Can We All Win?

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Audio Version

We live in a world where there appears to be much division and vying to be the winner, and not the loser.

These struggles are rooted in win-lose paradigms that many take for granted, or see as the only possibility – either I get what I want or you get what you want. In this paradigm, the challenge is how to be the winner and not the loser.

What if everyone could win? Is it possible to have a win-win paradigm?

I’d like to suggest that, yes, win-win is a real possibility. In a win-win paradigm, the challenge becomes a creativity dilemma, rather than one of how to beat the so-called opponent. In win-win, there is no opponent. Instead, we are sitting at the table together, engaging our creativity to solve the same problem.

The problem we are solving in win-win is how to find a solution that includes what is most important to you and what is most important to me.

For win-win to be achieved, each party must be willing to let go of pre-conceived outcomes and be open to the possibility of an outcome that meets their needs, but may look very different from the solution they previously conceived.

My motto regarding achieving win-win is “No one has to lose, but everyone has to change.” Perhaps the first shift in embracing the win-win paradigm is letting go of the idea that change equates to loss.

There is an element of loss associated with change, but what we are losing is simply a limited way of looking at the situation. What we are gaining is an expanded view.

Five years ago, in my role as a Director at Centers for Spiritual Living, a global spiritual organization, I was honored to play an integral part in reuniting two organizations that had split more than 50 years prior. I was assigned the task of finding a way to bridge major differences in educational philosophy between the two separate organizations. Those differences were said to be the one factor that might render the reunification impossible.

In bringing the parties together regularly over a period of many months, we began looking at our values and to detach from specific ways of doing things, instead focusing on how we might find new ways of doing things that honored the values of each organization, which became known as “The Third Way.” The effort was a success and today Centers for Spiritual Living is in the rare position of having reunited its denomination after more than 50 years of separation.

The key factor in the success of this endeavor was a strong motivation to find win-win. We were convinced we could accomplish more united than if we were divided. This has proved to be true.

I truly believe win-win is always possible once we no longer need to win over someone else. This creativity problem mentioned earlier may not be easy to overcome, but what we know is there is no limit to our creativity. Once the situation is framed as a creativity challenge, we are already on our way to finding a win-win solution.

The question becomes, are we willing for everyone to win, or have we become so enamored with the win-lose model that our need to win blinds us to a greater possibility?

The invitation today is to engage your creativity in some situation, no matter how small, to bring about a greater outcome for all concerned. You can do it! And the possibilities you are opening for our world are enormous. Thank you for your enlightened consciousness.

Enjoy the journey.

Seaming Seeming Opposites

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Audio Version

So many of our challenges in communication come from creating an “other.” Today’s blog is dedicated to healing that which seems to divide our world. I invite you to join in dedicating your practice today to that healing.

I’ll begin with a story from my own life from over 20 years ago. I was on the board of a professional organization and there was a woman on the board with whom I always seemed to clash. No matter the agenda item for the meeting, we seemed to be on opposite sides of it. Over time, I began to brace myself for how I would deal with her at an upcoming meeting.

In the process, she became the “other.” In my mind, a story began to emerge about her. I told myself, “She is the toughest person I’ve ever met.”

Skipping ahead in the story a couple years, after we were no longer serving on the board together, we found ourselves at the same party, hosted by a common friend. We began to talk about our previous interactions on the board and realized we had made up stories about each other that were far from true. It turns out “the toughest person I’ve ever met” went home and cried after the meetings.

When we create an “other,” they appear to be separate from us, and therefore, it seems impossible to connect. In creating the other, we also create a notion of win/lose. Either I win or the other wins. We see this right now in the United States with our two major political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Each party, and its followers, tend to demonize the other. Rather than seeing differing perspectives, a story emerges, imagining sinister plots and questionable intentions.

One of the core concepts of the Science of Mind philosophy of Ernest Holmes is that Spirit is a transcendent, perfect Whole that contains and embraces all seeming opposites. Can we step into the larger sense of ourselves to embrace ‘seeming’ opposites? How far can we go to embrace others as ourselves, as our brothers and sisters?

In recognizing our own divinity and the divinity of others, it is quite possible to transcend this sense of separation, to see the oneness of all beings, not just in theory, but experientially.

In his book, The Life Divine, Indian spiritual teacher and philosopher, Sri Aurobindo, offered this helpful perspective: “Hence the world takes on the appearance of a clash of opposing truths each seeking to fulfill itself, each having the right to fulfillment, and therefore of a mass of problems and mysteries which have to he solved because behind all this confusion there is the hidden Truth and unity pressing for the solution and by the solution for its own unveiled manifestation in the world.”

If we can truly see that behind our desires is a divine impulse to make some part of Itself known and experienced in the world, and that this is what is also happening through everyone else, perhaps we can step back a little and see how we can come into cooperation with the greater good that is wanting to emerge. Rather than creating “others,” and with it a sense of separation, we can see oneness and then look for how we can contribute to the greater good that is emerging. Perhaps we can see that we don’t need to try to win over a seeming opponent, but rather we can discover the good in the perspective of the seeming other, and how that good can be combined with the good in our own perspective to reveal a more perfect world.

In Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus was talking to his disciples when one pointed out that his mother and brothers wanted to speak with him. Jesus said, “who is my mother and who are my brothers?” He was not being disrespectful to his family. He was one who had transcended the sense of separation and opposites. In other words, everyone was his brother and his mother.

To complete my opening story, the woman who I had seen as my opponent or “other” on the board, not only became my friend, but also was one of two people who introduced me to the Science of Mind philosophy that has changed my life, and in which I am now a minister and teacher. Someone I had imagined as my nemesis turned out to be an agent of great good in my life, leading me to the single greatest opening on my spiritual journey.

The invitation today is to consider where we might have invented “others” and to see if, instead, we can perceive the truth of oneness and the wholeness that contains and embraces all seeming opposites.

Enjoy the journey.

Reflections on Charlottesville

Audio Version

Here are some reflections from me that I shared with my ministerial colleagues in Centers for Spiritual Living. These are not meant to make anyone else wrong, nor are they meant to jump on the bandwagon of a particular viewpoint. Just letting you in on my current thought process. Thanks for reading.

As I reflect on recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and other examples of division, separation, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, win-lose paradigms, projections, blame, shame, guilt and so many other forms of separation, I find myself wanting to expand my sense of compassion for all humans.

So many ways throughout history and in current times that we divide ourselves or see through the lens of the ‘other.’

I find myself curious about what it’s like to be in each person’s shoes. As I look through the lens of compassion and deep curiosity, I see so many living in fear of a perceived other.

I wonder where it all ends, and what is mine to do. While I certainly am appalled by racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, antisemitism, and all other forms of hatred, I wonder if my sense of indignation begins to take me into another form of separation. I wonder if I no longer can even see those who are espousing such acts of hatred. And I wonder if my not seeing them is helping the situation.

As I ponder the vision of a world that works for everyone, I feel called to really understand what the concerns are of all humans. I find myself less concerned with who is to blame, or who has it easier or harder, and more concerned with understanding how we all get our needs met.

The concept of privilege, and understanding it, can be a vehicle to that understanding, so long as in the process we remember our ultimate objective, which, for me, is understanding, compassion, unity, peace, and an abundantly fulfilling life for all.

Various forms of hatred and bigotry have profoundly impacted me in my lifetime, and today I wonder, is there any end to the ways we separate ourselves as humans? Is the answer to segment those who themselves are espousing division and separation, or is it to stand more firmly in our knowing of oneness and unity?

The answer for me is that I cannot have animosity toward any other being. And I must make the effort to understand and empathize with those who are in pain of all forms — those suffering from systemic injustices as well as those in such fear of others that they act in harmful ways. Yes, I speak out against injustices and at the same time, even more of my energy is invested in offering more love, compassion, and understanding to all beings.

It seems what the world needs is more love and compassion, not more ways to separate ourselves.

Enjoy the journey.

Does Spiritual Practice Help Your Relationships?

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Audio Version

If you are reading this blog article, you probably have some form of spiritual practice. In fact, the very act of reading this article is spiritual practice. We know that our practice brings us inspiration, perhaps some sense of joy, peace, or harmony. But can it help with the practical realm, such as improving our relationships?

One of the greatest benefits of spiritual practice, especially meditation, is that it expands our awareness. All change and growth begins with awareness. We cannot shift what we are not aware of.

With expanded awareness, we have expanded choice. For example, many years ago, after a period of intense spiritual practice, expanded awareness allowed me to observe a pattern in how I was relating to a loved one. In that moment, there was spaciousness. As the other person began to play out our habitual drama, I got to see my habitual role in the drama, and came to a very conscious choice point in real time.

It was almost as if there were a director of the play that was our real-life drama, and, when the moment of choice arrived, the director gave me a knowing glance – “okay, you know your part; go ahead and play it.” However, seeing the drama so clearly for the first time, I wasn’t willing to continue in my starring role. The present-moment choice I made, to discontinue playing my habitual role, changed the relationship forever. No words were ever spoken about it. It was simply clear – the drama is over, because one of its star actors (me) resigned his part.

How we live our lives is the ultimate spiritual practice. Meditation, prayer, and study prepare us to live a more conscious, aware existence. We begin to break away from conditioned behavior and habitual patterns as we understand ourselves and the nature of our minds, bodies, emotions, and soul journey in greater ways.

Our relationships are important vehicles for our spiritual growth. Family and other primary relationships are especially conducive to creating growth opportunities. Where there are triggers, or unhealed past traumas, these close relationships will surely uncover them. The trick is to recognize the gift in being triggered. Our conditioned response to being triggered is often to project our energy onto the one who stimulated the trigger.

The greater opportunity is to focus our attention inward or in the mirror of our own journey. Some questions we might ask ourselves are:

  • What emotion am I feeling?
  • What is behind this emotion? (i.e., what beliefs do I have about myself, the other person, or the world that are causing me to feel this way?)
  • How am I being called to shift my perspective to have a more expansive and empowering experience?
  • What divine, or higher, qualities am I being called to embody?
  • What am I being called to release and let go of in service to my healing?
  • What else am I to know for my expanded awareness?

This type of introspective process not only evolves us on the spiritual journey, but also creates the opening for more fulfilling relationships, based on mutual trust and responsibility, wholeness, and a more mature form of love.

The invitation this day is to embrace the opportunities that our relationships provide for our growth, to go deeply within ourselves when triggered, taking full responsibility for transforming our relationships.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole is currently offering an online meditation course. Click here for more information.

Go Directly to the Source

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Audio version.

Spiritual author and mystic, Joel Goldsmith, writes, in his book The Art of Spiritual Healing, “Do not go to God and expect a healing; do not go to God and expect employment; do not go to God and expect safety or security: Go to God expecting God.” He is essentially saying that what we really want is to experience the presence of divinity in us, and then that takes care of the rest because living in the sense of our connection to our divine source allows us to experience grace in all areas of life.

Similarly, the Christian scripture in Proverbs 4:7 says, “With all thy getting get understanding” and in Matthew 6:33, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God…and all these things shall be added unto you.”

It seems so easy in life sometimes, to go from one prayer request to the next – pray for me to get well, pray for me to find housing, pray for my relationship – yet all our prayer requests could be summed up as ‘pray that I know my divine source of good.’ It is in this connection to our divinity where we find peace, power, joy, and prosperity of all manner.

How do we connect more deeply to our source? The simplest answer is, through meditation. In meditation, we are learning to still our minds so that we may hear, feel, and experience that source. In the place of stillness, we discover wisdom; not only spiritual wisdom, but also answers to the questions we have about our lives.

We also find ourselves more in touch with that greater self of ourselves – our place of power, faith, and knowing, whereby we know without knowing how we know. We just know that we are to go in a specific direction or to say yes to a proposed project. We find ourselves in the flow of life, showing up in the right places, at the right times.

I recently found myself flailing around in multiple directions in deciding how to proceed in building the organization, Somseva, that I founded and lead. Not only was I putting forth great effort, sometimes to little avail, I also felt tired and bewildered. Finally, I came to the realization that my awareness had drifted away from a sense of connection to source. Even my daily meditations had started to move in the direction of manifestation of things I wanted, rather than communion with source.

In all my doing, I had allowed myself to drift away from the experience of powerfully connecting to source. There seemed to be so much to do that I forgot about the importance of being, which is the essence of connecting to source, which is life itself. How could I be in the flow of life if I wasn’t even feeling connected to life.

While we can never truly be disconnected from source, we sure can create blockages, and experience a sense of disconnection. Fortunately, the connection is still there, once we bring our attention back to it.

The invitation is to find time for stillness each day, with no other goal but to be connected to source, which is life, which is our own higher self. From that place of connection, we take steps in the direction we are guided, and make powerful choices from the inspiration received.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole is currently offering an online meditation course. Click here for more information.

Freedom through Non-Attachment

In celebration of the July 4th holiday in the U.S., representing freedom and independence, I am re-posting this blog from two years ago.

Somseva™

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About ten years ago, I participated in a 10-day silent Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreat in northern California. During the ten days, silence was to be observed at all times, the exception being that during breaks we could kneel before the teacher and ask a brief question.

The word Vipassana means to see things as they really are. Vipassana meditation is an ancient Indian practice that was rediscovered by Gautama Buddha himself some 2,500 years ago and resurrected by him as a practice for mastery of life.

Our retreat was led by Indian teacher S.N. Goenka from a distance through audio and video recordings, with his approved teachers physically present to guide us.

The key teaching in Vipassana is impermanence. The word Anicca (pronounced ah-nee-cha) means impermanence — things rise and pass. It is from the ancient Indian language, Pali, in which many of the earliest Buddhist literature is written. During…

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The Beginning of Peace

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Photo by Tamara Menzi.

Audio Version.

 

This blog is a follow-up to my last blog, entitled “The End of Violence.”

Where does peace begin? The simple answer is, it begins with me, and you. Peace on a large scale is not possible unless peace on a small scale is possible. The idea that peace begins with me inspired me some years ago and, as a result, I began to think world peace is possible. I mused that peace is possible with me, therefore world peace is possible.

How does peace begin right where we are? It starts with an intention, or, more accurately, a commitment. It starts with each one declaring “I intend to be peaceful toward myself and all other beings.” Here begins an amazing journey of growth and discovery.

For we know, the moment will come when we experience something other than peace toward ourselves or another. Something will eventually occur that triggers us, takes us to anger or some sort of disharmony. This is not a problem, so long as our intention and commitment to be peaceful are solid. When our intention and commitment are solid, the trigger becomes a further step toward peacefulness as we look more deeply into ourselves to see what did cause us to be unpeaceful.

The only way to become the embodiment of peace is to uproot all within us that is not peaceful. The clear intention and commitment to be peaceful is the vehicle to create this uprooting. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if the very moment that we declared our intention to be peaceful, that moments later we noticed something in ourselves that was anything but peaceful.

Our intention to be peaceful doesn’t create the experience of being unpeaceful; it reveals the unpeaceful aspects that are already present within us, so that they may be transmuted.

I am reminded of when I participated in a ten-day silent Buddhist Vipassana meditation retreat. One of the agreements while we were there was that we would not kill, which I thought was a ridiculous agreement for people committing to meditate in silence for ten days. Of course, we wouldn’t kill; no agreement necessary. Then, moments after arriving, upon entering my room, I discovered a mosquito. My natural reflex kicked in and, just before smashing it into oblivion, I remembered my agreement not to kill, and suddenly I felt silly at how quickly I was about to break the agreement, that was supposedly unnecessary.

This experience illustrates the power of intention and commitment. They reveal to us, like nothing else, the ways that we are not living up to them, so that we may take corrective action to come into alignment. No matter how many times we slip, each slip leads us closer to alignment with our intention and commitment.

In this way, peace for ourselves becomes possible. We become more peaceful with ourselves and more peaceful with those around us. Experiencing our peace, those around us are more likely to be more peaceful. Thus, one person at a time, world peace becomes possible.

This is likely the only way that world peace is possible—one person at a time, doing the inner work to create peace within themselves. One great thing about this is that the more peacefulness we create individually, the easier we make it for others to be peaceful because there are fewer triggers to bring forth unpeaceful reactions in others. In addition, we create an example of what peacefulness looks like for others to emulate and embody.

Yes, world peace is possible. And, yes, it begins with me, and you. I’m in; are you? I know you are, so I am already excited about the world at peace. I rejoice at all the examples I see every day of my own peacefulness and the peacefulness of others. And, then I rejoice at how my attention and gratitude for the peace that already is, magnifies it.

Oh, it just keeps getting better! Enjoy the journey.

The End of Violence

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A sense of separation is at the root of violence. In fact, it is unthinkable to commit violence toward another when we see them clearly as an expression of the divine, and we see our own nature, and their nature, as divine, and therefore as love.

Whether it be violence toward oneself or violence toward another, a sense of separation from divinity is a necessary component. When we truly know that we are made in the image and likeness of God, violence in any form is inconceivable.

There many exemplifications and exhortations to violence in the sacred texts of the world’s major religions, including the Bible of Christianity, the Bhagavad Gita of Hinduism, the Torah of Judaism, and the Koran of Islam. However, we miss the point when we take those references out of the context of the history, cultural norms of the times they were written, and the use of metaphor in the distillation of wisdom.

Religion and spirituality point us to our highest nature, and the highest nature of others. The golden rule, in some form, can be found in all the world’s major religions. Violence in the name of religion, or pitting religions as in opposition to one another, are just more forms of separation.

The end of violence requires that we let go of all forms of separation.

It is a natural part of our development and maturity as human beings to individuate, that is to form our own identity, separate from that of our family and others. However, that is just a step along the way, not a place to get stuck. Having established our identity as a unique self, we are further called to see that we are ultimately not a unique self, but a unique expression of one greater self, that we could call God or the Universe. Whatever we call it, more and more we are coming to see that all of life is connected and one, not separate. We need only look to the latest developments in quantum theory to understand this better.

To corroborate this with some physical evidence, we can look at our genetic structure. Of all the differences that we find among ourselves as human beings, these differences are contained in less than one percent of our DNA. That is, as human beings, more than 99 percent of our genetic structure is identical. Thus, in all the ways that we find to separate ourselves from each other, physically we are more than 99 percent the same.

To further explore our oneness, we can view it experientially. It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. In workshops, when we invite people to gaze deeply into one another’s eyes, time and again we find ourselves feeling deep love and compassion for the person before us. We truly “see” them, perhaps for the first time. This is even the case when, moments before, people were feeling great animosity toward one another. Somehow, in truly seeing each other, we remember who we are and who the person before us is, as we each were before we individuated – Divine Spirit.

Let’s have a global call to eye gazing, a call to truly see one another as the divine beings we each are. That is the end of violence.

Enjoy the journey.

Communicating Across the Divide

Greetings Friends,

I want you to know about this very important online class I am offering.

Do you feel challenged at times communicating with colleagues, friends, or family in a world that seems ever more polarized? Do you wish you could cut through the differences that seem to divide us and have meaningful communication with those of differing perspectives? Would you like to be a powerful force for bridging the gaps that separate us?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, this class, which starts next week, could be perfect for you.

Here is some more information…

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Communicating Across the Divide

An online class for those who want to
breakthrough the barriers that seem to separate us.

Three Thursdays. May 11 – May 25
@ 5:30 – 7:00 pm Pacific

All classes are recorded, so you never miss one.

 

register me for this course buttonOnly $59 for all three sessions.


Some would say our country and world are very divided today, but does that mean we can’t talk to each other?

How does a vegan talk to a non-vegan?

How does a Democrat relate to a Republican?

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How does a spiritual person have meaningful dialog with a religious person?

How do we engage with our family and friends who see the world differently than we do?

Yes, these divides exist, but do they need to keep us separate, or are there ways to begin hearing each other? What if each perspective is part of the wholeness that can bond us to expand possibilities for all? What if there is a way to powerfully communicate your truth while also compassionately listening to those across the divide?


About Rev. Gregory Toole

Gregory Toole is Spiritual Director of Somseva whose mission is to inspire authentic, compassionate relationships through spiritual education, tools, and practice that promote peacemaking and conscious action. ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6270

He was formerly Director of Member Support and Education for Centers for Spiritual Living where he played an integral part in reuniting two organizations that had split more than 50 years prior. Gregory was assigned the task of finding a way to bridge major differences in educational philosophy between the two separate organizations. Those differences were said to be the one factor that might render the reunification impossible.

After bringing the parties together regularly over a period of many months, Gregory was able to get them to begin looking at their values and to detach from specific ways of doing things, instead focusing on how they might find new ways of doing things that honored the values of each organization. The effort was a success and today Centers for Spiritual Living is in the rare position of having reunited its denomination after more than 50 years of separation.

Gregory has worked with many individuals to have similar breakthroughs in how they relate to friends, colleagues, family, and those in their life that they find difficult. He has found that, while relating to others can be challenging, there are tools and practices to support us. His passion is sharing those tools and practices.

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