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Three Types of Creativity Arising From Mindfulness and Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article focuses on mindfulness and meditation in relation to our creative capacity, and how we can enhance three types of creative power within ourself through regular mindfulness practice. Enjoy!

Yours integrally,

Three Types of Creativity Arising From Mindfulness and Meditation

One of the simplest ways to start understanding how mindfulness increases our powers of creativity is to understand that daily mindfulness practice helps us to consciously shift our brainwave patterns from beta waves, which is our normal, wide awake functional state of mind to alpha and theta waves, which are states of mind associated with deep levels of relaxation, reduced levels of conceptual thought and (if used in the right way) greater levels of creativity/improvisational ability.
Learning to consciously enter into the lightly altered states of relaxation and creativity characterized by alpha and theta waves has three types of way in which it contributes to our creative power, which I have termed macro-creativity, micro-creativity and qualitative creativity.

Macro-creativity is the sort of creativity that helps us to think of new ideas, new directions in life and new ways of doing things. It is an overtly creative state of mind and being. We need macro-creativity if our work is inherently demanding of greater degrees of creativity; for example if we are an entrepreneur, designer, artist or such, or simply when life is demanding of us that we think of  really new approaches to long term problems and challenges.

Micro-creativity is a more low-key but in my opinion equally important level of creativity. It is about the small choices that you make each day, for example:

  •  Choosing to adopt the positive perspective on the feedback that we received from a colleague about our work, rather than reacting negatively and defensively
  • Choosing to accept the limitations that family life places upon our freedom with appreciation, rather than unconsciously resenting it.
  • Taking an opportunity to relax, unwind and enjoy a five minute coffee break, rather than spending the entire time we are drinking neurotically worrying about the day’s activities.

So micro-creativity is all about exercising your creative freedom in the small choices you make each day in order to maximise your enjoyment, happiness and appreciation of whatever it is that you are experiencing. It is a kind of “bread and butter” type of creativity that anyone can get in the habit of using and that mindfulness helps to develop.

Qualitative creativity is more like a feeling of creativity and playfulness, rather than an act of creativity per-se. It is simply a feeling of lightness and playfulness that we can take into our life, use to enhance its quality, and counter the excessive seriousness and or rigid states of thinking and acting that are keeping us trapped in a cycle of negativity.

One Minute Mindfulness: Exercise Your Micro-creativity
This exercise involves simply being aware that you always have more than one choice in your approach to whatever is happening to you during the day, and regularly asking yourself the question “Have I been making the right creative choices to my challenges so far today?” If not, exercise your mindful creative ability to choose an approach or adopt a perspective to what is happening that will serve you better.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Integral Awareness Shadow meditation

Shadow Analogies – The Stone in Your Shoe, the Grain of Sand in the Oyster Shell

Dear Integral Meditators,

The remainder of February for me is all about facilitating meditations on the shadow self, so this weeks article looks at two ways of understanding how working with the shadow self is really of tremendous value, and even become a lot of fun once we develop a taste for it!


The Stone in Your Shoe, the Grain of Sand in the Oyster Shell – Two Analogies for Meditating on the Shadow Self

Our psychological ego has two parts:

  • The Persona, which is our conscious self image, all of the parts of ourself that we accept and consider to be “me”. The persona is the self that we present to the world in our daily life.
  • The Shadow, which are the parts of psychological self that we reject, are afraid of and/or consider “bad” and have repressed in our mind to the extent that we are no longer conscious that they exist as a part of our self. Our shadow self continues to exist in our mind as unconscious drivers of our behavior, and we quite often “project” it onto other people and our world. For example if part of our shadow is a drive toward over-possessiveness we may find ourselves in a state of irrational fear that our friends and possessions may be taken away from us by someone, but not understand why we have these feelings all the time.

For many people the idea of working to confront and constructively integrate the shadow self into our conscious self in a healthy way feels uncomfortable, but here are two analogies that I hope will demonstrate the value of engaging the shadow.

The Stone in Your Shoe
Let’s say you are running a 10 kilometer race. You have a small stone in one shoe. Initially you can only just feel it but it does not cause much discomfort, so you ignore it and carry on. As the race goes by however, gradually the small stone wears on the sole of your foot, eventually causing a painful cut or blister, and directly inhibiting your ability to enjoy the race and run at your best potential speed. In this analogy the race is your life, and the stone in your shoe is the shadow self. Stopping, taking off your shoe and removing the stone relieves you of this painful inhibition, and in this analogy that would be like confronting, working with and successfully integrating your shadow, thus freeing you to live your life more freely and creatively.

The Oyster Shell
As you may know a pearl starts out as a grain of sand that gets stuck in an oyster shell. It causes the oyster discomfort, and it is this discomfort that causes the oyster to create the layers of smooth material around the sand grain that becomes the pearl. In this analogy becoming familiar and working with your shadow is like the work of the oyster to create the pearl; the initial discomfort stimulates the creation of qualities of beauty and strength that previously would have been seemingly unimaginable or impossible in your mind and being. Doing shadow work actively creates this inner beauty and strength within ourselves as well as getting rid of the discomfort.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Integral Awareness Meditation techniques One Minute Mindfulness Presence and being present

The Inevitability of the Present Moment

Dear Integral Meditators,

I’d like to wish you a very happy new lunar new year of the snake, whatever winding and twisting roads that it may take us on!

This weeks article reflects on the fact that one of the main goal of mindfulness and meditation; that of living in the present is in fact somewhere that we already are, but simply don’t recognize. A somewhat curious contradiction!

Yours in the spirit of recognizing where we are,


The Inevitability of the Present Moment

One of the best ways in which to connect to a deeper awareness of the present moment is simply to recognize that there is no way that you can actually avoid it.

  • Whenever you become preoccupied with thoughts about the past and things that have happened, you are doing so only within the present moment. The idea that you are somehow in the past by thinking of the past is an illusion; in reality you are thinking of the past whilst actually being IN the present moment.
  • Whenever you neglect mindfulness of the present due to being pre-occupied with a future goal, the experience of being lost in the future is an illusion. In reality you are actually IN the present moment, thinking of the future.

Continuing this train of thought, the very idea that you can be anywhere but the present moment is an illusion, the reality is that you cannot be anywhere else, no matter how hard you try.

One minute mindlessness: Try and escape from the present moment.
In this exercise, for one minute try as hard as you can to escape from the present moment.

  • If you are thinking fast, try and think faster
  • Try and re-create the past so hard that you totally lose awareness of the present moment
  • Give yourself a free rein to obsess about the future so much that your awareness of the present is as absent as possible.

At the end of the one minute, simply reflect on the fact that however hard you have tried to escape, for every single moment of that past minute you have been inevitably living and existing in the present moment, you can’t escape from it, it is inevitable. Rest in this recognition for a while.

Rather than trying harder to be more present in our life, sometimes it can be more beneficial to recognize that there is nowhere else that we can possibly be.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

A Mind of Ease Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Motivation and scope One Minute Mindfulness

Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article takes a bit of a closer look at exactly what it is that meditation is supposed to do for us. I look at the idea of mindfulness as stress reduction, and offer a new, what I think is in many ways a more constructive and beneficial perspective within which to view the goals of meditation and mindfulness.

Yours in the spirit of increased tolerance to stress,



Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

It is of course a popular idea these days that meditation and mindfulness are key tools that you can use in order to reduce your stress, and many people come to these disciplines hoping to do exactly that; reduce the amount of stress in their lives. However I like to think of meditation and mindfulness doing something different, namely increasing your tolerance to stress and developing the capacity to remain steady and calm amidst situations that are inherently stressful.

Redefining the purpose and function of meditation in the above way is important I think, because it is all too easy to experience a bit of inner peace through meditation and mindfulness, and this experience then take us in the direction of becoming less tolerant to stress, and seeking out meditation as a way of escaping that which we can’t cope with effectively.

Let’s use a simple analogy. Let’s say your present capacity to deal with stress is the equivalent of doing ten push ups in a row before reaching exhaustion. In the analogy lets then say that your life circumstances present you with circumstances that are the equivalent of doing sixteen push ups in a row. This is presently beyond your capacity or stress threshold. What a meditation or mindfulness practice would aim to do then is train your mind to become progressively more efficient at dealing with stress such that, after a while the “sixteen push up” stress level is something that you can live and cope with without getting flustered.

So, simply put the aim of mindfulness and meditation is to increase your stress threshold in a balanced way, such that you can deal with more without getting exhausted. Mindfulness and meditation when done well teach us to work with and re-direct the stress of our life in creative and dynamic ways that enable us to thrive at levels of stress that would normally be way beyond our capacity to deal with constructively.

I think this is an important point to make because:

  • Living a meaningful, creative and thoughtful life that is outside of the very narrow concerns of societies present level of consciousness involves confronting ever new forms of stress and tension
  • Meditation and mindfulness by their very nature increase the creative power and energy in our mind, which creates “growth stresses” within our being itself. Unless we are prepared for this, and look forward to the new stress tolerance levels that this process will take us to, then there is a good chance that we will give up our practice thinking that it isn’t working!

One Minute Mindfulness; Notice the Space
Even when your mind is busy, and when your physical world is filled with logistical activity, notice that all this activity and busyness exists within the context of space:

  • Your busy mind is like a big, spacious sky filled with clouds; without trying so get rid of the clouds (busy thoughts), you can still notice and open to the spaciousness of the inner sky of your mind
  • Your physical world and activities always take place in the context of an open land or cityscape. Take the time to notice the space of the sky above you, and objects in the middle and far distance of your world, not just what is right in front of you.

Regularly opening to inner and outer space in your day, gives you a bigger context within which you can contain and consciously direct the stress and tension in your life, without feeling so easily overwhelmed.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website