Dear Integral Meditators,
This weeks article is on insight meditation, and on the natural healing power of our mind, when we allow it. Its a slightly longer article than usual, with four short techniques you can try out!
You can also find below the details of the next series of meditation classes at Integral Meditation Asia beginning mid August, on Insight meditation.
In the spirit of insight and allowing,
The healing power of awareness; the topography of insight meditation
I want to begin this article by paraphrasing Roger Walsh in a conversation that he had with Ken Wilber. Basically, he said that one of the amazing things about our minds is that, if we let it, our mind has this incredible power to:
- Self-heal – that is to heal its inner divisions and move toward wholeness
- Self-actualize – that is start to move naturally toward a more enlightened or awakened state of self-awareness, and to
- Self-transcend – that is to move naturally toward the next, deeper level of consciousness immediately beyond its present state of growth.
All of this can happen by our simply ‘allowing it’. The way in which we ‘allow it’ is by regularly cultivating a state of relaxed, lucid awareness in our day to day routine. The innate power of this awareness creates a powerful healing and stimulating effect upon our mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The problem for many of us is that we perceive our relationship to our mind as a perpetual battle, where the thing that seems to be standing in the way of our inner healing and growth is the mind itself. It is not natural for us to seek resolution to our inner problems through conscious relaxation!
One very ergonomic form of meditation that we can use in order to start making friends with our mind and access its powers of self-healing is insight meditation. The main activity in insight meditation is to identify and observe the different levels of our mind. Because of this, insight meditation is sometimes called “choice-less awareness”. Whatever comes up, we just watch without getting involved.
Four levels of observing – A basic map or topography of insight meditation awareness
There are four basic levels of mind that insight meditation helps us to cultivate awareness of. These might be called the gross, subtle, very subtle and non-dual. What I want to do is to outline them and offer simple meditation practices that we can do on each of these levels. This way you can get a practical flavour of what insight meditation involves, and start trying it out for yourself.
Level 1: Gross awareness – This is awareness of our physical body, senses and environment.
Sample insight meditation exercise for this level: Be aware of everything that you hear for a period of time. Note all the different layers of sound that your ear awareness is picking up. As I am sitting now I can hear some distant cars, the fan on the table next to me, the typing as my fingers work on the type-pad, I can hear the sound of my breathing in my inner ears. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the layers of sound flowing into your moment to moment awareness. You can practice an equivalent insight exercise for any of your other senses.
Level 2: Subtle awareness – This level observes the flow of thoughts, feelings and images that flow through our mind on a moment to moment basis. On this level there is a range of subtlety, from the everyday thoughts of our waking mind to the more subtle experiences of the dreams and of dreaming. Basically, this is the realm of thoughts.
Sample insight meditation exercise for this level: Sit down and observe the flow of thoughts, feelings and images through your awareness. Imagine that you are like a person sitting by the side the river of your mind, observing the constant ebb and flow of mental images and feelings that passes by you.
Level 3: Very subtle awareness – This level observes the inner space of our consciousness itself, which is formless, space-like , and lies behind our mental and sensory consciousness. If you imagine your thoughts and feelings are like clouds, then your consciousness is like the sky that contains those clouds.
Sample insight meditation exercise for this level: Continue to watch your mind, become aware of the spaces between your thoughts. Allow your awareness to sink deeper and deeper into these spaces. Let the cloud-like forms of your thoughts and feelings gently dissolve away as you observe the sky-like space of your consciousness.
Level 4: Non-dual awareness – This level is where the sense of yourself the observer of your consciousness (as in level 3 above) dissolves away, and you are left with a unified (non-dual) experience of awareness, just a single experience of consciousness with no conceptual idea of observer and observed.
Sample exercise: The way to approach this experience is through the level 3 exercise. The more you practice it, very gradually, over time you will feel yourself moving toward this non-dual state.
So, my basic point in this article is that if you allow your mind to relax consciously and attentively, then you are going to activate its natural capacity for self-healing and growth. If you want a particular in-depth method to develop your minds self-healing mechanism, then insight meditation is one such tool.
© Toby Ouvry 2018, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation AsiaOngoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby
Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation Classes at One Heart with Toby (East coast)
Begins 14/15th September – Effortless effort – Insight meditation for self-healing and transformation – a five week course
Rest of August program coming soon!
Integral Meditation Asia