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One Minute Mindfulness

Mindful of the Stress of Living in an Emergent Time

tobyouvry.com
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An emergent time is a time in history where there is a large amount of change, innovation, transformation and transformation going on within society and on the Planet as a whole.

All of this change and transformation can also give rise to the perception that there is more conflict, stress, confrontation, agitation and despair in the world, and that we ourselves as individuals are under more pressure, both on a day to day work/life level, and on an existential level.

I’m not sure whether there has ever been a time in known history where there has been as much change as there is going on currently in our time, or a time where the problems that we are facing, (climate, pollution, economy etc..) have ever been so global in their nature. So many challenges, wonders and horrors seem to be emerging all around us.

One question that I find it interesting to ask myself is “How am I responding or reacting to the pace of change? Do I feel and experience it as a good thing with a lot of positives, or is it something that my mind contracts away from with aversion or fear?”

Like everyone else I think I inevitably feel a certain degree of stress with regard to the pace of life these days, but I think it really helps me to have made a definite choice to envision our human and planetary future evolving in a wonderful, exiting and creative way toward a better future. This involves me making definite specific, practical visionary choices. For example:

– When I contemplate the global overfishing crisis, I imagine how it might lead to the creation of multiple marine reserves where humans actively start to protect and cherish life in the sea on a large scale (This is already starting to happen).

– When I think about fundamentally self-centered tendency that so many people seem to be stuck in, I wonder if the fact that we are all getting crowded into such tightly packed spaces (due to population numbers) will gradually start forcing us all to be a little less selfish, and discover that working together will really produce a better world.

– I can imagine that the internet will become a cause for everyone to become more educated and globally aware.

Of course I really can’t be sure what is going to happen with any of these things, but moving  into a future that seems to be e merging so fast, I think we all need to think consciously about what that future may turn into, and start holding a positive picture in whatever way it feel appropriate!

Practical Suggestion:

– Take one emergent crisis in our world that you think of often.

– Think creatively about the good that may come from it.

– Hold that vision of that good in your mind for a minute

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Meditation techniques One Minute Mindfulness

The Little Reminders Work!

I recently listened to a talk by Roger Walsh on the Science of Meditation (well worth having a listen to, click the link to do so). In the talk he mentions that he spent about three years researching for his book “Essential Spirituality”, reading books and interviewing different spiritual teachers of the worlds great wisdom traditions.

One of the activities that he said virtually all of these teachers found effective themselves for daily mindfulness and consciousness development was the simply practice of placing small reminders in your living space. This means the post-it note on the bathroom mirror, the car bumper sticker, the messages that you write to yourself and place on the fridge. Simply being frequently reminded that you are training your mind, and what that training is is a very effective practice.

One of my own reminders is a picture of Buddha Vajrapani (embodying the spiritual and obstacle dispelling power of all the Buddha’s that sits on my desk. Whenever I feel discouraged I just let my eyes rest on this picture for a while and allow my determination and positive energy to build back up again.

What’s your “little reminder ” practice right now? It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than a message on a post-it on your bathroom mirror!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Motivation and scope One Minute Mindfulness

Being Mindful of your Primary Motivation

Before you start something it is always worth spending a moment thinking “Why am I doing this? What is my primary motivation?” If you have a definite reason for doing something, then you can keep it as your focus, thus ensuring greater peace of mind and a higher likelihood of getting what you want from the activity.

– For example, if my main reason for going to play a game of tennis is fun and relaxation, being clear about that ensures that I can enjoy the competitive side of the match I play without letting it become too much of a focus point and thus spoiling my relaxation and enjoyment.

– Similarly if I go out with my wife for a dinner with the clear intention that it is relaxation time, keeping this in mind will mean that I avoid taking up difficult or conflicting topics of conversation that may get in the way of that quality down time.

Conversely:

– If my intention for playing tennis is to push my limits and play as well as possible, I  can make a conscious decision to set aside my merely recreational attitude for a temporarily more serious approach.

– I may deliberately go out for dinner with my wife in order to talk over a difficult or thorny topic, but the fact that I know what my/our intention is ensures that I can keep focused on the goal, and be prepared for the challenge that may come.

My basic point here is that if you are mindful enough to have a clear idea why you are doing something (whatever the size or significance of the activity), then there is a greater chance you will achieve your goal and a greater chance that you will do so with enjoyment and true presence of mind.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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 Meditation techniques

Why is it so Easy to Think Negatively?

Contemporary neuroscientists now believe that our brain has a built in negativity bias. This is because biologically speaking in the thousands of years we spent as primitive tribesmen and women it was actually more useful survival-wise to be able to spot threats and dangers quickly than it was to be loving and relaxed. When you have a genuine threat from predators and aggressive humans from the next tribe, it really paid to be paranoid and think about the worst case scenario!
However, fast forward to 2011, and we have undergone 2-300 years of very fast cultural, social and industrial evolution, and now find ourself in a situation where we are actually physically SAFE most of the time. Unfortunately our biological brain has not evolved as fast as our environment, and so we still find our brain primed to seek out threats, spot the negatives in life, and remain generally neurotic.
Because our brain has not adjusted fully, but retains its built in survival negativity bias, we find that in our everyday life it is much easier to think negatively than  positively. As neuroscientist Rick Hansen (author of “Buddhas Brain”) puts it “Our mind is Velcro for negativity and teflon for positivity”, negativity sticks with no effort, whilst positivity has to be drummed in with effort!!

So, what to do?
The first take away from this understanding is that in order to enjoy a positive mind and perspective we should expect to have to exert effort everyday to think positive and let go of the negative.
The second take away is that we should realize that our mind will naturally exaggerate threats and negativity, so we need to be prepared for this, and make sure we do not give our power away to these over-reactions!

A Daily Practice
Here is one of the things I do each day to keep my mind oriented positively, and I do it religiously each day if I feel negative in any way. It is really very simple, but in the context of the above neuro-psychology you can see how important it is. All I do is write a list of reasons to feel good, positive, fortunate and so on. I write at least three things that I feel good about, but if I have time I write more. To show you exactly what I mean here is my list of three or more things that I feel good about right now:

– I feel good about the soul portrait artwork that I am doing for a client right now, and feel fortunate to be able to do art as a part of my living.
– I’m very excited about a new neighborhood that we may be moving to in the future, it has many of the characteristics that I am looking for!
– I’m enjoying the book I am reading right now “The Marriage of Sense and Soul” by Ken Wilber (recommended by the way!)
– Its good to have the wife around after her absence on a trip for a couple of weeks!

As you can see there is nothing unusual about the above list, but every time I do it what I am training and re-wiring my brain to pick up on the positive and use it as the basis for the way I feel about my life.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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One Minute Mindfulness

What Does Liberation From Suffering Mean?

Does liberation in the spiritual sense from suffering mean that we no longer feel any pain? I tend to think that we will still feel pain of one form or another after we have been liberated, but that pain will not be added to by additional mental suffering and negativeness.

To be liberated from suffering means for example that when you are in physical pain you no longer add to that pain by trying yourself up in knots about the situation you are in. You simply accept the pain as it is, if you can alleviate it you do so through your actions, but if it is just a matter of enduring it with patience,  you can do so without your mind making things any worse than they need to be.

If you can accept pain without it giving rise to mental suffering, then in a very real sense you are liberated from suffering.

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot over the last 36 hours or so as my mind and body seem to be a in a certain amount of pain, and chaos. There is plenty of opportunity to buy into it and create suffering from the pain, but as long as I realize I have the choice not to and am mindful to exercise that choice there is no real problem. Pain does not need to become suffering.

 

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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One Minute Mindfulness

Self Flagellation the Same Thing as Sheer Egoism?

This is an interesting quote from Herman Hess’s “Steppenwolf”:

“…his whole life was an example that love of one’s neighbour is not possible without love of oneself, and that self-hate is really the same thing as sheer egoism, and in the long run breeds the same isolation and despair.”

I find it very interesting to think of self criticism and self hate as really just being the flip side of egotism. We are very quick to out down ourself and other people for being egotistical, but seem much more tolerant of people (including our own selves) who are overly critical of themselves and have low self esteem.

If we really realize that these two activities are  EQUALLY egotistical, then how would that affect our current view and tolerance of self criticism?

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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One Minute Mindfulness

The Six Stages to an Integrated Enlightened Self

Here are six stages or realizations in the journey toward the experience of enlightenment as explained by the great wisdom traditions of the world that emphasize meditation as a daily practice. Of course each of them would explain it with different words and emphasizing slightly different aspects of the path, but broadly speaking these six points would be common.

1. I am not my ego (the mental idea of who I think I am), I am a unified harmonious body-mind, living in the present moment.

2. I have a physical body but I am not my body.

3. I have a mind (a continuum of feelings thoughts and images) but I am not my mind.

4. I have an individual soul/divine spark/Buddha nature, but I am not that individual soul.

5. I am the Universal Witness-Self, the timeless, formless witnessing awareness that lies at the heart of all living beings and all of creation.

6. I am the integrated sum total of all the above “selves” allowing the divine to express itself creatively through me in my daily life from moment to moment.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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A Mind of Ease One Minute Mindfulness

Saying and Giving Thanks

Quite often the temptation can be when we are feeling out of sorts, lonely or unfulfilled in some way to look for something self-centred and pleasurable with which we can indulge ourselves and therefore (we hope) feel better.

One of the things that I have been doing when I have been feeling out of sorts recently is to respond to the dissonant feeling by thinking “Who can I thank for something that they have done for or with me recently?” I will then if appropriate literally write a quick thankyou letter to that person if appropriate, or otherwise just mentally thank them for the service that they have provided me with. You can say thankyou to a huge range of different people. For example my practice today included:

  • A parent of a classmate of my daughters who looked after my daughter on a playdate last week (I wrote and actual email)
  • To my wife for the frank conversation over lunch
  • To the man who took my tennis court booking on the phone
When you are feeling out of sorts, turning your mind to other people and acknowledging their value and kindness to you is often a great way to feel better fast!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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
Inner vision Meditation techniques

Meditating on the Power of Your Creative Imagination

The Benefits of This Meditation
This article explains a three stage meditation on our creative imagination. The aims and benefits of doing this meditation are various:

  • It strengthens general mindfulness and overall awareness of the contents of our mind, and gives us a greater appreciation of our own imaginative power
  • It develops our concentration and skill in learning how to visualize and hold images in our mind
  • It helps us to let go of the thoughts and images in our mind and relax into the deep formless space that lies ‘behind’ the normal daily chatter of our mind.

This meditation can be done in as short a period of time as three minutes, but optimally somewhere between ten and twenty minutes is a good time. Whatever period of time you set aside, your time should be spent equally between the three stages below. So for example in a nine minute meditation three minutes would be spent on each stage.

Stage 1: Watching the Mind and Writing Down its Contents
During this stage I recommend that you actually get a pen and paper/notebook and actually write down all the thoughts, images and feelings that pop up in your stream of consciousness. The point of this exercise is to see and realize clearly how your mind is continually and imaginatively generating thoughts, images and feelings. Whether we like it or not we and our mind are tremendously and powerfully creative. When we start to see this we can start to appreciate and take responsibility for our imaginative creativity.

Stage 2: Focusing and Concentrating on a Single Positive Image
During this second stage simply select one of the more positive and meaningful images that has been flowing through your mind and focus on it exclusively, trying to build it as a clear image in your mind eye. Please note that when I say “image” this includes sounds such as a musical refrain.
For example if I remembered a woodland from my childhood I see and picture myself in that place as clearly as possible, paying attention to the textures, colours, forms, smells, tastes and sounds of that environment. Generating and holding pictures in the mind clearly takes practice at first, but you will find that over time it can be resurrected as a natural skill that we all have.
Initially it can feel a little difficult visualizing because we are so used to having images provided for us by TV and cinema, thus our imaginary powers have become a little lazy.

Stage 3: Relaxing Into the Formless Source of Your Creativity
The final stage of the meditation is to relax your mind as much as possible and allow all images and thoughts to fade from your awareness; so that all is left is the clarity and inner space of your own consciousness. This inner space is actually the hidden source from which all the creative images of your mind arise, very much like the way in which the space and unconsciousness of deep sleep give rise to the inner worlds of dreams. Practice watching and staying with this inner space and clarity for the remainder of the meditation.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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One Minute Mindfulness

Grateful for a Home to go Back to Each Night

Commuting home on an evening in a city like Singapore the temptation can be to try and ignore the fellow travellers on the bus or metro and go back into your shell. On with the ipod and try to forget you are surrounded by people.

Last night I was not in the mood for doing anything on the bus making my way home. Looking around I noticed that about half of the bus were migrant workers, phones glued to their ears phoning home to Bangladesh, Myenmar or wherever. They were all going back to makeshift lodgings, one room with many people sleeping inside, most often no air conditioning, up early the next day for more long work in the sun. All of this thousands of miles away from their homeland and the people most dear to them. Maybe ten or twenty years of their precious life would be spent this way

Reflecting on all this as I focused outward on my fellow passengers my journey home became a meditation on empathy and compassion for them, and a sense of “Gee, I’m glad I’ve got a home to go back to each night, and my loved ones close at hand.”

Seems like noticing who you are commuting with can be worthwhile!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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