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Individualism, Self-esteem, Universal love – Aspects of rational mindfulness

“Practice looking at your experiences as an observer, like you were a fly on the wall. It gives you space between you and your life, & access to the creative ideas & solutions that suggest themselves when you observe consistently in this way”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

I think of the “rational mindfulness” described below as the lynch-pin between lower & higher stages of consciousness. If you are good at it, it holds together all of the other parts of your consciousness in a benevolent, stable manner. I hope you enjoy it! If you do it will be the subject of this week’s Tuesday & Wednesday class practice.

Heads up for the Wesak Class  next week, 21st & 22nd May, & the Awakening to benevolence & compassion mini-retreat on Saturday the 25th.

Also, I’ve just posted the Stress transformation & Emotional intelligence  workshops for June.

In the spirit of the fly on the wall,

Toby


Individualism, Self-esteem, Universal love – Aspects of rational mindfulness
 
As we grow into our teenage years, if we grow psychologically in a balanced way, we should find the emergence of a third person, or rational-objective perspective starts to emerge. Whereas previously it was all ‘me’, ’mine’, ‘yours’ and ‘ours’, we can now practice standing outside a personal, subjective view. We can consider events and experiences objectively, making assessments based upon that. Several transformations and capabilities come from this. If we can apply them to our sense of self and who we are in the world, then we become a ‘rational’ person in the holistic sense of the world, which is a beautiful thing. What I have done below is list a few of the capabilities of the rational self, with some suggestions regarding how they can be practiced.
 
Being a fly on the wall – Practice looking at yourself and your experiences as an observer, like you were a fly on the wall. This takes you out of your subjective view and into a third person, objective view. Holding this non-judgmental ‘observer position is really the essential mindfulness practice. Doing it gives you space between you and your life, and access to the creative ideas and solutions that suggest themselves when you observe consistently in this way.
 
Goal setting – Thinking about your goals, picturing them in your mind and then working consistently to realize them is a core rational-objective mindful capability. It enables you to move beyond ‘how you feel’ at any given time, and keep on moving forward, gently, and consistently. This can be practised on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
 
Compartmentalizing – This practice enables you to separate out the different activities in your life and their attending emotions from each other, so that you can work on each one descreetly at different times. This means that you avoid one activity or emotion from let’s say your personal life interfering with your work life, and vice-versa. This is difficult to do without being able to step back and consider your life objectively.
 
World-centric love and compassion – When you step back and consider yourself and others objectively, you can see that there are many commonalities that we share with all humans and living creatures, and that all of us have basic value and worth. Based upon this objective position, we can develop an even-minded consideration and benevolence for all the people we meet, regardless of whether we know them personally or not. Practiced in this way, rational mindfulness can lead to an explosion of our sense of love and compassion for the world.
 
Individualism and self-esteem – When we stand back from ourselves, we can assess ourself as having a value as an individual, and start to articulate our own goals regarding happiness and fulfilment. We can then take pride in developing our capacity to move toward those goals effectively, and build a good life. This in turn gives us a further sense of self-esteem. Not only this, but we can then take joy in encouraging others to see their own inherent value, and encouraging them to grow and express themselves as individuals.
 
So, whenever you engage in any of these activities, you are helping to develop your holistic rational, third person capacity. Practice them all together and you can grow it in an integrated and balanced manner!

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Mindful transitioning – Your life as meditation

“Effective mindfulness & meditation is not just about learning to hold particular states in a focused manner, equally importantly it is about the skill of making the transition from one state of mind to another smoothly and ergonomically”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at making transitions in our consciousness as a practice in itself. There is a huge benefit in getting good at this if you take the time to!

In the Tuesday & Wednesday Meditation class this week we will be meditating on our ‘other & we space’; the capacity to see things from another persons point of view, and also become sensitive to the space that lies between people in couples & groups! 

If you know anyone looking to get their meditation practice started, or if you want to get your own practice rebooted, then I recommend this Saturdays session:Get Your Meditation Practice Started Now – The Shortest and Most Time Effective Meditation Workshop Ever
And also this Saturday those of you interested in Mantra meditation & spiritual healing will enjoy the Medicine Buddha Healing meditation, 11am-12.15pm.
 
In the spirit of mindful transitioning,

Toby


Mindful transitioning
 
Effective mindfulness and meditation are not just about learning to hold particular states in a focused manner. It is also, and equally importantly about the skill of making the transition from one state of mind to another smoothly and ergonomically.
 
What is the best state of mind to be in?
During the day we do many different activities, each of these requires a different state of mindful attention. For example:

  • The optimal state of attention when at dinner with our partner or date is very different from the state of being focused on work at our workstation. One is more functional and quantitative, the other more open and qualitative
  • Being with children requires a different state of mind from being with adults
  • Singular focus on one task is very different from being in a meeting and ‘reading the room’ with our awareness

So, during the day, in order to be mindfully effective, we need to be able to transition from one state or awareness to another appropriately. If we get stuck rigidly in different states, then we are going to struggle to bring our best to the different things we do, perform to our potential and enjoy each activity. It’s a little bit like martial arts or sports; the movement between shots or punches or single-moment activities is as important as the shots themselves!
 
The basic transition & practice
The basic transition that I like to teach in formal meditation is the one from field awareness to single-pointedness. It looks a bit like this:

  • Field-awareness: For five minutes or so take the position of the observer in your field of awareness, and practice watching the totality of what you notice there. This is like moving a camera to the ‘wide-angle’ position of the lens, so that it takes in the whole of the landscape. Practice mindfulness around the ‘big picture’ in this way
  • Then transition to single-pointedness, focus on one thing within your field of awareness in as singular a manner as possible. Obvious examples would be the breathing, or the weight of the body, or the sounds you hear. This is like closing the aperture of your camera lens so that it zooms on just one thing in the landscape of your mind. Practice building that singularity of focus, editing everything else out for five minutes, before transitioning back to field-awareness

If you meditate for twenty minutes, then you would practice transitioning three times, as well as enjoying the benefits of the actual states themselves. If you brought the time down to changing every two minutes then you would really get better quickly at the transitions.
 
Bringing this into daily life
During the day, I transition from field awareness to single-pointedness many times, and the feeling of doing so combines both personal enjoyment as well as a sense of the day running smoothly and effectively.

  • This morning, I took my daughter to school on the bus. On the ride there I was practicing field awareness, keeping an eye on her and her friends, getting of at the right time etc..
  • On the bus back by myself I zoomed into single-pointedness and did a few energy-mantras in a short five minute meditation, transitioning to a ‘just one thing’ state of mind, which was refreshing.
  • At the beginning of the work day, I go into field awareness, looking at the totality of the day and all that needs to be done. Having assessed the order of the day, I then go into single-pointedness on the next task, in this case my weekly article, which I am twenty minutes into and now nearly finished!

To make my life a ‘working samadhi’ or life as meditation, I need to make the transitions described above smoothly, skilfully and appropriately. If I do that, then my life is literally mostly a meditation! When I arrive at my formal daily meditation and sit down, I’m already very close to meditation, so it’s easy and natural to drop into meditation from daily life. Trying the practice described above (field to single-pointedness) for a few minutes each day can really make a radical difference to your transitioning skill, I really recommend it.
 
Related readingIntegrating field-awareness & single pointedness
Working samadhi

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


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Integral Meditation training page: Using distractions, sculpting thoughts & soft body

Dear Integral Meditators,

Welcome to the Using distractions, sculpting thoughts & softening the body training page. In it you will learn how to do this integral meditation combination effectively, & you can then use the meditation recordings & readings below to practice. Scroll down below to

  • Watch the video
  • Listen to the studio quality guided meditations. There is a 20minute & an 8 minute version
  • Read the related article

Each of these practices are fundamental to good meditation technique. Once familiar with them, they will continue to help you in your other meditation practices almost continuously!

In the spirit of meditative presence,

Toby

Intro to the practices:

Guided meditations:

Listen to the Twenty minute using distractions, sculpting thoughts & soft body meditation

Listen to the eight minute using distractions, sculpting thoughts & soft body meditation

Related articleUsing distractions, sculpting thoughts, softening the body

The Integral Meditation Training pages are a free resource, but if you feel you have benefitted, & would like to donate to the Integral Meditation training pages & project, you can do so via PayPal or if in Singapore you can do so directly by PayNow on +6596750279. Thanks!

​All content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this page content, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com


VIEW OTHER INTEGRAL MEDITATION TRAINING PAGES


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Your primal self as your object of mindfulness

“As we develop from one stage of growth to another as a person, we leave behind the old self in favour of a more evolved one. This new self-sense them becomes ‘I’ or me, with the previous self-identity becoming part of us that we manage or parent”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This weeks article explores looks at oour early-stage development as an object of mindfulness, & what the benefits of doing so might be. If you like it, do consider joining us on the new adventure starting on 9/10th April: Exploring your hidden maps of consciousness –mindfulness meditation for growing up, either live or online!

This week there will be only one meditation class on Wednesday, & it will be on the subject of single-headness (how to manage your stress more effectively thru mindfulness) & ‘head-lessness‘ which is a kind of non-dual meditation.

In the spirit of primal integration,

Toby



Your primal self as your object of mindfulness
 
As we develop from one stage of growth to another (psychologically) as a person, we leave behind, or objectify the old sense of self, in favour of a more evolved one. This new sense of self them becomes ‘I’ or me, with the previous self-identity becoming a part of us that we manage.
 
Our first sense of self – Basic appetites, fusion confusion
 
The first 18 months of our life is characterized by the absence of a separate self-sense. Initially we are ‘fused’ our environment. Later we start to separate our self-sense physically, but remain for a while longer in a state of emotional fusion with our environment and particularly our mother.  This is a  symbiotic or fusion stage, a bit of a fusion-confusion!
This self-sense is accordingly completely dominated by our physiological needs, food, thirst, warmth, coolness, comfort, discomfort, rest.
 
Addictions & allergies – Yes, we left it behind but…
 
We start to grow out of this fusion-confusion stage from 18 months. As a 51 year old I say “I am hungry” rather than “I am hunger!”. I can distinguish myself physically and emotionally from my environment. However, if I have left parts of me behind at that level, either as a secret identity or as a dissociation, then that can result in an ‘addiction’ or an ‘allergy’. For example, regarding hunger:

  • Addiction: If I still have a part of me still fully identified as being (not having) hunger, then this may result in me having trouble regulating my diet and weight, resulting in extreme cases as obesity
  • Allergy: If I have dissociated myself from hunger, then I may be out of touch with my basic hunger needs, not eating properly and being underweight or undernourished. In extreme cases this might manifest in anorexia or bulimia

Sometimes also you may notice a fusion-confusion type experience with your environment or in your relationships. Public spaces become confusing as your senses ‘merge’ with them, or the emotional space between yourself and others becomes very blurred and difficult to regulate. Some of this may be due to a part of self that has been left behind at the primal stage.
 
Clearing up to grow up more fully using mindfulness
 
From a mindfulness-as-therapy point of view, the essential method is quite simple; you bring to mind basic needs like hunger, thirst, as well as experiences of ‘fusion-confusion’ mentioned above (separately, not all at once!), and practice mindfully observing them, and your relationship to them. The making subjects into objects nature of mindfulness will naturally help start to clear up any allergies or addictions that may remain at this stage…
 
My personal experience of being mindful with this stage
 
Regarding basic appetites I discovered that I tend toward the “allergy” relationship to food, I usually have trouble keeping up my weight, and eating is a discipline rather than a joy. So, it helped me re-balance that which was useful.
Secondly the revisiting the fusion-confusion stage resulted in me feeling a surprising increase in clarity regarding my environmental and relational awareness.
 
Integrating, transcending & including
 
A healthy integration of your primal-self* enables you to create healthy self-regulation of your basic needs & appetites. It also helps create a clear distinction of self from others & environment. We have a healthier ‘separate’ self-sense, but can engage (and withdraw from) conscious ‘fusion’ when appropriate.
 
I’d encourage you to spend some time with this as a practice, it seems initially that we should all have grown fully out or this stage. But if you look at problems humans have around basic appetites and self-regulation like food, we can see that there are huge imbalances there. You may be surprised at how powerful and transformative it is for you. It certainly was for me!
 
*In integral psychology this is level 1 of human psychological development, and termed ‘Infrared archaic’
 
Related contentSubjects to objects – How meditation helps you grow to greater degrees of freedom

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com
 



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 Tuesday/Wednesday evening 9/10th April – Exploring your hidden maps of consciousness –mindfulness meditation for growing up

Saturday & Sunday April 20th & 21st – Integral Meditation 1.5 Day Retreat


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Using distractions, sculpting thoughts, softening the body

“Use distractions to remind yourself that you are in the present,

Use your thoughts to sculpt your perception of reality,

Soften your body to still your mind”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This weeks article explores combining three practices into a short meditation form. I find that putting different practices together makes for more interesting and more complete meditation, and this is one such example, enjoy!

In the spirit of integration,

Toby



Starts Tuesday/Wednesday evening 9/10th April – Exploring your hidden maps of consciousness –mindfulness meditation for growing up

In a sentence: Combine all the benefits of a conventional mindfulness practice with the progressive inner growth & transformation of developmental psychology.

Suitable for: Beginners and more advanced practitioners alike. May be of particular interest to those interested in psychology, coaching, philosophy, & how to combine these disciplines with a living, dynamic meditation practice…read full details


Article of the week: Using distractions, sculpting thoughts, softening the body

What I have done in this piece is to put together three practices, ‘Being mindful of the non-present moment’, ‘Sculpting your thoughts’, and ‘Finding strength through softness’ into an integral practice, where they are done together in a single session. You can do them in the order described, or in a different one as you prefer. Using the order presented, you could say do:

  • Five minutes mindfulness of the non-present moment
  • Five minutes mindfulness of sculpting your thoughts
  • Five minutes mindfulness of inner strength through softness

Or you could emphasize one main practice for 10 minutes, and then doing 2/3 of minutes each of the second two.

‘Being mindful of the non-present moment’

“By studying the non-present moment more closely, often our mind quietens down substantially and becomes more present, without effort on our part”

Watch the distractions coming into your awareness from your environment and senses, and from your mind. Notice that all the sounds around you are in the present moment, and that when you focus on your awareness of them, this can bring you back into the present moment, not away from it. Notice that even though your thoughts may be of the past or future, the thoughts themselves are happening now, in the present! By recognizing this and being present to your distractions, they help you to come into the present moment, rather than taking you away from it!

‘Sculpting your thoughts’

“Look at the thoughts you are experiencing right now, and ask yourself the question; Are they sculpting me, or am I sculpting them?”
The first position here is simply to watch your thoughts. By doing some become aware of your minds mental content, and start to see how each of your thoughts is influencing your perception of yourself and your world. By thoughts I mean not just sentences, but images, memories, mental impulses, anything that is being generated on the mental plane. Then ask yourself the question: “What is the optimal way for me to mentally frame what my mind is dwelling upon, so that I derive maximum value and minimum unnecessary pain from it?”
Practice making small, creative interventions in your thinking process, guiding your thoughts according to the principle of the above question.

‘Finding inner strength & mental stillness through softness’

“How can I still the mind with as little effort as possible, using the softness of the body?”

Whenever you think a thought, the tension or energy of that thought will turn up as an energy in the body. The practice here is to make the body as ‘soft’ and relaxed as possible, so that your body energy is unable to ‘support’ the energy of your thoughts. Whenever a thought tries to appear, relax the areas of your body where you feel the energy of the thought, and let the thought dissolve away. In this way let your mind gradually relax into a still, thoughtless space where you can regenerate your inner strength.

Related readingBeing mindful of the non-present moment
Sculpting your thoughts
Finding strength through softness

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com



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 – Effortless effort – The art of doing by non-doing, a ten-week meditation course

Tues & Weds 19,20th March, 7.30-8.30pm – Spring Equinox balancing and renewing meditation

Saturday March 23rd, 9-11.30am – Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat

Starts Tuesday/Wednesday evening 9/10th April – Exploring your hidden maps of consciousness –mindfulness meditation for growing up

Saturday & Sunday April 20th & 21st – Integral Meditation 1.5 Day Retreat


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Invisible, or effortless self-leadership

“At the highest level of self-leadership, all the different aspects of our inner self feel loved, cared for and empowered by the conscious self”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at three levels of mindful self-leadership. It gives some pointers as to what they are, how to spot them in your own self-leadership style, & make progress toward becoming the ‘invisible, or effortless inner leader’.

This week’s Tues & Weds evening class will be on this subject, you are welcome to join us, live or online.

Finally, for those interested in developing inner resilience, on Saturday 9th March I’ll be doing my Mindful Resilience – Practices for sustaining effectiveness, happiness & clarity under pressure workshop.
 
In the spirit of self-leadership,
 
Toby



Invisible, or effortless self-leadership
 
For several years now I’ve been using chapter 17 from the Tao Te Ching as part of my ‘Mindful leadership & self-leadership programs. What I want to do in this article is to look at it from the point of view of self-leadership, breaking it down into three stages. I may look at the leading others aspect of the chapter in a later article.
Here is the original text:
 
Tao Te Ching – Chapter 17 (Steven Mitchell translation)
 
When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

 
If you don’t trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

 
Level 1 – The invisible leader:
 
‘When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists’.

At the highest level of self-leadership, all the different aspects of our inner self feel loved, cared for and empowered by the conscious self. Each of them knows their place in the scheme of the different levels of self (personality, soul, spirit) and time has been developed helping them to feel confident regarding their capability in their role. As a result, the conscious self does not have to do too much to lead. A person who has reached this level of inner growth experiences the ups, downs, and challenges of life more as an even minded flow, that he or she is able to adapt and work with without too much effortfulness. Of course, there is some degree of willpower involved in what they do, but it is deployed discreetly and gently, rather than being the main ‘motor’ with which we power ourself through life.  
 
Level 2 – The monarch:
 
‘Next best is a leader who is loved.’
I sometimes think of this level of leadership as being like a monarch, king or queen. If we are at this level, we spend a lot of time and effort actively motivating ourself in a benevolent manner, learning to inspire the parts of ourself that lack confidence, heal the parts of us that are wounded, and go beyond the limits of our current self-concept. This style of self-leadership is pro-active. The conscious-self must demonstrate to the different parts of our inner self (or our sub-personalities) that it is trustworthy, so that they can get behind it and push forward as a team. At this stage our inner selves need active guidance, they need to feel nurtured and safe, they need a degree of ‘positive self-talk’. At this second level of leadership, life is quite effortful, but because the dominant energy of inner leadership is appropriate self-love and care, the journey is felt and experienced as one that is going to good places and positive directions.
 
Level 3 – The dictator
 
‘Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.’

I’m putting the last two levels of self-leadership as one, which is essentially leading ourself as a despot or dictator! Here the primary energy within self is self-loathing or hatred. There is a general sense of inadequacy, not being enough, a lack of self-respect. The only way we can motivate ourself to get things done and move forward in our life is through fear and/or agression:

  • ‘If you don’t get this degree people will think you are stupid’
  • ‘Work out because if your fat you won’t be accepted by others’
  • ‘Do what I say or I’ll be criticising you inwardly for the next week!’

The experience of leading oneself like a dictator is that life is very effortful, anxious and progress is a rather tortuous and exhausting process.
 
Most people’s self-leadership process is kind of a mixture of stages two and three. Identifying stage three as a possibility, and practicing it can accelerate the rate at which we grow and integrate it into our lives. This offers the possibility for an easier journey, with progress that seems to happen naturally, by itself even. Our personal path evolves like the final verse of the chapter, with a few of my words in brackets:
 
“If you don’t trust the people (the different inner parts of yourself),
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn’t talk, he acts (the conscious-self leads by example).
When his work is done,
the people (
the different parts of our inner self) say, “Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!”

 
 
Related articleBecoming a Self-determining entity – Five stages to mindful self-leadership
Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com



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Effortless adaptation – Solving all your problems & none (II)

‘Witnessing is a practice that solves your problems without changing them. They are still problems, but they are not problems in the way they were. It solves all your problems and none at the same time.’

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at meditative effortlessness from the perspective of witnessing practice. It’s a playful variation on a past article on ‘That which solves all your problems & none‘ from back in 2014. If you enjoy it, then it will form a central part of this week’s Tuesday & Weds meditation class. So do feel free to pop in, either live or online!

It’s a slightly longer article, so you might find it worthwhile reading it in two or three parts, coming back to it at different times… 
 
In the spirit of the effortless,
 
Toby


Effortless adaptation – Solving all your problems & none (II)

You can’t master what you are over identified with

This article is about how to adapt and flow with challenges in our life in as ‘effortless’ or ergonomic manner as possible. We can divide our challenges into ‘problems’ and ‘situations’.  In a previous article entitled ‘Wanting what you like, or liking what happens?’ I made the distinction between the two as follows:
“A lot of the things that we have labelled ‘problems’ in our life are more like ‘situations’. A problem is something that by definition has a solution. A situation is more a set of circumstances that we find ourself in. There may be no apparent solution to the situation, or the solution would cost more than it would be worth to ‘solve’ the problem. In this case we have to simply accept and work with what is. If we can harmonize our relationship to what ‘is’ today, meaning our situations, then chances are we will find ways to enjoy it and derive some value from it.”
If we want to solve and adapt effortlessly, a primary principle is you can’t master what you are over identified with. Here we are going to explore how to become more objective in our challenges, therefore struggling less as we adapt and solve.
 
The ultimate subject of consciousness

Initially in meditation (and then in daily awareness), if we look within, we can divide our consciousness into two:

  1. The objects within consciousness, or the content that we can observe
  2. The subject of consciousness, or that which is observing, AKA ‘the witness self’

During the day, quite often (almost always in fact), we confuse the subjects of consciousness with the objects of consciousness. We identify with our physical body and sensations, emotions, and moods. We identify with our story, our idea of who we are, as well as our beliefs and worldviews. All of these can be observed, watched, made into objects. The ‘self’ is, to use a Zen expression, ‘the ultimate subject of consciousness’. It is that within us that observes, which we can experience and be, but that we cannot watch as an object. You can rest in the witness self, but you can’t ‘see’ it. This is because it is simply consciousness itself, with no characteristics of form or time. It just ‘IS’!
 
Witnessing to adapt & solve

One of the beauties of sitting as the witness self is that it helps us to gradually dis-identify with the things in our consciousness that we are currently identified with. By doing this we make our challenges as well as the thoughts, feelings and beliefs associated with them objects rather than subjects. This means that its much easier to work with them and master them, because they are not ‘me’ or ‘mine’. I can be more objective, calm, strategic and (holistically) compassionate because I am not over identifying with what is going on. If you apply witnessing to any challenge, you are going thru, it will help substantially. Here are two examples from the last week:
 

  1. In a conversation with a friend, I was told a story of someone who had been aggressive and racist to him. Later in the day I felt strong anger and protectiveness about this. I noticed I was strongly identified with this ‘protector/guardian/’ aspect of myself. I modulated it simply by witnessing it; making it an object of awareness rather than ‘me. This helped me to integrate the good parts of this part of my personality, without wasting energy getting caught up and attached to the energy it generated in me.
  2. I had a discussion which verged on an argument. I noticed that there was a part of me that I identified with that was very concerned about being ‘right’. Noticing and witnessing this part of self helped me to transform it from subject to object, and accept the situation without wasting mental, emotional or verbal energy. Relatively effortlessly it helped me to keep focused on what I considered important in the day, without getting ‘trapped’ by my identification with rightness.

Through witnessing around your challenges, you can change your experience of them without much of a struggle, using the technology of witnessing. I can’t recommend highly enough building your competency around this domain of mindfulness. Life gets a lot easier, free-er and more creative, even in the face of intractable and long-term circumstances.
A final somewhat Zen sentence for you: ‘Witnessing is a practice that solves your problems without changing them. They are still problems, but they are not problems in the way they were. It solves all your problems and none at the same time.’

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2024. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact info@tobyouvry.com 


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Meditation – Not missing your life

Ordinarily we are often primarily lost in thought, secondarily conscious of the present moment. A meditator aims to become primarily present in life, and secondarily thinking’

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article explores a foundational definition of meditation & how to start working with it on a practical level. Experience of it gives you a solid base for your practice that you can easily create enjoyable variations around.

Heads up for this Saturday morning’s workshop:  Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and for Self-Healing. From the workshop write up: “Qi-gong is the science of working with the body’s energy field. Literally translated into English it means ‘energy work’, or ‘energy skill’.  In this workshop Toby will be teaching the art of moving subtle energy and life force into and around our body using a series of simple and easy to apply techniques.”
 
In the spirit of presence,
 
Toby


Meditation – Not missing your life (Your basic meditation state or space)
 
Awakening in meditation

In some ways awakening to the state of meditation could not be simpler. Here is a working definition:
Meditation is the state of being awake, not lost in thought and not falling asleep. It is a state of being present in the moment, and aware of the present
If you bring your attention to your breath for the next three breaths, avoiding distraction, or falling asleep, and holding the recognition of the breathing in the present, then you are in meditation.
 
We are often close to being in meditation already

Through-out the day we spend periods of time when we are focused in the present moment, on a particular task, not lost in thought, and not asleep. Particularly when we are enjoying something or feeling relaxed, we can do it without too much trouble. Think of an activity you take pleasure in, and recall how it helps you land in the present more, temporarily liberating you from being ‘somewhere else’ in your head.  Children spend long periods of time completely absorbed in and present to activities they enjoy.
The difference between these times that we all experience and a state of meditation becomes clear in the second part of the above definition: “A state of being in the present in the moment, and aware of the present moment.” Most non-meditators, when they arrive in the present moment do so by accident, as a side effect of an activity. They are present, but they are unconsciously present, rather than consciously present. To be in meditation we need:

  • To be aware that we are in the present, and
  • Conscious of what we are trying to focus on in the present

The state of meditation is therefore very similar to a state that you are already quite familiar with. It is just a matter of making it conscious, and then it becomes basic meditative presence
 
Your basic meditation state as your ‘inner studio space’
Your basic meditation state, once you can identify it and hold it consistently, then becomes like an ‘inner studio space’ where you can place and cultivate a range of different states of body, mind, and heart. For example, you can use it to:

  • Build focus and relaxation
  • Cultivate stillness
  • Build greater love and compassion for yourself and others
  • Work on healing inner wounds
  • Develop your self-knowledge

There is a whole range of creative things you can cultivate within your meditation space, but there is one over-riding reason for meditating, and that is so that you don’t miss your life!
 
Meditation – Not missing your life

For many of us, much of the day is spent in a state of non-presence, or the opposite of meditation.

  • We are often lost in thought and distraction
  • When we are not lost in distraction, it is often due to mental fatigue or exhaustion so we find ourselves sleepy, unconscious and in a state of dullness

The result of this is that we miss our life. Our life itself is always happening now, in the present moment, but we forget to turn up, we are somewhere else. To put it simply:
 
Ordinarily we are often primarily lost in thought, secondarily conscious of the present moment. A meditator aims to become primarily present in life, and secondarily thinking’
 
As a meditator, thinking and reflecting consciously becomes a complementary activity to our primary activity of being aware and anchored in the present, thus turning up to our life rather than missing it.
 
The breath of life
As a practical way of exploring your basic meditation state, here are some simple pointers. Breathing comfortably and naturally:

  • Notice how awareness of the breathing brings you naturally into your basic meditation state
  • Notice what it feels like to be primarily present to your life, not lost in thought or on auto-pilot
  • Notice what it is like to be ‘awake’ to your life, here and now
  • See how deeply you can drop into your basic meditation state, and notice what happens when you do
  • Practice taking the basic meditation state into your everyday activities as the orientation point in the moment. Notice how it changes your experience.

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2024. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact info@tobyouvry.com 


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Pond & river. What is it that moves, what is it that is still?

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at moving stillness as our object of meditation. It’s a capability that, when you start to get a practical handle on it can have a deeply transformative influence on your life!

If you enjoy it, then do check out the  Effortless effort – The art of doing by non-doing, a ten-week meditation course! that I’ll be starting this  week, both live & online on Tuesday & Wednesday evenings. 

You can also view my course  video on Effortless effort – Moving water that is still, still water that is moving

Final reminder, this Saturday 13th January, 9.30am-12.30pm I’ll be facilitating An Introduction to Integral Mindfulness & Meditation Practice 3 hour workshop. Great way to kick start your meditational year!
 
In the spirit of moving stillness,
 
Toby


Pond & river. What is it that moves, what is it that is still?
 
An important dimension of the practice of effortless effort is to bring stillness and movement together into a harmonic with you. This facilitates the ability to relax into our life and daily tasks ergonomically and effectively. It also enables us to combine two things:

  • Functional productivity, meaning getting our ‘to do list’ done in an effective manner
  • Creative productivity, meaning we are flexible and spontaneous, as well as capable of envisioning and articulating possibilities that have not yet come about

Ajahn Chah, the late well known Thai meditation teacher described the meditative state as ‘still water that moves, and moving water that is still’. When we are beginners at meditation, it seems like movement & stillness are the opposite of each other. Either we are still and relaxed, or we are thinking and active. To bring these two parts together into a state of effortless effort, we need to identify what part of our body-mind is always still, and what part of our body-mind moves.
If you look at your experience moment to moment, it seems relatively clear that your mind, body, and emotions move when they are activated. When they become still temporarily, we start to notice the space of consciousness itself, which, because it has no form is always still. The mind, body and emotions move within the stillness of consciousness. So then, in order to practice ‘moving stillness’ we need to be able to access the stillness of consciousness, and then let our movements of body, mind and emotions move without losing our connection to that stillness. As you can imagine, this takes practice and with this in mind, here is an exercise that you can try out in order to develop your capacity.
 
Pond & river
Imagine yourself sitting in a landscape with a still pond on once side, and a relatively rapidly moving river on the other side.

  • Focusing on the pond, let your mind become still and quiescent like the pond, relax into the stillness for a while. Notice that when you do this you will start to contact the actual, ever-present stillness of your inner consciousness. The image connects you with the presence of your always-still consciousness-itself
  • Then focus on the river, letting your mind feel into the activity and dynamism of the water. Try and ‘flow’ with the movement as you breathe
  • Now bring them together, centre in the stillness of the pond, then brining the sense of movement into the stillness. Initially this might feel a little unnatural, or even jarring, and you might lose your focus a few times. But with a bit of practice you will be able to combine the ‘noise’ of the river with the stillness of the pond.
  • As a final section to the meditation, spend a short while envisioning yourself going about your daily activities. As you do so feel yourself connected to the stillness of your consciousness, whilst at the same time physically,, mentally and emotionally interacting with your world. Imagine yourself to be like ‘moving water that is still & still water that moves’

This meditation will then give you the basis to start practicing effortless effort, bringing together stillness and dynamism as you meet the challenges of the day!

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2024. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact info@tobyouvry.com 


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Evolutionary or devolutionary mindfulness?

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at the context in which we learn mindfulness & meditation as something to be examined mindfully, as not all learning contexts are equal!

This week’s Tues & Wednesday class are on the subject of ‘Mindfully healing anxiety, insecurity & fear’, all welcome, live or online. 

In the spirit of evolving, 
 
Toby


Evolutionary or devolutionary mindfulness?
 
Mindfulness as a learning journey
For me the lynch pin of mindfulness practice is the existential level of it. This level is the sense of myself as a rational, independent human being, seeking to make my life a journey of meaning and fulfilment by using my mind to the best of my abilities. For me this level also has a simple but profound ethical level: Objectively I recognise that as an individual I am insignificant compared to the whole (number of humans, Planetary community etc…), and so the practice is geared toward me becoming an effective contributor the this larger whole, my efforts and aspirations flow in that direction.
Existentially then, mindfulness means using your attention, intention and awareness to meet and learn from your everyday experiences, to work wisely with them to make yourself better, and contribute to the whole more effectively. It also involves being dedicated to enjoying that journey, and making it vibrant. If we can do this then:

  • We evolve and grow over our lifetime, a little every day
  • We will contribute to the evolution of the world as we grow as individuals

 
The context of many mindfulness & meditation methodologies
Interestingly, many mindfulness and meditation methodologies are based upon a pre-modern religious (implicit or explicit) context. This means that the techniques are couched in a language and cultural context that is often rigid, conformist and based upon pre-modern belief systems. So, unless you are careful, you can find (and I’ve seen this happen over and over again) people who are essentially at the rational, individual level of development (see ‘existential’ above), who then take up mindfulness, and end up becoming narrower, less inquisitive and less evolutionary as a result. This is not to say that they don’t become good meditators, but what it does mean is that they only become competent within the narrow confines of the belief system that their practice is couched in.
 
Pre-modern mindfulness
When I left my life as a monk back in 2001/2, the essential reason was that I had not been able to find all the answers to my mindful questions in the pre-modern context of the Tibetan Buddhism that I had been practising for a decade. I wanted to explore and develop my mindful parameters by integrating new paradigms, methodologies and being creative. I was deeply surprised (although not in retrospect) how few of my colleagues from the group understood this, and how emphatically they withdrew their support once they learned I had decided to seek a practice that was not exclusively based around their ideas. This is what I mean by the rigidity and conformity aspect of a meditation community.
So, this is just something to consider: Mindfulness is by its nature evolutionary and growth oriented, but the context in which it is couched or learned can mean that it has a rigid, conformist, and devolutionary effect on who you are and what you do.
 
Liberation into evolutionary process
During my time post-monk hood there was a lot of uncertainty, a lot of ‘getting lost’ and encountering the new. Thru-out that time my guiding light was the basic principles of the existential mindfulness I described above:
“The sense of myself as a rational, independent human being, seeking to make my life a journey of evolution, growth and fulfilment by using my intention, attention & intention to the best of my abilities”
My confidence as I travelled came not from knowing all the answers, or being in control, but from my trust in my mind, and my ability to work with my circumstances in a benevolent, flexible, and intelligent manner. Wherever I found myself, I knew that I had a reasonably competent, warm, and friendly traveling companion, me!
 
Related articleThe dynamic of personal evolution
Effortless effort – Making everything workable

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2023. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact info@tobyouvry.com 


Integral Meditation Asia

Online Courses 1:1 Coaching * Books * Live Workshops * Corporate Mindfulness Training *Life-Coaching *  Meditation Technology

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