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The yoga of limitation and choice

Dear Integral Meditation,

Is choice always a good thing for us? How can we use limitation to our advantage? The article below looks at how we can use mindfulness to approach both choice and limitation with confidence…

In the spirit of the journey,


The yoga of limitation and choice

The yoga of limitation and choice are two types of mindfulness practice centered around the process of decision making. In situations where our choices are very limited and where we have multiple choices there are both:

  • Opportunities for specific types of inner growth, happiness and wellbeing.
  • Challenges to our peace of mind and factors trying to sabotage our sense of inner wellbeing

Allowing ourselves to be disciplined by limitation
When I was a monk I deliberately chose to limit my options in life:

  • A very minimal income
  • No sexual or romantic relationships
  • No intoxicants (except the odd expresso!)

Because of this my choices became very limited, which meant I had to practice ‘the discipline of limitation’ living within my means and boundaries. My limitations also enabled me to focus and accomplish the goal of becoming a meditation and mindfulness expert, but even without that I observed that simply having fewer choices makes your life clear and simple; the limitations of your choice give rise to a certain amount of peace if you are able to accept them.
So, to practise the yoga of limitation simply means to be content and accepting of the limitations of your life as you find them each day. This doesn’t mean that you don’t make plans to increase your choices and opportunities in life; it just means you are take advantage of the limitations you find each day, and are not made unhappy by them.

The discipline of choice
Now that I am a layperson in the middle stages of my life I have many choices and options

  • Which personal and business relationships do I pursue?
  • How best to spend and save my money?
  • Am I insured enough?
  • Private or public education for my child?
  • Where to go on holiday?
  • Where to live?

Endless choices, and the more wealth I have, the more choices are born from that…
The interesting thing that I note as I observe my own experience of choice (and many of the people that surround me) is that having all these options can give rise to a lot of anxiety and unhappiness (what if this is the wrong choice? Someone tell me what to do!) In order not to be made unhappy and over anxious by my many choices, I have to be disciplined, decisive and mindful.  When you no longer have the luxury of limitation, mindful, conscious decision making really comes at a premium.

What are the circumstances in your life right now where you need to practice the yoga of limitation; allowing yourself to be disciplined by and content with your absence of choices?
What are the circumstances where you need to practice the yoga of choice; managing the anxiety of having options, and making choices consciously, responsibly and positively?

If you are a mindfulness practitioner, you will know how to take advantage of both types of situation, and have an ongoing experiential grasp of the saying that the time to be happy (in whatever form you understand that) is always now.

© 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

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You Always Have a Choice

Some of you familiar with meditation and mindfulness will be familiar with the practice of choice-less awareness. Choice-less awareness essentially involves learning to be a witness to your consciousness and its contents; just sitting there and allowing whatever comes up in your mind to come up without interfering, like watching clouds in the sky.

However, in daily life and in the world of active thought and action, one of the best ways to turn on and develop your mindfulness practice is to engage in your process of making choices consciously and definitely.

There is never a circumstance in life where you do not have options, and the options that you choose each day have real and tangible consequences on your life. If you abstain from making choices through laziness, fear, confusion (etc and any combination of), or if you labor under the illusion that you have ‘no choice’ in a situation then you are tangibly handicapping your chances of building a happy and fulfilling life.

The flip side of this is that by making sure that each day you are making mindful considered choices you are dramatically increasing the your life-effectiveness, your chances of success in your endeavors, and your chances of getting what you want in the way that you want it.

If you really want to turn your mindfulness practice on, make sure you are asking yourself every day and in each consequential situation “What are my choices here?” Make full use of the mind you have.