The First Task (and Achievement) of Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

At its best meditation is a practice that leads over time to a personal, direct and stable experience of enlightened awareness that is not defined by any religion, theory or philosophy. This weeks article explores the first step…

Toby


The First Task (and Achievement) of Meditation

The first task and result of a decent meditation practice is to create a unified body-mind. This means to become aware that our mind and body are in continuous relationship with each other. When we have a thought in our mind, this translates into a physical energy and posture in our body. For example when our body feels tired or refreshed this easily and often affects the dialog that we are having in our mind.

For most people this relationship, whilst intellectually understood is not seen and experienced in reality; when we are caught up in our mind we become unaware of the posture and energy of our body. When we are focused on our bodily feelings our mind often gets left out.
So then the first task of meditation is to use awareness and mindfulness to see how our mind and body affect each other and to help them to communicate and work together as a single unit or partnership, rather than working against each other and causing each other friction.
When through awareness and meditation we are able to create a unified body-mind then two positive results come:

  1. Our unified body-mind starts to perform at a level that is far greater than our body and mind could ever do as individual units. As a result our capacity for creative growth in all areas of our life increases. Whether in our work, our relationships, sports or spiritual development the capacity to develop and maintain a unified state of body-mind dramatically increases our potential and performance.
  2. The harmony created between our body-mind creates a space of concentrated stillness.  This stillness and harmony gives us a deeper inner peace and stability within which we can start to access higher, deeper and more subtle levels of consciousness that lie beyond our everyday body-mind. Thus it acts as a doorway to the next level of meditative or consciousness development.

An image of the unified body-mind
In integral literature the unified body-mind is sometimes called the Centauric level of development. A centaur is a mythical creature with a human head and torso with the lower body of a horse, half animal, half human. Thus the centaur symbolizes the unity of our animal body and rational mind, our instincts with logic, our conscious mind with our unconscious mind.

How to work on unifying your body-mind each day.
Take a topic in your life. It could be to do with work, relationships, any area you want to investigate.
Bringing to mind the subject and allow in your mind to explore it with thought and emotion. Observe the principal patterns of thought/emotion that arise.
Now turn your attention to your body. Be aware of the energy that arises in your body whilst you have been generating the thoughts and emotions in your mind together with the posture that your body has adopted. Observe how thought and emotions create a language of feelings and postures within the body.

Finally, observe with awareness the co-arising of thoughts/emotions in the mind together with feelings/posture within the body. See how they are a single, unified, symbiotic experience. Take this awareness of your unified body-mind as your object of awareness for the remainder of the time you have set aside.

Working with this exercise even for a short time each day over a period of time will help you to instinctively start to view the body-mind as a unified entity and to experience the benefits that result.

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


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

January Workshops (Below are the dates, times and titles, click on the link for full details)

Wednesday 22nd 7.30-8.30pm – Advanced and Intermediate Level Monthly Meditation Class and Coaching Session with Toby


Special Coaching offer at Integral Meditation Asia for December 2013-January 2014!

Sign up for three 1:1 coaching sessions with Toby (either MeditationStress Transformation or Shadow coaching) for only Sing$435! (Usual price Sing$600).

This is a great opportunity to get some very personally focused coaching for a great price. The only condition is that the three sessions must be completed in the month that they start, so start in December the sessions must be completed in December, likewise start in January the three sessions must be completed in January.

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The Conscious Self in the Landscape of the Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope the first few days of the new year have been good for you, and that as you gaze into the landscape of 2014  you can feel the potential for new levels of growth and connectivity within your inner and outer life. This weeks article is a contemplation on the power that each of us has to mold and define  our daily experience using the power of our conscious mind.

Yours in the spirit of the courage of consciousness,

Toby


The Conscious Self in the Landscape of the Mind
Imagine yourself in a landscape. It could be within wild nature, it could be in a cityscape,  it could be a mixture of both. Feel the largeness of the sky above you and the landscape around you. Sense the relative fragility and smallness of your physical self in relation to the landscape around.

Now imagine that the landscape around you is the landscape of your mind and consciousness. The sky above is the infinite vastness and (relative) abstraction of your spiritual being. The monolithic structures around you such as mountains, oceans and skyscrapers are well established structures in your subconscious mind. The weather and the coming and going of people and creatures are like the thoughts and emotions that come and go in each moment and in each day. Within the landscape of your mind your conscious self is like the tiny, seemingly fragile physical body.

To be a meditator means to build the power of your conscious mind in the face of forces that seem much larger than it so that it becomes the difference, the defining factor in all your experiences.

Building the power of your conscious self means that in the face of past trauma, physical or mental sickness, difficulties in building a future, temptation, peer pressure, overwhelming emotion or any other challenge it is YOU, small and sometimes insignificant as you may feel remain the chooser and the master of your inner landscape.

The path of meditation and the path of courage are not too different.

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

 

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The Mothers of God

“We are all meant to be mothers of God…for God is always needing to be born.” ― Meister Eckhart

Normally in meditative literature we are used to seeing ourselves being compared to children, and the Divine being compared to a mother or father figure. But what if we, as Meister Eckhart does in the quote above, reverse that and instead think of God or the Divine seeking continually to be born into the world and express itself through us?

What if we think of ourselves as the Mothers of God? How does this change our perception of who we are and what we might be capable of?

The question to then enquire in our meditations and contemplation’s for the beginning of 2014 and beyond is

  • “What is it that I feel within me that is seeking to be born and express itself through me at this time?”
  • Or alternatively “What will be my labour of love this year?”

Sit down for a few moments, see yourself as a mother of the divine. Go deep within yourself and see what the Universe has placed there there waiting to be born, wanting to be birthed.

Wishing you all the very best for 2014!

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The Dance of Being and Becoming

Dear Integral Meditators,

The last official Integral Meditations newsletter for 2013. As I look back on the year one thing emerging for me has been a sense of the ongoing dance of being and becoming in life, and that is what this weeks article is about; how to begin working with this idea through image, contemplation and meditation.

 

Yours in the spirit of being and becoming,

Toby


The Dance of Being and Becoming

“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

One simple way of understanding meditation is that it is any practice that enables us to rest, focus within our sense of being-ness and prevent us from being stuck in “doing” mode all the time.
Done well, meditation will not only enhance our sense of being-ness whilst we are sitting, it will also give rise to greater fluency and creativity when we do actually get up and start doing something or becoming someone.
Ideally meditational awareness creates a complementary dance between the experience of stillness and the experience of activity/becoming in our life; stillness enhances and emboldens our becoming, and the activity of becoming enriches and informs our stillness.

Getting stuck in either extreme
To engage in the dance of being and becoming means avoiding two extremes:

  • Becoming over-attached to stillness and tranquility, as some meditators do
  • Becoming over-attached and even addicted to over-activity like much of the rest of the world does!

If the being and becoming in our life is to become a beautiful dance, then our being and becoming need to become like dance partners; each aware of the other, responding to each other’s energy and mood, working together, not against each other.

Dancing into the new year
As a meditation image over the coming days, you might like to see the sense of being and becoming within you as being like two dance partners. Together they create a beautiful sense of movement and energy in your life, but within the centre of the movement there is always a point of stillness, balance and stability.
In your daily life, see your activity as a dance, a perpetual moving across the ever present landscape of stillness and being-ness.

© 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


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

January Workshops (Below are the dates, times and titles, click on the link for full details)

Saturday 11th January, 10am-12pm – Get your meditation practice started now! – A Short Meditation Workshop for Beginners

Sunday 12th January, 9am-1pm  Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and for Self-Healing – A Four Hour Workshop

Beginning Sunday 19th January,  – Meditation and Mindfulness for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – A 5 week online course

Wednesday 22nd 7.30-8.30pm – Meditation training session for advanced/intermediate practitioners with Toby

 


Special Coaching offer at Integral Meditation Asia for December 2013-January 2014!

Sign up for three 1:1 coaching sessions with Toby (either MeditationStress Transformation or Shadow coaching) for only Sing$435! (Usual price Sing$600).

This is a great opportunity to get some very personally focused coaching for a great price. The only condition is that the three sessions must be completed in the month that they start, so start in December the sessions must be completed in December, likewise start in January the three sessions must be completed in January.

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Renewal

Christmas comes around the same time as the winter solstice (northern hemisphere the 21st/22nd December). It is the time when the light of the sun, having reached its lowest ebb begins to gradually become stronger once more, eventually taking us into spring. Here is a simple meditation image that I like to contemplate around this time:

  • Imagine you are a seed in the ground in a winter landscape. Up until now you have been dormant, almost as if dead, but now at this time of the year something awakens deep within you; a spark of light, an awakening of life, right within the centre or core of yourself as a seed.
  • As you meditate on the image of the seed, feel a renewal of light and life deep within your heart of hearts; an awakening of the first seeds of your highest potential as you move forward in to a new cycle of life in the new year.
  • You may not know what this new cycle of life will bring, but for now there is no need to worry about that. For now simply sit quietly and acknowledge the first awakening of this new life deep within you and allow it to nurture and renew you.

Merry Christmas!

Toby

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Boomerang – The Mystical Aspect of Kindness


What happens when you throw a boomerang away from you? Of course we all know the answer, it comes back to you. The mystical aspect of practicing deliberate kindness, compassion or any other related positive act is that it tends to come back to you in unexpected but consistent ways. The upshot of this is that if you want to have kindness and compassion expressed toward you, the best way to achieve this is go out there and start practicing it yourself to others.
You might think of it as a form of enlightened self interest where we are creating a win-win situation;

  • Fulfilling the happiness of others by practicing kindness and consideration for them and,
  •  At the same time helping ourselves create the cause to receive similar treatment now and in the future

Perhaps the most important time to pick up this practice is precisely the time when we feel least like doing it; when we are feeling hard done by, upset or alone or uncared for. If at this time we can remember the boomerang of practicing kindness we can make the effort to go out and express caring for others and ourselves, send something positive out into the world so that we are inviting similar energy to come back to us.
Often an act of kindness has an immediate positive effect upon us; the act of caring itself makes us feel better, or invites a caring response from someone else. It also seems to work in more general ways. For example as a bouncer on the Student Union for three years during my University days I was generally calm and caring. As a result I found myself rarely in fights or trouble, and the punches and head-butts that did get thrown at me always seemed to ‘miss’ (and this was not because I was any good at fighting!)
Another example is I have a tendency to leave my wallet, phone and watch in public places (yes, I know, I’m a mindfulness teacher, I shouldn’t’t be leaving things around all the time!); the toilet in Starbucks, dropping money behind me on the pavement, in the changing room at the sports center and so on…yet they always seem to come back to me in the hand of some kind person.
Of course there is no guarantee that tomorrow I won’t have my wallet stolen and get beaten up in the process, but I do have a strong sense of how my own positive intention actively protects me from the worst that life can throw.

Practicing the boomerang of kindness
So, if you want to take this practice up for the week, just imagine that you have the boomerang of kindness in your hand as you are going about your day. Whenever you have the opportunity, throw it at people. Do it as much as you can, safe in the knowledge that every time you throw it out kindness, consideration and compassion will come back to you some way, somehow.

For more reflections on the practice of kindness see last weeks article on “The Tightrope of Kindness”.

© 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


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

The courses and workshops for January 2014 will be up shortly.


Special Coaching offer at Integral Meditation Asia for December 2013-January 2014!

Sign up for three 1:1 coaching sessions with Toby (either MeditationStress Transformation or Shadow coaching) for only Sing$435! (Usual price Sing$600).

This is a great opportunity to get some very personally focused coaching for a great price. The only condition is that the three sessions must be completed in the month that they start, so start in December the sessions must be completed in December, likewise start in January the three sessions must be completed in January.

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The Tightrope of Kindness and Compassion

The Tightrope of Kindness and Compassion

I think of practicing kindness and compassion as like being on a tightrope, because there are many ways to ‘fall off’! To really practice them consistently and master them takes a lot of discipline and dedication.

How can you fall off?
It’s easy to practice kindness to others (and yourself) when you feel like it, but what about when you don’t feel like it?
Examples of this might be when you have had a tough day, when you are tired, when someone has wounded you with words, when you feel sad or in some way inadequate, when you feel insecure, when the people around us are not demonstrating kindness. These are all situations when it is all too easy to snap at people, to be unkind, to say inconsiderate things, to switch off our capacity to be kind and express kindness and compassion. We all know these types of situation and how easy it is to lapse.

From this we can see that really dedicating oneself to the discipline of kindness is not for the weak of heart or weak of mind. The flip side of this is that one way to build a truly and deeply strong heart and mind is to dedicate ourself to treading the tightrope of kindness each day

Getting on the tightrope each day
Each day you can begin by visualizing the tightrope of kindness and compassion in front of you. The platform at the other end of the tightrope is the end of the day. The game and the challenge is to stay on the tightrope of kindness all day, expressing kindness and compassion in all that you do, without falling off.
The good thing about a visualization meditation of course is that if you do fall off, then in order to get back on you just need to realize that you have fallen off, and mentally ‘get back on’!

© 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


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

The courses and workshops for January 2014 will be up shortly.


Special Coaching offer at Integral Meditation Asia for December 2013-January 2014!

Sign up for three 1:1 coaching sessions with Toby (either MeditationStress Transformation or Shadow coaching) for only Sing$435! (Usual price Sing$600).

This is a great opportunity to get some very personally focused coaching for a great price. The only condition is that the three sessions must be completed in the month that they start, so start in December the sessions must be completed in December, likewise start in January the three sessions must be completed in January.

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On Healing and Meditation

Dear Toby,
I don’t know about you, but for me the run in toward Christmas has been a busy one, and I feel my body and mind a little fatigued as a result! With this in mind in this weeks article I thought I’d share one of the very simple healing meditation forms that I use to keep me pepped up and invigorated through challenging times

As you can also see below I’m also putting out a special coaching offer for December and January, so if you have been wanting some really intensive coaching focus on your life-journey and meditation practice, this is a really good opportunity to take advantage of! The coaching can be done face to face or via skype.

Yours in the spirit of healing and wellbeing,

Toby


Special Coaching offer at Integral Meditation Asia for December 2013-January 2014!

Sign up for three 1:1 coaching sessions with Toby (either MeditationStress Transformation or Shadow coaching) for only Sing$435! (Usual price Sing$600).

This is a great opportunity to get some very personally focused coaching for a great price. The only condition is that the three sessions must be completed in the month that they start, so start in December the sessions must be completed in December, likewise start in January the three sessions must be completed in January.


On Healing and Meditation

Traditionally meditation was and is associated with the quest for enlightenment, and for contact with God. More recently it has drawn attention for its capacity to relieve stress and promote inner calm, but what about its capacity to heal the mind and body of sickness and ailments?
There are various traditions of healing meditation, from Qi gong meditation and the Tantric traditions in the east, to the Quaballistic (Tree of Life) and nature based spiritualities of the west, to the tribal Shamanic traditions that you find across the world.
The meditation that I outline below is a very simple healing meditation that I use quite extensively myself. The technique is simple, but the depth at which you are able to practice it depends upon your capacity as a meditator. It can be very effective if you are a beginner, but as you grow and become more advanced, you will find this technique will grow in power and effectiveness as you grow.

A Basic Healing Meditation Form

Sit on a chair with the soles of your feet comfortably on the floor. Take a few moments to focus on your breathing, calm your mind and bring your attention into the present moment.

Focus on the Earth beneath you. See and feel within the heart of the Earth there is a huge ocean of light and energy. See two streams of this energy rising up and connecting with you through the soles of your feet, filling your whole body with light and in particular forming an intense ball of light and energy within the centre of your chest.
Now focus your attention upon the sky above you, feel light and energy from the stars, sky and universe flowing down into your body and filling your whole body from top to bottom. In particular see it gathering in the centre of your chest so that you now have a very bright and intense ball of light and energy in the centre of your chest filling being fed by the energy of the Earth below and the sky above.
See and feel this ball of light and energy as being alive and pulsing with energy.

Optional: Bring your hands up to the level of your chest with the tips of the fingers a few inches apart, palms facing inward toward the ball of light. Use your palms to ‘hold’ and focus the ball of light, increasing its intensity.

See and feel the ball of light in the centre of your chest ‘pulsing’ energy out into your body, filling the organs, muscles etc from the centre of the body out to the skin with healing light and energy.

If you have any particular organ or area of the body that needs healing, or where you are aware of fatigue or blocked energy, see and feel the light going into that area.

Begin by doing this just for 5-10minutes at a time, build up to 20.

One requirement for this meditation is that you view the Earth beneath you and the sky/stars above as being living things, filled with energy and life force that you can tap into and bring into your own body mind for the purposes of healing.
© 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 Four Essential Stages to Transforming Negative Stress into Positive Energy

Dear Integral Meditators,

What are the essential skills that you need in order to transform negative stress into positive energy? The article below is a summary of the fundamental skills needed to effect transformation.

Yours transformatively,

Toby


The Four Essential Stages to Transforming Negative Stress into Positive Energy

When you think of the word stress, what sort of images, ideas and associations come to mind? It might be a nice idea just to pause for a few moments before you read on and explore this question for a few moments in order to connect to your own personal experience of stress.
This article starts with the assertion that stress in and of itself is a neutral energy that can be experienced in a positive or negative way, and that, to a large degree our experience of stress is defined by our approach to the stressful situation, rather than the situation itself.
So what is positive and negative stress? Here are some working definitions:

  • Negative Stress is: Any form of stress that inhibits our ability to respond of adequately, appropriately and successfully to the challenges of life, and to learn from such challenges
  • Positive stress is: Any form of stress that improves our ability to respond adequately, appropriately and successfully to the challenges of our life, and to learn from such challenges.

So, what then are the four stages of transforming your stress?

  1. You have to believe and understand that your negative stress is simply energy that is moving in an inappropriate pattern – For example, if you are feeling anxious, aggrieved and stressed because you are feeling mis-treated by a colleague at work, you have to take the perspective that the situation is highlighting your own inability to deal with aggressive people. Thus it is offering you a positive opportunity to learn how you can deal with such people and learn to thrive on the pressure of their presence.
  2. You have to cease resisting and fully acknowledge your negative stress – When you feel negative stress, the instinct will generally be to avoid, deny and repress the feelings associated with the stress because they make you feel uncomfortable. Whilst your negative stress remains denied and repressed it cannot be transformed. Thus in order to begin transforming it you first need to acknowledge that you have it, and bring it fully into the conscious mind. Continuing the example of the aggressive colleague, you need to fully acknowledge the feelings of anxiety, fear, anger and intimidation that you may feel around them, and explore fully the discomfort that you feel; you need to become comfortable with the discomfort that negative stress causes you.
  3. You have to have an idea of what your current negative stress can be turned into – With step 2 firmly in place, you can then try and identify ways in which you can re-contextualize the situation so that it becomes positive stress and not negative stress. Using our example, we identify our office colleague as a person who is helping us to become positively and politely assertive, and to learn how to hold our own when in their presence. It becomes positive stress not because all of a sudden we become totally comfortable with it, but because we understand that the experience is taking us somewhere and teaching us something valuable.
  4. You have to practise the transformation repeatedly – With your aggressive colleague, the practice them becomes learning how to become comfortable in their presence, even when they are trying to intimidate, to respond firmly, politely and clearly to their negative comments, and to use them to become stronger, more capable, more evolved human beings. The situation becomes an environment where you learn to become a master of life rather than a victim of it.

For your own practice then, simply select a life experience that is currently negatively stressful for you, and apply these four stages to it, see where they take you….

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When You Are Trapped in a Thorn Bush…

Dear Integral Meditators,

If you’ve been under stress or upset recently, you’ll know how strong the feeling is to say or do something to get yourself out of that painful situation as quick as possible. However, often our impulse reactions make things worse rather than better. This weeks article explains by analogy how we can most effectively and quickly get ourself out of our mental and emotional pain by first becoming still.

Quick reminder for those of you in Singapore, Saturday 7th December, 9.30am-12.30pm: Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment – A Three Hour Workshop, it’ll be more than worth your while!

In the spirit of thoughtful action,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia

Saturday December 7th – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment – A Three Hour Workshop


When You Are Trapped in a Thorn Bush….

…the best thing that you can do first of all is to stop struggling. This stops the thorns digging into your skin, thus preventing the short term pain, and enables you to see carefully what you need to do in order to free yourself one by one from the individual branches, eventually becoming free from the thorn bush and the pain altogether.

When we are in a thorny mental and emotional space, the instinct can be for us to keep struggling and struggling, trying to find a way to free ourselves from the pain. Actually, the best thing you can do in such a situation is to first still your mind, create some inner space and perspective from which you can start to move yourself out of the situation, step by step.

From lose loose to win-win
Feeling pain and conflict in your mind often results in you feeling compelled to act, often unwisely and non-reflectively. These unwise actions in turn create more friction and pain, which in turn compels you to act once more in an unwise manner. A vicious cycle is established between your busy, uncomfortable mind and inappropriate, unhelpful actions.
A habit of stilling your mind and body when you are in pain and simply watching/observing for a while creates a space for your natural intelligence and wisdom to start functioning. This in turn enables you to see what needs to be done clearly so that you can act in ways that are actually going to solve your issues. This creates a virtuous cycle where the stillness of your mind enables you to act wisely, solve your challenges and thus create more peace of mind.

So, the next time your mind feels painful, busy, uncomfortable think of yourself as being in a thorn bush; relax, pause and then when you are ready slowly and mindfully remove each of the branches from around you, one by one.

© 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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