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Resting under the tree of non-doing & unbeing

“Trees are not trying to be anyone or anything else. They rest within their own natural dignity, their sense of inner sufficiency and completeness. What if you could be like that too?

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at the practice of non-doing as a way of moving into being, & then deeper into non-being. It’s a key to effortless effort in meditation & in life! 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!

A couple of new events up for February: Saturday 17th, 9am-12pm – Integral love & compassion meditation workshop, &  24th, 9-11.30am – Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat.

Last but not least, I’ve posted an integral meditation training page for my Simple, positive, creative & aware practice. Click on the link to watch the video, listen to the guided meditations & read the related article! 
In the spirit of non-doing,
 
Toby


Resting under the tree of non-doing & unbeing
 
This is a simple meditation form to take you from doing, to non-doing/being, to unbeing. The image it uses is that of a tree. Beneath the guided meditation are three stories/quotes from which the meditation is partly inspired. Dropping into a space of non-doing and unbeing is a particular type of silence practice. If you practice it regularly you will find it an invaluable resource to relax, regenerate and come back to your life with new eyes and new inner strength.
 
Meditation: Resting under the tree of non-doing
 
1. Imagine yourself sitting under a tree. It’s a useless tree in the sense that its wood is so knotted it cannot be made into anything by a carpenter. The only thing it is ‘good for’ is sitting under and doing no-thing. When you sit underneath it, it provides shade, calm and peace. It is a wonderful place to be and non-do.
 
2. You can also sense that the tree is entirely happy to be itself. It is not trying to be anyone or anything else. It rests within it’s own natural dignity, it’s sense of inner sufficiency and completeness. As you sit under it, you can feel yourself getting in touch with your inner wholeness and natural dignity. You are just fine as you are. You are a complete being.
 
3. Resting whole and complete like the useless tree, when a thought arises, ask yourself the question ‘Who is it that is thinking the thought?’ Turn your attention inward toward the consciousness that produced the thought. Let your attention return to simply being aware rather than thinking, like a person returning to the shade of a tree after being in the hot sun. Go deeper into being, non-doing and non-thinking.
 
4. From being, now reach into the deeper stillness of Un-being, the Void out of which all Being comes.
 
Return to your outer awareness and close the meditation.
 
Reference 1: The Useless Tree by Chuang Tzu
 
Hui Tzu said to Chuang: I have a big tree, The kind they call a “stinktree.”
The trunk is so distorted, so full of knots,
No one can get a straight plank out of it. The branches are so crooked
You cannot cut them up in any way that makes sense.
There it stands beside the road. No carpenter will even look at it.
Such is your teaching– big and useless.
 
Chuang Tzu repliedSo, for your big tree. No use? Then plant it in the wasteland
In emptiness. Walk idly around, rest under the shadow; No axe or bill prepares its end.
No one will ever cut it down. Useless? You should worry!
(Here is the full Thomas Merton version)
 
The Cedar Tree by Thich Nhat Hanh

“A cedar tree doesn’t have any desire to be a pine or a cypress or even a bird. It’s a wonderful manifestation of the Cosmos just as it is. You are a manifestation of the Cosmos. You are wonderful just like that.”
 
Resting under the tree of non-thinking – Quote from Ramana Maharshi ‘Who Am I?’

“The mind moves without rest, alternately going out of the Self and returning to it. Under the tree the shade is pleasant; out in the open the heat is scorching. A person who has been out in the sun feels cool when he reaches the shade. Someone who keeps on going from the shade into the sun and then back into the shade is a fool. Similarly, the mind of one who knows the truth does not leave Brahman (Self-as-consciousness)
 
Related articleWhat Does it Mean to Meditate on Non-Doing? (And why We should be interested in doing It)

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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Simple, aware, positive creative training page

Welcome to the simple, positive, creative & aware training page. In it you will learn how to practice this integral meditation combination effectively, & you can then use the meditation recordings & readings below to practice.

As I said in the original article on this meditation: “I outline four ways of paying attention that, if you get really good at will render you largely impervious to intimidation from any of the current challenges in your life.”

In the spirit of the journey,

Toby

Intro to the practice:

Listen to the Twenty minute Simple, positive, creative, aware meditation

Listen to the eight minute Simple, positive, creative, aware power meditation

Original article: Simple, or aware, or positive, or creative

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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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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What your body posture communicates to you

“The way in which we feel about our life and ourself shows up in the way we carry and hold our body. A healthier overall body posture & tension level will help you feel not just better in your mind and heart, but younger in your body!

Dear Integral Meditators, 

Wishing you all the very best for 2024! This week’s article is a reflection on mindfulness and body-posture, lots of things that we can have fun exploring in this area…

Tuesday & Wednesday classes start again this week with the2024 New year ‘Beginners mind’ meditation.
And if you enjoy the article, then do check out the9/10th January start of Effortless effort – The art of doing by non-doing, a ten-week meditation course!
 
In the spirit of embodiment,
 
Toby


What your body posture communicates to you (& new year beginners mind meditation)
 
The way in which we feel about our life and self shows up in the way we carry and hold our body. If you sit on the street and watch people walking past you, you’ll start to notice all sorts of ways in which this shows up in their way of moving. If you then start to observe your body posture as you walk, or sit or move, you’ll start to see how your doing it to.
One of the important insights about this is that it also works the other way around: You can get your body posture to communicate messages to your mind. Here is a simple example. I was walking along the street this morning to the bakery. I was feeling a little agitated and short tempered. Behind these feelings was a sense of life being a little hard, and that I needed to ‘armour’ against it. Becoming aware of this, I then looked at my manner of walking, my body tension, posture, and facial expression. All of them in one way or another were expressing subtly how I was feeling. I also had the sense that my body being in this posture was re-enforcing my mindset; because my body was this way I ‘felt’ that the world was like this, and that my mindset should stay on guard and edgy. Taking all of this in and observing it, I then did the following: Acknowledged how I felt and why. Then I consciously relaxed my body and explored what a body posture and walking gait would look like if I felt that:

  • Happiness and wellbeing were a natural, appropriate state for me to be in
  • That I felt confident, capable, and relaxed in the face of my life challenges
  • That everything in my life was ‘workable’ with, and that there was no need to feel overly threatened by it

For the duration of the rest of my walk home, I explored walking and moving my body in a way that expressed and embodied this. Needless to say, by the time I reached home I felt quite different emotionally and mentally, as well as physically.
You can explore this yourself when you walk, and sit. You can also take it as an object of meditation in your sitting practice. The three characteristics that I outline above are good for what I would call as sense of effortless effort, but you could explore what it would be like to walk compassionately, or freely, or harmoniously or any other quality you want to cultivate. Another powerful thing about working this way is that, because it is about embodiment, there is no danger that it remains just an intellectual exercise, it naturally works its way down into our physical and felt experience in daily life.
Another final proposition to consider; if you can develop a healthier overall body posture and tension level through this practice, then it will affect your physical health and the way in which your body ages. You will feel not just better in your mind and heart, but younger in your body!


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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Practising non-striving with your ego 

“Superficially it might look like non-striving is primarily a method of relaxing and recovering well. But understood more deeply we see that it is a way of becoming more effective in the way that we exert effort in our life”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article continues to consider different aspects of mindful effort,  inner power & what that really means. My January course on Effortless effort, will be exploring this in some detail!

Head’s up for the free Winter solstice balancing & renewing meditation (Online only) this Wednesday 20th December 7.30-8.30pm SG time. It’s a nice way to bring the year to a mindful close!

In the spirit of wings, 
 
Toby


Practising non-striving with your ego
 
What is non-striving?
In a previous article on non-striving I defined non-striving as:
A refusal to be in conflict with yourself and your life. Put another way, rather than seeing yourself in an adversarial relationship to yourself and your circumstances, you practice accepting and working with what is there.
 
Non-striving in relation to effort
Non-striving as a mindfulness practice is designed to help us become efficient in the way we apply effort in our lives. It looks for areas where one part of us is locked in a conflict with another part, and seeks to diffuse that conflict. Having diffused the conflict non-striving seeks to align the different elements of the self with each other, so that they are directed towards a common goal.
If the self is singular and pointed in one direction, then effort toward a particular goal tends to feel easy and naturally powerful. The more division within the self, the more effort it takes to do something, because there are elements of you that are pulling in different directions.
So then, superficially it might look like non-striving is primarily a method of relaxing and recovering well. But understood more deeply we see that it is a way of becoming more effective in the way that we exert effort in our life. It enables us by helping our inner energy to harmonize and unite.
 
Non-striving & the ego
Our ego (both the positive, negative & neutral versions of it) is often very pre-occupied with achievement, and in comparing our achievements to others. Quite often the way in which the ego conceives of effort in achieving is to strive effortfully against the competition, against our inner laziness, against the obstacles. Non-striving seeks to reframe this effort, creating a sense of co-operating and working with what is, both inwardly and outwardly, so as to move forward as seamlessly and effortlessly toward our goal. It seems like non-striving is trying to work against the ‘struggle’ of our ego, they are opposing each other. This is worth dwelling on a little.
 
“Who is it but the ego that needs to overcome the ego?” – Chuang Tzu
 
Let’s say we are in meditation, and we are trying to get into a state of non-striving. But there are certain inner conflicts that just keep popping up, so we keep trying harder and harder to let them go. One key understanding here is to see that the part of you that is trying to ‘let go’ is also the part of you that is preventing the non-striving. All non-striving asks you to do is accept and work with what comes up in a non-conflicting manner, to relax with what is. It’s only your ego that needs to ‘let go’ and, irony of ironies ‘overcome your ego’!
Using Chuang Tsu’s quote above as an object of sitting meditation can be a great way of really refining your non-striving practice, and getting rid of some of the subtle ego-conflicts that get in the way of deeper practice.
A final quote that also ties quite closely into non-striving, focused around suffering:
 
There are two kinds of suffering. There is the suffering you run away from, which follows you everywhere. And there is the suffering that you face directly, and so become free” – Ajahn Chah
 
Wishing you well in your path and exploration of non-striving!
 
Related articleThree levels of non-striving

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2023. 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 


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Transcending & including – Integrating the big & the small selves

Dear Integral Meditators, 

This week’s article looks at the practice of transcending & including. It is an important practice for everyone, but particularly if you are on a path of inner growth, as you are actively transcending and including as your path evolves.

This week’s Tuesday & Wednesday meditation continues our journey into Therapeutic mindfulness, and will look at the theme of transcending & including. If you enjoy the article, feel free to join us!

In the spirit of inclusion, 
 
Toby


Transcending & including – Integrating the big & the small selves
 
As you grow you get inwardly, as well as outwardly bigger
Babies identify only with their physical body up until around 18months. Up until the age of 4 years, we can only take a first-person perspective: ‘me’, ‘I’ & ‘mine’. Growing older as children and teenagers, we see ourself as a part of a ‘we’ space, our family, our friends, my team. If we become fully fledged rational humans, we learn to take a healthy third person perspective, an ‘it’ space, where we consider everyone to have value, and our circle of concern becomes world-centric, universal and much bigger.
As we continue this growth further onto higher levels, our self-sense gets bigger and bigger, more and more inclusive. Our ‘I’ becomes more & more universal in nature.
 
The principle of transcending & including
When we grow it’s not that our older, smaller selves cease to exist, it’s just that they get transcended. My child-like egoic self is still there when I grow to the next stage, it’s just that it becomes only a part of what I am, held and contextualized by the bigger, more inclusive self of the next stage. The bigger self transcends, but includes the smaller self.

  • The ‘transcending’ part of this means that we grow beyond our previous limited sense of who we are
  • The ‘include’ part of this ensures that the smaller self feels secure and honoured within the new self structure.

A simple example: Yesterday I spent quite a lot of time playing with my three year-old. This meant my ‘inner child’ coming online and me being ‘childish’! However, my child-self was held by my mature or adult self. For my daughter, she ‘is’ the child. For me as an adult I act in a child like way, but he is held by a bigger self-sense that is the adult. My adult self transcends and includes my child self.
 
Avoiding allergies & addictions
Transcending and including needs to be done in a healthy manner otherwise:

  • If I transcend the previous stage too much, instead of detaching from it healthily, I disassociate with it, it becomes an ‘allergy’, something foreign. For example if I dissociate with my inner child, outer children become incomprehensible, silly and foreign. Inwardly I lose the ability to be playful, joyful and spontaneous. I become a stiff, repressed adult, ‘allergic’ to child-like behaviour
  • If I include the previous stage too much, a part of my identity gets ‘stuck’ at that level. I find myself compulsively becoming child-like in some situations, the behaviours feel like ‘addictions’. I keep regressing to this level uncontrollably. To return to the child analogy, I might usually keep a good diet, but then keep sabotaging that by eating one biscuit, and then the whole packet. My self-regulation becomes periodically child-like and chaotic!

 
Mindful therapeutic integration
To work therapeutically with the transcend and include principle, take any part of your smaller selves as the object. For example, you could take:

  • Your child self
  • Your eating urges
  • A part of you very identified with a past trauma
  • A part of you identified with a particular belief

The list here is very large. Sitting in a mindful state you simply bring it to mind, and watch it. As Ken Wilber says, you imagine you are video -taping it as an observer. The part of you that observes simply witnesses it with a ‘transcend and include’ approach:

  • The ‘transcendent’ part of it means that your witness has a sense of itself as something bigger than and separate from the part of self you are observing
  • The ‘include’ part of it means that your witness self acknowledges, accepts, and gently embraces the smaller self.

If you do this, the idea would be that any ‘addictions’ or ‘allergies’ that you have developed to smaller parts of yourself as you have grown beyond them will gradually be released. You will find yourself in an increasingly balanced and integrated relationship to your smaller selves, free from addictions and allergies.
 
Related reading:  Creating an inner therapeutic mindfulness space
Suppression & repression – the difference, & it’s importance
Bodies within bodies – Witnessing with your energy bodies
The body is in you – How to go into deep meditation quickly

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


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Effortless effort – Making everything workable

“The art of Effortless-effort makes difficult things feel manageable, & effort over a long period of time sustainable, even quietly joyful”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

Just starting to get my thoughts together regarding the  Effortless effort – The art of doing by non-doing, a ten-week meditation course coming up in January. The article below explores a few working definitions and practices

In the spirit of skillful sustainability,
 
Toby


Effortless effort – Making everything workable

When Chogyam Trungpa, the famous Tibetan Buddhist Master was asked “What is Dharma?” (Dharma means the teachings of the Buddha), he replied “Dharma means that everything is workable.”
The other day I was texting a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He asked “How is everything?” to which I replied “With acceptance, everything is workable.” This made me recall the Trungpa quote, then leading to a few thoughts about the principle of ‘Effortless effort’.
You might think about Effortless effort as a way of accepting and working with the reality that you are presented with. It is a ‘state’ of being that then leads into a way of doing that works with whatever we are facing.
‘Effortless effort’ could also be described as ‘Doing though non-doing’, also known as ‘Wei wu wei’ in Chinese (translating into ‘effortless action’). It is a philosophy of life & way of meditating found explicitly in the Zen, Chan & Taoist schools of meditation. Implicitly it is found in most of the great wisdom traditions of the world. It indicates skilful and ergonomic ways of working with life that facilitate balance, resilience, creativity & wisdom.
 
The feeling of Effortless effort (E-E) in the body
One of the things that I really enjoy and appreciate about E-E is the sense of flow and energy efficiency that it brings. It makes difficult things feel manageable, and effort over a long period of time sustainable, even quietly joyful.
The state of E-E can be described as a way of holding your body, as well as a state of mind. As a bodily state, here are some pointers:

  • The muscles are soft, with only enough tension in them to perform the presenting task. For example, if you are standing or sitting upright, the crown may be high and the body upright, but the centre of gravity is low in the belly, so that the chest and shoulders are not carrying their own weight. Hands and arms are loose, and the belly is not holding onto emotional stress.
  • The feeling of the inner self is one of comfort in the body, or ‘comfort in your own skin’. There is an absence of rush or panic, even, and particularly in the face of persistent stressors
  • The body feels at home in its environment. There is a sense that the world is a friendly place, where you are things are workable. As a sensation in the body, there is a feeling of trust in process, a sense of quiet alertness and relaxed attention

An everyday reflection
This morning I had a coaching appointment cancelled at short notice. So, I thought it would be nice to take my daughter to pre-school. I took her, but forgot to bring her nap-time bedding. I had planned to work on this article before going to work, but now I had no time, because I had to go back to the school. Pausing, relaxing, and  working on the principle that ‘everything is workable’, I transferred the article from my computer to my phone, and use the extra time on public transport to continue to edit my article. Through-out the process, I simply focused on staying calm, feeling flexible and accepting. Having come up with a simple battle-plan, I relaxed into it’s execution. I consciously worked on being smooth and ergonomic, working with the situation rather than fighting it.
This is a very simple example, but hopefully it gives you a feeling for how to start working with E-E in everyday situations. If you can practice daily actions with E-E, then you will burn up a lot less energy, and arrive at the evening feeling less fatigued, with your mood more positively disposed. A final point, if you get good at E-E during the day, when you sit down to meditate, you will find that you are already near a state of meditation, and that moving into formal meditation feels more like slipping into a warm bath; a natural, easy transition from doing to being!
 
Related readingWorking Samadhi – The way of the mindful warrior
Mindful ergonomics – Making the most of your energy
 
Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2023. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact info@tobyouvry.com 


In case you missed this week’s other article: Shamanic meditation – Psychopomping & other non-ordinary adventures
 
Shamanic meditation, often described as ‘Shamanic journeying’ occurs mainly in the dream state, which is to say the psychic and subtle levels of mind. You might think of shamanic meditation as a type of ‘conscious dreaming’ done whilst meditating…read full article


Integral Meditation Asia

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

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