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Recording of “What is Meditation?” Talk

Hi Everyone,

Please find below a recording of a free talk that I did last week entitles “What is Meditation, and the Role That it Can Play in Transforming Our Life”, Enjoy!

I have placed a resume of the talk content beneath the recording.

Yours in the spirit of the journey,


[audio:|titles=What is Meditation Free Talk]



With meditation teacher Toby Ouvry

As modern life continues to make more and more demands upon us more and more people are turning to the ancient art of meditation as a way of coping with stress, reducing anxiety and re-orienting their mind around positive mental and emotional habits that give  rise to peace of mind. But what exactly is meditation? This talk, given by Toby who has 15 years of experience of teaching meditation, including five years as a Buddhist monk aims to provide answers to the following questions:

  • What is meditation?
  • What are the different purposes that it can be used for?
  • How can I begin practicing meditation today in a simple and effective way that will enhance my quality of life?

Click HERE for a list of Toby’s current and upcoming meditation classes.

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How to Meditate on Gratitude

Why Should we Meditate on Gratitude? What are we Trying to Achieve?

The function  and purpose of meditating on gratitude is to train our attention in such a way that even when we are under pressure and feeling unhappy in some way we never lose sight of the things in our life that are there for us to appreciate, value and feel grateful for. Moreover, when we are not feeling unduly under pressure or unhappy, the practice of gratitude helps us to substantially enhance and stabilize our happiness and sense of wellbeing.
Meditating on gratitude is a way of leveraging more fully upon the existing good in your life. By consciously noting and appreciating that which is there to be thankful for, the amount of happiness that you get from that person, object of event increases exponentially. Whenever we take someone or something/someone for granted we minimize the amount of wellbeing that we can derive from our relationship to it or them.

Success in Meditating on Gratitude.
One of the main signs of success in our meditation on gratitude comes when we start to realize that there is something that we can be appreciating and feeling happy about in each and every moment of our life. There is in fact an abundance of things to feel positive about in everyone’s life, it is just a matter of training our attention through meditation to be aware of it!
Our biological brain is hardwired toward picking our faults, threats and dangers in our life. This was good for our survival when we were fighting of bears and tigers and other tribes, but in today’s modern world this tendency to pick out the negative serves most often to inhibit our quality of life and constrict the amount of potential happiness that we experience at any given moment. The meditation on gratitude is designed t remedy this issue.

How to Meditate on Gratitude.
The perception can be that meditation is an activity that you do sitting down in silence, and then once you get up you then start doing something else. In reality however good meditation involves training our attention through-out the day to focus on objects that make us calm, peaceful and happy.
Correspondingly this meditation in gratitude is something that you can in the midst of your daily activities in spare moments.

The Basic Practice:Finding short periods of time to come back to a mind of gratitude and appreciation.
Think about the way in which your day is structured and try and come up with 5-6 one minute slots where you can consciously come back to a mind of gratitude, and focus on it for just that very short period of time. By doing this over the period of the week you will start to create some strong practical habits in your mind that naturally incline toward valuing, appreciating and feeling grateful for the good in your life.

What Should I feel Grateful For?
There are almost innumerable things that we can choose to be grateful for, three main areas are:
– Gratitude appreciation for ourself and our own actions. Give yourself a regular pat on the back for the positive efforts you are making!
– Gratitude and appreciation for others in our life who help or assist us in some way.
– Gratitude and appreciation for the Earth, for nature and the opportunity to participate in life

Some Samples From my own journal
Of course there are many other different things that we can focus on as objects of gratitude and rejoicing. One thing that I find really powerful is actually writing down the thing that I am feeling grateful for, either actually at the time or later in the day. Writing down our object of gratitude makes it really stand out in the field of our awareness, and therefore has a powerful and accelerated effect upon our development of gratitude (and yes, writing can be very much a part of our meditation practice!).
Here are some examples from my own journal over a twenty four hour period:

9th September

3.15pm – I am waiting for my daughters’ bus to arrive, there is a pleasant breeze blowing through the bushes and flowers, the sky is cool and overcast. Next to me on the wall a little family of sparrows observes me closely whilst preening themselves. I take a moment to appreciate and soak in all of these gifts from the natural world, freely available to me as long as I care to notice.

6.15pm – Whilst waiting at the bus stop on the way to the shopping centre I took a minute to appreciate the trees around me, and the calming energy that they gave me at a time when I was feeling a little bit irritable. I also took the time to notice the sun setting behind the clouds and value how pleasant it can be to view the light of the sun when it is hidden behind light cloud.

9.30pm – Took time after my evening meditation to appreciate myself for making the time and effort to meditate. I also spent a short period of time enjoying and appreciating the evening moon and its cooling and calming light!

12.30am – Reflected on the enjoyment that both I and my daughter are getting from reading “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” together each evening.

10th September

8.30am – Took a few moments whilst watering the plants on our roof to appreciate and feel gratitude for the good energy that they give to us and the way in which they visually enhance our living space.

11.15am – Spent a few moments appreciating myself for having done the vacuuming and other cleaning tasks around the house, as well as feel grateful to the makers of the vacuum cleaner for saving me time by making such an effective machine! Finally felt grateful for our pleasant apartment.

2pm – Felt gratitude for the excellent Japanese vegetarian meal that I had just participated in, and for the efforts of the people who had created such an excellent alternative Japanese vegetarian restaurant!

4.15pm – After spending an hour taking research photos for my new project, I took a moment to feel grateful for the fact that I have such a relatively large amount of time to devote to my artistic practice in my life.

As you can see none of the above are hugely unusual or remarkable events. Enjoying the daily happiness that gratitude can give is simply a matter of training your attention to look in the right directions every day!

© 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

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On the Three Types of Relational Love and How to Integrate Them Into Your Life

What does it mean to be expressing love fully in your relationships? There are many ways to answer this question, but one answer deriving from classical sources is that you should aim to have three types of love functioning fully in your day to day interactions with others and yourself. These types of love are eros, filia and agape.

Here is a brief explanation of what each of them are in the context of relationships

Eros – This put simply is the creative spark that arises between two people or between ourselves and  something that we love. This is most commonly thought of as the romantic love between lovers which over time may lead to the biologically creative result of a baby, but it can just as validly be understood as  other forms of creativity. For example an intellectual spark between two people in a platonic relationship that inspires both of them to become more creative, dynamic and inspired in their life and work.
Most commonly this type of love is felt between a man and a woman (in a sexual or non-sexual context), because the interaction of masculine and feminine energies is an important aspect of the arising of eros. However, between two people of the same sex who both have well developed masculine and feminine energies it is perfectly possible to have a very inspiring “erotic” relationship, although this has a quite different meaning and connotation from the common usage of erotic!
Essentially to have eros in your relationships means that they are regularly supplying you with a source of creative inspiration in your life. Conversely to give filialin your relationships means to provide others with creative inspiration.

Filia – Filial love is classically the love between siblings, but it is also a common way of bonding between friends. Here the two people find strong ways of non-sexual bonding with each other that provides a source of mutual support, enjoyment and potential growth for each other. The ideal with filial love is to have the both parties on an equal footing in the relationship and a sense of mutual respect.
So, with images love the ideas is to be seeking and finding respect, support, self esteem and enjoyment from your friendships, and likewise seek to give these things to the people whom you share your life with.

Agape – One of the archetypal images of agape is the mother and child (eg: Mary with the baby Jesus), but more broadly speaking agape is empathetic or compassionate love. Agape seeks to understand and sympathize with its object like a parent caring for a child, seeking as Saint Francis would say “To understand rather than to be understood”. To give agape in your relationships with others is a wonderful thing, and likewise learning to receive it is an important source of sustenance.

So, using these three type of love as our model, our relationships should contain healthy elements of giving and receiving the following:

Eros – Creative inspiration.
Filia – Support, enjoyment, bonding, esteem building.
Agape – Empathy, compassion and healthy sympathy.

Working with these three types of love

Here are some possible ways to start working practically with these three types of love in your relationships:

  • Firstly we can simply look at our current relationships and appreciate the people who are currently providing us with these types of love in our life right now.
  • Secondly we can look for ways that we can actively increase the amount of eros, agape and filia to those we love.
  • Thirdly if it feels as if there is something lacking in your relationship with someone close to you, reflect upon which of the three types of love is most lacking. Having had an insight on this, then try and increase that particular type of love in the relationship through your actions.
  • Finally, practice agape, filia and eros toward yourself each day. Support yourself, inspire yourself, understand and have compassion for yourself!

© 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

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The Three Purposes of Meditation

Different people come to meditation for different reasons. In recent times meditation has come into public awareness as a method for dealing with many stresses and strains that contemporary life places us under.

Traditionally meditation has been used as a method for communing with the divine and seeking enlightenment.

A third use of meditation has been as a method for building the power of our mind and thereby helping us to fulfill our potential in whatever our chosen field of excellence is. For example athletes use meditation as a way to enhance their performance, and people studying for exams can use meditation as a method of enhancing their mental clarity and thereby their ability to retain the information they need to remember.

This article will look at the purposes and benefits of meditation under three headings:

1)      Meditation as therapy
2)      Meditation as an art
3)      Meditation as a spiritual path.

What is meditation?
Before we get into the three purposes of meditation, here are two definitions of meditation that people may find helpful:

Meditation is any method or technique that trains our awareness and attention to focus upon a positive object. This definition can be applied to meditation both as a formal, focused exercise, but also as a general practice whilst going about our daily life. A “positive object” here means any object that when we focus upon it with our awareness causes our mind to become cal and peaceful.
– Meditation is a mental practice that causes our mind and body to tend toward union or singularity. Normally in our daily life our mind tends toward distraction, movement and diversity. Meditation is  any exercise that helps us to consciously reduce the amount of distractions and mental busyness in our head, and helps us to become lucid, focused, clear minded and unified.

I could obviously talk quite a lot more about these definitions, but I wanted to include them in this article so that we can now talk about the three purposes of meditation in a less abstract manner below.

1) Meditation as Therapy – When we talk about meditation as a therapy, we are talking about the capacity of meditation to fix and/or help to heal the parts of our mind that are “broken” or otherwise dysfunctional. Meditation helps to ease chronic anxiety, unrelenting mental busyness, obsessive focusing on the negative and other afflictions that directly and indirectly sabotage the fundamental happy and easy daily functioning of our body and mind. In this sense meditation can be seen as a therapeutic activity.

2) Meditation as an Art – Once we have achieved a basic level of healing and functionality in our mind through meditation we can then start to use it as a creative method for developing our inner freedom and autonomy. Living a life of inner freedom means developing the following inner qualities through our meditation practice; awareness, spontaneity, and intimacy.

Awareness, to quote the psychologist Eric Berne is the “The capacity to see a coffeepot and hear the birds sing in one’s own way, and not the way one was taught”. This means developing the art of seeing our present moment experience directly without past memories getting in the way and interfering.

Spontaneity means to be able to respond to life’s experiences in a way that is creative and intelligently improvisatory, rather than mechanical and without feeling.

Intimacy means to feel life deeply and authentically without looking to continually place barriers and defense mechanisms between yourself and what is going on in front of you. To practice intimacy means to not be afraid of one’s own vulnerability and sensitivity, and learning when to expose it in appropriate, healthy places.

The meditative practices of awareness, spontaneity and intimacy are all art-forms that greatly increase the amount of freedom, joy, love and creativity that we have in our life.

3) Meditation as a Spiritual Path – Meditation as a spiritual path is the traditional use of meditation but it does not have to be experienced in an overtly religious context. What we mean here by a “spiritual path” is that the process of meditation helps us to answer two very important questions in our life, namely:

  • Who am I? 
  • What is of ultimate concern or importance in my life? 

With meditation as a spiritual path we are daily using our meditation practice to come back to what is most important to us, and getting in touch with out deepest sense of self, the person that we feel we truly are.

In conclusion
These three purposes of meditation are useful meditation objects in themselves. Careful contemplation of them will reveal directly useful and practical purposes of our own meditation practice in our daily life. The good news is that if we practice meditation in a skillful and balanced way, then we can practice all three purposes at once. We can reduce our stress and heal our inner wounds, we can develop our inner freedom and creativity, and we can remain in touch with that which is most important and fundamental to us in our life.

PS: You can see a previous article that I wrote on these three purposes of meditation HERE.

© 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