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Cloud-watching: Primarily present, secondarily thinking

“One of the main functions of mindfulness and meditation is to make your way of engaging with life primarily experiential, and secondarily conceptual”

Dear Toby,

Why should we be interested in meditating? This weeks article gives some thought to this with the aim of helping us re-connect to our ‘experiencer’. If you enjoy it then this weeks Tuesday & Wednesday class will be focused on this subject. You are welcome to join us, live or online!

Also, final shout out for this Saturdays Zen deep-dive mini-retreat!

In the spirit of experiential cloud-watching,


Cloud-watching: Primarily present, secondarily thinking

One of the main functions of mindfulness and meditation is to make your way of engaging with life primarily experiential, and secondarily conceptual. What do I mean by this?
Starting out in childhood we were all primarily present moment oriented. We could spend hours being present as we played or interacted with others. Mostly we were present to what was there, and occasionally we began to think and conceive ideas.
As we were educated, the system that we were educated in was and is primarily verbal-linguistic in nature; It’s about developing the power of our thoughts and concepts. By the time we come out of our education, secondary or tertiary, we tend to see our world primarily through a conceptual lens. Its what we think about life, what we believe about it that starts to dominate and often determine our experience. We become primarily thinking and conceptual, and secondarily experiential beings. The problem with this is that we then lose touch with our direct experience, we spend most of our time literally ‘lost in thought’ and less and less time actually living and experiencing life. As a result, our life lacks vitality and vivid-ness, because we experience it conceptually, second hand, rather than experientially, first hand.

Two types of purpose in life
One way of finding purpose in life is to reflect upon your values and then set up goals that will help you to achieve things in the future that are congruent with those values and that will therefore make you happy.
A second approach to purpose is to understand that, regardless of your goals, the main meaning in life from an experiential point of view is to feel and experience being alive. If you lack this, then you lack the main experience that gives fulfilment, even if we have meaningful goals and projects.
These two purposes are really complementary, it is ‘both and’ rather than ‘either or’. However, without the second, the first will be empty. To practice mindfulness of the moment serves to ensure that we remain in touch with the experience of being alive, being fed by life-in-the-moment as we journey toward our goals.
The proposition would be this: Even if some of your life goals are not fulfilled, if you live fully and experientially in the moment then you will feel that your life has been a full, vivid and fulfilling place, that you have not wasted your time thinking of being somewhere else whilst it passed you by!

Cloud-watching: Experiencing your thoughts rather than being lost in them
One way to start coming back to the moment is to learn to watch your thoughts whilst grounded in the present, rather than being lost in them. To do this:

  • Sit and ground yourself in your body as you breathe. Feel as if it is like a mountain, solid, stable and immovable in the present moment. Anchor your attention to it, and your experience of the here and now
  •  Now start to watch your thoughts from the stability of the present moment. If your mind is like the sky, the thoughts are like clouds coming and going. If there are many cloud-thoughts, stay stable and just watch. If there are fewer with some spaces in between, then enjoy the combination of thoughts and spaces between the thoughts (like the sky between the clouds)
  • Notice the clouds to make you more present, not take you away from it!

When you watch your thoughts and the spaces between your thoughts, they simply remind you of what is in the present. You turn them from something that takes you away from your immediate experience to something that helps you connect to it. You become primarily an experiencer of the present, and secondarily a thinker!

Related articlesEnvisioning & presence – Climbing the mindful mountain
Body-mountain, thought-cloud, mind-sky

© Toby Ouvry 2022, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website


Saturday November 12th, 9.30-12noon –  Zen deep-dive mini-retreat

Session overview: These 2.5hour Zen ‘mini-retreats’ are a chance to go into much deeper meditation states than you would be able to in your own personal daily practice, or even if you came to a one-hour class. Using sitting meditation methods in combination with breathing techniques and gentle stretching/mobility exercises Toby will guide you into deep meditative flow states that create the experience of a calm, unified, harmonized, resilient body, mind & heart.. read full details

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)

Ongoing – An Adventure in Consciousness – The What, Why & How of integral & engaged meditation practice

Saturday November 12th, 9.30-12noon –  Zen deep-dive mini-retreat

Saturday November 26th, 9.30-11.30am – Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat


Integral Meditation Asia

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