The Way to Be Ok, Always – Liberation and the Witness Self

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the cultivation of the witness self in meditation, and why we should be interested in it!

Yours in the spirit of “ok, always”,
Toby


 

The Way to Be Ok, Always – Liberation and the Witness Self

Cultivating the experience of the witness self means to cultivate your experience of self as a detached observer of your mind, body and life experiences, as opposed to having your sense of self totally caught up in them.
The witness or observer self has two main qualities:

  1. It witnesses our life with detached awareness
  2. It has no physical or mental form, it is merely formless awareness

The path to personal liberation from pain and suffering has an enormous amount to do with the cultivation of the witness self. To the extent that we are able to detach ourself from our pain we can control it. If we can detach ourself from our pleasure we can enjoy it without clinging to it and thus avoid the experience of pain that happens when we are separated from that pleasure.

In meditation we cultivate and strengthen the witness self, but it is important to understand that the witness self is present with and available to us right now, whatever stage of development we are at, as these two short stories demonstrate:

As a fifteen year old at school I had a friend the same age (let’s call him Tony) who went out with a seventeen year old girl. She left him for an older boy who was a mutual friend. Tony subsequently told me the story of how he had confronted the older boy and shouted and screamed at him in an emotional outburst. He then told me, looking slightly sheepish about how he had felt that there was a part of him watching the whole episode (including himself screaming and shouting) that was not upset at all, but felt detached and calm. That “watcher” that he had experienced amidst his emotional outburst was his witness self.
Later I had a female friend at collage who similarly discovered that her boyfriend had been having an affair with another woman whilst away at University. Again with a similar sense of sheepish confusion she described to me how she had shouted and screamed at her boyfriend whilst simultaneously feeling that a part of her was observing the situation with total calm and detachment. Like my friend Tony, my female friend had found herself aware of her witness self at the same time as she experienced emotional turmoil.

So, with meditation we cultivate awareness of this witness self, making it increasingly “front and center” of our daily experience, and consequently finding an increasing sense of ever present calm even when under multiple forms of stress. Consequently we find ourself basically “always ok”, nothing we can’t handle.

Reading this some people may think that cultivating the witness self may make us cold, uncaring, emotionally mono-syllabic and so on. The reality is however that when practised in an integrated and balanced way, centring our awareness in the witness self increases our capacity to enjoy deeper and more positively multiple forms of emotion, pleasure, happiness and wellbeing. You could say that it liberates us to a whole new level of the human experience.
A final point; being centred in the witness self also liberates us substantially from the fear of making mistakes, looking foolish, taking an appropriate chance. So, whilst finding an experience of liberation through the detachment of the witness self, we concurrently find a new way of engaging in our world and human experience more freely and dynamically.

I’ve created a diagram below that illustrates in a very simple way the essential transformation that comes from cultivating our identity as the witness self. I hope the image helps to give a feeling for what I have written about above!


© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Using Your Misfortune to Enhance and Transcend Your Experience of Good Fortune

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you’ve had a good week, this weeks article continues the theme of last weeks article on Paradox as Therapy , looking at ways in which we can hold apparently contradictory states of awareness together in order to develop and enhance our inner wisdom.

Yours in the spirit of inner wisdom,

Toby


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

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

Sunday June 30th, 8.30am-12.30pm – Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and Releasing Your Inner Stress

JULY

Sunday 14th July, 9.30am-12.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 


Using Your Misfortune to Enhance and Transcend Your Experience of Good Fortune

Normally we think of our good fortune and happiness as being in contrast or opposition to our misfortune and unhappiness. This article and the exercise outlined aims to help us to use our difficult experiences to:

  • Cultivate mindful acceptance of our challenges
  • Cultivate greater appreciation of our good fortune and wellbeing
  • Find a space of awareness that lies beyond and is transcendent of both that which makes us unhappy in life and that which makes us happy.

Here is what you do:

Stage 1: Select an experience of suffering, pain or misfortune in your life. Let’s say in this example that I am feeling unappreciated and uncared for by a close friend whom I expected more support from. So, the first thing that I do is to become mindfully aware of the feelings of hurt that I am experiencing in this circumstance. I sit with awareness of the feelings of being unloved/uncared for as they are. I don’t try to change them, I just accept them as they are, holding them with mindful awareness.

Stage 2: I now select an experience of good fortune/happiness that contrasts directly with the original negative experience. So, in the example here I would deliberately bring to mind people whom have demonstrated real care and appreciation of me. I focus on remembering all the times when they have demonstrated this care and appreciation, and allow this feeling of being cared for and appreciated to register fully in my mind.

Stage 3: I now become aware of a part of my mind and awareness that remains the same whether I am feeling uncared for (as in stage 1), or cared for (as in stage 2). I cultivate awareness of that part of myself that is beyond the ordinary changeability of my daily experiences, that remains a quiet witness or observer to all “different weather” of what happens in my daily life. This pure witnessing awareness is always tranquil and peaceful, even blissful in a way that transcends ordinary happiness and suffering.

Stage 4: Now I alternate between awareness of stages 1, 2 & 3 for a while, taking them all in without favoring one or another of the three. I feel the pain of being uncared for, I feel the pleasure of being appreciated and supported; I experience that part of my awareness that is beyond both ordinary pleasure and pain. Allow all three experiences to be in your mind; don’t favor one or the other. Make your mind big enough for all three.

To conclude, finish with a brief period of mental resting and equanimity.

The effect of this exercise when done regularly is to:

  1. Develop equanimity and stability when experiencing discomfort, pain, misfortune, emotional unhappiness and so forth
  2. To use our misfortune to deliberately stimulate our feeling of good fortune and appreciation of what we have
  3. To gradually learn to go beyond ordinary happiness and suffering and locate our fundamental sense of self in a place of awareness that lies beyond the fickle events of our daily life.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what I would do would be to sit with these three paradoxical perspectives in my mind, holding the “goodness”, the “badness” and the “beyond good or bad” in the same act of awareness.
This did not “solve” my predicament, but it did give me the peace of mind, patience and sense of inner wholeness and wellbeing to allow my path to unfold and relax into that unfolding, allowing the crisis to teach me what was emerging, and how to start to express and embody it in my life.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Wishing you all the best,

Toby


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of focused attention,

Toby

Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Practice for the week:
This week simply

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Dealing With Energy Stress

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

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

Yours in the spirit of high functioning energy levels,

Toby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

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

Yours in the spirit of clear seeing,

Toby


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

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

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

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

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


Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming 

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

Some of the possible results of this meditation are:

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of the empowering power of attention,

Toby


Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beginning to consciously control your attention

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Meditating on Enlightened Love the Easy Way

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

Yours in the spirit of awakened love and loving,

Toby


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: how you then meditate on love:

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

Dear Integral Meditators,

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

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

Yours in the spirit of wholeness through love,
Toby
 



Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Minute Mindfulness for Practically Integrating the Three Above Techniques:

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

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

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