Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

Dear Toby,

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

Yours in the spirit of inner freedom,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

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

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

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


Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 


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The Dance of Relaxation and Alertness

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of the dance,

Toby


The Dance of Relaxation and Alertness

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

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

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

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

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

All questions to dance with.

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

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 

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Street Mindfulness – Three Key Questions

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of the right questions,

Toby


Street Mindfulness – Three Key Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related article: Fridge magnet spiritual happiness

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 


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

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

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

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Liberation from Social Metaphysics

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

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

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

Yours in the spirit of trusting your mind,

Toby


I-Awake Technologies product offer of the month

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

 

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


Liberation from Social Metaphysics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 


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Complementricizing Your Archetypes

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of harmony,

Toby


Complementricizing Your Archetypes

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 



Looking for technology to support your meditation practice? 

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Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of mindful flow,

Toby

 


Mindfulness: The Co-Creation of Happiness and Performance

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

Mindfulness functions to bring two main effects to our life:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two questions to begin working with your own mindfulness practice

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 

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The Hidden Calm Within the Body

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article focuses on finding aspects of enlightened flow through your physical body, the technique is simple in its basic elements, but you can investigate it in almost infinite depth.

I have created a  seven minute video on enlightened flow for a fee talk I will be giving on the  17th, you can view by clicking on the link if you like.

If you did not catch the mid-week article and are interested in the Soul Portrait work that I do, then you can find out about it by clicking the relevant link below. I kin of think of soul portraits as the Jethro Tull aspect of my work (semi-joke!).

Yours in the spirit of

Toby


Upcoming Meditation Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia in June:

Enlightened Flow: Finding the Ultimate Relaxation and Release from Stress 
Free Preview TalkTuesday , 17th June, 7.30-8.30pm at the Reiki Centre
The Three Hour Workshop:  Sunday 29th June, 9.30am-12.30pm

Up until 26th of June Soul Portrait Sale offer!click on the link for full details.

 


The Hidden Calm Within the Body

Within your physical body itself there is an ever present space and calm that you can find through mindful reflection.
When you focus on the physical and energetic aspect of your body, there is constant change and flux; sometimes feeling heavy, sometimes light, sometimes healthy, sometimes sick, sometimes energized, sometimes tired, sometimes sensual and pleasurable, sometimes uncomfortable and unpleasant.
Within all of this change there is a part that remains the same, what is that? Well, think about what your body is primarily made up of. It is made up of parts, which are made up of cells, which are made up of atoms, which are made up of a nucleus (made up of neutrons and protons) with electrons orbiting them. The primary element in an atom, that is to say the part that it has by far the most of is space; it is just a few points of energy orbiting around a fixed point.
So if you look at the atomic nature of your body, really what you find is just energy and space, and mostly space. Whilst everything else in your body is always changing, its biggest element, that of space always remains constant; it is just open space.
So, finding the hidden calm in your body involves simply becoming aware of the space element that dominates its construction and tuning into it in order to find a sense of calm and relaxation even when other aspects of your body and mind feel out of balance or disturbed.
As well as an exercise for general pleasure and calm, I personally also find this to be a useful object of meditation and mindfulness when I am sick. The last couple of weeks I’ve had the flu followed by a nose infection. During this time because my body’s energy has been out of whack it is actually very difficult to meditate effectively. One of the easiest ways to find and sustain a sense of meditative calm in such circumstances for me has been to meditate on the space element of the body because, in the midst of all the energetic chaos, there it is, constant and unchanging.
It is difficult to say whether I have actually managed to accelerate the healing of my body through this technique (as there are so many other factors involved), but I would guess that I have, and even if not, it has certainly made the experience of not being well a lot easier and more manageable.

Focusing on the space element in your body

This is a very simple exercise:
First bring your attention onto the physical aspect of your body; sense its texture, weight, shape.
Then focus on the energy of your body; the way it feels, areas of comfort and discomfort ect…
Then become aware of the space element of your body; that fact that each of its basic atomic building blocks consists primarily (99.9 percent) of space; your solid, physical body consists primarily of empty space.
Relax into the space element of your body, naturally calm, constant and peaceful, breathe mindfully with it. You can also reflect if you like that all the other physical elements around you are also primarily empty space. The physical world is much more space-filled than we habitually think!

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 

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A Benevolent Universe? (Old Men Fighting)

Dear Integral Meditators,

What do you think the Universe thinks of you? Is it for you or against you? This mid-week article examines this question with a little bit of humor.

For those of you in Singapore, next Tuesday evening , 17th June is the date for the free preview talk on Enlightened Flow: Finding the Ultimate Relaxation and Release From Stress, see you there if you are interested!

Finally, I am currently offering a decent summer deal on the Soul Portraits I do, see details below.

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby


Special Soul Portrait Summer Sale 11th-26th June!

From the 11th-26th June I am offering a 15% discount on all Soul Portrait orders. For this limited time only the prices for Soul Portraits will be as follows:

For an Individual Soul Portrait:
  • For an A4 size (297x210mm) portrait Singapore $260 Sing $220
  • For an A3 size (297x420mm) portrait Sing $390 Sing$330
  • For an A2 Size (594x840mm) Sing $585 Sing$495

For Couples* (Ideal for weddings, Anniversaries and Valentines!):

  • For an A4 size297x210mm portrait Sing $340 Sing$290
  • For an A3 size 297x420mm portrait Sing $490 Sing$415
  • For an A2 Size (594x840mm) Sing $730 Sing$620

For further enquiries or to order a Soul Portrait please contact me by email:  info@tobyouvry.com

This is a great opportunity to get a Soul Portrait for yourself or as a gift for any of your friends or family for a very reasonable price!

To have a look at slideshows of past Soul Portraits click HERE

To look at past individual Soul Portraits click HERE


A Benevolent Universe? (Old Men Fighting)

Are the intelligent, creative forces behind the creation of our Universe benevolent toward us? That is to say are they friendly and wishing for us to succeed in our endeavours? Are they conspiring against our wishes and plans? Or are they just entirely indifferent?
At some time in our lives we have probably felt each of these three ways. At times  we have felt supported and guided, other times lost and ignored and at yet other times Beelzebub himself seems to be screwing us at each turn. What I want to do in this article is first to flag up how our own relationship to ourself affects this perception, and then relate a little story.

Your perception of your relationship to the Universe
Our relationship to the universe is directly affected by our relationship to ourself, as Emerson said “If I have lost confidence in myself, I have the universe against me.” The corollary of that is that if I can maintain genuine and deep self confidence, self belief, self esteem and self trust (and demonstrate all of these things to myself through my actions) then even in the face of adversity there is the experience that, even though circumstances conspire against me the universe provides me with the solutions through the resource of myself.
So this is a first point to consider and contemplate. You can see this explored also in the recent meditation on Self-Trust that I posted.

Old Men Fighting
Recently, after finishing my regular Monday evening squash session with friends around 10pm I walk from the sports centre to a local open air coffee shop by myself,  order a beer and sit for a while sipping and contemplating the universe (you know the dodgy middle aged white blokes you see sitting alone at these places? Yup, like that).
I get up to go and as I do so a fight breaks out between two of the fifty-plus year old group of ‘serious drinkers’ near the exit. I have to walk towards them to get out, so I try and do it quietly and unobtrusively. As I’m going past I see that one of the guys is punching the other very slowly and consistently on the nose, gradually the nose breaks and blood starts to go everywhere, but it is all like watching a SLOW motion movie because they are so drunk and uncoordinated. So I put down my bag and make to break it up. I’m immediately accosted by the rest of the drunk old men who forbid me to do so. I’m not going to get into a fight with them, so feeling sad about the state of the universe (at least in this coffee shop) but clear that this is not my problem.
I’m crossing the road right next to the exit, and I see a white car with big blue letters coming towards me. Not only that, it has lights on the top, it is a police car! Joyfully I wave stop and wave my hands at it, as it slows down I point to the old men fighting. Two appropriately big and cheerful looking policemen get out, smile at me, say thanks and walk over to deal with it. I smile all the way home, safe in the knowledge that two drunk old men are now no longer punching each other in slow motion.

Who knows, perhaps the universe really is a big friendly giant? Or maybe it just has a lower tolerance level to sheer ridiculousness than other forms of human suffering.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 

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Non-Striving

Dear Integral Meditators,

June and the summer sees a change in the pace and  of my working routine, and as a way of making the adjustment to that new routine I’ve been working this week with the practice of non-striving. Details of what it is and how to practice it are in this weeks article!

Yours in the spirit of non-striving,

Toby


Non-Striving

Non-striving is a refusal to be in conflict with yourself and your life. Put another way, rather than seeing yourself in an adversarial relationship to yourself and your circumstances, you practice accepting and working with what is there.

For example, if I am over-tired non-striving is not simply the practice of stopping what I am doing and having a rest (although I may do that), it is the practice if not getting in conflict with myself about the reality of my fatigue, and thus even if I have to work on for a while, my mental approach is not being hampered by the friction of me fighting the reality of my fatigue.

If I have a business deal that I am anxious should happen, and then it seems as if the other party will not close on it, then I can recognize my attachment to making it happen, and my disappointment at the fact that it has not happened, and then make a point of not fighting that disappointment; rather I accept it and flow with it even whilst I see if there is any way that the deal may still go forward.

If I have a social commitment that I am not looking forward to, then if I can accept and practice non-striving with the reality that I have to go (assuming that there is no choice), then my chances of actually enjoying that social engagement even though I may not find it ideal is much greater

The thing about non-striving is that when we are in a state of non-conflict with ourself, then our natural intelligence functions far better and so our chances of actually finding solutions, enjoying ourselves, transforming difficulties to our advantage and so forth actually increases.

So often our instinctive idea of how to get what we want in our life is based around striving, battling, being effortful and fighting and there is no doubt that on occasion this approach may have its place. However if we can develop our competency at non-striving then we discover that it is possible to get what we want or at least what we need with much less effort than we deemed necessary.

To practice non-striving means acknowledging honestly what is there and going with the flow of that reality, even as we may work to change it. It is a pleasant and energy efficient way of re-connecting to our sanity and intelligence as well as creating a space where our mind body and spirit can rest and regenerate their energies even whilst we are in the midst of our daily activities.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com 

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Finding Your Spiritual Flow

Dear Toby,

This is an article on how to find your spiritual flow. In this article there is what I consider to be a really great and useful definition of the word ‘spiritual’. We often use ‘spiritual’ conversationally as if we have a clear idea what it means, but when we check our understanding is often a lot more nebulous. This article on spiritual flow is once again on the topic of flow states in meditation which I will be addressing in great practical depth in my upcoming Enlightened Flow Workshop on the 29th June, with the free introductory talk on Tuesday 17th June . For those of you not in Singapore, don’t worry, the online version will follow 😉

Yours in the spirit of spiritual flow,

Toby

 


Finding Your Spiritual Flow

This is an article about how to find your spiritual or enlightened flow. So, firstly, what do we mean by spiritual. Oftentimes people use the word like we all know what it means, but actually a sound working definition of what it means to be spiritual can be elusive; so here is one that I find very practical and useful from Nathaniel Branden: “Spiritual means pertaining (or referring to) to consciousness and the development of consciousness”.
From this we can see that to be a spiritual person means being interested in developing your inner or non-material self.
Quite often the spiritual is set up in contrast to materialism. A materialist is someone for whom the material world is of primary importance, in contrast a spiritual person is someone for whom the non-material or inner world of consciousness is of primary importance. This is not to say that a single person cannot have an integrated balance of materialism and spirituality in their life, indeed perhaps this would be the ideal.

So to be a spiritual person means to be interested in developing the inner world of your consciousness, and you yourself can assess how ‘spiritual’ you are by measuring how much effort each day you spend on the development of your consciousness.

Now that we have a definition of spiritual, we can look at what spiritual flow means. To be‘in the spiritual flow’ means to be centered in your consciousness, and allowing your life to unfold around that central inner identity of yourself as a non-physical self within a physical body and experiencing a physical world
Deep spiritual flow or enlightened means to be centred on the experience of consciousness itself, so that as well as distinguishing yourself from your physical body and self, you have also distinguished yourself from the contents of your consciousness as well. You are the centre of pure living awareness and/or consciousness that is the possessor and expereincer of your thoughts, feelings and body.

Four images for spiritual or enlightened flow:
So what might that actually look or feel like? Here are four images for getting a feel for what it is like to be in the spiritual or enlightened flow.

1. Think of your actual or spiritual self as being the parent of the contents of your consciousness – You are dis-identified** with the contents of your consciousness, but holding them with care and love
2. To be the ocean of your consciousness but not the waves or ripples – Your consciousness is like the ocean, your mental experience of thoughts and sensory information are like the waves – be the ocean, not the waves!
3. To be the sky and not the clouds – Experience your consciousness itself as being like a clear open sky, and your senses and thoughts as being like the clouds. Be the open sky, not the clouds!
4. Being the tree and not the leaves – The tree cares for and feeds the leaves but is not destroyed when they fall of in the winter, it lets them fall, stands silent through winter and then re-grows them the next spring. Your consciousness itself is like the tree, your thoughts and senses are like the leaves. Be the tree and not the leaves!

If you want some homework from this article, over the next week or so simply take one of these images each day and use your contemplation of them as a way of starting to experience your own spiritual or enlightened flow.

**Please note the difference between dis-identified and dis-associated from . We aim to be in touch with and aware of our thoughts, emotions and senses whilst being dis-identified with them. To be dis-associated from them would be to be completely out of touch with them, which would invariably lead to psychological issues!

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