Bridging the gap between loving self and loving others; the three levels of self-love

Like the other posts in the series of articles on spiritual intelligence (where I have divided other topic or practices into three), in this article I want to outline three levels of self-love. One of the points in doing this is to illustrate how the practice of self-love goes through developmental stages as our consciousness evolves.

For self-love I am going to call these three stages the following; the first stage moves us from the “topdog undedog” mentality to self-acceptance. The second stage sees a movement from self-acceptance to self-love. The third stage sees a movement to transcendent or transpersonal levels of self love that I call “Love for self-as-the-World”.

Stage 1: From the “top dog underdog” mentality to self-acceptance – Actually, to get to the “top dog underdog” stage you have to have developed beyond the very low levels of relationship to self and life which are basically, “I suck” and “life sucks”!

When you get to the topdog underdog stage, basically you are continuously comparing yourself to others; If you are better than them (let’s say richer) then you feel good about yourself. If you are worse than them (let’s say poorer or less expensive car), then you feel bad about yourself, the worthless underdog. Life is spent see-sawing between feeling ‘better than’ others or ‘worse than’ others, self-loathing manifests easily, insecurity abounds. Make a mistake or do something dumb, and you will attack yourself big time!

So, the first level of self-loving sees a journey from this roller coaster ride of the topdog underdog mentality to a stable state of relationship to self. We are able to accept ourself as we are, without comparing ourself to others or giving ourself an overly hard time when our behaviour does not match our expectations.

This is NOT to say that we do not have goals and expectations for ourself, just that we do not easily move into states of self-criticism and self-loathing when those goals are sometimes not met. Actually self-acceptance when practiced rightly enables us to enhance our ability to achieve our goals and change our behaviours for the better.

Stage 2: From self-acceptance to self-love – This second stage sees the movement within our relationship to ourself from simplay accepting who we are to actively LIKING who we are. There is a big difference. Self-acceptance implies a tolerance which is obviously a good thing, and much better than getting caught in self loathing all the time. Liking ourself means that there is a sense of warmth, enjoyment, rejoicing and enthusiasm that we feel in our relationship to ourself. We become our own best friend, which is a tremendous asset as we are the person that we have to spend 24 hours of our day with!

Stage 3: Love for self-as-the-World – This stage actually looks at how our self-sense itself transforms as we evolve, and particularly as we meditate and spend time with and in expanded states of consciousness.

At this stage our self-sense has expanded to the degree that our idea of our “body” is actually Planet Earth, our sense of “mind and spirit” are the mind and spirit of Gaia, and all the living creatures contained within her (the Planets) consciousness.

As this stage self interest and the good of others are no longer in conflict. The self that we think of when we think “I love myself” is actually the Planetary Being, as opposed to the small self encased within the skin of this one small body. This third stage is what you might call the transcendent, transpersonal or enlightened stage of self-love, the end goal of the practise itself.

© 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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The three levels of gratitude

Gratitude is mentioned a lot as a spiritual practice, and with good reason as it is an important one. What you may not have heard before is that gratitude goes through stages of growth, it is not just one practice that stays the same thru-out our journey, it evolves as we evolve. With this in mind here are three basic stages of gratitude that we need to pass through:

  1.  Ingratitude or an absence of gratefulness – At this stage our ego is very contracted and small in its thinking, the things that we have to be grateful for we very quickly take for granted, we have no idea or feel for the interconnectedness of the web of life and the kindness that we are shown directly and indirectly by so many beings on so many levels. We live our lives in a state of perpetual discontent and “lack”. Our mind is like a closed window to the light and grace of gratitude.
  2. Conscious gratefulness for the manifest good in our life – The second stage of gratefulness is where we have developed some form of evolutionary aspiration in our mind, and we recognize the benefits, both for ourself and others, of appreciating the good, the beautiful and the true in our life. Each day is spent consciously taking into account what we have to be grateful for and reminding ourselves not to slip back into a state of taking-things-for-granted-ness. This stage of gratefulness sees a battle between the consciously grateful mind that is growing and evolving in our life, and the old ungrateful ego-contraction that it is trying to replace (and that tends to be stubborn as a mule!)
  3. Spontaneous gratefulness – This third stage of gratefulness arises from a direct perception and experience of our living relationship as an individual to the evolving Life-force of the Universe. More traditionally you could call this a gratitude for being in a living, participating relationship to God and the wonder of creation.

Whether you choose the words Life, the Universe, God or otherwise, the subjective experience here is basically a spontaneous sense of gratitude that arises effortlessly due to our constant connection and ‘simpatico’ with the dancing energies of life and the universe as they continue on the journey and adventure of evolution. At this stage gratitude has become a state of being rather than something that we have to battle constantly to maintain.

Initially we have to work quite hard to journey from stages one to stage two. After a period of years, depending upon our effort we will find ourself starting to ‘peak experience’ into level three for short periods of time, then regressing back. Eventually we are able to stabilize our mind at level three as our “default gratitude attitude”, at which point we can truly have said to have a realization of gratitude.

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

Upcoming events with Toby:

Tuesday 7th September  evening meditation class – Spiritual intelligence as a path to personal to personal, integrated enlightenment

New series of Three Body Qi Gong™ classes in September and October

Article on “What is Three Body Qi Gong™ (and why you should be interested in practicing it)”

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Finding the balance between freedom and control

There is an eternal balancing act that we all have to find in our life between freedom and structure, or freedom and control. This basic polarity works on all levels. For example:

  • On the physical level if you want the freedom of good health it is important to have the structure of a balanced exercise routine and diet
  • If you want the freedom to engage in a creative project (musical, artistic etc…), you need to have the discipline and organizational ability to find a source of financial stability in your life that will facilitate that.
  • If you want the mental freedom to experience pleasant feelings and thoughts in your mind, you need to have the inner structures/control in and of your mindset to deal with negative and fear based thoughts.
  • If you want the spiritual freedom to enjoy the bliss of your pure, natural consciousness free from conceptions, you need to have the discipline, control and structure of a daily meditation practice.

So, basically on every level you find this interplay between freedom and control in your life, and mastering that balance is an ever changing and fundamental part of your overall process of integrated mastery…

As I final point I would like to point out a three level structure for mastering the balance between freedom and control (I seem to have been working a lot in threes in the last few articles!):

  1. In the beginning we oscillate between freedom and control; either we are “letting ourselves go” and losing our structure, control and discipline, or we are “getting back on the wagon” and re-asserting control of our life, meditation practice etc…
  2. On the next level we start to enjoy the freedom of control, we appreciate that freedom is facilitated by a certain degree of healthy control and structure in our life. At this stage freedom and control move into increasing levels of harmony and mutuality with each other.
  3. On the third level Freedom becomes control and control becomes freedom. Discipline, control and structure become effortless expressions of our freedom of choice and creativity. Our actions become naturally and beautifully controlled and this in and of itself is an expression of our inner freedom and sense of liberation.

© 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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Understanding three different levels of spiritual intelligence and wisdom

In general you could say that our spiritual intelligence is a line of development in ourselves like any other (such as cognitive or emotional) that starts at zero (no spiritual intelligence) and matures as we grow as a person. In this context you could say that spiritual intelligence is that part of our self that addresses the question “What is of ultimate importance or meaning in my life?”

You can also define spiritual intelligence as a is a high level of intelligence or wisdom that we are trying to bring all of our other intelligences up to as we grow. If you define it this way you can measure the growth of spiritual intelligence in three stages as follows:

Pre-individuation – This is a stage of life and education where the focus is on receiving wisdom, knowledge and understanding that from our ancestors and elders, from both conventional and non-conventional sources. At this stage we have not really distinguished ourselves as a fully developed individual, we are very much at the stage of absorbing and assimilating information.

Individuation – This second stage of growth is where we sift through th information and knowledge that we have received from stage one, choosing to accept some of it and reject other aspects of it. This process of consciously deciding that which we accept and that which we reject and articulating it in our life and personal philosophy makes us into an individual, hopefully a considered and well rounded one (!)

Trans-individuation – When we reach this stage our intelligence and wisdom have matured to a spiritual level. At this level we no longer experience ourself as the owner of a personal wisdom and intelligence, rather the wisdom and intelligence of the Universe or God moves through us. at this stage we transcend ourself as an individual. Our mind and body become a vehicle for the wisdom and transcendent loving intelligence of the divine, which manifests on the Earthly plane through us.

So, in summary the journey to true spiritual intelligence involves:

1. Digesting the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors

2. Fully articulating ourself as an individual

3. Going beyond our individual ego and becoming a vehicle through which transcendent wisdom and intelligence can function in as uninhibited a manner as possible.

A final point here which is worth reflecting on; when we get to level three, trans-individuation, this does not mean that we loose our uniqueness or individuality (which is a common mis-conception), rather that our individuality is transcended and then subsequently included within a much larger and more expansive sense of self. Indeed, as we continue to go beyond our individuality, ideally our individuality will continue to grow, expand and develop in a holistic and healthy way. What I am saying here is a little bit different from the traditional view of enlightenment, where often the individuality is viewed as “obsolete” or meaningless once enlightenment has been attained.

If you found this article interesting, you might consider attending the upcoming series “Meditation techniques for developing your spiritual wisdom and intelligence” that I will be starting this coming Tuesday 24th August, available as recordings for those not able to attend in person.

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

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The three stages of meditation practice as an art-form

The first stage is using meditation as an art-form to learn to calm the mind, overcome distractions and develop inner peace.

The second stage is using the inner peace and focus you get from the first stage in order to deepen your experience of concentration, awareness and insight.

The third stage is accessing and stabilizing the subtle inner abilities/gifts that you become aware of through stages one and two; understanding what they and learning how to apply them practically/creatively as a way of being of service to the world.

The first stage you could call the art of peace, the second stage you could call the art of concentration and insight, the third stage you could call the art of creative or spiritual service.

Let’s say you start meditating tomorrow, for twenty minutes a day for the next fifteen years. By the end of the first five years you will have probably become competent at stage one. By the end of ten years you will probably have become competent at stage two. By the end of fifteen years you will have a working knowledge of stage three. This will give you a foundation. 

Fifteen years may seem like a long time, but if you are persistent for the first two or three years, it may well be that you will have ceased being all that goal oriented and learned to simply enjoy the journey that the art of meditation offers to the human traveller.

As the practitioner of any genuine art form will tell you, there are no short cuts to genuine mastery! 

PS: Brief plug for the new series of meditation classes on “How to develop our spiritual intelligence and inner wisdom” starting this Tuesday 24th August, I guarantee it will be of interest to any meditator or aspiring meditator. For those not in Singapore it is available as a series of three recordings. 

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

Related article: Is your meditation a form of therapy, and art-form or a spiritual practice?

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How the balance between doing and being evolves as you evolve your consciousness

For many people interest in meditation comes from the stress of the prevalence of doing and achieving in contemporary society. Because there is so much busy-ness and activity, we feel a need to retreat into a state of pure being-ness where we can rest and recuperate our energies before returning to the fray of our daily life. Meditation provides us with regular contact with such a being-state.

For such a person the balance of doing and being is found by oscillating between the activity of their daily life and tasks, and their daily meditation practice when they emphasize relaxation, beingness, non-doing and non-thinking.

However, if such a person persists in their meditation, there will come a point where they will start to observe that the state of being-ness that they experience in meditation starts to bleed into their active states; they are able to maintain a sense of centre and balance even when under stress or in conditions of relatively frenetic activity.

At this point the meditator has evolved their sense of doing and being. What they have started to see is that doing is really a sub-set or sub-category of being. Now in their life they have two types of being-ness; in meditation they practice pure-being, and in their daily life they practice doing-being. Doing-being is a far less stressful way of doing things than a state of doing that is disconnected to our sense of being.

If the person persists in their practice then increasingly they will find that their actions become a vehicle for their being-ness, that is to say that the actions of the person are always accompanied by a certain quality and depth which makes the actions themselves causes of happiness and balance.

In summary, three stages of the evolution of the balance between doing and being:

  • Meditation as a way of cultivating our being-ness so as to balance all the busy-ness, stress  and action in our life
  • Doing becomes a sub-set or sub-category of being; In meditation we practice pure being-ness, in daily life we practice doing-being
  • Doing becomes an expression of our being

© 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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From paranoia to pronoia and transnoia – The journey to perceptual enlightenment in three steps

Three concepts that describe three states of perception:

  • Paranoia – When we see a world that is attacking us and out to get us. This perception arises from a mind that is seeing the world from the perspective of its own fear, anger, jealousy and other negative mindsets
  • Pronoia – When we see a world filled with love and with people, places and things that are worthy of that love. This perception arises within us when our own hearts and minds are filled with love, kindness and care
  • Transnoia – When we see a world where everything is a manifestation of the divine or transcendent, and everything that happens to us is helping us to awaken and grow in the light of this truth. This perception arises from a condition of faith in a higher power than us that is good, but also from wisdom, the ability to see that the challenges we have to face in our life conform to a meaningful pattern that, if we have the presence of mind to face up to will help us grow, evolve and eventually reach our enlightenment.  

One way of viewing the path to enlightenment could be a journey from the nightmare world of paranoia to the “heavenly” states of mind of pronoia and transnoia.

Meditation for introducing pronoia and transnoia into the heart of our paranoia.

Using your breathing as an anchor for your awareness. Recall times or conditions in your life when you have felt deeply surrounded by your own paranoia. Feel into those times and states as realistically as you can without losing your sense of centre.

Having done this, now introduce the perspective of pronoia into the meditation. See the circumstance and yourself though the eyes of love, kindness and compassion. Observe how this perspective starts to alter your view and perception of the situation.

Finally introduce the perspective of transnoia – See what is happening as a part of a larger plan created by a benevolent higher power (call it God, Buddha, the Tao or word of your choice) that is helping you to develop and refine your character, and move toward your own eventual enlightenment and fully awakened state. Observe how this perspective changes your experience of the situation. 

This is a simple exercise that you can do either in a formal sitting meditation or in a more casual, contemplative way when you have a few moments. The main thing is to start seeing how you can work with them in a practical way to alter your experience of your life. 

© 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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Why worry when you can pray: A five minute active meditation for overcoming worry and anxiety

How often do you spend time feeling worried and anxious about things in your life that you care about but cannot control? It can often be much more beneficial, rather than struggling with the worry to simply acknowledge it and then pass it over to a higher power through a simple, improvised, on the spot prayer. In the exercise below I address all the prayers to “God”, but when you are doing this yourself you can fill in whatever expression of a higher power feels comfortable to you:

 Sit comfortably; spend a short while centring yourself by focusing on the breathing or other appropriate method. Then just let your mind wander onto the things that it feels anxious about. Each time you are able to identify a cause of worry and anxiety, offer up a short prayer and then release the worry to a higher power.

For example:

1)  I notice that I am anxious about an argument with my partner or family member.

So I offer a prayer: “Dear God please help me resolve the conflict between myself and X, I am not sure what to do about it, but I pray for your grace and intervention”.

I then release the prayer and let go of the worry and relax for a few breaths.

 2) Then a worry comes up about a talk that I have to do tomorrow to a large group.

So I pray: “Dear God please help me to find appropriate material for tomorrows talk, and to be able to present it in a way that the audience will connect with.”

I then release the prayer and let go of the worry.

So, the entire five or so minutes is simply spent oscillating between these three activities; noting a worry, praying about it, and releasing it to a higher power. At the end of the meditation I recommend you spend a little while just resting in and enjoying the release/letting-go stage of the exercise.

© 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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Tackling a-void-ance: Meditation for healing and transforming loneliness and emptiness

Unless we are careful, a lot of the things that we do in our life are simply activities that we engage in to avoid the underlying sense of loneliness, emptiness, incompleteness, feeling or separation, or quite simply the VOID that we sense inside. The motivation for getting in a relationship for example can primarily be driven by a feeling that we lack something within ourself, and we need someone else to make up for that lack. Thus much of what we do is simply a-void-ance, a way of dancing around the big hole that we sense in the centre of our life, and trying to do everything in our power to avoid acknowledging or confronting it. The following meditation/contemplation is designed to help us look honestly at the void in our life and see that there may be something in it that we did not suspect.

Meditation on a-void-ance

Sit down and spend a short while just relaxing and centring yourself.

Bring to mind times in your day when you feel a sense of loneliness, incompleteness, emptiness, a negative void. Instead of avoiding these feelings, move into them, accept them without comment and allow yourself to feel them deeply. Use the breathing to breathe with them if you like.

Now gently let go of the manifest feelings of loneliness/emptiness that you feel, and just focus instead on the sense of space that accompanies these feelings. Try to experience just the space, just the void in your being. Breathe, relax, allow yourself to sink into that inner space that so often you try and avoid. It is almost like when you have been fighting going to sleep, and then you just decide to give in, and allow yourself to fall asleep.

Now within that empty void sense a light, like the sun gradually dawning over the horizon. What was once a dark empty space now becomes a void filled with light and radiance. The space is still there, the void is still there but it is filled with life, brightness and luminosity, like a sun shining from within the depths of space. Remain with this experience for as long as you like.

© 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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Is your meditation a type of therapy, an art-form or a spiritual practice?

Your meditation is a therapy if you are doing it to fix something inside you that is broken. Meditating to cope with stress, heal an emotional wound, to pacify/heal our addictions and demons is a form of therapy.

Your meditation is an art-form if you are using it to push the boundaries of your inner skill, power and capability. It is where you take risks, push the limits of what you thought possible, and experience new ways of seeing, feeling creating.

Your meditation is a spiritual practice when you rest in a state of no boundaries, where the barriers between yourself and the universe dissolve into light and there is just pure being-ness, one-ness, opulence and radiance.

The chances are that your meditation oscillates between these three types in an organic way, but it is extremely useful to be able to differentiate them in these three ways because:

–          There are times when you need to stop trying to fix that which is broken in you and start taking some risks

–          There are times when pushing your boundaries is doing more harm than good, and you need to create a healing space for yourself

–          There are times when you need to get off your butt and stop getting absorbed in the timeless wonder of it all

–          There are times when you need to take a holiday from the bounds of time and space and rest in the regenerative-radiance of your original being

–          There are times when you’re universal, original being explodes into action and demands that you start expressing your inner and outer art-forms. If so, you’d better act on this or watch out!

© Toby Ouvry 2010, please do not reproduce without permission. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

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