Categories
Stress Transformation

Four Mindful Images for Stress Transformation

Dear Toby,

All Hallows Eve, or Samhuin is one of my favorite times of year, I have always found its energy to be dynamic and transformative in a good way. The article below focuses upon four ways that we can transform difficult, challenging and stressful energies in our life into forces for the good.

Yours in the spirit of inner transformation,

Toby


 

Four Mindful Images for Stress Transformation

Stress transformation is the art of transforming adversities and obstacles into strengths and advantages. One of the essential ‘techniques’ involves is learning to bring the right perspective to the challenge that you face. Below are four images that describe the ‘right’ approach to an inner challenge that will enable you to begin transforming your relationship to it.

1: Uncertainty as darkness – We fear darkness because we cannot be certain what is hidden by it. But the darkness is a place where we rest and regenerate during sleep, and seeds rise from the darkness of the earth. Similarly it is just as easy for good and better things to come out of the uncertainty in our life as it is for bad things. With this in mind, why should we fear uncertainty as we do? Why not consciously cultivate curiosity and enthusiasm for the uncertainty in our life?

2. Anger as a fire – Fire provides both warmth and light as long as we stand at the right distance from it. If we stand too close to it we will get burned. Similarly we can use the power of our anger to provide both clarity and power in our life to do what needs to be done and say what needs to be said. However if we get ‘too close to it’ it easily becomes a destructive force in our relationship to ourself and in our relationships. By learning to stand ‘at the right distance’ from your anger you can transform and re-direct it.

3. Attachment and desire as a rose with thorns – The things we desire are like a rose with thorns. If we regard them with lightness, appreciation and respect then they become objects of beauty and joy that enhance our life like a rose flower. However, if we hold onto them too tightly, this is like griping the stem of the rose, the thorns inevitably cut our hands and cause us pain. Hold your objects of attachment lightly!

4. Stress transforms coal into diamonds – As the saying goes, “a diamond is just a piece of coal that learned to respond well to pressure”. Similarly the pressure and stress we find in our life is always potentially useful to us in the sense that it we can use it to develop and evolve ourselves into someone better, wiser, more compassionate, more resilient as a result of it. If you look at the stress in your life in this way, it is possible to start seeing it as something valuable, useful and worthwhile.

For more articles on stress transformation, go to the stress transformation section of Toby’s blog.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
A Mind of Ease creative imagery Energy Meditation Enlightened Flow Insight Meditation Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Mindfulness

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,

Toby


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

Categories
A Mind of Ease Energy Meditation Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques

Seven Ways to Mindfully Save and Create More Energy

Dear Integral Meditators,

The article below explores how one approach to mindfulness can save and create energy in our life, which is always useful as we often find ourself struggling to keep up with the demands of our daily life.

In the spirit of a mind of ease,

 

Toby


Seven Ways to Mindfully Save and Create More Energy

One of the things that I often do before I do a mindfulness course within a company or organization is to send out a short questionnaire to the participants asking a bit about the challenges that they face in their work. One of the challenges that seems to be coming back more and more in the answers I get is fatigue. With this in mind I have compiled a little list below of ways in which you can use mindfulness to help you save and create more energy in your life and work. So here they are:

1. Recognize when you are in conditions of physical and psychological safety and relax into them – don’t allow your paranoid mind to make you feel like you are in a perpetual state of emergency.

2. Breathe in a way that promotes physiological and psychological relaxation and releases excess tension from the body and mind (See my article on breathing from my Qi gong blog)

3. Practice mindful self-acceptance, or the refusal to be at war with any part of yourself.

4. Each day ask yourself ‘what is good about my life?’, and hold the answers that come from this question with appreciation.

5. Spend at least some time each day focusing on just one activity and enjoying it deeply; allow your mind to gather and dwell in one place.

6. Learn the discipline of stilling your mind; the trick is to see that stillness is something that is present already in your mind (beneath the busyness), rather than something you have to ‘create’.

7. Step back and become a witness to the events of your life; practice the discipline of letting what is going on pass over and through you without clinging to it.

You can find some suggestions for practicing these seven in my previous article “Seven Ways for Creating a Mind of Ease”.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 



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Categories
A Mind of Ease Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation and Psychology

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

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article is one that I wrote back in 2011, before I had any kind of mailing list. When I re-read it today it really made me stop and think, then it made me stop thinking for a while, and then I started thinking again, but thinking better. I hope it does that for you too.

The upcoming mind of ease classes will be full of this type of practical reflection.

Yours in the spirit  of  mindful creativity in the moment,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in October:

Sunday October 19th – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention

 Launches 24th October – The Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease Online Course

Special 1:1 Coaching offer valid until October 14th  2014: Get 15% off the 3 session Stress Transformation Coaching Package.


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 can we 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 impulsively critical mind and start to live a life that involves more freedom, as well as more authenticity and more happiness.

An 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.

Related article: You Always Have a Choice

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self meditation and creativity Meditation and Psychology Mindful Resilience Mindful Self-Leadership Mindfulness

A Blueprint for Mindful Productivity

Dear Integral Meditators,

You may think of ‘productivity’ as  word that you would associate more with your professional development that your individual personal development, but in the article below I look at how our individual happiness is also dependent to a degree upon our productivity, and how we can create a win-win relationship between our personal happiness and professional growth.

Beneath the article you can see that I have placed the full information for the Mind of Ease Meditation Online Course. You can view a ten minute video that I have created where I talk in some detail about the relevance and effectiveness of the Mind of Ease Meditations HERE.

Yours in the spirit of mindful productivity,

Toby


Your Blueprint for Mindful Productivity

Productivity is the act of supporting our existence by translating our thoughts into reality*, our ideas into objects and products, of bringing knowledge, goods and services of all kinds into existence though our creativity.

We should be interested in productivity as individuals because productivity gives rise to achievements, and this in turn gives rise to a particular type of happiness and confidence.
As employers and members of organizations we should be interested in teaching ourself and others in the organization productivity, because it will help to give rise to a successful, confident and happy organization that people will want to work in and stay in.

So what are the building blocks of productivity, and how can mindfulness help nurture it? Here are a few practical thoughts:

1. We need to be having creative thoughts, and to believe that we are capable of such thoughts – In all of the major domains of our life we need to realize that we are creative agents, and that what we do makes a difference. In our relationships, at work, in our leisure activities we need to challenge ourselves to think intelligently about what we want, and then act productively on those ideas to make them a reality.

2. We need to believe something that comes from ourself can be worthwhile – Ask yourself the question “Do I really believe that an idea that I have can be of real value and make a difference in the world?” If you really believe that then productivity and manifestation will be a natural extension of your belief. If deep down you don’t believe in yourself and the power of your ideas, then even if you have the most amazing ideas they are going to get lost behind a myriad of excuses and distractions. It’s actually ‘easier’ to just become a consumer rather than a producer, but by becoming so we deny ourself so many fundamental forms of happiness.

3. We need to measure how many of the creative thoughts we have make it into reality each day – So we’ve decided we are going to really believe in the power of our ideas (not easy to do on a deep level), and we’ve decided to become a producer. Then you need to ask yourself the question each day “How many thoughts and ideas have I translated into reality today?” You literally look at how many of your thoughts you have actually translated into the domain of our everyday reality.

  • If you are an aspiring poet, that means writing something
  • If you are a marketer it means communicating your message to your audience, today
  • If you are a teacher like me, it means producing materials that can be taught and then inviting people to participate

What productive activity have you done today?

4. We need to appreciate that which we produce – Don’t let your achievements go unnoticed. Don’t finish one thing and then immediately go onto the next. Savor it first; allow the pleasure of your own productivity to feed and nurture your being so that you can sustain enthusiasm for the process.

5. Rinse and repeat each day until it becomes a part of the fabric of how you operate
Being mindful of points 1-5 above is your basic blueprint for sustainable productivity each day. Remember, you’re not doing it to please someone else (although it might), you are doing it because you are choosing to take pleasure in your own productive power, the power you have to be a cause in life, not just an effect.

*Paraphrased definition from ‘Honoring the Self’ by Nat Branden, chapter 12 on Rational Selfishness.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation and Art Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindful Resilience Shadow meditation Stress Transformation

The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Dear Integral Meditators,

I gave a talk last night on stress transformation, one of the observations from the participants was that, when we meditated on transforming their stress, the emotion that they thought was their issue faded away, and they were presented with another emotion that they were not aware was there. The article below explores this theme.

Yours in the spirit of feeling deeply,

Toby


The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Human beings are complex, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional beings. It may not come as a surprise to learn (thought it does for many of us) that each of the emotions and feelings we have often has a hidden emotion or feeling behind it that is the real motivator.
You might say that we have a presenting or frontal emotion or feeling that we can see directly, and a hidden emotion or feeling that lies behind it. Let me give you a few examples.

I might feel angry and irritable, but behind that emotion is simply a feeling of physical fatigue. The simplest way to deal with this is therefore to get better rested. If I try and practice anger management techniques without dealing with the fundamental cause of fatigue, then I can waste a lot of time and be discouraged by the results!
Conversely I may suddenly feel tired when an opportunity arises for me to talk openly with my partner about how I am feeling about our relationship. The presenting feeling is one of fatigue, but underneath that is a fear of confrontation with my partner and the possibility of his/her disapproval. In this case no amount of sleeping will solve the root emotional issue of fear of confrontation and disapproval! What needs to be faced is our fear of confrontation.

I feel depressed about my life, but behind that I discover that behind this depression is a secret desire that someone should take the burden of self-responsibility from me, so that I don’t have to ‘worry about it all’. Here I can try and ‘think positive’ all I like, but if I never discover and accept the reality that I have a hidden wish to be taken care of or saved by another, then my efforts are not likely to be successful.

I feel a strong desire for sexual contact and feelings, but behind it was the event that happened during the day that prompted my fear of ageing or death. Again no amount of trying to engage the surface feeling (the wish to have sex) will address the root of the issue which is our emotions of insecurity and vulnerability around ageing and death.

So the basic principle here is that we learn to mindfully connect to the emotions that we experience, and then look a little bit deeper to see if there is a hidden feeling or emotion behind it that is the primary motivator. The value of this is that if we are able to see and connect to the hidden emotion or feeling, then we will have a much clearer idea of what we need to do in order to resolve our challenges.

A three stage mindfulness process for discovering the feelings behind the feelings

1) Select the area of your life that you wish to investigate. Ask yourself what am I feeling in this situation? Connect and breathe with the presenting emotions and/or feelings that arise from this question.
2) Breathe with the presenting emotions for a while, allowing yourself to experience them. Then ask yourself “What are the feelings that lie behind this emotion?” Look a little deeper to see if you can sense or detect the hidden emotion or feeling that lies a little deeper.
3) If it emerges, breathe with this deeper feeling or emotion for a while. Then ask yourself the question “What is it that I need to do (or accept) in order to truly deal with how I feel here?” Pay attention to this answer.
© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
Inner vision Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Mindful Resilience Mindful Self-Leadership Mindfulness One Minute Mindfulness

Mindfully Accessing Your Transferrable Skills

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks newsletter looks at how you can use mindfulness to link already existent skills that you have to activities where you may not have thought to apply them.

Sunday is that last day that you will be able to purchase the Mindful Resilience online course for the opening promotion price of Sing$69. On Monday it will go up to $85, so catch the offer whilst you can!

Yours in the spirit of skills hidden in plain sight,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in October:

Full details soon!


Mindfully Accessing Your Transferrable Skills

Today I gave a talk at the Singapore Stock Exchange on mindful trading. One of the other speakers was a great guy called Dave from Salt Lake City. Earlier in his life he had been a professional drummer with a band. Now, as a trader he said he found that his intuitive skills as a musician helped him to see patterns in his trading charts that had become a major way in which he had developed his ‘trading style’. Dave had found a transferrable skill from his life as a musician which he was now applying to his life as a trader.
A few years ago I was complaining to my Dad that I was at a disadvantage as a business owner because I had no background in ‘selling’ or sales. My dad pointed out to me that I had a lot of experience in listening as a counsellor teacher and coach. He then pointed out that a lot of what being a good salesperson is about is firstly listening to other people to understand their deep needs and wants; if you can do that you are then in a very good position to provide a service or product that they will want. I suddenly discovered that I had a hugely useful transferrable skill that I could use as a businessman that I hadn’t even thought about before and that I could draw a lot of confidence from (thanks Dad!).
When I first started meditation practice in the early 90’s I was able to build my meditation practice better and faster by applying the understanding of under-training and over-training that I had picked up from playing sports, another transferrable skill of great value.

The fact is that many of the skills that you currently have are transferrable to other areas of your life. Not only that but they are transferrable to any new activity that you take up. The more quickly you can make the link between a skill that you already have and its potential value in a new situation, or in a different domain of your life, the more quickly you can start using it.
A great mindful question to ask yourself when faced with a new challenge, stage or activity in your life is “What transferrable skills do I have?” Almost certainly you will be pleasantly surprised how capable you are.

Related article: Mindfully deepening your inner resources.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com 

 

Categories
creative imagery Inner vision Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Art Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindful Resilience Mindfulness Presence and being present Shadow meditation

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,

Toby


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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindful Self-Leadership Mindfulness

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,

Toby


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 www.tobyouvry.com 

Categories
creative imagery Energy Meditation Greenworld Meditation Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Presence and being present Primal Spirituality Shadow meditation

The Sea Snakes of the Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,
When I was young I used to enjoy snorkeling on reefs in the Philippines, where quite often I would come into contact with sea snakes, whom I really loved. The article and meditation below explains a meditation experience that that I had with them more recently. It also co-stars a seal!

Yours in the spirit of calm presence,

Toby


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

AUGUST
(Full details of both courses shortly)

Sunday August 17th, 9.30am-12.30pm –Mindful Parenting – Practical Techniques for Bringing Awareness, Appreciation and Enjoyment to the Experience of Parenting

Sunday August 31st, 9.30am-12.30pm – Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia


The Sea Snakes of the Mind

The story of the inner sea snakes of the mind
Back around 2008 I did a marathon meditation class series on meditating with animals. We covered about thirty or so animals over as many weeks. One of these animal guides was the seal. The seal meditation went something like this:
Imagine you are on a sunny beach somewhere in wild nature. Set your intention to meet the seal as an animal guide within ‘the reality of your creative imagination’.
Imagine from the sea comes a seal. After greeting you and playing on the beach for a while the seal invites you to follow him/her into the water. As you swim out you find yourself in shallow sea with waving seaweed and perhaps some corral. You spend time playing gently with the seal and enjoying the play of the light in the water and the small fish around you.
You come to the edge of the shallow water a way out from the shore. Here the ground drops away abruptly like a cliff and you find yourself facing the deep blue-green ocean, at the edge of your cliff.
The seal now swims off into the deep water and disappears. From just below the cliff face suddenly a group of stripped sea snakes emerges and begins to swim around you. You know they are extremely venomous, but despite your fear you understand clearly that the best thing to do is relax, breathe and stay absolutely still. If you do so then the snakes will not harm you. If you panic and thrash around however there is very real danger.
After having relaxed, stayed still and allowed the snakes to coil around you for a while, they depart, leaving you alone; still shocked but exhilarated. The seal now comes back from the deep water and invites you to come with him there. You swim out and down over the cliff face into the deep blue-green stillness with the seal into what feels like an infinity of peace and tranquility.
At your leisure you return back to the beach, give thanks to the seal and end the meditation.

The psychological metaphor of the sea snakes
So, the psychological metaphor is that the snakes are like your negative and destructive minds that threaten your happiness and wellbeing. The teaching is that if, when they arise in your mind (like the snakes in the sea) you have the presence of mind to keep calm and still, then the negative minds will hang around, but then leave you after a while without doing any harm. If however when they come up you thrash around, panic, fight with them and so on, then they will bite and poison you.
You leave them alone, they leave you alone. Negative or difficult minds come up? That need not be a problem; just don’t give them any reason to bite.

So the sea snakes are the bad guys right?
If we are saying that the sea snakes are our negative minds then I guess we could say they are the bad guys.
However, on a deeper level I think we could call them guardians. If the shallow water represents our everyday mind and thinking self, and the deep water represents deeper, more powerful and profound levels of consciousness, then the sea snakes arise at the gateway between these two levels. They come to test us; if we are not able to deal with them then we should not proceed to the deeper levels that lie beyond, as they would likely have an unbalancing and possibly destructive effect upon us.
If however we are able to pass the test that the sea snakes pose, then this indicates that we are ready and mature enough to proceed.

So then in this context the snakes are guides and guardians, complementary to the seal in his/her ‘spiritual’ role.
Many times in meditation (or in life?) when you are at the threshold of some breakthrough, apparently negative, destructive or otherwise disruptive forces arise in the mind, the ‘storm before the calm’ so to speak. If we can negotiate the storm then we are ready for the deeper calm and power that follows.

Meditating on the seal as spirit guide and the sea snakes of the mind
To meditate on the inner sea snakes of the mind, and on the seal as inner guide simply follow the story outlined at the beginning of this article in contemplation. Spend as much time as appropriate at each stage.
And when the snakes come, just remember to stay still!

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com