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Mental framing – Sculpting your view of life

Dear Integral Meditators,

We are never in 100% charge of what we experience in life, but we can determine the way in which we experience what happens. This week’s article explores how to mindfully take advantage of this truth!

In the spirit of sculpting & framing,


For those in Singapore: This weeks Tuesday & Wednesday evening meditation class focuses on seven mindful positions that can help you master your mind in daily life. One of these seven positions is mindful framing.


Mental framing – Sculpting your view of life

We are never in 100% charge of what we experience in life, but we can always influence the way in which we experience what happens. How we influence the way in which we experience something is via the manner in which we pay attention to it, and in particular the way in which we mentally frame it. The essential question with mental framing is “What is the optimal way for me to view what I am experiencing, so that I derive maximum value and minimum unnecessary pain from it?”
This question and the answers we get from it are like mental sculpting. The raw materials are our life experiences, and our ways of mental framing are like the tools used to craft and mould the raw materials into the shape that I desire.
Last weekend I was giving the example to a class of my own workshop creation process. I’ve created over 50 meditation and mindfulness workshops in the last decade. Of these only around 50% have gone on to be successful in the sense of attracting a lot of people numbers. So, if I focus purely on the ‘success rate’, then I’m not going to be a very happy boy in some ways. However, there are many ways in which I can use my mind to frame what I am experiencing after a ‘failed’ workshop in ways that are helpful to me. For example:

  1. ‘It is realistic to expect many of the events that I put on to not attract large numbers. It’s simply part of my evolving work progress, and in fact a 50% success rate is very good in the circumstances!’ – This view helps me accept the experience, feel happy about it and sets me up to continue working with it in the long term without feeling discouraged.
  2. ‘A small number of people in a workshop creates an intimate space for me to have a more meaningful, small scale relationship to the participants’ – Again, this view helps me feel enthusiasm for the experience and helps me to keep my appetite for the work in the long term.
  3. ‘I learned a lot from creating the workshop, so it is feeding my own process of self-discovery and growth’ – This is absolutely and objectively true, I do learn a lot, and so the time was not wasted, indeed it was very well spent!
  4. ‘If it didn’t work in this context, maybe I can try it in another context’ – I’ve seen from my own experience how courses that I have created in one arena later became a part of my mainstream ‘successful’ courses later down the line. No creative process is ever entirely wasted! Indeed, some of my most successful material only finds the right audience two or three years down the line.
  5. ‘This is helping my ongoing learning process about value creation’ – Every time I try something out, or put it out to an audience, I learn more about value creation, in business, in relationships and in life. This learning in turn helps me to make the best of what I meet in each day, and to become more successful in life. What could be better than that?

So, there you go; five ways of mentally framing my situation in ways that help me to view and experience it in a positive AND REALISTIC way. Realistic is in caps because for mental framing to be effective it has to be reality focused. You can’t just fantasize any old BS that just isn’t true!
Mindfulness is all about releasing our potential for learning and growth in the moment. Mental framing is a technique that really we can be using all the time during our day to ‘sculpt’ our reality in a way that is useful and desirable. But to get going you might like to take one or two specific situations in life and practice framing them. Happy sculpting!

Related articles: 
How to mindfully develop your self-confidence
Four positions for wrestling with your dark angels
Mastering your mind through mindfulness

© Toby Ouvry 2018, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation Classes at One Heart with Toby (East coast)

Tuesday 29, Wednesday 30th May – Wesak Meditation

Saturday 2nd June, 9.30-11.30am – The Power of Presence – Mindfulness for managing conflict in your relationships and accessing your inner power

Saturday, 9th June, 9.30am-1pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment

Integral Meditation Asia

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

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A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

Dear Integral Meditators,

With so many different types of meditation how can we know what it is all about? In the article below I offer one map that contains the territory of all meditation types. I hope you find it useful!

The Tuesday 9th I will be giving a whole evening seminar and practicum giving a big-picture overview of integral meditation, including these five states. If you are in Singapore do feel free to join us!

In the spirit inner maps,


A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

There are so many different types of meditation, what are the common themes that tie them all together? One way of doing this is to understand that all meditations of whatever tradition are basically a type of state training. This basically means that when you are meditating you are training to capture and hold a particular state of mind, consciously and over an extended period of time.

There are five basic states that meditation helps us to become more conscious of and to learn to utilize in a practical and useful manner. Here they are in summarized form:

1. The Waking State – This is the state of our everyday, waking consciousness, with its attending concrete mental functions and emotions. In brain wave terms this is primarily the beta state with some alpha. The function if meditating in the waking state is to learn to use our concrete mind and attention mindfully, in such a way as to produce happiness and wellbeing rather than stress and negativity.

2. The Dreaming State – Once we get beyond the beginner level of meditation we start to work more and more consciously with the dream state, both when asleep and when day-dreaming. This is a subtle state of mind which contains many different levels. It can be very creative and when we are in this state our brain is mainly functioning in alpha and theta waves. The function of meditating in dream states is to learn to access these higher, deeper states of mind in order to enjoy them for creative, useful and positive purposes.

3. The Deep Sleep State – This is the very subtle state of consciousness and reality that is beyond the mind, it is a state of pure consciousness or being-ness. We all access it unconsciously at night during deep sleep. It is a formless, timeless ‘eternal’ dimension of consciousness. When we are in this state, our brain functions mainly in the delta wave state (though if we do so in meditation it tends to be a combination of alpha and delta). The function of meditation in the deep sleep state is to accomplish a ‘liberation’ from being solely identified with our personal body-mind, and to connect to a deeper more universal sense of identity. It is also extremely relaxing and regenerative.

4. The Witnessing State – The witnessing state is a state that accompanies all of the previous three states; waking, dreaming and sleeping.  It is an objective state of mind where we are observing as a witness the state of consciousness that is appearing to us at that time. Quite a few meditation traditions emphasize this witnessing practice as the centre of their meditation technique.

5. The Non-Dual State – This is a more advanced state of meditation where the subject-object divide between ourself and what we are observing disappears and we enter into a state of ‘oneness’ or ‘non-duality’. For example if we are meditating on a mountain we go from ‘I am meditating on a mountain’ to simply ‘mountain’. Or, if we are meditating on the formless timeless state of deep sleep, we go from ‘I am observing a formless timeless emptiness’ to a state of just formless timeless emptiness, where the self has essentially disappeared. These non-dual states are made stable by advanced meditators and make up the bulk of what you would call their ‘enlightenment experience’.

So, these five basic states are the five basic dimensions of our reality. As a meditator we learn to move consciously and deliberately between these five states, using each appropriately in order to bring about healing, personal growth and eventually ‘enlightenment’. I realize that I have covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, but it can be very useful to know about these five basic meditation states, because if you know about them, you can pretty much see where all the different meditation types fit into the model. For example shamanic meditation emphasizes mastery of the dream state; while Zen meditation emphasizes mastery of the 3rd, 4th and 5th states. It is a map you can use as your meditation practice grows and matures.

Related articles: The Five Stages of Meditation Practice from Beginners to Advanced
Five Inner Skills we develop Through Meditation

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in May:

JUNE 2015

Tuesday 9th June, 7.30-9pm – An Evening of Integral Meditation – Cultivating the Awakened Mind Within Ourselves, Our Work & Our Relationships

Saturday 13th June 2.30-5.30pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment – A Three Hour Workshop

Sunday 14th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and for Self-Healing

Saturday 27th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Mindful Self-Confidence – Developing your self-confidence, self-belief & self-trust through meditation & mindfulness

Saturday 27th June, 2.30-5.30pm – The Call of the Wild–Meditations for Deepening Your Inner Connection to the Animal Kingdom and the Green-world


Integral Meditation Asia


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The Four Subtle Experiences in Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the path of meditation in three stages, focusing in particular on the second stage, developing and engaging subtle experiences. It is useful to know about these ‘intermediate’ levels of the meditation experience because it enables us to appreciate and explore them without the danger of thinking that they are the end of the journey.

Yours in the spirit of the meditation journey,



The Four Subtle Experiences in Meditation 

In meditation generally there are three stages:

  • Balancing, stilling & harmonizing the body-mind
  • Developing and engaging subtle state experiences
  • Moving into or exploring  the formless/timeless dimension of consciousness

In order to get to the second stage of engaging subtle state experiences, you need to first need to still and unify your body-mind through relaxation, calming and stillness. You can read more about this first stage of meditation here: The first task (and achievement of meditation).

If you can achieve this, then you then naturally start to move into the subtle level of meditation which comprises of four main types of experience:

The intuitive /ideational – This is where your mind starts to come up with ideas, insights and intuitions, quite spontaneously and effortlessly. These ideas may be quite abstract, or they may be entirely pertinent to very specific life situations that you are going through. They are often characterized by their capacity to see patterns, meanings and relationships in apparently random and disparate experiences.

The subtle energetic – This is an awareness of subtle energy flowing through our body and mind in ways that we would not be ordinarily conscious of. This dimension of meditation experience is explained in various ways, in terms of the movement of energy through the energy meridians, the chakras and kundalini, the microcosmic orbit and so on.

The expanded emotional – This is the experience of emotions that go beyond our ordinary every day personal range of emotions, and includes experiences such as

  • Causeless and spontaneous joy
  • Unconditional affection and love
  • Openhearted compassion for all living beings
  • Deep equanimity

The visionary – This means an awakening to spontaneously received visual images of people, places things and sometimes even entire inner worlds. It is a little bit like dreaming, except the images are experienced whilst in full consciousness, and they are distinct from our imagination, that is to say they have an objective quality that is separate from the random images arising from our everyday thinking and imagining mind.

These four subtle types of experience will then give way to the third stage of meditation experience:

The formless – This is the experience of the formless timeless domain of the mind and consciousness that lies beyond both our sensory awareness and our thinking mind. Initially our experience of the formless simply an open spacious experience of awareness with no thoughts in it. However, after a time this deepens, giving rise to various forms of experience of deep unitive and non-dual experience where we experience ourself as ‘one’ with our world and universe, and where our experience of the subject-object, doing-being  divide disappears into a pure experience of is-ness.

So, once you have settled down into your meditation, and your body-mind are feeling a calm and relaxed, these are the four major subtly meditation experiences that you can start to identify, work with and build your experience of: the intuitive/ideational, the subtle energetic, the expanded emotional and the visionary. These in turn will gradually give way to experiences of the formless dimension of meditation experience.

© 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