Going Beyond the “Do This” and “Do That” Mentality

My daughter has just turned six, and one of the things that I have noticed about our relationship recently is that it has been possible for me to start changing my relationship to her from a lot of “do this” and “do that” instructions to a much more process based “Why don’t you try this?” or “What will happen if you think about it this way?”. Her gradual increase in age and maturity, combined with my own gradual maturing as a parent has allowed our relationship to evolve from being somewhat dictatorial to much more co-creative.

How we often use the “do this / do that” mentality with regard to the way we treat ourselves
One of the things that has struck me when thinking about the changes in my relationship to my daughter is how often we get caught up in a “do this” and “do that” relationship to ourself. “Instead of  approaching situations and challenges in our life with an open, flexible and enquiring mind, often we will simply react in a pre-programmed way, based around our past experience. Internally we order ourselves around with no real sensitivity to what is actually happening and this kills our ability to respond authentically and creatively.
For example I may find myself mentally punishing myself for not having made more effective use of my time during the day. The conversation goes something like:
“You should not have got sidetracked by this, you should not have wasted time doing that, you don’t deserve to relax this evening because you have not achieved what you wanted…” the instructions and judgments go on and on…

What we can replace the Do this/do that mentality with
One of the things that we are trying to create through a meditation practice is enough self-awareness  to be able to respond to our immediate circumstances as they are, without projecting judgments or old values onto them. What we are trying to do is replace the automatic “do this” and “do that” voice of our judgments and past mental programs with questions like:
“What is this situation showing me or offering to me?”
“What are the real emotions behind what is being said here?”
“What is the most creative thing I can do in this situation?”
“What is my most authentic response to what is happening here?
By bringing questions such as these to the forefront of our mind in our daily life we can start to over ride the automatic “do this” and “do that” orders coming from our subconscious mind and start to live a life that involves more freedom, more authenticity and more happiness.

Awareness exercise:
The art of going beyond our “do this” and “do that” mentality lies in replacing these inner orders with a question that stimulates our enquiring mind and creativity. The next time you can hear and feel your old judgments barking orders at you as you try and cope with a life challenge, consciously place this question in the centre of your awareness:
“What is this situation helping me to see and learn?”
Try and stay with this question for a few minutes and observe the creative ideas that start to emerge from the inner space that the question allows.

PS: Heads up on the new series of meditation classes starting at the beginning of September 2011 “Meditations for Creating a Mind of Ease, Appreciation and Positive Intention”. Follow link for details!
© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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 The Tree Of Yoga – Coming Back to the Body

Later this year I will be beginning a series of classes with meditations upon the “Tree of Yoga” as a focus point, so in my articles over the next few weeks I will be focusing upon themes relating to this. In this article I explain some basic working definitions of yoga from a meditative perspective, and how we can begin working with these ideas in a practical fashion.

Three Levels of the Meaning of Yoga That can be Distinguished
One of the main meanings of the Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ is ‘Union’. From this we can see that the many different practices of yoga aim fundamentally at achieving a state of union.We can distinguish three types or stages of union in the path of yoga:

  1. Accomplishing the union of the mind and body
  2. Accomplishing the union of the body-mind with the environment
  3. Accomplishing the union of the self with the Cosmos

So, here we can see the three basic stages; the first stage focuses on unifying or synchronizing the body and mind into a singular, harmonized unit. The second stage focuses on expanding our self sense beyond the body mind so that our self-sense includes greater aspects of our internal and external environment. The third stage involves releasing all boundaries between our personal sense of self and the Cosmos, thus achieving the ultimate union of self and cosmos into the primal or Universal Self. This final stage, the recognition, embodiment and articulation of the Universal or True Self is really the endgame of all yoga’s whether you are talking about hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga or any of the other forms of yoga. For the remainder of the article we will be focusing on the first level of union in the path of yoga.

A Closer Look at Stage 1: The Two Stages of Unifying the Body-Mind

Oftentimes the start of many peoples IDEA of the spiritual path involves an attempt to “go beyond the limitations of and attachments to the body and its appetites”. The body is seen as the obstacle to inner growth, continually getting in the way of our spiritual aspirations, and “detachment” from the body is where a lot of people place their efforts.
However, in reality, and this is a really key understanding, most people are already detached from the body in the sense of being mentally disconnected to it! So, the first goal for almost 100% of us is to reconnect our mind to our body as they exist in the present moment, here and now.

How did we disconnect from the body in the first place?

Our body-mind disconnection takes place in two stages:

  1. The separation of the ego from the body.

As we grow up our self-sense develops in stages. As young children we identify with our body, as teenagers we identify with our emotions. By the time we get to young adulthood almost all of us identify ‘self’ as being our mind, and the relationship to our ‘self’ to the body is like a rider to a horse; the mind or ego is like the rider, and the body is like the horse. Thus our mind and body have now become experientially separate; ‘I’, or my ego possesses my body which is a separate object. This is the first separation or disconnect of mind from body

  1. Stage 2: The Mind/Ego Divides Against Itself – The Separation of Persona from Shadow

So, our ego is now separated from our body, unfortunately it gets worse. Having now identified our ‘self’ as our ego, our ego then splits into what in psychological terms is called the ‘persona’ and the ‘shadow’.

What are the Persona and Shadow?
The Persona– The persona is that part of the contents of our mind and ego that is acceptable to our self-image. The persona is the conscious perception of who we think we are, that part of the contents of our consciousness that we allow ourself to see.
The Shadow – The shadow is the parts of our mind and ego that is not acceptable to our self image. The shadow is all the parts of our mind and ego that we refuse to consciously acknowledge and so as a result gets repressed or ‘pushed down’ into our unconscious mind. You can find more on the shadow self in my previous article on the shadow: Six Tips for Releasing the shadow Self. Another word for the shadow would be the repressed unconscious.

Bringing this all together
So, from this we can see that in order to re-unify our body-mind into a synchronized whole we need to go through two stages:

  • Unify our mind by healing the divide between our persona and shadow, thus creating a healthy functional ego.
  • Unify our body and ego by bringing our awareness and attention back into the body and the present moment.

There are a lot of practices that are specifically designed to help facilitate these two stages. For example traditional psychotherapy (eg: Freudian and Transactional Analysis) aim at creating a healthy ego through unifying the shadow and persona. Hatha yoga, Qi gong and Tai-Qi are all helpful methods for the second stage of unifying the mind-body. There are also psychological therapies that aim at unifying the body-mind such as gestalt therapy and aspects of the humanistic psychology approach of Carl Rogers.

The Centaur
The Centaur is a mythic beast that is half human and half horse. Centaur or centauric is sometimes used as a name for the state of consciousness where the body-mind are unified. The centaur is not a human riding a horse, the centaur is both the human and the horse as a single entity, no division.
The centauric state of consciousness is a state of being where our body intelligence and mental intelligence are always working in harmony. When we accomplish this union our body-mind union becomes more than the sum of its parts, we start to be capable of achieving things that ordinary people would consider ‘impossible’ or ‘beyond them’. Much of the Human Potential Movement is aimed at accomplishing the centauric state, the unity of the body-mind.
The centauric state of a unified body-mind acts as the stable basis upon which we can then go onto explore higher and more expanded levels of consciousness and being. If we try and ‘expand’ our consciousness too extensively and quickly before stabilizing our centaur we will quite rapidly find ourself struggling with the unhealed elements of our ego, persona and shadow.

Awareness Practices to Start Unifying the Body-Mind: Meditating on the Body as a “Consciousness Sponge”.

So, I’ve covered quite a lot of ground above, and what I want to do is finish with a really simple two stage practice to help you begin integrating your body-mind. It can be done as a short 1-5minute practice, but just as appropriately and easily it can be done as a 15-30 minute form.

Stage 1: Noticing Resistance.
Simply sit quietly and notice the resistance that your mind has to entering fully into the present moment and into your body. Notice how it is always jumping away from present moment awareness of the body, diving into the past and forward to the future. Take your observation of this resistance as your object of awareness for the first part of the meditation. Don’t try and overcome it, just notice it.

Stage 2: Your body as a Sponge
In the second stage imagine that your physical body is like a dry sponge and your mind and consciousness is like water. Feel all the thoughts and feelings in your mind being gradually absorbed into your body as it sits in the present moment, just like water being absorbed by a dry sponge. Feel your mind fully inside the skin of your body, fully present in the here and now, in communion with your body. For the remainder of the meditation explore this feeling of a unified body-mind as deeply and fully as you can, rest your awareness on it and in it as fully as possible.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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 the Four Seasons and Four Stages of Our Life

I’ve been back in the UK now for a few days, enjoying the particular ambience of the English summer time, all the birds in the garden are looking extremely plump and well fed, the flowers are all in bloom and the dragon flies are flying around the pond, showing off their beautiful green and red colourings.

One of the major “diagrams” or maps of the spiritual path as explained in the western tradition is the Wheel of Life, which essentially consists of a circle with four points on it. These four points correspond to the following basic energies and directions:

North: Winter, night time and the earth element
East: Spring, morning and the air element
South: Summer, noonday and the fire element
West: Autumn, evening and the water element.

In addition the four seasons on the wheel spring, summer, autumn and winter also correspond to the four stages of a human (or any other creature’s) life, namely childhood, youth (young adult), mature adult (parental) and old age.  From this we can start to see that our own life moves in a natural cycle that is very much like the four seasons of the year, and also the four stages of a twenty four hour cycle; morning (childhood), noon (young adult), afternoon (maturity) and night (old age).
In the picture that I have posted with this article you can see these correspondences depicted in an artwork that I have created:

  • A pathway in the north (top of picture) leads to a winter landscape
  • To the right hand side is a pathway opening to a spring landscape
  • At the bottom is a gateway opening to a summer landscape
  • On the left hand side there is a pathway leading to an autumn landscape.

Meditation on breathing with the four seasons and stages of life
From the above we can see that our life, like the nature of which we are a part moves in cycles. We can begin to develop a subjective feel for this by meditating in the following manner:

  • As you begin to inhale feel the awakening of new life in your body-mind, like the energy of spring and childhood within you.
  • As you progress through the second half of the inhalation, feel the awakening of the energy of summer and the prime of your youthful-self awakening within you.
  • As you pause briefly at the top of your breath feel your body-mind  to be full of vital energy and life-force, like a landscape in mid-summer.
  • As you begin exhaling feel yourself connecting to the energy of autumn and maturity.
  • As you move into the second half of your exhalation, feel yourself connecting to the season of winter, and to the wisdom of old age.
  • As your breath ceases at the bottom of your exhalation, meditate briefly on death, and the end of the brief life cycle of your last breath. Note how it is from this ‘death’ that a cycle of new life emerges with the beginning of the next new breath.
  • Continue this cycle of breathing for as many breaths as feels comfortable, and end with a period of silence, stillness and deep calm.

This is a nice meditation to do outdoors in direct contact with nature and the seasons themselves. Also, contemplation of the ‘Four Seasons’ artwork that I have done can also be a helpful tool for getting a feel for how the four seasons and stages of our life flow together in a circle, one after the other, and how we can create this cycle of energy within ourselves with each in-breath and out-breath.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Meditation on Connecting to your Magical Self or Inner Magician

I have recently been working on re-titling and writing notes for some artworks that I completed back in 2005. The first of these “The Magician”you can see in the image on this page. The image itself is meant as a way of visually connecting to our “Inner Magician”. The inner magician is that part of our inner self that is both creative and magical within us, and that if we harness it effectively has the power to change our daily life and experience for the better.

So, who or what is our inner magician? Here is a working definition:

“The higher expression of our inner magician is that part of self that is able to work with the higher and spiritualized expression of magic.” Magic in this context means the following:
1) Being able to affect or change one level of our reality by working on it from the level or plane of reality above it.
2) Engaging our creative imagination vividly and consciously to “sculpt” our experience of any given situation for the better.
3) Not being content to let good ideas remain in our head, but actively finding ways of expressing those ideas concretely in our daily life.

Let’s take a closer look at these three aspects of magic:

1) Being able to affect or change one level of our reality by working on it from the level or plane of reality above it.
In its simplest terms this means that you use your mental or thought-based mind to change your physical and emotional reality for the better, and you use your spiritual or intuitive mind (which operates on a level beyond thought) to change your thinking patterns for the better.
A simple example might be this:
– If I experience physical pain because of an injury or illness I use my thinking mind to be positive, telling myself that the pain won’t last forever, and encouraging myself to practice patience. This is using my thoughts to positively affect my physical reality.
– If I find myself having repetitive negative thoughts about my pain and illness, then I can temporarily suspend my thinking (this is really where meditation comes into the picture) and move into a state of mind beyond thought. Doing this enables me to release the momentum of all the negative thoughts that I was having, so that my mind becomes a “clean slate” so to speak which I can then replace the negative thoughts with more appropriate and affirmative ones.
So this is a very simple example, thinking mind works magic on physical world and emotions, spiritual mind works to affect and control the thinking mind.

2) Engaging our creative imagination vividly and consciously to “sculpt” our experience of any given situation for the better.
We think that there is a concrete reality out there” waiting to be discovered that has some kind of fixed or inherent qualities. Actually this is not quite the case. What happens is that the “bare facts” our outer reality meets our mind, which then imagines or projects its own ideas onto that outer reality.
From this we can see that what we experience in life has something to do with the “facts” of our life, but equality as much it also has to do with our imaginative response to those facts. To work with magic is to realize the power of your imagination to co-create any given situation in your life, and leverage on that imaginative power effectively. For more on this you can read my past article “Taking your creative imagination as your object of meditation”.
Our imagination is deeply and powerfully magical, it can create great art and great bliss, or it can create our own private hell.

3) Not being content to let good ideas remain in our head, but actively finding ways of expressing those ideas concretely in our daily life.
Our magical self realizes that any good idea that we understand, create or hear about is an INJUNCTION. An injunction is somewhere between an invitation and an obligation. So this means that when we have or hear a great idea we recognize that our understanding of this idea is INVITING us to use the idea as a practical tool with which we can change our life for the better. By virtue of our understanding of the idea we could also say that we have an OBLIGATION to try and integrate that idea into our life. If we just let that idea remain in our intellect that would be a great waste right? Many of us are guilty of this; having great insights and ideas about our life, but not implementing them, thus wasting them.
So, our magical self or inner magician is delighted when good idea come our way and immediately seeks ways to start expressing these ideas in a practical way to change our life for the better.

Practical Work
If you want to follow up on this article on a practical level, here are two suggestions:
1) Use the image above as an object of meditation in order to help you to intuitively connect to your own “Inner Magician”.
2) As soon as you have or understand a good idea intellectually, immediately ask yourself “How can I make this idea a concrete, practical reality in my life?” Do whatever you can to act upon your answer to this question.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Meditation Technique For Brain Relaxation, Non-Conceptuality and Falling Asleep at Night.

Hi Everyone!

How has your week been? I’ve been experiencing a few changes in routine which have been creating quite a lot of mental busyness for me, so this week’s article returns to the perennial meditation theme of “how to calm the mind”. I think you will find the technique that I describe very accessible and easy to use!

Yours in the spirit of calmness and clear seeing,

Toby

 

Meditation Technique For Brain Relaxation, Non-Conceptuality and Falling Asleep at Night.

This technique is designed to help people address one of the main problems that people face in meditation – Finding that they are thinking too much even whilst trying to concentrate their mind. But it is also a technique that I particularly use when I am trying to go to sleep at night and need to clear and relax my mind. Actually it can be done anywhere whenever you have a spare moment which is one of the things that makes it so useful.

It can also be a useful meditation tool for calming down after emotional trauma, for stopping cyclical negative thoughts and also finding temporary relief from psychological difficulties such as depression.

The basic premise for the meditation is that your brain is your “organ of thought” so to speak, and so by bringing your physical brain into a start of deep relaxation it can actually be relatively easy and natural to calm the mind and move into a state of spacious non-thought.

Meditation for Relaxing the Brain and Clearing the Mind of Thoughts

Sitting or lying down, bring your attention to your head, and in particular the area around the temples, forehead, eyes and eye sockets. Spend a short while consciously relaxing these areas of the face and head.

Now become aware of your brain and spend a few moments sensing it as a whole.

Once you have a sense or feeling for the brain as a whole, start scanning through it with your awareness. As you go through each part of the brain consciously relax each area. I normally start with the two frontal lobes of the brain immediately behind the forehead, as the front part of the brain is associated with the generation and functioning of conceptual thoughts.

Spend awhile really relaxing all the tension from the front section of the brain. Once you have done this move to the mid-section of the brain and focus on relaxing it in the same way. Then move onto the back of the brain, relaxing it in the same way. Finally move down to the brainstem that connects to the brain to the spinal cord and release tension from it in the same way.

Perform this scanning meditation through the brain two or three times, then move back to a general awareness of the brain as a whole. You will find that with the brain relaxed in this way that your mind will quite naturally quieten down and you will experience a sense of inner spaciousness and calm. Stay with this feeling of mental relaxation and calm for as long as you wish.

As I said, this is an easy and simple technique to use, you don’t have to be any kind of meditation expert to start practising it by yourself and experiencing the benefits!

Here are a few other techniques from articles that I have written that are specifically designed to help reduce conceptual thought quickly:

Finding Inner Space in Your Mind by Focusing on Outer Spaces

Calming the Brain Fast! Mouth Breathing

Meditating “Cold Turkey”

Still Point Breathing Meditation

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Four Tips for Meditating at Home and Beware of Second Hand Statues!

This week’s article focuses on tips for meditating at home. There is a great article that I read this week by Maria Kapaln (Author of “The Guru Question”) called “10 Spiritually Transmitted Diseases” I really do encourage you to have a look through it. There really is a lot of nonsense masquerading as spirituality these days, and this article gives some really clear pointers for developing your own discernment and ability to clearly see the difference between genuine spirituality and either ego-manifesting-as-spirituality, or just plain confusion.

Enjoy the article below!

Yours in the spirit of the ongoing journey,

Toby

Four Tips for Meditating at Home and Beware of Second Hand Statues!

Of course we all enjoy the support and interactive atmosphere of a meditation class and the occasional retreat, but the fact remains that if our meditation practice is ever going to truly transform our consciousness, then establishing a daily practice is really what we need to focus on. With this in mind here are four ideas regarding how to support your home meditation practice.

1) Just get your bum on the seat!

As we go about our daily activities we get used to the neutral momentum of “doing stuff”. This means that when it comes to the time we have designated for meditation our mind tells us there is “just one more thing” that we need to do before we meditate. Before we know it is late, and we have to go to work, or we are too tired to focus effectively and the day’s meditation opportunity goes begging. The only solution to this is to discipline yourself to STOP, SIT down and BEGIN! You’ll start to feel better as soon as you do!

2) Get your family to support you.

Your family, flatmate, friends are all going to benefit from a happier, more focused and aware you right? So let them know that you have/are trying to develop a meditation practice, and have set aside a particular time each day to do so. Explain that it is going to be of benefit to them as well as you, and ask them to support you and remind you when the time comes for you to say “excuse me for 20 minutes!” We are social animals and getting others to help and support you really helps.

3) Don’t try and do too much in the meditation session itself

Many of us are already struggling with information overload in our life, and so trying to do a meditation form that is overly complex and/or where we have too many expectations can be counterproductive. Make your meditation time spacious; don’t give yourself too many different things to do. On my website I have plenty of meditation techniques that I explain, but it really can be as simple as focusing on two things: Sitting still and practicing “non-doing” for ten minutes!

4) Set up places in your home where you can sit down and meditate comfortably.

I have set up in the living room, two of the bedrooms and the roof balcony small arrangements of candles, crystals and other objects that, when I sit in front of them immediately helps put me in the mood and mindset for meditation. If one room is occupied by other members of my family, I simply go to the space that is unoccupied. Having physical places that you associate with meditation and relaxation in your home really helps you to settle into a regular dally habit!

Watch out for second hand statues!

A final point I want to end with is that, if you are considering putting antiques or otherwise second hand statues or crystals in your meditation space take care. Particularly with second hand religious statues they can come to you “ready energized” in the wrong way by its previous owners. I was reminded strongly of this when I recently acquired a very finely crafted ceramic Quan Yin statue. It looked great, but I placed it in the meditation “shrine” in my bedroom and promptly got woken up that first night feeling extremely energetically uncomfortable, and after tossing and turning for a while was gifted some nasty dreams before waking up in the morning. The entire disturbance was coming from the dissonant energy that the statue had been energized with in its past.

So, what to do? Don’t worry; there is no need to throw such statues away! I have placed mine amongst the pot plants in my garden (see picture above) , where it will remain for six weeks or so and where all the negative elemental energy (for elemental energy think “physicallized mental energy”) can dissipate and be released from the statue to be absorbed and transformed by the natural elemental energy of nature. Once our Quan Yin has been “neutralized” then we will be able to place her wherever we want with no disturbing side effects!

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Meditating on The Difference Between Your Evolving Self and Your Biological Self

Hi Everyone,

Evolutionary Spirtuality, or the idea of Conscious Evolution is one of the most exciting and cutting edge areas that is being explored in spirituality today. Luminaries include people such as Barbara Marx Hubbard, Andrew Cohen and Craig Hamilton.

This week’s article is a short contemplation on learning to identify your own Evolutionary Self and distinguish it from your biological self. Enjoy!

Yours in the spirit of the evolving universe,

Toby

Meditating on The Difference Between Your Evolving Self and Your Biological Self

In this article I want to draw a distinction between two aspects of self that are often placed together, but are in fact very different. What I will do is define them both first, then explain how to begin working with the Evolutionary Self effectively in daily life.

The Biological Self is the sense of self that we have that is based around our biological programming. This programming is very ancient, and primarily works of past patterns that have evolved over thousands of years. Its needs are primarily based around survival/fight or flight, and it almost exclusively looks to the past for its inspiration. It sees patterns that have worked to fulfill our survival needs in the past, and it seeks to mimic them in our current behaviors. It works out of areas of the brain that are very ancient, and exerts a tremendous influence on our lives. It can be a very good and able servant to us, but if we allow it to be our master then it will lead us along a very limited life path, based around patterns of consciousness that are essentially survival based and aimed at staying in our comfort zone.

Our Evolutionary or Evolving Self is that part of cosmic evolutionary consciousness that is embodied within us. You could say that it is that part of evolution (as in the 13.5 billion year process that began with the Big Bang) that is becoming conscious of itself through us as an individualized human. Our evolutionary self is focused on the future, on becoming, on creating the new, on innovating. The Evolving Self is uninhibited by past patterns of biology and of ego and feels exited and motivated to make our life and life on earth fulfill as much of its potential as possible. The Evolving Self is naturally a good leader, and placing it in the forefront of our awareness enables us to lead other parts of our self and ego int the future without being inhibited by our “past baggage”. The Evolving Self is always looking to reach its highest potential, and to make the biggest and most meaningful contribution to the evolution of the Planet and of humanity that it can.

Our Evolving Self embodies the energy of evolution itself and seeks to catalyze conscious evolution in all situations.

Starting to connect and work with your Evolving Self

Imagine the Big Bang 13.5 million years ago: From out of nothingness an immense explosion of matter, energy and consciousness that gradually transforms over time into our present Universe.

See it continuing to evolve now in our present Universe, in our Planet, and in you, in the core of your own consciousness and being.

Feel within you now the momentum of that cosmic drive toward evolving the new, a dynamic spark of light within you that is focused the future, on becoming, on creating a better and greater life and world. 

Once you have felt your Evolving Self within you, as yourself the question “What is my Evolving Self asking of me right now, today, in this moment?”

After you have finished your contemplation, write down the ideas that came to you try and isolate one action that you can do today, or this week that will be a direct expression of your Evolutionary Self.

In general, whenever you are faced with a challenge in your life, ask yourself the question “What is my Evolving Self encouraging me to do here?”

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Thoughts As Affirmations: Three Questions To Help Make Your Thoughts Your Allies

“It’s repetition of affirmations that leads to belief, and once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen – Muhammad Ali”

The practice of affirmations – positively worded statements about your life repeated to yourself verbally or mentally or written down – has been given a lot of credence in recent years and appears in various forms of therapy. For example; cognitive psychology, hypnosis, neuro-linguistic programming, creative visualization and some forms of meditation.

From the perspective of transforming our experience through affirmations, one of the most important things to realize is that each thought that we think and word that we say is an affirmation, positive or negative, that re-enforces a belief that we have about our experience and reality. So, from this point of view, the most important aspect of mastering affirmations is being more aware of everything that you think and say, and being as careful as possible to energize only those thoughts and beliefs within you that are helpful and beneficial.

For example if I have injured my body in some way, and mentally I start to complain to myself about how unjust it is that I am injured and how the Universe always seems to be against me, then those thoughts are affirming a negative perspective on the situation. As a result, if I don’t check my thoughts and make appropriate adjustments, then my experience of that injury is going to be a negative one.
If on the other hand I notice that my mind has started complaining, and I ask myself “Is this way of thinking really serving me and helping me to have the best experience of the circumstances?” My answer will most probably be “no!” If I then make the effort to find a new perspective and way of thinking about my situation, then it will become an affirmation that I can use to directly change my experience. For example if I have an injury I may choose to see the situation as a chance to rest my body and allow it to recharge its energies.
Mindfulness of our thoughts is a big part of daily meditation practice. As meditators we understand that each thought is affirming something positive or negative about our experience, and our job is to focus on and energize the thoughts and beliefs that are most helpful, benevolent, and evolutionary to ourself and the other people involved in the situation.

Asking Yourself Three Questions – A Practical Exercise For Turning Your Thoughts Into Positive Affirmations

Step 1: Select a particular life situation to work on that is happening to you at this time, and where you sense that your mind is affirming negative beliefs and thoughts that are hindering your ability to deal with the situation.
If you can it is good to do this exercise in a notebook where you can actually write down your questions and answers as the written word is a more powerful affirmation than an affirmation that is simply thought or verbalized. BUT it is still worth doing as a mental exercise if you really don’t have a pen and paper available!

Step 2: Ask yourself three questions. Write down each question and your reply to it in turn:

  1. What are the negative thoughts and affirmations that I am holding with regard to this situation?
  2. What are the thoughts and affirmations that I can hold in this situation that will enable me to gain a better experience, and that will enable me to respond in the most creative and life-affirming way?
  3. What is the kindest and most compassionate (to both myself and the others involved in the situation) mental approach and perspective that I can affirm in this situation?

Step 3: Practice affirming your answers to these three questions.

  • Your answer to the first question shows you what thoughts and beliefs you want to avoid affirming and energizing.
  • Your answers to the second and third question are the thoughts, perspectives and beliefs that you need to affirm. Whenever you think about your life situation, immediately bring your mind back to your answers to these three questions and affirm accordingly!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Taking Control of Your Happiness and Mental Wellness Through Lifestyle Therapy

As witnessed in a recent article in the “American Psychologist Journal” by transpersonal psychologist Roger Walsh there are eight “lifestyle therapies” that have been proven by scientific research to have a positive effect on our mental wellness. The slightly scary thing is that, in the same article Walsh observes that currently less than 10% of mental healthcare professionals (in America) are actually recommending these lifestyle therapies to clients, and are relying all too heavily on the prescription of psychiatric  drugs for mental health problems such as depression. These lifestyle therapies are FREE, have no unpleasant side effects, and the list of them below offers a “go to” set of strategies that you can employ for your own mental wellness, and also recommend to friends and family experiencing mental stress and unhappiness.

Here is the list:

1. Exercise – Psychotherapy has been shown to be positively effective for approximately two thirds of people experiencing mental problems, with the same success rate for psychiatric intervention (ie: drugs). What is the activity that has been shown to have an almost 100% success rate on improving mental health? No, not electric shock treatment, EXERCISE! Enough said, find a sport or exercise form that you enjoy and engage in it regularly! We have so many options these days, weights ping pong, brisk walking, belly dancing, do something.
Another thing that the benefits of exercise highlight is that an excessively sedentary lifestyle gets you down.

2. Nutrition and Supplements – Ok, huge area, two things that research has shown to have the most positive effect on mental health: Avoiding excessive calorie intake and eating a diet with multi-coloured fruits and vegetables. The supplement that has been shown to be most effective for mental wellness is fish oil. I’m a vegetarian, but this is what the research shows so I’m putting it in. Anyway, the basic thing is that “You are what you eat” is an expression that holds true mentally as well as physically!

3. Time in Nature – Nature has been a source of healing and inspiration for humans for Milena. How much time have you spent in nature recently? If the answer is not much then there is a very good chance your lack of exposure to it and your over exposure to artificial environments is contributing to your mental stress. What has been obvious to generations of humans has now been proven beyond doubt by the science. Go hug a tree, dance barefoot on the lawn  and swim naked in the sea. Or y’know at least go for a regular walk in the park…

4. Relationships and the Acquisition of Friends – Feeling mentally out of balance can often cause us to recede into our shells and shun contact with people. Cultivating good friends and supportive relationships is fundamental to most people’s inner balance and mental health. Learning to leverage positively on your relationships in an appropriate way is a mental wellness life-skill not to be neglected!

5. Recreation and Enjoyable Activities – Yes, having fun regularly is good for your mental health and happiness, now proven by science, so go have some!

6. Relaxation and Stress Management – Activities include meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Qi, Yoga, progressive muscle relaxation techniques, visualization and hypnotherapy. Currently under utilized by many, but gradually becoming main stream.

7. Religious and Spiritual Involvement – Big area with a lot to consider, but basically some form of spiritual community and support for your inner wellbeing has been shown to have very positive effects on mental health. If you are like me and have no local church or temple that really resonates deeply, at least you can make the effort to keep active contact with people of a spiritually like mind virtually and when possible in person.

8. Contribution and Service – Giving happiness to others has a definite and undoubted effect on the sense of meaning, inner fulfillment and happiness of the person giving.

A Special Shout Out For Meditation!
Here is a quote from Roger Walsh directly from the above mentioned article: “In addition to its benefits for relaxation and stress management, meditation may also enhance measures of psychological capacities, health, and maturity in both patients and nonpatients (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006). Particularly important to health care professionals are findings that meditation can enhance valued caregiver qualities such as empathy, sensitivity, emotional stability, and psychological maturity while reducing distress and burnout (Shapiro & Carlson, 2009). On the cognitive side, studies suggest that meditation can enhance some measures of cognition and may reduce age-related cognitive losses and corresponding brain shrinkage (Pagnoni & Cekic, 2007; Xiong & Doraiswamy, 2009).”

A final point from me here, most of the research on meditation to date have been short term studies on relative beginners. I feel pretty certain that when the results of longer term research is done on more advanced practitioners there will be many more remarkable additional benefits to meditation that will come to light!

Starting to Make Practical Use of the Above List:

As mentioned, each of these eight “lifestyle therapies” now has a large body of scientific research behind it indicating that it is of real and tangible benefit to mental health and well being. Again for a fuller breakdown of the actual research please refer to the article by Roger Walsh.
For Yourself:
Go through the above list and with each of the lifestyle therapies simply ask yourself “How well am I leveraging on this activity at the moment?” In the areas that you feel you have been neglecting, write down a couple of things that you can do over the next week or so to start re-integrating them into your life in an effective way.
For Other People:
When you have a friend or family member under mental duress, the above list is a useful one to bear in mind, as you will almost always be able to suggest one or more of them as a way of helping them to deal with their challenge more effectively. The good thing about this list is that (with the exception of number 7) it is totally non-denominational and complex-philosophy free. From your teenage daughter or son, to your partner to your Mum or Dad, this list is going to be easy for them to understand and implement!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Tapping Into Your Invisible Sources of Love and Support, A Contemporary Interpretation of the Process of Prayer

One of the great illusions that we often battle with is the feeling of being isolated and alone. This feeling of loneliness and isolation can exact a heavy toll upon our psyche. There are three approaches that we can take to this challenge:

  1. Get more comfortable with being alone
  2. Reach out to other people and build more of a sense of external community
  3. 3. Tap into sources of invisible love and support that surround us all the time

This article looks at the third option, which in many ways can be understood as tapping into the power of prayer. The meaning of prayer as I am referring to it here is as follows:

“Prayer is a way of invoking and requesting support from the invisible sources of love that surround us at all times” .When I say “invoking” here this can be done in both an active and a passive way. To pray actively means to make a specific request to any invisible source of support. Prayer can also be done in a more passive way simply by becoming aware of the invisible source of support and focusing on consciously receiving supportive energy from that source.

So, what are these invisible sources of loving and supporting energy? Here is a list of examples:

From Yourself – We can prayers and requests to the higher dimensional aspects of ourself that we can term in many ways, for example our Higher Self, our Divine Spark or our Buddha Nature. Since these higher aspects of consciousness are literally a part of who we are, it is safe to assume that they are always wishing us success and happiness, and are sending us that support all the time. Through the practice of prayer we can leverage on this invisible support much more.

From those who love and like you, and from your Ancestors – We are energetically and mentally connected to friends and family all the time, and there is potentially a constant stream of positive energy and support that we can be receiving from them even if they live in a far away land. Moreover there is also an ongoing stream of invisible love, support and wisdom that flows through our life at all times in the form of our ancestral group as a whole.

From the “Power of the Common Good” – This level of support is really about remembering that there is within the group mind of humanity a common intention to benefit, do good and support. Easy to forget amidst the mass of seeming negativity and chaos, but it is nonetheless there for us to tap at will!

From the Wise – Those Saints Saints, Sages and Great Souls, the great and the good, past and present who are filled with love, wisdom and compassion, and are at the cutting edge of human evolutionary consciousness.

From the Earth and from Nature – Sit in a park surrounded by trees for a while and any problem or pain that you have will reduce. I’m reading the Ramayana with my daughter at the moment, where all the characters pray for support from rivers, tress and mountains. It is a bit of a forgotten art in modern society that we could well do with remembering and practicing more!

From Spirit or Source – By this I mean the formless creative energy that creates and sustains all of the above, call it God or what you will…

A One Minute Prayer/Meditation Method for Tapping into Your Invisible Support Network

Pick one of the above invisible sources of love and support and focus on it mentally. You can then either:

  • Offer a specifically worded prayer requesting support for a particular area in your life, or
  • Just recognize this invisible source of love and acknowledge its readiness to support you.

Having made your prayer or recognized this source of invisible love, feel it surrounding you and supporting you, breathe with this feeling of receiving love and support for a few breaths, share your burden and release your worries.

A slightly longer Prayer/Meditation Method for Tapping into Your Invisible Support Network

Take the time to go through the above list of sources of love and support. Having offered your prayer for support, spend a few moments breathing with and feeling the support of each of these sources in turn. Take the time to recognize and feel the support of each of them. Feel the love you are receiving increasing with each source that you focus on. End by focusing on a feeling of having released your worries and burdens, and of being NOT ALONE!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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