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That Essential Feeling of Being Alive

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article is a simple reflection on mindfulness as the simple act of opening to life as you find it. Happy reading!

In the spirit of the journey,


That Essential Feeling of Being Alive

We’re all looking deep down for that essential feeling of being alive. A lot of our actions; seeking a particular type of work, seeking romance, traveling, studying, watching or reading stories, achieving this or that. All of these things are ways in which we seek to connect to that essential feeling, and yet often it can remain elusive; we feel a disconnect; we mistake it for the excitement of a new activity and then get bored; we need to have achieved all the things we think we need to before we give ourself permission.
The open secret here is that we are all alive now, and all we really need to do to connect to feeling truly alive is to open to it in the moment that we find ourself in at any given time, to simply be what and who we are now.
Our conceptual mind gets confused about this, it thinks that there need to be criteria met, goals achieved, boy/girl met, rank achieved. After we have gotten these, then we can give ourself permission to feel alive (!) But the thing about needing criteria to be ‘met’ before you allow yourself to open to life is that once one set of criteria is met, we tend to create another set of criteria in its place that we have to meet; another reason to withhold that essential feeling of being alive from ourself for another moment, day, week, month, year…
An essential dimension of the way of mindfulness is to open to the feeling of being alive first, and then decide what you are going to do to express and enjoy that feeling further. The approach for many people is to give yourself a list of things to do/get/achieve and then, at some point in the future you may be able to open to being fully alive.
Right now I’m getting over a few days of fever. On one level I’ve felt like these days have been somewhat crummy/not fun/unfortunate/painful (insert adjective here…) for me, but despite this I’m always kind of fine with what happened because at the core of my basic experience is this essential, fundamentally pleasurable feeling of being connected to life, to being here and to participating. This is the sort of way that mindfully connecting to being alive starts to affect your experiences on a day to day level.
Don’t wait for that essential feeling of life to come to you, it’s right here, now, waiting for you to open to it!

© Toby Ouvry 2016, 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:

February 2016

Ongoing on Wednesday’s (Jan 13th, 20th) 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Saturday  February 27th, 2.30-5.30pm – Growing Your Mindful Freedom – The Essential Meditation of the Buddha: A Three Hour Meditation Workshop

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Wave Breathing

Dear Integral Meditators ,

The article below explains a simple breathing meditation form that I love as a way of really relaxing your body, mind & heart and entering into a deep contemplative space. You can do it anywhere, I hope you enjoy it! Wishing you, your families and loved ones all the very best for 2016!

Toby & Integral Meditation Asia

Wave Breathing

Wave breathing is a form of mindful  breathing (that I originally learned from Qi gong) were the pace and power of the inhalation and exhalation vary like waves.

If you do this as a form of breathing meditation, it can be pleasant and helpful to imagine yourself to be sitting on your favorite beach, with the waves rolling in and flowing out as you breathe.

As you breathe in, imagine your inhalation is like a wave rising up from the ocean gathering in height and power. As you reach the top of the inbreath, the pace of the breath will naturally slow to an almost still point as your lungs reach a comfortable point of fullness.
Now as you exhale imagine, that your out breath is like a wave breaking on the shore. Initially there is a sustained flow of breath, like the flow of a wave up the shoreline. However, as you move toward the end of the exhalation, the pace of the breath naturally starts to slow, like a wave running out of power as it rises up the beach.

After you have gently emptied the lungs with your out breath, begin your inhalation – allowing the pace of the breath to gather – like the water being drawn back into the ocean and rising again as another wave.

In this way you can establish a gentle and relaxing form of breathing that mimics the energetic ebb and flow of waves in the ocean.

Once you have become familiar with the basic flowing feel of wave breathing, you can feel yourself breathing power, energy and qi into your body as you breathe in. Then, as you breathe out, you can practice feeling this power and energy flowing through your body in a relaxed and even manner. By doing this you will be learning how to energize and empower your body and mind, whilst at the same time retaining as sense of relaxation, awareness and ease.

© 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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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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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

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Mindful of: Your Relationship to Giving and Receiving

Dear Integral Meditators,

The article below offers some simple methods for exploring and developing a healthy relationship to giving and receiving through mindfulness.

In the spirit of giving and receiving,



Mindful of: Your Relationship to Giving and Receiving

What is your relationship to the process of giving and receiving? Every day we exchange words, energy and activity with others and our environment  in both healthy and not so healthy ways. How can we use mindfulness to explore how this process is playing out in our life?

Basic awareness practice around giving and receiving
Here is a simple practices you can do to attune yourself to the basic experience of giving and receiving.

  • As you breathe in, feel yourself moving into a state of receptivity and receiving. As you breather out focus on a state of giving. In a literal sense we are taking in and giving out air from and to the atmosphere, but breathing like this also helps us to become aware of the psychological state of giving and receiving that we are alternating between during the day. Do a few rounds of 3-5 breaths like this, with short breaks in between just to explore the experience
  • As a second stage to this exercise, as you breathe in really try and feel yourself receiving energy from the world, and as you breathe out feel yourself giving back to  it. Set up a benevolent cycle of giving and receiving with each breath.

Becoming more mindful of your experience of giving and receiving, and its power
Think of a time when you have received the energy of kindness, care or confidence from someone else. What did it feel like to receive such energy? Was it a powerful experience? Correspondingly think of a time when you gave the energy of confidence, care and kindness to others. What did it feel like to give this? How did the other person/people respond to it? Did you find it easy or difficult?
Now think of a time when you were on the receiving end of difficult energy such as aggression, hatred of confusion from someone. What did it feel like to receive this energy, how did it affect you?
Correspondingly think of a time when you gave the energy of anger or aggression, or anxiety to another person. How did they respond? What did it feel like to give such energy? If you were more aware of what it is like to receive such energy, would you give it out so much?

Giving and receiving in real time with others
As you are going about your daily life, try and be aware of the dynamic of giving and receiving between yourself and the others that you meet.  Become aware of when to open and receive energy from others in a healthy way, and when to close to it. Similarly be aware of how and when you are giving; when it is healthy and appropriate and when it is not really serving either yourself or others. The idea is to try and use your natural intelligence and awareness to set up positive cycles of giving and receiving in your life, so that you are receiving healthy energy from others and also giving healthy and sustaining energy to them in a mutually reinforcing feedback loop.

A couple of fundamental mindful questions to ask yourself during the day:
What is it that I am giving or receiving from myself and/or others right now? Now that I am conscious of it, are there any adjustments I need to make?

© 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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Four Levels or Dimensions of Conscious Self Love

Dear Integral Meditators,

Our relationship to ourself is the basis of our relationship to the rest of the world, this weeks article looks at how we can consistently improve that relationship by working with four levels of self-love.

In the spirit of celebrating self,


Four Levels or Dimensions of Conscious Self Love

Self love and the challenges associated with it remains one of the most consistent themes that I hear coming up in my 1:1 coaching practice, so I thought it might be interesting to outline four basic levels of  mindful self love practice that you can start working with on a practical level. Generally each of us has each of these four levels within us, and we oscillate between them (and the ‘pre-level) during the day.

Pre-level 1Unconscious self hatred or dislike:All of us have parts of ourself that we dislike, hate or fear. Many people remain unaware of their self-dislike because either they have buried it within their mind to the point where they really are unconscious of it, or they know about it peripherally, but they choose not to look at it because it makes them feel uncomfortable . At this level our self-dislike influences a lot of our behavior, thoughts and feelings, but we are not really aware of it.

Level 1 – Conscious self hatred or dislike: At this first level then we commit to becoming mindfully aware of all the ways  in which we negatively judge, reject and dislike ourself. We commit to caring about ourself, to acknowledge the wounds in our relationship to ourself, and bring them into the light of our conscious awareness. This then starts to offer us a choice as to how we are going to act upon or respond to these wounds.

Level 2- Self acceptance: So from level one we then go to level two, where we consciously work upon accepting ourself in general, and in particular working with accepting the parts of ourself that we habitually reject, dislike or alienate. Self acceptance implies a tolerance of ourself, not yet a liking, but nevertheless an ability to look ourself in the mirror and accept what we see open heartedly without looking away.

Level 3 – Liking & embracing self: Self acceptance then builds the basis for level three, where we move toward enhancing the healthy self love and like that we have from ourself to ourself, and actively embracing and loving the parts of ourself that we previously rejected.

Level 4 – Celebrating self: Liking and embracing self provides the basis for level four, where our loving and liking of ourself invites us to start expressing that self in creative ways that celebrate, grow and enhance our experience of who we are and what we do in the world. On this level we are enjoying playfully engaging ourself in the world. This fourth level is not the same as negative egotism. Negative egotism sees itself as more important than anyone else in the world; to celebrate self means to embrace and enjoy expressing who we are, which does not mean we are degrading or diminishing others. Indeed it might be said that it is only when we are celebrating ourself that we can truly say we are nurturing and cherishing others, and encouraging them to celebrate themselves.

Closing points
So there you go, four levels to be aware of and practice, levels 1&2 provide the ‘bottom of the self love pyramid’ so to speak, which then enables us to enjoy the higher levels and peaks of levels 3&4 consistently and safely. If you can apply these four stages to yourself, you will also find that you can start mindfully applying them to your relationship to other people…

Four Mindful Self-Love Questions
Which parts of myself to I hate, fear or reject?
If I were to practice 10% more self acceptance today, what might change?
How difficult or easy do I find it to connect to myself with warmth and affection? Can I find that connection now?
What way can I celebrate and enjoy who I am today?

© 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

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Mindfulness – Facilitating Your Own Experiential Learning

Dear Integral Meditators,

This week I have led a couple of mindfulness workshops and discussions where I have defined mindfulness as an activity that facilitates and enhances your own experiential learning. In the artile below I explain a bit about how this works.

In the spirit of the journey,


Mindfulness – Facilitating Your Own Experiential Learning

Mindfulness means placing your awareness and attention on a particular aspect of your life in order to get to know it better. By paying greater attention to what you are actually experiencing in that area, you start to observe the process of cause and effect that is going on, and learn from it.

An example: engaged mindfulness with regard to resilience
So, let’s say I want to develop my experiential learning around the subject of resilience. Here is a short engaged mindfulness process I (and you) can work with to do so:

Step 1: Write a short paragraph in response to the following three questions in turn. Write reasonably quickly and without editing your response too much:

  1. Resilience to me means –
  2. I feel most resilient when –
  3. Times when I notice I lose my sense of resilience include –

Having written your response to each question then sit quietly and, based around your answers to questions 1&2, build a feeling of resilience in your mind, body and heart based around the definition that you have created and the past experiences of it that you have had. Breathe the energy of this resilience into your body, so that you can feel it as a tangible energy as you are sitting.
Before you conclude, you may then like to consider your answer to question 3; recalling a time where you tend to lose your sense of resilience. Recall this situation strongly enough that you can feel the stress of it threatening to break down the feeling of resilience that you have been building in the exercise up to this point. Practice consciously retaining your sense of resilience even when it is under pressure in this way.
Finally, before you finish the exercise think about the next 24 hours and select a particular situation you know you will be experiencing where you are going to deliberately practice the mindful resilience that you have been building in the exercise.

So there you go, a simple engaged mindfulness practice that you can use to facilitate and accelerate your experiential learning around the theme or resilience. Actually you can use the exercise above to mindfully develop any quality you like, simply replace the word ‘resilience’ with the word you want to explore and off you go!

© 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 Every Wednesday, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Saturday November 21st, 2.30-5.30pm – Connecting to Your mindful Inspiration (Full details out shortly)

Saturday November 21st, 2.30-5.30pm – Living Life From Your Inner Center – Meditations for Going With the Flow of the Present Moment

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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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Non-resistance – Tapping into A deeper level of relaxation

Superficially relaxation exercises relating to mindfulness might look quite simple, almost to the point of superficiality, but in reality the capacity to become and remain deeply relaxed consistently in life is a profound achievement.
Why so? Because to be able to remain truly and deeply relaxed in the face of all the nonsense that everyday life throws at you implies the achievement of three inner qualities that are not easy to attain:
Self-trust – The knowledge that your mind, judgment and convictions are not vulnerable or susceptible to emotional pressure
Self confidence – The belief that, whatever the challenge you have you are confident in the power of your mind to be able to respond appropriately and effectively
Self-esteem – The feeling and experience that you are deserving of happiness in life, and that you are confident of your own intelligence and its capacity to find solutions to your life’s problems (in this sense you could say that self-confidence is actually a subset of self-esteem).

Non-Resistance – Relaxing into our challenges as a way of practising mindful resilience and recovering from mental ‘hits’ faster.

Rather than theorizing, what I want to do in this article is demonstrate from my own experience how non-resistance works. The other night as I was falling asleep I was suddenly struck by a set of unusual feelings of loneliness, accompanied by images of myself in a big empty house. Caught by surprise by these feelings, I felt my body and mind resisting and trying to reject and deny these feelings, to try and ‘escape’ from them. Catching myself, I then altered my approach, consciously relaxing into the feelings of loneliness, immersing myself in them like submerging myself into the water of a swimming pool. By relaxing and practising non-resistance to the feelings, I found that after a short while they naturally dissipated and I fell asleep feeling relaxed and content; I was able to process and remain resilient to the emotional challenge through the practice of relaxational non-resistance.
Next morning I receive an email from a corporate client regarding a deal I thought was locked up. Turns out they have decided to go with another facilitator, instinctively following the momentum that I had created from the night before, I again practice non-resistance to the email and my emotional reaction to it. I allow it to flow through my body and mind, opening my chest and relaxing deeply. The result – my recuperation and regeneration time from that setback is VASTLY accelerated (not to say that there was no swearing mind ;-)), and I proceed through the mornings work and activities feeling  fundamentally good despite the setback.

So, two related, practical examples of the practice of non-resistance there which I hope will give you some idea as to how to start practising it yourself.

How does non-resistance relate to the qualities of self-trust, confidence and esteem? 
The capacity to practice non-resistance under stress depends to a large degree on how you have developed these three qualities within yourself. If you don’t trust and feel confident in yourself, it is very difficult to relax into an experience that directly threatens your wellbeing. If you don’t have self-esteem it can be difficult not to believe that on some level setbacks in life are confirmations that happiness is not something you deserve to give yourself each day.

Non-resistance is a practice that you can start today and find real benefit, but that to be a master of deep relaxation; you have to earn it over time.

Related articles: Non-StrivingThe Shadow ChildSoft Forms of Psychic Self Defence.
© 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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What is Mindfulness? – Remembrance, Penetration, Assimilation +1

Dear Integral Meditators,

This mid-week article attempts to give a really practical working definition of mindfulness that will enable you to see how it might be applied to multiple circumstances in your own life.


Yours mindfully,


What is Mindfulness? – Remembrance, Penetration, Assimilation +1 

What is mindfulness?

To be more present is the most common generic answer that you might receive when you ask such a question. What I want to do in this article is to give a clear working definition of mindfulness and its process, and talk a little about its applications. This working definition has four parts.

Part 1: Remembrance
First of all to be mindful of something means to keep it in mind. Therefore if you want to practice mindfulness you need to be able to develop the skill of being able to remember, or keep in mind that which you wish to be mindful of over an extended period of time, without forgetting it. To take the simple example of the breathing, if you wish to practice mindfulness of the breath you need to be able to focus on the breathing without forgetting it!

Part 2: Penetration
So, why bother being mindful of the breathing (to stay with this example). The purpose of being mindful of the breathing is to gain an intimate knowledge of it, to understand it truly, or to put it another way, to penetrate it. If you are mindful of the breathing for a while you start to discover its nuances; how it reflects and describes your emotional state, how it relates to how you feel about your body, how it reacts to the different thoughts as they pass through your mind. Previously the breathing seemed like an uninteresting object. Now as a result of being mindful of it, it begins to reveal its secrets and wisdom to us. The penetration of our object is the second part and goal of mindfulness practice.

Part 3: Assimilation
Stage three of mindfulness practice is to assimilate the knowledge and wisdom that your remembrance and penetration have given to you, and to make them a part of your life. When we discover the wealth of information and knowledge that our breathing is giving us about our emotions, thoughts and body, we can then start to use that knowledge to do things like:

  • Treat our emotions with more compassion and positive control
  • Help us to deal with stress and anxiety more wisely and detect it earlier
  • Help us carry our body in a more relaxed and confident way
  • To open our mind out to our reality even when we may feel like closing it.

This third stage of assimilation is the process of learning to apply your mindful insights in a way that has real, tangible effects on your daily life.

Stage 4: Expression 
The fourth stage of mindfulness practice is to then demonstrate and communicate the essential energy and wisdom that you have gained into your daily life. To demonstrate to others what it means to be mindful of your breathing and the benefits that come. You can do this just by example, or there may be some form of formal way in which you teach it.

So, there you go, Mindfulness = the process of remembrance, penetration, assimilation and expression. The nice thing about this definition is that you can use it to develop mindful penetration of any number of different objects. For example there are 33 different objects that I outline in the “One minute mindfulness” section of my meditation blog. Once you know what mindfulness consists of you can even create your own mindfulness practices to help you accomplish the goals that you have in your own life.

© 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