Categories
Awareness and insight Concentration Enlightened service Positive anger

Act your rage – Three useful ways of thinking about and using your anger

One of the things that was emphasized in my Buddhist meditation training (and this holds true for most contemplative spiritualities) was that there is really nothing useful about anger, it was entirely destructive. This is further backed up by statements such as “one moment of anger is enough to destroy the merit (good karma) that you can create over aeons” and “a moment of anger can cause you to have a hundred negative rebirths in the future”.

My present take on anger is that it is a powerful emotion that is basically neutral in nature, and that can be used in positive or negative ways.

Anger is NOT the same thing as raw aggression, cruelty, bullying, hatred, acting to deliberately harm. It can just as easily be expressed as personal power, positive assertiveness, the powerful/wrathful expression of compassion and so on…

With this in mind, here are three useful analogies* for what positive anger can be like:

  • Anger is the T cells, or white blood cells of our psychological immune system – It is the aspect of our mind that becomes alert when there is a threat to our wellbeing, and acts to defend
  • Anger is the protector of our psychological boundaries – When there is someone or something that is causing  an abuse of our psychological self, positive anger can act to defend and ward off that abuse and restore appropriate boundaries
  • Anger is like an illuminating fire – Yes anger is hot like a fire, but it can also be illuminating like fire. In Tibetan Tantric Meditation the higher expression of anger is said to be ‘clarity’. If we can separate our anger from our confusion, sometimes we say things in a much clearer and more wise way than we would ever have the courage to do without the impetus of anger

Dealing with anger is not easy, but that does not give us an excuse to shy away from the responsibility that we have for harnessing it to our compassionate impulses and using it for the best and highest purposes of ourself and the World.

*These analogies if first heard from the work of Ken Wilber and Robert Masters

Related article:

In order to find real happiness, first you have to get mad as hell!

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Enlightened love and loving Presence and being present

Nine Factors that you need to have in place for your romantic relationship to produce bliss and ecstacy in your mind and body

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

Tomorrow I will be doing a class entitled “The transformative power of bliss and ecstasy – Connecting to the experience of enlightened love” . So, I gave myself 20 minutes to write down some conditions that I felt were important for developing bliss and ecstasy in our life in general, and romantic relationships (as in all 5 types of romantic relationship). Here is what I came up with:

  1. You need to have a right relationship to sex and sexuality, avoiding the extremes represented on the one hand by imbalanced religion: Sex is sinful, and on the other hand by secular culture where indulgence in debasing and carnal sexuality are encouraged. Avoid the extremes of  either guilt or over-indulgence.
  2. You need to have a healthy diet and take appropriate exercise. This means a diet that nurtures and preserves the long term health and wellbeing of your physical body. Blissful and ecstatic states cannot be sustained by a body that is filled with impurity and low vibrations. For example a sugar high may bring short term pleasure, but in the long term exess sugar desensitizes and degrades the body, making it very difficult for consistent, stable blissful states to be maintained in the body or mind. Similarly and physically unfit body that you don’t value enough to take care of is not going to provide you with a stable basis for deep bliss.
  3. You need to be open and have the courage to face both deep pleasure and deep pain in your romantic relationship. Bliss and ecstasy cannot flow through a body mind where deep levels the emotional being has been repressed. Go beyond your comfort zone!
  4. You need to know that you are deserving of bliss. If you don’t like yourself and love yourself, you won’t let bliss into your life even if the conditions are staring you in the face
  5. You need to meditate and create special time to experience the divine each day. Bliss and ecstasy can be stimulated occasionally by outer objects and circumstances, but fundamentally deep, stable bliss relies upon some form of inner connection to source.
  6. You need to enjoy the experience of being naked! The natural sensual spirituality of your own body and of your partners (even if you are well over 45!) J
  7. You need to practice joy, gratitude and appreciation each day, and practice communicating these to your romantic partner
  8. You need to be able to accept deep bliss. Superficially it seems like anyone would say yes to bliss. However, to our ego, bliss is as threatening to our self sense as pain and misery. If you really open to bliss, you will be transformed and changed. Your negative ego won’t like this and thus will try and close you off to too much bliss.
  9. For sensual pleasure to be connected to inner spiritual bliss, they need to be combined with awareness and restraint
PS: If you enjoyed this article and would like to find out how you can use the latest meditation technologies to enhance your bliss and joy, then click here: Digital Euphoria

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

Categories
Enlightened love and loving Meditation techniques

Devotion to relationship; What happens to romantic love after the peak of attraction and desire has been passed?

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

In my last article I write about the validity of including the experiences of attraction and desire in our experience of love and in particular our romantic relationships. In these articles I am breaking romantic love goes up into four stages:

  1. The first stage is attraction and desire
  2. The second stage is relationship
  3. The third stage is union
  4. The fourth stage is creativity

Each of these four stages can happen in five types of romantic relationship:

  1. The inner romance between the soul and personality
  2. The romance between ourself and the divine
  3. The romance between two humans (or two evolved life forms, I guess you could include some animals and some nature devas in this bracket too)
  4. The romance we can experience between ourself and landscape, or sense of place
  5. The romance between ourself and our “art” or the work that we love.

So, after the initial intensity of attraction and desire (which is a natural and enjoyable phase of romantic love) has started to fade, what happens then? The answer is we move to the next stage, which I have termed “relationship”. This starts to emerge when:

With a lover:

  • You no longer see the person that you are engaged in a romance with through an idealized projection. It starts to become obvious that the person you are with is not perfect. He or she has faults and eccentricities that you were previously prepared to gloss over and “not see”, but now there they are in plain sight.
  • It is an effort to control your ego in your interaction with your partner. When filled with attraction and desire for him/her, the ego was prepared to take a back seat, but now the novelty of the romance has worn off, your ego come back, and starts to act as crankily and grumpily as ever
  • The first obvious arguments and disagreements occur
  • You start thinking “Is this person as right for me as I thought s/he was?”
  • Issues cannot be resolved simply by having sex or schmoozing

With our soul and the divine: (I will place the two of these together here in the context of, let’s say a daily meditation practice)

  • Our initial awakening or expansion of consciousness becomes the norm, the novelty wears off
  • We start to wonder if the sense of connection and oneness that we previously felt was real. Maybe it was an illusion
  • All that is not oneness, not love, not peace starts to re-emerge in our mind
  • We become intensely aware of all the parts of our mind that our broken, hurt or otherwise suffering or in pain
  • Meditation becomes “work” no longer effortless play
  • The complexity, cruelty, difficulty, negativity of our world comes back into focus with a jolt

With landscape or sense of place:

  • The novelty of the new place becomes ordinary, we start to see the dirt on the sidewalk rather than the beauty of the overall ambiance
  • Our daily routine in the new place becomes effortful
  • We realize the damage that may have been done to the place or environment, and the amount of work that we will have to do to heal or restore the landscape

With our art or work:

  • When the initial enthusiasm for the discipline that we have been attracted to dies
  • We have our first few technical setbacks, it is going to be more complicated that we thought!
  • We have to face our work or art being critiqued (positively or negatively) by others
  • As Michelangelo said: “If people knew how much work it took to make my art, they would not think it so beautiful!”

So, what to do when this starts to happen?

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Recognize what is happening in your romance is a natural part of its unfolding. If it is going to flower into the stages of union and creativity, then it has to go through this testing phase of relationship
  • Know that the tools that will help you at this stage are things like tenderness, honesty, love and compassion (for self and others equally), integrity, a wiling-ness to see the unpleasant without blinking.
  • Don’t mourn the loss of the initial bliss of desire and attraction! If you persevere with the relationship stage desire and attraction will re-emerge in your relationship in the deeper, creative forms of passion and ecstasy (another good word for ecstasy might be rapture)
  • Recognize that the emphasis in your romance has shifted from a temporarily pleasurable phase to a phase of deeper healing, confrontation and self-enquiry (mutual self enquiry if with a person)
  • Understand this is a phase that will require effort, mindfulness, consistency and devotion
  • Don’t be attached to quick results, the challenges in this phase can last years, even decades
  • Don’t be afraid of dark times; true, non-idealized love is a treasure hard won!
  • This phase of the romance will test you to see whether the person, work, place or spiritual practice really is right for you. Whilst recognizing that work will be involved to make the relationship succeed, sometimes the work reveals that the relationship is not in fact right for you. If so, be prepared to let go. The best one liner I ever heard for this is from the Zen Roshi DT Suzuki “In relationships is it not a matter of letting go of what is there, but rather recognizing what has already gone”. You know if a relationship is over because it has already gone.

Contemplation on developing a devotion to your romantic relationships:

Consider any of your romantic relationships with any of the five types of object above. Think about the difficulties that you face, the things about it that you fear, hate, find tiresome etc…Allow yourself to feel the reality of the challenges, and the emotions that you feel.

When you have done this, then focus on developing a mind of devotion to the relationship. Devotion is a mind that has the patience, endurance and love to see the difficulties in your relationship through to their successful resolution.

Simply sit and breathe with your devotion for a while, allow it to strengthen your resolve to build a romantic relationship based around deep love, not just changeable pleasure. Know that if you follow this devotion it will lead you on the long term path to bliss and romantic fulfillment.

 

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

Categories
Inner vision Meditation techniques Presence and being present Primal Spirituality

Walking meditation with the primal ancestors

This is a simple meditation form that can be done as a walking meditation or a sitting form. I am going to explain it here as a walking meditation. It is a creative meditation where the imagination plays a large role in the experience. However by engaging our imagination we connect ourselves to the spiritual energies of the Planetary Being and of our own common and individual ancestral heritage, and this can be a powerful experience.

One of the things that I think we have forgotten in our contemporary day and age is a feeling of connection and participation in some of the fundamental processes of life. By this I mean simple things like:

  • When you walk you are walking on the surface of a planet that is awe inspiring and in many senses alive and responsive to us
  • Above us is a beautiful and wondrous sky with stars
  • Time moves in cycles, daily, monthly, yearly. We can experience this living process just by lifting our head and looking around
  • We are a part of something much bigger than ourselves

To our ancestors living in earlier ages, these simple and awe inspiring things would have been obvious, as they tended to live in immediate proximity to nature and were more obviously vulnerable to it and reliant upon it. In reality we are no less so I think, but this is in many ways hidden from our view these days.

In this meditation we imagine ourselves to be one of the first ancestors of our human family, and imagine what it is like to walk as they did and experience the Earth as they did. The purpose is to re-awaken a sense of wonder, connection and participation to the earth and the universe as a living thing, something naturally divine.

Walking with and as the primal ancestors

–          Find a pleasant natural environment to walk in. In time you can learnt to do this in the midst of a city, but initially it is helpful to find a peaceful place with plenty of greenery and relative quiet. If you can walk barefoot this is preferable

–          Spend a little while simply breathing and centring yourself in the present moment, attune yourself to your environment.

–          In your mind allow yourself to go back in time as far as you can to the times of your oldest, most primal relatives in distant earlier ages of the Earth. Intuitively see one of these ancestors in front of you or beside you. Get a sense of their clothing (or lack of it) their aspect, their manner, their energy. Feel your minds and hearts establishing an energetic link.

–          Walking with your primal ancestor: Walk through your environment with them walking next to you (perhaps you are holding hands). As you walk try and enter into their experience of walking on the earth, their natural awareness and reverence for nature and the Planetary being. Try and feel into their natural sense of timelessness, their understanding of the seasons, of the elements.

–           Walking as your primal ancestor: Once you have done this a few times you can try walking AS your primal ancestor, that is to say you see yourself in their body, see the world through their eyes, and think with their thoughts as you walk.

–          You may find that each time you do the meditation you meet the same ancestor, or you may find that they change periodically. Trust your intuitive imagination here!

Click here to find out about upcoming classes by Toby on the Six stages of Love.

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Enlightened service Inner vision Motivation and scope

Enlightened transformation – Five levels of motivation for personal change

www.tobyouvry.com/soulportraits

Here are five reasons why people are motivated to make a change in their life:

1)      Self-hate – “I’ve got to change because I hate myself so much”. At this level you have to change because the level of dislike that you feel when you look in the mirror or contemplate your behaviour is just no longer tolerable. Think many of the contestants on “the biggest looser” or a junkie who has been told he will die unless he quits his habit. Unfortunately, for many of us it has to get this bad before we can really make genuine change.

2)      Self-improvement – Here you can like who you presently are, but you have become hungry enough in evolutionary terms to want to continue to change and transform into something even better. High achievers in any discipline; meditation, sport, sport business or whatever, all have to get to at least this level to be where they are.

3)      I want to benefit my circle of influence Sometimes we can’t bring ourself to change our behaviours just for ourself (maybe we don’t feel we are worth it?), and it takes a sense of responsibility to others to make us change. I saw five minutes of an interview with Pamela Anderson last night. In it she explained how she tolerated violence from her ex-husband until she had kids, when he demonstrated violence to her in their company she left him. Classic example.

4)      I want to benefit the world – Here our concern extends beyond our ego and our circle of friends and family to include the whole world as our object of compassionate care. This compassionate care for the Whole has become strong enough for us to actually change ourself and our behaviours.

5)      The universe wants to benefit others through me – Here there is to a greater and greater degree a sense in which our actions are a spontaneous expression of something greater than ourself. Rather than us willing the action, the action flows though us from some deeper source. The transformative action feels spontaneous, effortless, choiceless. 

In this arrangement, level five is the highest motivation, level one is the lowest. However the key to mastering them all is to understand that level 5 transcends and includes all the others. You can be operating largely from level five whilst at the same time:

  • Wanting to change something about yourself you don’t like
  • Wanting to get better at something you already do well
  • Wanting to specifically help your circle of influence in some way
  • Being motivate to make the world a better place

One minute mindfulness of motivation:

For two or three of your actions each day, sit down before hand and think to yourself “Why am I doing this?” Mentally bring to mind the five levels of motivation above (or print off the above summary and have a look at them as you ask yourself the question). How many of these motivations are you currently exercising in your life in an appropriate way? How many of them can you start introducing into your daily actions to deepen and enhance them?

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Enlightened service Motivation and scope Uncategorized

The five types of enlightened power

The series of meditation classes that I am teaching at the moment has got me thinking about different ways in which you can express enlightenment in your daily life. Here is a profile of five enlightened powers that, if consciously practised together will make your own attempts to embody enlightenment in the market place more powerful:

The five types of power are:

  • The power of embodiment
  • The power of devotion
  • The power of affirmation and visualization
  • The power of energy
  • The power of karmic action

The power of embodiment – The basic practice here is remembering that you are, in essence a spark of Universal spirit experiencing (temporarily) a physically embodied life on Earth as a human. Whatever situation you find yourself in, grounding your awareness in your true identity and not getting caught up in your small or egoic identity is the power of embodiment. Wherever you are, remember WHO you are!

The power of devotion – This power is the power of invoking prayers to forces greater than oneself regarding any situation that you may be in. The power of devotional prayer connects higher and deeper energies into the situation, and enables them to participate in the event more directly, thus increasing the chances of a more enlightened outcome (See my article on “Why worry when you can pray?” ).

Another aspect of this power could be said to be your devotion to your highest ideal and highest outcomes, not settling for second best so to speak.

The power of affirmation – This power is really a mental training. It involves paying attention to the thoughts and images that you are having, and ensuring that as far as possible they are affirming the highest and best outcome for any given situation. Our thoughts and imagination have tremendous unseen power to influence events one way or another.

The power of energy – This power entails being aware of the subtle energy present in your body and in the environment, and learning to develop and maintain as harmonious, positively powerful and stable subtle body energy as you can at all times. Simply being a point of stable, expansive enlightened energy in any situation will be of help, even if we do or say nothing.

The power of karmic action – This is choosing to physically act and speak in a way that is congruent with the above four enlightened powers, so that the actual daily actions that you engage in are a reflection of the higher intentions that you have been developing.

A five minute meditation for engaging the five enlightened powers in your daily life:

If you do this exercise once a day over the next 7 days, it will give you a feel for how to engage the five powers in any given action.

–          Minute 1 – Embodiment: Select the life situation that you want to engage the five enlightened powers with. Visualize yourself in that situation. Breathe deeply into the core of your being and body, find the formless, timeless space of pure awareness in your heart that is your True or Universal Self. Ground yourself in the awareness that this is your true identity.

–          Minute 2- Devotion: Offer a prayer in whatever manner feels appropriate for the highest good of the situation. Invoke any higher or greater universal powers into the situation and request their help. Give them permission to participate fully in working toward the best outcome.

–          Minute 3 – Affirmation: Offer your highest and most encouraging thoughts regarding the situation. For this time see, think and visualize the highest good and the best outcome

–          Minute 4 – Energy: Feel the subtle energy and light vibration in your body as strong, balanced, harmonious and stable. See this energy spreading out into the situation and the energies of all the people involved. Feel and experience this strong balanced subtle force flowing in the dynamic of the whole scene.

–          Minute 5 – Karmic Action: For the last minute think about practical things that you may be able to do or say to take the situation forward. Make a metal note of when and where you are going to try and engage in these practical actions.

Conclude with a dedication that the energy of all the five forces that you have generated in your meditation should be a cause for the most enlightened outcome possible!

Finnish.

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Enlightened service Inner vision Motivation and scope

Why expressing your enlightenment in the marketplace of your life is an ethical imperative (and three things you can do to start NOW!)

In the past, if all those who had some degree of enlightened awareness chose to retreat from society and live in the mountains, then that would be unfortunate for society in general, but at least we could rest secure in the knowledge that the world and humanity would continue to be here. In past times humanity did not have the power to wreak total destruction on the planet, ecosystems and itself.

Now we are in a situation where the LACK of evolved consciousness in human society at large is a huge problem, because the problems that human activity is causing are global in nature. Humans now have the power to alter the ecological balance of the planet through pollution, to wipe out other species of creature in ways that in the past would have been inconceivable. We now have a situation where we have GLOBAL OR “METTA” PROBLEMS, BUT MOST HUMAN BEINGS ARE TRAPPED IN A EGOIC OR “MICRO” MINDSET!

The only way to solve global problems is by adopting a global mindset, where as many individuals as possible are actively caring about the state of the world as a whole. That means that humanity as a whole needs to raise its level of consciousness from a fundamentally self-centred, self-serving mindset to a fundamentally world-serving, globally caring mindset.

 This current situation then places a new onus upon those whose level of consciousness is raised to any degree of enlightened awareness. It urges them to get out into society and start acting to raise the level of consciousness in as many practical ways as they can think of.

With this in mind, here are three areas that you can start working on NOW:

1)      Developing and sustaining your own enlightened level of consciousness: Having a series of practices that you do each day that are specifically designed to raise your level of consciousness and sustain it. It is no use trying to save drowning people if you are drowning yourself! Knowing, experiencing and embodying enlightened awareness personally is essential for raising the level of societal and global consciousness!

2)      Working mindfully with your own circle of influence: Your circle of influence is that group of people over whom you have some kind of personal or direct influence. These are the people and groups of people that you have real power to affect for better or worse right now . Maximising your potential to benefit them and help them raise their consciousness is perhaps the most obvious and direct way to help raise the consciousness of society as a whole!

3)      Being actively involved in metta projects that are designed to benefit the evolution of the planet and society: As a meditation and Qi gong coach, my main metta project is creating a profile of services and education programs that help people to raise their consciousness, heal their mind and body and participate in life in an enlightened manner. Your project might be a long term relationship to a charity, working on conservation, creating new enlightened business systems or whatever. The main point here is that you have some form of long term project that is designed to make an enlightened impact on society in some way and in the long term.

So, the KEY with understanding these three areas is that ALL THREE NEED TO BE WORKING IN BALANCE.

–          You don’t want to be a meditator with a high level of consciousness but completely cut off from society

–          You don’t want to be a charity worker working on metta projects but totally personally burned out due to neglecting your own personal well being

–          You don’t want to be a person who looks after his or her own circle of concern, but whose boundaries never extend beyond the scope of benefiting friends and family

You need to express whatever level of enlightenment you have in a balanced way in all three areas of your life.

I hope you have enjoyed the article, and I hope to see some of you at the Tuesday class where we shall be looking at this subject in depth!

PS: Here is the link to the new Integral teleseminar seiries entitled “Beyond awakening; the future of spiritual practice”  guranteed to stimulate, and free to participate in!

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Concentration Inner vision Meditation techniques Presence and being present spiritual intelligence

The three stages of meditation practice as an art-form

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Meditation techniques Presence and being present

The healing power of awareness; the topography of insight meditation

 

Next Tuesday 29th June I will be beginning a new series of classes entitled “Insight, awareness and the awakening of our spiritual vision” , so I wanted to spend a little time in this week’s blog post reflecting upon some of the subjects that we will be tackling in these classes.

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, self-actualize (that is start to move naturally toward an enlightened state), and self-transcend (that is to move naturally toward the deeper/subtler level of consciousness immediately beyond its present state of growth) itself, without our having to do anything too much other than allow it.

What Roger is basically saying here is that, if you regularly cultivate states of relaxed and lucid awareness in your day to day routine, then the innate power of this relaxed and lucid awareness will have a powerful healing effect upon your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The problem for so many of us is that we perceive our relationship to our mind as a perpetual battle, where the main object that seems to be standing in the way of our inner growth is the mind itself!

One of the principle forms of meditation that we can use in order to start making friends with our mind, and begin to access and experience it’s amazing powers of self-healing is insight meditation. The main activity of the mind in insight meditation is simply to observe the different levels of our awareness without getting in the way. Because of this insight meditation is sometimes called “choice-less awareness” whatever comes up, we just watch, don’t interfere.

There are four basic levels of awareness that insight meditation helps us to cultivate awareness of; gross, subtle, very subtle and non-dual. We will be looking at these in depth in the classes, but what I want to do below is to outline them and then outline a simple meditation form that we can do on each of these four levels. This way even if you are not able to attend the classes (or listen to them as a recording), you can still get a basic practical flavour of what insight meditation involves.

A basic map or topography of insight meditation awareness:

Level 1: Gross awareness

This level is basically our awareness of our environment, senses and physical body.

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.

Level 2: Subtle awareness

This level basically observes the flow of thoughts, feeling 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 dream state and of day dreaming. Basically this is the realm of inner form, or thought-form.

Sample insight meditation exercise for this level:   

Simply sit down and observe the flow of thoughts, feelings and images the flows through your awareness. Imagine that you are like a person sitting by the side of 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 formless inner space of our very subtle consciousness that is causal to, and lies behind our mental consciousness and sensory consciousness. If you imagine your thoughts and feelings are like clouds, and your very subtle formless conscious is like the sky that contains those clouds.

Sample insight meditation exercise for this level:

Continuing to watch your mind, become aware of the spaces between your thoughts. Allow your awareness to sink deeper and deeper into these spaces, as if you were entering into a clear open sky-like space. Let the cloud-like forms of your thoughts and feelings gently dissolve away into the sky like space of pure, formless awareness.

Level 4: Non-dual awareness

This levels is where the sense of yourself as an observer of the formless space of your consciousness (as in level 3 above) dissolves away, and you are left with a unified (non-dual) experience of primal awareness, just one single experience in the mind with no conceptual ideas of duality at all.

The way to approach this level of practice is through the level 3 exercise. The more you practice this gradually 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 consciously relax on a regular basis, then you are giving yourself a chance to activate its natural self healing awareness. If you want a particular in-depth method to develop your minds self-healing mechanism, then insight meditation offers one such tool.

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

Categories
Awareness and insight Meditation techniques Presence and being present

Fundamental Zen sitting meditation forms

One of the most basic and fundamental meditation practises in the Zen tradition, especially for those in the Soto Zen school is called “shikantaza”, or “just sitting”, and it is this meditation form that I want to outline in this article.

So, the idea with shikantaza or just sitting meditation is that through just sitting you will start to develop and refine your awareness. When you sit down quietly and still your mind a little, you discover that there are basically five main aspects of your awareness. These are:

1)      Awareness of your environment and senses, meaning the surroundings around where you are sitting, and the external sights, sounds and sensations that you can perceive with your five senses.

2)     Awareness of your body and breathing, or your basic physical body awareness.

3)     Awareness of the stream of thoughts, images and feelings within your mind

4)     Awareness of the natural inner space and silence of your consciousness that surrounds and contextualizes the thoughts and feelings. To use an analogy, if you think of your thoughts and feelings as being like clouds, the space and silence in your mind is like the sky itself.

5)     Awareness of awareness itself, that is to say the ever present witnessing aspect of our awareness that is present and observes the objects present in levels 1-4. To continue the analogy, if your thoughts are like clouds, and the formless space of your consciousness is like sky, then your witnessing awareness is like the sun shining its light rays into the sky of your mind. This awareness is sometimes called our natural “Buddha nature” in Buddhism. Other traditions call it other things, eg: the Hindus refer to it as Atma the Eternal Self, or the causal self. Western spiritualities might refer to it as the light of the soul, or the inner light of God that lies within the heart of all.

So, when you just sit, you can choose to focus on any or all of the above and take them as your object of meditation and observation. Different people will find that different aspects of their awareness feel more natural to focus on than others. For example some people find focusing on the body and breathing to be most effective. For others focusing on the sky like nature of the mind feels most appropriate and enjoyable.

A basic Zen meditation form.

I personally recommend that when you are doing this initially, you spend a few minutes focusing on each different level of awareness in turn. For example if you are doing a 20 minute meditation, then you could first spend two minutes on each of the levels 1-5 above, from environmental awareness to awareness of awareness. That would take you about 10 minutes. Then you could spend the remaining 10 minutes of your meditation focusing on the aspects of awareness that you personally find most comfortable and helpful for meditation.

This meditation form enables you to gain basic familiarity with all five basic awareness’s, whilst also giving time for you to focus on your own personal preferences.

A more advanced form

Once you have some familiarity with the basic form above, you can then practice combining two or three different levels of awareness into a single awareness, for example:

– As you are aware of your body and your breathing (level 2), you can combine that awareness with a sense of the inner sky like space of your mind (level 4).

–  As you are aware of the cloud like thoughts and feelings in your mind (level 3), you can be aware of the witnessing self that is observing them (level 5).

This can be a fun stage, whilst at the same time it helps you to develop your skill and dexterity in terms of leaning to be mindful of all the different facets of your present moment awareness simultaneously.

Deep meditation

Once you are familiar with all the different levels of awareness through the above two practices, then you should gradually try and spend more and more time sitting with awareness of just levels 4 and 5, moving deeper and deeper into the experience of the emptiness or sky like nature of the mind, in combination with awareness of the witness or causal self. These two facets of awareness will feel as if they are merging together into a single experience; the sun like nature of your awareness and the sky like nature of the mind merging and mixing into a blissful single flow of awareness.

Non-duality

Combined practice of deep sitting meditation with mindfulness of the five basic levels of awareness in your day to day life will eventually start to give rise to a sixth level of awareness, that of non-duality. This sixth non-dual level of awareness is where we start to experience the lower five levels of awareness as a single unity, not separate or distinct from each other. The world and our moment to moment experience is seen to be arising from the non-duality of primal spirit, or primal awareness.

Non-dual or primal awareness is an awareness that is ever present within us, but which we usually fail to recognize, you could say that it is the final enlightened goal of any authentic spiritual path. You can read a very good article by Ken Wilber on non-dual spirit here, I recommend it, it is one of the best introductions to the subject that I have read.

Anyway, I hope the above article gives some simple and clear pointers for Zen “just sitting” meditation, it is very simple and enjoyable, and its simplicity enables it to be accessible for beginners and at the same time offering ever deepening insights as we continue to practice it.

© Toby Ouvry 2010, Please do not reproduce without permission.