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Making your body your castle (And watch Toby’s Mindfulness TedX Talk!)

Dear  Integral Meditators,

This weeks article gives some simple mindful suggestions for bringing real stability to your life, literally, and even when under pressure!
Also, I recently discovered that a TedX talk I gave on mindfulness is up on the web. Its a pretty decent 15min primer on the vision of engaged and integral mindfulness, do have a view!

In the spirit of castle-like awareness!


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Making your body your castle

Your body and your senses are your most basic, simple and stable objects of mindful awareness. They are basic and simple because they are non-conceptual, solid experiences that we encounter when we observe the physical dimension of our present moment awareness. When your mind is focused on your body and senses quite naturally it starts to feel more stable, because our body is generally much less changeable, quick and unpredictable than our thoughts and emotions.

Your body and senses are the easiest objects to train in mindfulness to begin with. This is because they are obvious and easy to find, even if we are not familiar with mindfulness practice. Everyone can become aware and focus on their body, or the sounds around them without too much trouble. Because of this they are an obvious place to begin building mindful concentration and focus. Once you are familiar with focusing on the body and senses, you can then go onto focus on thoughts, feelings and mental images as objects of mindfulness with much greater ease and success.

Solid mastery of mindfulness of the body and senses will give you tremendous stability under mental and emotional pressure. This is because they give your mind a stable anchor in the moment. Rather than feeling like you are drowning in an uncontrollable mass of thoughts and feelings, you will gradually start to feel more and more comfortable under pressure, because your attention to your body gives you a deeper sense of presence in the moment that enables calm.

Make your body like your castle 
There is an old saying that goes something like “An Englishman’s home is his (or her) castle”. The gist of this is that our physical home is a refuge where we can retreat from the world, gather our strength, heal our wounds and feel safe. If we have a physical space to retreat to it is of great value to us in terms of our peace and wellbeing. I often think about my own body as being like my ‘castle’ as I go around my day facing various challenges. As long as a part of my attention is centered in my body I have a place where I can feel strong, relaxed and solid, even if there are difficult emotions, uncertainties or negative thoughts going on.
If you like you can bear this image in mind as you cultivate your own mindful attention of your body and senses. Practice making them ‘castle-like’; solid, immense and stable amidst the whirlwind of your emotions, thoughts and activities. If you are a visually minded person, when you are sitting in meditation you might even like to imagine yourself in your very own castle, safe and calm within its strong walls. You can them bring that feeling into your body in the present moment and cultivate that feeling of physical strength and solidity.

Enhancing your bodily comfort and wellbeing
As you cultivate your awareness in this way, you will also start to notice tension, fatigue or discomfort in the body. As a result, you will naturally start to let go of that tension and look after your body better. So not only will you find more mental stability, but you will also enhance your wellbeing on a physical level!

© Toby Ouvry 2018, 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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Connecting to Your Big Mind

Dear Integral Meditators,

Where is your mind? In your body, in your brain, somewhere else? The article below offers a meditators perspective!

In the spirit of the Big Mind,


Connecting to Your Big Mind (Is the Mind in the Body or the Body in the Mind?)

A contemporary, conventional view of the mind is that it is inside our body, most often the assumption is that it is in the brain. Our mind sits in our brain, and if we can just figure out our brain, then we will be able to figure out our mind. Right?

The Big Mind
If you have been meditating or practicing mindfulness for a while you will notice that there are times when your mind and energy seem to become open, spacious, almost limitless, transcending the mere experience of your physical body and brain. Even if we are not meditators we will have experienced times where our present moment experience seems to transcend our physical body and brain; perhaps when in love, when in the presence of a beautiful sunset, when we have experienced a profoundly moving work of art, or during a dreaming experience.
In Zen the awakened mind or mind of enlightenment is sometimes called the ‘Big mind’; an experience of a formless, timeless beingness that is without limitation, beyond time, beyond the body and brain,  and beyond the conceptual mind.

The body in the mind
From this point of view our body, and indeed the physical world and universe all exist within the limitless space of our Big Mind. So rather than our mind being in our body, our body is actually contained within our mind! Our brain is seen as a filter that filters out all of the infinite information contained within the Big Mind, enabling us to function operationally as an individual human being in the physical world. If you think about your brain as a computer, and the Big Mind as like the internet, this gives you an idea; the computer helps you to find the information you need from the internet, filtering it out from all the other information on the net.

An Exercise: Experiencing your body and brain in your Big Mind
Sitting quietly, imagine your mind becoming as big as possible; expanding our beyond your body and brain, out into the landscape around you, up into the sky and stars above you, and down into the earth beneath you. Let it become as big as you can, enter into the Big Mind experience. Then think about your body and environment as being contained within your Big Mind; everything you sense, think of and experience is all contained within your Big Mind; it is the context in which everything else is experienced.

Why does this matter?
Spending a period of time each day relaxing into your Big Mind can really change the way in which you experience yourself, your life, your challenges and your joys. Instead of being stuck in your body, you gain access to a bigger, stabler identity that enables you to experience the ups and downs of your life with stability, lightness, creativity and humour.

A final point; your small mind and small life still matters, and looking after it is still important, it’s just that it is contained within a bigger, more spacious identity and context!

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Guided Insight Meditation: Care of the Physical Body

This is a nine minute guided insight meditation on caring for the physical body, you can simply play it from this page Press play icon below) or download it onto your computer (right click on text below) for personal use.

[audio:|titles=Care for Physical Body Insight Medi (9mins)]

Care for Physical Body Insight Medi (9mins)

Here is the basic script for the Meditation:

Poem of Care for the Physical Body

1. Breathing in I am aware of my physical body,

Breathing out I extend care and calm to my physical body,

2. Breathing in I am thankful to my physical body,

Breathing out I extend my love and gratitude to my physical body,

3. Breathing in I am aware of psychological tensions I hold within my physical body,

Breathing out I release this tension,

4. Breathing in I feel at home in my physical body,

Breathing out I rest within that homely space.

You can read the article that relates to this meditation and gives some further commentary to it here:

Insight Meditation – Improving your subjective experience by developing your Objective Perspective

Happy meditating!


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The Basic Fundamentals of Walking Meditation

Many people who think of meditation often think of a formal exercise involving sitting still on a chair or cushion with our eyes closed. It can come as a bit of a surprise to such people to find out that walking can be considered a form of meditation practice, and that walking meditation can become a major part of our daily routine, contributing substantially to or overall consciousness development and sense of inner peace and centred-ness. It is well worth investing the time and effort in learning to do walking meditation, as we spend a substantial portion of our day walking from one destination to another, and if we know how to walk in a meditative manner, then time spent walking can become time spent relaxing and meditating!

Walking meditation can be simply defined as any walk that we undertake where we are using the process of walking to develop our mindfulness, awareness of the present moment and other states conducive to inner peace and happiness. Below I describe some very simple walking meditation techniques that can be used by anyone. Be sure to begin your walking meditation with a conscious decision to stop worrying about your personal life, work projects etc., and to focus on enjoying the process of walking in the here and now!

Initial concentration builders:

Method 1
Walking at a pace that is comfortable for you note how many steps it takes you to breathe in and breathe out, then combine your observation of your breathing with your steps. Lets say it takes you three steps to breathe one in breath and three to breathe out. As you take each step on the inhalation inwardly say to yourself ”In”, and as you breathe out with each step say ”out”. So the basic pattern in this example would be in, in, in, out, out, out, in, in, in, out, out, out and so on. Try and get yourself into a rhythm use it to keep your attention in the here and now.

Method 2
A simple variation on method one. Let’s stay with the rhythm of three steps in and three steps out. As you breathe in you recite “step, step, focus”, as you breathe out “step, step, relax”. Continue in this way using the last step of the inhalation to prompt yourself to focus, and the last step of the exhalation to prompt you to relax. If you like you can substitute other words for the focus/relax combination, for example here/now, present/awareness, calm/ease. Choose a combination that is effective and pertinent to you!

Method 3
Pick an object a distance in front of you, such as a tree. Then, as you walk toward it, try and be mindful of the tree and of the present moment with each step and each breath that you take. Once you reach the object, relax for a few steps/breaths, then pick out another object in the distance to focus on in the same way. Build your mindfulness based upon your awareness of the physical object, your breathing and your steps.

Once you have a little bit of focus:

Method 1

As you walk and breathe, pick one sense power, such as your hearing or sight. Try and focus on that sense power mindfully, being aware of all the information that is coming into your awareness through that sense door. So, if you choose your hearing for example, try and pick out all the sounds that are available to you, the wind in the trees, the bird calls, the distant waterfall, the traffic, and so on… Pay full attention to this one sense power with each step, try and experience this as if it is the first time that you have heard, seen or felt it.
Method 2

Once you have some experience of method 1, expand your sensory awareness to take in the whole experience of walking in the present moment. With each step and breath try and experience walking in and experiencing the physical and sensory world as if for the first time. Allow time to disappear, so that the full power of the present is able to impact itself upon your being.