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Meditation – The state of things

“As meditators we are trying to develop our capacity to shift from one state of mind to another consciously and deliberately, and be able to do so at will.”

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at a fundamental way of understanding meditation, and how you can start applying it to your own practice. I hope you enjoy it!

Final reminder for the  Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment that I will be doing this Saturday August 15th, 2.30-5.30pm. You can see the classes and workshops for the week after beneath the article!

In the spirit of the right state,


Why meditate? – Three purposes

What is meditation?
You may have your own idea of what meditation is, and there are many different types of meditation, for different purposes. One over-arching definition that I find very useful is this: “Meditation is state training”. What this means is that, as meditators we are trying to develop our capacity to shift from one state of mind to another consciously and deliberately, and be able to do so at will.

The three basic states
There are many different states of mind (actually what we mean here is states of body, mind and heart, not just mind). Our three basic states are waking, dreaming and deep, dreamless sleep. We are in one or another of these three states all of the time. As a meditator one of the thing you are trying to to do is to be able to navigate between these three states volition-ally, which takes a bit of time.

The varieties of waking state
Even within the waking state we experience a huge variety of states, a few examples:

  • We can be loving or angry and frustrated
  • Energized or tired
  • Confident or anxious
  • Content or dis-satisfied
  • Calm or agitated

Part of the art of being a meditator is to direct ourselves into positive states, so that more and more of our waking state is experienced in the in the context of harmonious, balanced enjoyment. This in turn naturally improves our quality of life.

Three purposes of meditation
Overall we can say that our meditation has three overarching aims:

  • To continue to develop and strengthen positive states that we are already competent in. For example if you are already quite loving, you train to become even stronger in this area.
  • To develop your ability to navigate difficult or challenging states of mind better. For example how to hold, accept and work with sadness, rather than feeling like a victim of it or overwhelmed by it.
  • To expand the range of useful states available to us, like an artist expanding the colour range with which she works. For example if you are unfamiliar with acceptance, or find courage difficult, then you could focus on developing either of these in your meditation practice, to make these states available to you

Designing your practice
Here is a fifteen minute practice that includes all three purposes. Of course there are other ways of including all three aims of meditation in your own practice, this is just one possibility:

  1. For the first five minutes, focus on a state that you are already familiar with. So if you already know how to meditate on gratitude or appreciation, then you can do that.
  2. Secondly, seek out a state that is a little challenging for you, and spend five minutes breathing and relaxing with it (see for example my article on ‘Sitting down to tea with your problems‘)
  3. For the last five minutes, focus on a state that you are learning about, or that is relatively new to you. The list of options here is very large, whatever state you want to grow in your life and experience. For example recently I have been working with ‘positive fear’ (that is a subject for another article!)

Enjoy your state training!

Watch Toby’s video on “Meditation as state training:


Related articleIs your meditation a type of therapy, an art-form or a spiritual practice?

Article content © Toby Ouvry & Integral Meditation Asia 2020. you are welcome to share, but please cite the source, thanks! Contact

Cover picture © Catriona Bryce 2020.

Saturday August 15th, 2.30-5.30pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment

One sentence summary: Learn how to understand, re-direct and make use of stress, anxiety and difficult emotions through mindfulness and meditation.
what if there was a way in which we could learn to work with these negative and difficult energies in such a way that we could transform and redirect them, making them sources of positive and empowering energy, helping us to accomplish our goals and awaken to a new level of fulfillment
Read full details

Tues 18th of August & Weds 19th August 7.30-8.30pm – Monthly new moon, new beginnings visualization and envisioning sessions

These are meditation classes done monthly around the turn of the new moon that enable us to open to new beginnings, new possibilities and make a fresh start with regard to:

  • Our health
  • Our inner growth
  • And our life’s purpose and future goals

View full details

Saturday August 22nd, 3-5.30pm – Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat

These three-hour meditation ‘mini-retreats’ are a chance to go into much deeper meditation states than you would be able to in your own personal daily practice, or even if you came to a one hour class. Using sitting meditation methods in combination with breathing techniques, Toby will guide you into deep meditation flow states
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

Online Integral Meditation & Mindfulness classes

Build focus, beat stress, cultivate wellbeing!

Each session involves simple practices that you can apply to make a real difference to your wellbeing and effectiveness in life…full details of classes


At a glance: All upcoming classes and workshops for at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Sunday, 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)

Saturday August 15th, 2.30-5.30pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment

Tues 18th of August & Weds 19th August 7.30-8.30pm – Monthly new moon, new beginnings visualization and envisioning sessions

Saturday August 22nd, 3-5.30pm – Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat

Coming soon – High performance bootcamp: Using mindfulness to operate at your peak without burning out

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A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

Dear Integral Meditators,

With so many different types of meditation how can we know what it is all about? In the article below I offer one map that contains the territory of all meditation types. I hope you find it useful!

The Tuesday 9th I will be giving a whole evening seminar and practicum giving a big-picture overview of integral meditation, including these five states. If you are in Singapore do feel free to join us!

In the spirit inner maps,


A Meditation Map – The Art of State Training

There are so many different types of meditation, what are the common themes that tie them all together? One way of doing this is to understand that all meditations of whatever tradition are basically a type of state training. This basically means that when you are meditating you are training to capture and hold a particular state of mind, consciously and over an extended period of time.

There are five basic states that meditation helps us to become more conscious of and to learn to utilize in a practical and useful manner. Here they are in summarized form:

1. The Waking State – This is the state of our everyday, waking consciousness, with its attending concrete mental functions and emotions. In brain wave terms this is primarily the beta state with some alpha. The function if meditating in the waking state is to learn to use our concrete mind and attention mindfully, in such a way as to produce happiness and wellbeing rather than stress and negativity.

2. The Dreaming State – Once we get beyond the beginner level of meditation we start to work more and more consciously with the dream state, both when asleep and when day-dreaming. This is a subtle state of mind which contains many different levels. It can be very creative and when we are in this state our brain is mainly functioning in alpha and theta waves. The function of meditating in dream states is to learn to access these higher, deeper states of mind in order to enjoy them for creative, useful and positive purposes.

3. The Deep Sleep State – This is the very subtle state of consciousness and reality that is beyond the mind, it is a state of pure consciousness or being-ness. We all access it unconsciously at night during deep sleep. It is a formless, timeless ‘eternal’ dimension of consciousness. When we are in this state, our brain functions mainly in the delta wave state (though if we do so in meditation it tends to be a combination of alpha and delta). The function of meditation in the deep sleep state is to accomplish a ‘liberation’ from being solely identified with our personal body-mind, and to connect to a deeper more universal sense of identity. It is also extremely relaxing and regenerative.

4. The Witnessing State – The witnessing state is a state that accompanies all of the previous three states; waking, dreaming and sleeping.  It is an objective state of mind where we are observing as a witness the state of consciousness that is appearing to us at that time. Quite a few meditation traditions emphasize this witnessing practice as the centre of their meditation technique.

5. The Non-Dual State – This is a more advanced state of meditation where the subject-object divide between ourself and what we are observing disappears and we enter into a state of ‘oneness’ or ‘non-duality’. For example if we are meditating on a mountain we go from ‘I am meditating on a mountain’ to simply ‘mountain’. Or, if we are meditating on the formless timeless state of deep sleep, we go from ‘I am observing a formless timeless emptiness’ to a state of just formless timeless emptiness, where the self has essentially disappeared. These non-dual states are made stable by advanced meditators and make up the bulk of what you would call their ‘enlightenment experience’.

So, these five basic states are the five basic dimensions of our reality. As a meditator we learn to move consciously and deliberately between these five states, using each appropriately in order to bring about healing, personal growth and eventually ‘enlightenment’. I realize that I have covered a lot of ground in a short space of time, but it can be very useful to know about these five basic meditation states, because if you know about them, you can pretty much see where all the different meditation types fit into the model. For example shamanic meditation emphasizes mastery of the dream state; while Zen meditation emphasizes mastery of the 3rd, 4th and 5th states. It is a map you can use as your meditation practice grows and matures.

Related articles: The Five Stages of Meditation Practice from Beginners to Advanced
Five Inner Skills we develop Through Meditation

© 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 May:

JUNE 2015

Tuesday 9th June, 7.30-9pm – An Evening of Integral Meditation – Cultivating the Awakened Mind Within Ourselves, Our Work & Our Relationships

Saturday 13th June 2.30-5.30pm – Meditations for Transforming Negativity and Stress into Energy, Positivity and Enlightenment – A Three Hour Workshop

Sunday 14th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Qi Gong for Improving your Health and Energy Levels and for Self-Healing

Saturday 27th June 9.30am-12.30pm – Mindful Self-Confidence – Developing your self-confidence, self-belief & self-trust through meditation & mindfulness

Saturday 27th June, 2.30-5.30pm – The Call of the Wild–Meditations for Deepening Your Inner Connection to the Animal Kingdom and the Green-world


Integral Meditation Asia


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The Four Subtle Experiences in Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article looks at the path of meditation in three stages, focusing in particular on the second stage, developing and engaging subtle experiences. It is useful to know about these ‘intermediate’ levels of the meditation experience because it enables us to appreciate and explore them without the danger of thinking that they are the end of the journey.

Yours in the spirit of the meditation journey,



The Four Subtle Experiences in Meditation 

In meditation generally there are three stages:

  • Balancing, stilling & harmonizing the body-mind
  • Developing and engaging subtle state experiences
  • Moving into or exploring  the formless/timeless dimension of consciousness

In order to get to the second stage of engaging subtle state experiences, you need to first need to still and unify your body-mind through relaxation, calming and stillness. You can read more about this first stage of meditation here: The first task (and achievement of meditation).

If you can achieve this, then you then naturally start to move into the subtle level of meditation which comprises of four main types of experience:

The intuitive /ideational – This is where your mind starts to come up with ideas, insights and intuitions, quite spontaneously and effortlessly. These ideas may be quite abstract, or they may be entirely pertinent to very specific life situations that you are going through. They are often characterized by their capacity to see patterns, meanings and relationships in apparently random and disparate experiences.

The subtle energetic – This is an awareness of subtle energy flowing through our body and mind in ways that we would not be ordinarily conscious of. This dimension of meditation experience is explained in various ways, in terms of the movement of energy through the energy meridians, the chakras and kundalini, the microcosmic orbit and so on.

The expanded emotional – This is the experience of emotions that go beyond our ordinary every day personal range of emotions, and includes experiences such as

  • Causeless and spontaneous joy
  • Unconditional affection and love
  • Openhearted compassion for all living beings
  • Deep equanimity

The visionary – This means an awakening to spontaneously received visual images of people, places things and sometimes even entire inner worlds. It is a little bit like dreaming, except the images are experienced whilst in full consciousness, and they are distinct from our imagination, that is to say they have an objective quality that is separate from the random images arising from our everyday thinking and imagining mind.

These four subtle types of experience will then give way to the third stage of meditation experience:

The formless – This is the experience of the formless timeless domain of the mind and consciousness that lies beyond both our sensory awareness and our thinking mind. Initially our experience of the formless simply an open spacious experience of awareness with no thoughts in it. However, after a time this deepens, giving rise to various forms of experience of deep unitive and non-dual experience where we experience ourself as ‘one’ with our world and universe, and where our experience of the subject-object, doing-being  divide disappears into a pure experience of is-ness.

So, once you have settled down into your meditation, and your body-mind are feeling a calm and relaxed, these are the four major subtly meditation experiences that you can start to identify, work with and build your experience of: the intuitive/ideational, the subtle energetic, the expanded emotional and the visionary. These in turn will gradually give way to experiences of the formless dimension of meditation 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