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Can Meditation Help You Find Your Life’s Purpose?

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a relaxing and fulfilling Christmas and Boxing day, I had a very pleasant time, just about the right balance of sociability, good food and quiet reflection!

With the new year approaching I my thoughts have been turning (like many people) to what I would most like to focus on during 2012. I write the article below on the question of “Can meditation help you find your life’s purpose?” with this somewhat in mind.

Next week sees the return of regular weekly classes in Singapore, in particular the weeklyQi gong meditation class restarting on the 4th January.

Wishing you all the best for your new year celebrations!

Yours in the spirit of new beginnings,



Article of the Week:

Can Meditation Help You Find Your Life’s Purpose?

One way or another, and for a variety of different motives, many people feel that finding their ‘life’s purpose’ is very important to them. What I want to do in this article is to outline three levels of purpose in life, and then give a few comments regarding how meditation may be able to help people to find their life’s purpose on these different levels.
These three levels of purpose move from ‘basic’ indicating the least evolved (but still perfectly valid), to the intermediate, to advanced, ‘advanced’ in this context meaning advanced from the perspective of meditation and the path to enlightenment.

The three levels of life’s purpose are:

1) The Basic Level – Survival and acceptance:
Here survival means accumulating enough material resources for a basically happy life, and developing enough social competence to build successful, lasting, mutually supporting friendships and family bonds (and thus acceptance into your ‘tribe’).  Here meaning in life is found in living it, and the experience of living successfully and happily within the context of one’s society. For a person on this level meditation can help calm their mind enough to facilitate greater awareness of the choices they have to make, and greater intelligence and control to make sure they are able to direct their behavior and appetites appropriately, so that they are not sabotaging their resource building and relationship efforts all the time. On this level meditation will also help them to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and appreciate the good things in their life as they are able to live more ‘in the present’.

2) The Intermediate Level – Personal achievement and working for the greater good:
On this level two principle things come online; firstly joy in personal achievement (combined with a certain level of ambition, some of this egotistic, some more altruistic), and secondly an expansion of our scope and motivation. We evolve from our life being mainly about ourselves and our family to wanting to make a real, genuine, positive and lasting contribution to society and the world. Our life begins to center around the question ‘What is it in particular that I can offer the world?’
On the first level of personal achievement, meditation helps us in a similar way to the basic level by helping us to optimize our awareness, intelligence and consistency, thus giving us the mental strength to accomplish our goals. On the second level of motivation and scope, regular meditation naturally makes our mind bigger and more open, opening it up to empathy and awareness of both others and the world around us and facilitating the natural development of genuine love and compassion.
Another major way in which meditation helps us at this stage is the opening of our intuition, guiding us toward work and activity that will be of most meaning and consequence.

3) The Advanced Level – Doing Nothing, Going Nowhere:
On this last and most advanced level, the search for a “meaning” in life is dropped as we realize the inherent perfection of each and every moment of our life as it is already, right now. On this level we are able to recognize that the idea of a ‘personal purpose’ and meaning to our life is ultimately both illusory and already fully manifest. Life is perfect as it is and has no meaning other than its own natural, moment to moment self fulfillment.Zen practices such as the practice of aimlessness and thoughtlessness are aimed at realization of this level of our life’s purpose, as is the Tibetan Dzogchen practice of ‘hopelessness’ (meaning if you are hoping for a life meaning to manifest in the future for you, then you will never be able to realize that it is here with you right now!!!).

In Conclusion
I have outlined three levels of life’s meaning here, one thing I would like to flag up is thatyou can’t move onto the advanced level of ‘doing nothing going nowhere’ without having developed high levels of competency at the first two levels, basic and intermediate. There are a lot of people whose life has no meaning at all, and who are doing nothing about it and thus going nowhere in the negative sense of the word and this is not at all desirable!  Thinking advanced meditation teachings and practices are an excuse to be a lazy so and so, and to avoid the basic day to day challenges in your life is a complete illusion! All of these three levels can and should be grown and developed together as we go through our life and develop our meditation practice.

© 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

Awareness and insight Inner vision Meditation techniques Presence and being present spiritual intelligence

Reconnecting to a Sense of Wonder (Our Goldilocks Planet)

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article focuses on generating a sense of wonder, which is a desirable internal condition for enjoying and appreciating the Christmas season!

Last week’s meditation class on “Going from no self to the expanded self” is now available as a recording, if anyone is interested in obtaining a copy you can go HERE.

Finally, you can see the schedule of classes for January below.

Wishing you all the very best for Christmas and the Winter Solstice!


Upcoming classes in January 2012:

Wednesday Jan 4th&11th: Wednesday Morning Qi Gong Meditation Classes

Sunday 8th Jan 8-9am: Sunday Morning Qi Gong Walking Meditation Classes at the Botanic Gardens

Wednesday Jan 11th 7.30-8.30pm: Meditation Class on How to Meditate on the Inner Weather of the Mind

Wednesday Jan 18th 7.30-9.30pm: An Introduction to Meditation from the Perspective of Zen


Article of the Week:

Reconnecting to a Sense of Wonder (Our Goldilocks Planet)

One of the things that I appreciate about Christmas looking back on my childhood was the sense of wonder that seemed to pervade the atmosphere during that time. Of course as we grow older the bubble bursts and the sense of wonder diminishes as we discover where the presents really come from, and who really drunk the brandy and ate the Christmas cake that was left out for Santa!
One of the main things that we seek to reclaim on our spiritual path (in whatever terms we may define it) is a sense of wonder. It is a bit like the wonder that we had as children at Christmas, but it is a post-rational wonder, a sense of wonder in being alive, in having the opportunity to live a human life even though we know Santa does not really visit over Christmas, or that the world is filled with contradictions and pain, and with full knowledge and  awareness of what science and rationality tells us about the way things are.

The fact remains that, despite all we know, life is a mystery, life is uncertain, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying. One of the things I have been doing as Christmas approaches is to consciously cultivate a sense of wonder at this mystery, and try to allow that sense of wonder to pervade my everyday life as deeply as possible.
If you wish to do this yourself, one thing you can do is take ten minutes to simply recall and write down the things that cause a sense of the wonder of life to arise within you. Sometimes it is not so much that we CAN’T develop wonder and appreciation, it is just that we FORGET to! Once you have your list, then just take a few minutes each day to review your list and reconnect to the sense of wonder and appreciation that this list awakens within you.

Our Goldilocks Planet 

If you want something specific to help you develop a sense of wonder, here is one that I have been thinking about a lot. I learned a couple of weeks ago from one of my daughters school books that we live on a “Goldilocks Planet” which is to say that the conditions on our planet are extremely rare in this universe, and it is these conditions that give rise to the opportunity for biological life. I have been using this as a way of contemplating wonder, and just feeling thankful to have the opportunity to be alive on this fragile rock hurtling through the Universe! Here are the basic characteristics of a Goldilocks planet, if one of these were missing, none of us could exist!

1) Having just the right sized sun
If our sun was too big it would burn out too fast for life to evolve on a planet, if it was too small it be prone to give rise to surface storms that would destroy life on planets. We have a nice middle sized sun with a leisurely 10 billion year lifespan!

2) Just the right sized planet
If earth was too big (like say Jupiter) the gravity of the planet would crush all life. If it was too small (like Mars) our bodies would explode and dissipate due to lack of gravity. The Earth is just the right size, with enough gravity to hold an atmosphere that sustains life and protects us from the sun’s rays.

 3) Just the right distance from the sun
Earth inhabits the narrow band of orbit around the sun that means our water is liquid, not frozen or gaseous. Venus, one planet nearer the sun has an average surface temperature of +500 degrees Celsius, whilst Mars, one planet further away has an average temperature of -63degrees Celsius.

4) The existence of water
…and a solid surface upon which it can pool. Life as we know it depends upon water

5) A little help from Jupiter
Whose gravitational field attracts, blocks and absorbs many dangerous asteroids (due to its size and enhanced gravitational field). So we are in much less danger of mass destruction than we would otherwise be!

So, for me, contemplating our fragile life living on a Goldilocks planet has really helped fill my Christmas season with wonder and awe, I hope it helps you too!

© 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

Awareness and insight Meditating on the Self Meditation techniques mind body connection The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

The Gateway to the Expanded Self and to Universal Love and Compassion

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article gives some basic pointing out instructions for how we can transform our ordinary, deluded self sense into the universal or expanded self sense of a Bodhisattva, someone whose primary motivation is to liberate all living beings from their pain and bestow upon them lasting freedom and happiness. It is a little longer than I anticipated, but it explains the journey in its ‘bare bones’ so to speak, without any unnecessary complexity.

Yours in the spirit of universal love and compassion,


Article of the Week:

Meditation on the No Self as the Gateway to the Expanded Self and to Universal Love and Compassion

In my previous article on “the Essential Teaching of the Buddha” I outline three basic meditational themes of suffering, impermanence and no self. What I want to do below is to explain I as simple terms as possible how to identify the experience of no self in meditation and show how it can lead into the experience of an expanded self and of universal love and compassion. In Buddhist terms someone who has realized this expanded self is often referred to as a Bodhisattva, a person who works continuously for the liberation of others motivated by his or her universal compassion.

The stages of the meditation are described in short, contemplative “pointing out” instructions that you can then just gently work thorough at your own pace, using each sentence as a platform for your own practical investigation.

Identifying our everyday idea of self
The first thing that we need to do is to observe our mind and see how we habitually conceive of a quite solid, tangible ‘self’. It appears to have a permanent, fixed identity, and to exist somewhere within the mixture of our physical appearance and mental and emotional ‘personality’. It feels very real, and to have both physical and mental form.
So the first exercise is to get used to watching our sense of self as we go through our day; who is it that is angry or stressed? Who gets embarrassed by the complement from our attractive work colleague? Who feels depressed or elated?

Realizing that the everyday self does not exist in the way we think
If the everyday self or ego exists in the way we think it does as some kind of inherent, fixed form, then we should be able to find it and point to it somewhere within the collection of our body and mind. However, briefly put, if you look at the moment to moment stream of your mind and body, all you will find is a stream of continuously changing phenomenon that are not the self. For example the brain is a continuously changing and transforming physical organ that is not the self. The thinking and feeling that arise from having a brain (and upon which we often develop a strong sense of self) is also continuously changing and transforming. There is nothing within the stream of our thoughts and feelings that stays the same for long enough to be a stable basis for saying “that is me”.
So, the second part of the meditation is to take our time and investigate the moment to moment flow of our body-mind, and see very clearly from our own experience that there is nothing there that provides a suitable basis for a permanent or fixed ‘I’.

Resting in the experience of no self
The third stage of the meditation is simply to absorb the significance of the first two stages, to recognize that where we habitually assumed there was a self (in the body-mind), there is in fact no permanent fixed self. There is just a continuously flowing and transforming stream of mental and physical phenomena that is not the self!
In meditation we can consolidate this by deliberately dropping our habitual sense of self, and just resting in the awareness of the absence of a fixed, permanent self within either our body or our mind.

Identifying the witness or observer self
There is a third aspect of our moment our moment experience that does not change, and upon which on a deeper level our self sense is based upon. This is the moment to moment experience of awareness itselfThis awareness has two basic qualities; firstly it functions to know, or be aware of things, and secondly it has no form, no mental or physical characteristics. It is clear open and space like.
The fourth stage of our meditation is simply to recognize this pure awareness, and to rest in this open, space-like awareness in meditation.

Contemplating the qualities of the witness self
We could say that this observer, or witness self is our true self, or real self. But it is completely different from the self that we usually think of as being “me”.
For one thing it has no individualizing characteristics. Because it has no form it has nothing within it to distinguish us from anyone else. It is just pure, luminous spacious awareness.
Secondly, because it has no form, the witness self that lies within ‘me’ is also the same as the witness self that lies within ‘you’, or ‘they, or ’them’ or ‘others’.  In this sense the witness self (which is still a ‘no self’ in the sense of having no individualizing characteristics) is the universal self, the ‘God that lies within the heart of all’, and from which all of creation arises and disintegrates from moment to moment.

Expanding our sense of self to include all living beings
So, if we then take our witness self, or pure awareness as our true ‘self’ we can expand our self sense infinitely to include all living beings since they all have at the heart of their being that same pure awareness. In this sense meeting other people is no different in essence from meeting ourselves, the outer appearance is different, but the essence is the same!
At this stage of the meditation our focus becomes the recognition that the pure self-awareness that we are witnessing is actually a universal or expanded self, encompassing not just one person but infinite living beings, human, animal or otherwise.

Developing love and compassion for others
On the basis of recognizing our expanded self we can then begin to develop natural and appropriate empathic love and compassion for other living beings, not because we feel as if we ‘should’ but because we can experientially recognize them in essence as being our true or real self.

The vow of the Bodhisattva
Naturally arising from this universal love and compassion comes the wish to liberate all living beings (who are aspects of our own self) from suffering, and give them lasting freedom and happiness. Our intention in life begins to orientate itself around the vow of the Bodhisattva, to quote the Ninth century Buddhist teacher Shantideva:

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.”

© 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

Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology spiritual intelligence

What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

Hi Everyone,

This weeks creative meditations article looks to gain a little clarity with regard to the meaning of spirituality which is certainly not the easiest of topics to pin down!

Underneath the article you can find the details of the final meditation class of 2011, which I have entitled “From no self to the Expanded Self”.


Yours in the spirit of the spiritual,

Article of the Week:

What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

As a ‘spiritual teacher’ I get to hear and engage in various conversations about spirituality. One thing that often stands out for me is the absence of a clear idea of what we really mean by spiritual. With this in mind, here are five working definitions of what the word spiritual can mean. If you think about your own spiritual path in the context of each of these definitions in turn, you will find that each of them shows you a different aspect of it:

1. The spiritual can refer to the very subtle, formless or causal dimension of existence and experience that lies beyond the coarse physical world of the senses and the subtle energetic world of the mind. It is formless because it is beyond the dimension of physical or mental appearances or ‘forms’. It is called ‘causal’ because it is the dimension from which mental and physical form arise and to which they disappear when they cease. Contact with, experience and exploration of this realm is one of the main aims of meditation.

2. The spiritual is that which is of most fundamental meaning and importance in our life. This is the definition that theologian Paul Tillich uses often. One major reason why the contemplation of death and impermanence is a universal practice in the world’s great wisdom traditions is that doing so helps us to urgently clarify the meaning and purpose of our life in the light of its fleeting and transient nature!

3. Spirituality is the process and discipline of developing a progressively loving and selfless intention. The more genuinely pure and selfless a persons intention, the more spiritual they can be said to be. This process of balanced refinement takes continuous work!

4. Spirituality is the progressive transcendence of the ego, and the opening up to awareness of our expanded or Universal self.

5. Spirituality is the courage and faith to confront and be with the real issues in our life as they arise from moment to moment. To quote Alan Watts in his book ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’ – “Faith is an unreserved opening to the truth, whatever it may be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown.”

As an adjunct to the above list here are a few of the things that spirituality does NOT mean but is sometimes confused for:

1. Escaping from the ‘real world’ and our real practical/psychological issues by creating our own subtle meditative fantasy world, and imagining that a state of formless meditation is the answer to all our problems.

2. Avoiding appropriate worldly responsibilities and emotional/relational issues we may have by pretending we have more important ‘spiritual’ activities to do.

3. Imagining we have become totally selfless and have transcended our ego whilst our ego runs rampant in a subconscious level. Ken Wilber refers to this as “boomeritis”, Robert Augustus Masters calls it “spiritual bypassing” and Chogyam Trungpa called it “spiritual materialism”. Unfortunately it is still pretty pervasive.

4. Being nice all the time because that what we think being loving and compassionate is all about.

5. Thinking that just ‘being in the present’ means that we don’t need to deal with our past issues or plan for the future.

6. Mistaking trans-rational spiritual states for pre-rational infantile states, similar to point 3. No, children, animals and trees are not enlightened, however they are unconsciously or intuitively in touch with their spiritual natures much of the time. Spirituality is a process of evolution not regression!

© 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

Meditation Class 14th December:

From No Self to the Expanded Self: How Buddha’s Teaching on the Emptiness of the Self Can Lead us to an Awakening of Universal Love and Compassion

Facilitator: Toby Ouvry

Date and Time: Wednesday 14thDecember, 7.30-8-30pm

Location: Basic Essence, 501 Bukit Timah Road, 04-04 Cluny Court. 
For directions click HERE

Superficially it can see like the Buddhist perspective on “no self” the absence of any kind of permanent of fixed identity of both ourself and all phenomenon can seem a little bit frightening and perhaps even nihilistic.  In this one hour meditation class we will be looking at how in reality the realization of no-self awakens within us the capacity to go beyond our ordinary ego boundaries and awaken to our “expanded self” or “great self”, that possesses unconditional love and compassion for all living beings (including ourself!).

This class will be a chance to learn and experience a simple but profound meditation that we can use as a way of liberating our sense of self from limiting patterns and perceptions, and awakening to our true human potential.

On a day to day practical level the understanding that we gain from the meditation can also be applied to help us improve our relationships with others and develop a feeling of pervasive warmth and empathy toward others.

The class will consist of a 30-40 minute practical meditation, and a twenty minute or so talk.

Cost for Class: $25, includes MP3 recording of talk.

To register for class: Contact Basic Essence on 64684991 or email