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Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 2 – Meeting Your Deeper & Higher Needs Through Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This is the second in the series of ‘Motivating yourself to meditate’ articles, you can read the first HERE if you have not done so already.

In the spirit of enjoying our deeper and higher selves,


Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 2 – Meeting Your Deeper & Higher Needs Through Meditation

In the first in this series of articles on motivating yourself to meditate I took a look at how it is that meditation can help us to meet some of our basic needs, or needs 1-3 in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I this article I want to look at how meditation helps us to start to satisfy our “higher” needs; specifically needs 4-6 of Abraham Maslow’s human needs hierarchy:

  1.  Esteem needs – For competence, approval & recognition
  2. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – For knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
  3. Self-Actualization needs

4. Esteem Needs – Competence, approval, recognition.
One of the basic things that any form of authentic meditation technique will improve is your concentration. With better concentration your ability to be competent in any given area of expertise that you set yourself is going to improve. So, meditation helps your esteem needs in this regard by helping you increase your mind power and therefore become competent faster. This in turn will likely lead to approval and recognition from your teachers, peers and society.
With regard to the need for approval and recognition, I would say that consistent meditation will help you to make approval and recognition into a preference rather than an all consuming need. This is because meditation takes us gradually away from “doingness needs” and toward “beingness needs”

  • “Doingness needs” are the needs that we have to prove our worth by deeds, job titles and all the other bench marks that conventional society lays down as meaning “successful”.
  • “Beingness needs” are the needs that arise from already seeing, feeling and experiencing ourself as whole, complete and worthy as we are. Meditation encourages a daily connection to our own state of beingness, that is to say as whole, complete and worthy as we are right now. In a state of beingness, our own needs are perceived as being already met, and so our “needs” actually start to focus more and more on the needs of others around us. We are happy as we are, so we have more energy to focus on the wellbeing of others.

In conclusion, when our beingness needs are met (which they will be increasingly through balanced meditation), of course we can be happy when we are measured as “successful” by the conventional benchmarks of society, but if not it is no big disaster, as our sense of beingness ensures that we feel happy and complete as we are.

5. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – Knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
With our beingness needs increasingly being met by meditation (as outlined in section 4 immediately above), an increasing amount of energy is opened up within us to look into “bigger questions”:

What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
What is fairness?
What is justice?
What is beauty?

This is level 5 of Maslow’s Hierarchy, our aesthetic and cognitive needs. A regular meditation practice will not answer these questions per-se, as a lot of meditation practice is about reducing the content of the mind, not filling it! However, what meditation will do systematically over time is to open us up to a full functioning awareness of our intuitive, archetypal and spiritual minds. This naturally helps us to articulate a considered response to the big questions that are posed by our aesthetic and cognitive needs.
A final point; meditation prevents us from getting “stuck” on the existential questions that are posed by this level. “What is the meaning of life?” is a question that may never be fully answered, and this is right and good. Meditation enables us to recognize the point where question asking and philosophizing ceases to be useful and relevant, and to move into states of silence and pure awareness.

6. Self Actualization: 
Actually, up to the last century or so, the main focus of meditation has traditionally been enlightenment, or needs associated with levels 5 and 6. It is only in more recent times that meditation has been advocated as a potential solution to the stress, mental busyness and anxiety of modern life, which has made it useful and relevant on the level of our survival needs  (levels 1&2 of Maslow’s hierarchy) and level 3, emotional wellbeing. Through history the predominant reason that people have meditated is to commune, merge and create a state of union with their spiritual being, which in turn exists in a state of one-ness or unity with the Universe. So, in terms of the sixth and highest level of our needs; Self Actualization or enlightenment, meditation is actually the most effective, tried and tested method for accomplishing this need.

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

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

Dear Integral Meditators,

Why meditate, why continue meditating? Why is it worth persisting? The article below considers these questions….

Thanks for reading!



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

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 Maslow’s 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 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, in my next article mid-week 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!

Read part 2 of this article: Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 2 – Meeting Your Deeper & Higher Needs Through Meditation

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 
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When the Mask Cracks the Light Shines Out

Over the last few months I have had the good fortune to be able to catch up with a few old friends from school days. The conversation immediately becomes 200% more engaging and compelling between us when we discover that we have been through a similar psychological challenge or difficulty, or where we have come face to face with a part of ourselves that we did not like to admit was there. When this happens the tone of the conversation always goes from ‘pleasant’ to genuinely soulful.

Last weekend I facilitated a stress transformation workshop. It was great to see people becoming excited about the ways in which they could make use of the parts of themselves and their personality that they considered obstacles to happiness, that they considered ‘dysfunctional’ or weak.

We spend a lot of time investing in our ‘persona’, the face that we present to society; to cultivating and preserving a mask behind which we can hide our insecurity and vulnerability. We protect this mask, strengthen it, try to keep both it and ourselves ‘looking right’ in the eyes of those around us. Any cracks that appear in the mask often invoke a crisis in us, something we should avoid at all costs.

The funny thing is that when circumstances come together to crack open the mask of our persona, it is often the very opportunity that our soul has been waiting for to shine its light into the world, to start making a difference.

It’d be a shame to miss such opportunities because we were too busy trying desperately to repair our mask.

Related article: Enlightened Imperfection

Upcoming workshops and events at Integral Meditation Asia

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

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Simple and Bad, Simple and Good

Dear Integral Meditators,

How do you become really good at meditation and mindfulness? How do you become really good at anything? This weeks article offers a perspective.

I’d like to invite all in Singapore to a free event on the Tuesday 25th at 7.30pm: Integral Mindfulness –Co-creating Professional Success and Personal Wellbeing within Organizations and Leaders . Also, if you know people in companies and organizations who you think may be interested  in bringing mindfulness training into their setup, do feel free to pass the invitation onto them!

Yours in the spirit of simple and good,


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in November:

 Still on promotion price until Tuesday 28th October – The Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease Online Course

Tuesday 25th November, 7.30-9pm  – Evening event – Integral Mindfulness –Co-creating Professional Success and Personal Wellbeing within Organizations and Leaders

Sun 30th Nov, 9.30am-12.30pm – Living Life From Your Inner Center – Meditations for Going With the Flow of the Present Moment

Sun 30th Nov, 2pm-5pm – Finding Freedom From What Holds You Back in Life: Practical Meditations And Techniques For Working With your Shadow-Self – A Three Hour Workshop

Simple and Bad, Simple and Good

You may have heard the story about the way a great poet evolves:
First his/her poetry is simple and bad,
Then it is complicated and bad,
Then it becomes complicated and good,
Finally at the level of mastery it becomes simple and good.

If you want to develop your meditation and mindfulness practice it is also like this. The key is to recognize that that way to become a great meditator is to accept and enjoy being a bad meditator so that organically over time you become a good one, and eventually a master.

Of course this is a way of approaching any task in life. When I first started trying to run a business as an ex-monk and ex-artist I was simple and bad at it, then I was more complicated but still quite bad! Now I occasionally peak to the complicated and good level, with occasional ‘zen moments’ of good simplicity, rapidly lost!

If I could pick a skill that I would like to pass onto my daughter as she grows up, I think the skill of learning to be simple and bad, but then to persist and be happy to fail well and learn would be in the top three. If she has this skill she can become good at whatever she wants, and success in one form or another will be, as a result difficult, to avoid. If she has this, she will be fine.

Because I have this skill of being mindfully happy to be simple and bad whenever necessary, I know ultimately I’ll be fine, and in all probability successful in my chosen endeavours.

If you have it you probably will be too.

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

Mindfully Enhancing Your Psychological Development

Dear Toby,

We have a remarkable amount of power to catalyze our psychological development through mindfulness. The article below explains one easy to apply method.

Final call for this Sunday’s Transforming Stress into Positivity and Enlightenment!

Yours in the spirit of empowered perspective,


Mindfully Enhancing Your Psychological Development

What is psychological development? Or, put another way, what does it mean to be psychologically evolved? One simple way of answering this question is that the more psychologically evolved you are, the greater the number of perspectives or viewpoints you will be able to take on any given situation.

  • An unevolved person can consider the situation only from their own point of view
  • A more evolved person can view the situation from the perspective of a friend, family member or well known ‘other’ person
  • Moving along, an even more evolved person will consider the situation objectively
  • A still more evolved person will consider/be able to enter into the perspective of people s/he does not know personally but who are involved in the situation

Then there is considering the question from different lines of intelligence:

  • What does this situation look like when evaluated emotionally?
  • Cognitively?
  • In terms of values or ethics?
  • Physically or somatically in terms of touch and sensation?
  • Spiritually?
  • In terms of Gender?

And others:

  • Economically
  • Aesthetically/poetically/artistically
  • From a child’s position
  • From an old persons position
  • From the perspective of history
  • Anthropologically
  • Socially
  • Politically
  • Generationally (as in past, present and future generations and how they see things)

And it so it goes on….

Here is a mindfulness exercise for stimulating your capacity for perspective taking:
Take a situation in your life that you want to investigate. Time yourself for 5 minutes. During that time write down or think about that situation from as many different perspectives as you can think of. Then pause and reflect upon what you have written or thought about allowing it to;

  • inform and change your understanding of what you are experiencing and
  • influence and inform the choices that you make

You may be surprised how powerful this exercise is, and how much intelligence and creative power you have when you really access the power of your own perspective taking!

Related article: Six Questions for Effective Decision-making

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

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Seriously Light/Lightly Serious

Dear Integral Meditators,

The article below is an encouragement not to forget to to be playful, no matter how serious it gets!

Yours in the spirit of the deep and the light,


Seriously Light/Lightly Serious

It is very easy to mistake taking something seriously for taking something ‘heavily’.
It is very easy to use false humour and lightness as a way of avoiding things that we should be taking seriously, or not giving the amount of focused attention that an issue deserves.

Is it possible to take something seriously and yet keep the quality of our mind light and flexible? I think it is. For example:

  • I can recognize a shortage of money or resources without getting heavy or depressed about it, whilst thinking seriously about how I can go about making up the shortfall
  • I can listen to someone talking of their pain and loss seriously and with compassion, honoring it, whilst at the same time consciously not letting my mind become heavy with the burden of what I am listening to
  • I can recognize that I have made a mistake and pay attention to correcting it without giving myself a complete mental hammering for having made that mistake
  • I can have a huge ‘to do’ list without it causing me to get tense, and negatively serious about everything I haven’t done
  • I have a choice when faced with serious changes and uncertainties in my life, the temptation due to the fear can be to get tense and over-serious, but there is always the option of being serious but light!
  • I can be physically tired, but the strain on my body does not mean I have to take the experience without humour and goodwill (but get a good night’s sleep as soon as I can!)
  • I can feel vulnerable and insecure about something, and I can mindfully take care of that insecurity within myself with compassion, whilst at the same time seeing the humour in my paranoia

If you like over the next few days, experiment mindfully with this idea of serious lightness. It’s possible to be deep without being heavy, and it is possible to be light without being superficial or foolish.

Related article: Connecting to your spiritual fool in the mirror world

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Taking Care of Your Nervous System Through Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

The article below explains a brief self-healing meditation that can be performed at any time, specifically to calm and balance your nervous system.

In the spirit of mindful self-healing,


Taking Care of Your Nervous System Through Meditation 

Due to the busyness and stress of our daily life we often find ourselves with nervous systems that are chronically over-stimulated, often trapped in fight or flight mode, and generally wired for anxiety and fear. The main nerve within the nervous system is the spine, so one of the best ways to care for and gain benevolent control of your nervous system is to focus your attention upon relaxing and energizing the spine.
The short technique I describe below is one I use often myself as a short 1-5 minute meditation during the day, and is part of the multi-faceted approach to creating a calm-lucid body-mind that I teach in my Mind of Ease Program. It focuses on the body, but it can have a quick and profound effect on our mental and emotional state as well, due to the inherent interconnectedness of the body-mind.

Relaxing the Spine
Sit, stand or lie down in a comfortable posture with a straight back, your ears and shoulders in line with each other.
Focus your attention upon the length of your spine from the base of the skull all the way down to its base/your coccyx.
Feel your way inside the vertebrae of the spine, to the spinal nerve that runs inside. If you like you can wiggle your neck and hips a little just so as to feel the nerve moving so you get a feel for it.
Now see and feel the smaller nerves radiating out from the spine, spreading out from in between the vertebrae to the rest of the body.
See (visualize) in the centre of your spinal nerve there is a line of light and energy. As you breathe in see and feel this line of energy glowing brightly. As you exhale see that light and energy expanding out into the spinal nerve, and then out along all of the nerves that spread out through the body from the spine. See your whole nervous system in the whole of your body lighting up like a light bulb as you exhale.
Repeat for a few breaths, or for a few minutes, ending with a brief period of relaxation.

It can take a little while to get used to feeling your way into the centre of your spinal nerve and then breathing the energy out from your spine along your whole nervous system, but is a skill you can acquire relatively quickly with practice.

As I mention, I normally just do this as an ad hoc exercise whenever I am feeling a little tired or frazzled, I find it remarkable how quickly I can find a space of physical relaxation,  regeneration and energy by doing it. Try it out!

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

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Your Emotional Colour Palette

Dear Integral Meditators,

What makes a colour beautiful? The answer is a bit deeper than first glance. Similarly with our emotions, it is not always the bright, shiny ones that of the most value, or even the most beautiful.

Yours in the spirit of emotional depth and beauty,


Your Emotional Colour Palette

As some of you may know my original training was as an artist (which I still practice actively), and I often think about the development of the mind, emotion and consciousness in terms of colour and texture.
One of the observations that I have taken from my work as a painter is that whether a colour is beautiful or ugly, harmonious or jarring has as much to do with the colours next to it as the colour itself. For example we may think of grey as a very plain boring (even depressing) colour; but if you watch the way a grey sky can give depth and vibrancy to the green leaves of a tree, or give new definition to the foam on the waves of the sea, then we start to realize that grey has its place.
Similarly the dark browns and blacks of soil give background to the beauty of vibrantly coloured flowers, the early nights and darkness of the winter evenings gives context to the vibrancy and buzz of the long sunny summer ones. As a painter if you can grasp this concept, then you will become a much better painter; you will get to know your greys and blacks and browns s well as your yellows, oranges and bright blues. You will understand how to put them together in your picture to produce a beauty that has true depth, texture and nuance.

You can see the first picture I have posted with this article by Ben Nicholson above (one of my favourites) that shows a good example of this in a sea landscape. The greys, blues and blacks provide a context for the brighter yellows, blues and reds to come alive. The second picture below is a cityscape by my daughter Sasha. I think you can really see in this one how the dark grey building in the center really gives substance to the bright yellow and pink buildings on either side. Without the grey the bright colours would look anaemic.

So, when we think about the landscape of our emotions, it can be wise to get to know the grey, brown and black ones as well as the bright cheery, pretty ones. If we are prepared to look at them all together, without favoring one over the other, we may discover that each emotion, the sad ones as well as the happy ones all have their place in our life, all have their own beauty, and their own gifts to offer us.

As a mindfulness or meditation practitioner, it can be a nice exercise to simply sit and open to our emotions and moods, benevolently embracing them all as we find them, and then consciously learning to wisely weave them into a beautiful painting (or song) each day, a painting that includes browns, blacks and greys as well as red, yellow and blue.
© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 

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Trusting Your Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,

Our mind is our fundamental tool of survival in the world; the better it functions and the more we are able to trust it, the happier and more successful we will tend to be.
The article below outlines a few points around how you can start to build genuine self confidence by learning to trust your mind, and gives a mindfulness exercise that you can use to begin a practical exploration of this area.
Yours in the spirit of mindful self-confidence,

Trusting Your Mind

Mindfulness and meditation can give us temporary calm and relief from the continuous activity of our thinking mind, but if we are tempted to use it as a way of escaping from our mind then we should be wary.
Ideally mindfulness should be a way of gaining confidence and trust in our mind and ourself so that gradually our relationship to our thinking mind becomes more and more harmonious and mutually supportive; our thoughts support a healthy experience of self, and our sense of self encourages a reliable approach to thinking about our life experience.
Nathaniel Branden has in interesting definition of self-confidence, he says “Self confidence is confidence in the reliability of our mind as a tool of cognition…it is the conviction that we are genuinely committed to perceiving and honouring reality to the fullest extent of our volitional power.”
So, the long and the short of this is that in order to be genuinely and deeply self-confident, you need to learn to trust your mind, and use it as well as you are able within the limits of your ability.

Pseudo-self confidence
Quite a few people exert a lot of effort building pseudo self-confidence in order to disguise their fundamental lack of trust in their own mind and judgment. We might become very physically fit, or very wealthy, or have read all the right books about being a parent, have gained many educational certificates and degrees, or even become an expert meditator (and other examples ad infinitum) all as a way of building a buffer between ourself and our actual moment to moment experience of reality and life. Fundamentally we don’t trust our mind to be able to deal with it effectively; deep down we lack self-confidence, so we build buffers and things to hide behind.

Three mindful questions for building self-confidence and trust in your mind.
Take a situation in your life, perhaps something that you have experienced today. Ask yourself three questions in turn:
“What am I seeing and experiencing here”
“What is my mind telling me about what I am seeing and experiencing?”
“Am I honoring my own experience and mind here or am I turning away from it?”The answer to the third question will tell you whether you are using this activity and experience to build your self-confidence and trust in your own mind, or whether you are subverting it. As the old saying goes “Many drops of water slowly dripping into a pot will eventually make it full”; in our day by day journey to self-confidence, or to a lack of it, this saying rubs both ways.Generally the challenge here is not that we don’t know enough, but that we know more than we would like, and would rather avoid the responsibility of that knowledge.

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

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What do I Need to Focus Upon Now?

Dear Integral Meditators,

Consciously learning to focus your mind where it needs to be is a primary life skill that we can develop through meditation and mindfulness, the article below explores how you can begin today.

For those of you interested in meditative art; When I do a soul portrait for someone, I don’t always know what the significance some of the images, lines and colours are. The response from a client to her soul portrait that I have posted (with her permission)HERE  illustrates just how much this is the case!

Yours in the spirit of joyful focus,


What do I Need to Focus Upon Now? (The Field of Awareness, the Art of Mindfulness)

In each moment you experience a field of awareness. Within that field there are many things going on. As I am sitting here on a Friday evening I can hear the traffic outside, the cat sneezing on the balcony, the sound of the fan and music. I can feel the open, spacious effect of the meditation I have done, just an inner open pure awareness. There are thoughts formulating in my mind as I type out the article, there is the residual emotions of a long day.  Could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The art of practical mindfulness is simply to keep asking the question “What do I need to focus upon now?” and then train your attention on hold itself where it needs to be. The key understanding here is that what you need to be focusing on changes many times in each day. As I am writing this article on my computer, it is appropriate for my conscious awareness to be focused upon my mental process and typing. Earlier on when I was meditating my attention was absorbed into a spacious experience of deeper consciousness. Still earlier when I was putting my daughter to bed my attention was focused on that process. After writing I’ll have a drink before I go to bed and turn my mindful attention to processing the events and emotions of the day. Each of these states of mindful attention is different, but appropriate.
If I was thinking about my article whilst meditating, that would render my meditation ineffective. If I was processing my emotions from my day whilst putting my daughter to bed, that would make me less effective at that task. If I was zoning out in meditation whilst trying to get this article writ, it wouldn’t get done.
The art of mindfulness is knowing what to focus upon within your field of awareness at any given moment in your day, and to keep changing your object of awareness appropriately as you go through your different activities and tasks.
If you can do this well then your tasks will be as successful as they can be according to your limitations. What’s more, because you are focusing appropriately on each area you will naturally get better at each activity thereby extending your capabilities, which in turn will lead to greater success, self-esteem and happiness.

So there is your question; “what do I need to focus upon right now?” If you keep asking this question each day your mindfulness, effectiveness and wellbeing will improve correspondingly.

For a further exploration of this topic see my article on street mindfulness.

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