creative imagery Inner vision Meditation techniques Mindfulness

Being the Stone in the River – Ducking Under the Flow of Thoughts

Waterfall - Punch Bowl Falls, Oregon Columbia River GorgeImagine that you are a stone at the bottom of a river. The flow of the water moves over your top surface without disturbing you at all; you are stable, content and still at the bottom of the river.
Build this image in your mind, and then imagine yourself to actually be the stone at the bottom. The water flowing over you is the flow of thoughts, activity and emotion from your mind. It simply flows over you whilst you sit stable, quiet and still.
I periodically use this image as a way of connecting to stillness, both in meditation and when out and about; I find that it is helpful as a way of connecting to the stillness that is already in the mind, and ‘ducking under’ the superficial motion of my everyday inner conversation.

If you are meditating on this image, spend a short while building the image; seeing the stone, hearing the water and so on. Then simply relax into the feeling of being the stone. After a while go back to visualizing the stone at the bottom of the river; try and see the image 5-10% more clearly. Then go back to the feeling of being the stone. You can alternate gently in this way, gradually moving deeper into the still, stable meditation state that the image helps us to build.

PS: Meditation events in Singapore are now finnished for the year, but I will be doing a Mindful Astrology Workshop with my friend Sally whilst in the UK on the 29th December. If there is anyone in the Watford area who might be interested, then just click on the link for more details!

© Toby Ouvry 2015, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Integral Meditation Asia

Awareness and insight creative imagery Integral Awareness Integral Meditation Meditation techniques Mindfulness spiritual intelligence Uncategorized

Six Types of Inner Stillness

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the topic of stillness and how we can cultivate it, both in general and specifically in meditation. Even when we are busy, there is  a certain stillness present in each moment of our life that we can tap into if we know how!

For those interested in the Meditations for Connecting to the Greenworldworkshop, a quick reminder that the early bird price is still available up until this Thursday 6th February.

Finally, I’ve placed a sample feedback from a 1:1 coaching client beneath the article below, just to give those who may be interested an idea of the sort of experiences and results that come from the sort of coaching work that I do with people.

Yours in the spirit of stillness,


Classes For February at Integral Meditation Asia:

Thursday 13th February, 7.30-8.30pm: Advanced and Intermediate Integral Meditation Class and Coaching

Sunday 23rd February, 2.30-6pm: Meditations for Connecting to the Green World – An Introduction to the Path of Nature Mysticism

Tuesday 25th February, 7.30-8.30pm: Monthly Meditation Skills Class and Coaching Session

Six Types of Inner Stillness

We talk about meditation as a way of stilling the mind, but how many different types of stillness are there? Like the proverbial cake you can cut stillness up in different ways, but here are six that I find experientially useful.
The first three can be experienced and cultivated by anyone, the second three take a little bit of work in meditation to get a handle on, but they are worth being aware of even if you aren’t quite there yet, so that when you do get there you can recognize them!

  1. Stillness after activity – This is the stillness that we notice when we cease doing a busy activity, or when we pause in between tasks during the day. Normally we experience these stillness’s as incidental and perhaps don’t pay them much attention, just going onto the next activity. However by acknowledging these spaces and relaxing into them when they occur, we can actually increase our daily experience of stillness quite dramatically without any extra effort.
  2. The stillness we find in landscape – When we sit outside with the sky above us and a landscape around us, even if there is activity in that landscape there is a space of stillness that comes from simply becoming aware of an extended horizon around us, the solidity of the earth beneath us, the life of the world around us and the space of the sky above us. Just sitting in the still point within these four aspects of our surroundings.
  3. The stillness between thoughts – You could also call this the stillness that arises from the absence of thoughts. We connect to this mental stillness by simply noticing the spaces in between our thoughts, relaxing into them and extending them. When we become good at this we create a space in our mind where there is an relaxed, open stillness undisturbed by thoughts.
  4. Luminous stillness – This is a stillness that comes from resting in the experience of stillness for a while in meditation. If for example you were to rest in the stillness between thoughts for a time there starts to be a feeling within the body initially, then the mind, of bliss and light. The quality of the stillness becomes an stillness pervaded by a tangible energy of bliss in the body and mind. It is a kind of living stillness. Needless to say this is very relaxing and regenerative.
  5. Primal stillness – This is an experience of stillness that lies beyond luminous stillness. When the physical and mental bliss subsides you are left with a primal experience of stillness where you feel you are in an ‘empty’ place, outside of time and space. (See stage three of the five levels of meditation practice).
  6. Non-dual stillness – This type of stillness simply means that you have gotten to a stage where you can recognize and be partly resting in any one of the six types of stillness above whilst also engaged in some form of activity. So activity and stillness begin to come together to form a single, non-dual experience as you go about your life.

So, why cultivate stillness? I’d like to end this article with a quote from Herman Hesse that I think answers that question: “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself”.
© 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

Sample feedback from Meditation and Shadow coaching client in 2014:

“The lovely, simple techniques you shared have enabled me to be honest with, and about, myself in such a way that is really liberating. I’ve been surprised at how quickly I’ve experienced the benefits….  I love the honesty and practicality of this process and the fact that it’s leading me towards a better understanding and acceptance of myself and ultimately (I hope) to tapping into my full creative potential – in whatever form that may take.”

Q: Would you recommend coaching with Toby to other people, and for what reason?
“Yes, definitely. You created a safe, supportive environment, were willing to share your own personal experiences, were able to listen and tune into what I was struggling to articulate. I felt like you allowed the sessions to take the form they needed to take rather than sticking to a pre-set formula, which was really helpful because it gave me the opportunity to share and ask questions without feeling that I was scuppering an agenda. The fact that you record the sessions is very helpful.”

Click HERE to find out more about Toby’s 1:1 Coaching Services

Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

Our Anxiety in the Face of Inner Space and Stillness

Transcribed from a five minute talk that I gave at the end of a Qi gong meditation class last week (23.11.11), enjoy!

I just want to say one or two things before we end. I mentioned whilst guiding the meditation that one thing that you may become aware of over time is that our mind resists inner space and stillness. If you ask people “Do you want inner peace?” they’ll generally say “Yes, yes, I want inner peace!” but deeper down actually they don’t. To be able to open to inner space and allow it to change you over time takes a lot of courage. This is a major reason why although meditation is free and it has been practiced for millennia as a way of developing mental peace, relatively few people will do it. This is because from the perspective of the ego, the ego has what you might call an existential fear of inner space. Part of the reason why we like to keep ourselves busy all the time, and when we are not doing anything physically our mind likes to think all the time is because we feel as if we have to keep affirming our existence, otherwise we feel like we are going to disappear! It is like a moment to moment fear of death, of dying. Essentially in this context dying means to have no future, becoming nothing. We feel like “If I am not doing something physical then I need to imagine myself doing something physical, because I still want to exist, and if I stop thinking or doing, then I will stop existing”.

This is a little bit of meditational psychology; it is the way in which our mind thinks, but unless we have examined it closely, for most of us this will be a subconscious pattern. And we need to understand that it is natural to have this type of anxiety (the anxiety of becoming non-existent), and simply having this anxiety is not a problem, it is existential anxiety, the natural tension that arises from being alive and wanting to stay that way. So, this in itself is not a problem, what is a problem is if you are not dealing with that anxiety well, if you are repressing it. A lot of psychological pathologies arise from the repression of this natural anxiety which then becomes pathological anxiety, compulsive doing, and compulsive thinking, compulsive everything!

So the natural anxiety of being alive will always be there, even if you continue to meditate. With a bit of practice in meditation you will start to find you can find a sense of inner space and stillness within yourself, but then it becomes an act of courage to keep opening to that space (which to the ego appears to be a type of death, a type of non-existence) and allowing it to inform your experience of life.

So I just thought I would throw that little thought in at the end of our meditation because it is common to find people having a great initial experience of inner space and stillness in their meditation, but then over time drifting away from their practice and this is one of the main reasons. It is not just because we are logistically busy all the time, although life these days is demanding upon our time and energy (although show me a time in history when life has not been such!), it is because our existential anxiety causes our ego to instinctively veer away from inner space and stillness and find excuses not to meditate. Our ego is actually happy to put up with a lot of stress and a lot of pain/problems, fear and anxiety because all of those things are affirming its existence, you know what I mean? Ego is not a bad thing, but the ego has a lot of fears that aren’t really founded upon anything wise and concrete, so it takes a bit of time for it to learn to trust that empty space, that stillness. So we need to keep if you like holding our ego’s hand and saying “Come on, come on, it is not going to be so bad, just relax and let go” like this!

So this is just and aspect of meditation practice that everyone needs to be aware of if you want to sustain your practice, because your mind and ego will try and find a lot of ways to duck out in order to avoid the anxiety of confronting empty space and stillness.

© 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