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Your Inner Fitness Trainers

Dear Integral Meditators,

What would happen if you treated the most difficult people and circumstances in your life as ‘inner fitness trainers’? This weeks article explores this theme and mindfulness practice.

Yours in the spirit of the useful in the difficult,


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Your Inner Fitness Trainers

The function of a good physical fitness trainer is to push you to the limits of your physical flexibility, strength and stamina in a safe and secure way by giving you specific physical tasks and challenges to focus upon.
If we are serious about our own inner mindfulness training, then we should be looking at the people or circumstances we find most difficult and challenging in our life as being like our inner fitness trainers. Their function is to push us to the limits of our mental, emotional and spiritual flexibility, strength and stamina by giving us specific challenges that push us to those limits.

But the people and circumstances in life that are hurting me aren’t trying to help!
When you are being trained by a (good) coach physically you engage in the exercises they set for you because you understand that they are trying to help. But people giving you a hard time in my life aren’t trying to help, nor is the illness that you have! So there is a conscious choice that you are making here to adopt people and circumstance as your trainers, despite their bad intentions, or despite the unfairness of the circumstances. It is a personal, empowering choice you make based around a recognition of the benefit that can be gained from adopting such a perspective.

Get clarity – How and for what are these people/circumstances helping me?
Pick the top three most difficult and/or unpleasant circumstances that you are going through right now; the ones that make you manifestly uncomfortable, or inwardly scream at the unfairness of it all. List them and then answer these two questions with regard to each one:

  • How is this person or circumstance helping me to develop, expand and strengthen  my mind and consciousness?
  • What is the specific approach and perspective that I need to keep in mind when I am with this person or dealing with this circumstance that will help me transform them into an ‘inner mind trainer’ for me?

The answer to these two questions gives you your basic mindfulness practice for each of your specific challenges. If you focus your awareness, intention and attention mindfully upon these questions, you may be surprised at how quickly and creatively you can come up with approaches that you can start to work with right away.

Feeling thankful
These days most of us have heard of the idea of a gratitude log or journal; a notebook where we keep a list of all the things that we appreciate and feel grateful for in our life. If you can start integrating your ‘inner fitness training’ into your daily mindfulness practice, then you may find yourself able to add the worst people in your life and the most difficult challenges that you face to your own gratitude log!

Find out about Toby’s Stress Transformation Coaching

Related Article: A Butterfly in the Wind

© 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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Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 2 – Meeting Your Deeper & Higher Needs Through Meditation

Dear Integral Meditators,

This is the second in the series of ‘Motivating yourself to meditate’ articles, you can read the first HERE if you have not done so already.

In the spirit of enjoying our deeper and higher selves,


Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 2 – Meeting Your Deeper & Higher Needs Through Meditation

In the first in this series of articles on motivating yourself to meditate I took a look at how it is that meditation can help us to meet some of our basic needs, or needs 1-3 in Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I this article I want to look at how meditation helps us to start to satisfy our “higher” needs; specifically needs 4-6 of Abraham Maslow’s human needs hierarchy:

  1.  Esteem needs – For competence, approval & recognition
  2. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – For knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
  3. Self-Actualization needs

4. Esteem Needs – Competence, approval, recognition.
One of the basic things that any form of authentic meditation technique will improve is your concentration. With better concentration your ability to be competent in any given area of expertise that you set yourself is going to improve. So, meditation helps your esteem needs in this regard by helping you increase your mind power and therefore become competent faster. This in turn will likely lead to approval and recognition from your teachers, peers and society.
With regard to the need for approval and recognition, I would say that consistent meditation will help you to make approval and recognition into a preference rather than an all consuming need. This is because meditation takes us gradually away from “doingness needs” and toward “beingness needs”

  • “Doingness needs” are the needs that we have to prove our worth by deeds, job titles and all the other bench marks that conventional society lays down as meaning “successful”.
  • “Beingness needs” are the needs that arise from already seeing, feeling and experiencing ourself as whole, complete and worthy as we are. Meditation encourages a daily connection to our own state of beingness, that is to say as whole, complete and worthy as we are right now. In a state of beingness, our own needs are perceived as being already met, and so our “needs” actually start to focus more and more on the needs of others around us. We are happy as we are, so we have more energy to focus on the wellbeing of others.

In conclusion, when our beingness needs are met (which they will be increasingly through balanced meditation), of course we can be happy when we are measured as “successful” by the conventional benchmarks of society, but if not it is no big disaster, as our sense of beingness ensures that we feel happy and complete as we are.

5. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – Knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
With our beingness needs increasingly being met by meditation (as outlined in section 4 immediately above), an increasing amount of energy is opened up within us to look into “bigger questions”:

What is the meaning of life?
Why am I here?
What is fairness?
What is justice?
What is beauty?

This is level 5 of Maslow’s Hierarchy, our aesthetic and cognitive needs. A regular meditation practice will not answer these questions per-se, as a lot of meditation practice is about reducing the content of the mind, not filling it! However, what meditation will do systematically over time is to open us up to a full functioning awareness of our intuitive, archetypal and spiritual minds. This naturally helps us to articulate a considered response to the big questions that are posed by our aesthetic and cognitive needs.
A final point; meditation prevents us from getting “stuck” on the existential questions that are posed by this level. “What is the meaning of life?” is a question that may never be fully answered, and this is right and good. Meditation enables us to recognize the point where question asking and philosophizing ceases to be useful and relevant, and to move into states of silence and pure awareness.

6. Self Actualization: 
Actually, up to the last century or so, the main focus of meditation has traditionally been enlightenment, or needs associated with levels 5 and 6. It is only in more recent times that meditation has been advocated as a potential solution to the stress, mental busyness and anxiety of modern life, which has made it useful and relevant on the level of our survival needs  (levels 1&2 of Maslow’s hierarchy) and level 3, emotional wellbeing. Through history the predominant reason that people have meditated is to commune, merge and create a state of union with their spiritual being, which in turn exists in a state of one-ness or unity with the Universe. So, in terms of the sixth and highest level of our needs; Self Actualization or enlightenment, meditation is actually the most effective, tried and tested method for accomplishing this need.

© 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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Curiosity, Courage and Care – Cornerstones of the Mindful Encounter

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article is an exploration of the mindful encounter – what it takes to stay truly alive and curious to our own life path each day. I hope you enjoy it! The article also explores three of the core components of Mindful Self-Leadership.

Wishing you all the very best for the Easter weekend,


Curiosity, Courage and Care – Cornerstones the Mindful Self-Leadership Encounter

What qualities are going to enable you to successfully encounter and lead yourself through the challenges of your life with success in the terms that you (not somebody else) define it?

What qualities will encourage a living (rather than mechanical) experience of encountering your life, and encourage you to live your own life story in a meaningful and engaged way?

The cornerstones of this type of ‘mindful-encountering’ are three; curiosity, courage and care:

Curiosity – To practice mindful curiosity means to be committed to being deeply interested and thoughtful about what is arises in your life. This applies not only to the things that are pleasant and desirable, but also the things that make you feel vulnerable, uncomfortable and afraid. Curiosity means a full blooded commitment to being aware of everything that comes into the field of your awareness in each moment and to stay with that awareness throughout the day.

Courage – To sustain a commitment to conscious awareness in your life, to be ‘naked’ to what is arising without editing, armouring or avoiding takes courage; it takes courage to be curious and to be courageous means to engage in our life with constant, unwavering curiosity.

Care – Many of the realities of our mind, of our feeling and of the world around us can encourage us to anesthetize, insulate or armour ourself from our reality, to cut ourself off from it, to not feel it, to look away from it. So the third quality of the MS-L encounter is care; to commit to caring, to not cut ourself of from, to not turn away from that which comes into the field of our awareness.

What are the consequences of not engaging in the mindful encounter?

If you are not prepared to be deeply interested and curious about your life, your wants, your needs, your direction, your meaning, then why or where would you expect to find someone else who is?

If you are not prepared to have the courage to face what needs to be faced in your life, why would you expect someone else to do it for you?

If you don’t deeply care about your life, yourself and the people you share it with, no one can create that experience of caring for you; it comes from committing to it.

If you care, have courage and are deeply curious in your life, significant people around you will tend to see that and respond by giving their own curiosity, courage and care to your endeavors. And even if they don’t, you will have found something that no one can take away from you.

A Meditation Image for the Mindful
Self-Leadership Encounter

I found the image for this image on pinterest.  It is of a baby being held by a rescue worker during the London blitz.
Your life is like the baby, it is vulnerable and needs someone to be curious, care for it and have the courage to do what needs to be done to keep it safe and take it in the direction it needs to go. You are the rescue worker holding the baby; it is your job to save the baby and take it to where it needs to go to grow up safe, happy and fulfilled.
There are no other rescue workers; you are the rescue worker of your own life. Other people; parents, coaches, friends, partners can assist but cannot do it for you.
You are in charge of your own mindful self-leadership encounter.

© 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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Leaping Like a Tiger: Mindful Self-Leadership

Dear Integral Meditators,

What sort of ideas spring into your mind when you think of the words self-leadership? Integral Meditation Asia is excited to bring you three opportunities to learn about mindful self-leadership this May!

Before I talk more about that, just a quick reminder for anyone interested in the‘Meditating with the Tree of Yoga – A Twelve Module online Course’ the special price offer of $39 will be coming to an end this Thursday 17th April. So if you are interested, do make sure you get it before then!  

Back to Mindful Self-Leadership: You can read the full details of the courses on MS-L below, and I have created a five minute video Leaping Like a Tiger – Mindful Self Leadership which you can view here:

Yours in the spirit of leading and leaping,


Mindful Self-Leadership: Take Control of Your Life Direction and Wellbeing Through Awareness, Curiosity, Courage and Care.

A Free Talk, a Workshop and an Online Course

In a sentence: Learn how you can develop deep confidence in yourself, take benevolent control of your life, overcome inner inhibitions such as fear and invite fulfillment and wellbeing into your life through the practice of mindful self leadership.

Overview: The best place to learn how lead is within yourself. Do you agree?

Developing your Mindful Self-leadership is about how you can:

  • Feel increasing levels of comfort and confidence in your relationship to yourself, your life and in your ability to take your life in the direction that you truly want it to go
  •  Develop your self-knowledge and self-understanding so as to find out what will really make you most happy
  • Find ways of being making use of the challenges that you face, by taking responsibility for them and leading yourself to the best solutions to those challenges
  • Learn to communicate with yourself and others in a way that encourages you to express your deeper values in the way you think feel and act
  • Develop a capacity for self-leadership that will be an inspiration to others and encourage them to develop their own self-leadership skills
  • Do all of the above using a set of mindfulness practices that enables you to drop into states of mind that are relaxing, peaceful and regenerative, and that will help you dramatically reduce the amount of negative stress and anxiety in your life.

If you have been answering ‘yes’ to the above points then the course in mindful self leadership is for you!

This course is suitable for:

  • Those who may be new to mindfulness and who want to learn it in a way that cultivates the self-leadership skills outlined above.
  • People who are already familiar with mindfulness and meditation practice and wish to learn how to use it in a leadership context.

There are three opportunities to participate in the Mindful-Self Leadership training:

  • Attend a free introductory talk on Mindful Self-Leadership at 10-11am  on Sunday 4th May the  at Basic Essence
  • A three hour Mindful Self-Leadership workshop in Singapore in Sunday May 18th at Basic Essence. For full information see details below.
  • A Five week Mindful Self-Leadership online course that will begin on Thursday 22nd May see below for full details.

What does it cost?:

  • The Introductory talk on 4th May is FREE
  • The three hour Mindful Self-Leadership workshop on 18th May is Singapore$130
  • The five week Mindful Self-Leadership Online Course is Sing$200 ($180 before May 8th)
  • You can participate in both the Mindful Self-Leadership three hour workshop AND online course for a combined price of $300. In addition to this you can get an early bird price for both the 3 hour WS of Sing$285 if you book and make payment before Thursday,  May 8th




Free Talk on Mindful Self-Leadership

Date: Sunday 4th April
Time: 10-11am
Location: Basic Essence, (For location Map click HERE)


Details of the Mindful Self-Leadership Three Hour Workshop:

Date: Sunday May 18th
Time: 9.30am-12.30
Location: Basic Essence, (For location Map click HERE)

This three our workshop introduces four fundamental mindfulness practices that you can take into your daily life in order to develop your capacity for confident self-leadership. These four practices are as follows:

  1. Encountering – Developing your foundation for mindful self–leadership by increasing your capacity to encounter ALL of your reality without being intimidated by it
  2. Accepting – Mindfully accepting all of whom you are in order to lead yourself beyond who you are
  3. Envisioning – Connecting to the values of your personal self-leadership style
  4. Empowering – Taking responsibility for respecting who you are and expressing it appropriately in your life

Each of these practices invites the ongoing development of your own personal self-leadership style and understanding of how it can be integrated into your daily life.
As well as guiding these exercises Toby will here will be giving talks on each of them, and there will be time for exploration of the practices through Q&A.

In addition to the workshop you will receive:

  • MP3 recordings of the practices and talks that are done during the workshop
  • Full workshop notes with all of the mindful self leadership exercises included as well as other relevant articles and materials.
  • All in all you will have a very clear idea of how you can continue your mindful self leadership practice in your daily life after leaving the workshop

Taking Control of Your Life Through Mindful Self-Leadership – A Five Week Online Course

Start date: Thursday May 22nd

Course Outline: This five week online course is an in depth exploration of how you can develop your mindful self-leadership style in order to:

  • Develop increasing confidence and self-direction in life
  • Align yourself with what will really make you inwardly fulfilled
  • Take advantages of your challenges in life to further self-knowledge and discovery
  • Assert values and actions in your life that are congruent with who you are
  • Become the leader you want to be when he going gets tough in your life
  • Combine self-leadership with the daily cultivation of inner peace and wellbeing

Module titles:

Module 1: Getting started; a outline and overview of the elements of mindful self-leadership and how to start cultivating your experience of it on a daily basis
Module 2: Accepting who you are in order to go beyond who you are – Exploring the paradox of mindful self-leadership
Module 3: You can’t practice self leadership if you don’t know where you want to go – Getting to grips with what you really want in life
Module 4: You know more than you think you know – Accessing your inner guidance for the purposes of mindful self-leadership
Module 5: The long leadership journey to where you are – Exploring the spiritual dimension of self-leadership

How it works: Upon registering for the course you will be sent the link to the course webpage together with the password to access it. This will be the place you can go in order to access, listen to and download the course materials. Each week during the five weeks of the course you will be notified when the latest module has been uploaded.

For further details: Please contact



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Your Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article features a reflection on a period of my own meditation practice in the year immediately following my ordination as a Buddhist Monk. Our life challenges come in a variety of different ways, sometimes they come in ways we can anticipate and other times not so much!

This coming week has two events, the first is the Integral Depth Meditation Classeson Wednesday 10th, and the Introduction to Walking Meditation on Sunday 14th. You can click on the links below for full details.

Yours in the spirit of the journey,



Your Meditation Practice May Not be What You Think (Old Men Who Spit and Throw Stones)

In the mid-nineties I returned from a Buddhist festival the Newcastle, England having been newly ordained as a young Buddhist Monk. One main reason I thought I had gotten ordained was to make sure that I had plenty of decent open space in my life for meditation practice, and I was looking forward to getting onto my meditation cushion and making some serious progress that year.
The place where I was staying at the time was not actually a meditation center  it was the spare room of a friend’s flat in an inner city council estate with a lot of poverty, and a lot of substance abuse all around. Our little meditation group had recently moved out of our previous residential space, and were looking for somewhere to buy. So, in the meantime I was holed up in this small room with a bed on one side, a meditation cushion in the middle, and all the furniture and other materials from the meditation center piled up to the ceiling all around me.
The circumstances weren’t ideal for meditation, but nevertheless I was anxious to sit down and get started. However, as soon as I sat down a pattern of occurrences happened that lasted for a whole year. Basically it would be like this:

  • I would sit down to meditate, close my eyes, start setting my motivation and begin my pre-practice prayers
  • Simultaneously in my mind’s eye (not physical eye please note) I would see a bunch of wrinkly, sour faced old men assemble in a circle above my head. Some of them were dressed in old police and military uniforms, some had big sticks in their hands, others stones.
  • As I would start my prayers they would start shouting, spitting on me, chucking rocks down and “hitting” my head aggressively with their sticks (again please note this is in the subtle realm, not the physical one!). Then basically they would stick around for the duration of my meditation, making life as difficult as possible, and then just as I was about to finish they would go away cracking smiles and patting each other on the back!
  • I would then emerge from my meditation session rather disturbed, disoriented and confused, and with something of a headache!

After a couple of weeks of this as I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty sick of this, and it really was not much fun. Nevertheless I kind of hoped that it would last a month or so and then they would leave me alone. Unfortunately not, this basic pattern repeated itself for the year that I was living in that small room. Every time I sat down to meditate I had to endure a shower of psychic abuse from these weird old men. I tried to pray them away, do protection circles, to call on the Buddha’s for help, all to no avail. It seemed like it was just up to me to face off with this every day (and often it persisted during the night and when I was out walking etc…) and take what it was teaching me. What did it teach me? Well, that open to debate really, but here are a few things that occur:

  • To endure and to be very resilient. Sounds like a bit of a cliché, but it did make me mentally tougher to sit myself down for hours at a time knowing that basically I was going to get a lot of abuse and very (very) little bliss
  • To direct compassion and care toward myself. I was alone for long periods of time in this rather hostile location, and if I was not going to direct care and compassion toward myself to deal with the trauma, it was not going to come from outside
  • To appreciate the friends I had. I was not able to talk about what I was going through with anyone, it just felt a bit bizarre, but I did learn to deeply value the basic human warmth and care that I received periodically from people I learned from, taught and who otherwise shared my life.
  • The equanimity of a big mind. I could not control what was appearing to my mind (which was all pretty horrible) but I could be aware that all that was happening was happening in the context of an infinitely large experience of spacious awareness that was always the same, always tolerant, always reliable.
  • A deeper sense of trust: I struggled with the feeling that, despite my belief and experience of benevolent higher powers, they basically seemed to have left me literally and completely to the dogs. Over time I came to see that the skills and insights that I was developing in such a hostile environment were actually ones that could not be developed in other ways. So I (not without a certain amount of chagrin) accepted and trusted what was happening as part of a bigger process.

I just want to say that if you take up meditation it is EXTREMELY UNLIKELY THAT ANY OF THE ABOVE WILL HAPPEN TO YOU! And if you come to one of my meditation classes the environment is conditioned to be conducive to developing states of inner peace and wellbeing.
However, I thought it might be interesting for me to share a bit every now and again about my own (somewhat eccentric and off the main road) personal path and process.
…and finally to point out the title theme of this article, that your own personal meditation practice, which is to say your own path to genuine inner liberation and enlightenment (in whatever way you understand it) may not be quite what you think it is going to be.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Four Levels of Integrated Compassion and How to Practise Them

Dear Integral Meditators,

As it is the Easter weekend I thought it might be nice to continue the theme of compassion from last week’s article, but this time look at four types and levels of compassion that, if we understand them can help us to develop our compassion in an integrated and holistic way.

In the spirit of compassion!


Four Levels of Integrated Compassion and How to Practise Them.

These four levels of compassion are quite easy to understand, and once understood quite easy to integrate as a part of your daily practice. Practising all four together however means that your compassion has the opportunity to grow and develop each day on multiple levels, rather than just one or two.
The way it is used in this article, compassion essentially refers to a feeling of care and support and understanding that we can use as motivation to relieve the suffering of ourself and others)

Here are the four:

Compassion in the first person
This first type of compassion essentially means practising empathy and extending compassion to ourself each day. We are all going through our various different challenges and sufferings, and just spending a few moments each day recognizing what we are going through and extending the feeling of compassion toward ourself can be deeply helpful and life-giving for our process. Feeding ourself compassion also ensures that we always have (at least a little) compassion to give out to others. Without appropriate self-compassion we can find that the well of compassion for others runs dry pretty quickly.

Compassion in the second person 
This is the practice of compassion for those in our “we-space”, our family, friends, colleagues, people we  include within our circle of concern because they share our life. In a certain sense it is natural for us to extend our compassion to these people, but from another point of view, they are also often the people with whom we get most annoyed, upset and pissed off with. So, mindfully, deliberately extending compassion and empathy to those close to us is a really good way of improving the quality of our daily relationships in the midst of all the natural friction that arises.

Compassion in the third and fourth person
Compassion in third person is for those whom you don’t know, and whom you can observe “objectively”. To have compassion for other humans and animals that we don’t know there has to be that basic connection or empathy arising simply because they are another living creature like us. We don’t have to know someone directly to have compassion for them, and each time we purposefully direct our compassion to others outside of our circle of concern we expand our heart of compassion, and increase our potential both to be happy and to be of greater service to the world in some way…

To practice compassion in the fourth person means to take someone/group of living beings you don’t know and really try and enter into the challenges and pain they experience as if you were themYou are identifying deeply with them and their experience, and on this basis developing compassion and empathy for them. There is and power and urgency in fourth person compassion that is absent in third person compassion.

Compassion from first-to-fourth person basically takes us from individual self-compassion (healthy) and expands our circle of concern, to our family, to the world and to all living creatures progressively. Each level is important and each has its place.

One minute mindfulness
Take 1-5 minutes each day (2/3 times a day if you like) to generate empathy and compassion for yourself and then move progressively to those you are close to, to humanity and the world (in third person), and to all living beings as yourself (fourth person), holding each level of compassion for a short while.
Compassion, besides being a pleasant state of mind to hold also has a powerful healing and motivating power. Practising like this for a few minutes each day can have a powerful positive effect on both the way we are in our life and what we choose to do.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article takes a bit of a closer look at exactly what it is that meditation is supposed to do for us. I look at the idea of mindfulness as stress reduction, and offer a new, what I think is in many ways a more constructive and beneficial perspective within which to view the goals of meditation and mindfulness.

Yours in the spirit of increased tolerance to stress,



Why Meditation and Mindfulness Won’t Reduce your Stress (and why this is a good thing)

It is of course a popular idea these days that meditation and mindfulness are key tools that you can use in order to reduce your stress, and many people come to these disciplines hoping to do exactly that; reduce the amount of stress in their lives. However I like to think of meditation and mindfulness doing something different, namely increasing your tolerance to stress and developing the capacity to remain steady and calm amidst situations that are inherently stressful.

Redefining the purpose and function of meditation in the above way is important I think, because it is all too easy to experience a bit of inner peace through meditation and mindfulness, and this experience then take us in the direction of becoming less tolerant to stress, and seeking out meditation as a way of escaping that which we can’t cope with effectively.

Let’s use a simple analogy. Let’s say your present capacity to deal with stress is the equivalent of doing ten push ups in a row before reaching exhaustion. In the analogy lets then say that your life circumstances present you with circumstances that are the equivalent of doing sixteen push ups in a row. This is presently beyond your capacity or stress threshold. What a meditation or mindfulness practice would aim to do then is train your mind to become progressively more efficient at dealing with stress such that, after a while the “sixteen push up” stress level is something that you can live and cope with without getting flustered.

So, simply put the aim of mindfulness and meditation is to increase your stress threshold in a balanced way, such that you can deal with more without getting exhausted. Mindfulness and meditation when done well teach us to work with and re-direct the stress of our life in creative and dynamic ways that enable us to thrive at levels of stress that would normally be way beyond our capacity to deal with constructively.

I think this is an important point to make because:

  • Living a meaningful, creative and thoughtful life that is outside of the very narrow concerns of societies present level of consciousness involves confronting ever new forms of stress and tension
  • Meditation and mindfulness by their very nature increase the creative power and energy in our mind, which creates “growth stresses” within our being itself. Unless we are prepared for this, and look forward to the new stress tolerance levels that this process will take us to, then there is a good chance that we will give up our practice thinking that it isn’t working!

One Minute Mindfulness; Notice the Space
Even when your mind is busy, and when your physical world is filled with logistical activity, notice that all this activity and busyness exists within the context of space:

  • Your busy mind is like a big, spacious sky filled with clouds; without trying so get rid of the clouds (busy thoughts), you can still notice and open to the spaciousness of the inner sky of your mind
  • Your physical world and activities always take place in the context of an open land or cityscape. Take the time to notice the space of the sky above you, and objects in the middle and far distance of your world, not just what is right in front of you.

Regularly opening to inner and outer space in your day, gives you a bigger context within which you can contain and consciously direct the stress and tension in your life, without feeling so easily overwhelmed.
© Toby Ouvry 2013, 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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On Real Men, Daffodils and Chihuahuas

Dear All,

This weeks article looks at ways in which we can encourage ourselves to get out of the ‘ordinary appearances’ that so often prevent us from living a full and vibrant life.

Quick reminder of this coming Wednesday’s  “Introduction to Meditation From the Perspective of Zen” . There are maybe three or four places left, so if you do want to come I do need to know, thanks! If you can’t make the Zen class physically, but are interested in the MP3 recordings of it, then it is available in this format.

Wishing you a week of non-ordinariness,


Upcoming Classes and Workshops at Integral Meditation Asia in January 2013

Wednesday 16th January, 7.30-9.30pm: “An Introduction to Meditation From the Perspective of Zen”

Sunday 26th January – 9.30am-12.30pm – Three Hour Workshop: ”Meditation for Creating a Mind of Ease, Relaxed Concentration and Positive Intention – An Introduction to Contemporary Meditation Practice

To register or for further enquiries: Email, or call 65-68714117

On Real Men, Daffodils and Chihuahuas

Ordinary appearances
From the perspective of Tibetan Buddhist Tantric practice, one of the main obstacles to us breaking free of our patterns of suffering and pain, and living in a truly creative and liberated state is ‘ordinary appearances’. Put very briefly this means that we see what arises in our daily life as the ‘same old same old’, rather than the reality (from a tantric perspective), which is that each moment of our life is a living encounter and dialog with the divine who/which is in each moment encouraging us to recognize our own inner creative nature, and encouraging us to dance and sing our way through life, rather than remaining stuck in the banal, the unthinking mainstream, the unexceptional and often actually being afraid to connect to and be “who we really are”.

Things that take you out of the spell of ordinary appearance
Some afternoons I jog down the canal to an exercise station to do a little bit of fitness work. Often at about that time there is another guy there, maybe in his 50’s. He has a kind of David Beckham mid-90’s hair cut, with red highlights, and he jogs down with his dog, a Chihuahua that last week was carrying a daffodil in its mouth as it trotted along beside him. I think he must be some kind of night club owner or something, but the thing that strikes me about him is that he is clearly entirely comfortable with his lack of conventionality. We normally have a friendly chat about man-stuff (actually mostly sound approximations, his english isn’t that good, and my mandarin is similarly limited, but with man-talk it is mainly about making the right primal sounds to let each other know that it is one ‘real man’ talking to another, right guys?) before we go off and sweat away in our own corner of the playground.
For me, seeing this slightly eccentric but entirely ‘comfortable in his own skin’ guy, within his flower carrying dog reminds me that life is not ordinary. Seeing him each week makes me smile and laugh a bit, and encourages me to keep on pursuing my own ‘out of the ordinary’ path with humour, enthusiasm, care and creativity despite the obstacles that come up.

Breaking the consensus of ordinary appearance in the world
Like me I am sure that you to have some slightly out of the ordinary people, sights and happenings that occur in your life each week, or if you think you don’t, then have a look out this week and see what you can find. You can use these encounters if you want just to consciously jolt you out of your ordinary, mundane perception of your life, and see your life as an opportunity to dance a little (inwardly or outwardly) to the tune of the divine, and to connect creatively, fully and with care to who you are, who you meet and what you are doing.

© Toby Ouvry 2013, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Motivation and scope One Minute Mindfulness

Being Mindful of your Primary Motivation

Before you start something it is always worth spending a moment thinking “Why am I doing this? What is my primary motivation?” If you have a definite reason for doing something, then you can keep it as your focus, thus ensuring greater peace of mind and a higher likelihood of getting what you want from the activity.

– For example, if my main reason for going to play a game of tennis is fun and relaxation, being clear about that ensures that I can enjoy the competitive side of the match I play without letting it become too much of a focus point and thus spoiling my relaxation and enjoyment.

– Similarly if I go out with my wife for a dinner with the clear intention that it is relaxation time, keeping this in mind will mean that I avoid taking up difficult or conflicting topics of conversation that may get in the way of that quality down time.


– If my intention for playing tennis is to push my limits and play as well as possible, I  can make a conscious decision to set aside my merely recreational attitude for a temporarily more serious approach.

– I may deliberately go out for dinner with my wife in order to talk over a difficult or thorny topic, but the fact that I know what my/our intention is ensures that I can keep focused on the goal, and be prepared for the challenge that may come.

My basic point here is that if you are mindful enough to have a clear idea why you are doing something (whatever the size or significance of the activity), then there is a greater chance you will achieve your goal and a greater chance that you will do so with enjoyment and true presence of mind.

© 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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Concentration Enlightened love and loving Motivation and scope

Motivating Yourself to Meditate Part 1 – Looking at How You Can Meet Your Needs Through Meditation

Hi Everyone,

One reason why people find it difficult to hold down a regular meditation practice is that it is very easy for meditation to get knocked down our priorities list. It seems like there are so many things that need our attention. It is easy to think that we have so many “important” priorities that we can put off meditating until tomorrow, and so it goes on. We never really get serious or consistent about our meditation practice because it is not enough of a priority.

So, what I am going to do in this and next week’s article is have a look at Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and see how meditation can help with these basic needs.  If we have a clear idea about how meditation helps us with our human needs, then we will keep it high on our priority list and make sure that we do it! 

A quick outline of Abraham Maslows hierarchy of human needs, he starts with the most basic first, and then ascends in terms of depth and complexity:

  1. Physiological needs – Food and drink
  2. Security needs – Shelter, physiological safety
  3. Belongingness and love needs – Affiliation, acceptance, affection
  4. Esteem needs – Competence, approval, recognition
  5. Aesthetic and cognitive needs – Knowledge, understanding, goodness, justice, beauty, order, symmetry
  6. Self Actualization

How meditation helps us with these basic needs:

Needs 1&2: Physiological and security needs

I am guessing that if you are reading this article, you will have your basic food, drink and shelter needs being met. You may not be in Buckingham Palace, but you aren’t homeless either right? Although many of us have our basic needs met, many of us remain stuck psychologically in “survival” mode, fighting our way through a hostile universe oblivious of the good fortune of having our basic needs met.

Meditation helps us with this by helping our mind to be calm enough to appreciate and enjoy the fact that our survival needs have been met. Meditation gives us the presence of mind to enjoy life’s simple pleasures; Food, drink, shelter and a basic quality of life. Without peace of mind studies show that those in first world countries are no happier than those in 3rd world countries. Meditation makes sure this does not happen to you! 

Need 3: Belongingness and love needs

A daily meditation practice is a statement to yourself that you are important and lovable enough to deserve happiness and peace of mind. Belongingness and love needs are often projected outward onto other people, but in reality our primary love relationship is with ourself. If we get this right it will help our love relationships to others.

Meditation also puts you in touch with a source of love inside you that might be termed as “Universal” or unconditional. This love starts to rise up in our mind whenever we truly touch mental peace and calm (see last weeks article on the “Two Main Lessons of Love”). You deserve to receive love every day right? So give yourself that pleasure by sitting down and doing a bit of meditation every day! One final point here, meditation by its nature makes us more mindful, relaxed and aware. This quality of mind helps us to see that there is love being directed toward us all the time by our friends, family and colleagues. A relaxed, meditative mind can open to this love and receive it deeply into our being, instead of shutting it out.

So, next week I’ll write a few thoughts on needs four, five and six, but I think if you contemplate the above three, there is plenty of reason to renew your determination to find time and space for at least a little meditation each day! 

Thanks for reading,

Yours in the spirit of the harmonious meeting of our higher and lower needs!


PS: Two opportunities for meditative activities over the next week:

  1. I will be facilitating a Qi Gong workshop for beginners this Sunday, 9th January. Qi gong is a whole world of meditative movement exercises for health and wellbeing, if you have been interested in learning how to start a practice, this is an ideal opportunity!
  2. Next Tuesday sees the start of a new series of Tuesday classes entitled  “Finding Your Outer Balance, Inner Harmony and Spiritual Centre Through Meditation on the Tao, Yin Yang and the Five Elements”. Recordings will be available if you are interested but not living in Singapore!

 PPS: Relating to point 2 above, I have started a new series of articles on meditating with the Tao and Yin Yang on my Qi gong blog. You can find the first article HERE.

Like this blog, if you wish to receive automatic updates of these free articles from my Qi gong site, then you can simply sign up on the top right hand side of the page after you read the article on the Tao and yin/yang.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact