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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Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

Dear Integral Meditators,

I spent a lovely morning doing walking meditation In the Singapore Botanic Gardens today, many thanks to all those who came along! There is always something very pleasant about meditating in the out-of -doors!

This weeks article focuses on the issues arising from the increased power that can come from meditation and yoga practice, in particular looking at the effects kundalini can have our consciousness. I think this is an important area to be aware of in terms of negotiating it appropriately, and recognizing that it s a natural stage that we go through as meditators.

Please note I have changed the topic of the meditation workshop on the 28th April to All You Need is Love; An Integral Guide to Bringing Love and Compassion Into Your Life Through Meditation I’m looking forward to getting my teeth stuck into this subject over the next couple of weeks as I prepare!

Yours in the spirit of balanced inner power,
Toby

Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Wednesday evening’s 10th and 17th April 2013: Integral Depth Meditation Classes
Overview: These one hour meditation classes led by Toby are specifically focused on developing deep states of meditation. The emphasis is on developing good meditation technique and giving ample time for training in the actual practice of meditation itself. Because of this the class will mainly be spent meditating with only a minimal introductory talk (5-10mins) and time for Q&A afterwards….(click on above link for full details)

Sunday Morning, 9.30am-12.30pm, 28th April: All You Need is Love; An Integral Guide to Bringing Love and Compassion Into Your Life Through Meditation

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

 


Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

In my final year of University I reduced my “hard exercise” routine and took up yoga for the first time in order to make more time and energy for my studies, and to rest my body a little which was getting tired from me throwing it around all the time. The book around which my yoga practice was based (which I did religiously for between 30mins to 1.5 hours a day) was a set of asanas such as you would find in a lot of common yoga classes. So I just did these poses as well as I could, and felt better for it.
On the final page of the book there was a short description of what it felt like when your kundalini, or life force energy got activated by the yoga poses; how it felt like a snake curling up the spine from the base toward the crown of the head. I read this and did not think about it too much, but duly after a few months of practice I could feel it rising from the base of my spine at the end of each session as I lay on the floor relaxing.
There were three principle effects of this initial stimulation of my kundalini:

  1. My Sex drive increased fairly dramatically (when the kundalini rises the first chakra it rises into is the sacral chakra, which is the sexual/emotional centre)
  2. My awareness of inner and outer conflict, and feelings of superiority/inferiority with regard to others in social situations was substantially and not very pleasantly increased (the second chakra that the kundalini moves into when it rises is the solar plexus chakra which is to do with ego and the power drives of the personality)
  3. I started to experience regular and consistent “expanded” states of transpersonal awareness (a result of the kundalini hitting the higher energy centres from the heart level upward)

With regard to the fist effect I was relatively lucky in that I had a compassionate and frankly very tolerant girlfriend at the time who was able to absorb that part of my personality change with somewhat bemused amusement.
The second effect, the increased awareness of (perceived) conflict or negative emotions around other people made me rather more reclusive and more reluctant to engage socially, as the experience of doing so was not all that pleasant in the face of the energy changes in my body and the effect that it has on my mind.
The third effect, that of expanded states of awareness (I had not done ANY meditation at this stage of my path) was that I became even more of a space kadet than I had been before! Quite fun, but not exactly enhancing of my fundamental inner peace OR my functionality as a person…

So, my first basic point here is that when yoga and meditation really start to awaken our inner powers (through kundalini and other factors), the effect can actually be quite volatile, and needs careful thought and awareness to negotiate. In the long term, and treated in the right way, increased sexual energy, a sense of power at the personality level, and access to expanded awareness have the potential to make our life far more happy and fulfilling. However there is also a lot of potential for any one of these factors to go wrong, and start causing problems on one level or another…

Dealing with Kundalini Awakening in Meditation
Subsequent to my initial kundalini awakening described above, I then did actually start meditating, and periodically found myself grappling in my meditation either with sexual imagery that would NOT go away, or with powerful images of conflict, sometimes violence. Initially I found it quite perplexing, but in the long term I found that the best thing to about it was nothing much. When I sat down in meditation and started to focus my mind, my kundalini would naturally start to rise into my sacral chakra (cue sexual images; “Hello ladies!”). If I then left these images alone and relaxed, the energy would continue to rise up into my third, or solar plexus chakra, often giving rise to images of conflict and power struggle (“Hello violent, sweary people!”), but again if I just left them alone (not feed them or fight them) then the kundalini would just continue to rise up to my heart and the higher energy centres, and by the 5th minute or so if my meditation I was up and running in a state of expanded awareness. Eventually over time this process became reduced to

  • an initial strong feeling of sensual bliss shortly after sitting down
  • followed by and enhanced feeling of power in my personality
  • followed by a release into a consistent state of formless meditation, nice simple and minimal.

I feel like a bit of an old man taking about this now, as this stage of my practice was a long time ago, but I think it is a stage that we all go through as we practice (with different subjective experiences resulting), and it is important to negotiate it well…
Of course you still have to learn to deal with sex, power and expanded awareness as it applies to your daily life and relationships (bit more complex as you can imagine), and get it right on that level. But that is a subject of another time!
© 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 Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article features a reflection on a period of my own meditation practice in the year immediately following my ordination as a Buddhist Monk. Our life challenges come in a variety of different ways, sometimes they come in ways we can anticipate and other times not so much!

This coming week has two events, the first is the Integral Depth Meditation Classeson Wednesday 10th, and the Introduction to Walking Meditation on Sunday 14th. You can click on the links below for full details.

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Wednesday evening’s 10th and 17th April 2013: Integral Depth Meditation Classes
Overview: These one hour meditation classes led by Toby are specifically focused on developing deep states of meditation. The emphasis is on developing good meditation technique and giving ample time for training in the actual practice of meditation itself. Because of this the class will mainly be spent meditating with only a minimal introductory talk (5-10mins) and time for Q&A afterwards….(click on above link for full details)

Sunday Morning, 8-10.30am, 14th April: An Introduction to Walking Meditation Workshop

Sunday Morning, 9.30am-12.30pm, 28th April: Meditation and Mindfulness as a Healing Art – A Three Hour Workshop


Your Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

In the mid-nineties I returned from a Buddhist festival the Newcastle, England having been newly ordained as a young Buddhist Monk. One main reason I thought I had gotten ordained was to make sure that I had plenty of decent open space in my life for meditation practice, and I was looking forward to getting onto my meditation cushion and making some serious progress that year.
The place where I was staying at the time was not actually a meditation center  it was the spare room of a friend’s flat in an inner city council estate with a lot of poverty, and a lot of substance abuse all around. Our little meditation group had recently moved out of our previous residential space, and were looking for somewhere to buy. So, in the meantime I was holed up in this small room with a bed on one side, a meditation cushion in the middle, and all the furniture and other materials from the meditation center piled up to the ceiling all around me.
The circumstances weren’t ideal for meditation, but nevertheless I was anxious to sit down and get started. However, as soon as I sat down a pattern of occurrences happened that lasted for a whole year. Basically it would be like this:

  • I would sit down to meditate, close my eyes, start setting my motivation and begin my pre-practice prayers
  • Simultaneously in my mind’s eye (not physical eye please note) I would see a bunch of wrinkly, sour faced old men assemble in a circle above my head. Some of them were dressed in old police and military uniforms, some had big sticks in their hands, others stones.
  • As I would start my prayers they would start shouting, spitting on me, chucking rocks down and “hitting” my head aggressively with their sticks (again please note this is in the subtle realm, not the physical one!). Then basically they would stick around for the duration of my meditation, making life as difficult as possible, and then just as I was about to finish they would go away cracking smiles and patting each other on the back!
  • I would then emerge from my meditation session rather disturbed, disoriented and confused, and with something of a headache!

After a couple of weeks of this as I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty sick of this, and it really was not much fun. Nevertheless I kind of hoped that it would last a month or so and then they would leave me alone. Unfortunately not, this basic pattern repeated itself for the year that I was living in that small room. Every time I sat down to meditate I had to endure a shower of psychic abuse from these weird old men. I tried to pray them away, do protection circles, to call on the Buddha’s for help, all to no avail. It seemed like it was just up to me to face off with this every day (and often it persisted during the night and when I was out walking etc…) and take what it was teaching me. What did it teach me? Well, that open to debate really, but here are a few things that occur:

  • To endure and to be very resilient. Sounds like a bit of a cliché, but it did make me mentally tougher to sit myself down for hours at a time knowing that basically I was going to get a lot of abuse and very (very) little bliss
  • To direct compassion and care toward myself. I was alone for long periods of time in this rather hostile location, and if I was not going to direct care and compassion toward myself to deal with the trauma, it was not going to come from outside
  • To appreciate the friends I had. I was not able to talk about what I was going through with anyone, it just felt a bit bizarre, but I did learn to deeply value the basic human warmth and care that I received periodically from people I learned from, taught and who otherwise shared my life.
  • The equanimity of a big mind. I could not control what was appearing to my mind (which was all pretty horrible) but I could be aware that all that was happening was happening in the context of an infinitely large experience of spacious awareness that was always the same, always tolerant, always reliable.
  • A deeper sense of trust: I struggled with the feeling that, despite my belief and experience of benevolent higher powers, they basically seemed to have left me literally and completely to the dogs. Over time I came to see that the skills and insights that I was developing in such a hostile environment were actually ones that could not be developed in other ways. So I (not without a certain amount of chagrin) accepted and trusted what was happening as part of a bigger process.

I just want to say that if you take up meditation it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY THAT ANY OF THE ABOVE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU! And if you come to one of my meditation classes the environment is conditioned to be conducive to developing states of inner peace and wellbeing.
However, I thought it might be interesting for me to share a bit every now and again about my own (somewhat eccentric and off the main road) personal path and process.
…and finally to point out the title theme of this article, that your own personal meditation practice, which is to say your own path to genuine inner liberation and enlightenment (in whatever way you understand it) may not be quite what you think it is going to be.

© 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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Four Levels of Integrated Compassion and How to Practise Them

Dear Integral Meditators,

As it is the Easter weekend I thought it might be nice to continue the theme of compassion from last week’s article, but this time look at four types and levels of compassion that, if we understand them can help us to develop our compassion in an integrated and holistic way.

In the spirit of compassion!

Toby

 

 


Four Levels of Integrated Compassion and How to Practise Them.

These four levels of compassion are quite easy to understand, and once understood quite easy to integrate as a part of your daily practice. Practising all four together however means that your compassion has the opportunity to grow and develop each day on multiple levels, rather than just one or two.
The way it is used in this article, compassion essentially refers to a feeling of care and support and understanding that we can use as motivation to relieve the suffering of ourself and others)

Here are the four:

Compassion in the first person
This first type of compassion essentially means practising empathy and extending compassion to ourself each day. We are all going through our various different challenges and sufferings, and just spending a few moments each day recognizing what we are going through and extending the feeling of compassion toward ourself can be deeply helpful and life-giving for our process. Feeding ourself compassion also ensures that we always have (at least a little) compassion to give out to others. Without appropriate self-compassion we can find that the well of compassion for others runs dry pretty quickly.

Compassion in the second person 
This is the practice of compassion for those in our “we-space”, our family, friends, colleagues, people we  include within our circle of concern because they share our life. In a certain sense it is natural for us to extend our compassion to these people, but from another point of view, they are also often the people with whom we get most annoyed, upset and pissed off with. So, mindfully, deliberately extending compassion and empathy to those close to us is a really good way of improving the quality of our daily relationships in the midst of all the natural friction that arises.

Compassion in the third and fourth person
Compassion in third person is for those whom you don’t know, and whom you can observe “objectively”. To have compassion for other humans and animals that we don’t know there has to be that basic connection or empathy arising simply because they are another living creature like us. We don’t have to know someone directly to have compassion for them, and each time we purposefully direct our compassion to others outside of our circle of concern we expand our heart of compassion, and increase our potential both to be happy and to be of greater service to the world in some way…

To practice compassion in the fourth person means to take someone/group of living beings you don’t know and really try and enter into the challenges and pain they experience as if you were themYou are identifying deeply with them and their experience, and on this basis developing compassion and empathy for them. There is and power and urgency in fourth person compassion that is absent in third person compassion.

Compassion from first-to-fourth person basically takes us from individual self-compassion (healthy) and expands our circle of concern, to our family, to the world and to all living creatures progressively. Each level is important and each has its place.

One minute mindfulness
Take 1-5 minutes each day (2/3 times a day if you like) to generate empathy and compassion for yourself and then move progressively to those you are close to, to humanity and the world (in third person), and to all living beings as yourself (fourth person), holding each level of compassion for a short while.
Compassion, besides being a pleasant state of mind to hold also has a powerful healing and motivating power. Practising like this for a few minutes each day can have a powerful positive effect on both the way we are in our life and what we choose to do.

© 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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Building Your Compassion and Reducing Your Own Suffering, Everyday

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you are enjoying the run up to the Easter weekend, I’m currently in the process of planning the classes and workshops for the last couple of weeks in April, which will be about developing an integral perspective on meditation as a practice for physical, mental and spiritual healing, I should have the details ready by next week…

In the meantime this weeks article focuses on a simple method for developing compassion by deriving it directly from our own experience of suffering, I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of the compassionate heart,

Toby

Building Your Compassion and Reducing Your Own Suffering, Everyday

There is a saying that I think comes from the Christian contemplative tradition that goes something like “suffering is the first grace”. One of the things meant by this is that oftentimes it is our suffering that compels us to look deeper into our life for answers. Our pain encourages us to get onto some kind of spiritual, creative or developmental path. If we had not had that pain, we would never get off our developmental ass and would simply remain living a predominantly unconscious life of habit and conformity.
The other opportunity that our suffering gives us is to develop empathy and compassion for those around us who have similar sufferings. Our own specific sufferings can thus act as windows of compassion and care for others if we use them in an appropriate way.

The usual pattern of suffering and pain
Usually our suffering and pain causes us to focus on ourself and shut others out. For example if we are feeling tired and overwhelmed, the instinct can be to cut ourself off from people, and dwell upon our own misery. This is understandable, but very often the very act of shutting ourselves into our own small world further magnifies the pain and makes it even more difficult to deal with and get out of, thus locking us in a cycle or pattern of suffering; suffering leads to a small world intensely focused on ourself, which in turn leads to more suffering and so forth…

Reversing this pattern
Whenever we are suffering for whatever reason, we can take at least a little time in our day to reflect on how our pain actually gives us a lot of common ground with others experiencing the same pain, and deliberately extend a mind of care and compassion toward these people. This expands our mind, makes us less self focused, and as a result of this bigger mind and less intense focus on self we in turn experience our own suffering less intensely. So, we create a win-win pattern.
For example; rather than causing our own broken heart to cause us to descend into a microcosm of self-oriented misery, instead we use our relational pain to develop empathy with and compassion for others in difficult relationship circumstances, thus reducing our own pain as well as cultivating a kinder heart/bigger mind within ourself.

Compassionate intention helps
Even regularly introducing a compassionate intention to your mind like this for short periods of time will start changing what you do and how you experience the world. As well as reducing your pain, you may find that your compassionate intention actually starts to change your actions in a tangible way for the better.

One Minute Mindfulness
For those that wise to work with this practice over the week:

  • Take a period of 1-3 minutes
  • Bring to mind an experience of suffering or pain that you personally are going through
  • Reflect on all the other people in the world (both those you know and those you don’t personally know) who are experiencing similar suffering right now. Allow yourself to empathize with them, and gently develop the thought or wish that they find answers and relief from their pain. Focus on this compassionate intention for a short while.
  • Allow this compassionate intention to inform the rest of your daily activities.

© 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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Re-Contextualizing Our Biological Fear

Dear Toby,

This weeks article looks at biological fear, and how we can work to mindfully re-direct its functioning in our mind so that it is working for us rather than against us in our life. This re-directing of our biological fear and learning to relax into a mind of safety and ease is one of the topics that I will be covering in this coming Saturdays Mind of Ease  workshop.

The topic of this coming Wednesday’s meditation class is the five types of unconscious mind. It is a subject that I have not taught before in a public class, and it it tickles your curiosity, do feel free to come along, even if you have not been able to make all the classes in this series. I think there will be a lot to stimulate you both in terms of you curiosity and your consciousness development!

Yours in the spirit of a mind of ease,
Toby

 

Re-Contextualizing Our Biological Fear

Our biological fear is that part of our body and brains’ programming that essentially works to ensure our survival. It is extremely ancient and the strategy that it has is based around paranoia. Its reasoning is that the more paranoid you are about potential threats to your wellbeing the more likely you are to survive. For most of human kinds history this has worked very well, as up until quite recently there have always been genuine threats to physical survival, such as wild animals and head-hunters who, if you were not alert really could end your life prematurely.
However, in our present time, where our immediate physical surroundings are relatively safe, as often as not our paranoid survival based programming often gets in the way of our happiness and ability to relax and enjoy our daily existence. It unconsciously prevents us from appreciating the good things that we have, exaggerates threats to our safety and wellbeing, focuses on all the negatives in our life, keeps us highly stressed, makes us feel like we are living in a dog eat dog world, and generally living in fear of what could go wrong in the future.
As a result we often feel like we are under some form of physical or psychological attack, even when right at that particular time we are under no immediate threat. I’ve represented this situation in the diagram below. The big circle is the ambient biological fear pervading our mind, and making us feel as if we are under attack all the time, thus unnecessarily adding to rather than subtracting from the real and present challenges that we actually do have in our life.

So what is the solution to this? It is basically a two-fold move that we need to make:

  1. Recognize that we have this biological fear ticking away in the background of our mind, and make sure that we are not letting it run the way we approach to and experience of our life.
  2. Regularly learn to recognize and rest our awareness in the relative physical and psychological safety of the present moment.

This recognition of safety in the present moment then provides a new basic context for our mind and life where the underlying feeling is one of relaxation and ease. Within this new context the other biological and psychological aspects of our experience (including our biological fear) can function appropriately and in their proper place. I’ve represented this in the diagram below, where you can see the recognition of safety in the present as a big circle of awareness that provides a context for the rest of our moment to moment experience. In this new arrangement our biological fear remains in our mind, able to perform its function of detecting threats to our wellbeing and safety, but doing so without inhibiting and blocking other mental and emotional factors in our mind that cause us happiness and wellbeing.

Recommended one-minute mindfulness for the week:
Spend 1 minute, three times a day sitting quietly, following your breathing and recognizing that, right at this moment you are not under any immediate threats to your physical or psychological safety. Rest at ease in this experience and try and take it as much as possible into the rest of your 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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Emotional Detachment, Emotional Repression – The Difference

Dear Integral Meditators,
This weeks article looks at a basic skill for anyone wanting to develop a healthy and harmonious consciousness; the ability to avoid repressing emotion when trying to detach from it! As you can see below I have included a couple of basic diagrams to try and help with the explanation, hopefully you’ll find that they help to clarify your understanding by giving an image to work with…

Yours in the spirit of emotional clarity,
Toby

Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia in For February and March 2013

March 13th – Class 3: Uncovering Treasure; Working with the bright side of your shadow
This class emphasizes the uncovering of the parts of our shadow that are actually GOOD qualities, strengths and gifts within our shadow self that, for one reason or another we have rejected or denied. It may sound strange, but we are often just as inclined to shy away from that within us which makes us powerful and happy as we are from that which we consider ugly and ‘bad’! This class helps us to see this and start to access the power of our “golden shadow”

Saturday  23rd March – 9.30am-12.30pm – Three Hour Workshop: 
Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice


Emotional Detachment, Emotional Repression – The Difference

One of the basic skills that both meditation and mindfulness practitioners are trying to develop is the ability to develop a healthy detachment from challenging or destructive emotions. However, it is all too easy to confuse health emotional detachment with simply the repression of the emotion. Emotional detachment helps us to deal more effectively with the emotion. Emotional repression however only makes the long term effects of the difficult emotion more severe.
What I am going to do in this article with the aid of a couple of (old school) diagrams to help is to clearly explain the difference between the two.

The Dynamic of Emotional Repression.
When emotion is repressed, the conscious mind or self represses, rejects and pushes away the challenging emotion into our unconscious mind, trying to ignore and deny it. The act of repressing the emotion is that firstly the emotion becomes energized and perpetuated, and secondly we loose the ability to see and feel it properly, as it becomes a part of our unconscious mind, not directly visible to our everyday conscious awareness.
You can see this represented in the first diagram:

The Dynamic of Emotional Detachment.
In the dynamic of healthy emotional detachment, the difficult emotion is carefully included within the field of conscious awareness, and not repressed into the unconscious self. As a result the conscious self can still see and feel the emotion clearly, whilst at the same time being detached or dis-identified from it. Because the conscious self is still fully aware of the emotion, it can extend care, attention and inclusivity to the emotion, thus helping it to heal, harmonize and de-toxifyunder the influence of the care of the detached, conscious self.
You can see this dynamic represented in the second diagram here:

Suggested Practicum for the Week
If you have a look at the two diagrams above , I think you can get a feel for the difference between emotional repression and healthy emotional detachment. Using the study of the diagrams as a rough guide you may like to take one challenging emotion of your own and specifically work with it. For example you could take the emotion of embarrassment or excessive self-consciousness as your object of training. Whenever you feel it coming up in your body-mind during social interaction, focus on trying to detach but include it in your awareness with care, rather than repressing, rejecting and exiling it to your unconscious mind.

Understanding the difference between repressing and detaching from emotion is a huge area of consciousness training, and getting it right can really make a HUGE difference to your quality of 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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Four Types of Mindful Coaching Conversation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at one basic integral coaching model that I use both in my own coaching work and for my personal inner growth, it is simple by it has a lot of depth and nuance to explore.
The main meditation classes and course for March are the ongoing Shadow Meditation Classes, and the three hour “Mind of Ease” Workshop on the 23rd March, click on links below for the full details!

Yours in the spirit of deep conversation with our inner selves,
Toby

Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia in For February and March 2013

Wednesday March 6th – Shadow Meditation Class – Healing Wounds: Working with the dark side of the shadow.
In this class we will be working with specifically the dark side of our shadow self; the parts of ourself that we most deeply reject and fear as well as the parts of us that are most deeply wounded. Many people may find this idea intimidating, but it cannot be emphasized enough how liberating this type of work can be once you get some experience of it!

Saturday  23rd March – 9.30am-12.30pm – Three Hour Workshop: 
Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice


Four Types of Mindful Coaching Conversation

When I am in a coaching session with someone, although on one level there is only one conversation going on, on another level there are four basic aspects or dimensions that I try and pay mindful attention to within the conversationthat all give me some information about where the client is coming from and what they might need in terms of advice, guidance and input. It is also a model that I use in terms of my own self care and when looking at what is happening within my own consciousness.

  • The Conscious Self – This is the daily functional self or “persona” of the client. The information that they give me on this levels is basically that which their conscious mind understands to be true with regard to the problem or challenge that they are facing. Generally this information will come through directly and explicitly in the conversation that is being had.
  • The Shadow Self – This is the aspect of the daily self or ego that is hidden to the client as it has been repressed into his/her unconscious mind, and thus is invisible to her. Sometimes I might do an exercise specifically designed to investigate their shadow, but as often as not I’ll get to know the persons shadow implicitly through the nuance of what is said, and the language that is used (or left out) in the conversation, their body language and their response to certain emotional triggers.
  • The Soul – You might think of the soul as the higher or deeper self of the client, and it is from this dimension of their being that they feel the impulse toward establishing deeper meaning and direction in their life, and toward the expression of the principles of goodness, beauty and truth. Quite often the coaching journey that I take with people is in an essential way the journey from a life of “functional meaning” directed by the ego to a life of deeper meaning and orientation based around the souls wish to creatively express goodness, beauty and truth.
  • The Spirit – On one level you might think of the spiritual dimension of the coaching conversation as being that which is concerned with helping the clientconnect to a sense of silence, presence and peace within themselves that helps them negotiate the challenges of their life with less negative stress and a greater sense of creativity and freedom. The spiritual level of the conversation involves the connection to a sense of the deepest levels of both peace and creativity within the client, and helping these to start playing a tangible part in both the conversation as we are having it, and also in their life as a whole.

Four mindful and integral self-coaching questions:
Based around the above model, here are four questions that you might like to ask yourself when presented with a challenge or opportunity in your life:

  1. What is my conscious understanding of the problem or challenge as I understand it?
  2. What hidden emotions, psychological discomfort and agendas do I sense within me that lie beneath my conscious perception of what is happening?
  3. What is my soul demanding of me in this situation in terms of the expression of meaning, goodness, beauty and truth? What opportunities does my soul see here?
  4. Viewed from the perspective of transcendent stillness and peace what is my freest and most creative response to what is happening?

© 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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