Awareness and insight Concentration Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindfulness

Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope this weeks newsletter finds you well, and that you have had a good week. The meditation and mindfulness article in this weeks edition of the integral meditations newsletter looks at the quality of our attention and the effect that it can have on our enjoyment of life or not. I’ve tried to keep it as simple and practical as possible.

Yours in the spirit of focused attention,


Three Types of Attention: Neutral, Constructive and Catalytic

Meditation and mindfulness can be thought about as types of attention training. If you can control what you focus upon, and the way in which you focus upon it, then to that extent you can control your experience of life. For example an annoying person is only “annoying” in so far as he or she is able to cause us to focus upon what he is doing in way that appears negative and annoying. A situation is only a “disaster” in so far as it causes us to pay attention to its destructive aspects to the exclusion of any positives.
So, if you can control your attention in any given situation then to that extent you can consciously control your experience of it how it makes you feel and what you do about it.

I sometimes think of attention as having three aspects; neutral, constructive and catalytic. Each has its own strengths and set of applications.

Neutral Attention
Neutral attention is when we choose (either in formal meditation or less formally during our day) to focus upon an object that does not cause us any intense feelings of pleasure or displeasure, but rather places us in a space of relaxed, peaceful attention. One of my favorites of this type of objects is “the sound of silence”. If you sit down in a quiet space and listen to the silence, after a while you will perceive a high pitched “ringing” in your ears. It does not seem to be coming from anywhere, it is constant and continuous. If you place your attention upon it you may find that it is very easy to relax into a focused, neutral space of concentrated awareness, with the sound of silence as your object of attention.
Other examples of neutral objects might be; the breathing, the blue of the sky, the sound of wind in trees, a white wall. There are any number of neutral objects.
Neutral objects help us to relax, empty the mind and slow down, and they become very pleasurable in a gentle way when practised over time. They also help us to gradually open to and gain experience of states of formless, timeless awareness that form the basis for the fundamental “enlightenment experience” taught in traditional wisdom schools (whether eastern or western).

Constructive Attention
Constructive attention happens when we make a conscious choice to focus on the positive side of any situation, thus developing the ability to use our attention to create positive feelings and experiences.

  • Lost your job? Maybe this is the opportunity to find one that you like better, great that it happened
  • Girl friend gone away for the week? Great, a chance to catch up on some reading and downtime

The basic principle with constructive attention  is that you are empowering yourself to create a more positive experience of whatever is arising by paying attention to the sides of the experience that cause you to feel optimistic, empowered, glad etc…

Catalytic Attention
Catalytic attention is where we focus our attention upon feelings or experiences that we find difficult or challenging and “stay with them” without repressing, running away from or being intimidated by them. The aim with catalytic attention is to strengthen and empower our mind and self to go beyond its current limitations, and learn to thrive amidst situations where we would otherwise get stressed out, fearful and intimidated.
For example:

  • If I consciously stay with the challenging feelings of loneliness and isolation that come up for me, over time I will develop the capacity to be comfortable and even enjoy being alone
  • If I know I am afraid of the disapproval of someone (eg: an authority figure in my life), I can consciously stay with these fears and at the same time consciously voice a difference of opinion to the person in question
  • If a situation you are in makes you feel like a bit of a looser, you can pay conscious attention to these feelings of inferiority and try and see where these feelings come from in terms of your fundamental beliefs about who you are and how you value yourself.

Catalytic attention is generally quite hard work, but you always appreciate having done it. As one writer said, “I don’t like writing, but I like having written”. It’s the same with catalytic attention; it makes you uncomfortable and takes effort, but having practised it over a period of time you always feel like you have achieved something worthwhile and effected some level of inner transformation afterwards!

Practice for the week:
This week simply

  • Practice using attention neutral objects to relax and clear your mind
  • Use constructive attention to improve the quality and enjoyment of your daily experience
  • Use catalytic attention to stay with and develop your capacity to transform  difficult emotions and experiences into positive ones

© 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

Energy Meditation Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindfulness

Dealing With Energy Stress

Dear Integral Meditators,

Is there anyone who is not under some form of energy stress these days? It seems like there are so many things that can take up our time and energy these days that learning to make effective use of what energy we have has become an essential survival skill in today’s world. This weeks article looks at how we can begin to make better use of our energy in our daily life through a simple self-enquiry mindfulness technique.

Last week I gave a short talk entitled “Lessons from the Monastery to Contemporary Business” in which I reflected on my own time as a monk and how some of the skills that I learned may be applicable to a modern secular business environment. I have posted it on the Integral Meditation Asia Site, if you wish to have a listen just click on the link HERE!

Yours in the spirit of high functioning energy levels,


Dealing With Energy Stress:
Is it Worth Giving Your Energy To?

There are two ways in which we can create financial resources; firstly we can find a way of making more money, secondly we can find ways of spending less of the money that we already have coming in so that we save more.

Similarly there are two ways in which we can get more energy in our body-mind; the first is to find ways of generating more energy, the second is to prevent the loss of energy that we already have in our system.
It seems like one way or another we are all under quite a lot of energy-stress these days, this article looks at how we can begin to use a simple mindfulness and meditation technique to make us more energy efficient and less inclined to
lose or dissipate the energy we have un-necessarily.

Making a general enquiry into the ways in which you tend to lose energy:

Ask yourself the question “What are the situations and circumstances where I tend to lose energy, feel exhausted psychologically, dissipate my energy unnecessarily, or otherwise waste or lose physical or psychological energy that I could be  saving or otherwise using for better purposes?

Think about this and write down your answers. There are a wide variety of possible answers to this question, for example:

  1. When I meet with my colleague I can feel him/her making me angry, but I don’t/can’t express it, rather I just find myself feeling angry inside for hours after seeing him
  2. When I log onto my computer to work I surf the net for 20mins rather than getting the actual tasks I need to do out of the way
  3. I spend time complaining about the injustices that happen to me rather than simply looking for a solution to what has happened
  4. When I become tired I tend to become sloppy in my tasks, which as a result take even longer and even more energy to complete

The point about this exercise is to isolate real time situations in your life where you actively losing energy, are dissipating it, or could be using your energy more ergonomically. Having isolated these real-time situations where you are losing energy, you then arrive at specific conclusions designed to remedy this energy loss. For example for the person who has written the four points above, conclusions might be:

  1. When I meet my colleague I may not approve of his behavior or manner, but at the same time I will not waste my own emotional energy getting angry and resentful with him. It is not worth it.
  2. I should ensure that when I sit down at my computer to work I start work strait away, and create a separate time to surf the net if I wish to.
  3. I shall try and catch myself complaining about what happens to me, and refocus my energy on what can be done and/or moving into a space of acceptance about what is happening/has happened
  4. When I am tired I will make a special effort to focus on getting what needs to be done done, or  if  possible I will take a strategic break and return to my tasks refreshed.

With your conclusions in mind you then have several specific areas in your life that you can begin to work on being more energy-efficient with or put another way creating more energy by expending less. The mindfulness exercise from this point on is to bring your full awareness to the task of re-patterning your daily habits to this new, more energy efficient way of using your life force.

© 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 Integral Meditation Meditation and Psychology Meditation techniques Mindfulness Presence and being present

Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

Dear Integral Meditators,

The theme of this week’s integral meditations article is quite simple, but at the same time often difficult to do. It is this; if you can control your attention then you can control the way in which you experience your life. We can’t always choose the way our life turns out, but we always have a choice with regard to what we are paying attention to in our life at any given moment. Exercising the power of that choice is the essential discipline of attention training.

Yours in the spirit of the empowering power of attention,


Your Attention as Your Object of Mindfulness

Any advertising executive will tell you that the most important thing you need to do in order to sell people your product is get their attention. If you can get their attention then there is a chance you can convince them to buy your product. If you cannot get their attention then you can’t sell anything to them.
Consequently, when you go out onto the street or go online, you are not going into a neutral environment, you are going into a ‘hostile’ environment where people are trying to get your attention all the time. By controlling your attention they control the way you think, the beliefs you have, the way you behave, how you act and what you consume.

The corollary of this is that whatever you yourself choose to place your inner or outer attention upon at any given time affects how you think, what you believe (about yourself and your world), how you feel and behave, and what you consume.

From this it is easy to see then why it is crucial if you are trying to lead any kind of considered, evolved and directed life that you learn to be aware of what you are placing your attention on, and be as sure as possible that it truly where you want it to be.

To give a simple example if your attention is entirely consumed by ideas from the mainstream media, then your ideas about what “happiness” is will not actually be your own, but rather simply a reflection of what the mainstream media sources tell you happiness is.
How are you ever going to be really happy if your idea of happiness is a product of what someone else wants you to think?
Another simple example is that we have a strong tendency to pay attention to what is wrong with ourselves, or with our life, without regularly placing our attention on appreciating and enjoying what is right with ourselves and our life. Training in attention in this example involves definitely focusing on what is going well and positively in our life.

Controlling your attention is one of the keys to living a self aware life where you are the one making the choices about how you think, feel and act rather than these things being an unconscious product of ideas that you have been fed by someone else.

Practising mindfulness and meditation are major ways of developing the capacity to consciously control your attention.

Beginning to consciously control your attention

You can start to become aware of, direct and control your attention by doing the following short exercise once or twice a day over the next week, and then subsequently whenever you feel the need.

  • Pick a quality that you wish to develop within yourself that is pertinent and helpful to your life right now. For the sake of an example I’m going to choose “the qualities of lightness and playfulness”.
  • Ask yourself “What has my attention been focused on for the last hour or two? How much of that time have I been consciously integrating the qualities of lightness and playfulness into my life, and into my attention training?”
  • Then ask yourself “Where is my attention placed right now? Where can I focus my attention in order to regain or enhance my experience and development of the qualities of lightness and playfulness?”
  • Finally ask “How can I focus my attention on for the next hour or two in order to continue integrating lightness and playfulness into my life?” Your answer to this final question gives you your “attention training” for the next hour or two of our day.

© 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 Insight Meditation Integral Awareness Meditating on the Self Meditation and Psychology Mindfulness Presence and being present Shadow meditation

Emotional Detachment, Emotional Repression – The Difference

Dear Integral Meditators,
This weeks article looks at a basic skill for anyone wanting to develop a healthy and harmonious consciousness; the ability to avoid repressing emotion when trying to detach from it! As you can see below I have included a couple of basic diagrams to try and help with the explanation, hopefully you’ll find that they help to clarify your understanding by giving an image to work with…

Yours in the spirit of emotional clarity,

Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia in For February and March 2013

March 13th – Class 3: Uncovering Treasure; Working with the bright side of your shadow
This class emphasizes the uncovering of the parts of our shadow that are actually GOOD qualities, strengths and gifts within our shadow self that, for one reason or another we have rejected or denied. It may sound strange, but we are often just as inclined to shy away from that within us which makes us powerful and happy as we are from that which we consider ugly and ‘bad’! This class helps us to see this and start to access the power of our “golden shadow”

Saturday  23rd March – 9.30am-12.30pm – Three Hour Workshop: 
Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice

Emotional Detachment, Emotional Repression – The Difference

One of the basic skills that both meditation and mindfulness practitioners are trying to develop is the ability to develop a healthy detachment from challenging or destructive emotions. However, it is all too easy to confuse health emotional detachment with simply the repression of the emotion. Emotional detachment helps us to deal more effectively with the emotion. Emotional repression however only makes the long term effects of the difficult emotion more severe.
What I am going to do in this article with the aid of a couple of (old school) diagrams to help is to clearly explain the difference between the two.

The Dynamic of Emotional Repression.
When emotion is repressed, the conscious mind or self represses, rejects and pushes away the challenging emotion into our unconscious mind, trying to ignore and deny it. The act of repressing the emotion is that firstly the emotion becomes energized and perpetuated, and secondly we loose the ability to see and feel it properly, as it becomes a part of our unconscious mind, not directly visible to our everyday conscious awareness.
You can see this represented in the first diagram:

The Dynamic of Emotional Detachment.
In the dynamic of healthy emotional detachment, the difficult emotion is carefully included within the field of conscious awareness, and not repressed into the unconscious self. As a result the conscious self can still see and feel the emotion clearly, whilst at the same time being detached or dis-identified from it. Because the conscious self is still fully aware of the emotion, it can extend care, attention and inclusivity to the emotion, thus helping it to heal, harmonize and de-toxifyunder the influence of the care of the detached, conscious self.
You can see this dynamic represented in the second diagram here:

Suggested Practicum for the Week
If you have a look at the two diagrams above , I think you can get a feel for the difference between emotional repression and healthy emotional detachment. Using the study of the diagrams as a rough guide you may like to take one challenging emotion of your own and specifically work with it. For example you could take the emotion of embarrassment or excessive self-consciousness as your object of training. Whenever you feel it coming up in your body-mind during social interaction, focus on trying to detach but include it in your awareness with care, rather than repressing, rejecting and exiling it to your unconscious mind.

Understanding the difference between repressing and detaching from emotion is a huge area of consciousness training, and getting it right can really make a HUGE difference to your quality of 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 Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditation and Art Meditation techniques Mindfulness One Minute Mindfulness Uncategorized

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