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Does God Exist? A Meditators Perspective (and what to tell your kids)

Dear Integral Meditators,

Many spiritual paths and religions and  take “God-realization” as their object of attainment, but what if you can’t find God? This weeks article takes both a playful and serious look at this issue. Complementary reading would be  the article on “The Four Less-nesses of Enlightenment” that I wrote a few weeks back.

Yours in the spirit of the God beyond God,

Upcoming Meditation Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia 

Coming soon

Does God Exist?  A Meditators Perspective (and what to tell your kids)

A couple of weeks ago my daughter Sasha (8yrs) asked me “Does God really exist? After all you can’t really see him or prove he does”. This is a classic response from a child developing her rational faculties and for whom the previous concept of a creator in the sky, a little like a big father or mother, becomes obviously and patently untrue.
For many of us as we move into adulthood it seems like we are faced with a dilemma; either we accept an unseen, unknowable God on faith, or we decide that he does not exist and that there is no God.

The path of meditation offers a second, non-philosophical perspective on the existence or not of God which is put succinctly in the modern day Zen saying:
There is no-God and he is your creator

The way I answered to my daughter was as follows:

  • God exists in a place called no-thing, and no-thing is the place where everything comes from, so you can find God in everything.
  • God lives in a place called no-where, and no-where is the place where somewhere comes from. So because God is no-where he is the only person you can find everywhere.
  • Gods’ identity is in a place called no-self, which is the place where all selves arise. So at the heart of every self there is no-self, which is where you find God.

So, the idea with these three sentences is that they invite a person enquiring after the existence of God to go beyond the world of ideas, philosophy or theology and move instead into a space of experiential, non-conceptual investigation and curiosity.
With these sentences you just need to read them, and then ‘drop-in’ to the space that they invite you into and to be with that space, to be present to something that lies beyond your mind, beyond rationality, beyond ideas.

  • God is un-findable in the world of things, so if you drop into a space of no-thing, that is where she will be, although of course that would be non-be
  • There is no place where God ‘lives’, so if you go to nowhere, that is where you will find him
  • God does not have a self, so if you let go of your own self completely, then you will find God there

To the cynic this can just sound like word games, but as I say the idea is to use the words to go beyond the words to a non-conceptual, living experience that you then hold and rest in.

After finishing this article I then asked my daughter “So what did you think of those definitions of God that I gave you?”
“Good” she said, not looking up from her book.
“Really I said? Stop reading and come here for a moment”
She stood up and came over to me. I asked her the same question
“So what did you think of those definitions of God that I gave you?”
She looks at me, smiles and said “Excellent!”
Then she rolls her eyes, puts on her most ironic face, then sits down to read again.

I think that is what you call approving non-approval.
© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Support for you Meditation Practice 

If you enjoyed the article above, and are interested in sound technology that can help you more easily get into deeper states of meditation, the following two tracks work well with cultivating formless, timeless meditations:

Beginners Mind

Audio Serenity

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Four Zen Meditations

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article focuses on practical Zen exercises based around more or less well known quotes that are in the spirit of Zen. The nice thing about all of them is that they are great simplifiers of the mind, and realeasers of our natural intelligence.

Yours in the spirit of Zen,


Four Zen Meditations

This article is simply a set of four quotes in the spirit of Zen (note, not all from Zen sources, but nevertheless in the spirit of Zen practice), together with a focused contemplation to go with each.

“Knowledge is learning something every day, wisdom is letting go of something every day” – Zen Proverb
We all know that feeling of being overwhelmed by the amount of information coming our way in modern day life. Whilst we definitely need to keep increasing our knowledge, in order to make sure that our wisdom also increases in proportion to our knowledge we also need to spend time dropping our knowledge and resting in a state of simplicity and conscious ‘forgetting’. This means not just once every few months, but once a day!

“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God whilst one is peeling the potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes”- Alan Watts
Pick one or two activities each day where you are focused on a non-conceptual experience of the activity itself, with the amount of conceptual thought kept to a minimum.

“The way out is through the door. Why is it that no one will use this method?” – Confucius
It’s very easy to over think and over-complexify when it comes to the things that we need to do in our life, and the motivations with which we do them. Practise pairing down and simplifying your actions so that they are simple, direct and appropriate responses to the demands of the moment. Don’t over think it!

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing” – Meister Eckhart
Ultimate truth is a non-conceptual phenomenon. The only way you can get to it is though direct observation, penetration and experience of what is right in front of you. Practice erasing your thoughts and just looking at what is there.

A little further practical Zen tid-bit:

“The only Zen that you find on top of a mountain is the Zen that you bring with you” – Robert M Pirsig

© 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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The Pattern of Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article on the pattern of meditation is really a summary of one of the big themes that has come out of the last two meditation workshops that I have done in January. I think if we understand this basic principle then it really helps to gain clarity on the what and the why of meditation.

Yours in the spirit of healthy patterns of consciousness,


The Pattern of Meditation

Each of us has three different facets of our fundamental, moment to moment experience:
1.       Our experience of physical or sensory awareness, and the objects within it.
2.      Our experience of mental awareness, and the thoughts, images, feelings and emotions within it.
3.      Our experience of awareness itself and the experience of inner spaciousness that it gives rise to.

If you think about your mental and sensory worlds as being like clouds, and the experience of spacious awareness itself being like the open sky, then this gives you a good image to work with.
If you think about your spacious awareness as being the water in a huge ocean, and the physical and mental appearances as being like the waves on the surface of that ocean, then that gives you another good image. One of the interesting things about this second image is that the waves are made of the same substance as the ocean. In terms of our analogy this hints that the mental and physical appearances to our mind arise from the ocean of conscious awareness itself, rather than being something separate.

For a non-meditating person, their consciousness tends to move to and fro between the first two types of awareness. It goes from attention to body to mind, from physical awareness to mental awareness, from thinking to doing. The only time that such a person really rests deeply in their experience of spacious awareness is when they are asleep, which they can’t remember, and so it is not much use to them!*(see note at bottom) As a result of this basic pattern of consciousness, most people remain totally identified with their body and mind as their ‘self’, and are unable to enjoy, rest in and leverage upon the third type of consciousness; spacious awareness.

The fundamental task of someone who meditates is to change the pattern of their consciousness so that it no longer goes only from body to mind, body to mind, body to mind, but rather alternates evenly from body to mind, to spacious awareness in equal amounts. The integration of spacious awareness into the consciousness pattern of a meditator enables them (amongst other things) to:

  • Relax regularly and deeply even when in the midst of busyness and stress
  • Overcome neurotic over-identification with their body and mind (or thinking and doing)
  • Become responsive to life rather than reactive
  • Become much more spontaneous and creative in their life, and think outside of the societal programming that they have been brought up with

Beginning to Integrate Inner Space into Your Life
To begin integrating spacious awareness into your life all you need to start doing is to notice that in each moment of your awareness there are three things available to you; what appears to your physical senses, what appears in your mental awareness, and the spacious awareness that surrounds and contains the first two. Just for short, regular periods of your day pay attention to this and, rather than focusing upon your body and thoughts, just rest in the experience of spacious awareness, focus on the sky itself, rather than the clouds.

*Long term meditation practice does include developing conscious awareness during sleep, and thus leveraging on the natural deep spacious awareness of the sleep state.

© 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 on the Body Within the Body (Within the Body)

Hi Everyone,

This weeks meditation article focuses on the Zen meditation on the body within the body. The first part of the meditation, separating our actual body from our conceptual image of our body is a traditional Zen technique. The second part, dropping the body and resting in the pure awareness body is my own addition that I use when I teach the meditation to classes. So it is my own “invention” so to speak, but it is entirely within the spirit and intention of Zen practice.

Yours in the spirit of clear perception,


Article of the Week:

Zen Meditation on the Body Within the Body (Within the Body)

Our Three Bodies and the Three Dimensions of Existence Highlighted By Zen

All the great wisdom traditions of the world point out that our world is a multi-dimensional one, with these different dimensions  coming together in communion to form the totality of our being and experience.
In the Zen meditation on the body within the body, three of these dimensions are emphasized as objects of meditation, each of these bodies in turn corresponding to a particular dimension of reality.
The Three bodies are:

  1. Our conceptual body, or the conceptual image that we hold in our mind of our physical body
  2. Our actual physical body as it is in the sensory world
  3. Our formless energy body or  body of consciousness

These three bodies in turn correspond to three fundamental dimensions of our reality and moment to moment experience:

  1. The conceptual or intellectual dimension of our existence
  2. The non-conceptual dimension of our existence
  3. The spiritual or formless dimension of our existence that forms the ground or basis of dimensions one and two.

The meditation is called the body within the body, because our non-conceptual body is concealed or hidden by our conceptual body, or body image, and our  body of consciousness is hidden behind the sensory perception of our non-conceptual body. Hence through meditation we discover different bodies behind or within what we thought was just one body.

The Purpose of the Meditation on the Body Within the Body

The purpose of this meditation is to help us develop awareness of what in Buddhism is called dualistic appearance, which is the appearance of an object (such as our physical body) together with the projected mental image of that object (in this case the body). According to the Buddha, all of our suffering and pain arises from the confusion that dualistic appearance creates in our mind.
To take a simple example, an anorexic person with a very skinny body observes his/her body and projects the mental image an unacceptably fat body on their actual body. As a result they continue to starve their physical body even though it desperately needs nutrients. In such a person their idea of their body and their actual body are completely confused, and so as a result they cause themselves suffering and harm.
The above example is an extreme one, but in reality all of us experience this type of confusion more or less all of the time, our idea of reality and the actuality of our reality do not match each other and so as a result we experience confusion, delusion and suffering.
The first point of the meditation on the body within the body takes our physical body (initially) as its object, and shows us how we can become mindful of the difference between our actual body our conceptual image of our body so that we no longer confuse the two in harmful ways.
The second point of the meditation is to cultivate the skill of dropping all appearances, conceptual and non-conceptual, and learning to rest our mind in the natural, open state of pure awareness that is our body of consciousness.

The Meditation

Stage 1: Meditating of the conceptual image of your body
Sitting comfortably in meditation, start to examine times in your life when you have had different experiences of your body, times when you may have hated it, times when you have been proud of it, ashamed of it, embarrassed by it. Try to observe how in each case the way in which you experience your body at those times is actually in large part dominated by a conceptual image of the body, rather than the body itself as you are experiencing it from moment to moment. Try and observe how your conceptual mind projects its imagined image of a body onto your body.

Stage 2: Meditating on the non-conceptual experience of your body
In the second stage of the meditation simply focus on the sensory experience of your body and breathing as they are in the present moment. Using the body and the breathing as an anchor, try and drop all conceptual thoughts as completely as you can, and just experience the physical body as it is, free from your idea of what it is. Try and become as familiar as you can with this non-conceptual experience of your sensory body as you experience it in the here and now.
This experience of the body as it is is called “the body within the body” because it is the body that we “discover” when we drop our conceptual image of our body. Our mental image of our body normally hides our actual body from us (!)

Stage 3: Meditating on your body of consciousness
In the final stage of the meditation simply try and let go of all conceptual and sensory experiences altogether, and allow your mind to rest in the “pure awareness body” or subtle formless energy body that acts as the ground from which arises both our conceptual and sensory experience.  Try and gently sustain your experience of this formless or “spiritual” dimension of existence for the remainder of the meditation.
This third meditation stage and third “body” is called “the body within the body, within the body” because it is the body that is normally hidden behind the mask of the phenomenal world, or the body of form. When we drop our body of form, the body of consciousness appears, or is revealed.

Practice When Going About Our Daily Life

  1. During your daily life try and remain consciously aware of the different images and perceptions that your mind is projecting upon your body, accept the images that are useful and helpful, but do not buy into images that are destructive, deluded or unhelpful. Be mindful not to be fooled by them!
  2. Try and come back to your basic sensory or non conceptual experience of your body by regularly dropping your conceptual thoughts and focusing for short periods on the sensory body and the breathing.
  3. Regard both your conceptual and non-conceptual worlds as appearances arising from the ground of your (Universal) or body of consciousness, like a dream arising from the clarity of deep sleep, or clouds arising within and clear sky.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, 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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The Eternal Present and the Four Types of Time

Dear Integral Meditators,

How do you think of time? It is one of three major aspects of our experience (the other two being space and energy). Often as not we think of time as being just one thing, but in reality it is much more than that. In the article below I outline four major aspects of time and give a few thoughts about them within the context of how we can learn to rest in the eternal present.

Yours in the spirit of timeless time,

Article of the Week:

The Eternal Present and the Four Types of Time

The eternal present is the spiritual dimension of time, awareness and realization of which is a major goal within all of the great wisdom traditions of the world. The paradoxical thing about the eternal present is that it is always present with us, so it is not something that you can “achieve” as such. Rather it is more like something that you can become aware of and use that awareness to inform your day to day existence.

From a meditative perspective, the way to meditate upon the eternal present is to recognize it and then rest your awareness in it for extended periods. This gives you a basic platform for starting to integrate the eternal present into your daily life. However in the long term your ability to integrate the eternal present into your daily life will also depend upon the relationship that you have to three aspects of “temporal time” that we also have to deal with. These three I call clock time, biological time and psychological time. What I intend to do in the rest of this article is to outline these different types of time and indicate few simple things that we need to master with each one if we really want to integrate the eternal present into our life.

  1. Clock Time– We all know this one, it is the division of our time into seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years. From a meditational perspective we need to be well organized enough with regard to our clock time to integrate regular periods of meditative activity into our day, where we can rest in the eternal present. Without this organizational ability we find ourself continually chasing after clock time, feeling flustered and disorganized.
  2. Biological/Seasonal Time– This is the time that our body is attuned to, and that reflects the wider cycles of time and the seasons on the planet. Animals have attunement to this form of time naturally, and act accordingly and appropriately. However we humans often as not seem to find ourself out of touch with our “biological clock”, mentally overriding it, not listening to our physical body when it needs some down time, and being totally unaware of the natural cycles occurring on our immediate environment. Mastery of biological time essentially means re-allowing our biological and seasonal intelligence to communicate with us and factor consideration of it into our daily activities. You could also call biological time “cyclical time”, as it moves in cycles and circles, rather than in a linear way.
  3. Psychological time– Psychological time is the time that we experience in our mind. You could also call this linear time in the sense that psychological time feels like it is moving from one point to the next, to the next, to the next in a straight line (unlike the cycles/circles of biological time). However psychological time can be fickle in the sense that sometimes a short amount of clock time can feel like an eternity, and a long period of time can feel very short, for example if we are really enjoying ourselves. Psychological time is extremely subjective, with periods of time in our day and life that we “dread” and periods that we look forward to. Psychological time is also interesting in the sense that for example if we look back upon our days activities there may be just one thing that our mind focuses on, as if it was the only thing that happened in the day. The essential point is that our experience of psychological time is defined most often by the way in which we frame our experience with our thoughts, so taking care of our thoughts, and making sure that we are mentally framing our daily experience in as optimal a way as possible is a major aspect of mastering psychological time.
  4. Spiritual time– Spiritual time is the time beyond both cyclical biological time and linear psychological time, and is most often referred to as the eternal present, or the eternal now. It embraces and contains all the other expressions of time like a mother embracing a child.  As mentioned at the beginning of this article, awareness and realization of it is a major goal of all the world’s great wisdom traditions. Quite often when people first hear about the eternal present they think of it as a high realization that is far away from where they are in their own path right now. However in reality the eternal present is in many ways the simplest and most accessible of experiences. In order to access it you simply have to “drop time” and allow your mind to rest in a natural, non-conceptual state. As soon as you do this you immediately begin to enter into the subjective experience of the eternal present moment. As such we can turn to the eternal present for support whether we are a very highly realized spiritual being, or a relative beginner.

In order to begin leveraging on the support and happiness that we can receive from spiritual time/ the eternal present the major thing that we need to do is to simply create time for a little stillness in our routine, and then recognize the eternal present within that quiet space, allowing our mind ad body to rest in the experience as fully as possible!

For other articles by Toby on the eternal present, please read “The Four Types of Present Moment”, and “Your Ego as Resistance to What is Present”

© 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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Finding Your Best Response to Anxiety – An Existential Perspective

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article focuses on existential anxiety. The discovery of the idea of existential anxiety has been I think the most informative and transforming single factor in my approach to the challenge of anxiety over the last year. It has really made a big difference to the way I see and experience myself in the world. The article is an attempt to give a taster of existential anxiety and what an important influence it is in our life, I hope you enjoy it!


Yours in the spirit of being,


Article of the Week:

Finding Your Best Response to Anxiety – An Existential Perspective 

How do you think about your anxiety, and what you need to do to overcome it? For many people, meditators included, anxiety comes under the section of “things that need to be overcome” or “things that need to be gotten rid of”. In this article I would like to suggest that specific aspects our anxiety should come under the section “things that need to be understood and responded to effectively” rather than gotten rid of.

Two types of anxiety
In order to help us understand anxiety it is helpful to distinguish two fundamental types of anxiety. For these definitions I am drawing upon the work of Rollo May in his book “The Discovery of Being” which is an excellent introduction to the field of existential psychology and philosophy:

Causal Anxiety– Causal anxiety is anxiety in our life and mind that has a cause. We are in debt, our child or loved one is sick, we have been dumped or sacked, our cat is keeping us up all night meowing, we are repressing unresolved emotion. All of these are examples of anxiety and stress in our life that is caused by something specific. The way to work with causal anxiety is to become aware of its cause and to work to alleviate it.

Existential Anxiety– This second type of anxiety is the type that arises simply from existing or being alive. We exist as human beings, with a sense of self, and as such we find ourselves continually having to affirm that existence or aliveness against the forces that are continually trying to destroy us.

There are two fundamental points about existential anxiety: Firstly, we can never get rid of it. It is ontological, or inherent in the process of being alive. You will only get rid of your existential anxiety on your deathbed as you release your being to the process of death and dissolution. Secondly existential anxiety is fighting a battle that we can never “win”.  It is the struggle of our being against non-being or, put another way, the struggle of our life against the threat of death. The only way to “deal” with our existential anxiety is to accept the inevitability of our death and dissolution, and to live our life while it lasts in the most courageous manner possible.

Why is understanding existential anxiety important?
Understanding existential anxiety is important because, if we are not aware of it then we will find ourselves projecting it onto other areas of our life, and when we do so this anxiety will then become neurotic and even pathological. For example if I project my existential anxiety on my career, then my work will become an expression of my unconscious fight against the reality of death, rather than an expression and celebration of my highest and best self.
Secondly understanding existential anxiety is important because if we can see it and experience it clearly in our life, then we can respond to it effectively. If we remain unaware of it, the chances of us articulating a positive response to it are hugely reduced.

The classic response of the masses to existential anxiety.
How do most people deal with their existential anxiety? It’s simple, conformity. They de-emphasize themselves as an individual being and instead adopt the consensus of opinions, habits and ways of being prevalent in their society at the time. Along with this conformity comes a corresponding loss of awareness, sensitivity and ability to articulate whatever it is that characterizes you as a unique human being. In short, the unconscious response of most people to their own existential anxiety is to lose themselves in the trance of mass consciousness, which serves as a kind of placebo or tranquilizer. It is an avoidance technique really, but since we do it all the time, most people have no idea that they are doing it.

Three possible responses to existential anxiety to meditate upon.
These are not necessarily easy or immediately pleasurable, but if stuck with lead to a much deeper and more authentic response to our life, our existence and the challenge/opportunity it poses:

  1. Even though I will inevitable lose the fight of my life against death I can nevertheless use the time I have to articulate the beauty and uniqueness of my individuality whilst it lasts.
  2. Does the fact that my individual being is impermanent and transient, like a flower in spring not make it all the more beautiful and valuable? I can choose to enjoy it and cherish it whilst it lasts.
  3. My appreciation of the beauty and transience of my own individual existence can help me value the unique individuality of other living beings around me, and cause me to help their individualities to flower fully. I can choose to care for them, value them deeply and, help them articulate their own response to the challenge of life and death.

In conclusion
Existential anxiety is something that you will have to deal with all your life. You can never get rid of it, or even meditate it away (that is to say you can lose your sense of it in deep meditation, but upon your return to daily life it returns). You can only work with it or try and avoid it, your choice!
Existential anxiety is potentially one of our most powerful and constructive driving forces in our life. Unfortunately for many people the standard response seems to be conformity and avoidance (and the consequent neurosis and pathology), or selfishness and egoism.
The primary requirement for making friends with existential anxiety is courage, the courage to confront the forces of life and death as they exist in your life right now, and to live your being fully now in the light of your inevitable non-being.

© 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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Zen Flowers, Zen Doorways

Hi Everyone,

This week’s newsletter looks at Zen meditation practice from two lenses, firstly there is the class this coming Wednesday 22nd February entitled “Zen and the Flower of Life” which looks at Zen practice from the perspective of the original teaching of the Buddha from which Zen meditation is said to derive.
Secondly, this week’s meditation article focuses on how we can develop a more complete experience of our own consciousness through a practice that I call “doorway mindfulness”. I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of flowers and doorways,

Upcoming Meditation Classes and Events in February

Wednesday 8th, 15th, 22nd, 29th February 10.30-11.30am – Qi Gong Meditation Classes at Basic Essence

Zen and the Flower of Life: Meditating on the Origins of Zen

With meditation teacher Toby Ouvry

Date and Time: Wednesday 22nd February, 7.30-9.00pm

Venue:  Gallery Helios, 38 Petain Road, Singapore 208103 (click HERE for map)

This 90minute meditation class will be taking as its subject the story told in the “Flower Sutra” which is said to be the teaching of the Buddha from which the path of Zen meditation originated. Toby will be teaching a simple but profound method of Zen meditation and contemplation based around the flower sutra teaching.

The class will consist of a 20-30minute walking meditation, followed by a short talk, and then a 30-40minute sitting meditation session.

Course fee:  Sing$35, all participants will be provided with a set of class notes and an MP3 recording of the class for their own personal use.

Click HERE to make payment for this class by credit card

To register or for further enquiries: Email or SMS 65-96750279

About the Teacher: Toby Ouvry is a meditation teacher and artist who has been practicing and teaching for over fifteen years, including five years as a Buddhist Monk. You can find more out about Toby and his work by going to

Article of the Week:

Doorway Mindfulness as Zen Practice 

Zen practice is based around the understanding that although the thought-based, linear or logical mind constitutes only a small part of our total consciousness, we have become completely identified with it up to the point that it dominates our life, feelings and experience almost completely.
Thus, one of the main objectives of Zen practice is to develop our Consciousness-Awareness, our awareness that our consciousness is much more than the particular thoughts arising in our mind at any given moment.
Within Buddhist teachings, ‘consciousness’ is often defined as ‘clarity and awareness’. ‘Clarity’ in this context means having no form (i.e.: physical, emotional or mental form or characteristics). Clarity might also be thought of as light, or a sense of inner space and spaciousness.
‘Awareness’ means having the power to perceive or understand. In order to get in touch with the level of our being that is pure conscious awareness, we need to be able to let go temporarily of our thinking mind, thus allowing the clarity and light of our natural or original consciousness to become manifest.To do this, we need to find ways of regularly bringing our mind back into the present moment, and letting go of our habitual over-attention to the contents of our consciousness. Whenever our mind is fully in the present moment, our thinking mind will necessarily be pacified, as thinking by definition always has a past or future topic as its object of contemplation.
In addition to practicing the formal sitting meditation exercises taught in Zen, it is very important to find ways of bringing our mind back into the present moment during the day. One way in which we can do this is, every time we pass through a door way, to take an easy deep breath, letting go of the mental activity in our consciousness and relaxing into the here and now for a few moments. By doing so, we shall momentarily allow the clarity and light of our consciousness to become manifest, and prevent ourselves from becoming completely pre-occupied with the subjects that our mind is concerned with processing. Using a physical doorway as a prompt for our mindfulness of the present moment is one way that it is useful to prompt our mindfulness, as each day we pass though many doorways!
There are many similar techniques that we can devise for ourselves that can help us to do this. The best method is the one that works most effectively for you!

© 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

Awareness and insight Meditation techniques Presence and being present Primal Spirituality Zen Meditation

The Four Types of Present Moment Awareness

Hi Everyone,

Wishing you all the very best for the upcoming Chinese year of the water dragon, which I believe starts today! Please find below an article detailing not one but four types of present moment experience that we can cultivate, I hope you enjoy it!

Yours in the spirit of presence and being present,



Article of the Week:

The Four Types of Present Moment Awareness

Normally when we think or talk about meditating “in the present moment” the assumption is that there is only one type of present moment, and that it is this same one present moment that we are all talking about. Actually there are different types of present moment experience that we can tap into. Here are four, with each one I detail what it is, how it helps us, and how to do a simple meditation upon it.

The Primal Pre-Present
The pre-present is essentially the“present moment” before we had any idea of time. We could also think about it as being the “pre-conceptual present”Babies are always in the pre-present moment, because their minds have not developed the power of conceptuality, they have no idea of what the past or future is, and so their mind remains placed firmly in the here and now, before time existed! Likewise animals live in the pre-present because they have non-conceptual minds. Similarly trees and rocks can be thought of as abiding in the pre-present, the time before concepts and before the past and future came into existence!
Meditating on the pre-present enables us to relax, return to a state of innocent awareness, and tap into a state of deep regeneration and re-energization.
We ourselves can meditate on the pre-present simply by deeply observing a (peaceful) baby, or an animal, or sitting quietly in a landscape and just dropping our sense of time temporarily, becoming like a tree or a rock or a baby, with a mind that has forgotten all sense of time and abides in the peaceful space of the pre-present, the pre-time.

The Transient Present
This is the type of present moment that we most often think of as the present moment. That part of our experience that is in the here and now, accompanied by the feeling of there being a past from which we have come, and a future toward which we are going. This is the present moment that many mindfulness meditation practices help us to focus in. We cultivate this type of present moment experience by paying close attention to what is going on right now, on the immediate task that we are attending to. Cultivating this form of present moment awareness helps us to be more centered and grounded in our life, to manage stress more effectively, to savor our enjoyments and appreciate all that is good in our life.
We can cultivate this form of present moment awareness by spending specific periods of time in our daily routine where we try to do just one thing, and whilst we are doing it we train our mind to be fully present to the task at hand, not wondering anxiously about the future or re-living the past.

The Eternal Present
The eternal present is the space of awareness beyond time. Once we have become conceptually mature as adults, that is learned to operate within the space of past, present and future, the assumption can be that time is something “out there”. In reality time as we understand it conceptually is an invention of the human mind. To meditate on the eternal present is to recognize that the entire realms of past present and future are all contained within the context of the eternal, the timeless, and that this eternal timeless present is always present with us, right here, right now.
The eternal present in many ways resembles the primal pre-present, but to be able toreally appreciate and value the eternal present we have to have gone into conceptual time, understood and lived within it, and then see through its illusion. So you could say thatthe eternal present is the post-transient present!
Meditating on the eternal present gives us maturity of vision, depth of perception, a sense of everything possessing its own natural perfection, and opens us up to our first classical “enlightenment experiences”.
We can meditate on the eternal present by simply recognizing that every aspect of our experience right here right now is contained within the embrace of the eternal present, and learn to relax our awareness into that ever present, eternal space.

The Intuitive Present
The intuitive present is when we have gained substantial experience of the eternal present, and have developed the capacity to function in conventional time whilst at the same time remaining connected to the eternal present. As Ajahn Chah says it is the meditative experience of our mind being like “still water that moves, and moving water that it still”. From a present moment perspective it is as if time and eternity now fit together in our experience like a hand in a glove. Conventional time is like the glove, eternity is like the hand beneath that moves.
The intuitive present is not the same as our intuition in general, which can come in many forms such as our instinctive or emotional intuition.
Accessing the intuitive present signals the development of our capacity to engage fully in worldly life and spiritual life side by side, to live in the world whilst not being of the world so to speak. I don’t think there is ever a time when we move into a state where we no longer need to worry about our ego corrupting our spiritual perception, but our experience of the intuitive present certainly gives us a powerful tool to see everything that we experience within the context of our unfolding path to enlightenment.

© 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

Awareness and insight Inner vision Presence and being present The Essential Meditation of the Buddha Zen Meditation

Zen and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

Hi Everyone!

The focus of this week’s newsletter is Zen meditation. Zen below you can find information on a workshop I will be doing this coming Wednesday evening 18th of January on “An Introduction to Meditation from the Perspective of Zen”. Beneath that I explore in an article the practice of non-duality as seen from the perspective of Zen meditation. I hope you enjoy it!

Last week’s meditation class entitled “How to Meditate on the Inner weather of the Mind” is now available as an MP3 recording, details can be found HERE.

Yours in the spirit of ever present enlightenment,


An Introduction to Meditation From the Perspective of Zen

The Zen School of Meditation arose from a combination of the teachings of the Buddha with the teachings of Taoism in China during the 6th century AD, where it became known as Chan meditation (‘Chan’ meaning ‘quietude’). Later it was adopted by the Japanese, and it is they that called it Zen.

Zen is a particularly appropriate form of meditation for today’s hyper busy and challenging world because:

  • Its approach is simple, direct and non-complex (the antithesis of our complex day to day habitual mind!)
  • The emphasis is on re-connecting to our ‘original mind’ or ‘beginners mind’, helping us to find relief from the information overload of our daily life, and the cynicism and world weariness that we can feel living in such challenging and world  changing times
  • It is metaphysics-light and can be practiced by people of all beliefs and backgrounds as the emphasis is upon experiential insight, method and process rather than belief
  • Rather than giving us a set of beliefs that we should ‘accept’ without question, Zen meditation offers us a set of practices that enable us to access and enhance our naturally occurring intelligence, wisdom and compassion!

In this two hour workshop we shall be examining the practical methods of meditation taught by Zen and how we can gain personal experience of inner peace and wellbeing by applying them.

Date and Time: Wednesday 18th January, 7.30-9.30pm

Venue:  Gallery Helios, 38 Petain Road, Singapore 208103 (click HERE for map)

Course fee:  Sing$50, all participants will be provided with a set of workshop notes and MP3 recording of the workshop for their own personal use.

To register or for further enquiries: Email or SMS 65-96750279

Article of the Week:

Zen Meditation and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

What is the main aim of Zen meditation? You can word it in a few different ways, but one of the most fundamental is to say that Zen meditation aims to liberate us from the prison of “dualistic appearance” and enable us to live our life in a state of non-dual awareness.

Often when we think about non-dual awareness, or “one-ness awareness” the temptation can be to think of it as being a state of abstract meditation. We have our daily life on one side, and non-duality as a transcendent state of deep meditation on the other. It is true that non-duality transcends our usual day to day state of awareness, but it is a mistake to think that non-duality is something that can be found separate from our everyday, ordinary experience. What Zen seeks to point out is the presence of the non-dual in our everyday, ordinary experiences.

What are Duality and Non-Duality?
We can start to understand how non duality is a natural part of our everyday experience by first understanding what duality, or dualistic appearance is. Dualistic appearance is the appearance of an object to our mind together with our idea or conception of what that object is. Normally we assume that what we see with our eyes or hear is trustworthy, but in reality what happens is that immediately after we see an object our mind immediately projects an idea of that object upon it, based upon our memories and mental programming.
For example if a person we do not like comes into the room, we physically see that person, and then immediately our mind floods with memories of why we dislike that person, and we then mentally project upon them our own distorted image of who we think they are.
Likewise if we fall in love with someone and we then see them approaching us, their appearance triggers a whole series of ideas and emotions that we immediately then project upon them.
Zen meditation does not seek to destroy dualistic appearance, it simply seeks to help us to point it out and see though it, so that we are no longer fooled and confused by it. When we have dualistic appearance as our basic state of mind, our minds idea of reality continually fights with reality itself, which causes a lot of suffering, pain and discord.
When we are no longer fooled by dualistic appearance our mind no longer fights without reality, but moves in harmony with it, and the net result of this is that we suffer less and experience more natural joy, happiness and well being!

Non-duality means the union of our mind (the subject of our awareness) with its object. When we abide in a state of non-duality, this simply means that we accept things as they are without trying to manipulate them or warp them in order to fit into our preconceived idea of the way things should be. We stop imposing our idea of reality on what we are experiencing. Attaining nondual awareness means being able to drop our idea of reality and start paying attention instead to what is actually there in front of us.  This is why in Zen literature we find expressions such as:

  • Paying attention to what is (as opposed to what we think it is)
  • Staying with your “beginners mind”, free from preconceptions
  • Living beings are “enlightened already” there is nothing that they need to “do” to attain enlightenment.

What we need to do to attain enlightenment from the perspective of Zen is to “drop” our dualistic appearance. In this sense it is learning to stop something we are currently doing unconsciously, rather than doing anything new per se.

Looking closely
So, Zen we could say is the art of “looking closely” at our reality, letting go of our habitual assumptions and projections of mind and really paying close attention to what is actually going on around us and within us in the here and now.
If you are interested in finding more about the actual practices of Zen meditation, you can read more in my article Fundamental Zen Meditation Forms and/or see you at the workshop this coming Wednesday!

© 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