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.

Home for the Holidays

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Audio Version

In this article “home for the holidays” refers to coming home to ourselves so that we don’t give away our power as we engage with family, friends, and our conditioned experiences of the holidays. It is encouragement to be empowered in how we experience this holiday season, fully at choice and fully grounded in ourselves.

Coming home to ourselves is recognizing that what we experience and what comes up for us are not about anything “out there,” but it is about what is going on with us, within ourselves. This is true of both pleasant emotions, like joy, and any unpleasant emotions. It is the state of our inner world, including triggers (unhealed places within us) as well as our sense of wholeness and well-being, that create our experience.

The holidays, particularly Christmas with its idyllic vision of life, can really trigger in us any sense of being inadequate, less than whole, or falling short of our ideals. It can also bring up grief as our holiday may not include people we have shared the holidays with in the past.

My own experience with Christmas has been quite difficult at times, especially the last couple years. As I have looked deeply into myself I have found that I don’t relate to the ways the holiday is commonly celebrated, and that I am no longer capable of pretending that I do. This is beginning to free me to just say no to the things that aren’t aligned for me. Rather than trying to make everything okay by just adjusting the outward experience, I am paying attention to what is going on with me, what I am needing during this time of year.

This is bringing me home to myself. With that focus, it is less important to me what I do or don’t do because I am clear where I am, taking care of what I need, and ultimately at peace with myself.

Eight Tips for Staying Grounded this Holiday Season

  1. Make sure that you are breathing fully. During times of busyness, stress, or anxiety, our breath often becomes shallower. Breathing fully keeps us grounded and in the flow of life.
  2. Stay aware of how you’re feeling in your third chakra energy center (the area around your solar plexus, just above the navel). If you keep yourself centered there, you’re more likely to feel empowered in your authentic self.
  3. Remember that whatever your experience, it is perfect for you, and let others’ experiences be perfect for them. Steer away from any tendency to think anything “should” be different.
  4. When around people who see the world very differently than you do, try to maintain a sense of curiosity and let go of any need to prove your view. You might even respond with “That’s an interesting perspective.”
  5. Give yourself permission to take a time-out if you need one. Perhaps, spend a few minutes in another room or take a short walk outside.
  6. Find ways to move your body so that whatever emotions you’re feeling move through you rather than getting stuck.
  7. If possible, have someone you can call or text who will remind you of your wholeness if you feel yourself contracting.
  8. Develop a set of positive affirmations in advance that you can read to bring your attention back to a more positive view of yourself if you begin to get down.

 

Enjoy the journey.

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