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Tree of Life – The union of ego, soul & spirit

Dear Integral Meditators, 

The article below explains a ‘six-pointed star’ meditation that comes from the Tree of life tradition. Its a sample of one of the meditations that we will be doing in the Meditations for connecting to the Tree of Life, and growing your own personal Life Tree workshop this weekend.
And last call for the Therapeutic mindfulness course  starting today!
In the spirit of harmony,


Tree of Life – The union of ego, soul & spirit
The Tree of Life is essentially a visual meditation key that offers us ways of relating to ourself and the Universe in a holistic, balanced, and dynamic manner. An example of one such meditation is the meditation on the six-pointed star. You can refer to the diagram for a visual.

In this meditation the ‘Soul’ is conceived as a harmonized union of the qualities of ourself as a personality/ego, and ourself as Spirit.

  • On the ego level we can think of ourselves as consisting of a trinity of mind, body, and emotions, see the lower three points of the star on the diagram
  • On the spiritual level we can think of ourselves as partaking of the trinity of justice/will, compassion/mercy and Unitive Spirit/Higher intuition, see the top three points of the star.

In our life, we ‘sit’ in the centre of these six converging forces, and our challenge is to master each well enough to create harmony between all of them. Each of the six forces are big areas of mastery by themselves, so we can see that true mastery on the Soul level is no mean feat! Meditation on the six-pointed star is designed to facilitate this. Here are some basic pointing out instructions for doing it:

  • Begin by centring using the body & breathing
  • Visualize a golden, six-pointed star in front of you, about a metre away at eye level. Refer to the diagram to get a sense of the energy spheres at the tip of each point, with their colours and corresponding qualities, with the golden sphere of the soul in the middle. One you can visualize it with some stability, you will feel it affecting the subtle energies of your body as you sit and meditate
  • When you are ready, visualize the star and corresponding spheres around you, with yourself sitting in the middle of the central soul-sphere. Feel the energies of the six spheres around you flowing into the central sphere. As they do so feel the energies of your mind, emotions and body merging and harmonizing with the energies of spirit, willpower, and compassion.
  • Sit in the centre of the six-pointed star in a state of harmonious presence for a period, acclimatizing to this state, and the energy flow.

This meditation sets up currents of energy in your body, mind and heart that help to facilitate the real-time mastery of these six energies as you go through your daily life. It aids greatly your capacity to make real progress in this process. It also gives you a simple mental model for understanding what you are aiming for on your path of spiritual and temporal growth. It is a fairly complete meditation in and of itself.
 If you enjoyed this article, you are invited to come along to this Saturday/Sunday mornings workshop on Meditations for connecting to the Tree of Life, and growing your own personal Life Tree. We will be covering this and a number of other practical meditations on the Tree.

Related articleMeditating on the Tree of Life

Article © Toby Ouvry 2023, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 

In case you missed it, newsletter article this week: Suppression & repression – the difference, & it’s importance
Why is it important to know the importance between these two?
Its important to know the difference between these two because one can be used positively and strategically to enhance our effectiveness and wellbeing in life, whereas the other almost always results in longer term inner turbulence and interference in our ability so see and work with our present life as it is.
 What does it mean to suppress? Speaking in emotional terms, to suppress means to be aware that you have that emotion, and to exert self-control in order not to express it in the moment, for example…read full article

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Meditating with the energy of trees & plants

Trees & plants have a living presence that is almost entirely unpolluted by any kind of thinking or conceptuality. As a result, contact with them helps us get out of our head and into our being

Dear Integral Meditators, 

Trees and plants are aspects of our environment that can really help us with our meditation practice, and our discovery of good quality presence. This weeks article looks at different ways of relating to trees and plants in a meditative way. 
If you enjoy it do consider coming along to the Tues or Weds class this week, as it will be part of the subject of the sessions.

In the spirit of plant allies, 

Meditating with the energy of trees & plants

The peaceful allies in your neighbourhood and on your balcony
In your neighbourhood there will be people. They will be thinking quite a lot, you can talk to them, some of them might make you happy, some might be irritating. Not many of them help you to be still and connect to peace. In your neighbourhood and garden, you will also find trees and plants. If you make the time to connect with them, sitting nearby them, sensing their energy, getting a sense of their presence, you may be surprised to find how quickly they help you to find a sense of inner stillness. All of them have a living presence that is almost entirely unpolluted by any kind of thinking or conceptuality. As a result, contact with them helps us get out of our head and into our being. As Eckhart Tolle says:
Look at a tree, a flower, a plant.
Let your awareness rest upon it.
How still they are, how deeply rooted in being.
Allow nature to teach you stillness.
When you look at a tree and perceive its stillness, you become still yourself.
You connect with it at a very deep level.
You feel a oneness with whatever you perceive through stillness.
Feeling the oneness of yourself with all things is true love.’
Creating a tree grove
As well as connecting to trees in the immediate vicinity, you can also connect to trees and plants inwardly. When I was doing my Druid training, one of the central practices that we had was to create an inner tree grove where we would imagine sitting in meditation before doing our studies or engaging in other meditation exercises. This grove can be one that you know in the outer world and you imagine yourself traveling there in meditation. Alternatively, it could be one that you create with your imagination, or that you take from a dream experience. Either way, sitting within a grove or group of trees in meditation can be a very powerful way of moving into a deeply still and yet energising state. You can either do it as a meditation in itself, or you can use it as a preparation for a subsequent meditation.
Meditating with the energy bodies of trees and plants
You can meditate with the energy bodies of trees in a way that is also very strengthening. It can be done either sitting outside with trees of plants, of in an imagined group of trees as in the grove practice above. Here are a few pointers for how it can be done:

  • Begin by simply acknowledging the presence of the tree/s or plants, either in the physical or inner world
  • Sense your own energy body, same shape and size as your physical body, inhabiting the same space, but made of light and energy. Sense the light body of the tree/s you are with. Feel their roots reaching down into the earth, drawing light and energy from the body of the earth up into the trunk of the tree. Feel the light and energy from the earth rising into your body also.
  • See and feel the branches of the trees reaching up into the air, drawing down the energy of the sky and stars into the trunk. As they do so, feel the energy of the sky and stars flowing down into the crown of your head, lighting up and energizing your light body.
  • Let the flow of energy in the trees and the flow of energy in your body enhance each other as you breathe and relax. You can move the energy wherever you like in your body, according to the part you feel might feel healing or balancing.

If you like you can combine this meditation with elements of the Linking your energy body to environmental energies from my previous article. There is plenty of room for play, improvisation and enjoyment.
Related articleStanding like a tree

© Toby Ouvry 2023, 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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Finding and Meditating on Your True Self

Who am I? What are the characteristics of my True or “Real” Self? This is one of the fundamental questions that the great wisdom and meditation traditions of the world all ask, and when we experientially find the answer in meditation it always indicates an enlightenment experience.
One of the key understandings we need in order to search for our True Self is that it is theultimate subject, it looks out onto the world and at objects from a subjective point of view. The True Self is always the subject of your consciousness.
If we have something that we think may be our True Self, we can see if we can turn it into an object with objective qualities. If we can do so, then we can be certain that that thing is not our True or Real Self.

Lets’ take a few examples:

Is my body my True Self?
Certainly much of the time our sense of self is based around the feelings and experiences of being in a physical body. If someone says to us “You look like a bit of a fatty today!” we will most likely respond as if they have insulted our real self! But hold on, if we check it is actually quite easy to change our subjective identification with our physical body into an objective experience. For example we say “My body”. This indicates that the body is the possessed and we the self are the possessor. Since we can observe our body as an object in this way we can conclude that it is not our True or Ultimate Self.

Are my mind, feelings thoughts and opinions my True Self? 
Like the physical body we can generate extremely strong self-sense based around different feelings, thoughts and opinions that our mind generates. However, like our body it is possible to take an objective stance and watch our mind objectively, so our mind fails the subjectivity test too.

Is the body-mind combined my True Self?
The combination of body and mind is a tempting thing to place our sense of self upon, but since we have already seen that both can be objectified, it follows that the combination of both can’t be the True Self.

Is my spirit my True Self?
Many spiritual people would jump onto this one. The True Self must be the luminous, formless ground of being that we discover when we go beyond the mind into silence and the inner space that lies beyond the mind. However, although a subtle and deeper aspect of self than the body or mind, our spiritual being can be observed objectively like the everyday body and mind, thus it too fails the test of being the True Self, the only aspect of self that we cannot turn into an object.

The Witness Consciousness
What is it that remains constant whether we are observing our body, mind or spirit? Termed most often as the “pure witness consciousness”, this aspect of self has only one quality; it is the witness of whatever is arising in our mind. Beyond this witnessing there it has no other qualities! This is our True Self. It remains at all times the same, whether we are focused on our physical world, mental world or spiritual world.

The Non-Dual Self
Moreover it is the same witnessing consciousness in me that is in you, the witness within me and the witness within you are indistinguishable. Thus by connecting and meditating upon the witness self we connect to the Universal Self, that unified Self that lies within the heart of all living beings without exception and looks out through an infinite number of pairs of eyes!
By meditating upon the True Self or Witness Self we also therefore arrive at an experience of Unity with the Selves all other living beings. Multiple selves in infinite living beings become the one True Self looking out through the eyes of all. In this sense by discovering our own True Self we have also discovered the Non-Dual Self, the One-Self that lives in all living beings.

Meditating on the True Self
The above explanation of how to find and connect with the True Self as I mentioned is implicitly found in all of the great wisdom traditions of the world, but the wording borrows most explicitly from the Hindu Vedanta tradition. Essentially meditating on the True Self is very simple, but infinitely deep and can be done in two parts as follows:
1)  Observe the flow of your awareness from moment to moment, become aware of that which is watching and observing the flow of sensory, mental and spiritual objects though your awareness. Recognize this subjective, witnessing awareness as your True Self and focus upon it gently.
2) Once you have some familiarity with step 1, then become aware that the witness awareness that you are now recognizing as your True Self is the same witnessing self or True Self within everyone else. In this sense it is the Universal or Non-Dual Self that is present in yourself and every other creature that you meet. As you are placing your focus upon your witnessing awareness, integrate the recognition that it is the True Self and also the Universal Self, the Self that is one in all and all in one.

There you go, simple enough for a beginner, deep enough for the most practiced Yogi!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, 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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Meditating On The Tree Of Yoga – Coming Back to the Body

Later this year I will be beginning a series of classes with meditations upon the “Tree of Yoga” as a focus point, so in my articles over the next few weeks I will be focusing upon themes relating to this. In this article I explain some basic working definitions of yoga from a meditative perspective, and how we can begin working with these ideas in a practical fashion.

Three Levels of the Meaning of Yoga That can be Distinguished
One of the main meanings of the Sanskrit word ‘Yoga’ is ‘Union’. From this we can see that the many different practices of yoga aim fundamentally at achieving a state of union.We can distinguish three types or stages of union in the path of yoga:

  1. Accomplishing the union of the mind and body
  2. Accomplishing the union of the body-mind with the environment
  3. Accomplishing the union of the self with the Cosmos

So, here we can see the three basic stages; the first stage focuses on unifying or synchronizing the body and mind into a singular, harmonized unit. The second stage focuses on expanding our self sense beyond the body mind so that our self-sense includes greater aspects of our internal and external environment. The third stage involves releasing all boundaries between our personal sense of self and the Cosmos, thus achieving the ultimate union of self and cosmos into the primal or Universal Self. This final stage, the recognition, embodiment and articulation of the Universal or True Self is really the endgame of all yoga’s whether you are talking about hatha yoga, bhakti yoga, raja yoga or any of the other forms of yoga. For the remainder of the article we will be focusing on the first level of union in the path of yoga.

A Closer Look at Stage 1: The Two Stages of Unifying the Body-Mind

Oftentimes the start of many peoples IDEA of the spiritual path involves an attempt to “go beyond the limitations of and attachments to the body and its appetites”. The body is seen as the obstacle to inner growth, continually getting in the way of our spiritual aspirations, and “detachment” from the body is where a lot of people place their efforts.
However, in reality, and this is a really key understanding, most people are already detached from the body in the sense of being mentally disconnected to it! So, the first goal for almost 100% of us is to reconnect our mind to our body as they exist in the present moment, here and now.

How did we disconnect from the body in the first place?

Our body-mind disconnection takes place in two stages:

  1. The separation of the ego from the body.

As we grow up our self-sense develops in stages. As young children we identify with our body, as teenagers we identify with our emotions. By the time we get to young adulthood almost all of us identify ‘self’ as being our mind, and the relationship to our ‘self’ to the body is like a rider to a horse; the mind or ego is like the rider, and the body is like the horse. Thus our mind and body have now become experientially separate; ‘I’, or my ego possesses my body which is a separate object. This is the first separation or disconnect of mind from body

  1. Stage 2: The Mind/Ego Divides Against Itself – The Separation of Persona from Shadow

So, our ego is now separated from our body, unfortunately it gets worse. Having now identified our ‘self’ as our ego, our ego then splits into what in psychological terms is called the ‘persona’ and the ‘shadow’.

What are the Persona and Shadow?
The Persona– The persona is that part of the contents of our mind and ego that is acceptable to our self-image. The persona is the conscious perception of who we think we are, that part of the contents of our consciousness that we allow ourself to see.
The Shadow – The shadow is the parts of our mind and ego that is not acceptable to our self image. The shadow is all the parts of our mind and ego that we refuse to consciously acknowledge and so as a result gets repressed or ‘pushed down’ into our unconscious mind. You can find more on the shadow self in my previous article on the shadow: Six Tips for Releasing the shadow Self. Another word for the shadow would be the repressed unconscious.

Bringing this all together
So, from this we can see that in order to re-unify our body-mind into a synchronized whole we need to go through two stages:

  • Unify our mind by healing the divide between our persona and shadow, thus creating a healthy functional ego.
  • Unify our body and ego by bringing our awareness and attention back into the body and the present moment.

There are a lot of practices that are specifically designed to help facilitate these two stages. For example traditional psychotherapy (eg: Freudian and Transactional Analysis) aim at creating a healthy ego through unifying the shadow and persona. Hatha yoga, Qi gong and Tai-Qi are all helpful methods for the second stage of unifying the mind-body. There are also psychological therapies that aim at unifying the body-mind such as gestalt therapy and aspects of the humanistic psychology approach of Carl Rogers.

The Centaur
The Centaur is a mythic beast that is half human and half horse. Centaur or centauric is sometimes used as a name for the state of consciousness where the body-mind are unified. The centaur is not a human riding a horse, the centaur is both the human and the horse as a single entity, no division.
The centauric state of consciousness is a state of being where our body intelligence and mental intelligence are always working in harmony. When we accomplish this union our body-mind union becomes more than the sum of its parts, we start to be capable of achieving things that ordinary people would consider ‘impossible’ or ‘beyond them’. Much of the Human Potential Movement is aimed at accomplishing the centauric state, the unity of the body-mind.
The centauric state of a unified body-mind acts as the stable basis upon which we can then go onto explore higher and more expanded levels of consciousness and being. If we try and ‘expand’ our consciousness too extensively and quickly before stabilizing our centaur we will quite rapidly find ourself struggling with the unhealed elements of our ego, persona and shadow.

Awareness Practices to Start Unifying the Body-Mind: Meditating on the Body as a “Consciousness Sponge”.

So, I’ve covered quite a lot of ground above, and what I want to do is finish with a really simple two stage practice to help you begin integrating your body-mind. It can be done as a short 1-5minute practice, but just as appropriately and easily it can be done as a 15-30 minute form.

Stage 1: Noticing Resistance.
Simply sit quietly and notice the resistance that your mind has to entering fully into the present moment and into your body. Notice how it is always jumping away from present moment awareness of the body, diving into the past and forward to the future. Take your observation of this resistance as your object of awareness for the first part of the meditation. Don’t try and overcome it, just notice it.

Stage 2: Your body as a Sponge
In the second stage imagine that your physical body is like a dry sponge and your mind and consciousness is like water. Feel all the thoughts and feelings in your mind being gradually absorbed into your body as it sits in the present moment, just like water being absorbed by a dry sponge. Feel your mind fully inside the skin of your body, fully present in the here and now, in communion with your body. For the remainder of the meditation explore this feeling of a unified body-mind as deeply and fully as you can, rest your awareness on it and in it as fully as possible.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website