A Mind of Ease Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Presence and being present Primal Spirituality

The Three Stages of Non Dual Meditation

Dear Everyone,

At the end of this weeks article below, you will see a reference to something called Integral  Meditation Asia, I will be writing a separate message to you about this later in the week, as it is a new project that I have been working on over the last month or so.
In the mean time enjoy the article on non-dual meditation below. If you ask me what is my primary alternative “healing modality” I would say that it is the meditation on non-duality. Experiential contact with the non-dual state has a completely re-aligning effect on our body mind that I have found effective even in the most difficult and demoralizing mental and physical environments.

Yours in the spirit of the natural union,


The Three Stages of Non Dual Meditation

There are three stages that you need to engage in order to be a competent non-dual meditator:

  1. Firstly you need to be able to sit in meditation and enter a state of pure formless awareness, where no thoughts objects or perceptions are arising. You should be able to sustain that awareness gradually over longer and longer periods of time, until you can do it at will.
  2. Secondly you need to develop your experience of pure formless awareness so that you can sustain it at the same time as being aware of thoughts, sensations and other objects. Robert Forman calls this second stage a “Dual Consciousness Event”. We are simultaneously aware of both pure formless awareness and the world of form. At this stage the world of form and pure formless awareness appear separate. We simply practice holding awareness of them both at the same time until we can do it naturally and at will.
  3. Thirdly, after a (usually) substantial period of time meditating on stages one and two we start to experience a unitive or non-dual state of awareness, where the experience of pure formless awareness and the appearance of form (ie: mental and sensory objects in our mind and environment) merge together into a single experience. To use the Buddhist expression form appears as empty, and emptiness appears as form. This third stage is paradoxical and cannot be understood by the mind alone(logically how can no-form be form, and form be the same as no-thing?) and it can only really be experienced, understood experientially.

So, three stages; empty the mind and rest in pure formless awareness, secondly learn to be simultaneously aware of both pure consciousness and form, third let them merge together into a natural unitive or non-dual awareness.

Natural Enlightenment
The essential non-dual experience described in stage three above, the unity of form and emptiness is the primary experience of full classical enlightenment as described by the great non-dual schools of meditation, such as Zen, Hindu Vedanta, Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana and Djogchen and so on. The funny thing about the non-dual state is that it appears as completely ordinary, “nothing special” as they say in Zen. Once you have realized this essential non-dual state, all you then really need to do to stay connected to this enlightened state is simply rest in your own natural moment to moment awareness. Everything that appears to that awareness, form or formless, “good or bad”, sacred or profane is seen simply as a manifestation of the primal and perfect non-dual enlightened state, it is perfect just as it is!

How Long do I Need to Meditate to Develop a Stable Experience of the Non-Dual State?
Starting as a scratch meditator, let’s say meditating for 30mins-1hour a dayevery day and taking occasional retreat-type experiences, it might take you five years to stabilize an experience of stage one; being able to meditate in a state of pure formless awareness.
It might then take you another five years to stabilize your experience of stage two, being able to rest at will in a state where you are simultaneously aware of both the form and formless levels of being.
further five years would probably be needed until you had then built the capacity to rest in a unitive state, where the form and formless domains of experience appear to arise simultaneously as a single unified reality.
So, fifteen years to a stable working experience of non-dual enlightenment. Whether you choose to do it within the context of a traditional school of enlightenment such as Zen or Dzogchen, or whether you do it within the context of a more contemporary path such as the meditation courses offered at Integral Meditation Asia, with focus and dedication this is perfectly possible for all of us.
If you are interested in a more detailed explanation of the three meditative states outlined above, you can read a very good article by Robert Forman entitled “What Does Mysticism Have to Teach Us About Consciousness”.

A Mind of Ease Awareness and insight Essential Spirituality Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Shadow meditation Using the Energy of Negative Emotions

Is an Idle Mind Really a Devils Workshop?

Dear Everyone,

The article below addresses the idea of an idle mind being a devils workshop. Because of this the language I use to describe the path of meditation is somewhat in the traditional pre-rational terms of God/the Devil. Of course spirituality is a lot more subtle and nuanced than that, but I trust you will be able to use your discernment to be able to perceive the deeper points being indicated in the text 😉

Yours in the spirit of the ongoing journey,


Is an Idle Mind Really the Devils Workshop? Three Answers from a Mediators’ Perspective

Here in Singapore in the corporate work that myself and my wife do, we are regularly told that we are not allowed to use the word ‘meditation’ in our talks and workshops, or include it in any of the support literature that we give out in such workshops. The reason for this is that certain quite powerful religious groups are strongly warned against meditation, the idea being that an ‘idle mind is a devils workshop’, and so if you sit down and allow your mind to go blank for a while, good ‘ol Beelzebub is going to jump in there and inspire you to go astray. There is a certain amount of irony and sadness in this for me, as through-out history the great meditative and contemplative wisdom traditions have evolved to a large degree within the bosom of the major religions. But nevertheless asking the question “Does an idle mind make a workshop for the devil?” does give rise to some interesting things to consider as a meditator. Here are three responses that occur to me.

An idle mind or an idle no-mind?
If you simply sit around and let your mind think away without purpose or direction, then it is indeed true that it will start coming up with mischief! However, the purpose of meditation is not to sit still and just let the mind think away without direction. The fundamental purpose of meditation is to go beyond the concrete, thinking mind, and enter a state of pure awareness or pure being-ness. This state of pure awareness and being-ness could actually be described as a state of no-mind in the sense that it is empty of the normal discursive chatter and thoughts that fills most people’s mind. This meditative state of no-mind is actually a space where the “devil” of inappropriate thoughts cannot enter. It is in fact a space where we can encounter our own experience of the divine at our leisure so to speak. In this sense you could say that meditation is a way of creating a playground for God, rather than the devil!
Of course progress from our current state of busy-mind to being able create a stable experience of no-mind is a journey that takes substantial effort for most people, and in the journey from busy-mind to no-mind we will undoubtedly go through phases where our mind seems to be “rebelling” against us. However, this  is really no different from the effort that for example someone training for a running marathon might go through. The effort to “get in shape” takes consistent effort and a willingness to bear a certain amount of pain and difficulty. However, once you have stable experience of no-mind it is there for you for the rest of your journey through life and beyond. Certainly a possession worth pursuing, and definitely not “of the devil”!

Talking and Listening to God
A simple but profound saying from the Christian contemplative tradition; “Praying is talking to God, meditation is listening to God”. We want to build a relationship to the divine by telling it what we want in our prayers, but we also need to be prepared to listen to what it might want to say to us in response!
Traditionally the divine speaks to us through the “still small voice within”, and if you really want to hear clearly what is “being said” so to speak, stilling the mind and heightening awareness through some form of contemplative or meditation practice is pretty much a pre-requisite for qualified success.

Meditation as the gateway to both the superconscious and unconscious minds
Now then, meditation is said to be the gateway to the divine, or put another way, to heightened states of subtle awareness that give us access to experiences of the “superconscious”, or that which lies beyond the rational mind.
However, it is also true that meditation relaxes our conscious, rational mind enough for aspects of our unconscious or pre-rational mind to rise up into our awareness. Put another way this means that sometimes in meditation we can find ourself coming face to face with all of the negativity, damage, anxiety and fear that we normally repress and keep out of our conscious mind by “keeping busy” and making sure that the volume level in our mind is turned up high enough to drown all of this scary stuff out!
So, in this sense it can sometimes seem like when we meditate that someone is deliberately placing thoughts in our mind that are triggering all of our buttons, and really doing their best to make us as uncomfortable as possible! This is especially true if you have a lot of repressed material in your unconscious mind (and this is also a reason why meditation is most often not advisable for people who are not mentally stable, they need to build basic mental functionality before they attempt to solve their problems through meditation).
What is actually happening here is that when we meditate, we are activating our body-mind’s natural capacity for self-healing. As a result, over time all that is emotionally and mentally damaged and sick, and that needs healing will start to come to the surface. This is not the devil trying to tempt us, but our own inner damage coming to us in the hope of being healed and loved back into health!
So, this is actually quite an extensive area of exploration that it would take a few articles to explore (you can look under the section on “shadow meditation”on my website for more), but the basic point is that we build stable experience of the divine within us not just by learning to access superconscious states of mind in meditation, but just as importantly by becoming aware of all that is damaged, anxious and neurotic within us, and being prepared to “get our hands dirty” a bit, and love ourself enough to heal that which within us is calling out to be healed.

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

A Mind of Ease Awareness and insight Meditation and Psychology One Minute Mindfulness

Avoiding the Lose-Lose Perspective Trap

Dear All,

I hope this message finds you well, just in case you were wondering why the last few emails have not had a note from me at the top, I have been busy planning new classes and courses for the beginning of September. In particular I am in the process of starting an organization that I am calling “Integral Meditation Asia” which I am quite excited about. The new organization and class schedule should be in place for the beginning of August, so I shall be including more content besides the articles from that time!

Yours in the spirit of the journey,


Avoiding the Lose-Lose Perspective Trap

One of the major definitions of meditation that I work with in classes and with clients is that it is  a mind that is able to remain focused on a positive object for extended periods. In formal sitting meditation this may involve focusing on a single positive thought, image or feeling without distraction. However, back in the push ad pull of our daily life remaining focused on a positive object means constantly paying attention to the thoughts that we are having about what is happening to us, and mentally framing the situation we are faced with in an optimal way, optimal meaning a way which will give rise to the greatest amount of happiness available.
One of the ways in which we can get “fooled” into thinking in a negative way by our ego is when we are presented with a choice or dilemma. Instead of thinking about the potential good that might come from both choices, we start thinking about the downside of both options until it seems like whichever one we choose (or is chosen for us), we are going to “lose out”.

Here is a simple example that happened for me over the Wimbledon weekend:
Andy Murray and Roger Federer were in the final. As a Brit of course I wanted Any Murray to win (there has not been a British winner since 1936!), but as a kind of fan of Federer I would have liked him to win and equal the record number of Wimbledon titles won by a male competitor. Watching my mind mull this over I could see it starting to feel painful whatever the result;
– If Federer won I would be disappointed because Murray lost, and there was no domestic champion (again!)
– If Murray won I would feel disappointed because one of my favorite players had lost.
With this approach, whatever the result I was going to suffer, it had become a lose-lose situation!

I was smiling a bit about this, because it was really a classic negative maneuver by the conventional ego, a move that it is often unconsciously seeking to make all the time. With  a little bit of thought I mentally re-framed the match something like this:
‘If Murray wins, that is great because Britain finally has a domestic champion, which would be fun for a change! But if Federer wins that is great too, because one of my favorite players will have won and extended his own records, which is something to feel appreciative of!’
With this attitude firmly and mindfully in mind, I was then able to sit back and watch the match unfold, enjoying the quality of tennis.

It’s a simple and slightly funny example, but I think it is a useful illustration of the kind of daily mental “spadework” that we need to be doing each day in order to dig our mind out of lose-lose and other negative perspectives, and keep consciously choosing an approach that is going to reward us with enjoyment an appreciation of ANY situation that we are in.

With this in mind, you might like to ask yourself the questions: “What are the situations in my daily life where I most often get caught in a lose-lose mentality? What would be an appropriate win-win perspective that I could mindfully adopt in such situations and thereby increase my daily happiness?”
A final point here, sometimes the situations where we seem bound to lose out the most can actually in the longer term be very fortuitous, as I read the Dalai Lama say this week “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck!” So, even if we seem to be stuck in a bona-fide, ‘written in concrete’ lose-lose situation, it is always worthwhile keeping at least a part of our mind open to possibilities!

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

A Mind of Ease Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology One Minute Mindfulness Presence and being present

Meditation, the Salt Analogy and How Our Self-Sense Changes as Our Meditation Practice Evolves

The salt analogy is this; if you put a teaspoon in a cup of water, stir it in and then taste it, it tastes horrible. However, if you take a bucket of water, stir a teaspoon full of salt into it and then take a sip of it, it will still taste basically ok.

In a similar way, if your mind is habitually small, contracted and claustrophobic then even small sufferings and challenges are going to have substantial power to knock you off balance and cause you pain.

If on the other hand you make a point of habitually relaxing in into the natural expansive space and stillness of your mind, making your experience of it as big as possible then this will mean that you will be able to bear small challenges and sufferings without any problems, and even larger challenges will have much less power to throw you off balance. You will be able to bear them with a much larger degree of equanimity.

At its simplest there are three objects that our sense of self can identify with; our body, our mind or the spacious awareness that surrounds and contains our experience of both our body and our mind. As small children our identification is almost exclusively with our body and sensory awareness. As we grow up our identification shifts from our body to our mind as our ability to think, feel and conceive in complex ways develops.

If we then as adults take up meditation our self sense shifts once more from the mind to the spacious witnessing awareness that surrounds and embraces our mental and sensory experience. The shifting of our self sense from the mind and body to our spacious witnessing awareness is one of the main goals of meditation; it creates a balanced, open inner environment that is able to bear our trails with equanimity and courage, and able to enjoy the gifts that life gives us with conscious appreciation.
I had my fortieth birthday last week, I was thinking about my approach to ageing, and one of the main things that came out of my contemplation is that it is really not so difficult to accept the gradual changes as my body gets older. This is because a substantial proportion of my self-sense is almost always resting in the experience of spacious witnessing awareness that has developed over seventeen years or so of meditation. Ageing just isn’t that big a deal for me, or at least I can say that it is a teaspoon of salt in a very large bucket!

© 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