How Do We Fix the World?

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Most of us know that we can’t fix the world, nor does the world need to be fixed. The process of human evolution continues to unfold, and the greatest thing we can do is to participate consciously in our own evolution, and to bring our evolution forth through the actions we take in the world.

In other words, if we want to create a more peaceful, loving, and joyful world, we start by asking how can I be more peaceful, loving, and joyful? Then, what we do in the world can spring forth from the highest that we can currently offer from our expanding consciousness.

If we are going to march, let it be an act of love, and let it be for some beautiful ideal rather than against something.

Many people today are very angry, and often for good reason. The actions we take from anger can be very destructive and often have unintended consequences. Our actions are not just about what we do, but also about the consciousness, intention, and vibration from which we do it. If we want to create more peace in the world, acting from anger, bitterness, and animosity toward others is unlikely to take us there.

I find that when I act from anger, I am sloppy and careless in how I go about things, and I don’t see people and situations clearly.

Anger can be a good motivator, something that gets us energized to act, perhaps because we are fed up and just cannot allow an injustice to continue any longer. But before we act, let us get centered in our hearts. Let it be an act of love and service for the highest good of all concerned.

Even when working with or seemingly against what we consider to be our opposition, let us embrace those with different views and appeal to the higher ideals we want to manifest rather than personally attacking anyone (including those who might attack us). Let us be clear and strong in our ideals, but not rigid and self-righteous.

In sports, most athletes know that it is not a good idea to talk badly about their opponents, thus risking getting them more energized to oppose with greater force. The wise athlete speaks kindly and respectfully about their opponent and focuses on his or her own preparation to perform at the highest level.

When seeking to effect change in the world, the enlightened approach is to listen to all points of view, including those very different from our own. In listening to all points of view, we seek to see the value in each point of view rather than seeking to show the wrongness of them. We seek to understand what is important to those expressing the views. And we authentically communicate what is important to us.

In my experience working on conflict transformation with individuals and groups, I have found that if we can get beneath the surface and understand values and needs, we have a basis for moving forward where all parties can win. Often in life we stay on the surface, which usually only reveals the conclusions and solutions each party is advocating and not their underlying needs and values.

Our way forward as a human species will require us to cultivate compassion and a deep curiosity about those who appear different from us. It will depend on us tapping into our unlimited creativity, in new ways, to create solutions that honor the needs and values of diverse peoples, with widely varying points of view.

The good news is we are infinitely creative. Just as we have technological innovations today that just ten years ago may have seemed impossible, so too are we capable of social innovations that exceed anything that seems possible today.

The invitation this day is to remain open, curious, compassionate, and creatively energized to bring forth a world where all are honored, and each one’s needs and values are given due consideration.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory’s next online class starts Tuesday, October 16, 2018. It is title “The Untethered Soul,” based on the Michael Singer book of the same title. Click here for more information.

Feel Your Way to Wholeness

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In his book, “Conscious Living,” Gay Hendricks writes “We are doing one thing wrong that is at the root of our problems. We are failing to honor and love our authentic experience and failing to notice the authentic experience of others.“

One clear path to stepping into our wholeness is to honor where we are right now. And one straightforward way to do that is to fully feel our feelings.

Many believe that if they fully feel their feelings they will be totally overwhelmed and might not be able to function. In this belief, feeling our feelings isn’t practical.

What seems to be truer is that with practice, regularly experiencing our feelings, they rise and pass fairly quickly. Perhaps it is in our habit of suppressing our feelings or rationalizing them away that we have created a floodgate that seems like it would burst if we allowed ourselves to feel.

The beauty of our feelings is that they are totally honest. They represent something that is going on with us in this moment. With practice, we can check in, see what’s going on, express the feelings appropriately to ourselves and others, and move on.

Eckhardt Tolle provides an excellent example in his book, “A New Earth,” writing “After two ducks get into a fight, which never lasts long, they will separate and float off in opposite directions. Then each duck will flap its wings vigorously a few times, thus releasing the surplus energy that built up during the fight. After they flap their wings, they float on peacefully, as if nothing had ever happened.”

Feeling our feelings requires being fully in our bodies, aware of the energy moving through us, sensations coming and going, and the flow of emotions.

Often, we have strategies to avoid our feelings, in the form of various addictions, whether it be sugar, alcohol, or sex. These are ways of numbing, leaving us out of touch with our bodies and our emotions.

Many have asked me, “Why should I feel my feelings?” My response is that it allows you to be more alive. When we shut down our feelings, we cut off our very life force, the currents of energy that are moving in us, and we experience life as a contrivance of the mind rather than as it really is.

With practice, the energy is freed to flow rather than getting stuck. When it flows, feelings are momentary rather than continuous. Feelings rise and pass, rise and pass…

All the while, we are experiencing the fullness of each moment, noticing what arises, allowing it to inform us. We might say, “I notice I feel sad when you say that” or “I notice I feel joy as you touched my hand.”

We are experiencing the moment as it is, without judgment. This is wholeness—to experience ourselves and others as we are, without judgment or trying to make the experience something different.

Some would ask, “What about choice, don’t we choose our experience?” The answer is “yes,” and we create our experience by starting from where we are. If we pretend we are somewhere else, we disconnect from ourselves, which is also disconnecting from source energy. Thus, we disconnect from our power to create and, ultimately, we find ourselves unfulfilled, living in an imaginary ideal, rather than our actual embodied experience in this life.

The invitation this day is to ground fully in your body, be present, and allow the flow of life-force energy to move through you freely. Feel those feelings and allow them to pass. Notice the feelings, express them, and be informed by them. And claim your wholeness in what actually is.

Enjoy the journey.

If you want to go deeper into this experience of embodied wholeness, consider Gregory’s upcoming online class, “Conscious Living.” (Click here for more info)

Persona or Authentic Self?

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Answering the question “who are you?” can take us a long way on the spiritual journey in distinguishing our personas from our authentic self. The personas are masks we wear to allow us to function in specific situations. They aren’t necessarily a bad thing, if they represent healthy behavior and we recognize them as personas.

In his book, “Conscious Living,” Gay Hendricks writes “The problem of successful people is that their ‘good’ masks work really well.” Often our masks that “work really well” can begin to be confused with our essence or our authentic self. Then our masks can become traps where we are now living for the persona rather than our authentic expression.

No matter how successful we are as a public speaker, a teacher, an accountant, a salesperson, an actor, an athlete, a mother, or a father, it is not who we are. It is a role we are playing, that while drawing on our authentic expression, is only a small part of who we are.

Often as spiritual teachers we invite participants in classes and workshops to sit face-to-face as one participant asks the other “who are you?” then asks the question again and again after the one responding answers. We typically see that the first answers are more about our personas or the roles we play – mother, father, husband, wife, hiker, dancer. As we continue to answer the question, the answers go deeper and begin to transcend personas. Ultimately, we start to come into the realization that I am divine, I am a unique way that divinity is expressing, or something more along the lines of our essence that exists regardless of situation or circumstance.

When we become overly identified with our personas we can lose touch with our authentic selves, and as a result become disconnected from our happiness and fulfillment. Amid great success, there can still be a sense of emptiness and a degree of low self-esteem.

The remedy is to begin reclaiming our essence. We can use that simple question, “who are you?” We can do it in a journal or with a partner. The question is more important than the answers. There is not an ultimate, final, definitive answer to the question. Rather, the question is a practice that takes us deeper and deeper into ourselves, expanding our awareness of the distinction between our personas and our essence.

By continuously feeling into and contemplating what is true and changeless about us, we expand into connection with our deeper, more authentic selves, and give our authentic expression greater outlet, regardless of the role or activity.

When we feel connected to our divinity, our essence, then fulfillment is natural, regardless of external circumstances. When we are not connected to our essence, no amount of external success or recognition is fulfilling.

Meditation as a spiritual practice is also a great aid in connecting us to our essence because it creates more spaciousness within us whereby we see ourselves and the world in greater clarity. A simple breathing meditation will do, where we sit in stillness and keep bringing our attention back to the breath as the mind tends to wander.

A spiritual teacher once said, “If you have time, meditate for 15 minutes a day. If you don’t have time, meditate for 30 minutes a day.” There is great wisdom in this humorous phrase, and yet it is less important how long you meditate each day than it is that you are consistent in meditating daily. If you take one minute each day to get still, pay attention to the breath, and tune in to your inner being, it will be helpful. And the amount of time spent in meditation is likely to expand on its own with practice.

The invitation this day is to contemplate “Who am I?” “What is my essence?” And then to live in the question as it continues to bring greater light and clarity.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory has an upcoming online class based on Gay Hendricks’ book “Conscious Living.” Click here for more information.

Blog – Evolving Beyond Mind – Part 2

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In Part 1 of this series, I described how “mind” is a stepping stone to something greater, and not the final frontier of our journey. Being mental beings has taken humanity a long way, but it is not by continuing to expand our mental capacity that we will move to the next evolutionary stage.

The next stage will require us to fully become spiritual beings. Sri Aurobindo, the early twentieth century Indian guru, teacher, and philosopher, said “Intuition brings to man those brilliant messages from the Unknown which are the beginning of his higher knowledge. Reason only comes in afterwards to see what profit it can have of the shining harvest.”

In the mental realm, we know about Spirit. We even have some ways that we can use spiritual principles and higher ideas to create a better life for ourselves. But we don’t necessarily have an experience of ourselves as Spirit. We believe in oneness, but we don’t necessarily have an experience of oneness.

How do we move from this mental realm, of concepts and constructs, to the spiritual realm of embodiment and identification? In other words, how do we move to a place of knowing Spirit as the I Am of our being?

Metaphysical writer and Christian mystic, Joel Goldsmith, wrote in his book, The Art of Spiritual Healing, “The important point is, do you have God? Spiritually, yes, theoretically, yes, everyone has God; but if everyone had God, there would be no lack or limitation in all this world. Actually people merely have God as a potentiality or a possibility. Having God means consciously to know Him aright, consciously to tabernacle with Him, consciously to commune with Him, consciously to know Him as the very I of your being.”

To arrive at this type of spiritual consciousness, we must do as the biblical scripture in Matthew 6:33 says: “Seek first the kingdom of God and all things will be added unto you.” Instead of seeking anything outside ourselves, our whole attention is placed on knowing God within, our own divinity.

Approaching our divine nature through our mentality is not wrong, but it is only a beginning. It creates the opening for further exploration. Having a concept of the infinite is the beginning of getting to know the infinite. Having an enlarged concept opens the doorway that is not available when there isn’t even a concept of something greater.

Meditation is a great practice for transcending mind because we begin to see, experience, and understand the nature of mind. We get to see, for example, that the mind can rationalize most anything, making it not fully fit as an instrument for knowing and experiencing the highest, purest truth of our being.

We have seen the divisions in our world that come from the mind’s rationalizations and justifications, unable to reach a clearer, more unifying truth. Division arises from not understanding and fully experiencing our oneness with each other and all of life. The antidote is to come into oneness, not merely as a conceptual reality, but as our living reality.

We can ask ourselves what would my relationships look like if I truly embodied oneness, if I saw my friends, as well as those with differing points of view, as myself, as actually myself? I’m not referring here to analyzing this mentally; but rather that we live in the question, and let the question transform us.

We can sit in the stillness, not rising until we receive understanding, just as Gautama Buddha did under the Bodhi tree. It doesn’t mean we necessarily literally don’t get up from our meditation cushion, but we remain in a living meditation on our oneness and connectedness with all of life, with God, with all that is. We let that meditation take us beyond mental concepts into true understanding, understanding that escapes words, descriptions, or concepts.

Some have referred to this type of knowing as that which we know without knowing how we know, without a process of reasoning, yet we know it with every fiber of our being.

The invitation this day is to meditate and pray with the sole intention of knowing your own divinity and the divinity of all others, knowing it beyond concept to the place of deep realization and visceral experience.

Enjoy the journey.

Evolving Beyond Mind

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Having just finished reading the book, The Life Divine, by Sri Aurobindo, an early 20th century spiritual teacher, guru, and philosopher from India, I am inspired by his clear descriptions of the evolutionary spiritual path of humanity. He describes how humanity evolved into the mental beings that we are today. As mental beings we have harnessed the power of the mind to accomplish great things.

Some have put the mind at the top of the chart, the height of our progress. It is thought that, with greater development of the mind, we will solve all our problems. But Aurobindo clearly illustrates that developing our mental capacity is just a step along the way toward our greater evolution. That greater evolution is in becoming fully spiritual beings.

While the mind is a pathway to our spiritual nature, it is not the ultimate instrument for experiencing it fully.

Those of us who have tapped into our divine intuition can attest to the infinitely more expansive intelligence and wisdom accessed. We can probably all recognize this infinite intelligence at work with things that have happened in our lives that we never could have planned, such as meeting someone who becomes pivotal on our life’s journey. All the synchronicities that had to occur for the seeming chance meeting, and yet chance cannot encapsulate these divinely fortuitous occurrences.

These spiritual experiences are mere glimpses of what might be possible should we begin to live fully as spiritual beings, moving beyond the limitations of mind. Imagine those experiences we call miracles being commonplace, or the creative genius unleashed in a moment of surrender becoming our norm.

Aurobindo wrote, “An entirely new consciousness in many individuals transforming their whole being, transforming their mental, vital and physical nature-self, is needed for the new life to appear; only such a transformation of the general mind, life, body nature can bring into being a new worthwhile collective existence.

He describes growing into what is already inherently our destiny, what is, in truth, already hidden within us. Perhaps the first step is beginning to release the idea that mind is the highest faculty that we have, and to open to experiencing more of our spiritual nature.

Aurobindo further states that this transformation is calling us, not only to individual transformation, but a collective awakening to our spiritual nature, to the emergence of societies with people grounded just as fully in their spiritual faculties as people today are in their mental faculties.

A society living from its transcendent spiritual nature would be able to see beyond the pairs of opposites that we find ourselves entangled with today. It would be able to embody the famous Rumi quote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there,” and the core concept of the Science of Mind philosophy that states “Spirit is a transcendent, perfect Whole that contains and embraces all seeming opposites.”

This is our destiny, to recognize and embody our own inherent wholeness, and then see the inherent wholeness of life itself.

In the next segment of this series, we will explore more deeply what this spiritual transformation entails.

Enjoy the journey.

Rev. Gregory Toole is offering a four-week online class entitled “Becoming an Evolutionary Human,” beginning May 15. Click here for more information.

Tell Your Valentine the Truth

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This is part two of a series based on the book “Conscious Loving,” by Gay and Katie Hendricks.

In their book, Gay and Katie describe in clear detail the “moment” unconscious loving begins, so that we have an opportunity to make a different choice and create a conscious relationship, a choice that needs to be made over and over.

The choice point occurs when the closeness of our relationship brings up our issues, which is inevitable as we get closer and closer to a partner. Close, intimate relationships ultimately shine light on us, uncovering any unhealed material from the past.

The key factor in what happens in our relationship beyond the choice point is how we respond to this most uncomfortable situation. As Gay and Katie describe, if we withhold the truth about what is going on with us at this moment, we move ourselves in the direction of an unconscious, co-dependent relationship, rather than a conscious, healthy one.

They further describe how withholding from our partner, that our issues are coming to the surface, begins to create disconnection and distance that then lead to withdrawing, so that we are not fully present in the relationship. Withdrawing then leads to another unhealthy behavior – projecting. Projecting is when we attribute something to our partner that is really ours.

The good news is that Gay and Katie provide us with the antidote to this condition. And it’s so simple (but not necessarily easy). The remedy is to tell the truth. When we are tempted to pull back, hide, and project outward in seeming self-protection, instead we say what is really going on with us.

For example, if getting close to a partner brings up our control issues that stem from being raised by an over-controlling parent, our habitual pattern might be to project onto our partner that they are being controlling, even though they are simply mirroring an experience we had in childhood that is now a trigger-point for us, an unhealed part of our past. This projection is likely to create the opposite of what we want. Whereas we want closeness, projection is likely to create distance and disconnection.

On the other hand, if we make the conscious choice and tell the truth, we create the connection we desire and lay the fertile ground for a healthy, fulfilling, close relationship.

In this example, telling the truth would be to acknowledge that we have issues with control and when our partner does certain things our issues of control are triggered. The focus would be on taking responsibility for our experience rather than focusing on what our partner is doing. The real issue is our trigger. In telling that truth, we create the possibility of our partner being drawn closer and we build trust.

The invitation this Valentine’s Day (and everyday) is to tell the truth to your partner, taking full responsibility for your experience in the relationship. The benefits are great as we create a relationship that is authentic, close, and fulfilling.

Enjoy the journey.

Want to learn more about conscious loving? Click here to learn about our upcoming online Conscious Loving course, based on the book.

Transcending Upper Limits in Relationships

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Audio version

In their book, “Conscious Loving,” authors Gay and Kathlyn Hendricks state “In a close relationship, we have two distinct needs: closeness and independence. In a co-committed (conscious) relationship, both these needs are acknowledged and celebrated.”

This is such profound wisdom. I remember in my earlier years, when a partner would say they needed space, it would make me tremendously insecure. I would think, “something must be wrong.” Yet, as the Hendricks’ make it clear, a healthy relationship needs a balance of space and closeness.

Gay and Kathlyn are a long-married couple who, as therapists, have worked with countless numbers of couples over the years. In their work and in their own marriage, they have noticed that both closeness and space can cause us discomfort.

In what they call “the upper limits problem,” our fear of closeness and our discomfort with space, if not faced consciously, can result in us using unconscious behaviors to get space. Examples include starting an argument, getting sick, or having an accident.

Their book is one of the clearest I have found in terms of delineating our dysfunctional relationship patterns, as well as articulating a clear picture of how a healthy relationship could look.

Their description of the “upper limits problem” is what originally hooked me on the book because it so accurately portrayed an issue that had shown up in my relationships that I could not explain. There would be times when I’d be in the middle of an argument and I would be witnessing myself at the same time. My inner thought would be, “Why am I having this argument? It seems trivial and meaningless, yet I am fully invested in keeping it going.”

It was a classic upper limits situation. This type of argument would usually occur when things were actually going really well. In understanding it through the lens of upper limits, I see that things were going so well that I needed some space to integrate all of this goodness, but at the same time it was not my practice to ask for space, or even to recognize when I needed space, other than if there was something specific I wanted to do.

So instead, I would unconsciously create, or be willing to participate in, an argument, no matter how meaningless, to create the space that I needed. It seems rather silly in hindsight, but apparently it is common behavior based on the large body of clients the Hendricks’ have seen.

In recent years, with expanded awareness around these dynamics, I am more intent on paying attention to when I need space and when I need closeness, so that I create what I need consciously, and it is less likely I will create it in unhealthy ways. It is surely a practice, something I am still mastering. Yet, it is so empowering to see things more clearly.

The invitation this day is to examine how you’re balancing closeness and space in your relationships. Are you able to comfortably take space when you need it? Are you able to recognize when you need space? Are there any unconscious ways that you use to create space when the closeness gets to be too much for you?

Awareness of our own upper limits, which are temporary, can support us in living harmoniously in our relationships while growing into greater and greater closeness.

Enjoy the journey.

Want to learn more about conscious loving? Click here to learn about our upcoming online Conscious Loving course, based on the book.

Dare to Surrender

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In his book, Life Visioning, spiritual teacher, Michael Bernard Beckwith, wrote “Where there is willfulness there is a wall; where there is willingness there is a way.”

A wall is created when we need for things be our way, when we think in very finite terms. An opening occurs when we open to the infinite possibilities that already want to flow through us and as us. I’ve been known to say, “Rather than ‘my way or the highway,’ let it be ‘my way or the highest way.’”

Sometimes we don’t leave much room for infinite intelligence to bring about good things for us. If we define what we want and how it can come to us too narrowly, we limit our unlimited possibilities.

When I was in graduate school I applied for an exchange program whereby, if accepted, I would spend a semester in London. It turned out that someone else was chosen rather than me. At first, I went into self-pity and pondered how unfair the process must have been. But when I let go of the sense of victimhood and limitation, I began to open to what else might be possible. From there, I began to see another way, which ended up working out and being much better. It cost me less money and I had much more flexibility to design my own program while spending most of the semester in Europe, where I had never been before.

Surrender is a state of being whereby we loosen our grip. We let go of the need to control every detail. Rather than being so willful, we become open, receptive, and willing to see things in a broader way. We become more available to the divine energy flowing through us. We allow ourselves to be used by infinite intelligence for greater good for ourselves and the ways we serve the world.

With surrender, we might still have our opinions and preferences, but we are less attached to them. We are more open to seeing another point of view, to trying something new, or to discovering a new way of doing things. We are less likely to want to control people and situations, and more likely to move with the flow of life, perhaps asking what is the highest possibility I could experience right now?

Indian spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was reported to have said that his secret was “I don’t mind what happens.” I don’t sense he was saying he doesn’t care what happens. In that case we would be deserting love and compassion. In saying I don’t mind what happens we let go of our need to be in control, to mentally grasp onto things.

Here are some examples of the quality of movement that represents surrender:

  • From control to surrender.
  • From fear to trust.
  • From constriction to flow.
  • From holding on to letting go.
  • From ‘my way’ to the ‘highest way.’
  • From ‘by me’ to ‘through me.’
  • From looking good to doing good.

If surrender appeals to you, you don’t need to do it in one big move; you can do it little by little, asking how could I let go a little more? Where could I make more room for a greater idea or a greater possibility?

As we experience the value of surrender, we are likely to naturally expand our ability and willingness to surrender.

Enjoy the journey.

 

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Back to Basics: Your Dreams Can Come True

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Early in my journey with the Science of Mind philosophy, I discovered one of my semi-conscious mental models, a large part of my mindset and approach to life. It was semi-conscious because I was fully aware that it was my mental model, while at the same time I had no idea of its limitations.

The metaphor of my mental model was that of a football sled, those large contraptions that football players use in training to simulate pushing though the force of the opposing team. The football sled is designed to only move a few inches or feet each time the football players slam their bodies forward against it. That’s how I approached obstacles at that time in life.

This mental model served me for many years. It’s limitations, however, became abundantly clear when I began to understand the creative power of my mentality, and as I saw that obstacles, for the most part, were only real in a relative sense, largely dependent upon my perception for their reality.

In the Science of Mind philosophy, we understand that our thoughts and perceptions in the conscious mind are impressed upon our subjective mind (also known as the subconscious mind). The subjective mind is our connection into an infinite subjective mind, or creative medium. This interaction between the thoughts generated in our conscious mind and their being received and acted upon by a creative medium, creates our experiences.

A common metaphor used to understand this phenomenon is that of a seed (conscious thought) being planted into the soil (subjective medium), resulting in a plant (result). The plant that results is not just any plant; it is a specific plant that corresponds to the type of seed planted. In the same way, the results we reap in our lives correspond to the type of thoughts we are putting forth into the subjective, creative medium.

Our greatest task is to choose wisely what type of thoughts we are putting forth, particularly our predominant ways of thinking. We need not become superstitious, worrying about every thought we have. One thought of negativity is unlikely to result in any great consequence, any more than one thought of being a billionaire is likely to result in great wealth. Rather, it is more important that we pay attention to where we place our greatest attention, for this is where we certainly shall reap results.

In his book, “How to Change Your Life,” Science of Mind founder Ernest Holmes wrote: The right and the ability and the power to “think creatively” so that you have more desirable experiences—is so impressive and so exceedingly important that it should be the basis of your life.

How do we begin to cultivate this ability to direct our thoughts? We start by asking what kinds of thoughts would I need to be thinking to create a specific outcome? Then we begin to think those thoughts, by using affirmations, positive statements in the present tense that align us with what we choose to create.

For example, if you want to manifest a new relationship, what are the thoughts that would create that? We might start with “I love myself,” repeating it many times as necessary to accept it. We may then notice all the ways we believe we are unloving or seemingly undeserving of love. We continue to affirm “I love myself,” and add additional affirmations that reflect responses to the hidden beliefs we have uncovered, using the information from the hidden beliefs, rather than resisting it. We add specific affirmations, such as “I accept my perfect partner.” We are thus creating the inner conditions that result in the outward appearance of the desired relationship.

Your dreams can come true.  The creative power within you is unlimited. Through conscious direction of your thoughts and attention you can manifest what you want. Choose this day and this moment what you shall create.

Enjoy the journey.

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