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On patience, productivity & the breathing

“Using your breathing to facilitate patience does not mean that you won’t have any stress, but it means that your stress will side on eu-stress, or productive stress, rather than negative or debilitating stress”

Dear Integral Meditators, 

The article below is a personal reflection on my current situation. It outlines a way of using your breathing to be patient and calm, and using the patience to then be productive. If you get these fundamentals right, it can be life changing!

Quick heads up for the weekly classes which will be re-starting next week with The Wisdom of Awakening Series: Meditations for developing wisdom around inner-growth, happiness & fulfillment starts on Aug 15th/16th. 

In the spirit of patient creativity, 


On patience, productivity & the breathing
This article outlines a way of using your breathing to be patient and calm, and using the patience to then be productive. If you get these fundamentals right, it can be life changing!
I’ve been on holiday with my toddler for the last 10 days or so without my wife. As a solo parent with a toddler, it can actually be quite stressful and frustrating being on holiday. The routine of the child is interrupted, familiar surroundings are interrupted and so getting anything constructive done beyond the bare minimum is quite tricky. Each day I have had a certain amount of work to do, and only a small, non-fixed window of time to do it in. So, this means that I must take it when I can!
In order to do that however, I need to arrive at my work window un-strained and reasonably calm, otherwise I’ll just use quite a bit of my ‘work’ time de-stressing and getting in the mood to work, rather than actually working.
The way I’ve been doing this on this holiday has been simply regulating my breathing in an informal way as I’m going about the day and parenting duties. As one of my favourite coaches Scott Sonnon says:
Nearly half of all stress-regulation, attentional stamina, and calmness are accomplished merely by paying attention to what breathing sensations feel like
With this principle I mind, I’ve been simply being mindful of my breathing, focusing on good ‘breathing form’ and letting that process modulate my mental, emotional, and physical stress, so that when I arrive at my work window, or find an opportunity to really relax and enjoy the holiday, my body-mind is in a state to really take advantage of the opportunity!
Below are seven basic aspects of Qi Gong breathing as I teach in my Qi gong classes. To begin with you will have to practice each aspect separately, in order to get a feel for it, but after a while you will find that you can combine all the features into a smooth cycle of breathing without having to exert effort. Using these pointers, you can be checking in on your breathing and using good breathing form to help regulate your stress as you go through your day.
This does not mean that you won’t have any stress, but it means that your stress will side on eu-stress, or productive stress, rather than negative or debilitating stress.

1.  Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth*. The tip of the tongue should be placed on the palette behind the top front teeth.
*Specifically when practicing formal Qi Gong exercises – In daily life breathing in and out through the nose is generally recommended if possible.

2.  Breathe into the belly. This means, as you breathe in, you are directing air down into the bottom of the lungs, so that you can feel your diaphragm expanding downward, and exerting a gentle pressure on the abdominal organs.

3. Breathe in to about 60-70% of your lung capacity, not to shallow, not too deep. Do not breathe in more deeply than is comfortable and relaxing.

4. When inhaling, as well as directing the air down into the bottom of the lungs, try also to utilize the sides, the front and the back of your lower-mid lungs. This means that as you inhale you can feel the front, back and sides of your lower and mid ribcage gently expanding. Then as you exhale you will feel your ribcage contracting accordingly.

5. As you inhale, gently (no more than 40% strength) contract the muscles in the perineum, so that you can feel your pelvic floor rising and becoming firm. As you do this you will feel a gentle squeeze or pressure being exerted upon the abdominal organs as the diaphragm pushes down on them from above, and the pelvic floor rises from below. You don’t need to do this all the time during the day, but regular ‘sets of 3-6’ are really helpful.

6. Make your breathing regular and balanced. Below is one Qi gong method, it is an example, not the only option you might choose!
Make quality of the breathing should be smooth, gentle and continuous, without a gap or break between the inhalation and the exhalation. This is called circular, or wave breathing. In the same way that as soon as a wave has broken upon the shore it begins to ebb and be absorbed back into the ocean, as soon as we have reached the peak of our inhalation, we should begin our exhalation. Likewise, at the end of the exhalation, we should begin the inhalation immediately and smoothly with no break between.
7. Combine your breathing with your movement. For example, if you are walking, co-ordinate your inhaling and exhaling with your stepping. There is a lot of possible depth and variation in this subject, but it can be done in simple ways right away.

Related articlesFour functional breathing techniques

© Toby Ouvry 2023, 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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‘Going through the motions’ as a mindfulness tool

Dear Integral Meditators,

You may have heard or even experienced how mindfulness makes you more productive and increases your potential for success, but how does this actually work in practice? The article below gives a practical example…

In the spirit of quiet power,


PS: Live in Singapore this week: The Tuesday & Wednesday evening meditation classes this week is the Spring Equinox Balancing & renewing Meditation, all welcome!

‘Going through the motions’ as a mindfulness tool

There are a lot of things that are very necessary and important for you to be successful in life that are not very exciting, motivating or interesting. There are many days when you wake up tired, moody and undermotivated. On such days, even things that normally would excite you or motivate you can seem really uninteresting.
Whether it’s a boring task, or your feeling under-motivated, it’s really important in terms of being successful that you to keep doing what is necessary, whether you feel like it or not! When we do something that we don’t want to do, we sometimes say ‘I’m just going through the motions’. There are three basic stages to mindfully ‘going through the motions’ to get things done:

1. See the benefit of doing the task or action – This morning I went through a long list of old scripts, to see which ones I might want to re-vamp into new meditations. I was tired and it was essentially mundane work, but it was necessary to do before doing the fun, creative work of re-writing new material from the old. The mundane task sets up the completion of the fun, creative task.
2. Accept you don’t feel like doing it – If I’m feeling tired, run down and insecure on an evening, I may not feel like responding politely and considerately to my partners questions, or dealing with my children’s bad moods. But if I’m intelligent and thoughtful, I know that even though I don’t feel like it, it is in my own,  the other persons and the relationships best interests to make the effort. But I accept that I don’t feel like it. I’m going to do it despite the fact that I don’t feel like it!
3. Go through the motions anyway – At this stage I see the benefits of doing the task, I accept the fact that I don’t feel like doing it. Now, I need to go through the motions, just do it! It may feel mechanical and mundane, I may feel I am mentally ‘walking though treacle’, but I just do it. I start writing, I engage politely, I start exercising…I just get going, even if it feels fake. I go through the motions!

The benefits
There are a number of benefits to getting in the habit of going through the motions
You get it done, which feels good – As one writer said “I don’t like writing, but I like having written!” when you complete a task there is a feel good factor and a sense of satisfaction. Sometimes especially if you didn’t feel like doing it!
Sometimes you start to enjoy it and feel good – Once you start and overcome the initial inertia you can find yourself enjoying the activity. You didn’t feel like being polite to your partner, but now the conversation is chugging along very enjoyably!
Mundane stuff can be centering and grounding – If you are doing something boring, the repetition or predictability of the task can create a rhythm that is calming and centering. I noticed this recently painting walls in my apartment. The physical movement and repetition is deeply mind-calming and stress relieving!
You get sh#*t done that sets you up for success – when you habitually ‘go through the motions’ you become capable of doing and achieving things that you could not do if you relied on ‘feeling like it’. GTTM’s gives you the qualities of maturity, discipline and endurance that facilitates the long term fulfilment of deeply held goals and ambitions. You become capable of doing what the ordinary man or woman cannot do.

So, the next time you’re feeling tired, under motivated or despondent, simply set up the next task that you need to get done, and mindfully go through the motions!

Related article: On boredom, creativity & ‘mindful fishing’

© 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

Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation Classes at Basic Essence with Toby

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation Classes at One Heart with Toby (East coast)

Starts Tuesday & Wednesday March 6-7 th – Inner Peace, Inner Power – An Introduction to Integral & Engaged Meditation Practice

March 20&21st – Spring Equinox Balancing & renewing Meditation

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Online Courses 1:1 Coaching * Books * Live Workshops * Corporate Mindfulness Training *Life-Coaching *  Meditation Technology

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A Blueprint for Mindful Productivity

Dear Integral Meditators,

You may think of ‘productivity’ as  word that you would associate more with your professional development that your individual personal development, but in the article below I look at how our individual happiness is also dependent to a degree upon our productivity, and how we can create a win-win relationship between our personal happiness and professional growth.

Beneath the article you can see that I have placed the full information for the Mind of Ease Meditation Online Course. You can view a ten minute video that I have created where I talk in some detail about the relevance and effectiveness of the Mind of Ease Meditations HERE.

Yours in the spirit of mindful productivity,


Your Blueprint for Mindful Productivity

Productivity is the act of supporting our existence by translating our thoughts into reality*, our ideas into objects and products, of bringing knowledge, goods and services of all kinds into existence though our creativity.

We should be interested in productivity as individuals because productivity gives rise to achievements, and this in turn gives rise to a particular type of happiness and confidence.
As employers and members of organizations we should be interested in teaching ourself and others in the organization productivity, because it will help to give rise to a successful, confident and happy organization that people will want to work in and stay in.

So what are the building blocks of productivity, and how can mindfulness help nurture it? Here are a few practical thoughts:

1. We need to be having creative thoughts, and to believe that we are capable of such thoughts – In all of the major domains of our life we need to realize that we are creative agents, and that what we do makes a difference. In our relationships, at work, in our leisure activities we need to challenge ourselves to think intelligently about what we want, and then act productively on those ideas to make them a reality.

2. We need to believe something that comes from ourself can be worthwhile – Ask yourself the question “Do I really believe that an idea that I have can be of real value and make a difference in the world?” If you really believe that then productivity and manifestation will be a natural extension of your belief. If deep down you don’t believe in yourself and the power of your ideas, then even if you have the most amazing ideas they are going to get lost behind a myriad of excuses and distractions. It’s actually ‘easier’ to just become a consumer rather than a producer, but by becoming so we deny ourself so many fundamental forms of happiness.

3. We need to measure how many of the creative thoughts we have make it into reality each day – So we’ve decided we are going to really believe in the power of our ideas (not easy to do on a deep level), and we’ve decided to become a producer. Then you need to ask yourself the question each day “How many thoughts and ideas have I translated into reality today?” You literally look at how many of your thoughts you have actually translated into the domain of our everyday reality.

  • If you are an aspiring poet, that means writing something
  • If you are a marketer it means communicating your message to your audience, today
  • If you are a teacher like me, it means producing materials that can be taught and then inviting people to participate

What productive activity have you done today?

4. We need to appreciate that which we produce – Don’t let your achievements go unnoticed. Don’t finish one thing and then immediately go onto the next. Savor it first; allow the pleasure of your own productivity to feed and nurture your being so that you can sustain enthusiasm for the process.

5. Rinse and repeat each day until it becomes a part of the fabric of how you operate
Being mindful of points 1-5 above is your basic blueprint for sustainable productivity each day. Remember, you’re not doing it to please someone else (although it might), you are doing it because you are choosing to take pleasure in your own productive power, the power you have to be a cause in life, not just an effect.

*Paraphrased definition from ‘Honoring the Self’ by Nat Branden, chapter 12 on Rational Selfishness.

© Toby Ouvry 2014, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website 

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What do I Need to Focus Upon Now?

Dear Integral Meditators,

Consciously learning to focus your mind where it needs to be is a primary life skill that we can develop through meditation and mindfulness, the article below explores how you can begin today.

For those of you interested in meditative art; When I do a soul portrait for someone, I don’t always know what the significance some of the images, lines and colours are. The response from a client to her soul portrait that I have posted (with her permission)HERE  illustrates just how much this is the case!

Yours in the spirit of joyful focus,


What do I Need to Focus Upon Now? (The Field of Awareness, the Art of Mindfulness)

In each moment you experience a field of awareness. Within that field there are many things going on. As I am sitting here on a Friday evening I can hear the traffic outside, the cat sneezing on the balcony, the sound of the fan and music. I can feel the open, spacious effect of the meditation I have done, just an inner open pure awareness. There are thoughts formulating in my mind as I type out the article, there is the residual emotions of a long day.  Could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The art of practical mindfulness is simply to keep asking the question “What do I need to focus upon now?” and then train your attention on hold itself where it needs to be. The key understanding here is that what you need to be focusing on changes many times in each day. As I am writing this article on my computer, it is appropriate for my conscious awareness to be focused upon my mental process and typing. Earlier on when I was meditating my attention was absorbed into a spacious experience of deeper consciousness. Still earlier when I was putting my daughter to bed my attention was focused on that process. After writing I’ll have a drink before I go to bed and turn my mindful attention to processing the events and emotions of the day. Each of these states of mindful attention is different, but appropriate.
If I was thinking about my article whilst meditating, that would render my meditation ineffective. If I was processing my emotions from my day whilst putting my daughter to bed, that would make me less effective at that task. If I was zoning out in meditation whilst trying to get this article writ, it wouldn’t get done.
The art of mindfulness is knowing what to focus upon within your field of awareness at any given moment in your day, and to keep changing your object of awareness appropriately as you go through your different activities and tasks.
If you can do this well then your tasks will be as successful as they can be according to your limitations. What’s more, because you are focusing appropriately on each area you will naturally get better at each activity thereby extending your capabilities, which in turn will lead to greater success, self-esteem and happiness.

So there is your question; “what do I need to focus upon right now?” If you keep asking this question each day your mindfulness, effectiveness and wellbeing will improve correspondingly.

For a further exploration of this topic see my article on street mindfulness.

© 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