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Your Inner Fitness Trainers

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would happen if you treated the most difficult people and circumstances in your life as ‘inner fitness trainers’? This weeks article explores this theme and mindfulness practice.

Yours in the spirit of the useful in the difficult,


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

March courses nearly ready!!

Your Inner Fitness Trainers

The function of a good physical fitness trainer is to push you to the limits of your physical flexibility, strength and stamina in a safe and secure way by giving you specific physical tasks and challenges to focus upon.
If we are serious about our own inner mindfulness training, then we should be looking at the people or circumstances we find most difficult and challenging in our life as being like our inner fitness trainers. Their function is to push us to the limits of our mental, emotional and spiritual flexibility, strength and stamina by giving us specific challenges that push us to those limits.

But the people and circumstances in life that are hurting me aren’t trying to help!
When you are being trained by a (good) coach physically you engage in the exercises they set for you because you understand that they are trying to help. But people giving you a hard time in my life aren’t trying to help, nor is the illness that you have! So there is a conscious choice that you are making here to adopt people and circumstance as your trainers, despite their bad intentions, or despite the unfairness of the circumstances. It is a personal, empowering choice you make based around a recognition of the benefit that can be gained from adopting such a perspective.

Get clarity – How and for what are these people/circumstances helping me?
Pick the top three most difficult and/or unpleasant circumstances that you are going through right now; the ones that make you manifestly uncomfortable, or inwardly scream at the unfairness of it all. List them and then answer these two questions with regard to each one:

  • How is this person or circumstance helping me to develop, expand and strengthen  my mind and consciousness?
  • What is the specific approach and perspective that I need to keep in mind when I am with this person or dealing with this circumstance that will help me transform them into an ‘inner mind trainer’ for me?

The answer to these two questions gives you your basic mindfulness practice for each of your specific challenges. If you focus your awareness, intention and attention mindfully upon these questions, you may be surprised at how quickly and creatively you can come up with approaches that you can start to work with right away.

Feeling thankful
These days most of us have heard of the idea of a gratitude log or journal; a notebook where we keep a list of all the things that we appreciate and feel grateful for in our life. If you can start integrating your ‘inner fitness training’ into your daily mindfulness practice, then you may find yourself able to add the worst people in your life and the most difficult challenges that you face to your own gratitude log!

Find out about Toby’s Stress Transformation Coaching

Related Article: A Butterfly in the Wind

© 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

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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,



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 

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Enlightened Imperfection

Dear Integral Meditators,

Are you on a quest for enlightened perfection? This weeks Integral Meditations article explores what enlightened perfection looks like (or doesn’t look like) and how we can start to use it to embrace our own imperfection and the imperfection of the world.
It is kind of a complementary take to the midweek article on “That Which Solves All Your Problems and None“.

Yours in the spirit of the perfectly imperfect,


Enlightened Imperfection

There is a lot of confusion around the idea of perfection and enlightenment. Many people seem to think that, when you attain a ‘spiritual’ enlightenment you become in some way perfect. Actually, what the realization of enlightenment points out is that there is a part of ourself that is already perfect, they always have been and always will be.

When we realize enlightenment we also realize that all things including ourself are totally imperfect and not just that, they always will be.

Let me explain what I mean, starting with what spiritual enlightenment is. There are three domains or aspects of our moment to moment experience:

  1. Our outer physical and sensory experience
  2. Our inner mental experience based around thoughts and images
  3. The experience of awareness itself which is the formless timeless ‘ground’ upon which the rest of our outer and inner experience is based.

To become spiritually enlightened means to gain practical experience of this third domain of formless timeless awareness, and base our core identity around this experience. Thus, enlightenment has nothing to do with what one believes or philosophizes about, and everything to do with what one discovers through meditation and other related practical methods of investigating our moment to moment experience.

In the state of formless timeless awareness (that is number 3 of the above list) there is perfection and only perfection. This is because in such a state of no-form and no-time there is no-thing that could possibly be imperfect. It is the dimension of each moment of our experience that is perfect, pristine, and flawless. You could be blind drunk, be in the middle of nuclear war or have just married to the person of our dreams, it doesn’t matter; the part of that moment that is simply formless timeless awareness is perfect and always will be.

Classical spiritual enlightenment is a discovery you make about this pristine, formless, timeless state that is already there. You don’t create it, you discover it, and it is absolutely perfect.

As for the rest of you, your life, and the rest of the world, it is completely imperfect. Not just that, it always will be. In the physical world and in the world of our everyday mind there is always imperfection, there will always be difficulties, there is no point of final perfection; there is just a changeable present and future extending to the end of our life, to future generations and to infinity.

To be enlightened is to stop looking for perfection in your life, because you understand that it is already there.

To be enlightened is also to commit to responding to the dance of imperfection in your life in the best way you can with curiosity, courage and care. It means not being afraid to make mistakes, to be vulnerable, and to occasionally and when necessary be seen as a bit of a fool.

Enlightened perfection is not something that you can achieve, it is something that you come to know and recognize. From this space of ‘already perfect’ the challenge is then to launch yourself into the imperfection that will always be there, and commit to making it better.

Over the next week or so if you want to start working with this idea, you can try this:
Simply focus on the statement ‘Everything is already perfect’. Allow your mind to rest in this recognition for as long as you wish. Just relax, let go and feel your way into a space of timeless awareness where everything is always perfect, immutable, pristine. Allow yourself to regenerate your energies in that space.
Now bring your attention back to yourself, back to your world, back to the endless beautiful and tragic imperfection. Now smile to yourself, open to your imperfect reality and commit to participating in the most enlightened way you can.

© 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

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Melting the Ice of the Heart, Cooling the Inferno of the Soul

Dear Integral Meditators,

One of my main inspirations Ken Wilbur was once asked what the process of growing and evolving is like. He answered simply “You laugh more and you cry more”. I’ve found that to be true, and this midweek article is something of an exploration of that.

Yours in the spirit of ice and fire,


Melting the Ice of the Heart, Cooling the Inferno of the Soul

Last week was one of those weeks where there was a lot of tension in my life professionally, personally and physically I found and felt myself to be under an unusual amount of pressure. As a meditation and stress transformation coach I know the signs that I am not coping too well with pressure, for example:

  • I could feel my body armoring itself from the psychological pressure by becoming physically tense
  • I could hear my language with my family becoming abbreviated and sometimes harsh
  • Listening to the inner conversation in my mind I could see how reactive it had become
  • My the centre of my chest or heart space felt like a place where I could not go , it felt inhabited by an energy that was not under my control

In short it felt like my body and soul had simultaneously turned into fire and ice, where there is the quality and heat of anger and frustration, together with the coldness and detachment that comes when you start to feel alienated from your reality through resentment and fear.

At this point I started to feel a little bit like I was having to start my mind-training all over again, like I had to re-learn to mindfully transform my stress. What was the quality that I found most helpful to negotiate my way out of what was happening and find meaning?


That is to say I did not try and resist any of the things that I was experiencing, or try to change the person I was in that moment. Rather I just tried to become curious about myself and what I was going through, to be interested. To be curious carries a balance of the qualities of observing objectively with caring subjectively. As soon as I started to become mindfully curious about myself

  • I could feel a window for self compassion opening up in my heart
  • I could feel a deeper part of myself becoming present to what I was going through
  • I saw the inner dialog in my mind become slower, kinder, more relaxed
  • There seemed to be a space where a calm me could co-exist without conflict with the part of me that was wounded and upset
  • I felt the tangible presence of hope
  • Despite the feeling of emptiness in my heart I found myself smiling quietly to myself

So, the next time you feel in a fix and your soul is on fire whilst your heart has shut down, perhaps you can invite curiosity into the situation. Sit quietly, relax your judgemental mind and enquire of yourself

  • How are you?
  • What an interesting experience this is, let’s see what we can notice about what is going on
  • We may feel pretty terrible right now, but were still worth paying attention to in a caring way, let’s do that and see what happens

Allow your curiosity to lead the way toward self understanding and compassion.

PS: Curiosity is also a theme I explore in my recent article on Applying Mindful Curiosity to Your Relationships.

© 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

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Mindfully Expanding into Tension, Challenges and Growth

Dear Integral Meditors,

I’m keeping it very practical with this weeks article, it is a way of using your body awareness to enhance the way you approach emotions and situations you find challenging, enjoy!

Quite a lot of meditation and mindfulness courses to enjoy over the next few weeks, starting this Tuesday evening with the Meditation skills class. This is then followed by the 2nd opportunity to attend the Greenworld Meditation workshop on Sunday 2nd of March. On that same day there is a Walking Meditation workshop in the morning.

Finally, date for your diary, the Main March workshop will be Meditations for Integrating your Ego, Soul and Spirit which I should have the full write up for by the next newsletter.

Yours in the spirit of expansion,


Upcoming Meditation Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia 

Tuesday 25th February, 7.30-8.30pm: Monthly Meditation Skills Class and Coaching Session

Sunday 2nd March, 8-10.30am: An Introduction to Walking Meditation Workshop

Sunday 2nd March, 2.30-6pm: Meditations for Connecting to the Greenworld – An Introduction to the Path of Nature Mysticism

Sunday 16th March, 2.30-6pm: Meditations for Integrating your Ego, Soul and Spirit (Full details out shortly)

Mindfully Expanding into Tension, Challenges and Growth

This is a simple but profound somatic mindfulness exercise designed to change our perception and experience of threatening and difficult energies and situations.

Normally when we experience challenging emotions, difficult situations, anxiety and so forth our fundamental reaction is to energetically ‘contract’ away from it. This is experienced as a kind of energetic tightening or contraction within our chest.
The idea is to practice feeling the anxiety and rather than unconsciously contracting away from it, to consciously expand into it.

Step 1: Bring to mind a situation that is causing you anxiety, fear, discomfort etc in your life. Could be a relationship, a financial uncertainty, whatever.

Step 2: Observe the instinct that your body-mind has to contract away from the difficult energy. This is experienced most often as a tightening in the centre of the chest. It is almost like an effort to turn away from or deny the issue. Take a bit of time here to see and experience this as clearly as you can.

Step 3: Now, whilst holding the same situation in mind consciously relax/de-contract the energy in your heart. As you breathe out feel your energy opening and expanding into the circumstance and the feelings surrounding it. By doing this, invite your body-mind to be friendly with the challenge you are facing. Do this for a few breaths or even a few minutes. Observe how this simple expanding into, rather than contracting away from changes the dynamic of your experience. Get comfortable with the discomfort.

Step 4: Now ask yourself the question “What is it that this situation offering me? What opportunities for growth and creativity are there?”

I was a reading Harry Potter to my daughter last night, and Professor Dumbledore said to Harry whilst they were in a dark cave, crossing a still lake filled with dead bodies “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more”.
If we make a habit of expanding into our own challenges rather than contracting away from them, perhaps we might find the same kind of thing?

© 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

Sample feedback from meditation coaching client:

I was a relative mess when going to see Toby. Talking to someone always helps, but Toby’s easy “beginner’s” meditation sessions were a great way to control the anxiety I was suffering. I also found Toby relating his personal experiences to my own as a great way of telling me that I wasn’t alone. I would recommend this style of coaching to other people. Whilst Toby has had a different background to most of us, he is an “every day” guy which helps one relate to their own issues and makes the “strange new world” of meditation, easier to approach. Toby is a professional operator – BW

Click HERE to find out more about Toby’s 1:1 Coaching Services

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The Four Essential Stages to Transforming Negative Stress into Positive Energy

Dear Integral Meditators,

What are the essential skills that you need in order to transform negative stress into positive energy? The article below is a summary of the fundamental skills needed to effect transformation.

Yours transformatively,


The Four Essential Stages to Transforming Negative Stress into Positive Energy

When you think of the word stress, what sort of images, ideas and associations come to mind? It might be a nice idea just to pause for a few moments before you read on and explore this question for a few moments in order to connect to your own personal experience of stress.
This article starts with the assertion that stress in and of itself is a neutral energy that can be experienced in a positive or negative way, and that, to a large degree our experience of stress is defined by our approach to the stressful situation, rather than the situation itself.
So what is positive and negative stress? Here are some working definitions:

  • Negative Stress is: Any form of stress that inhibits our ability to respond of adequately, appropriately and successfully to the challenges of life, and to learn from such challenges
  • Positive stress is: Any form of stress that improves our ability to respond adequately, appropriately and successfully to the challenges of our life, and to learn from such challenges.

So, what then are the four stages of transforming your stress?

  1. You have to believe and understand that your negative stress is simply energy that is moving in an inappropriate pattern – For example, if you are feeling anxious, aggrieved and stressed because you are feeling mis-treated by a colleague at work, you have to take the perspective that the situation is highlighting your own inability to deal with aggressive people. Thus it is offering you a positive opportunity to learn how you can deal with such people and learn to thrive on the pressure of their presence.
  2. You have to cease resisting and fully acknowledge your negative stress – When you feel negative stress, the instinct will generally be to avoid, deny and repress the feelings associated with the stress because they make you feel uncomfortable. Whilst your negative stress remains denied and repressed it cannot be transformed. Thus in order to begin transforming it you first need to acknowledge that you have it, and bring it fully into the conscious mind. Continuing the example of the aggressive colleague, you need to fully acknowledge the feelings of anxiety, fear, anger and intimidation that you may feel around them, and explore fully the discomfort that you feel; you need to become comfortable with the discomfort that negative stress causes you.
  3. You have to have an idea of what your current negative stress can be turned into – With step 2 firmly in place, you can then try and identify ways in which you can re-contextualize the situation so that it becomes positive stress and not negative stress. Using our example, we identify our office colleague as a person who is helping us to become positively and politely assertive, and to learn how to hold our own when in their presence. It becomes positive stress not because all of a sudden we become totally comfortable with it, but because we understand that the experience is taking us somewhere and teaching us something valuable.
  4. You have to practise the transformation repeatedly – With your aggressive colleague, the practice them becomes learning how to become comfortable in their presence, even when they are trying to intimidate, to respond firmly, politely and clearly to their negative comments, and to use them to become stronger, more capable, more evolved human beings. The situation becomes an environment where you learn to become a master of life rather than a victim of it.

For your own practice then, simply select a life experience that is currently negatively stressful for you, and apply these four stages to it, see where they take you….