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Peace or victory?

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article focuses on mindfulness around conversations and arguments. we all know the expression “Do you want to be right or to be happy”, I explore a few of the nuances of this.

This weeks Tuesday & Wednesday meditations are an exploration of this theme in combination with that of ‘engaged equanimity’, you are welcome to join us, either live or online.

And final call for this Saturday morning’s Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat, if you haven’t tries it already, you might enjoy it!

In the spirit of the victory of peace,



Peace or victory?

The need to be right
It’s a familiar saying “Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?” Certainly, in inter-relational mindfulness this is an important question. If we can’t be happy until the other person (or everyone!) acknowledges that we are right, then our happiness is going to be disrupted for large sections of our life. The skill here then would seem to be letting go of the need to be right, and choosing to value our peace of mind over ‘rightness’.

The need to be seen to be right
Its an interesting distinction between being right, and being seen to be right. Without the other saying explicitly we are right, often it seems not to be enough just to trust our own judgment assert our position and then leave it at that. Often the need for the approval or affirmation of others means that we can’t rest in peace unless we get it. So, when looking for the peace of being happy rather than right, accepting that we may not get the approval of the person/s we are arguing with would seem to be an important area to be mindful of.

The need for self-trust and sound judgment
If we are going to be focusing on “being happy rather than right” it’s also important to build trust and confidence in yourself, your perception and ability to process the facts of the matter as far as they are available. We need to articulate and hold to our values as well as we can. Being happy doesn’t need to come at the cost of not being able to stick up for our position, and act accordingly. We need to be as objectively ‘right’ as we can in our own judgments, without being addicted to the need for other people to always affirm that position to us.

To be happy to be not understood and seen
If we are not affirmed as right, or even dismissed as wrong in a conversation and we want to be able to retain a degree of inner peace, then we need to be ok sometimes with not being seen or understood by the other or others. This is not easy! But there is a lot to be gained from paying attention when you are in positions like this, and using them as a test off your independent-mindedness, and ability to be even-minded in the face of the disapproval, scorn, disagreement or indifference of others.

The victory of peace
The victory we are aiming at here is the peace that comes from not needing to be right, or have the approval of others. I would add to this that in combination with this we need to be able to trust and feel confident in our own judgment, otherwise we risk capitulating to others in an inappropriate way, and “letting go” of difficult conversations/arguments that need to be pursued over time simply because they make us uncomfortable.

Summary points for mindful reflection:

  • Do I want to be right or at peace?
  • Can I accept I may not get the approval of affirmation of others sometimes?
  • Do I trust my own judgement and clarity of thinking in this situation?
  • Can I be ok with not being understood or ‘seen’ sometimes?
  • How committed am I to the victory of peace rather than rightness?

Related articleEngaged equanimity

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

Saturday May 29th, 9.30-11.30am – Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat

In a sentence: Experience unique Qi gong and Taoist breathing techniques to improve your immune system, energy level, psychological wellness and enhance your meditation…read full details

Life-fullness – The Integral Life-Coaching Program with Toby

Are you looking a coach who can help you to:

  • Meet the challenges, stress and changes that you face in a more effective and mindful way
  • Become happier within yourself, in your relationships and at work
  • Be actively accountable for finding a sense of balance/well-being in your life and fulfilling your personal potential?
  • Guide you to find and operate from a deeper sense of meaning, motivation and connectivity in your life?
Read full details

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby  (East Coast)

Ongoing – The Way of the Mindful Warrior – Meditating with the Warriors creed

Tues 17th/Weds 18th May: Wesak meditation

Saturday May 29th, 9.30-11.30am – Monthly Qi Gong & Taoist Breathwork Clinic & Mini-retreat

Saturday 11th June, 9.30am-12noon – Zen meditation deep dive mini-retreat


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The Inner Sky of the Mind – Distraction, anxiety, mood and the principle of awareness 

Imagine you were to spend a week everyday looking at the sky, just watching and witnessing it. Some days it would be bright and full of light, other days there might be light clouds, sometimes monotonously grey, or aggressively rainy with thunder and lightning. Every time that you looked, the idea would be simply to witness and observe the sky closely, like an artist or a scientist.
In mindfulness and meditation the principle of being aware of our mind and its contents is like this sky watching exercise; we learn to watch the inner sky of our mind using awareness to witness its contents rather than be involved with it.

The act of being aware under pressure
Normally we are not used to witnessing the contents of our consciousness in this way. Particularly under pressure we feel as if we are completely caught up in the contents of our mind; tossed around by our distractions, feeling as if we are our moods, and overtaken by our anxiety. To be mindfully aware means to practice the discipline of awareness even when under pressure, and using the principle of awareness to unify and relax our mind, even when it contains multiple impulses to feel fragmented or un-peaceful. For example:


  • My mind feels distracted and disoriented, but I can reach a feeling of centeredness despite this by being aware
  • I am anxious about the choices I have to make, but I can relax into that anxiety using the act of witnessing and being aware
  • My mood feels disturbing, but I can learn to benevolently tolerate it because I can witness it, just like watching a cloudy sky

Action or non-action subsequent to awareness
What practising the principle of awareness enables us to do is to connect to a state of peace, centeredness and presence within ourself even when we are feeling moody, disturbed or anxious, and to keep making conscious choices about how we are going to respond.

Last week whilst seeing a series of arguments occurring between colleagues, I was feeling disturbed, like I needed to ‘do’ something in order to help them resolve their dispute. Checking with myself however I could see that most of the impulse that I had to act was mainly due to my own discomfort (“I need to fix this for them so that I can feel more comfortable”), and that the best thing that I could do (in my opinion) was to simply be present and let the drama play out for now. Practising the principle of witnessing awareness enabled me to feel comfortable not acting, even though part of me felt emotionally uncomfortable and impulsive.
Practicing the principle of awareness gives us the freedom to act or not to act as our circumstances demand of us, rather than be pushed around by the tension and impulsiveness that we may feel.

This week you might like to practice watching your mind as if you were watching the sky, just for a few minutes each day. By doing so you will be building the principle of witnessing awareness in your mind in such a way that you can start to use it practically when you are really feeling under pressure.

© 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

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Why Meditate on & with Animals?

I was asked the other day why I continue to guide workshops and classes on meditating with animals, given that to some of my client group it may seem a bit ‘strange’. Here are a few reasons to consider why meditating with animals is of great value, with a short practice at the end to try it out…

We’ve been doing it a long time
Prior to the transcendent spiritual traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism in the ‘east’ and Chrisitianity/Islam in the ‘west’, human beings practiced an earth based spirituality where communion, learning and interaction with animals in the inner world as well as the outer one was a main part of our path to awakening and enlightenment. Our ability to do this type of meditation is long forgotten, but it is in our ‘dna’ so to speak, so most people find they can do it and have significant experiences without too much difficulty.

It re-connects us to parts of ourselves we have lost touch with
Meditating with animals connects us with our animal and instinctive nature in a benevolent way. It encourages us to use our imagination and capacity for inner visioning, and it encourages us to learn in a right brain creative, intuitive and visual way, very different from the way most of us use our minds and brains during the day.

It connects us to environmental awareness
Living in urbanized environment as many of us do it is very easy for us to lose touch with environmental awareness and a love for nature. Meditating with animals helps us recover our relationship to the natural world in an experiential way without literally having to travel outwardly to do so.

It can lead us into deep meditative states
When I lead meditation workshops and classes on meditating with animals, one thing that is always remarkable is the deep states of meditation that people go into during the sessions. People often remark that their sense of time seems to take on a completely different quality. Meditating with animals, landscape and nature can take us into these deep states very quickly and powerfully.

It fun!
Imagining playing and adventuring with animals is the sort of thing children do all the time. Meditating as an adult with animals can have an appropriately rejuvenating effect on our playful and spontaneous side! Meditating with animals helps us to get out of our mind and into a renewed contact with being alive.

How to meditate with animals
A very short but in some ways quite complete methodology for the basics of meditating with animals:
1. Sit down, calm your mind for a short time and set your intention to connect in the spirit of love to animals in the inner world with whom you have a meaningful connection
2. With this intention, imagine yourself in a landscape within nature that you know and love, build it strongly in your inner vision.
3. After a while an animal will come to meet you in this environment. Connect to this animal in whatever way feels appropriate; s/he may want to take you on a journey in the landscape, engage in a communication of some sort, or simply hang out and enjoy the peace and calm with you.
4. When you are ready return back to your body and your outer awareness, seeing the inner environment where you have been fading away.

Related article: Wolf Therapy

© 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

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia in August

Saturday 15th August, 9.30am-12.30pm – Going From Over-whelmed to Over-well: Meditation for Quietening the Mind – a three hour workshop

Saturday 15th August, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindful Self Confidence – Developing your self-confidence, self-belief & self-trust through mindfulness & meditation

August 19th, 7.30-9pm – Integral Meditation Class – Working with our imagination, & the doorway between our inner and outer worlds

August 26th, 7.30-9pm – Integral Meditation Class – Working with subtlety, gracefulness and the inner feminine
Saturday 29th August, 9.30am-12.30pm – Meditation and Mindfulness for Self-Healing and Creating High Levels of Energy

Saturday 29th August, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindful Dreaming – Meditation Practices for Integrating Conscious Dreaming into Your Daily Life

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Meditation as a Way of Life

Dear Integral Meditators,

Is meditation something that you sit down and do each day as a formal practice, or is it more fundamental, a whole way of approaching life? The article below explores that latter option.

Yours in the spirit of meditation,


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia :

Special offer for 1:1 Coaching For January at Integral Meditation Asia  (Via skype or face to face)

Sunday 1st February – Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care

Tuesday 10th February, 7.30-9.30pm – An Evening of Mindful Resilience – Sustaining effectiveness, happiness and clarity under pressure through meditation and mindfulness

Saturday 14th February, 2.30-5.30pm – Mindfulness and Meditation For Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention 


Meditation as a Way of LifeThe commitment to contemplate life deeply
One way of defining meditation is simply a commitment to contemplating and investigating life deeply. This definition is useful as it takes us away from the idea of meditation as something that you do as a formal practice for 10minutes, 30 minutes, an hour a day, and indicates that it is really a fundamental stance toward life; to be a true meditator is to be committed to looking at your work, your relationships, your sex life (or lack of it), your philosophy and so on… deeply. It means to be dis-satisfied with superficial surface experiences and hungry for real experience, to make your life your own and not just a pastiche of what somebody else told you life should be.The temptation to stay on the surface
We are without a shadow of a doubt the most educated set of human generations that has ever lived. We have the potential to look deeply into our life and find patterns of meaning and consequence, but do we? Despite having the capacity to look deeply, many of us avoid it. We content ourselves with the superficial, with the easy. We pay attention to that which society guides our attention to, we define ourselves according to the prevailing trends and beliefs, we avoid the voice within us that calls us to look beyond the surface and the comfortable because it makes us uncomfortable, makes us feel vulnerable, and also makes us feel genuinely powerful (which is perhaps the most scary of all).

To be a meditator means to be committed to go beyond the surface patterns of our life each day, and contemplate the depths.

The courage to go deeper
Being a meditator is an act of courage, curiosity and care; commitment each day to connect and heal the hidden parts of ourselves that are damaged, the curiosity and interest to develop the powers of our body-mind-spirit to the next level, and to care about our lives and the lives of others enough to go beyond indifference, numbness and apathy, which each day tempt us to fall back into a state of passive unconsciousness.

It is a 24hour practice!
From this we can see that to be a meditator in the true and broader sense of the word is quite an heroic activity. It is demanding, it is inconvenient, it is sometimes tiring, it causes us to make difficult choices, it may mean we have to spend time alone.
What is the reward of this all? The reward of committing to contemplate life deeply? The reward of being a meditator? It is that we get to feel truly alive in way that cannot be taken away from us.

Related articleLife-fullness

© 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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Detached Mindfulness, Engaged Mindfulness; Your Inner Scientist and Inner Friend

Dear Integral Meditators,

Engagement and detachment are two different skills. we need to develop both in order to become truly effective mindfulness practitioners. This weeks article explores how, enjoy!

Yours in the spirit of engaged detachment,



Detached Mindfulness, Engaged Mindfulness; Your Inner Scientist and Inner Friend

Detached mindfulness is like developing an inner scientist; it gives you the capacity to look at what is going on within you and in your life with objectivity and calm.
Engaged mindfulness is like developing an inner friend and companion; it gives you the capacity to experience what you are going through with empathy, care and understanding of yourself.

Recently I have been having a lot of strong emotions based around certain life changes that I am having. How can I use mindfulness in an integrated way to deal with these emotions and even make use of them? Let’s take anxiety around the future as an example to work with in this article.

Detached mindfulness (developing my inner scientist) involves me stepping back from the anxiety and observing it in an objective, dis-engaged manner; ‘the anxiety is in my mind but it is not me’, ‘my anxiety is like the clouds, my mind is like the sky, I am the sky, not the clouds’. This type of mindfulness enables me to temporarily reduce my anxiety and calm my body-mind, and the space that it creates in my mind may also enable me to come up with creative solutions and approaches to the challenges that are causing the anxiety.
However, what detached mindfulness does not do is process the actual emotion and anxiety itself, and if I use detached mindfulness only in my approach to my anxiety this may prolong and even make my anxiety worse by causing me to avoid and dis-associate from it in an unhealthy way. To work with my anxiety directly I need to practice engaged mindfulness.

Engaged mindfulness (developing my inner friend) involves me consciously recognizing, owning and experiencing my anxiety; feeling it fully, accepting the reality of it and allowing my body-mind to discharge the emotional force of my anxiety by experiencing it. ‘I now recognize I am anxious around the future’, ‘I can feel my body trembling with anxiety, and I allow this to happen’, ‘I accept I am anxious and take responsibility for it’, ‘I am anxious, but this is not a problem’.
If I practice only engaged mindfulness with my anxiety, I may find myself getting a little over-involved in the emotion, so combining it with detached mindfulness provides me with a ‘safety net’, a place of detachment and observation I can go to when I wish to take a break.

An integrated mindfulness approach involves me using both detached and engaged mindfulness together in order to deal with my anxiety optimally and effectively; I can accept, honour and engage my emotion whilst also having a place of inner calm and detachment I can go to anytime I wish to find temporary relief and perspective from the challenge.

Over the next few days, if you like, keep in mind the image of the inner scientist and the inner friend and practice using both engaged and detached mindfulness alternately as an integrated approach to the challenges you face.

Related article: Engaged Equanimity
© 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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Trusting Your Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,

Our mind is our fundamental tool of survival in the world; the better it functions and the more we are able to trust it, the happier and more successful we will tend to be.
The article below outlines a few points around how you can start to build genuine self confidence by learning to trust your mind, and gives a mindfulness exercise that you can use to begin a practical exploration of this area.
Yours in the spirit of mindful self-confidence,

Trusting Your Mind

Mindfulness and meditation can give us temporary calm and relief from the continuous activity of our thinking mind, but if we are tempted to use it as a way of escaping from our mind then we should be wary.
Ideally mindfulness should be a way of gaining confidence and trust in our mind and ourself so that gradually our relationship to our thinking mind becomes more and more harmonious and mutually supportive; our thoughts support a healthy experience of self, and our sense of self encourages a reliable approach to thinking about our life experience.
Nathaniel Branden has in interesting definition of self-confidence, he says “Self confidence is confidence in the reliability of our mind as a tool of cognition…it is the conviction that we are genuinely committed to perceiving and honouring reality to the fullest extent of our volitional power.”
So, the long and the short of this is that in order to be genuinely and deeply self-confident, you need to learn to trust your mind, and use it as well as you are able within the limits of your ability.

Pseudo-self confidence
Quite a few people exert a lot of effort building pseudo self-confidence in order to disguise their fundamental lack of trust in their own mind and judgment. We might become very physically fit, or very wealthy, or have read all the right books about being a parent, have gained many educational certificates and degrees, or even become an expert meditator (and other examples ad infinitum) all as a way of building a buffer between ourself and our actual moment to moment experience of reality and life. Fundamentally we don’t trust our mind to be able to deal with it effectively; deep down we lack self-confidence, so we build buffers and things to hide behind.

Three mindful questions for building self-confidence and trust in your mind.
Take a situation in your life, perhaps something that you have experienced today. Ask yourself three questions in turn:
“What am I seeing and experiencing here”
“What is my mind telling me about what I am seeing and experiencing?”
“Am I honoring my own experience and mind here or am I turning away from it?”The answer to the third question will tell you whether you are using this activity and experience to build your self-confidence and trust in your own mind, or whether you are subverting it. As the old saying goes “Many drops of water slowly dripping into a pot will eventually make it full”; in our day by day journey to self-confidence, or to a lack of it, this saying rubs both ways.Generally the challenge here is not that we don’t know enough, but that we know more than we would like, and would rather avoid the responsibility of that knowledge.

© 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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Fly on the Wall Mindfulness

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would it be like to observe yourself s a stranger, and follow yourself around for a while? Would you like what you see? And what might you learn about yourself? The article below explores this theme…

Yours in the spirit of observation,



Fly on the Wall Mindfulness

This is a technique that I mention in my previous article on Mindful Relationships. I’ve been working with it quite a bit this week myself, so I just thought I’d write a little more.

The idea with fly on the wall mindfulness is that you sit down and imagine yourself as a fly on the wall during recent events in your life. You watch yourself as an observer and see what this reveals to you about yourself.

For example if I do this with myself today I can follow myself through various activities based around my daughter’s birthday; see myself going out in the morning to try and find birthday candles (see my annoyance and frustration; does nowhere have birthday candles!!). Later I observe myself reacting/responding to the special dietary requirements of the guests, three visits to the garage or corner shop, but I’m feeling easy and going with the flow. At various other points during the day I see myself and realize that I was having feelings (both positive and negative) that I was not fully aware of, and that being a ‘fly on the wall’ reveals to me very fast.

Some of the benefits of regularly doing the fly on the wall meditation include:

  • Access to an increased objectivity in your view of yourself without repressing or intellectualizing the emotions that are present within
  • Increased awareness of your behaviors and emotions, many of which are invisible to you because they are so habitual and unconscious
  • Greater ability to mentally step back from charged or reactive situations with relative ease
  •  A natural and substantial increase in your healthy inquisitiveness, curiosity and observational skill

After you become used to it, it becomes a perspective that you can take as you are actually going around in your daily life that informs your experience of what is going on; at any time you can take your mind to a place up on the wall of ceiling and observe yourself and what is going on from there.

Finally, don’t let the idea of being a fly put you off, if it does, just use the image of a surveillance camera, private eye or something like that!

© 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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The Sea Snakes of the Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,
When I was young I used to enjoy snorkeling on reefs in the Philippines, where quite often I would come into contact with sea snakes, whom I really loved. The article and meditation below explains a meditation experience that that I had with them more recently. It also co-stars a seal!

Yours in the spirit of calm presence,


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

(Full details of both courses shortly)

Sunday August 17th, 9.30am-12.30pm –Mindful Parenting – Practical Techniques for Bringing Awareness, Appreciation and Enjoyment to the Experience of Parenting

Sunday August 31st, 9.30am-12.30pm – Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia

The Sea Snakes of the Mind

The story of the inner sea snakes of the mind
Back around 2008 I did a marathon meditation class series on meditating with animals. We covered about thirty or so animals over as many weeks. One of these animal guides was the seal. The seal meditation went something like this:
Imagine you are on a sunny beach somewhere in wild nature. Set your intention to meet the seal as an animal guide within ‘the reality of your creative imagination’.
Imagine from the sea comes a seal. After greeting you and playing on the beach for a while the seal invites you to follow him/her into the water. As you swim out you find yourself in shallow sea with waving seaweed and perhaps some corral. You spend time playing gently with the seal and enjoying the play of the light in the water and the small fish around you.
You come to the edge of the shallow water a way out from the shore. Here the ground drops away abruptly like a cliff and you find yourself facing the deep blue-green ocean, at the edge of your cliff.
The seal now swims off into the deep water and disappears. From just below the cliff face suddenly a group of stripped sea snakes emerges and begins to swim around you. You know they are extremely venomous, but despite your fear you understand clearly that the best thing to do is relax, breathe and stay absolutely still. If you do so then the snakes will not harm you. If you panic and thrash around however there is very real danger.
After having relaxed, stayed still and allowed the snakes to coil around you for a while, they depart, leaving you alone; still shocked but exhilarated. The seal now comes back from the deep water and invites you to come with him there. You swim out and down over the cliff face into the deep blue-green stillness with the seal into what feels like an infinity of peace and tranquility.
At your leisure you return back to the beach, give thanks to the seal and end the meditation.

The psychological metaphor of the sea snakes
So, the psychological metaphor is that the snakes are like your negative and destructive minds that threaten your happiness and wellbeing. The teaching is that if, when they arise in your mind (like the snakes in the sea) you have the presence of mind to keep calm and still, then the negative minds will hang around, but then leave you after a while without doing any harm. If however when they come up you thrash around, panic, fight with them and so on, then they will bite and poison you.
You leave them alone, they leave you alone. Negative or difficult minds come up? That need not be a problem; just don’t give them any reason to bite.

So the sea snakes are the bad guys right?
If we are saying that the sea snakes are our negative minds then I guess we could say they are the bad guys.
However, on a deeper level I think we could call them guardians. If the shallow water represents our everyday mind and thinking self, and the deep water represents deeper, more powerful and profound levels of consciousness, then the sea snakes arise at the gateway between these two levels. They come to test us; if we are not able to deal with them then we should not proceed to the deeper levels that lie beyond, as they would likely have an unbalancing and possibly destructive effect upon us.
If however we are able to pass the test that the sea snakes pose, then this indicates that we are ready and mature enough to proceed.

So then in this context the snakes are guides and guardians, complementary to the seal in his/her ‘spiritual’ role.
Many times in meditation (or in life?) when you are at the threshold of some breakthrough, apparently negative, destructive or otherwise disruptive forces arise in the mind, the ‘storm before the calm’ so to speak. If we can negotiate the storm then we are ready for the deeper calm and power that follows.

Meditating on the seal as spirit guide and the sea snakes of the mind
To meditate on the inner sea snakes of the mind, and on the seal as inner guide simply follow the story outlined at the beginning of this article in contemplation. Spend as much time as appropriate at each stage.
And when the snakes come, just remember to stay still!

© 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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Dealing Mindfully with Guilt and Shame

Dear Integral Meditators,
Part of a mature meditation and mindfulness practice inevitably involves getting cozy and comfortable with feelings and emotions that most people run from as soon as they see or sense them. The article below explores two such emotions, and why we should be interested in getting to know them better.

Yours in the spirit of clarity,




Dealing Mindfully with Guilt and Shame

Guilt and shame are two of the feelings and emotions that generally we least like to deal with. Instinctively our reaction to them is to push them out of our conscious into our unconscious mind, where we hope they will somehow disappear if we ignore them long enough.
The price of ignoring repressing and avoiding guilt and shame is that we then continue to be victimized by them, for many people therefore guilt and shame continue to bother them and obstruct their happiness thru-out their life.
The benefits of opening to our experience of guilt and shame is that we are able to process them effectively which then in turn removes a major obstacle to our fundamental experience of happiness in life. More than we remove a major obstacle to making progress in our relationships and professional development as well. Thus in terms of both personal happiness and gaining an edge in our relational and professional development we should be interested in our experience of guilt and shame.

So what are guilt and shame? I’m going to use a definition from Robert Bly, which I picked up in his book “Iron John”: “A traditional way of differentiating guilt from shame is this: Shame, it is said, is the sense that you are an utterly inadequate person on this planet, and probably nothing can be done about it. Guilt is the sense that you have done one thing wrong, and you can atone for it.”

From this we can start to see that dealing with shame involves connecting to that part of us that feels fundamentally inadequate to life, fundamentally value-less, fundamentally unworthy. It means to, with care, courage and curiosity to invite that part of us that feels shameful to come forward and talk to us, to receive support and to be healed. We can also see that dealing with shame is about connecting to a fundamental belief that we have about ourselves on some level, working each day to replace that belief with a view of self that affirms our self-confidence, self-competence and value as an individual, and acting in ways that demonstrate this.

Dealing with guilt involves looking at specific instances where we feel or believe we have done something wrong and connecting to the emotions that surround that experience. It involves checking the validity of the belief that we have done something wrong with an appropriate rational analysis (perhaps it is a preconception?), and if there is indeed something that we have done that needs correcting or atoning for, then investigating what can actually be done in terms of correcting action?

Some questions for getting to know your shame and guilt:

  • What are the times in my day and life when I really experience myself as inadequate, valueless, unworthy of being present in the situation or even unworthy of being a happy human? What beliefs perpetuate these feelings of inadequacy?
  • What in my past do I feel most guilty about? If I were to look at that past act objectively and rationally, would I consider the emotional guilt I feel as being valid?
  • If I do feel I have done something wrong, then what needs to be done to atone for it?
  • What can I do each day to demonstrate to myself that I am adequate and of value in life, and to build the foundations of genuine self confidence?

Asking yourself these questions and observing the responses that they stimulate in your mind, perhaps even writing them down is a good way to start bringing awareness to your own personal feelings of guilt and shame, and awareness of them is the beginning of your path to dealing with them in a truly mindful and effective manner.

© 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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Body-Mountain, Cloud-Thought, Sky-Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,

The context in which you experience your thoughts and feelings determines how much significance and power they have over you. The article below explains a simple way of re-contextualizing your thoughts in a way that makes it easier to enjoy their ups and downs, their comings and goings with a greater sense of stability and clarity.

Final reminder of the Language of the shadow workshop this coming Sunday, click on the link below for full details…

Yours in the spirit of mountains and sky,


Body-Mountain, Cloud-Thought, Sky-Mind

Here’s an image to use in meditation; Experience your body as being like a mountain, your thoughts and associated feelings as being like clouds and your mind or consciousness itself as being like the sky.

Often the thoughts and associated feelings that we have in our mind are the dominant factor in our experience of personal stability or instabilty during our day. They take us away from the stability of our physical body and make us forgetful of the clear and spacious nature of our consciousness itself.

How does a mountain experience clouds? It is completely unbothered by them; whether the sky is clear around it or it is surrounded by thunderclouds, wind and rain, a mountain remains stable, solid and calm. By relating to the solidity of your body as being like a mountain you can re-contextualize the way you experience your thoughts and feelings. Being less easily swayed and manipulated by them, you bring solidity to your experience of the present moment.

How does the sky experience clouds and weather? It allows them to come and go with ease.  At all times the sky remains open and spacious, even when it contains clouds, wind and rain. Indeed, if it was not spacious the clouds could not even be there. If we become used to relating to our mind, or to our consciousness itself as being like the sky; even in the midst of mental chaos and emotional stress we will be able to retain a connection to an experience of spaciousness, openness and clarity, just like the sky itself.

Clouds come in many shapes and forms. If we are the mountain and the sky we can enjoy all forms of clouds, all forms of weather with a sense of solidity, calmness and clarity underlying the experience.

© 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