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Awareness and insight Insight Meditation Integral Meditation Meditation techniques mind body connection Shadow meditation The Essential Meditation of the Buddha Using the Energy of Negative Emotions

How to Stop Painful Feelings Becoming Negative Emotions

Dear All,

Normally in conversation we use the word feelings and emotion as if they were the same. This weeks article looks at the distinction that can be made between emotions and feelings, and how this can be used in order to prevent difficult emotions arising from painful feelings. I think you will find it useful!

Many thanks to those of you who signed up fro and attended the first of the Integral Meditation Practice Six week course, it was great to meet and spend time with you last Wednesday, you can read details of this coming weeks class below.

Yours in the spirit of awakened feelings and emotions,

Toby

 


Stopping Painful Feelings Becoming Emotional Suffering

This is a continuation of the exploration of Insight Meditation that I began in last week’s article entitled “Insight Meditation – Improving Your Subjective Experience by Developing Your Objective Perspective” – Toby

The difference between feelings and emotions 
One of the most useful distinctions in Buddhist insight meditation that I have found is the distinction between feelings and emotions. Broadly speaking feelings are simply the experience of that which is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. By contrast emotions arise from a psychological process that involves thinking in a particular way about a feeling. Here are two simple examples:

  1. I see a person who has wronged me in the past, instinctively an unpleasant feelingarises. I then start to reflect on the harm that they have caused me and develop anger or resentment. This anger is the emotion, arising from the psychological process of paying attention to the harm done in combination with the initial unpleasant feelings.
  2. I am sick, giving rise to unpleasant feelings in my body. I start to think about how this sickness is ruining my only two weeks of holiday in the year and I start to develop the emotions of frustration, despair and sadness.

From these two examples we can start to see the basic distinction; pain is simply the feeling arising within the moment. Emotion is that which we experience when we combine a feeling with a psychological process of focusing on the feeling in a particular way.

With regard to painful feelings, quite often we compound the pain they cause us by focusing on them in a way that causes us to experience emotional suffering, as in the examples above. The key therefore in preventing painful feelings becoming full blown emotional suffering is to avoid thinking about them or focusing on them in such a way that negative emotions are caused to arise.

Some sources of painful feelings
The five sources of painful feelings below are a non-exhaustive list, but it gives an idea of the variety of different sources that can cause painful feelings within us. Any of them if focused on in the wrong way can cause negative emotions to arise:

  1. Physical pain arising from sickness or injury
  2. Pain or irritability arising from hormonal or other biological or energetic imbalances within the body
  3. From people who say or do harmful things to us or have done so in the past
  4. From psychological and/or existential anxiety, eg: Worried about not being good enough, fear of dying, fear of stepping out of comfort zone etc…
  5. From spiritual crisis; for example when the old elf or ego structures are collapsing in order for a new level of self sense to arise.

So, what to do?? An Insight Meditation Form for acknowledging and releasing negative feelings 

Here is a brief insight meditation form that we can use to prevent difficult feelings turning into negative emotions:

Stage 1: Breathing in I am aware of my painful feelings,
Breathing out I acknowledge those feelings fully.

Stage 2: Breathing in I experience my tight grasping at those painful feelings,
Breathing out I relax my grasping at those feelings,

Stage 3: Breathing in I detach from those feelings,
Breathing out I extend compassion and understanding to those feelings.

In stage one as we breathe in we become consciously aware of any painful feelings we may be experiencing, as we breathe out we acknowledge them fully. Often we try and repress or deny negative feelings, which in turn allow them to build and transform into negative emotions. Here we are fully acknowledging what is there and giving them the attention they need in order to be addressed.

In stage two we observe how we are clinging to these painful feelings, grasping at them tightly. Then, as we breathe out we consciously release that tight grasping, energetically relaxing our body and mind.

In stage three we detach from those painful feelings, at the same time as extending a feeling of compassion and understanding toward them. We combine the objective experience of detachment with the positive emotional tonalities of compassion and understanding.

Suggestions for Daily Practice
The essential point in this article is that feelings can be distinguished from emotions, and we can prevent negative emotions from arising by avoiding focusing on painful feelings in the wrong way.
The brief meditation technique I describe above can be done as a two minute exercise oras an extended meditation, taking a few minutes to focus on each of the stages. It is a meditation that is worth doing sometimes even if we are not fully aware of any negative feelings inside us, as often it will bring to light negative feelings within us the need a bit of tender loving care, and spending a little time just breathing with them and paying them benevolent.
Of course if there are also practical things that we can do to alleviate the negative feelings, like taking medicine, or having a conversation to clear the air with our partner about a hurt we have then this should be done to!

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Insight Meditation Integral Meditation Meditation Recordings Meditation techniques mind body connection Presence and being present Uncategorized

Guided Insight Meditation: Care of the Physical Body

This is a nine minute guided insight meditation on caring for the physical body, you can simply play it from this page Press play icon below) or download it onto your computer (right click on text below) for personal use.

[audio:http://tobyouvry.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Care-for-Physical-Body-Insight-Medi-9mins1.mp3|titles=Care for Physical Body Insight Medi (9mins)]

Care for Physical Body Insight Medi (9mins)

Here is the basic script for the Meditation:

Poem of Care for the Physical Body

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

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

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

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

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

Breathing out I release this tension,

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

Breathing out I rest within that homely space.

You can read the article that relates to this meditation and gives some further commentary to it here:

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

Happy meditating!

Toby

Categories
Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Shadow meditation Uncategorized Using the Energy of Negative Emotions

Depth of Pain = Depth of Pleasure

Hi Everyone,

I hope this newsletter finds you well, many thanks to all of you who came to yesterdays Integral Meditation Practice Workshop, it was a pleasure to spend time practicing mediation with you! Please not there is a six week Integral Meditation Practice Course beginning on 31st of October, click on the link below for full details.

This weeks article covers a subject that is very close to my heart, and one of the areas inmy personal coaching practice that I gain the most satisfaction from; how to re-awaken depth of positive emotionality within ourself by contacting “negative” emotional within ourself that we are afraid of, I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of appropriately  liberated emotion,

Toby


Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia

Beginning Wednesday Evening 31st October:  Integral Meditation Practice – A Six Week Course in Mindful Living, Energetic Health and Wise Insight Through Meditation

To register or for further enquiries: Email info@integralmeditationasia.com, or call 65-68714117


Depth of Pain = Depth of Pleasure – The Double Bind (and Double Opportunity) of Emotional Repression

One of the reasons why people find it such a challenge to keep up a daily meditation practice is that it starts to reveal to them painful emotions that lie repressed within them that frankly they would rather remain repressed and forgotten. The process of meditation itself causes a release of the “knots” in the mind that hold the pain that we have repressed down, and  this “untying” gives us access to self-knowledge that frankly we might rather we did not have!

However, there is both a carrot and a stick that we can use to encourage us to face our painful emotions with courage:

The stick is this – Whenever we repress or cut ourself off from a deeply felt painful emotion, we also cut ourself off from the entire deep emotional level on which that emotion is based. Because we cut ourself off from an entire level of deep emotional feeling, we deny ourself not only the painful feelings on that level, but also the pleasurable feelings on that level. So, if we habitually repress  negative emotions, we find that we are also no longer sensitive or receptive to deeply felt pleasurable emotions that make life worth living!

The carrot is this – Whenever we find the courage and self-compassion to reach out to and re-integrate painful repressed emotion within us, as we do so we simultaneously re-awaken a level of emotion within us that is open to deep pleasure, appreciation, joy, sensuality, rapture, hilarity and so on.

One of the most common challenges that people whom I do 1:1 coaching with talk about with me is how they feel cut off from life, they feel emotionally dis-engaged from a world that they feel they should be appreciating, connecting with and enjoying much more. Accordingly, much of the main work that I do with individuals as well as teaching them meditation is to seek out the painful emotions that they most often repress, and bring them back in a benign way into the light of their conscious awareness for healing. When this is done, very often they find that because they are no longer repressing emotions that they are afraid of, they suddenly find that the range of positive emotions that become re-sensitized to is quite remarkable. They become “alive to life” once more”.

Facing up to difficult and challenging emotions in ourself takes courage, but if you are a “spiritual hedonist” like me, and want to reclaim your right to daily emotional depth of pleasure, aliveness, spontaneity and positivity, then you know that the courageous effort is always rewarded in a worthwhile manner!

And finally, once you are used to positively confronting tough emotions, meditating everyday feels no longer so much like a discipline as a pleasure.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Presence and being present Shadow meditation

When Present Moment Awareness Comes Naturally

Dear All,

Wouldn’t it be nice if living in the present was something that came naturally to us, rather than our having to exert all this effort to drag our minds back into the here and now and away from all our frenetic mental over activity? Well, the good news is that natural present moment awareness is definitely possible, and I can vouch for that. The challenge is that it takes some effort to get to the place of no effort! In the article below I describe what natural present moment awareness is, and how we can start building experience of it into our daily life.

Yours in the spirit of natural presence,

Toby


 

When Present Moment Awareness Comes Naturally

When people come to me for meditation coaching, quite often I will not necessarily emphasize formal meditation in those sessions, so much as a deeper sense of self knowledge and the natural inner harmony that arises from that increase in self knowledge. In this article I want to talk about how present moment awareness can really be seen as a side effect of inner harmony, rather than something that we bring into existence through sheer force of will.

Often in traditional meditation training we are taught how to bring our mind into the present moment by focusing on an object such as the breathing, and learning to take our mind out of the busy linear timeline that it is so often locked into through force of will. We can achieve a certain amount of success in this is if we become familiar with such a meditation practice, but the challenge with it is that it always requires an (often relatively strenuous) act of will, and does not address many of the reasons why our mindACTIVELY AVOIDS the present moment, and  SEEKS OUT the “comfort” of distractions.

Here is my formula for natural present moment awareness:
“Present moment awareness is a natural side product that arises when the instinctive and rational minds move from conflict with each other to harmony with each other.”
Synonyms for the instinctive and rational minds are:

  • The conscious mind and unconscious mind
  • The body self (or biological self) and the egoic (or conceptual) self.

My basic proposition is this, that whenever these two minds, instinctive and rational, conscious and unconscious are in conflict, then this conflict throws us out of the present moment and traps us in that state of distracted conflict.
Whenever the instinctive and rational minds are in harmony with each other, they form a greater or larger self awareness that is naturally and easily grounded in the flow of the present moment.

So, if you want to learn to live a more relaxing life centered in “presence”, then sure, learn a formal meditation technique, but secondly, and equally (perhaps more importantly)work to resolve the stress fear, anxieties that arise from the conflict between your conscious and unconscious minds, your body-self and your egoic (conceptual self).

The next time you find yourself distracted, mentally uncomfortable, unable to focus in the here and now, ask yourself the question “Where is the inner conflict coming from that is preventing me from relaxing naturally into the present moment?” 
If you can answer this question successfully and identify the area of conflict, then are half way to resolving it. One of the other keys to being able to resolve the conflict successfully is being able to create an arena of communication where the conscious and unconscious minds can “have a bit of a chat” and come to an appropriate solution to their conflicts. Here are a couple of examples:

  1. If through enquiry you discover that the unconscious mind is very angry about something, and that the conscious mind has been repressing that anger (hence the conflict), the conscious mind can acknowledge the hurt in the unconscious mind, and perhaps engage in positive action to resolve the situation causing the anger, whilst the unconscious mind can then make the agreement to stop “acting out” so much and disturbing our inner peace.
  2. If the instinctive self has been feeling “sexually frisky”, and the rational mind has been repressing those feelings (because for example it feels them to be inappropriate), then the two minds can have a communication, and perhaps the conscious mind might agree to acknowledge the feelings of the instinctive self, and if possible find a way of expressing them in an appropriate way, and the instinctive self will most probably be MUCH MORE HAPPY to practice contentment and self control now that the conscious mind has acknowledged and expressed recognition if its needs.

This type of dialog work or inner communication work takes a bit of work to develop the skill (which is one of the things that I often do in my coaching work with clients), but the result is a far greater resolution of the inner conflict between the two minds, and an entirely natural improvement in our inner peace, ability to concentrate and rest in the present moment.

Beginning to practice:
As a simple way of starting this work, whenever you notice your mind is distracted, avoiding the present moment, ill at ease, discontent, anxious, ask yourself the question I placed above:
“Where is the inner conflict (between my two minds) coming from that is preventing me from relaxing naturally into the present moment?”
The answers that come back to you questioning in this way are actually the answers that will help you directly build self knowledge and inner wisdom. Articulating your answers to this question as you ask it each day are the building blocks for a gradual increase in your inner peace, natural concentration and effortless present moment awareness.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Awareness Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Motivation and scope

Spiritual Fear, Spiritual Courage

Hi Everyone,

When you think of spiritual courage what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Likewise, what does the idea of spiritual fear conjure up in your mind. This weeks article is a contemplation on both spiritual fear and spiritual courage, and how we can start to deal with spiritual fear by leveraging more upon our spiritual courage.

In the upcoming classes section below you will see that the write ups for the Integral Meditation Practice workshop and six week course beginning in October are now complete, feel free to click on the links and have a read about these brand new programs!

Yours in the spirit of spiritual courage,

Toby


Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia
An in Depth Look at Meditations For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 
Time: 7.30-9pm
Location: SCWO, 96 Waterloo Street, Singapore. for map click HERE

3rd October, Class 4Focus, Concentration, Peace
A fragmented, distracted state of mind seems to be the norm in the midst of our current, frantic pace of life. The meditation techniques taught in this class specifically address how we can develop the skill of focused, lucid concentration amidst all the distractions and busyness that calls for our attention. Developing focus and concentration not only has the benefit of making us more effective in achieving our goals, it also gives us access to an experience of deep regenerative peace that we can rest in as we travel our life’s many and varied pathways.

******

Sunday 21st October– 9.30am-12.30pm – Three Hour Workshop: An Introduction to Integral Meditation Practice

Beginning Wednesday Evening 31st October:  Integral Meditation Practice – A Six Week Course in Mindful Living, Energetic Health and Wise Insight Through Meditation
To register or for further enquiries: Email info@integralmeditationasia.com, or call 65-68714117


Spiritual Fear, Spiritual Courage

Defining spiritual fear and spiritual courage
Spiritual fear is the fear we experience when we are faced with the possibility and challenge of moving from a limited state of identity and awareness to a more expanded and integral state of identity and awareness.
Spiritual courage is the courage that it takes to keep stepping up to and into the challenge and possibility of moving from a limited state of identity and awareness to a more expanded and integral state of identity and awareness.
In other words, spiritual courage is the answer to the challenge of spiritual fear.

Not something new
Spiritual fear and courage not something new to us. All of us can remember the fear and apprehension of moving from kindergarten to primary school, of moving out of our family home for the first time to go to college, of getting our first job, of setting up our first self employed business. All of these situations involved moving from a smaller world and sense of self to a larger world that involved developing both a new sense of who we are, and dealing with the challenges of a larger, more complex and often uncertain universe.
So, there is a sense in which we have already been confronting our spiritual fear; fear of giving up our old, secure identity in order to embrace a larger one, and exercising our spiritual courage; boldly stepping into a new, larger world and embracing a new, bigger and more challenging sense of self.

The challenge to keep on developing and enquiring as we reach adulthood
The challenge for most of us is that once we get to the average, conventional level of functional adulthood, our willingness to keep embracing new and deeper experiences of who we are generally stagnates. We enter a comfort zone where our sense of who we are becomes more and more fixed, more and more comfortable. As we become more comfortable, our willingness to continue developing and pushing ourselves deteriorates.

Spiritual courage is the courage to keep evolving our consciousness
So then spiritual courage is the courage that keep encouraging us out of our comfort zone, and keeping on accessing developing new and deeper dimensions of who we are and what we do.

The stick: The reality of the certain death of the small self
The “stick” that calls us to listen to our spiritual courage and moving beyond our spiritual fear is the knowledge that, at the time of our physical death everything that we are as a personality or ego, and all that we have accumulated materially ceases or is left behind.
If our sense of self only goes as deep as our ego-personality, then at the time of death we will literally feel as if we are losing everything. This mindfulness of the challenge of death encourages us to keep looking deeply into our identity and find something within our moment to moment awareness that is “beyond death” or that continues after our ego-personality ceases at the time of death. You could say that this is one of the main jobs of meditation, to help us develop awareness of that within our awareness that is “deathless”.
Spiritual courage and the actions we engage in over a lifetime based upon spiritual courage enable us to meet our physical death with equanimity and joy, and encourages us to use the time we have in our remaining lifespan as well as possible.

The carrot: Each year of our life becomes the “best ever” as we continue to get older
A life based around spiritual courage will tend toward greater and greater happiness as life goes on and we get older. 
When I was at school when I asked my teachers what was the best time of life, they would either answer childhood or young adulthood, as you have more time for fun and fewer responsibilities. Now, as I pass the 40 year mark of my life, with quite a lot of responsibilities, limited time and a slowly aging body I can still say that this year has been the best of my life so far. This is not because the best outer things have been happening in my life (it has been quite challenging in this way), but rather because my sense of who I am and what I want to do with my life is clearer than ever before, and so the qualitative, moment to moment experience of life is for me now better than it has ever been. As long as I keep enquiring more and more deeply into “who I am” I can only see next year being better than this one, the year after being better still and so on.

Meditating on spiritual courage
Meditating on spiritual courage does not need to be a complex affair it is simply a matter of thinking each day “How would my deepest or highest self respond to the challenges that I face today?” Having asked this question, quieten your mind, look within yourself and connect to the deepest sense of self that you can find within that moment. Observe the perspective that it brings to your life and circumstances, and try and identify with and act upon that deep perspective, rather than the louder and more superficial perspectives that our ego often encourages us to act from.
So, in this sense we could say that meditating on spiritual courage is simply being aware of the deepest, wisest way of viewing ourself and our circumstances, and choosing to act upon that perspective, despite the resistance we may feel from our spiritual fear.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Enlightened love and loving Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques

Opening the alligators mouth: The Energetic Dynamics of Love

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the inflow and outflow of love in our life, and how we can start to make conscious, meditative adjustments to improve this flow for the better, I hope you enjoy it.

Yours in the spirit of benign flow,

Toby


The Energetic Dynamics of Love

The fundamental energy dynamics of love are those of giving and receiving. In order to be a love giver, there needs to be enough love being received within your being in order for you to give. When speaking of love in this article, I am simply referring to feelings of warmth and friendship, care and benevolent attention. There are four basic levels of receiving and giving love that we will be looking at:

  • In our relationship to self
  • In our relationship to others
  • In our relationship to the world and the Cosmos at large
  • A synthesis of the above three

Receiving love from self
All of us have blocks in our relationship to ourself; things that we don’t like about ourself, reasons why we withhold love from ourself and so forth. However, learning to receive love from ourself is really an act of great simplicity. It is just a matter of sitting quietly, bringing our attention onto ourself and our body, relaxing our chest and heart area, and allowing ourselves to receive the natural healing and caring energy that starts to flow when we focus our attention gently upon ourself without judgement. The act of directing conscious caring attention toward ourself is in itself an activity that naturally directs love toward ourself. We then simply need to sit within that space and allow ourselves to receive that energy from…ourself. You can try it right now it is really as simple as that!

Giving love to self
Once we have some basic familiarity with receiving love from self, we can then practice giving love toward self, which is really just a slightly more active and dynamic way of receiving love from self. When actively giving love toward myself, I normally just raise the corners of my mouth a couple of millimeters, so that the expression on my face is in a half smile. This half smile carries a natural positive warmth and friendship that I then direct toward myself, breathing it in as I inhale, feeling the energy expand thru-out my body as I exhale.

We are all communal beings, and tend to define ourselves to a greater or lesser degree by our relationships to others, but it is surprising how much healthy, loving energy we can create within ourself just by paying attention to the above two practices. This then gives us a healthy “not overly needy” basis upon which we can then practice giving and receiving love from others.

Receiving and giving love from and to others
If we habitually block love from ourself to ourself, we can also bet that we also habitually block the reception of love from others to us, and deprive ourselves of the positive support we could be receiving from them. To practice receiving love from others, just think about the people who love and like you, friends and family. All of them have a loving intention toward you (even if sometimes on the surface there is annoyance etc…). At any time we choose we can simply be aware of this positive, loving intention from those that are close to us, and open our hearts and minds to receiving that energy fully. It is energy that is available to us all the time (even if we are not always physically close to them) that we can benefit simply by being aware of and opening to.
Consistent awareness of this flow of love toward us practiced over time gives us an inner feeling of having a lot of love inside us, and consequently, in our relationships with others it becomes more and more easy to give love to others, both as an act of awareness in meditation, and as actual acts of kindness and generosity in the world.
Practices together in a balanced way, receiving and giving love should actually build upon each other, creating an ever increasing cycle of love and care in your life.

Receiving and giving love from the Universe
In this world there is a lot of free energy around, in the sense of ambient life force and life-giving subtle energy. I became most prominently aware of this when I started a Qi gong practice over fifteen years ago, and saw how it is possible to receive huge amounts of energy from the universe (that is already there) just through attuning my awareness to it, and learning to direct that energy into and through my body.
Similarly, there is a huge (infinite?) amount of ambient love and warmth on a universal level that we can start tapping into just by becoming aware of it, opening to it, and allowing ourself to receive it.
Essentially it seems to be the loving energy of a creative source (conceptualized by some as God, or alternatively for example that which Was, before the big bang) which flows naturally out into creation, and we can be on the receiving energy of that energy just through an act of conscious awareness.
I remember being in Brazil one time and passing a river where a whole line of small alligators were lined up at the bottom of a small waterfall with their mouths open, waiting for the fast current to wash fish into their mouths. Receiving love from the universe is a bit like this; you just open your heart (like the alligators mouth), and let the love flow in.
Once you have a sense of receiving love from the universe in this way, you can then practice giving love to the Universe, just as an act of joy and communion.

A short integral or synthesis meditation on giving and receiving love
Once you have a sense of the above three ways of giving and receiving love, you can then use a very simple breathing exercise to facilitate that flow in your meditation:

  • As you breathe in, feel yourself receiving love from yourself, from others, from the Universe into your heart and mind. If you like you can see that loving energy as a light in your heart being fed and brightened by streams of energy coming into your body as you inhale.
  • As you breathe out see and feel yourself giving love out from your heart-space; to yourself, to others in your life, and to the Universe at large.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Concentration Inner vision Integral Meditation Meditation techniques spiritual intelligence

Building the Inner Power of Your Mind – Gross Subtle and Formless Objects of Meditative Concentration

The nature purpose of training in concentration

The meaning of concentration in a meditative context is similar to the mainstream usage of the word; it simply means to develop the ability to focus our mind upon one object or task single pointedly without distraction. Developing concentration through meditation has many benefits, whether you simply want to become more effective at work, become a better tennis player, become mentally stronger and more resilient, or achieve enlightenment, concentration can help you in your goal.
In general the side effect of concentration is peace of mind. All of us are familiar with the pleasure of being so deeply involved in a task or hobby that all our troubles and worries are forgotten. The flow of concentration creates space and comfort in our mind, and an appropriate detachment between ourself and the challenges we face in our life, enabling us to take better perspectives and make more appropriate choices.
In a specifically meditative context, concentration gives us the power to shift from one state of mind to another at will, making the inner goals of meditation far more eminently achievable.

Should we stay with just one object of training when developing concentration, or can it change?

In the great wisdom traditions of the world generally we find the advice that sticking with one object of meditation is best when training in concentration, if we keep shifting our object of concentration, the act of changing the object in itself becomes a bit if a distraction. However, what I personally recommend is that as your concentration practice evolves, you alter your object of meditation slightly to reflect your developing ability.
Initially when our concentration is quite week, it is best to stick with a relatively gross or manifest object that is easy to find and focus on. Once you become more accomplished you can then switch to a more subtle mental object. Once you can focus clearly for extended periods on a subtle mental object, you can then switch to a very subtle or formless object of meditation. Here are three practical examples of what I mean.

Example 1: The light of a candle flame

Beginners – Gross object: You take an actual candle flame as your object of concentration, fixing your gaze upon it without distraction.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: You take the mental image of a candle flame as your object of meditation, visualizing it clearly and focusing on it without distraction.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: You take the inner, empty luminescence, or inner light of your mind as your concentration object.

Example 2: The breathing

Beginners – Gross object: You begin by simply taking the gross breathing as your object of concentration, developing the capacity to follow it without getting distracted.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: If you keep focusing on your breathing consistently, you will find that it will naturally transform into what in the Thai Forest Monk tradition is called “the beautiful breath”. The breathing becomes very smooth, natural and comfortable as the energy winds or prajna, or qi in our body becomes very balanced, blissful and harmonious.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: If you keep focusing on the beautiful breath, then breathing will then (over a period of time of practice) slow right down .You can then change your focus to the living inner space and silence that you experience in the pauses between your breaths.

Example: The flow of thoughts in our mind

Beginners – Gross object: Initially you just learn to focus on the flow of thoughts and images in the mind as they arise from moment to moment, watching them as an observer.
Intermediate – Subtle/Mental object: Once you are competent at the beginners stage, you can then switch to focusing on the inner space and silence between your thoughts, taking this as your object of concentration.
Advanced – Very subtle/formless object: Once we are comfortable focusing on the inner space between our thoughts, eventually we can switch to focusing on the open expansive emptiness of our inner awareness, and develop deep concentration on this very subtle object of meditation.

So, I hope these three examples give a clear idea of how we can change our object of meditation as our meditation practice evolves, and our ability to focus on progressively more and more subtle objects increases.

Concentration in daily life

Of course concentration should not be confined to formal meditation practice. In these days of furious multi tasking, it can be a nice practice just to select one activity a day where we choose to consciously focus on that task and nothing else, keeping our mind as present to the task as possible. It does not need to be complicated. It can be hanging out the washing, our daily half hour responding to emails, our daily jog, even mindfully watching TV (Caution, potential capacity for self delusion here “Oh, so all I need to do to develop concentration is watch TV intensely!”).

Developing our concentration requires consistency in our practice, but the benefits really are deep and far reaching in terms of our quality of life, I hope this article contributes to your personal inspiration to develop your own concentration!
© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Awareness and insight Concentration Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope Presence and being present

Isn’t it About Time You Got Your Inner Self in Shape? (Integral Inner Fitness Training)

Dear Everyone,

Isn’t it about time you got your inner self in shape? Its time to stop procrastinating and get your mind looking looking sleek, svelte and sexy!

Yes, the Integral Meditation Asia meditation term starts this Sunday with the three hour Mind of Ease workshop (full details below), and then continues with the Mind of Ease Five Week Course beginning on Wednesday 5th September. Seriously, if you have been wanting to get your mind in shape for a while, and are looking for the opportunity, these courses are a great opportunity to get yourself up and running.

This weeks article looks at the interface between inner fitness and outer fitness, and the different ways in which meditation promotes your own integral inner fitness.

Toby


Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia

Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice

Date: Sunday 2nd September
Time: 9.30am-12.30pm
Location: SCWO Training Room 4, 96 Waterloo Street, Singapore. For map click HERE

This three hour workshop offers a practical introduction to meditation that aims to integrate the fundamentals of traditional meditation practice with contemporary insights from psychology and neuropsychology.

What you will learn
Simple meditation techniques which can be condensed into a ten minute daily practice that:

  • Reduces and transforms anxiety and stress, releases unwanted tension from your body-mind.
  • Helps you to build an intention toward yourself and others genuinely  based around warmth, friendship and love
  • Trains your mind to take in, focus upon and appreciate the positive in your life
  • Develop your concentration skills (the ability to focus one-pointedly upon a single object/task)
  • The ability to find and relax deeply into the natural  inner space and silence of your mind
  • An increased capacity to witness the contents of your consciousness as an observer, rather than being completely identified and wrapped up in it.

Again, all of these skills can be consolidated into a daily meditation practice that can be done in ten minutes!

The Structure of the Workshop:

1st Hour – An explanation of what meditation is, followed by an introduction to and practice of  the basic seven stage meditation on how to develop a mind of ease, relaxed concentration and positive intention.
2nd Hour – Questions and answers, followed by meditation on awareness of our stream of consciousness, and learning to orient our mind around thoughts and perspectives that give rise to happiness, wellbeing and appreciation.
3rd Hour – Talk on how to develop inner focus and concentration, and how to relax into the natural inner space and silence of the mind. Practice of meditation for developing concentration and awareness of the inner space and silence of the mind.

You will also receive:

  • Extensive workshop notes giving a detailed of the meditation practices that are taught.
  • Three ten minute MP3 meditation recordings that you can take away and listen to as a support for your personal practice

Cost of Workshop: Sing $85 per person

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE MIND OF EASE  WORKSHOP BY CREDIT CARD

TO PURCHASE BOTH  THE THREE HOUR MIND OF EASE WORKSHOP AND THE THE FIVE WEEK MIND OF EASE COURSE AT A SPECIAL DISCOUNTED RATE OF SING $145 (SAVE $30!) CLICK HERE!

To register or for further enquiries: Email info@integralmeditationasia.com, or call 65-68714117


Isn’t it About Time You Got Your Inner Self in Shape? (Integral Inner Fitness Training)

As someone trying to live and integral life, I try and practice (in however rudimentary a way) an integral form of physical fitness. I have six basic categories with I try to arrange my physical fitness activities. The idea is that each of these activities keeps a different aspect of my physical body and brain ability used and in good shape. Here they are:

  • Strength training – The development of muscle strength through weights etc…
  • Stamina or cardiovascular training – Eg: Jogging·
  • Flexibility – Stretching, Yoga, Qi gong and so on…
  • Hand-eye co-ordination – Through Racquet sports, or other ball sports for example
  • Spatio-temporal awareness – The ability to think and visualize in three dimensions, for example in order to apply         strategy in ball games
  • Diet and Rest

Each of these activities has its own important and crucial role to play in the overall development of integral physical body fitness.
I have to say that integral physical fitness training is a great way to get your mind in shape as well, but what I want to do now it to talk about how meditation is a type of integral inner fitness training.
What I have done below is to take each of the categories of outer fitness above and show how practicing meditation has a corresponding inner fitness benefit!

The six ways in which you get your inner self in shape through meditation:

  1. Strength Training – Meditation helps us to develop a strong mind by developing our ability to focus our mind on a single object for an extended period of time, thus increasing our mental strength. Done correctlyconcentration training in meditation helps us to find more inner and outer energy.
  2. Stamina training – Meditation increases our awareness, appreciation and gratitude for the good, the beautiful and the true in our life, giving us access to deeper levels of happiness and wellbeing. Thus in turn makes us more resilient to temporary setbacks and able to “keep on keeping on” with the goals that are important to us where other people would give up
  3. Flexibility – Integral meditation makes our mind soft and pliable, able to adopt the optimally “positive” perspective on any given situation, rather than getting stuck in viewpoints that are negative or toxic and that are not serving our happiness in any meaningful way.
  4. Mental hand-eye co-ordination – Meditation gives us greater awareness of the way in which our mind, feelings and bodily energies are co-ordinating themselves together. This awareness alerts us when our thoughts and feelings are out of alignment, and encourages us to get them back on the same page
  5. Spatio-Temporal Awareness – Meditation makes us deeply appreciative of and able to rest in the inner space and silence of our mind enabling us to retain clarity of mind even it is busy or when we are under a degree of stress. Meditation also gradually increases our ability to see and visualize objects in our minds eye clearly and vividly and to use this skill consciously to our advantage.
  6. Diet and Rest – One of the central practices that I teach in my meditation coaching is how we can create a safe space, enabling us to rest and regenerate our energies, and also to improve the quality of our sleep. As mentioned in the “strength and stamina” categories above, meditation encourages us to feed ourself a steady diet of positive and energy enhancing thoughts and feelings, rather than negative and toxic emotions and thought patterns.

Finally, for those who may be interested, there are three interesting books by integral practitioners that look at the relationship between physical fitness training and inner meditation training, all very interesting reads in their own way:

 

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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 Awareness and insight Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques One Minute Mindfulness Presence and being present

Resting in Safety, Thriving on Risk

Dear Everyone,

Do you ever have the experience when you sit down to meditate but you find that your mind and body are so tightly wound up that it takes three quarters of the session to stop fighting with them and actually enjoying some peace of mind?

The practice of “Resting in Safety” is one that I have found very helpful for myself, and that students seem to respond very well to when I teach it.

Yours in the spirit of a mind of ease,

Toby


Resting in Safety, Thriving on Risk

Learning to Rest in a Sense of Safety
Sit comfortably for a moment, and simply imagine these three things:

  • That right now you are safe from any physical threats to your wellbeing.
  • That all psychological attacks and threats to your wellbeing, whether from others or from within your own mind have ceased temporarily; you can relax psychologically.
  • That the creative forces of the Universe are fundamentally friendly toward you and wish you well, rather than disliking you or wishing to destroy you. You are surrounded by the “spiritual” energy of the Universes friendship and good intention toward you.

Now, having taken in these three points, simply rest in the feeling of ease and wellbeing that comes from recognizing and relaxing into these three experiences; physical safety, psychological safety and “spiritual safety”arising from the Universes benevolent intention toward you.
Breathe with this mind of ease for a short while and really allow your mind and body to “soak” in the experience.

Learning to rest in the experience of physical, psychological and spiritual safety is one of the practices that I teach people to help establish a stable context for their meditation practice. Once the mind is relaxed and resting in the experience of safety, it is comparatively easy to then start focusing the mind in a concentrated way, and move into deeper meditative states.

Thriving in a World of Risk
Of course in the “real world” we are all experiencing almost continuous low intensity risk and danger, and occasionally relatively high intensity danger.

  • When we cross the road, without an awareness of the danger and risk we could have an accident.
  • Without having a positive,  appropriate capacity for self-criticism, we would have no way of making adjustments when we are behaving inappropriately.
  • When our office colleague is attacking us verbally or psychologically, it is naïve to pretend it is not happening, and we sometimes need to make quick and appropriate steps to protect ourself.
  • The Universe, whilst on one  level creating and sustaining our life, also seems quite prepared to treat us with complete indifference sometimes, and sometimes as entirely expendable.

The basic point with learning to rest in a sense of safety is that very often our biological and psychological self is exaggerating the real threats to our being, and thus we spend much of our time in a state of worry and high tension, when actually we could be relaxing and enjoying our life a whole lot more.
Moreover, when a real threat does come along if we are feeling relaxed and well rested, then there is a far greater chance that we will be able to respond to the risk appropriately, dynamically and decisively.
Learning to mindfully rest in safety is a simple and wonderful practice that you can do for a couple of minutes at a time, a few times a day to create a habit on your mind that will serve you for the rest of your life.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Tobyas the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

Categories
Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope Presence and being present spiritual intelligence Uncategorized

Three Levels of Self, Three Levels of Focus-in-Time

Dear Everyone,

Meditation practice encourages us to keep asking the question “who am I?” and to continue to bring awareness to the different aspects of self that we become aware of as we continue to ask this question. This weeks article looks at three different aspects of self, and how we can start to use our awareness of these three selves to improve the way in which we co-ordinate our experience of past, present and future.

You can also find below the schedule for classes over September and October, for those who are not in Singapore, recordings of the classes Will be available if you wish to participate!

Yours in the spirit of the integration of past, present and future,

Toby

 


Three Levels of Self, Three Levels of Focus-in-Time

Our “Egoic Self”, or personality, or habitual self sees life from fundamentally through the eyes of the past. It experiences the present through the context of our past experiences, and projects our past experiences forward whenever we contemplate the future.

Our “Spiritual Self” or our pure witnessing awareness sees life always within the context of the present moment, seeing things as they are, without judgment of preconception. It is entirely present focused.

Our “Evolving Self” or creative self (or perhaps “ever-learning self”?) sees our life through the eyes of the future, of potential, or what could be.

In its higher expression our egoic self gives us an appreciation of the past, of our story. It informs us  how we can use our past experiences to best effect with regard to our present and future.
In its lower expression the ego keeps us clinging to past patterns that prevent us from engaging fully in the present and realizing our creative potential in the future.

In its higher expression the spiritual self or pure witnessing awareness gives us a full and rich appreciation of that which is arising in the present, and a living engagement with that part of every experience that is perfect just as it is.
In its lower expression the spiritual self (as it is being used in this context)holds us back from investing fully in the passion that is necessary to bring change to that which really needs to be changed, both in our life and in the world at large.

In its higher expression the evolving or creative self keeps us awake to the potential for the future that is arising in every moment, encouraging us to mindfully nourish and rejoice in that creative possibility.
In its lower expression the creative self lives only in the future, never stopping to appreciate that which is present in the here and now, and give the necessary focus to past experiences that perhaps still need attending to, either to heal or resolve the past, or to draw upon its wisdom.

In terms of developing an integral awareness we need all three aspects of time-awareness in their higher expression; The appropriate attendance to the past of our ego, the appreciation of the present moment of our spirit, and the attendance to and enthusiasm for the future of our evolutionary or creative self.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Tobyas the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com