Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditation and Art Meditation techniques

Meditating on the Music of the Mind

Hi Everyone,

This weeks newsletter article describes a meditation form that I am very fond of; meditating on the inner music of the mind. The basic technique is quite simple, but the practice itself has many different levels, so I hope you enjoy exploring it!

Yours in the spirit of the inner music of the mind,


Article of the Week:

Meditating on the Music of the Mind

Meditating on the music of the mind, or put another way the contents of the mind as music tone and vibration is a technique and perspective that I find very useful, insightful and relaxing. I find that it helps to open up my intuitive awareness, and give objectivity to thoughts, emotions and images within my mind that I would otherwise struggle to see in a new, fresh and wise way.
The method that I describe below is a simple way that you can begin to explore this type of meditation form for yourself.

Meditating on the contents of your mind as music

Step 1: Tuning into the general vibration of your mind
As you sit in meditation, or simply in a spare moment in between appointments, first ask yourself the question “What is the general mood and tone of my mind and awareness right now, if it were a musical note, how would it sound?”reflecting in this way try and experience your mind and its contents purely in terms of its overall “sound”, vibration and tone.

Step 2: Observing the tone of individual thoughts
After you have practiced step 1 for a short while, continue to observe your mind, and the coming and going of the thoughts, images and feelings within it. As each thought or image arises, rather than looking at it as a thought or image, relate to it as a tone or musical note. Tuning into your minds vibration in this way, note which thoughts/images/emotions have a healthy, positive, melodious note/vibration, and which seem to have a dissonant, off-key one. Watch your consciousness in this way for a while.
In order to do this you need to learn to ignore the content of the thought, and just focus on its vibration. So for example if you are thinking about a particular person, you do not focus on who it is or why it is appearing, rather you focus on theresonance and the pitch of the image as it appears. This takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have a little familiarity it is not so difficult. It is just training yourself to approach what appears to your mind in a slightly different way.

Step 3: Focusing on the more harmonious “notes”
As you continue to listen to the musical qualities of your mind and its contents, start tofocus your attention more upon the aspects of your consciousness that seem to be producing the most melodious, resonant and harmonious sounds and vibrations. Relax as much as you can into the positive ambience and vibration of these sounds as much as you can, allowing your whole body and being to flow with them.

Step 4: Awareness of the silence that surrounds and contains the music of the mind
The final stage of the meditation on the music of the mind is to spend a period of timebeing aware of the silence that surrounds and contains the vibrations and tones of mind. Let go of the “musical content” of your mind and relax as deeply as you can into the experience of still, silent awareness. Meditating on silence after this form of “musical meditation” is particularly pleasant as the tonal and vibrational quality of stages 1-3 leads the mind naturally into an expansive and open condition of awareness.

Step 5: Awakening to cosmic melodies
A final step or aspect of this meditation is that it may awaken us to more “cosmic” or spiritual dimensions of awareness that we can experience as actual music or melody of incredible beauty. This is an experience that many meditators have periodically, but most often than not it comes and goes without or really having too much conscious control over it. It arises spontaneously without any effort on our part, and it can go away just as easily. Sometimes it can happen, if so we can enjoy it, but stages 1-4 of this meditation is a complete meditation in itself, I just thought I would tag this fifth stage on as an event that sometimes happens!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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

The Four Types of Present Moment Awareness

Hi Everyone,

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

Yours in the spirit of presence and being present,



Article of the Week:

The Four Types of Present Moment Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

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

Zen and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

Hi Everyone!

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

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

Yours in the spirit of ever present enlightenment,


An Introduction to Meditation From the Perspective of Zen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Article of the Week:

Zen Meditation and the Liberating Power of Non-Duality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Inner vision Meditation techniques Primal Spirituality

Using Landscape to Connect to Our Primally Enlightened Nature

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article continues in the mystical vein of last week’s article, and looks specifically at how nature, landscape and weather can become our meditation teacher! These are also themes we will be touching on in the Wednesday evening class.

Yours in the spirit of awakening through landscape,


Article of the Week:

Using Landscape to Connect to Our Primally Enlightened Nature 

The great mystics have often used nature, landscape and weather as a way of helping people to reconnect to their primal enlightened nature. By primally enlightened nature here I mean that part of us that is already enlightened (and always has been), but that has been obscured and forgotten because we have become “lost” in the complexities of our conceptual mind and the world of ideas. To connect to ‘reality’ directly and move into a living symbiosis with our primally enlightened nature, we need to develop the capacity to drop our conceptual mind temporarily and simply accept and see things as we find them. Nature is a great teacher in this respect becausethe forces of nature exist and express themselves in a non-conceptual, direct manner.
As Lao Tzu says in his classic “Tao Te Ching” (This quote is from the Stephen Mitchell translation which is one of my favorites):

“Express yourself completely,
Then keep quiet,
Be like the forces of nature:
When the wind blows there is only wind;
When it rains, there is only rain;
When the clouds pass, the sun shines through.”

We have all had the experience of being in a landscape or traveling to a place, and being so enraptured by the energy and ambience of the place that all our thoughts just fade away and we move into a state of deeply fulfilling communion and being-ness. What I am going to do is give some simple examples of how you can meditate with remembered aspects of landscape in order to regenerate the non-conceptual, meditative states of mind that accompany them. As the saying goes, “a picture speaks a thousand words”. By recalling our own direct interactions with nature and landscape we can perhaps learn more about meditation than from years of studying books and techniques (although I recommend that to!)
Please note these are just suggestions, once you have a feel for it you can connect to any aspects of the weather, landscape and nature that work for you!

Some Simple Landscape Meditations

On Mountains and the earth element
Recall a visit to a mountain or hill that deeply impressed you and affected you with its energy. Visualize it before you, connect to its stability, solidity and deep presence. Become the mountain, stable, unthinking and yet fully present, able to accept storms and sunshine, wind and rain with the same equanimity,  non-judgmentalness and (in the positive sense of the word) indifference.

On sea, rivers and the water element
Recall a visit to the sea or a trip down a river that really affected you. See yourself by the sea or next to the river, attune to the flowing nature of the water, to its depth and presence. Become the flow of the water, feel yourself in the calm depths of the river flowing across the rocks, or become the sea around you; with its turbulent surface but still calm depths.

On sky, clouds and the air element
Recall a skyscape that impressed or affected you, and the landscape that you experienced it in. Picture the sky in front of you, feel into its spacious nature. Become the sky, feel the strong winds, the clouds, the light. However turbulent the contents of the sky becomes,the open expansive spacious nature of the sky always remains the same.

On the sun and the fire element
Recall a time when you have been particularly affected by the atmosphere created by the suns light. See yourself in that landscape receiving the light, warmth and energy of the sun. Allow your mind to become brilliant, clear and energized by the energy of the sun. Become the sunlight, shining upon everything within its range; radiating, expanding, giving life.

Final comments
So, in the long term one of the main capacities we learn to develop when we meditate in this way is to realize that we are always in landscape and surrounded by nature. Even if we are in a city we can look out of our office window, appreciate the ambience of the sky, and allow our mind to relax into the open, spacious, non-conceptual nature of the sky for a few moments. It is about using the natural forces that are around us all the time to reconnect and remember our primal nature, or as Zen puts it “Our original face”.
You won’t fully understand this article by reading it, it is not something that you have to “work out” with your mind, you have to do it!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Enlightened service Inner vision Meditating on the Self

Five Stages in the Path of the Mystic (and Weekend Walking Meditation)

Dear Integral Meditators,

First of all wishing you the happiest of new years, and all the very best for 2012! Especially I hope it brings you all a renewed sense of creative participation in the mystery that we call life! This week’s article is on the five stages of the path of the mystic, a mystic being a seeker wishing to connect to life in the truest and deepest source of the word.


Article of the Week:

The Five Stages of the Path of the Mystic

In its broadest sense a mystic is someone who engages sincerely with the mystery of life. He or she is not satisfied to live in a habitual, unconscious and mainstream manner, but rather feels moved to celebrate the wonder of life by investigating it as deeply, consciously and profoundly as s/he can.
It is very easy to forget that our lives are fundamentally a mystery, and become habituated, jaded, cynical and thoughtless about the opportunity we have. I find that one of the best ways to keep in touch with an appreciation of my life is simply to remember that each moment is fundamentally a mystery, and to live each moment and engage in every action mindful of this.
To live the life of a mystic is also to court the path of the unconventional, the unpredictable. As I heard said a couple of weeks ago by a Christian minister; “Mainstream religions love mystics, but only dead ones!” A living mystic cannot be relied upon to tow the line of convention, or do what s/he is told to do by the authorities! One way or another if we are interested in and practicing meditation, we are invoking the path of the mystic into our life.
The paths of the great mystics tend to follow recognizable patterns and stages. These stages have been outlined by scholars such as Evelyn Underhill in her book “Mysticism”, and by mythologists like Joseph Campbell and his idea of the “path of the hero”. The five stages I outline below are basically my own, but they are influenced by these two.

So what are the stages that a person on a mystical path goes through? Here are the five basic stages:

1)  A catalytic event, such as a personal tragedy, illness or insight that sets the person off on his or her mystical search for meaning in life. For example the Buddha left the palace of his royal family after seeing a sick person, an old person and a dead person. The sufferings of life became apparent for him then and there and caused him to become immediately motivated to seek enlightenment to relieve the suffering of his people. Another example is Shamans in traditional tribes are often awakened to their path by a bout of physical or mental illness. A third example of such an event might be Saul on the road to Damascus who was blinded by a flash of light for three days. This lead to him turning to God and becoming the man we now know as St.Paul.

2) Initial experiences of illumination
As they embark upon their quest for enlightenment and engage in practices such as meditation, aspiring mystics start to have transcendent experiences that break apart their conventional sense of ego or self and give rise to visions and experiences of “oneness”, radiant lights, visions and so forth. For example I can remember going to two weddings of friends after having taken up meditation in my early twenties, and the entire wedding experience being a completely blissful, out of this world, visionary experience (I don’t think anyone else knew I was having the experience, I think I held it together relatively well!). During this stage we can have a wide variety of these illuminatory, ego transcending experiences. The important point to understand at this stage is that these experiences are a BEGINNING and not an end! If at this point we believe we have become an enlightened being, then in the long term or ego will appropriate these experiences and we will simply become rather deluded and dysfunctional. They are good signs and genuine experiences, but there is much work to be done yet!

3) The “dark night of the soul”
The experiences of stage two where we start to awaken to our real identity or ‘true nature’ then tends to  stimulate within us all that is deluded, dysfunctional, hurt, wounded, devious etc…to rise up and “fight back” so to speak. We can interpret this stage as being all that is dark within ourselves rising up to challenge us and our new identity, but I think there is also a sense in which the forces in the world at large that are against our awakening also rise up and try to stop us. This is a difficult and very challenging phase. We may find ourself seemingly isolated, alone, with all our inner demons rising up at the same time. In the story of Buddha’s enlightenment,  sitting under the Bodhi Tree the night before his enlightenment  he was confronted by the king of demons, the Devaputra Mara, who tried to distract him with visions of attacking monsters and seductive temptresses. Failing to distract him in this way Mara asked the Buddha “If you attain enlightenment, who is going to care anyway?” This is an example  more subtle form of discouragement that we can find ourself presented with in our own dark night, a voice in our head saying “No one cares about what you are trying to do anyway, why bother? Just go back to living the way you were!”

4) Stable enlightenment
The process of going through stages two and three repeatedly over a period of time leads finally to a stabilizing of our enlightenment. Enlightenment in this context means aligning our life, experience and intention with the whole, with the universe, with the benevolent mystery of life rather than just with our own ego and self-centered purpose. At this stage our ‘qualifications’ as a mystic are solidified, people could describe us as a mystic and, by and large they would be right!

5) A return to the marketplace
The final stage in the path of the mystic is a returning to ordinary everyday life in order to either teach what we have learned to others in order to awaken them directly, or to live as an awakened example to others of how it is possible to be “in the world but not of the world” so to speak. During this stage we learn how to integrate our ordinary, everyday personality with our enlightened self in an harmonious and thorough-going manner and express ourself in whatever way is most appropriate to benefit others. For one mystic this can take the appearance of a very conventional life, another may be called to lead a very unconventional, even rebellious or eccentric life.

Final comments
So, the above five stages give an outline of the development of the path of the mystic painted in very “broad brushstrokes”. In reality of course these stages unfold in a very organic manner, with stages crossing over each other, coming and going in cycles and so forth. But the basic point is that if you have a “map” of these five stages in your mind, then you can recognize these stages as they are arising and this can really help us see the patterns in the chaos or our own mystical and meditational path!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Enlightened service Inner vision Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope spiritual intelligence

Can Meditation Help You Find Your Life’s Purpose?

Hi Everyone,

I hope you had a relaxing and fulfilling Christmas and Boxing day, I had a very pleasant time, just about the right balance of sociability, good food and quiet reflection!

With the new year approaching I my thoughts have been turning (like many people) to what I would most like to focus on during 2012. I write the article below on the question of “Can meditation help you find your life’s purpose?” with this somewhat in mind.

Next week sees the return of regular weekly classes in Singapore, in particular the weeklyQi gong meditation class restarting on the 4th January.

Wishing you all the best for your new year celebrations!

Yours in the spirit of new beginnings,



Article of the Week:

Can Meditation Help You Find Your Life’s Purpose?

One way or another, and for a variety of different motives, many people feel that finding their ‘life’s purpose’ is very important to them. What I want to do in this article is to outline three levels of purpose in life, and then give a few comments regarding how meditation may be able to help people to find their life’s purpose on these different levels.
These three levels of purpose move from ‘basic’ indicating the least evolved (but still perfectly valid), to the intermediate, to advanced, ‘advanced’ in this context meaning advanced from the perspective of meditation and the path to enlightenment.

The three levels of life’s purpose are:

1) The Basic Level – Survival and acceptance:
Here survival means accumulating enough material resources for a basically happy life, and developing enough social competence to build successful, lasting, mutually supporting friendships and family bonds (and thus acceptance into your ‘tribe’).  Here meaning in life is found in living it, and the experience of living successfully and happily within the context of one’s society. For a person on this level meditation can help calm their mind enough to facilitate greater awareness of the choices they have to make, and greater intelligence and control to make sure they are able to direct their behavior and appetites appropriately, so that they are not sabotaging their resource building and relationship efforts all the time. On this level meditation will also help them to enjoy the fruits of their labor, and appreciate the good things in their life as they are able to live more ‘in the present’.

2) The Intermediate Level – Personal achievement and working for the greater good:
On this level two principle things come online; firstly joy in personal achievement (combined with a certain level of ambition, some of this egotistic, some more altruistic), and secondly an expansion of our scope and motivation. We evolve from our life being mainly about ourselves and our family to wanting to make a real, genuine, positive and lasting contribution to society and the world. Our life begins to center around the question ‘What is it in particular that I can offer the world?’
On the first level of personal achievement, meditation helps us in a similar way to the basic level by helping us to optimize our awareness, intelligence and consistency, thus giving us the mental strength to accomplish our goals. On the second level of motivation and scope, regular meditation naturally makes our mind bigger and more open, opening it up to empathy and awareness of both others and the world around us and facilitating the natural development of genuine love and compassion.
Another major way in which meditation helps us at this stage is the opening of our intuition, guiding us toward work and activity that will be of most meaning and consequence.

3) The Advanced Level – Doing Nothing, Going Nowhere:
On this last and most advanced level, the search for a “meaning” in life is dropped as we realize the inherent perfection of each and every moment of our life as it is already, right now. On this level we are able to recognize that the idea of a ‘personal purpose’ and meaning to our life is ultimately both illusory and already fully manifest. Life is perfect as it is and has no meaning other than its own natural, moment to moment self fulfillment.Zen practices such as the practice of aimlessness and thoughtlessness are aimed at realization of this level of our life’s purpose, as is the Tibetan Dzogchen practice of ‘hopelessness’ (meaning if you are hoping for a life meaning to manifest in the future for you, then you will never be able to realize that it is here with you right now!!!).

In Conclusion
I have outlined three levels of life’s meaning here, one thing I would like to flag up is thatyou can’t move onto the advanced level of ‘doing nothing going nowhere’ without having developed high levels of competency at the first two levels, basic and intermediate. There are a lot of people whose life has no meaning at all, and who are doing nothing about it and thus going nowhere in the negative sense of the word and this is not at all desirable!  Thinking advanced meditation teachings and practices are an excuse to be a lazy so and so, and to avoid the basic day to day challenges in your life is a complete illusion! All of these three levels can and should be grown and developed together as we go through our life and develop our meditation practice.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Inner vision Meditation techniques Presence and being present spiritual intelligence

Reconnecting to a Sense of Wonder (Our Goldilocks Planet)

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article focuses on generating a sense of wonder, which is a desirable internal condition for enjoying and appreciating the Christmas season!

Last week’s meditation class on “Going from no self to the expanded self” is now available as a recording, if anyone is interested in obtaining a copy you can go HERE.

Finally, you can see the schedule of classes for January below.

Wishing you all the very best for Christmas and the Winter Solstice!


Upcoming classes in January 2012:

Wednesday Jan 4th&11th: Wednesday Morning Qi Gong Meditation Classes

Sunday 8th Jan 8-9am: Sunday Morning Qi Gong Walking Meditation Classes at the Botanic Gardens

Wednesday Jan 11th 7.30-8.30pm: Meditation Class on How to Meditate on the Inner Weather of the Mind

Wednesday Jan 18th 7.30-9.30pm: An Introduction to Meditation from the Perspective of Zen


Article of the Week:

Reconnecting to a Sense of Wonder (Our Goldilocks Planet)

One of the things that I appreciate about Christmas looking back on my childhood was the sense of wonder that seemed to pervade the atmosphere during that time. Of course as we grow older the bubble bursts and the sense of wonder diminishes as we discover where the presents really come from, and who really drunk the brandy and ate the Christmas cake that was left out for Santa!
One of the main things that we seek to reclaim on our spiritual path (in whatever terms we may define it) is a sense of wonder. It is a bit like the wonder that we had as children at Christmas, but it is a post-rational wonder, a sense of wonder in being alive, in having the opportunity to live a human life even though we know Santa does not really visit over Christmas, or that the world is filled with contradictions and pain, and with full knowledge and  awareness of what science and rationality tells us about the way things are.

The fact remains that, despite all we know, life is a mystery, life is uncertain, sometimes beautiful, sometimes terrifying. One of the things I have been doing as Christmas approaches is to consciously cultivate a sense of wonder at this mystery, and try to allow that sense of wonder to pervade my everyday life as deeply as possible.
If you wish to do this yourself, one thing you can do is take ten minutes to simply recall and write down the things that cause a sense of the wonder of life to arise within you. Sometimes it is not so much that we CAN’T develop wonder and appreciation, it is just that we FORGET to! Once you have your list, then just take a few minutes each day to review your list and reconnect to the sense of wonder and appreciation that this list awakens within you.

Our Goldilocks Planet 

If you want something specific to help you develop a sense of wonder, here is one that I have been thinking about a lot. I learned a couple of weeks ago from one of my daughters school books that we live on a “Goldilocks Planet” which is to say that the conditions on our planet are extremely rare in this universe, and it is these conditions that give rise to the opportunity for biological life. I have been using this as a way of contemplating wonder, and just feeling thankful to have the opportunity to be alive on this fragile rock hurtling through the Universe! Here are the basic characteristics of a Goldilocks planet, if one of these were missing, none of us could exist!

1) Having just the right sized sun
If our sun was too big it would burn out too fast for life to evolve on a planet, if it was too small it be prone to give rise to surface storms that would destroy life on planets. We have a nice middle sized sun with a leisurely 10 billion year lifespan!

2) Just the right sized planet
If earth was too big (like say Jupiter) the gravity of the planet would crush all life. If it was too small (like Mars) our bodies would explode and dissipate due to lack of gravity. The Earth is just the right size, with enough gravity to hold an atmosphere that sustains life and protects us from the sun’s rays.

 3) Just the right distance from the sun
Earth inhabits the narrow band of orbit around the sun that means our water is liquid, not frozen or gaseous. Venus, one planet nearer the sun has an average surface temperature of +500 degrees Celsius, whilst Mars, one planet further away has an average temperature of -63degrees Celsius.

4) The existence of water
…and a solid surface upon which it can pool. Life as we know it depends upon water

5) A little help from Jupiter
Whose gravitational field attracts, blocks and absorbs many dangerous asteroids (due to its size and enhanced gravitational field). So we are in much less danger of mass destruction than we would otherwise be!

So, for me, contemplating our fragile life living on a Goldilocks planet has really helped fill my Christmas season with wonder and awe, I hope it helps you too!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Meditating on the Self Meditation techniques mind body connection The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

The Gateway to the Expanded Self and to Universal Love and Compassion

Hi Everyone,

This week’s article gives some basic pointing out instructions for how we can transform our ordinary, deluded self sense into the universal or expanded self sense of a Bodhisattva, someone whose primary motivation is to liberate all living beings from their pain and bestow upon them lasting freedom and happiness. It is a little longer than I anticipated, but it explains the journey in its ‘bare bones’ so to speak, without any unnecessary complexity.

Yours in the spirit of universal love and compassion,


Article of the Week:

Meditation on the No Self as the Gateway to the Expanded Self and to Universal Love and Compassion

In my previous article on “the Essential Teaching of the Buddha” I outline three basic meditational themes of suffering, impermanence and no self. What I want to do below is to explain I as simple terms as possible how to identify the experience of no self in meditation and show how it can lead into the experience of an expanded self and of universal love and compassion. In Buddhist terms someone who has realized this expanded self is often referred to as a Bodhisattva, a person who works continuously for the liberation of others motivated by his or her universal compassion.

The stages of the meditation are described in short, contemplative “pointing out” instructions that you can then just gently work thorough at your own pace, using each sentence as a platform for your own practical investigation.

Identifying our everyday idea of self
The first thing that we need to do is to observe our mind and see how we habitually conceive of a quite solid, tangible ‘self’. It appears to have a permanent, fixed identity, and to exist somewhere within the mixture of our physical appearance and mental and emotional ‘personality’. It feels very real, and to have both physical and mental form.
So the first exercise is to get used to watching our sense of self as we go through our day; who is it that is angry or stressed? Who gets embarrassed by the complement from our attractive work colleague? Who feels depressed or elated?

Realizing that the everyday self does not exist in the way we think
If the everyday self or ego exists in the way we think it does as some kind of inherent, fixed form, then we should be able to find it and point to it somewhere within the collection of our body and mind. However, briefly put, if you look at the moment to moment stream of your mind and body, all you will find is a stream of continuously changing phenomenon that are not the self. For example the brain is a continuously changing and transforming physical organ that is not the self. The thinking and feeling that arise from having a brain (and upon which we often develop a strong sense of self) is also continuously changing and transforming. There is nothing within the stream of our thoughts and feelings that stays the same for long enough to be a stable basis for saying “that is me”.
So, the second part of the meditation is to take our time and investigate the moment to moment flow of our body-mind, and see very clearly from our own experience that there is nothing there that provides a suitable basis for a permanent or fixed ‘I’.

Resting in the experience of no self
The third stage of the meditation is simply to absorb the significance of the first two stages, to recognize that where we habitually assumed there was a self (in the body-mind), there is in fact no permanent fixed self. There is just a continuously flowing and transforming stream of mental and physical phenomena that is not the self!
In meditation we can consolidate this by deliberately dropping our habitual sense of self, and just resting in the awareness of the absence of a fixed, permanent self within either our body or our mind.

Identifying the witness or observer self
There is a third aspect of our moment our moment experience that does not change, and upon which on a deeper level our self sense is based upon. This is the moment to moment experience of awareness itselfThis awareness has two basic qualities; firstly it functions to know, or be aware of things, and secondly it has no form, no mental or physical characteristics. It is clear open and space like.
The fourth stage of our meditation is simply to recognize this pure awareness, and to rest in this open, space-like awareness in meditation.

Contemplating the qualities of the witness self
We could say that this observer, or witness self is our true self, or real self. But it is completely different from the self that we usually think of as being “me”.
For one thing it has no individualizing characteristics. Because it has no form it has nothing within it to distinguish us from anyone else. It is just pure, luminous spacious awareness.
Secondly, because it has no form, the witness self that lies within ‘me’ is also the same as the witness self that lies within ‘you’, or ‘they, or ’them’ or ‘others’.  In this sense the witness self (which is still a ‘no self’ in the sense of having no individualizing characteristics) is the universal self, the ‘God that lies within the heart of all’, and from which all of creation arises and disintegrates from moment to moment.

Expanding our sense of self to include all living beings
So, if we then take our witness self, or pure awareness as our true ‘self’ we can expand our self sense infinitely to include all living beings since they all have at the heart of their being that same pure awareness. In this sense meeting other people is no different in essence from meeting ourselves, the outer appearance is different, but the essence is the same!
At this stage of the meditation our focus becomes the recognition that the pure self-awareness that we are witnessing is actually a universal or expanded self, encompassing not just one person but infinite living beings, human, animal or otherwise.

Developing love and compassion for others
On the basis of recognizing our expanded self we can then begin to develop natural and appropriate empathic love and compassion for other living beings, not because we feel as if we ‘should’ but because we can experientially recognize them in essence as being our true or real self.

The vow of the Bodhisattva
Naturally arising from this universal love and compassion comes the wish to liberate all living beings (who are aspects of our own self) from suffering, and give them lasting freedom and happiness. Our intention in life begins to orientate itself around the vow of the Bodhisattva, to quote the Ninth century Buddhist teacher Shantideva:

May I be a protector to those without protection,
A leader for those who journey,
And a boat, a bridge, a passage
For those desiring the further shore.
May the pain of every living creature
Be completely cleared away.
May I be the doctor and the medicine
And may I be the nurse
For all sick beings in the world
Until everyone is healed.”

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Awareness and insight Inner vision Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology spiritual intelligence

What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

Hi Everyone,

This weeks creative meditations article looks to gain a little clarity with regard to the meaning of spirituality which is certainly not the easiest of topics to pin down!

Underneath the article you can find the details of the final meditation class of 2011, which I have entitled “From no self to the Expanded Self”.


Yours in the spirit of the spiritual,

Article of the Week:

What Does “Spiritual” Really Mean? (And What it Does Not Mean!)

As a ‘spiritual teacher’ I get to hear and engage in various conversations about spirituality. One thing that often stands out for me is the absence of a clear idea of what we really mean by spiritual. With this in mind, here are five working definitions of what the word spiritual can mean. If you think about your own spiritual path in the context of each of these definitions in turn, you will find that each of them shows you a different aspect of it:

1. The spiritual can refer to the very subtle, formless or causal dimension of existence and experience that lies beyond the coarse physical world of the senses and the subtle energetic world of the mind. It is formless because it is beyond the dimension of physical or mental appearances or ‘forms’. It is called ‘causal’ because it is the dimension from which mental and physical form arise and to which they disappear when they cease. Contact with, experience and exploration of this realm is one of the main aims of meditation.

2. The spiritual is that which is of most fundamental meaning and importance in our life. This is the definition that theologian Paul Tillich uses often. One major reason why the contemplation of death and impermanence is a universal practice in the world’s great wisdom traditions is that doing so helps us to urgently clarify the meaning and purpose of our life in the light of its fleeting and transient nature!

3. Spirituality is the process and discipline of developing a progressively loving and selfless intention. The more genuinely pure and selfless a persons intention, the more spiritual they can be said to be. This process of balanced refinement takes continuous work!

4. Spirituality is the progressive transcendence of the ego, and the opening up to awareness of our expanded or Universal self.

5. Spirituality is the courage and faith to confront and be with the real issues in our life as they arise from moment to moment. To quote Alan Watts in his book ‘The Wisdom of Insecurity’ – “Faith is an unreserved opening to the truth, whatever it may be. Faith has no preconceptions; it is a plunge into the unknown.”

As an adjunct to the above list here are a few of the things that spirituality does NOT mean but is sometimes confused for:

1. Escaping from the ‘real world’ and our real practical/psychological issues by creating our own subtle meditative fantasy world, and imagining that a state of formless meditation is the answer to all our problems.

2. Avoiding appropriate worldly responsibilities and emotional/relational issues we may have by pretending we have more important ‘spiritual’ activities to do.

3. Imagining we have become totally selfless and have transcended our ego whilst our ego runs rampant in a subconscious level. Ken Wilber refers to this as “boomeritis”, Robert Augustus Masters calls it “spiritual bypassing” and Chogyam Trungpa called it “spiritual materialism”. Unfortunately it is still pretty pervasive.

4. Being nice all the time because that what we think being loving and compassionate is all about.

5. Thinking that just ‘being in the present’ means that we don’t need to deal with our past issues or plan for the future.

6. Mistaking trans-rational spiritual states for pre-rational infantile states, similar to point 3. No, children, animals and trees are not enlightened, however they are unconsciously or intuitively in touch with their spiritual natures much of the time. Spirituality is a process of evolution not regression!

© 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

Meditation Class 14th December:

From No Self to the Expanded Self: How Buddha’s Teaching on the Emptiness of the Self Can Lead us to an Awakening of Universal Love and Compassion

Facilitator: Toby Ouvry

Date and Time: Wednesday 14thDecember, 7.30-8-30pm

Location: Basic Essence, 501 Bukit Timah Road, 04-04 Cluny Court. 
For directions click HERE

Superficially it can see like the Buddhist perspective on “no self” the absence of any kind of permanent of fixed identity of both ourself and all phenomenon can seem a little bit frightening and perhaps even nihilistic.  In this one hour meditation class we will be looking at how in reality the realization of no-self awakens within us the capacity to go beyond our ordinary ego boundaries and awaken to our “expanded self” or “great self”, that possesses unconditional love and compassion for all living beings (including ourself!).

This class will be a chance to learn and experience a simple but profound meditation that we can use as a way of liberating our sense of self from limiting patterns and perceptions, and awakening to our true human potential.

On a day to day practical level the understanding that we gain from the meditation can also be applied to help us improve our relationships with others and develop a feeling of pervasive warmth and empathy toward others.

The class will consist of a 30-40 minute practical meditation, and a twenty minute or so talk.

Cost for Class: $25, includes MP3 recording of talk.

To register for class: Contact Basic Essence on 64684991 or email

mind body connection Walking Meditation

On Regenerating Your Energy Body and Walking Meditation

This week’s article looks at the need to develop a healthy mind-body connection and how to increase the amount of subtle energy, or ‘qi’ within our body. There is an opportunity for those of you in Singapore to participate in a Qi gong walking meditation class this coming Sunday morning, 4th December; I have placed the full details of this beneath the article.

Finally, I gave a short talk at the end of a Qi gong meditation class last week on why it is that we sabotage our meditation practice due to an unconscious fear of inner space and stillness. You can read a transcript of this talk here in an article I have entitled “Our Anxiety in the Face of Inner Space and Stillness” .

Yours in the spirit of inner and outer energy,


Article of the Week:

On Regenerating Your Energy Body and Walking Mediation 

Recently I was at a healing event with my wife. One way or another we both had the opportunity to place our hands on various members of the public for healing purposes. One of the things that we both remarked upon in our conversation afterwards was how little qi, or subtle energy seemed to be circulating in the bodies of some the people we had been working with. It almost seemed like although there was clearly a mind in the body somewhere, there was no energetic link between the person’s mind and body to give life force, sustenance and nurturing to the physical being. It was like there was a biological body, then a gap, and then their mind. So, with this in mind I thought I would pass on a couple of meditations that can help improve our mind-body connection, and increase the amount of subtle energy, qi or life force in our energy body

A good mind-body connection is one of the most beneficial and important gifts that we can give ourselves. If we try and meditate without it we will find that our meditation will become rather flat and abstract. Conversely, if our body has a healthy flow of subtle energy and life force within it then any meditation or consciousness work that we do will tend to feel fuller, deeper and more rounded.
With this in mind I thought I would share with you one of the main meditations that I use to help encourage the circulation of qi and life-force within my body, which is a simple energy body meditation, based around the principles of qi gong. It is really easy to learn, and once you are used to it you can do it not only in formal meditation, but also by keeping your awareness of it in your daily life, such as when sitting at your desk or travel ling. Click here to read the instructions for doing the energy body meditation that I have posted on my Qi gong blog

Another great way to improve your mind-body connection is by doing walking meditation. Walking meditation necessarily increases your mind-body connection because you are combining mindful awareness with the movement of your body as you walk. Another advantage of walking meditation is that you can integrate it into your daily routine as you move around from one place to another. You can read the basic introduction to walking meditation that I have recently edited and re-posted on my meditation website.

© 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

Sunday Morning Qi Gong Walking Meditation Classes at the Botanic Gardens

Time and Date of next class: 8-9am Sunday 4thth December

Relax, rejuvenate and regenerate yourself on Sunday morning at the Botanic Gardens.

We will be practicing simple Qi Gong and walking meditation techniques to cultivate our inner peace, balance and sense of connectedness to the Earth and nature. Once learned these are techniques that you will also be able to use at other times in your daily life.

The class will be suitable for regular walking mediators/Qi gong practitioners and first timers.

Meeting Point: 8am by the Bukit Timah Gate of the Botanic Gardens, next to the entrance of the Botanic Gardens MRT station. For a map please click HERE

To register or for further enquiries: Email or SMS 96750279

Class Fee:  $25

About the Teacher: Toby Ouvry is a meditation teacher and artist who has been practicing Qi gong for over fifteen years and teaching it for seven years. You can find more out about Toby and his work by going to , or check out his Qi gong blog by going

Background information on Qi Gong:

One of the most ancient and effective forms of preventative heath care in the world today, qi-gong represents a series of invaluable breathing and movement exercises which can help our body and mind keep at peak energy levels in the face of today’s demanding and stressful modern lifestyle and schedules.

Qi-gong is the science of working with the body’s energy field. Literally translated into English it means ‘energy work’, or ‘energy skill’.  In these classes we will be learning the art of moving energy into and around our body using a series of simple and easy to apply techniques that will enable you to:

  • Re-establish your body’s natural bio-rhythms
  • Harmonize your nervous and endocrine systems
  • Invigorate your body tissue and organs with oxygen rich blood and vital energy
  • Clear stagnant energy from your system and help build your energy fields to their optimum health levels!

General information on Walking meditation:

Increasingly many people are becoming aware of a need to find a sense of inner calm, peace and centeredness in order to cope effectively with the stresses and strains of modern life. However, it seems equally difficult to find the quality time for a practice such as meditation that can actually help us to accomplish this.

A solution to this can be found in walking meditation. All of us do a certain amount of walking in our life. By learning walking meditation we can combine the time that we spend walking with time spent cultivating our inner peace, stability and happiness. It is a win win situation!!