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Hopefully hopeless

“When we build competency at ‘conscious hopelessness’, we can then move consciously back to how we approach hope and fear in our life, and seek to do them a better.”

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article is on a meditation technique I’ve enjoyed over the years, and that invites both resilience, peace and insight. If you enjoy it, it will be the subject of this Tuesday and Wednesday evenings meditation session, you’d be welcome, live or online.

In the spirit of hopeful hopelessness,




Hopefully hopeless

If you look at the movement of your mind, one pattern you may start to see is that part of you is hoping for good things:

  • For people to like you
  • For things to turn out how you would like
  • For the worlds problems to be solved
  • For the environment to be saved from pollution
  • For someone to fix your loneliness
  • To get the pay raise

And so it goes on…. A related movement then also happens in your mind, the wish to avoid the things that we fear

  • Fear of being disliked or disapproved of
  • Fear of things not going your way
  • Fear for the future of the planet
  • Fear of loneliness
  • Of not having enough money
  • Fear of death

Much of the activity and conversation in our mind then comes from this oscillation between hope and fear. So then, a kind of Zen method that I use in meditation is to practice “Hopelessness”. This doesn’t mean becoming depressed, what it means is to temporarily drop as fully as you can both your hoping and your fearing. If you can do this, then the conversation in your mind subsides very quickly, and you land with a ‘bump’ in the present moment! With no hoping and no fearing, your mind temporarily stops trying to solve the things you are afraid of or hoping for, and comes back home.
When you are meditating in this way, you can begin by noticing your hopes and fears, and the way they drive your inner conversation. Then you can choose to gently put them down, and relax into the open state of presence that arises naturally from that ‘putting down’. So ‘hopelessness’ then leads to a state of centered peace that we can drop into regularly amidst the uncertainty of our life.

Picking up hope and courageously facing fear
When we build competency at hopelessness, we can then move consciously back to how we approach hope and fear in our life, and seek to do them a bit better. This is one quote that I enjoy from Nick Cave around hope:
“Hope rises out of known suffering and is the defiant and dissenting spark that refuses to be extinguished”. We can open to hope courageously, despite our fears. We can find reasons to be hopeful and hold onto the brightness that they bring into our lives. We can grow them mindfully.
We can also then begin to face our fears courageously. We can learn to look after the parts of us that are afraid, to re-assure them and to work appropriately to resolve the causes of our fear. We can also bear in mind that potentially, the causes of fear are endless, and thus know when to pick it up and put it down appropriately.

Imagine you are in a landscape. To one side the sun is rising with its bright rays, this is hope. To the other side is a dark, tangled forest, that is your fear. Where you are sitting perhaps there is a pleasant tree, a little stream and some small what flowers amidst the grass. This space, exactly where you are is fine as it is. Relax into it and become ‘hopeless’ for a while, recover there. Then when you are you can go back to you hopes and fears in a more conscious and empowered manner.

To end, here is a quote from Thomas Merton, that I enjoy as a further meditation on the value of hopelessness: “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.”

Related articles: Dropping your hope and fear
Signless-ness – Meeting your reality as it is

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2022, 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 Inner Fitness Trainers

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would happen if you treated the most difficult people and circumstances in your life as ‘inner fitness trainers’? This weeks article explores this theme and mindfulness practice.

Yours in the spirit of the useful in the difficult,


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Your Inner Fitness Trainers

The function of a good physical fitness trainer is to push you to the limits of your physical flexibility, strength and stamina in a safe and secure way by giving you specific physical tasks and challenges to focus upon.
If we are serious about our own inner mindfulness training, then we should be looking at the people or circumstances we find most difficult and challenging in our life as being like our inner fitness trainers. Their function is to push us to the limits of our mental, emotional and spiritual flexibility, strength and stamina by giving us specific challenges that push us to those limits.

But the people and circumstances in life that are hurting me aren’t trying to help!
When you are being trained by a (good) coach physically you engage in the exercises they set for you because you understand that they are trying to help. But people giving you a hard time in my life aren’t trying to help, nor is the illness that you have! So there is a conscious choice that you are making here to adopt people and circumstance as your trainers, despite their bad intentions, or despite the unfairness of the circumstances. It is a personal, empowering choice you make based around a recognition of the benefit that can be gained from adopting such a perspective.

Get clarity – How and for what are these people/circumstances helping me?
Pick the top three most difficult and/or unpleasant circumstances that you are going through right now; the ones that make you manifestly uncomfortable, or inwardly scream at the unfairness of it all. List them and then answer these two questions with regard to each one:

  • How is this person or circumstance helping me to develop, expand and strengthen  my mind and consciousness?
  • What is the specific approach and perspective that I need to keep in mind when I am with this person or dealing with this circumstance that will help me transform them into an ‘inner mind trainer’ for me?

The answer to these two questions gives you your basic mindfulness practice for each of your specific challenges. If you focus your awareness, intention and attention mindfully upon these questions, you may be surprised at how quickly and creatively you can come up with approaches that you can start to work with right away.

Feeling thankful
These days most of us have heard of the idea of a gratitude log or journal; a notebook where we keep a list of all the things that we appreciate and feel grateful for in our life. If you can start integrating your ‘inner fitness training’ into your daily mindfulness practice, then you may find yourself able to add the worst people in your life and the most difficult challenges that you face to your own gratitude log!

Find out about Toby’s Stress Transformation Coaching

Related Article: A Butterfly in the Wind

© 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

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Three Levels of Inner Resilience

Dear Integral Meditators,

What are the primary qualities that you rely upon for your own inner resilience? The article I have written below outlines three important areas for developing our inner resilience in an integrated way, using mindfulness.

In the spirit of resilience,


Three Levels of Inner Resilience

Imagine your consciousness is like an ocean.
Imagine the challenges that come at you in life are like the waves, wind and rain on that ocean.
Imagine your mind is like a well built boat. To have a resilient mind is to have structures and habits of thought and emotion in your mind that are able to withstand the outer challenges of your life such as setbacks, and the inner challenges of your life such as periodic low self-belief or perhaps depression. It is the structure of the boat that provides the resilience.
Imagine your body and body awareness is like the sailor on the boat. In order to stay balanced s/he has to keep his centre of gravity low, his body responsive and flexible so that she can ride the waves without getting tipped overboard. This is like the resilience of flow; the ability to keep the energy in your body flexible and flowing in response to the ‘hits’ that you take each day. You are able to recover from setbacks quickly because difficult energy flows through you, it is not held as tension or rigidity within the body; nothing gets stuck.
Imagine that you can also dive beneath the waves to a depth where the turbulence of the surface no longer disturbs you. By diving and immersing yourself deeply in the ocean you are able to find relief and regeneration from the relentless weather, to find a space of peace and deep calm. This type of resilience through immersion is developing the capacity to dive beyond the world of thoughts and feelings to a deeper level of your awareness where a sense of relaxation and regeneration can always be found no matter how tough your life gets.

The resilience of flow then is about mindfully learning to let tension and stress flow through your body so that it does not build up or stay and you recover from it quickly.
The resilience of structure is the structures you build in your mind to deal with setbacks and emotional challenges in a robust, strong and flexible manner.
The resilience of immersion is the skill of learning to dive deeply into your consciousness periodically to a place beyond thought where you can find renewal and regeneration.

If you put these three together you have a truly resilient mindfulness!

If you would like to take the practices indicated in this article into your daily life, simply dwell for a few minutes each day on the image of yourself as a sailor in the sea of life, in your sturdy, well structured boat, keeping your body flexible and flowing, and periodically diving deep into the ocean beneath you to a place of deep calm.

© 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 

© 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