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The healing power of awareness; Four insight meditation techniques

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:

  1. Self-heal – that is to heal its inner divisions and move toward wholeness
  2. Self-actualize – that is start to move naturally toward a more enlightened or awakened state of self-awareness, and to
  3. 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

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

Online Courses 1:1 Coaching * Books * Live Workshops * Corporate Mindfulness Training *Life-Coaching *  Meditation Technology

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Insight Meditation – Improving your subjective experience by developing your Objective Perspective

Hi Everyone,

This week’s newsletter has a new dimension added to it that I am hoping to make a regular feature, which is regular short meditation recordings that I will be creating and posting on my meditation blog for people to listen to and download. This week’s guided meditation is a nine minute insight meditation practice focusing around caring for the physical body. Click on the link to have a listen:

Poem of Care for the Physical Body Meditation Free Recording 

This week’s article below discusses insight meditation using the “Poem of Care” as a practical example. After reading the article I hope you’ll feel enthused about just how simple and effective mindfulness and insight  meditation can be, and feel like you really have an understanding of how it works!


Enjoy the Meditation Recording, and have a great week!

Yours in the spirit of insight,



Insight Meditation – Improving your subjective experience by developing your Objective Perspective

Often when people talk about being objective in their life it seems like in order to become so they need to cut themselves of from their subjective or feeling experience of the situation. Conversely in order to really enter into a situation fully often what seems to happen is that we abandon our objectivity and plunge deeply into a feeling-based experience of the situation.

Pushed to an extreme, we can find ourselves caught between these two polarities:

  • Being objective = being cold and uncaring
  • Being subjective = being totally bound up in our feelings and lacking in perspective

Of course what we really need for an enjoyable and balanced life is to be able to bring both our objective and subjective perspectives together in a balanced holism, and this is one of the main benefits that insight meditation can give to us.

How does this work?

The basic dynamic of insight and/or mindfulness meditation (I am using the two terms here synonymously) is this; we begin by deliberately taking an objective perspective on our object of meditation in order to bring fuller conscious awareness of it. After having observed our object of meditation objectively for a while, we then consciously extend a positive subjective feeling or emotion to the object that we have been observing objectively.

Improving your objectivity improves your subjectivity

So, the essential idea with insight meditation is that by initially taking a step back and observing your world objectively, you can then consciously project/extend positive and beneficial subjective feelings into that world that will increase your ability to participate enjoyably and benevolently in that world.

A concrete example please?

Ok, so let’s take a concrete example that I hope will make this clear and easy to understand.

Below you can see a meditation entitled “Poem of care for the Physical Body”, which I composed a few years back. In this meditation the observed object is the physical body. Each “verse” has two lines, and the way it works is very simple; as you inhale you practice taking an objective perspective on your body, and then as you exhale you extend a subjective feeling to the body.

To take the first two lines as an example:

“Breathing in I am aware of my physical body,

Breathing out I extend care and calm to my physical body”

Here, as we breathe in we deliberately step back and cultivate objective awareness of our body. Then as we exhale we consciously extend the positive, subjective feelings of care and calm to our body.

In the second two lines this continues:

“Breathing in I am thankful to my physical body,

Breathing out I extend my love and gratitude to my physical body”

As be breathe in, we objectively recognize that there are many ways in which our body is serving us well in every minute of every day. With this recognition we then breathe out and extend the subjective feeling of love and gratitude to our body.

From this example you can see that insight meditation works to improve our subjective experience (in this case of our body) by working  to improve our objective experience first, and then bringing that objective perspective together with our subjective feelings in benevolent partnership, as opposed to the dissonant conflict that so often exists in us between these two poles of our being!

Here is the full “poem”, please note that you can listen to and or download a short (9min) recording of this meditation on my meditation blog that I have done here:

Poem of Care for the Physical Body Recording

Poem of Care for the Physical Body

1. Breathing in I am aware of my physical body,

Breathing out I extend care and calm to my physical body,

2. Breathing in I am thankful to my physical body,

Breathing out I extend my love and gratitude to my physical body,

3. Breathing in I am aware of psychological tensions I hold within my physical body,

Breathing out I release this tension,

4. Breathing in I feel at home in my physical body,

Breathing out I rest within that homely space.

Final thoughts

Sometimes the conflict between our subjective experience and objective perspective has a complex history that needs a skilled third party perspective to untie the complexity and re-fashion that relationship in a new way. This is one of the main functions of the 1:1 coaching that I offer as a service. However, the regular practice of simple insight meditation forms such as I have explained above can really go a long way to improving the dynamic between our objective experiences and subjective feelings. The Poem of Care for the Physical Body is a short, simple and profound way of beginning the journey of insight-through-meditation.