Different Levels Of The Mind; Comparing The Problem Solving Capabilities Of Meditation And Conventional Psychology, And Understanding Why It Is Important Not To Mistake the Two!

Hi Everyone,

Before I begin an quick reminder for those in Singapore: This Sunday 16th January, 9.30-11.30am sees the first of 2011’s Meditation Intensives. In this intensive we will be doing simple meditations based around the principles outlined in my article on “Meditating with the Tao” …If you can make it I hope to see you there!

I was recently sent an article by a friend written in the Guardian newspaper on how mindfulness meditation is proving to be useful for developing overall mental wellbeing, and proving to be effective in helping prevent relapses in psychological disorders such as depression. Anyone who has tried meditation will know how effective it can be for calming the mind, reducing stress and making life altogether more manageable and enjoyable. However, it needs to be clearly understood I think that meditation in and of itself will never be able to replace the ability of good conventional psychology and psychoanalysis to solve many mental and emotional problems. One fundamental reason for this is that the traditional purpose of meditation, and therefore its fundamental technique and outlook, are fundamentally different from that of conventional psychology and psycho analysis.

  • The main purpose and function of meditation is mainly to magnetize our consciousness toward its next higher, or deeper level of development. In this sense it is fundamentally evolutionary and developmental in nature. It definitely has therapeutic side effects, but really it is a science and an art form (see my previous article on “Is Your Meditation Therapy, Artform or Spiritual Practice?” ). Anyone who has interfaced with any spiritual community where meditation is practiced will know first had that it is perfectly possible for a person to be quite a highly realized meditator and fundamentally psychologically dysfunctional!
  • The main purpose of good conventional psychology and psychoanalysis is to fix the parts of our consciousness and mind that have already developed, but have become dysfunctional. The fundamental job of psychology (psyche meaning “soul”) is to fix the ailments of the soul. This means to fix the dysfunctions that we experience in our sensori-motor and emotional beings (psychoses), as well as the dysfunctions and repressions of our cognitive or thinking nature (neuroses). From this definition we can see that the fundamental job of psychoanalysis is therapeutic.

As I mentioned above, meditation does have many therapeutic qualities, but fundamentally its impulse is to magnetize our consciousness to its next level of depth and capacity. It is NOT designed to fix that which is already in the mind but broken. This is the job of psychology. One particular area where meditation will not help, and may make the issue worse, is repression. Meditation may help you live with repression, but it won’t help you see it, dig it out of your consciousness and fix it! This is why people who have been meditating for twenty years often come to the painful realization that they still suffer from anxiety, depression and other issues, and simply doing more meditation is not the solution…

I am aware that there is some cross over between meditation and psychology, for example:

  • Cognitive psychology and positive psychology can stimulate a person’s mind toward the next level of inner growth
  • The great world spiritualities are often accompanied by a quite complex psychological outlook. For example in the Tibetan Buddhist Tradition that I received my meditative education in there was a lot of studying the inner dynamics of the mind, and our psychological self. However, this is not the same as conventional therapeutic psychology, and does not contain techniques or insights for a lot of fundamental psychological malaise, the most obvious example being repression.

So the basic message of the above is that meditation and good modern psychology need to go together to createbalanced, integrated personal growth (which is one reason why I offer two types of coaching; meditation coaching and transpersonal (as in transpersonal psychology) coaching).

A final point I want to end with is that, although meditation does not solve all our mental problems per se, one thing that is does do is activate our minds natural capacity for self-healing, and in and of itself this IS powerful medicine.

Thanks for reading,

Yours in the spirit of integration,

Toby 

PS: I’ll finish off the second part of the “Meeting your needs through meditation” next week.

PPS: If you are not aware already, I have a Mental Fitness blog where I tend to write most of my psychologically based and positive thinking articles. Feel free to check it out!

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

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Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 1 – Looking at How You Can Meet Your Needs Through Meditation

Hi Everyone,

One reason why people find it difficult to hold down a regular meditation practice is that it is very easy for meditation to get knocked down our priorities list. It seems like there are so many things that need our attention. It is easy to think that we have so many “important” priorities that we can put off meditating until tomorrow, and so it goes on. We never really get serious or consistent about our meditation practice because it is not enough of a priority.

So, what I am going to do in this and next week’s article is have a look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and see how meditation can help with these basic needs.  If we have a clear idea about how meditation helps us with our human needs, then we will keep it high on our priority list and make sure that we do it! 

A quick outline of Abraham Maslows hierarchy of human needs, he starts with the most basic first, and then ascends in terms of depth and complexity:

  1. Physiological needs – Food and drink
  2. Security needs – Shelter, physiological safety
  3. Belongingness and love needs – Affiliation, acceptance, affection
  4. Esteem needs – Competence, approval, recognition
  5. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – Knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
  6. Self Actualization

How meditation helps us with these basic needs:

Needs 1&2: Physiological and security needs

I am guessing that if you are reading this article, you will have your basic food, drink and shelter needs being met. You may not be in Buckingham Palace, but you aren’t homeless either right? Although many of us have our basic needs met, many of us remain stuck psychologically in “survival” mode, fighting our way through a hostile universe oblivious of the good fortune of having our basic needs met.

Meditation helps us with this by helping our mind to be calm enough to appreciate and enjoy the fact that our survival needs have been met. Meditation gives us the presence of mind to enjoy life’s simple pleasures; Food, drink, shelter and a basic quality of life. Without peace of mind studies show that those in first world countries are no happier than those in 3rd world countries. Meditation makes sure this does not happen to you! 

Need 3: Belongingness and love needs

A daily meditation practice is a statement to yourself that you are important and lovable enough to deserve happiness and peace of mind. Belongingness and love needs are often projected outward onto other people, but in reality our primary love relationship is with ourself. If we get this right it will help our love relationships to others.

Meditation also puts you in touch with a source of love inside you that might be termed as “Universal” or unconditional. This love starts to rise up in our mind whenever we truly touch mental peace and calm (see last weeks article on the “Two Main Lessons of Love”). You deserve to receive love every day right? So give yourself that pleasure by sitting down and doing a bit of meditation every day! One final point here, meditation by its nature makes us more mindful, relaxed and aware. This quality of mind helps us to see that there is love being directed toward us all the time by our friends, family and colleagues. A relaxed, meditative mind can open to this love and receive it deeply into our being, instead of shutting it out.

So, next week I’ll write a few thoughts on needs four, five and six, but I think if you contemplate the above three, there is plenty of reason to renew your determination to find time and space for at least a little meditation each day! 

Thanks for reading,

Yours in the spirit of the harmonious meeting of our higher and lower needs!

Toby 

PS: Two opportunities for meditative activities over the next week:

  1. I will be facilitating a Qi Gong workshop for beginners this Sunday, 9th January. Qi gong is a whole world of meditative movement exercises for health and wellbeing, if you have been interested in learning how to start a practice, this is an ideal opportunity!
  2. Next Tuesday sees the start of a new series of Tuesday classes entitled  “Finding Your Outer Balance, Inner Harmony and Spiritual Centre Through Meditation on the Tao, Yin Yang and the Five Elements”. Recordings will be available if you are interested but not living in Singapore!

 PPS: Relating to point 2 above, I have started a new series of articles on meditating with the Tao and Yin Yang on my Qi gong blog. You can find the first article HERE.

Like this blog, if you wish to receive automatic updates of these free articles from my Qi gong site, then you can simply sign up on the top right hand side of the page after you read the article on the Tao and yin/yang.

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

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The Two Principle Lessons of Love

Golden TreeI was thinking the other day that there are two main lessons that we need to learn about love. I think if we get these right, then other aspects of our relationship to love and loving will tend to be good.

  • The first is that we are loved
  • The second is that we are love

We Are Loved

Knowing that we are loved comes from two levels.

  • On a conventional, everyday level remembering that we have friends, family, pets, colleagues and so on who love us, and allowing ourselves to open to and receive that love, rather than unconsciously blocking it out or forgetting about it.
  • On a more spiritual level it means remembering (and trying to experience in meditation everyday) that as a child of the Universe, a child of the Planetary Being, a child of God, or whatever way in which you conceive the forces of the Cosmos, we are loved. If you sit still in meditation and allow your mind to open to it, you will feel the conscious spiritual love of the Universe flowing into you. Its free, and its unlimited, unlike oil and other material commodities!
  • So, on a conventional and spiritual level we are loved

We Are Love

This second understanding takes it a step further to the realization that our very nature is love and to love. Again you can look at this on two levels.

  • On a conventional level the impulse to create, to form relationships, to nurture, to bond are a part of everyone. These are all characteristics of love, and we all have them. Therefore we are all love. Sometimes these impulses get misguided or expressed in inappropriate ways, but fundamentally love is at their core.
  • On a deeper level, if you sit in meditation each day and practice receiving the love of the Universe, there will come a time when the distinction of you as the receiver of love and the Universe as giver starts to drop away. The subject object duality will gradually dissolve and you will simple become the love of the Universe, full stop. At this point you become a gateway through which the creative and loving power of the Universe can flow forth into creation, you have become love.

Simple Breathing Meditation on receiving and being love.

  1. Sitting quietly in meditation, as you breathe in know that you are loved and breathe in that love, RECIEVING it deeply into your being. Follow this pattern for a few breaths.
  2. Then as you breathe out, practice BEING love. As you breathe out feel love and joy radiating out from your heart and touching others. If you like you can visualize particular people or beings such as your friends, family or pets. Alternatively you can simply practice being and giving love to all beings, with no one specific in mind.
  3. Once you are used to both forms of breathing described in sections 1&2, you can practice combining them together. As you breathe in feel yourself receiving love. As you breathe our practice being love, and giving it to all beings.
  4. End with a short period of just simply sitting in silence and being love.

Thanks for reading and all the very best for your inner growth 2011!

Toby

 

© Toby Ouvry 2010. You are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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Christmas Post: Three of the Central Teachings of Jesus, Three Types of Love to Practice, and a Winter Solstice Meditation

Hi Everyone,

Well, its Christmas time, which is essentially the celebration of the birth of Jesus, so I thought it might be a nice time to reflect on his teachings in this post. Cynthia Bourgeault in her book The Meaning of Mary Magdeline: Discovering the Woman at the Heart of Christianity (recommended reading) outlines three of the central mystical teachings of Jesus. When I say mystical teachings I mean instructions that are meant to be practiced in order to bring about inner transformation:

1) Gnosis– The letting go of, or detaching from the egoic self and its self-centred concerns

2) Abundance  – Letting go of the concerns of the egoic self enables us to access the unlimited resources of the Kingdom of Heaven (found within our own hearts), thus tapping into a source of unlimited of universal abundance

3) Relational Love– This is basically the special ability of learning to love in relationships (to lovers, family, friends, pets etc…) to teach us how to spot and let go of our egoic self (thus teaching us Gnosis), and thereby access a direct personal experience of the abundance of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is something that we find within ourselves. There is something about the nitty gritty of learning to love in relationships that opens our hearts in a real and tangible way that cannot be achieved by loving God in an abstract or meditative way. 

Three types of relational love

Christmas, lots of opportunities to meet with family and friends and practice relational love. Here are three main types of relational love, they all really interpenetrate each other in an organic way:

  • Eros, or erotic love– The creative and passionate love most commonly associated as being between lovers, but can also exist in other situations. For example if we have someone with whom we share a common cause, our creative efforts to further that cause could be considered a type of non-sexual Eros in relationship.
  • Agape– The love that empathizes with others,  feels keenly their suffering and practices compassionate understanding and care.  The classic image of this would be the mother caring for her  child, but it infuses any situation where we open our hearts to others with compassion.
  • Philia– So called brotherly or sisterly love, found between literal brothers and sisters, spiritual brother and sisters, between good friends.

Christmas can be a time to consolidate and rejoice in all of these wonderful expressions of relational love.

Winter Solstice Meditation recording

Christmas was superimposed on an older pagan festival, the Winter Solstice, which is celebrated on the 21st/22nd December. Last Tuesday We did a Winter Solstice meditation which you can listen to here:

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Or download the entire meditation and talk here:

Winter Solstice talk and medi Dec 21 2010

All proceeds from the class went to the Riverkids Project , a charity dedicated to stopping child trafficing in Vietnam. If you feel guided to, you could spread the love a little more this christmas by visiting their website and making a donation 😉

Thanks for reading, and have a great Christmas!

Yours in the spirit of relational love,

Toby

Overview of upcoming events, classes and workshops with Toby in January

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On meditation and miracle powers

Hi Everyone,

As a meditation teacher I am regularly asked by enthusiastic beginners whether if they meditate they are going to develop miracle powers like telepathy, clairvoyance and the like. In the course of the conversation it quite often also comes out that these people are also struggling mightily to deal with stress and anxiety in their life. So, with this in mind here are a few things to think about:

1)      Before you have got on top of your daily stress and anxiety, the main objective of your meditation should be to manage that stress and anxiety effectively, and thus to develop a happier, more grounded and centred life. This is the basis upon which you can be of greater service both to yourself and others.

If you think your life is stressful now, try adding the additional stress, energy and information overload of any kind of any substantial inner power, and you will just find a new, possibly dangerous level of stress.

2)      You are not going to develop startling new inner powers before you become fully aware of the way in which telepathy, synchronicity and other inner powers are ALREADY operating in your life.

Start to notice what is already there by learning to observe and listen to the dynamics of each moment of your life closely and attentively. When you become more conscious of what inner powers are already under your nose, then that conscious awareness will help you grow them carefully and consistently.

3)      Don’t think the development of inner powers is going to make your life any easier. They bring challenges and complexities. This is why you need to focus on point 1 above, and not hope for too much too soon.

4)      Be prepared to work very thoroughly on your psychological baggage. Psychosis, neurosis, or existential crisis plus greater inner powers generally equals bigger psychosis, bigger neurosis and bigger existential crisis! You need to be working to:

a)       Have a right relationship to yourself, and

b)      Becoming stabler, saner and increasingly loving/compassionately motivated to effectively use any powers you might develop.

5)      Inner powers are real, but they are frankly only really useful to a psychologically stable, developmentally mature person. The best advice is to work on a disciplined daily meditation practice, and on your strength and modesty of character. Then let your inner powers find you in their own time!

Yours in the spirit of the journey,

Toby

PS: If you are in Singapore on the evening of Tuesday 21st December, please feel free to join us for the Winter Solstice Charity Meditation!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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Two things that you need to do before you sit down and start to meditate

Firstly, before you do the two things, you need to actually set aside the time to meditate, and, when the appointed time comes you need to sit yourself down and get on with it!

There seems to be a never ending stream of excuses that our distracted mind uses to avoid the things that will make us most happy, like meditation, so take a NO EXCUSES APPROACH!

Having done this and sat down, here is what you need to do:

1)      Create a safe space – Decide that for the next 5, 10, 15 minutes, or however long you have set aside, you are in a safe space where you can relax. Draw the boundary around your meditation time. After you arise from meditation, the world may indeed come to an end, or your worst fears may be realized. Alternatively, when you get up from meditation you may win the lottery, or get asked for a date by George Cluny, Yelena Isinbeyeva (or insert God/Goddess of choice). The point is that for the time you have allocated for your meditation is down time, relaxation time, YOUR time, time to be present with yourself and not worry about the past or future.

2)      Make a strong decision to focus! – Beyond relaxation, meditation is also about building the strength and focus of your mind. It is like inner weight training or fitness training where your mind is building muscle and stamina. If you start your meditation wishy-washy, then you are probably going to continue that way, so it is really important to get focused and stay focused during the short period of time you have set aside for your meditation practice.

Two life skills that you will develop from this:

If you practice like this at the beginning of your meditations you will learn

1)      That it is possible to create a “safe space” at many times in your day, not just when you are meditating

2)      How to FOCUS. Now, there are many more things that could be said about focus, but for now let’s just reflect on the fact that ALL SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE, IN WHATEVER DISCIPLINE KNOW HOW TO FOCUS!

That last sentence is a good object of meditation in itself…

Yours in the spirit of relaxed focus,

Toby

PS: For those of you in Singapore, this coming Tuesday 21st December there will be a special Winter Solstice meditation at Sanctuary on the Hill with myself. All proceeds will be going to the River Kids Project. See you there!

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Free meditation recording on passion

Here is a free meditation recording on passion from the classes on Romantic Love that I recently did, enjoy!

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With metta,

Toby

© Text and audio Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not use without permission

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Is your religion esoteric or exoteric?

 

For the purposes of this conversation, lets say there are here are two types of religion that can be distinguished, exoteric and esoteric

  • Exoteric religion is the outer form of religion, the unique stories and myths behind each of the great faiths, Chrisitanity, Buddhism, Islam and so on…
  • Esoteric religion is the inner expereinces that one can achieve through the spiritual PRACTICES that are taught by the great religions, and also the less well known ones. Sometimes esoteric religion is termed simply “Spirituality”

Exoteric religion is DIVERGENT. That is to say that generally each of its stories are different. Externally for example Buddhism, Paganism, Taoism and Buddhism all look different. Almost inevitably people who are only familiar with exoteric religion will see their religion as different from and better than other religions. Exoteric religion when misunderstood can  be deeply divisive and result in war, hostility and agression as we all know.

Esoteric religion is CONVERGENT. This means to say that when you study esoteric religion, what you tend to find is common or universal patterns amongst all the different faiths and religions of the world. Esoteric religion, meaning inner spiritual experiences resulting from engaged spiritual practices reveals common, universal patterns that unite and bring together the diverse religions of the world.

Esoteric religion has become known as the “Perinneal Philosophy” or “Perinneal Religion”, meaning the common religion and spirituality that we all share.

What are the basic patterns and insights of the Perinneal Philosophy? Here is a brief summary by Ken Wilber, from his book “Grace and Grit”chapter 11:

“Let me start with a short and simple list. This is not the last word on the topic, but the first word, a simple list of suggestions to get the conversation going. Most of the great wisdom traditions agree that:
1. Spirit, by whatever name, exists.
2. Spirit, although existing “out there,” is found “in here,” or revealed within to the open heart and mind.
3. Most of us don’t realize this Spirit within, however, because we are living in a world of sin, separation, or duality — that is, we are living in a fallen, illusory, or fragmented state.
4. There is a way out of this fallen state (of sin or illusion or disharmony), there is a Path to our liberation.
5. If we follow this Path to its conclusion, the result is a Rebirth or Enlightenment, a direct experience of Spirit within and without, a Supreme Liberation, which
6. marks the end of sin and suffering, and
7. manifests in social action of mercy and compassion on behalf of all sentient beings.

Does a list or something like it make sense to you? Because if there are these general spiritual patterns in the cosmos, at least wherever human beings appear, then this changes everything. You can be a practicing Christian and still agree with that list; you can be a practicing Neopagan and still agree with that list.”

So, which religion and spirituality are you practising? Exoteric or esoteric?

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first!

PS: A brief reminder of this coming Saturday December 11th’s workshop “Three simple steps to managing stress through meditation” Follow the link for full details.

 

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One minute meditation on concentration

How long does it take to expereince the benefits of meditation? Oftentimes it can be shorter than you think. Just taking a minute at strategic intervals in your day can really make a difference!

Now and again I intend to post some “One minute meditations” on the blog. Here is the first on concentration, which was the meditation topic that recieved the most votes last week when I asked on the Facebook page. Enjoy!

Have a great day filled with relaxed concentration!

Toby

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PS: Please note the upcoming 90 minute mini workshop entitled “THREE SIMPLE STEPS TO MANAGE STRESS THROUGH MEDITATION” on the 11th December. Very suitable for beginniers, and he proce includes both a recording of the workshop and three short “five miute meditations” in MP3 format.

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Act your rage – Three useful ways of thinking about and using your anger

One of the things that was emphasized in my Buddhist meditation training (and this holds true for most contemplative spiritualities) was that there is really nothing useful about anger, it was entirely destructive. This is further backed up by statements such as “one moment of anger is enough to destroy the merit (good karma) that you can create over aeons” and “a moment of anger can cause you to have a hundred negative rebirths in the future”.

My present take on anger is that it is a powerful emotion that is basically neutral in nature, and that can be used in positive or negative ways.

Anger is NOT the same thing as raw aggression, cruelty, bullying, hatred, acting to deliberately harm. It can just as easily be expressed as personal power, positive assertiveness, the powerful/wrathful expression of compassion and so on…

With this in mind, here are three useful analogies* for what positive anger can be like:

  • Anger is the T cells, or white blood cells of our psychological immune system – It is the aspect of our mind that becomes alert when there is a threat to our wellbeing, and acts to defend
  • Anger is the protector of our psychological boundaries – When there is someone or something that is causing  an abuse of our psychological self, positive anger can act to defend and ward off that abuse and restore appropriate boundaries
  • Anger is like an illuminating fire – Yes anger is hot like a fire, but it can also be illuminating like fire. In Tibetan Tantric Meditation the higher expression of anger is said to be ‘clarity’. If we can separate our anger from our confusion, sometimes we say things in a much clearer and more wise way than we would ever have the courage to do without the impetus of anger

Dealing with anger is not easy, but that does not give us an excuse to shy away from the responsibility that we have for harnessing it to our compassionate impulses and using it for the best and highest purposes of ourself and the World.

*These analogies if first heard from the work of Ken Wilber and Robert Masters

Related article:

In order to find real happiness, first you have to get mad as hell!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first

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