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Mindfulness, productivity, self-regulation & the 85% rule

Mindfulness in its pure form is essentially enhanced reality orientation. It involves involves specific forms of attentional & awareness practices that are designed to release our natural intelligence & our potential for experiential learning in the moment

Dear Integral Meditators,

This weeks article essentially points out how mindfulness and productivity go together to help you enjoy your life and realize your goals, or to go from coping to thriving, I hope you enjoy it!

In the spirit of  enhanced reality orientation,






Mindfulness, productivity, self-regulation & the 85% rule

Basic reality orientation – Coping well enough to perform
In order to hold down a job, or maintain a harmonious social and family existence we all need a degree of mindfulness. We all need to be taking social cues, focusing on our work, and making appropriate adjustments well enough to do these things acceptably. Failure to meet our reality with this basic level of mindfulness would lead to:

  • Inability to hold down a job
  • Lack of stable relationships
  • Continuous instability within the family unit
  • Being considered unstable and even ‘insane’ by the conventional measures by which it is assessed in society

Enhanced reality orientation – Moving from coping to thriving
Mindfulness in its pure form is essentially enhanced reality orientation. It involves  specific forms of attentional & awareness practices that are designed to release our natural intelligence & our potential for experiential learning in the moment.

  • By paying attention in a high-quality manner to our work we can be more successful at it without necessarily working harder (aka working smarter)
  • In our leadership and relationship life we can create high functioning interactions that lead to great teams and stable friendships
  • We can learn to pick up on inner cues and signals from our body-mind, and learn to regulate our energy in a way where we feel well and thriving not just in the short term, but in the medium and long term.

With the students that attend my mindfulness sessions at INSEAD, one of the things that I am trying to teach them is how to arrive at 50years old (my age) from where they are (30+) in a way where they feel they have energy, enthusiasm and are ready to leap into the next life-project. This is as opposed to what they see in may of their seniors who are exhausted, stressed out and cynical. To do this they (and you!) need to self-regulate effectively. Below is a simple exercise around the 85% rule that is one example of this.

The 85% rule
This rule basically states that, if you are 85% exhausted, and then you stop and rest, your body-mind will recover reasonably fast and you can then continue where you left off. If you go substantially beyond the 85%, you move your energy levels move more and more ‘into the red’. Moving beyond 85% means that you really are exhausted, and it takes a much longer time to recover effectively from that type or level of exhaustion. So, in this practice the object of mindful self-regulation is to not go beyond 85% exhausted in any given activity in your work or life. By doing this you can actually become more productive in the medium to long term and in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable. The key here is:

  1. To know what the signs that you are approaching the 85% marker are
  2. To recognize and accept those signs
  3. To stop what you are doing and focus on the (enjoyable) discipline of recovery
  4. Recognizing the signs of recovery, and getting back to it with enthusiasm!

If you can do this then this simple way of orienting yourself mindfully around the reality of your energy levels gives you one of the keys to mindful thriving and productivity.
What are your own personal inner signs for points 1-4 above? How can you start orienting yourself around these signs mindfully today and begin plotting your own path of mindful thriving?

© Toby Ouvry 2022, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

Sat & Sun 22nd/23rd October – Shamanic meditation workshop retreatLearn how to practice the fundamentals of the most ancient meditation tradition on the planet in a clear, practical and concise manner, and understand its relevance and value to you and the challenges that you face in your life.

The workshop will give an overview and introduce some simple but profound shamanic practices on day one, with a deeper dive into Shamanic meditation practices on day two…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

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly 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)

Starts Tues 16th /Weds 17th August – An Adventure in Consciousness – The What, Why & How of integral & engaged meditation practice

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Sat & Sun 22nd/23rd October – Shamanic meditation workshop retreat


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The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Dear Integral Meditators,

I gave a talk last night on stress transformation, one of the observations from the participants was that, when we meditated on transforming their stress, the emotion that they thought was their issue faded away, and they were presented with another emotion that they were not aware was there. The article below explores this theme.

Yours in the spirit of feeling deeply,


The Emotions behind the Emotions, the Feelings Behind the Feelings

Human beings are complex, multi-faceted and multi-dimensional beings. It may not come as a surprise to learn (thought it does for many of us) that each of the emotions and feelings we have often has a hidden emotion or feeling behind it that is the real motivator.
You might say that we have a presenting or frontal emotion or feeling that we can see directly, and a hidden emotion or feeling that lies behind it. Let me give you a few examples.

I might feel angry and irritable, but behind that emotion is simply a feeling of physical fatigue. The simplest way to deal with this is therefore to get better rested. If I try and practice anger management techniques without dealing with the fundamental cause of fatigue, then I can waste a lot of time and be discouraged by the results!
Conversely I may suddenly feel tired when an opportunity arises for me to talk openly with my partner about how I am feeling about our relationship. The presenting feeling is one of fatigue, but underneath that is a fear of confrontation with my partner and the possibility of his/her disapproval. In this case no amount of sleeping will solve the root emotional issue of fear of confrontation and disapproval! What needs to be faced is our fear of confrontation.

I feel depressed about my life, but behind that I discover that behind this depression is a secret desire that someone should take the burden of self-responsibility from me, so that I don’t have to ‘worry about it all’. Here I can try and ‘think positive’ all I like, but if I never discover and accept the reality that I have a hidden wish to be taken care of or saved by another, then my efforts are not likely to be successful.

I feel a strong desire for sexual contact and feelings, but behind it was the event that happened during the day that prompted my fear of ageing or death. Again no amount of trying to engage the surface feeling (the wish to have sex) will address the root of the issue which is our emotions of insecurity and vulnerability around ageing and death.

So the basic principle here is that we learn to mindfully connect to the emotions that we experience, and then look a little bit deeper to see if there is a hidden feeling or emotion behind it that is the primary motivator. The value of this is that if we are able to see and connect to the hidden emotion or feeling, then we will have a much clearer idea of what we need to do in order to resolve our challenges.

A three stage mindfulness process for discovering the feelings behind the feelings

1) Select the area of your life that you wish to investigate. Ask yourself what am I feeling in this situation? Connect and breathe with the presenting emotions and/or feelings that arise from this question.
2) Breathe with the presenting emotions for a while, allowing yourself to experience them. Then ask yourself “What are the feelings that lie behind this emotion?” Look a little deeper to see if you can sense or detect the hidden emotion or feeling that lies a little deeper.
3) If it emerges, breathe with this deeper feeling or emotion for a while. Then ask yourself the question “What is it that I need to do (or accept) in order to truly deal with how I feel here?” Pay attention to this answer.
© 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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Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

Dear Toby,

What if the things that most disturb you in your meditation practice could become the springboards to a deeper experience of meditation? This weeks article explores how they can become that.

Yours in the spirit of inner freedom,


Upcoming Courses at Integral Meditation Asia:

Sunday July 27th, 9.30am-12.30pm –  Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self at Basic Essence, full details shortly.

Call of the Wild: Meditating with Animal Guides and Familiars

Through to end August: Special offer on 1:1 Coaching at Integral Meditation Asia

Questions Leading to Empty Space – Overcoming Stubborn Distractions

One of the main purposes of training in meditation and mindfulness is to gain access to that part of our consciousness that lies beyond or behind our thinking mind. It is in that spacious, thoughtless, timeless space that we gain access to both higher levels of our intuitive and creative self, as well as to a level of being that is deeply renewing and regenerating.

The challenge is often that in our daily meditation practice we find that there are particular thoughts, memories and emotions that are bothering us and that refuse to go away despite our best efforts to ‘push’ them out of our mind.
The technique that I describe below is designed to help resolve and harmonize the psychological discord that underlies the thoughts that are bothering us (thus resolving the issue on the level of the thinking mind) and allows us to pass through the distraction to access the open space of consciousness that lies beyond our thinking mind.

It is a useful technique to have because it enables us to use the distraction itself as the stepping stone to a deeper meditative state. Thus the ‘problem’ becomes the method to obtain the desired goal.

Step 1: Identify the thought or issue that is bothering you. 
Sitting in meditation, identify the issue in your life that is most bothering you, or most present in your mind at the time. So for example you might find that your minds primary issue is:

  • I resent my partner for something he has done
  • I am anxious because of the lack of ideas that I have regarding an important project at work
  • I am irritable because my child seems to be incapable of following basic instructions

During this first stage you are simply bringing awareness to your primary issue; the one that your mind is preoccupied with and that is getting in the way of your meditation.

Step 2: Ask yourself; “Why it is good that I have this issue?”
The second stage involves thinking of a good and positive reason that your personal challenge exists, for example:

  • It is good that I am having this issue with my partner because it is helping me learn how to express and assert my needs and wishes to him, which up to this time has been a problem for me in my relationships.
  • It is good that I am feeling anxious about ideas for the project at work because it shows me that I am at the edge of my creative powers and pushing myself to a new level
  • It is good that I am having these issues with my child because it is helping me to see more clearly the levels of development she is at, and to adjust my expectations accordingly

You get the idea; you are framing the issue positively, so that you can see the value in having it. At this stage you can even write down your positive framing if you like, just to make it clear.

Step 3: Express appreciation for this issue
This next stage involves sitting and focusing on the issue and developing feelings of appreciation, acceptance and even enthusiasm for having this issue present in your life. As you breathe in breathe in your appreciation of the issue into your body and cellular structure, as you breathe out feel yourself becoming comfortable and appreciative with the issues existence in your mind and life.

Step 4: Let go of the issue, relax into the thoughtless space behind your mind
Having accepted and harmonized your relationship to the issue that you were struggling with, now gently let go of it and relax into the formless timeless space that lies beyond the thoughts in your mind relaxing into it in a state of meditation for as long as you wish.

What seemed like your obstacle to meditation has now become the tool through which you enter meditation.

Of course this technique also has broader applications; you can use it to build a positive relationship to any existing issue in your life, transforming it into an ally rather than an obstacle.

© 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