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Aimlessness – The broken arrow

“Practiced in balance, the aimless life and the ‘on purpose’ life are complementary and mutually enhancing polarities within our mindfulness practice”

Dear Toby,

Much of meditation is about learning to appreciate spaces and absences as much as objects and things. This weeks article is an invitation to discover the value of an aimless life, with all that it has to offer us…
My Tuesday & Wednesday  classes continue the theme of Meditation from the perspective of Zen, where we will be meditating with some of the content of this article.

In the spirit of aimless presence,



Aimlessness – Less thinking, more awareness

The broken arrow
Imagine you are in a landscape with a Zen master. Imagine s/he takes out an arrow, holds it up and breaks it in two.  The broken arrow symbolizes the practice of aimlessness, because you cannot aim a broken arrow(!) Aimlessness here is the practice and experience of being whole and complete, here and now. It is not feeling the need to chase our bodily, psychological and spiritual desires all over the place.

Here is a working a definition of Aimlessness from Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Aimlessness is the attitude of someone who does not feel the need to run after anything, realize or obtain anything. It is for example not pursuing enlightenment as an object of knowledge.”

Aimlessness as a spiritual discipline invites us to let go of our instinctive grasping of enlightenment as something that we have to know or attain on an intellectual/physiological level, and helps us to connect with the enlightenment experience as something that is present within us here and now, revealed to us progressively as we let go of the various different levels of conditioning and conception within our consciousness.
On an intellectual and physical level, it helps us to move our body-mind into a state of deep, restful alertness, or regenerative presence. It helps us to recover from cognitive overload, and give our body a change to heal, rebalance itself and let go of stored tension.

Usually aimless-ness has a bit of a negative connotation. It implies we lack direction in our life, that we lack willpower or are indecisive. With mindful aimlessness we are trying to discover it as a meditative practice, and become an ‘aimlessly awakened person’.

Practicing aimlessness
You can practice aimlessness anywhere. You simply choose to set aside a certain amount of time, during which time the ‘aim’ is to let go as fully as possible of all aims, desires and objectives, and rest in the ‘resulting’ state of presence. Practicing aimlessness means relaxing more and more into a state of awareness, and letting go of thinking and imaging. The last few days I have just been setting my timer for 5-10mins at a time, and sitting quietly wherever I am at the time. It is wonderfully relaxing particularly if you have been feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Aimlessness is closely related to four other ‘lessnesses’: Form-lessness, time-lessness, self-lessness and home-lessness.

Combining aimlessness and desire-lessness with our desires, and with living ‘on-purpose’
It is possible to have desires, and to work to execute them without getting attached to them. It is possible to have a dynamic and active life where we are working to fulfill appropriate desires, and at the same time develop and nurture our experience of aimlessness. It is only when we become attached or overly invested in our desires that they then have to power to take us out of our centre and cause us suffering and pain. Practiced in balance, the aimless life and the ‘on purpose’ life are complementary and mutually enhancing polarities within our mindfulness practice.

Related articleNot over-sharpening your blade (the three ‘uns’)

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2021, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website   

Saturday August 21st 9.30-11.30am – Mindfulness for Emotional Intelligence Masterclass

In a sentence: Learn how you can use mindfulness to develop your emotional range and skills

Much of our quality of life depends not so much on what we are experiencing, but the way in which we experience it. Our moods and emotional states to a large degree define the quality of our life experience, at work, in our relationships and in our leisure activities. This masterclass will lead you on an experiential journey to:

  • Understand what feelings, moods and emotions are and how to build an effective relationship to them
  • How to consolidate and expand your existing emotional strengths
  • How to deal with difficult and challenging emotions, and even turn them to your advantage
  • How to increase the diversity/range of emotions that are available to you for enjoyment, pleasure and life-effectiveness! Read full details…


Saturday August 28th, 10am-5pm – Meditations for connecting to the Tree of Life Workshop

Overview: The Tree of Life is an ancient and comprehensive system of meditation, personal development and inner growth represented by the diagram of a tree. Although it is best known as a ‘western’ tradition of spiritual growth (Judaist, Christian, Islamic), the fundamentals of the Tree of Life practice can be found in different ancient systems of meditation and mindfulness throughout the world. This workshop is a practical introduction to how to meditate with the Tree of Life in order to:

  • Stimulate holistic and integrated inner growth
  • Consciously develop different levels and states of consciousness in meditation, and learn how to transition or journey between them in the inner world
  • Stimulate the development of your creative, imaginal and visualization skills
  • Make systematic, organized contact with guides, teachers, healing forces and archetypal energies within the inner world
  • Practice different types of meditation to build different strengths, and help you deal with different inner challenges…read full details


The Mindful Self Knowledge coaching program

This is eight-month coaching program with Toby is designed to facilitate your own personal mindful self-discovery process. It focuses on:

  • Awareness of how your past experience has influenced who and how you are today
  • Confidence in approaching your present experience with playful fullness and enthusiasm
  • Giving you the inner tools to face your choices and your future in an empowered, dynamic, and authentic manner. Read full details

Watch Toby’s video on the Program

Life-fullness – The Integral Life-Coaching Program with Toby

Are you looking a coach who can help you to:

  • Meet the challenges, stress and changes that you face in a more effective and mindful way
  • Become happier within yourself, in your relationships and at work
  • Be actively accountable for finding a sense of balance/well-being in your life and fulfilling your personal potential?
  • Guide you to find and operate from a deeper sense of meaning, motivation and connectivity in your life?
Read full details

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby  (East Coast)

Starts 6th&7th July – Integral Meditation from the Perspective of Zen – A 10 week series

Saturday 17th, 24th, 31st July, 2-4pm – Mindful Life-skills for Teenagers – A three week

Saturday August 21st 9.30-11.30am – Mindfulness for Emotional Intelligence Masterclass

Saturday August 28th, 10am-5pm – Meditations for connecting to the Tree of Life Workshop

Integral Meditation Asia

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