered!)

Step 4:

BE it – Practice mentally imagining that you have become the person that you fear or admire. Become that angry person that you run away from all the time, imagine yourself AS that great public speaker that fills you with so much admiration.

Step 5:

Own it – Practice taking responsibility for your shadow self and emotions, the light and the dark:

-“Yes I really am angry and hurt deep down, it is not always the other person that is angry”

– “It’s my job to make the most of this talent, no one else is going to do it for me!”

Step 6:

Transcend and transform it – This is the final step, and needs to be done at the END of the other 5 steps. A BIG mistake people make is to try and transcend their shadow self too soon, before they have properly seen it, felt it, communicated with it, been it and owned it.

To transcend and transform the shadow self simply means to recognize it is NOT your true or ultimate self, but nevertheless it has a potential place and function within your everyday personality of ego self. For example:

  • Your previous fear of anger and projection of it onto others can be transformed into the ability to be powerful and polite with difficult people
  • Your previous admiration of another person’s public speaking skills is transformed into your ownership of that talent within yourself, and the development of your own talent as a passionate and persuasive speaker.

If you simply think about the above six points, and start to try them out in your daily life, I think you will find that you can start to get a feel for this process.

Here’s to the maximization of our minds capacity for self-healing and self-evolving!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Attachment, Non-Attachment and Dissociation: Finding the Middle Way To Enjoying your Life Fully

Non-attachment is a major part of any path of inner growth. All the great spiritual traditions teach it in one form or another. As the Buddha said (many times in one way or another) “All suffering comes from attachment”.

Usually  the way to overcome attachment we are told is to practice non-attachment. People being told this often misunderstand and go to the extreme of dissociation (dis-association), completely cutting themselves off from their enjoyments, their emotions, their passion, their enthusiasm.

As a result of falling into dissociation, they lose their authentic connection to their life, relationships and their spiritual path.

So, really non-attachment is a path that steers between the extremes and illusions of both attachment and dissociation.

Lets define our terms:

Attachment is a state of mind that has become so absorbed into or addicted to an activity, person or object that it cannot be happy without that “thing”.

Dissociation is when we completely cut ourself off emotionally, personally, mentally from a person, object or enjoyment in the false belief that non-attachment means being completely above and beyond any kind of human connection, if we are enjoying ourself it must be wrong, and cannot be spiritual!

Genuine non-attachment is the key. A person who has balanced non-attachment is someone who is able to fully enjoy and engage in their relationships, work, leisure activities and so on without being totally reliant upon those things for his or her inner happiness and sense of wellbeing.

So, with non-attachment it is not just a matter of cutting ourself off from attachments, it is also avoiding the extreme of dissociation. In order to be happy, we need to be fully committed to life, we need to be passionate, we need to care, we need to get emotional, we need to be able to positively direct our desires toward constructive goals.

Many well intentioned and aspiring mediators and “spiritual” people live a life of inner conflict because they think they are practicing non-attachment, when in fact they are practicing dissociation which put bluntly causes misery in the long term.

If you know the difference between attachment, non-attachment and dissociation, you can begin treading the happy, vibrant, engaged path of non-attachment in your daily life. It is a comfortable, radiant middle way that enriches us all the way up and all the way down; physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

Here’s to all of us trading the middle path of engaged non-attachment!

Thanks for reading,

Toby

Article © Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use it, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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Re-Awakening To Your Bliss

When was the last time you enjoyed bliss? By bliss I mean not just an isolated experience of pleasure in either your physical, mental or spiritual bodies, but an experience of pleasure that touched them all three levels of your being  and brought them naturally back into alignment and harmony with each other?

Perhaps when you read the paragraph above the experience of bliss seems a little bit abstract, something difficult to attain, something that happens to us only occasionally and even then caused by something outside of ourselves, something that “happens” to us, rather than something we ourselves create?.

In my opinion and experience the experience of bliss is a lot simpler and more accessible than that. As  human beings and as living creatures, we are all NATURALLY full of blissful energy. Energy is what we are, and in its natural state, our sensory, mental and spiritual energy is deeply blissful and pleasant.

So, if this is the case, why does experiencing bliss seem like such a difficult experience for us? Well, put very simply, most of us live too much of our life “in our head” or in an abstract mental state divorced from the depth and pleasure of our own natural energy. Get out of your head and step back into your moment to moment direct experience of life and bliss starts to return.

Two ways to begin re-connecting to your bliss:

1) Remembering and experience of bliss.

You can try this one right now. Recall a past experience of genuine bliss. Spend a minute or so remembering it and re-creating it in your mind, until you can feel a bit of that blissful energy in your body and soul. Now let go of the memory, and simply focus of the sensation of bliss in your body-mind. There it is, still there even though you have let go of the memory. This exercise helps show you that bliss is a state of being that is present within you right now, it is not something that you have to go out and purchase, or fight hard to obtain.

2) Taking moments in your day to touch bliss

Try and do five short activities (of one minute maximum) every day that are specifically focused on generating bliss. For example I can look up from my keyboard now and just observe the sky and the cloud formations, as I really drink in the richness of that visual experience, I can feel a natural gentle bliss beginning to flow through my being, it is not just an intellectual appreciation, it is a feeling that I can feel relaxing me and expanding into my physical, mental and spiritual being. So there you go, one minute of bliss!

Later I might give my partner or child a hug, and really focus on the experience of bliss that rises from the physical, mental and spiritual touching of two human beings. Again, another minute of natural, easy bliss.

If you like you can make a list of things that make you feel blissful and then just make sure you touch one or other of these activities a few times each day.

Life should be blissful. The interesting thing about true bliss (not to be confused with craving and attachment) is that it makes us less selfish, more giving, more sane and more happy. As it turns out the most important thing to do if you want to re-awaken your bliss is to REMEMBER it, as it is always there!

 

A final warning: Most people these days do seem to have forgotten their bliss, and are tied up in complicated mental knots. Resolve firmly not to be like them;-)

Thanks for reading, and here is to a blissful week ahead!

Toby

© Toby Ouvry 2011. You are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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

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Article: Meditating on Your Body as a Landscape, and the Beauty of Ageing

Hi Everyone,

When we see natural objects in a landscape, such as trees, rocks, cliffs, mountains, lakes and so forth, very often we judge them to be beautiful. For example when we see the way in which a trees branches and bark has twisted and morphed over time we think of this as a tree with character, a tree with a deep sense of spirit. Likewise an old but well maintained house is very easy to love and appreciate.
So, if we think of old objects and aspects of landscape as having character and beauty as they age, what about our own bodies and their signs of ageing? To appreciate the beauty of our own ageing process requires the ability to, at least temporarily, step outside of the intense way in which we have been culturally programmed to value youthful looks only, and instead look at the way in which time changes our features as being something natural, something to be embraced, and finally as something that in many ways actually enhances the character and DEEP beauty of our looks.

To start to work experientially with this idea, you might like to try the following simple meditation:
– Sit or stand in front of a mirror. Close your eyes and relax for a few breaths, as you do so think to yourself that, when you open your eyes you are going to see your face (and your body if you can see it) as a landscape.
– When you open your eyes, try for a while simply to stare at your face without thinking or analysing too much, just try and see and accept it as it is. It can be a good idea to smile gently in acceptance of yourself and what you see.
– Then, thinking of your face as a landscape, reflect on the story behind the  lines that you can see on your face (if you are still young, imagine the lines that will be there!), how each crease and bump has arisen from countless times when you have smiled or laughed, countless times when you may have experienced pain or even cried. Think of the lines on your face as beautiful in the sense that they describe the depth and character that you have created within yourself in the years that you have lived in your body. Think of the lines as describing the knowledge and wisdom that you have within your heart. Reflect that, as time goes by and these lines deepen on your face, as long as you are trying to live your best life, the deepening lines will represent the flowering of a deeper human beauty within you.
Continue this mindful exploration for as long as you like, finish when you are ready.

So, of course we don’t want to grow physically “old before our time” so to speak and I really think that daily meditation and Qi gong are one of the very best methods for staying physically and mentally young for as long as possible (Note, also free, all they require is a little gentle discipline!). However, middle and old age come to us all, and we are at a tremendous advantage in terms of personal happiness if we can embrace them openly, value them, and consciously override the fear and resistance that mass consciousness encourages us to develop toward ageing process.

Thanks for reading,

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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A Personal Reflection on How Meditation Develops Your Inner Vision and Ability to Work With Energy

Hi Everyone,

Back in 2001 when I left my life as a Buddhist Monk part of the reason was that I wanted to return to a life as an actively working artist expressing his inspiration in paintings and sculpture. As I had meditated during the 1990’s I had touched the inner formless spaces that you find in deep meditation practice, but I had also found that, from these deep formless spaces a lot of inner visions started to emerge quite spontaneously, and that they often really demanded to be expressed.

Since then I have developed a method of combining my meditation and artistic practice where I will meditate on a particular topic or subject for a while in order to receive visual and sensual impressions of its inner nature, and then I will create an art piece based around what I have seen.

In order to give an example of this, at the top of this article you can see a working sketch that I have done for an artwork that embodies the energy of The Tao, Yin-Yang and the five Chinese elements of earth, wood, metal and fire. Here is a brief description of the inner landscape from which this image arose. You can do it yourself if you like, the basic images are simple, and there is plenty of room for creative imagination and to really make the inner landscape your own:

The Asian Tree and the Yin-Yang courtyard.

Before meditating set your intention to travel, within the reality of your creative imagination, to an inner landscape that embodies the spiritual energy of the Tao, Yin-Yang and five elements.

Spend a short while relaxing, focusing on your breathing and stilling your sense of time, space and energy.

After a while you sense yourself within what you intuitively sense is an Asian landscape, in front of you is your “Asian tree”, a tree embodying that embodies the energy of Asian spirituality and that you have a particular inner connection to. Spend a while seeing, feeling and sensing the landscape and the tree; the texture of the bark, the colour of the leaves, the time of day and so forth…

To one side of you in your landscape you see an ancient courtyard. Upon its old wooden doors is inscribed a yin yang symbol.

Passing through the doors to the interior of the courtyard you sense yourself entering into a state of deep peace. The roof of the courtyard is open to the sky. In the centre of the courtyard is a yin-yang symbol made of living light. The light part of the symbol is fed by a stream of bright white star light that comes down from the sky. The dark part of the symbol is fed by a stream of dark light rising from the depths of the earth. Within the courtyard are many beautiful ancient objects, such as bonsai trees, crystals and gemstones. In particular there are sculptures of four creatures:

  • A dragon, embodying the energy of the wood element, of spring, air and morning
  • A phoenix embodying the energy of the fire element, of summer and the noonday sun
  • A tiger embodying the energy of the metal element, of autumn and evening
  • A turtle embodying the energy of the water element, of winter and of night time.

Each of these statues, although static seems to be alive and radiates its elemental energy in the form of colour. These colours gather around the central yin-yang symbol, flowing around it in an ever changing flow of radiant elemental light.

Deep within the earth beneath the yin-yang symbol is a cauldron, which embodies the earth element and is the source from which the other four elements arise.

Simply sit and relax in this beautiful peaceful space, and as you do so feel the yin-yang and elemental balance within your body mind come back into balance. As your body-mind comes into balance, feel your inner being becoming still and spacious like a deep lake.

Thanks for reading,

Yours in the spirit of the rich landscape of the imagination,

Toby

PS: You can see more of my artwork in the most recent post on my Soul Portrait site:

Slideshow of Soul Portraits From the First Three Months of 2011

PPS: If you are not familiar with the 5 elements and want a bit more information, you can find more in my past article on my Qi gong blog:

Meditating on the Five Chinese Elements as a Method Achieving Harmony and Balance Through Dependent Relationship.

Similarly, you can also find a previous Yin-Yang meditation there:

The Meaning of the Term “The Great Mother” and its Relationship to Yin and Yang

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