Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fertilizer for the mind and body – Using the Energy of Negative Emotions, a Simple Meditation Technique

 In my recent article on “Darkness Emerging as Light” I suggested that the essential energy of negative emotions can be re-worked and re-directed in our life to become a force for the good, and even a force revealing our own enlightened nature. The meditation below is a simple (though not always easy) technique that we can use to:
  •  Work directly to re-direct and transform the energy of  powerful negative emotion
  • Work with at the beginning of a meditation if we are being directly bothered by a negative emotion/thought pattern present in our mind
  • Simply wish to diffuse and recycle ambient negative emotional energy in our bodymind, making it available for us to use in other more positive ways.

The technique is somewhere between a contemplative meditation where we are working with the mind, and a qi-gong type meditation where we are working with the ‘qi’, ‘prajna’ or energy of the body.

Step 1
Sit comfortably in meditation, recognize and rest in a sense of being in a “safe space” for a short while, a safe space meaning here the recognition that at this present time there are no imminent physical or psychological threats to your safety.

Step 2
Bring to mind the negative emotion and accompanying thought patterns that you wish to work with. Try to create it intensively enough so that you can really feel it in your body. This stage can be a bit tricky in that, whenever you try and look at a negative emotion directly it tends to ‘hide’ or ‘disappear’ (and of course there is a lesson in that), so you may have to have to tease it back out again into the open.

Step 3
Ask yourself “Where is the energy of this emotion principally located in my body?” You will probably find that it is somewhere in the torso, between the sacral area and the heart centre, but if it appears to be somewhere else then you can go with that. The main thing is that you should feel you have located the physical and energetic ‘epicenter’ of the emotional disturbance so to speak.

Step 4
See the emotion in that area of your body as being a ball of tightly knotted black light in the centre of that area of your body. At this point let go of the object of your negative emotion (eg the person or situation that has upset you) and simply focus on the ball of light in the body.
See and feel in the centre of that ball an intense point of white light, so that the dark, knotted energy starts to glow from within. Gradually see and feel the knotted dark energy unraveling and lightening. As the energy lightens, it is released from that specific point in the body, and is released and redistributed evenly throughout the rest of the body.

Using the breathing
If you like you can use the breathing to help facilitate this:
As you breathe in, breathe into the centre of the dark energy, seeing the point of light inside growing intensely.
As you breathe out see the point of bright light in the centre expanding through the knotted dark energy, breaking it up and re-distributing it through the body, thus making the energy that has been trapped in the negative emotion re-available for us to use.
(Those of you that are familiar with the way I teach breathing in qi gong will find this basic pattern of breathing familiar, energizing the body upon inhalation, and allowing the energy to flow freely through the body upon exhalation. Here it is the same basic principal applied to a specific area of the body where there is a strong emotional charge).

Step 5 
Conclude the meditation with a brief period of silent awareness, just breathing and focusing on the body as you experience it in the present moment.

Final thoughts
Repeated use of this meditation will sensitize you to build ups of emotional energy in general, and once you are familiar with the basic technique enable you to modulate emotional energy in the body on a more organic, free-form basis.

© Toby Ouvry 2012, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping up Your Energy Levels: Sleeping Patterns and Your Liver Qi

Those of you familiar with traditional Chinese medicine may be aware that each of the organs of the body is assigned a 2 hour period in the 24 hour clock, during which time that particular organ is supposed to be functioning at its optimal level.
For the liver this time is sometimes placed as 11pm-1am, or sometimes 1am-3am. One of the functions of the liver is to detoxify poisons that have built up in the body and the blood stream, and I have heard it recommended (again in TCM circles) that in order to help your liver de-toxify your body and replennish your qi levels it is good to regularly be in bed and sleeping between 11pm and 1am.
As a habitual late night sleeper I have certainly found that getting to bed by 11pm at least once every three days does have a really tangible and positive effect upon my qi levels, and so I strongly recommend it to other people. Simply getting 7 or 8 hours sleep regularly (eg from 1am to 8 or 9am) does not have the same effect for me as getting to be that bit earlier, so that i am lying down and resting as my liver moves into its optimum functioning mode.
So, for this reason, if you are a habitual nightbird like me I recommend getting to bed in good time at least once every three days, for the sake of your overall health and qi!
Finally, here is a digram of the internal organs together with their respective times. If you would like to view an interactive version of this diagram, which details the emotions connected with each of the organs, please click HERE.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com

Friday, November 25, 2011

Our Anxiety in the Face of Inner Space and Stillness

Transcribed from a five minute talk that I gave at the end of a Qi gong meditation class last week (23.11.11), enjoy!

I just want to say one or two things before we end. I mentioned whilst guiding the meditation that one thing that you may become aware of over time is that our mind resists inner space and stillness. If you ask people “Do you want inner peace?” they’ll generally say “Yes, yes, I want inner peace!” but deeper down actually they don’t. To be able to open to inner space and allow it to change you over time takes a lot of courage. This is a major reason why although meditation is free and it has been practiced for millennia as a way of developing mental peace, relatively few people will do it. This is because from the perspective of the ego, the ego has what you might call an existential fear of inner space. Part of the reason why we like to keep ourselves busy all the time, and when we are not doing anything physically our mind likes to think all the time is because we feel as if we have to keep affirming our existence, otherwise we feel like we are going to disappear! It is like a moment to moment fear of death, of dying. Essentially in this context dying means to have no future, becoming nothing. We feel like “If I am not doing something physical then I need to imagine myself doing something physical, because I still want to exist, and if I stop thinking or doing, then I will stop existing”.

This is a little bit of meditational psychology; it is the way in which our mind thinks, but unless we have examined it closely, for most of us this will be a subconscious pattern. And we need to understand that it is natural to have this type of anxiety (the anxiety of becoming non-existent), and simply having this anxiety is not a problem, it is existential anxiety, the natural tension that arises from being alive and wanting to stay that way. So, this in itself is not a problem, what is a problem is if you are not dealing with that anxiety well, if you are repressing it. A lot of psychological pathologies arise from the repression of this natural anxiety which then becomes pathological anxiety, compulsive doing, and compulsive thinking, compulsive everything!

So the natural anxiety of being alive will always be there, even if you continue to meditate. With a bit of practice in meditation you will start to find you can find a sense of inner space and stillness within yourself, but then it becomes an act of courage to keep opening to that space (which to the ego appears to be a type of death, a type of non-existence) and allowing it to inform your experience of life.

So I just thought I would throw that little thought in at the end of our meditation because it is common to find people having a great initial experience of inner space and stillness in their meditation, but then over time drifting away from their practice and this is one of the main reasons. It is not just because we are logistically busy all the time, although life these days is demanding upon our time and energy (although show me a time in history when life has not been such!), it is because our existential anxiety causes our ego to instinctively veer away from inner space and stillness and find excuses not to meditate. Our ego is actually happy to put up with a lot of stress and a lot of pain/problems, fear and anxiety because all of those things are affirming its existence, you know what I mean? Ego is not a bad thing, but the ego has a lot of fears that aren’t really founded upon anything wise and concrete, so it takes a bit of time for it to learn to trust that empty space, that stillness. So we need to keep if you like holding our ego’s hand and saying “Come on, come on, it is not going to be so bad, just relax and let go” like this!

So this is just and aspect of meditation practice that everyone needs to be aware of if you want to sustain your practice, because your mind and ego will try and find a lot of ways to duck out in order to avoid the anxiety of confronting empty space and stillness.

© 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 www.tobyouvry.com

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Water Element Landscape" Soul Portrait Plus Artists Notes by Toby

This is the first of a series of works based around the Chinese five elements (these being earth, wood, fire metal and water). In it you can see a turtle (the power animal associated with the water element voyaging through the deep ocean toward a gentle but powerful water-element energy vortex.
In the distance above the water you can see a mountain and skyscape.

This is a piece of art that you can look at, enter into and meditate with in order to help balance your own water element and emotional being. In particular the water element energy in this picture can help induce balance and spontaneity to your mental processes, and to induce an emotional experience of calmness, spaciousness and flow.

For an overview of meditation on the five elements see Toby’s article“Meditating on the Five Chinese Elements as a Method of Achieving Balance and Harmony Through Dependent Relationship”.

This artwork is currently for sale, for enquiries please contact Toby on this email: info@tobyouvry.com

Image and text © Toby Ouvry, please do not reproduce without permission.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Personal Reflection on How Meditation Develops Your Inner Vision and Ability to Work With Energy

Hi Everyone,

Back in 2001 when I left my life as a Buddhist Monk part of the reason was that I wanted to return to a life as an actively working artist expressing his inspiration in paintings and sculpture. As I had meditated during the 1990’s I had touched the inner formless spaces that you find in deep meditation practice, but I had also found that, from these deep formless spaces a lot of inner visions started to emerge quite spontaneously, and that they often really demanded to be expressed.
Since then I have developed a method of combining my meditation and artistic practice where I will meditate on a particular topic or subject for a while in order to receive visual and sensual impressions of its inner nature, and then I will create an art piece based around what I have seen.
In order to give an example of this, at the top of this article you can see a working sketch that I have done for an artwork that embodies the energy of The Tao, Yin-Yang and the five Chinese elements of earth, wood, metal and fire. Here is a brief description of the inner landscape from which this image arose. You can do it yourself if you like, the basic images are simple, and there is plenty of room for creative imagination and to really make the inner landscape your own:

The Asian Tree and the Yin-Yang courtyard.
Before meditating set your intention to travel, within the reality of your creative imagination, to an inner landscape that embodies the spiritual energy of the Tao, Yin-Yang and five elements.
Spend a short while relaxing, focusing on your breathing and stilling your sense of time, space and energy.
After a while you sense yourself within what you intuitively sense is an Asian landscape, in front of you is your “Asian tree”, a tree embodying that embodies the energy of Asian spirituality and that you have a particular inner connection to. Spend a while seeing, feeling and sensing the landscape and the tree; the texture of the bark, the colour of the leaves, the time of day and so forth...
To one side of you in your landscape you see an ancient courtyard. Upon its old wooden doors is inscribed a yin yang symbol.
Passing through the doors to the interior of the courtyard you sense yourself entering into a state of deep peace. The roof of the courtyard is open to the sky. In the centre of the courtyard is a yin-yang symbol made of living light. The light part of the symbol is fed by a stream of bright white star light that comes down from the sky. The dark part of the symbol is fed by a stream of dark light rising from the depths of the earth. Within the courtyard are many beautiful ancient objects, such as bonsai trees, crystals and gemstones. In particular there are sculptures of four creatures:
  • A dragon, embodying the energy of the wood element, of spring, air and morning
  • A phoenix embodying the energy of the fire element, of summer and the noonday sun
  • A tiger embodying the energy of the metal element, of autumn and evening
  • A turtle embodying the energy of the water element, of winter and of night time. 
Each of these statues, although static seems to be alive and radiates its elemental energy in the form of colour. These colours gather around the central yin-yang symbol, flowing around it in an ever changing flow of radiant elemental light.

Deep within the earth beneath the yin-yang symbol is a cauldron, which embodies the earth element and is the source from which the other four elements arise.
Simply sit and relax in this beautiful peaceful space, and as you do so feel the yin-yang and elemental balance within your body mind come back into balance. As your body-mind comes into balance, feel your inner being becoming still and spacious like a deep lake.

Thanks for reading,
Yours in the spirit of the rich landscape of the imagination,


PS: You can see more of my artwork in the most recent post on my Soul Portrait site:

PPS: If you are not familiar with the 5 elements and want a bit more information, you can find more in my past article on my Qi gong blog:
Similarly, you can also find a previous Yin-Yang meditation there:

Wednesday, March 30, 2011



Working with and absorbing stellar or cosmic qi is something that is increasingly emphasized as one becomes more advanced along many of the diverse paths of Qi Gong. But there is no reason why you can't start working with it now and enjoy the benefits using the very simple method detailed below. We have recently moved to a house with a roof garden, and so I am enjoying it very much. As well as having the energetic benefits of absorbing star qi, it also helps make the mind very big, spacious and light.

The technique:
Find an appropriate place to lie down at night, under an open sky.
Open your eyes and stare up at the starry sky for a while. Take in the vast expanse of the sky, empty your mind and enjoy the twinkling lights of the stars.
After a while close your eyes and imagine starry light flowing down from the stars and from the night sky into all the cells of your body.
In particular feel three focus points of starry energy and light building in the center of your brain, the center of your chest and the central area of your lower abdomen.
Take your time, finish when ready.
Repeat three times a week, or as often as desired!

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby's permission first. Contact info@tobyouvry.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Four Types of Qi That We Can Attune to and Harness For Self and Planetary Healing

Generally when we talk about “qi”  or energy in qi gong it can be quite generic, it is just the energy that flows through life and nature.
We can begin to look at specific types and manifestations of qi by observing landscape, and the way in which it is composed of  the four elements; earth (body of the planet, mountains, tress etc), water(lakes, rivers, oceans), air(sky) and fire (sun and stars).
In each of these four elements qi manifests in a particular way, and has particular powers and characteristics that we can learn to attune to and consciously utilize for healing and energizing purposes.
Below is a meditation for attuning to qi within the four elements in landscape. It is one of the first meditations that I wrote after I left Buddhist monkhood and went back into secular life back in 2001. Once you are familiar with the basic process you can easily use it to attune to the qi within any landscape. Enjoy!
(Note: The four elements used in this article earth, air, fire water is based around the four observable elements in nature. This is different from (but closely related to) the system of five elements that you find in Qi gong philosophy; earth, wood, fire, metal, water).

Mandala and Four Elements Meditation

Find a comfortable position, either seated or lying down, with a straight back.
Spend a minute or so focusing on the breathing and bringing your attention inward.

Bring to mind now a beautiful natural setting that you may be familiar with and love, one that when you think of it makes you feel very relaxed and peaceful and that takes you away from the trials of your daily life. This place should be a landscape that includes both land and a water element, above you you feel the energy of the sun, moon and stars.
(note: If you are able to actually go out physically to such a landscape to do the meditation, then this is great).

Wherever you choose to see yourself, see yourself sitting or lying comfortably on the ground of this place of inner retreat, surrounded by bright sunlight, and cooling shade, as refreshing breezes caress your body.
Feel your feet on the earth, the flowers and wonderful vegetation and water features around you, the only sounds that you hear come from nature.

Take the time now to attune yourself to the your spiritual being  that lies within you, see this as a light and feeling of love at your heart.
Feel your consciousness expanding into the elements of nature surrounding you. As you breathe in and out you can feel your mind blending and merging with the environment around you.
Attune yourself to the earth and rocks, and feel this earth energy moving up through your feet as beautiful golden green light. Feel this light pervading your whole physical body now, clearing and balancing the earth element within you. See it going through your organs, flesh and bones, clearing and balancing their energies  within you. Feel your earth element merging with the harmony of the natural earth element around you.
See the water element arising from the water near you as a clear blue light. See this light surrounding you and entering into the water element in the cells of your own body. See it clearing all of the imbalance and disharmony in your blood, fluids and watery elements of your physical body. See and feel your water element coming into harmony and balance with the water element of nature, with the rivers, lakes and oceans of the planet.
Feel and see the light and fresh air around you now moving into your physical body, fell it move through your lungs and out thru your other organs, thru your arms and hands, thru your legs and feet, thru your neck and head. Feel the pure light and energy of the air element moving into all the spaces in your body, clearing out and balancing your own air element. Feel the air element within you coming into line with the air element within nature, and with the sky.

Feel the heat and golden light of the sun now surrounding you and caressing you. Feel this light moving into your system now, clearing and purifying the fire element within your body. See and feel the regulation and distribution of your heat energy being cleared by this beautiful golden light and heat from the Sun. Feel your fire element now coming one with the fire element of nature.

Now feel the energies of Mother Earth Herself now coming up through your feet chakras into your heart, feel her love for you as one of her children. Feel her heart and yours now coming into harmony and merging as one at your heart. Take this feeling of love and oneness with the Earth Mother as your final object of meditation.

When you feel ready, become fully aware of your physical body and surroundings, and when you are ready, open your eyes.

© Toby Ouvry 2011. You are welcome to use this article, but you must seek Toby’s permission first! Contact info@tobyouvry.com