Friday, January 28, 2011

Meditating on the Five Chinese Elements as a Method Achieving Harmony and Balance Through Dependent Relationship

Hi Everyone!

In general meditations on dependent-relationship are very good for developing insight into the way that everything in our life is inter-related. It shows you that if one area of your life is out of balance, then that will affect other parts of your life detrimentally. Similarly, if you focus on getting one imbalanced area of your life back into balance and harmony, then that will affect pretty much all other areas of your life in a positive way too.
One cycle of dependent relationship that I have been enjoying working with recently, both by myself and with students is the Chinese five element cycle, specifically as it relates to our mental and emotional qualities. Here is a brief summary of the five elements, together with their mental and emotional characteristics (emotional section includes emotion when balanced, and the emotions when imbalanced:

EARTH ELEMENT/SEASONS: Balanced mental quality: Clarity, Emotions: Empathy/Anxiety

WOOD ELEMENT /SPRING: Balanced mental quality: Sensitivity, Emotions: Kindness/Anger

FIRE ELEMENT /SUMMER: Balanced mental quality: Willpower/Creativity, Emotions: Hate/Joy

METAL ELEMENT/AULTUMN: Balanced mental quality: Intuition, Emotions: Courage/Grief

WATER ELEMENT/WINTER: Balanced mental quality: Spontaneity, Emotions: Calmness/Fear

So, the point about these five sets of elements and their qualities is that they are all in relationship. For example if you are able to generate mental clarity and appropriate empathy (earth element), then you with then be able to generate appropriate and balanced kindness to yourself and others (wood element emotion), which in turn leads to the experience of joy (fire element emotion). If you read through the list in a contemplative state of mind you will start to develop your own insights into how you can make emotional and mental adjustments in your own life to bring your own “elemental cycle” of emotional and mental dependent relationship into greater harmony and balance.

An example of a five element meditation on dependent-relationship:

Here is an example of one meditation on dependent relationship that I led in class last week
Stage 1: Sitting comfortably, generate an appropriate feeling of empathy (wood element emotion) toward your body and mind. Appropriate empathy means being in touch with the authentic feelings and emotions of your body-mind, without allowing your self-sense to get overwhelmed by them.

If you generate authentic empathy, this will give you a mental sense of clarity (earth element mind) regarding how your body-mind really feels.

Stage 2: If you have mental clarity, you will then be able to extend appropriate and balanced kindness (wood element emotion) toward your body-mind, which in turn will enable them (your body-mind) and you to feel joy (fire element emotion).

Stage 3: With the feeling of joy in your body-mind, and a sense of them both co-operating with you, rather than working against you, it will be quite easy to develop balanced willpower and creativity (fire element mind).

Stage 4: With your willpower working well and in an harmonious way, courage (metal element emotion) will be relatively easy to find within yourself. You will feel in control of your body-mind, and so it will be relatively easy to find that still centre within you where your intuition (metal element mind) resides.

Stage 5: With your intuition and courage working well it will be easy to find a sense of calm within (water element emotion), as well as to be natural and spontaneous (water mind).

Stage 6: Being calm and spontaneous further enhances our earth element qualities of appropriate empathy and clarity, and we find ourself back to the beginning the cycle once more!

So, this is one example of meditating with the mental and emotional qualities of the five elements, as I said above, if you read thought the list of elemental qualities in a contemplative way, personal insights into how these emotional and mental qualities are playing out on your own life will start to flow...
Thanks for reading!

Yours in the spirit of the harmonious five elements,


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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Working Defninition of Taoist Meditation

Hi Everyone,
Yesterday I started a series of three classes on the Tao and yin/yang, here is one of the basic principles that we are working with:
One way Taoist meditation could be defined as being focused on finding the balance between polarized, opposing forces. These forces can be categorized as either

- Yin – Feminine, receptive
- Or Yang – Active, dynamic

One point of interest here is that a person or thing is not fixed in their yin or yang nature. Something is always yin or yang IN RELATION TO something else.
For example: I may be a yin, quiet, introverted person in relation to my crazy, party animal brother, but I may relatively speaking be a yang, sociable talkative person in relation to my solitude-loving sister.
Life is always changing, the point of balance in our life is always changing, the challenge of meditating with the Tao is to be aware of the continuous flux, and make appropriate adjustments in your consciousness and action to “stay in the Tao”, or keep in balance.
For example: In the morning I may be behind in my work, so I have to focus on being very active and dynamic before lunch. After lunch I may have caught up on my work, but my body is tired, so I need to slow down, rest and recuperate.
From this definition we can understand that Taoist meditation (and I think we could expand that to meditation in general) is not an entirely passive activity, but a way of coming back into balance, coming back into the middle, and avoiding the negative extremes of either yin or yang.

A Practical Question for daily practice:
A basic question that we need to ask ourselves is “Where is my optimal point of balance right now, and what actions can I take to reconnect to that balance to the greatest degree possible?”
Try asking yourself this question once in the morning, once in the afternoon and once in the evenining for a week. see where it takes you….

Yours in the spirit of the Tao,

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

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Hi Everyone!
Over the next few weeks, starting on the 11th January, I will be doing a series of meditation classes entitled “Finding Your Outer Balance, Inner Harmony and Spiritual Centre Through Meditation on the Tao, Yin Yang and the Five Elements” . Really it is a set of classes looking at some of the spiritual and psychological underpinnings of Taoism and Qi gong, and so I will be posting articles relating to it on this Qi gong blog, rather than my meditation blog that I post most of my meditation material on.

The Tao is often referred to in classical sources such as the Tao Te Ching as “the Great Mother”. This is often taken to mean that the Tao is a path based around a philosophy that emphasizes the feminine, the receptive and the flowing. Indeed Taoism is sometimes called “the Watercourse Way” which refers to its emphasis on flowing around obstacles and deriving its strength from receptivity like water.

I believe that there are many ways in which the Tao is indeed a more feminine, flowing, harmonious form of spirituality. However, what I want to highlight in this article is the true-er meaning of the term “Great Mother” in this context.

Fundamentally, when we talk about the Great Tao, we are talking about a Universal creative force that lies immediately within everyone and everything, and at the same time is transcendent of and lies beyond everyday reality.

The Great Tao is actually beyond any concepts such as yin or yang, masculine and feminine, mother and father. It is the inconceivable, non-dual, oneness of everything and everyone in the Universe. The reason that is called “The Great Mother” is to indicate it’s all embracing nature. It embraces everyone and everything in the universe like a huge, cosmic mother. However, in and of itself it is beyond any kind of masculine/feminine, yin/yang duality, it is the primal unity that lies before yin and yang. It is the source of yin and yang.

One of the main aims of authentic Taoist practice is to harmonize the energies of Yin and Yang within ourselves in such a way that we can go beyond them into the primal, unified wholeness of the Tao. What are the main types of yin/yang harmonization that we are trying to achieve in order to get back in touch with the Tao? Here are some simple and major examples:

• We are trying to harmonize our the inner world of our mind and spirit with the outer world of our daily actions and interactions

• We are trying to balance and harmonize our thinking and feeling

• We are trying to balance and harmonize doing and being

• We are trying to balance strength and willpower with nurturing and love

There are many other such yin/yang polarities. The main point is that the path of the Tao is one of the balancing and harmonizing of the yin and yang elements in our life. When we do achieve this balance, the Great Tao, an experience of the primal oneness and unity of life emerges into our awareness and life. In fact the Great Tao is always with us, within us and around us, but our lack of inner harmony and balance causes us to feel separated from it.

Short breathing exercise for balancing yin and yang, and connecting to the “Great Mother of the Tao”

Look at or visualize a traditional yin /yang circle, such as the one in the illustration at the top of this article.
As you breathe in, feel forceful, energizing yang energy rising within your body and mind.
As you breathe out, feel your mind and body moving into a restful, receptive yin state.
Breathe like this for a while, alternating between yang energy on the in-breath and yin energy on the out-breath.
Now close your eyes. Feel your inhalation and exhalation becoming smooth, relaxed and of equal duration (that is the inhalation and exhalation are of equal length). Feel the yin and yang energies within your body and mind flowing together and becoming a single, unified, non-dual energy.
Identify this single, harmonized, unified energy as the Primal Tao, the Great Mother, beyond yin or yang.
Stay with this harmonized, unified state for a while, finish when ready.

Daily practice:

Try and stay in touch with this feeling of harmony and unity in your daily life. Notice that, even in time of emotional turbulence and outer chaos, if you quieten your mind you can still connect to the Great Mother, the Primal Tao, and feel its presence.
Thanks for reading!

Yours in the Spirit of the Great Mother,

PS: For those of you in Singapore, this coming Sunday 9th January I am holding a beginners Qi gong Workshop: “How to Raise your Health and Energy Levels with Qi Gong” . An ideal opportunity for those who wish to start a practice to get the knowledge and practical instruction they need!