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

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Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article explains a Zen meditation technique that I teach in my Zen walking meditation workshops, the next of which is coming up next Sunday May 19th May, so if you like what you read, there is a chance to get out and practice it then if you like!

On the walking meditation theme, I have scheduled in a new walking meditation workshop Walking Meditations for Connecting to the Energy of Nature  in the 3rd week in June, which will be another opportunity to walk your way to peace of mind…

Yours in the spirit of clear seeing,


Upcoming Classes at Integral Meditation Asia:

Click on event titles for full details

Saturday 11th May, 9.30am-5pm: Uncovering the Hidden Power of Your Shadow Self – A One Day Workshop

Sunday 19th May, 8-1030am – Zen Walking Meditation 2.5 Hour Morning Workshop

Saturday 15th June, 9.30am -12.30pm – Living Life From Your Inner Center – Meditations for Going With the Flow of the Present Moment

Sunday June 23rd, 8.00-10.30am – Walking Meditations for Connecting to the Energy of Nature 

Zen Meditation – Seeing Without Naming 

You know that you have a busy mind, you’ve heard about meditation, but find that focusing on the breathing is (in the beginning at least) quite a tough and laborious technique for slowing down your mind; sometimes it works well, but other times you feel as if you are fighting against the tide of your mind as it motors along regardless of your efforts to calm it down!
The Zen meditation form “Seeing without naming” is a meditation form that I have come up with myself (thus it is “in the spirit of Zen”, rather than being one that I received from a Zen teacher or got from a book). With this technique you don’t try and stop the mind per-se, rather you approach the moment to moment experience of your mind using atechnique of observation that enables you to encounter your world in a different way, with a heightened sense of awareness.
It is designed to temporarily bamboozle the usual automatic conceptual processes in your mind, and by doing this you can temporarily achieve a calm and insightful space in your life.

Some of the possible results of this meditation are:

  1. The ability to reduce the amount of conceptual thought in your mind and achieve greater clarity
  2. An enhanced, renewed and sharpened relationship to your process of thinking and labeling what is going on in your life
  3. A greater appreciation of whatever you are experiencing right now in the present moment
  4. A renewed sense of wonder in your life
  5. The ability to be in the midst of a busy mind without getting stressed-out about it

Seeing without naming outer forms.
Seeing without naming means to encounter the various physical forms and sensual experiences that you see, hear or feel whilst you are sitting in meditation, or walking, or just going about your daily life without labeling what you see or experience conceptually.
For example if you are walking past a tree, you really try and observe and experience the tree ”as it is”, without placing a mental label on it.
The object is to try to get yourself into a space where you feel as if you are experiencing the outer world for the first time, and everything that you are encountering is new and fresh, as if you have never seen it before. You are seeking in this exercise the classic Zen “beginners mind”.
One of the reasons why life sometimes seems stale and lacking in vibrancy is that we become trapped in a conceptual world where our mind assumes that it knows what it is seeing, and stops really looking at it and encountering it. By engaging in a process of ”looking without naming” you try and take away these conceptual assumptions/filters and place yourself fully back in touch with your living world as you encounter it in each moment, moment by moment.

Seeing without naming inner forms:
This meditation form is similar to the first except, rather than focusing on your outer and sensual environment we focus on the inner world of thoughts and feelings. It is a little more subtle than the first exercise, and you may find that at first it is best to do as a contemplation whilst sitting down and focusing. With familiarity however you will find that you can do it anywhere.
As you sit focus your attention on the thoughts, feelings and images arising in your mind. As they arise  simply try to accept them as they are without naming or labeling them as good, bad, or otherwise placing value judgments upon them. Imagine that you are experiencing thoughts and feelings for the first time, and allow yourselves to develop a sense of wonder and appreciation that you are able to have the miraculous experience of being a living, thinking, feeling human being.

© 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

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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

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Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

Dear Integral Meditators,

I hope you have had a good week, the last few weeks for me seem to have been a period of adjustment making on different levels, and challenges that reflect those adjustments. Of course adjustments, changes and the challenges that go with them are all a fundamental part of the fabric of our life. One thing that I find with a daily meditation practice is that it really helps me to negotiate these periods of change and adjustment in an energetically ergonomic way; one learns to expend enough energy to meet the demands of the situation, and enjoy the learning that comes from it, without chasing ones tail unnecessarily and getting exhausted…

This weeks article focuses on love as the journey toward wholeness, I hope you’ll find that it treads the line between looking at “big”ideas and staying grounded and practical!

Yours in the spirit of wholeness through love,

Love as the Journey Towards Wholeness; Three Awareness Perspectives

There is a close relationship (ideally) between the experience of love and the practice of meditation. If we say that love is essentially the journey toward the experience of wholeness within ourselves, and define meditation as a practice that takes our mind from the experience of distraction and diversity toward a state of unity and oneness, then I think it is not difficult to see how they support and enhance each other:

  • Whenever we experience love (for example toward another person), our heart and mind expand, connect and unify in a way that closely resembles a relaxed, open, meditative state
  • Whenever we focus the mind in an un-distracted, unified state in meditation, we can begin to feel the flow of love and life-force in our body

In this article I want to look at three ways in which we can use meditation and mindfulness as a part of our journey toward wholeness and love.

Meditation as an inward journey toward love and wholeness
The first way in which we can experience love through meditation is by journeying deeper into the true nature of our own consciousness. If we go beyond the awareness of ourself as a physical body, and then beyond our awareness of oursef as a psychological collection of habitual thoughts, feelings and images, we discover the formless, timeless, witnessing dimension of self that lies beyond.
This formless, timeless self is referred to in the great wisdom traditions as the True Self, so called because it is the self within us that remains constant and unchanging through-out our life. It is also called the Universal Self, because the formless, timeless, witnessing self within me is exactly the same as the formless, timeless, witnessing self in you, in all human beings, animals, plants and indeed anything that possesses consciousness. So, by connecting to the formless, timeless self we connect to a dimension of our being that is constantly and experientially in a state of oneness, wholeness and love with everything else in the Universe.

Meditation as an outward journey toward love and wholeness
The second way in which we can experience love and wholeness through meditation is by making the effort each day to expand our circle of concern so that it becomes progressively larger and larger. We start by extending love empathy toward ourself, then our family and friends, then people we don’t  know, then people we may not like, expanding ever outward to include all living beings (yep, animals and plants too).
To experience love in this way is to be mindful that everyone matters, and to make our decisions based around this recognition. Of course we can’t avoid making decisions that hurt others at times, or that will harm them one way or another, but to live in a state of love means to live in a state where everyone is included, and we make our decisions based around an awareness of this inclusivity.

Opening the heart; facilitating the ongoing giving and receiving of love in our life
The third way we can grow our love each day is to make sure that our heart is energetically open to the giving and receiving of love. You can feel whether your heart is energetically open right now by tuning into the centre of your chest-space. Is this area of your body open and dilated, allowing energy to flow? Or is it contracted and closed, unable to give or receive love or life energy? If you spend most of your time with your heart energetically closed, then you will end up like so many of us do feeling starved of loving energy and feeling isolated and  alone even when surrounded by others.
Yes, when you open your heart to the world you may feel more vulnerable, and yes it does take courage (and discernment), but if you take that risk then you will feel alive each day with the energy of love, and allow your life to be informed by that love. The alternative is to live in a mental “ivory tower” heart closed, risking nothing but gaining nothing. You can deaden the pain in your life by closing your heart, but by doing so you cut yourself off from the flow of love, which is a high price to pay indeed.

One Minute Mindfulness for Practically Integrating the Three Above Techniques:

  1. Spend a minute dropping your mental baggage and resting in the formless, timeless, witnessing dimension of your consciousness, recognize that on this level of your consciousness you are actually and literally always in a state of oneness and wholeness with all other living creatures, and the whole living universe. Rest in the love baby!
  2. Take a minute each day to care about someone (human, animal, plant) that would normally be outside of your circle of concern. Make the effort each day to include more and more living things in your circle of love and wholeness
  3. Through-out the day be mindful of your physical heart space. Is it energetically closed, defended and dead, or open, alive and flowing? Try and consciously increase the amount of time in your day that your heart is in a dilated, open state of giving and receiving love.

© 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

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Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article focuses on the issues arising from the increased power that can come from meditation and yoga practice, in particular looking at the effects kundalini can have our consciousness. I think this is an important area to be aware of in terms of negotiating it appropriately, and recognizing that it as a natural stage that we go through as meditators.

Yours in the spirit of balanced inner power,

Yoga and Meditation Should Make You More Peaceful Right? (Reflecting on Kundalini Awakening)

In my final year of University I reduced my “hard exercise” routine and took up yoga for the first time in order to make more time and energy for my studies, and to rest my body a little which was getting tired from me throwing it around all the time. The book around which my yoga practice was based (which I did religiously for between 30mins to 1.5 hours a day) was a set of asanas such as you would find in a lot of common yoga classes. So I just did these poses as well as I could, and felt better for it.
On the final page of the book there was a short description of what it felt like when your kundalini, or life force energy got activated by the yoga poses; how it felt like a snake curling up the spine from the base toward the crown of the head. I read this and did not think about it too much, but duly after a few months of practice I could feel it rising from the base of my spine at the end of each session as I lay on the floor relaxing.
There were three principle effects of this initial stimulation of my kundalini:

  1. My Sex drive increased fairly dramatically (when the kundalini rises the first chakra it rises into is the sacral chakra, which is the sexual/emotional centre)
  2. My awareness of inner and outer conflict, and feelings of superiority/inferiority with regard to others in social situations was substantially and not very pleasantly increased (the second chakra that the kundalini moves into when it rises is the solar plexus chakra which is to do with ego and the power drives of the personality)
  3. I started to experience regular and consistent “expanded” states of transpersonal awareness (a result of the kundalini hitting the higher energy centres from the heart level upward)

With regard to the fist effect I was relatively lucky in that I had a compassionate and frankly very tolerant girlfriend at the time who was able to absorb that part of my personality change with somewhat bemused amusement.
The second effect, the increased awareness of (perceived) conflict or negative emotions around other people made me rather more reclusive and more reluctant to engage socially, as the experience of doing so was not all that pleasant in the face of the energy changes in my body and the effect that it has on my mind.
The third effect, that of expanded states of awareness (I had not done ANY meditation at this stage of my path) was that I became even more of a space kadet than I had been before! Quite fun, but not exactly enhancing of my fundamental inner peace OR my functionality as a person…

So, my first basic point here is that when yoga and meditation really start to awaken our inner powers (through kundalini and other factors), the effect can actually be quite volatile, and needs careful thought and awareness to negotiate. In the long term, and treated in the right way, increased sexual energy, a sense of power at the personality level, and access to expanded awareness have the potential to make our life far more happy and fulfilling. However there is also a lot of potential for any one of these factors to go wrong, and start causing problems on one level or another…

Dealing with Kundalini Awakening in Meditation
Subsequent to my initial kundalini awakening described above, I then did actually start meditating, and periodically found myself grappling in my meditation either with sexual imagery that would NOT go away, or with powerful images of conflict, sometimes violence. Initially I found it quite perplexing, but in the long term I found that the best thing to about it was nothing much. When I sat down in meditation and started to focus my mind, my kundalini would naturally start to rise into my sacral chakra (cue sexual images; “Hello ladies!”). If I then left these images alone and relaxed, the energy would continue to rise up into my third, or solar plexus chakra, often giving rise to images of conflict and power struggle (“Hello violent, sweary people!”), but again if I just left them alone (not feed them or fight them) then the kundalini would just continue to rise up to my heart and the higher energy centres, and by the 5th minute or so if my meditation I was up and running in a state of expanded awareness. Eventually over time this process became reduced to

  • an initial strong feeling of sensual bliss shortly after sitting down
  • followed by and enhanced feeling of power in my personality
  • followed by a release into a consistent state of formless meditation, nice simple and minimal.

I feel like a bit of an old man taking about this now, as this stage of my practice was a long time ago, but I think it is a stage that we all go through as we practice (with different subjective experiences resulting), and it is important to negotiate it well…
Of course you still have to learn to deal with sex, power and expanded awareness as it applies to your daily life and relationships (bit more complex as you can imagine), and get it right on that level. But that is a subject of another time!

© 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

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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

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Four Types of Mindful Coaching Conversation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at one basic integral coaching model that I use both in my own coaching work and for my personal inner growth, it is simple by it has a lot of depth and nuance to explore.
The main meditation classes and course for March are the ongoing Shadow Meditation Classes, and the three hour “Mind of Ease” Workshop on the 23rd March, click on links below for the full details!

Yours in the spirit of deep conversation with our inner selves,

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

Wednesday March 6th – Shadow Meditation Class – Healing Wounds: Working with the dark side of the shadow.
In this class we will be working with specifically the dark side of our shadow self; the parts of ourself that we most deeply reject and fear as well as the parts of us that are most deeply wounded. Many people may find this idea intimidating, but it cannot be emphasized enough how liberating this type of work can be once you get some experience of it!

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

Four Types of Mindful Coaching Conversation

When I am in a coaching session with someone, although on one level there is only one conversation going on, on another level there are four basic aspects or dimensions that I try and pay mindful attention to within the conversationthat all give me some information about where the client is coming from and what they might need in terms of advice, guidance and input. It is also a model that I use in terms of my own self care and when looking at what is happening within my own consciousness.

  • The Conscious Self – This is the daily functional self or “persona” of the client. The information that they give me on this levels is basically that which their conscious mind understands to be true with regard to the problem or challenge that they are facing. Generally this information will come through directly and explicitly in the conversation that is being had.
  • The Shadow Self – This is the aspect of the daily self or ego that is hidden to the client as it has been repressed into his/her unconscious mind, and thus is invisible to her. Sometimes I might do an exercise specifically designed to investigate their shadow, but as often as not I’ll get to know the persons shadow implicitly through the nuance of what is said, and the language that is used (or left out) in the conversation, their body language and their response to certain emotional triggers.
  • The Soul – You might think of the soul as the higher or deeper self of the client, and it is from this dimension of their being that they feel the impulse toward establishing deeper meaning and direction in their life, and toward the expression of the principles of goodness, beauty and truth. Quite often the coaching journey that I take with people is in an essential way the journey from a life of “functional meaning” directed by the ego to a life of deeper meaning and orientation based around the souls wish to creatively express goodness, beauty and truth.
  • The Spirit – On one level you might think of the spiritual dimension of the coaching conversation as being that which is concerned with helping the clientconnect to a sense of silence, presence and peace within themselves that helps them negotiate the challenges of their life with less negative stress and a greater sense of creativity and freedom. The spiritual level of the conversation involves the connection to a sense of the deepest levels of both peace and creativity within the client, and helping these to start playing a tangible part in both the conversation as we are having it, and also in their life as a whole.

Four mindful and integral self-coaching questions:
Based around the above model, here are four questions that you might like to ask yourself when presented with a challenge or opportunity in your life:

  1. What is my conscious understanding of the problem or challenge as I understand it?
  2. What hidden emotions, psychological discomfort and agendas do I sense within me that lie beneath my conscious perception of what is happening?
  3. What is my soul demanding of me in this situation in terms of the expression of meaning, goodness, beauty and truth? What opportunities does my soul see here?
  4. Viewed from the perspective of transcendent stillness and peace what is my freest and most creative response to what is happening?

© 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

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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

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Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article takes a bit of a closer look at exactly what it is that meditation is supposed to do for us. I look at the idea of mindfulness as stress reduction, and offer a new, what I think is in many ways a more constructive and beneficial perspective within which to view the goals of meditation and mindfulness.

Yours in the spirit of increased tolerance to stress,



Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

It is of course a popular idea these days that meditation and mindfulness are key tools that you can use in order to reduce your stress, and many people come to these disciplines hoping to do exactly that; reduce the amount of stress in their lives. However I like to think of meditation and mindfulness doing something different, namely increasing your tolerance to stress and developing the capacity to remain steady and calm amidst situations that are inherently stressful.

Redefining the purpose and function of meditation in the above way is important I think, because it is all too easy to experience a bit of inner peace through meditation and mindfulness, and this experience then take us in the direction of becoming less tolerant to stress, and seeking out meditation as a way of escaping that which we can’t cope with effectively.

Let’s use a simple analogy. Let’s say your present capacity to deal with stress is the equivalent of doing ten push ups in a row before reaching exhaustion. In the analogy lets then say that your life circumstances present you with circumstances that are the equivalent of doing sixteen push ups in a row. This is presently beyond your capacity or stress threshold. What a meditation or mindfulness practice would aim to do then is train your mind to become progressively more efficient at dealing with stress such that, after a while the “sixteen push up” stress level is something that you can live and cope with without getting flustered.

So, simply put the aim of mindfulness and meditation is to increase your stress threshold in a balanced way, such that you can deal with more without getting exhausted. Mindfulness and meditation when done well teach us to work with and re-direct the stress of our life in creative and dynamic ways that enable us to thrive at levels of stress that would normally be way beyond our capacity to deal with constructively.

I think this is an important point to make because:

  • Living a meaningful, creative and thoughtful life that is outside of the very narrow concerns of societies present level of consciousness involves confronting ever new forms of stress and tension
  • Meditation and mindfulness by their very nature increase the creative power and energy in our mind, which creates “growth stresses” within our being itself. Unless we are prepared for this, and look forward to the new stress tolerance levels that this process will take us to, then there is a good chance that we will give up our practice thinking that it isn’t working!

One Minute Mindfulness; Notice the Space
Even when your mind is busy, and when your physical world is filled with logistical activity, notice that all this activity and busyness exists within the context of space:

  • Your busy mind is like a big, spacious sky filled with clouds; without trying so get rid of the clouds (busy thoughts), you can still notice and open to the spaciousness of the inner sky of your mind
  • Your physical world and activities always take place in the context of an open land or cityscape. Take the time to notice the space of the sky above you, and objects in the middle and far distance of your world, not just what is right in front of you.

Regularly opening to inner and outer space in your day, gives you a bigger context within which you can contain and consciously direct the stress and tension in your life, without feeling so easily overwhelmed.
© 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

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Engaged Equanimity

Dear Integral Meditators,

The new year beckons, and this is the new year edition of the Integral Meditations newsletter!

The new year beckons, and this is the new year edition of the Integral Meditations newsletter!

2012 has certainly been a deeply transformative year for me, and looking forward to 2013 the promise does seem to be that this will continue. When thinking about the qualities that I would most like to have, and I would most wish for you the readers, I came up with engaged equanimity. Whatever the specifics of 2013, the likelihood remains that life will continue to throw its mixture of blessings and curve balls at us, and the ability to keep caring deeply, whilst remaining strong and stable are qualities that remain always valuable and useful.

Wishing you happiness, growth, insight and love for 2013!


Engaged Equanimity

To practice engaged equanimity is to attempt to combine the qualities of even-mindedness and inner stability with the qualities of deep caring and a commitment to engage in life fully and passionately without holding back.

A dualistic approach to life often sees equanimity and caring as mutually exclusive, or even opposed to each other. If we are practising equanimity and even-mindedness it seems to imply that we have to be detached and un-involved. If we are practising deep caring it seems to imply that we are committed to a roller coaster emotional ride where our peace of mind and equanimity are largely sacrificed.

A commitment to regular, balanced meditation practice should gradually and naturally give rise to the ability to practice engaged equanimity. As we progress in our practice we discover that it is possible to be fully committed to our life and experiencing intense emotion, whilst at the same time experiencing a part of our mind and awareness that remains relaxed, an observer and witness to what is occurring, abiding in a state of even mindedness and equanimity.

What I want to outline in the remainder of this article is four simple practices that can be put together in order to consistently develop the practice off engaged equanimity. The first three focus on the development of equanimity, the final one focuses on engaging care.

The instructions are deliberately minimal, allowing enough detail for you to experiment and explore them in your own personal experience.

1. Allowing pain and anxiety, happiness and joy to flow through you.
Observe the feelings, emotions and experiences that you normally cling to, whether it be pleasant or unpleasant. Consciously relax your heart space/central chest area and allow your moment to moment experiences of pleasure and pain to flow through you, like a broad river flowing in and flowing out of your awareness. As you breathe in feel these feelings flowing into you, as you breathe out feel them flowing through you, let them go without holding onto them.

2. Make friends with impermanence
Be aware that everything that you are experiencing right now will change and is changing. As with practice 1, be aware of this with both the good and bad in your life. Whatever you wish to remain in your life, and that which you wish was already gone is changing, even in this moment. As you practice awareness of change and impermanence, smile at it, make it a friend and not an enemy in your life.

3. Drop your self
Spend periods of time where you deliberately forget who you are, what you do, what your life history is. Practice experiencing that which is in your outer and inner awareness without your “self” as the centre of the experience. Cultivate the recognition that life works in many ways perfectly well, and sometimes even better when an intense and central experience of “I” is taken out of the equation.

4. Commit to caring
Based upon the above three practices for developing equanimity and even mindedness, the fourth practice is then simply to commit to caring in your life and making a difference in the world in whatever engaged way you feel guided and are capable. With equanimity and even-mindedness as your underlying basis, choose to participate and get your hands a little dirty, choose to be (appropriately) vulnerable and fully alive. Of course this involves risk, and maybe (probably) getting hurt and burned on occasions, but with equanimity as the underlying basis we discover, sometimes to our surprise, that we can take it, and that it is worth it.

© Toby Ouvry 2012/2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website