Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditating on the Self Mindfulness Presence and being present spiritual intelligence Uncategorized

The Way to Be Ok, Always – Liberation and the Witness Self

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the cultivation of the witness self in meditation, and why we should be interested in it!

Yours in the spirit of “ok, always”,


The Way to Be Ok, Always – Liberation and the Witness Self

Cultivating the experience of the witness self means to cultivate your experience of self as a detached observer of your mind, body and life experiences, as opposed to having your sense of self totally caught up in them.
The witness or observer self has two main qualities:

  1. It witnesses our life with detached awareness
  2. It has no physical or mental form, it is merely formless awareness

The path to personal liberation from pain and suffering has an enormous amount to do with the cultivation of the witness self. To the extent that we are able to detach ourself from our pain we can control it. If we can detach ourself from our pleasure we can enjoy it without clinging to it and thus avoid the experience of pain that happens when we are separated from that pleasure.

In meditation we cultivate and strengthen the witness self, but it is important to understand that the witness self is present with and available to us right now, whatever stage of development we are at, as these two short stories demonstrate:

As a fifteen year old at school I had a friend the same age (let’s call him Tony) who went out with a seventeen year old girl. She left him for an older boy who was a mutual friend. Tony subsequently told me the story of how he had confronted the older boy and shouted and screamed at him in an emotional outburst. He then told me, looking slightly sheepish about how he had felt that there was a part of him watching the whole episode (including himself screaming and shouting) that was not upset at all, but felt detached and calm. That “watcher” that he had experienced amidst his emotional outburst was his witness self.
Later I had a female friend at collage who similarly discovered that her boyfriend had been having an affair with another woman whilst away at University. Again with a similar sense of sheepish confusion she described to me how she had shouted and screamed at her boyfriend whilst simultaneously feeling that a part of her was observing the situation with total calm and detachment. Like my friend Tony, my female friend had found herself aware of her witness self at the same time as she experienced emotional turmoil.

So, with meditation we cultivate awareness of this witness self, making it increasingly “front and center” of our daily experience, and consequently finding an increasing sense of ever present calm even when under multiple forms of stress. Consequently we find ourself basically “always ok”, nothing we can’t handle.

Reading this some people may think that cultivating the witness self may make us cold, uncaring, emotionally mono-syllabic and so on. The reality is however that when practised in an integrated and balanced way, centring our awareness in the witness self increases our capacity to enjoy deeper and more positively multiple forms of emotion, pleasure, happiness and wellbeing. You could say that it liberates us to a whole new level of the human experience.
A final point; being centred in the witness self also liberates us substantially from the fear of making mistakes, looking foolish, taking an appropriate chance. So, whilst finding an experience of liberation through the detachment of the witness self, we concurrently find a new way of engaging in our world and human experience more freely and dynamically.

I’ve created a diagram below that illustrates in a very simple way the essential transformation that comes from cultivating our identity as the witness self. I hope the image helps to give a feeling for what I have written about above!

© 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

Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditating on the Self

Using Your Misfortune to Enhance and Transcend Your Experience of Good Fortune

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you’ve had a good week, this weeks article continues the theme of last weeks article on Paradox as Therapy , looking at ways in which we can hold apparently contradictory states of awareness together in order to develop and enhance our inner wisdom.

Yours in the spirit of inner wisdom,


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Sunday June 23rd, 8.00-10.30am – Walking Meditations for Connecting to the Energy of Nature 

Sunday June 30th, 8.30am-12.30pm – Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and Releasing Your Inner Stress


Sunday 14th July, 9.30am-12.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 

Using Your Misfortune to Enhance and Transcend Your Experience of Good Fortune

Normally we think of our good fortune and happiness as being in contrast or opposition to our misfortune and unhappiness. This article and the exercise outlined aims to help us to use our difficult experiences to:

  • Cultivate mindful acceptance of our challenges
  • Cultivate greater appreciation of our good fortune and wellbeing
  • Find a space of awareness that lies beyond and is transcendent of both that which makes us unhappy in life and that which makes us happy.

Here is what you do:

Stage 1: Select an experience of suffering, pain or misfortune in your life. Let’s say in this example that I am feeling unappreciated and uncared for by a close friend whom I expected more support from. So, the first thing that I do is to become mindfully aware of the feelings of hurt that I am experiencing in this circumstance. I sit with awareness of the feelings of being unloved/uncared for as they are. I don’t try to change them, I just accept them as they are, holding them with mindful awareness.

Stage 2: I now select an experience of good fortune/happiness that contrasts directly with the original negative experience. So, in the example here I would deliberately bring to mind people whom have demonstrated real care and appreciation of me. I focus on remembering all the times when they have demonstrated this care and appreciation, and allow this feeling of being cared for and appreciated to register fully in my mind.

Stage 3: I now become aware of a part of my mind and awareness that remains the same whether I am feeling uncared for (as in stage 1), or cared for (as in stage 2). I cultivate awareness of that part of myself that is beyond the ordinary changeability of my daily experiences, that remains a quiet witness or observer to all “different weather” of what happens in my daily life. This pure witnessing awareness is always tranquil and peaceful, even blissful in a way that transcends ordinary happiness and suffering.

Stage 4: Now I alternate between awareness of stages 1, 2 & 3 for a while, taking them all in without favoring one or another of the three. I feel the pain of being uncared for, I feel the pleasure of being appreciated and supported; I experience that part of my awareness that is beyond both ordinary pleasure and pain. Allow all three experiences to be in your mind; don’t favor one or the other. Make your mind big enough for all three.

To conclude, finish with a brief period of mental resting and equanimity.

The effect of this exercise when done regularly is to:

  1. Develop equanimity and stability when experiencing discomfort, pain, misfortune, emotional unhappiness and so forth
  2. To use our misfortune to deliberately stimulate our feeling of good fortune and appreciation of what we have
  3. To gradually learn to go beyond ordinary happiness and suffering and locate our fundamental sense of self in a place of awareness that lies beyond the fickle events of our daily life.

© 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

Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology spiritual intelligence

Paradox as Therapy (and the difference between a spiritual and a psychological crisis)

The difference between a psychological crisis and a spiritual crisis is that:

  • With a psychological crisis the problem is that there is some part of the mind that is not working properly. If you think of your mind as a motor engine, and a crisis as being like one of the parts going wrong and needing to be fixed or replaced
  • spiritual crisis is a crisis of meaning. This means that it is not that any one of the parts of your existing mind have gone wrong, rather that you have a new, deeper level of mind and self emerging within you, and that none of the existing ways of thinking and feeling that you have are adequate to cope with the new, deeper level of meaning that is emerging. The ‘solution’ to a spiritual crisis is to find, grow and articulate that new level of meaning in your life.

Spiritual and psychological crises are often quite similar, and often confused with each other, and yet they are fundamentally different. One of my tasks as an integral meditation coach is to distinguish between these two types of crisis for clients and provide advice and therapies that are appropriate for the type of inner problems and challenges that they have.

The paradox of a spiritual crisis
One of the challenges of a spiritual crisis is that, even when you have identified you are having one, it can feel like it is taking an awfully long time to develop clearly. For example I spent a good year before I decided to leave my life as a monk knowing that there was something changing within me, but not knowing clearly whether it would be the right thing for me to do or not to leave and enter lay life again.

One of the ways that I dealt with this waiting period was with a technique of awareness that I have cone to call “Paradox Therapy”. This involves becoming aware of the contradictions in your life, and learning to hold them together in the same act of awareness. This creates and experience of comfort and relaxation in the mind that is able to cope with the inner stress and contradictions of life with lightness, humour and patience.

For example in the year before left my life as a monk I would notice that:

  • I was in a state of inner conflict much of the time (“Things are bad”)
  • Simultaneously there was much in my life to feel fortunate for (“Things are good”)
  • There was always a part of my mind that was separate from and observing the positive and negatives (“Things are beyond good or bad” )

So, what I would do would be to sit with these three paradoxical perspectives in my mind, holding the “goodness”, the “badness” and the “beyond good or bad” in the same act of awareness.
This did not “solve” my predicament, but it did give me the peace of mind, patience and sense of inner wholeness and wellbeing to allow my path to unfold and relax into that unfolding, allowing the crisis to teach me what was emerging, and how to start to express and embody it in my life.
© 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 Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindfulness One Minute Mindfulness Presence and being present Uncategorized

The 20 Second Rule – Guerilla Tactics for Peace of Mind and Wellbeing

Dear Integral Meditators,

Its all too easy to let life’s best moments slip by without noticing them fully, this weeks article outlines a practice you can do to make sure that this doesn’t happen to you any more, from this moment on!

Wishing you all the best,



The 20 Second Rule – Guerilla Tactics for Peace of Mind and Wellbeing

This is a very simple idea that can have far reaching benefits. The basic logistics of it are:

  • As you may know, our brain has an inbuilt “negativity bias” that evolved for survival reasons. This means that it only takes one or two seconds for a negative experience to be committed to our long term memory. Our brain even has special neural pathways specifically designed for relaying negative information fast.
  • Conversely you have to focus your attention for at least 10-20 seconds upon a positive experience for it to become hardwired into your long term memory and to seriously impact your current mood and perception of life. Our brain does not have specially designed neural pathways for relaying positive experiences to our long term memory, so generally we have to work harder to make our positive experiences “stick”.

Over time and with training our brain can and does become quicker at registering and appreciating positive information about our life (this is the idea of so called “neuro-plasticty – you can change your brains physical structure by consciously training your attention and thought processes), but it takes effort extended consistently over a relatively long time.

One minute mindfulness:
With the above understanding in mind, here is a short practice that you can do to regularly commit your positive thoughts, feelings and experiences to your long term memory, and learn how you guide your daily experience toward greater happiness.

  1. Break your day up into set periods when you will do this one minute practice, for example once and hour, once every three hours, once in the morning, afternoon and evening, something like that.
  2. Look back over the last hour/the morning/the evening and pick out a positive experience or something that happened that is worthy of your appreciation, gratitude, and enjoyment ect…
  3. Focus on your remembrance of that positive experience with relaxed, focused awareness for around 20 seconds, so that it slips into your long term memory and starts to directly influence your mood right now, in the present moment.

We’ve all got busy lives, but I think you’ll agree that the above practice is not beyond any of us. If you practice it consistently there is no doubt it will empower you to take greater control of your peace of mind and inner wellbeing.

© 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