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?

jon-asato-246160

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

patrick-hendry-221863


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™

dolphin swimming

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…

View original post 529 more words

The Beginning of Peace

tamara-menzi-93235 unsplash

Photo by Tamara Menzi.

New! 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

ester-marie-doysabas-253267 - unsplash

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…

matthew-henry-6205 - unsplash - cropped

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?

what you get box 2

 

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.

How to Deal with Difficult People

clem-onojeghuo-220471 - unsplash

Most of us probably have people in our lives that present us with communication challenges. In truth, there are no difficult people, only those that we experience as difficult.

What do we do when we encounter challenges in communicating? Before we do anything, getting centered can be helpful – taking a deep breath, reminding ourselves that it is an experience that will pass, and feeling ourselves anchored in our bodies and on the earth.

One person wrote some years ago that the way to deal with difficult people is to find out what they want and give it to them. There is much wisdom in this. We are all just trying to get our needs met, and some people are more challenged in that endeavor than others, sometimes leading to dysfunctional behaviors. If we can turn our attention away from the dysfunctional behaviors, and instead to finding out what they are needing or wanting, there we might find greater ease and the possibility of accord.

In getting our own needs met, are we straightforward? Do we say exactly what we want, or do we hint or disguise what we want? If the latter is true, what is the root of these behaviors? Do we truly believe we deserve to have our needs met, that it’s okay to ask for what we want?

It seems that so much conflict results from being afraid to ask for what we really want, or afraid that we won’t get our needs met. If we can understand this about ourselves and others, we can begin to have compassion for our human condition. We can be clearer in our own communication, and we can help others to be clear in theirs.

This one thing – understanding what we ourselves want and understanding what others want – goes a long way. A step further is to be okay with our own needs, and to be accepting of others’ needs.

We may not always be able to give others what they need from us, but at least, knowing what their needs are puts us in the position to do so, or to give an alternative, or at least allow the other person to feel heard and understood. In the same way, we may not always get our needs met from others, but at least, if we are communicating clearly and give ourselves permission to ask, we have a chance of getting our needs met.

The invitation this day is to listen deeply to what others are needing and to communicate boldly and clearly what we need or desire.

Enjoy the journey.


If you liked this article, check out our upcoming online class…

Communicating Across the Divide ad box for website

What Just Happened?

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6233

Many across the United States and the world are in a period of shock as we take in and process what just happened in our recent elections. The result was surprising and has left most of us trying to understand what this means for us. This seems to be true even if our candidate won. President-elect Trump was a different kind of candidate than any in my lifetime.

Regardless of political affiliation, including those with no party affiliation, it seems we are all being called to something. If this recent election is symbolized by anything, it seems to be a desire for great change. My recent blog, The Deeper Call of the Election, turned out to be quite prophetic in retrospect as I spoke of this desire for change as the reason why such different candidates as Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump gained popularity.

In discussion since the election, someone made the point that many argued that Donald Trump’s supporters included many who were uneducated, implying that those with less education somehow don’t deserve to be heard. Embarrassingly, I had to acknowledge that I was one who had referenced this fact.

Another wake up call for me was when I spoke to two young gay men in their twenties in Denver, a rather liberal city. They indicated they had voted for Donald Trump and I literally thought they were joking as they did not fit my profile of a Trump supporter in any way. What was the reason for their vote? They feel the country needs a major change.

This brought home to me what I had already wrote about – this is a time ripe for change as so many people are no longer willing to accept the status quo.

While some who voted for Trump may share some of his more extreme views that could be interpreted as racist, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory, it is hard to ignore this greater phenomenon of people insisting and demanding that we create a different kind of world.

It seems that our future hangs in the balance and each one of us is called to ask what kind of world we want to create. While many are anxious about what the President-elect will do once in office, rather than give in to fear, our energies are more worthy of being focused on what this is calling each of us to step up to.

Certainly, we should be vigilant and stand up to anything that would roll back progress around equality or in any other arena. At the same time, I believe the greater call is to take the opportunity to see where we each are not fully stepping up to fulfilling our own calling.

Many whom I’ve talked to are now feeling and acting on a greater sense of urgency and immediacy to usher in a world that represents the highest of what we want to create. It has been said that nature abhors a vacuum, and, in this atmosphere that is so ripe for change, there will likely be great change. Therefore, this is not a time to stand on the sidelines. Rather it is a time to be active with our voices, our actions, and our spiritual practice.

While the process of creation is not often comfortable, if we can open ourselves to the great possibilities that lay before us and replace resistance to change with active participation in change, it can also be a very exciting time.

With candidate Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, Donald Trump winning the electoral college vote based on voting by state, Bernie Sanders winning a significant percentage of votes in the primaries, third party candidates Jill Stein and Gary Johnson getting significant interest, and President Barack Obama leaving office with a high approval rating, there is no mandate for anyone.

Let us join in prayer and action to create a world that works for everyone.

Enjoy the journey.

The Deeper Call of the Election

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6135

This presidential election season is clearly different than any in recent memory. Many feel frustrated, disillusioned, or perhaps even resigned with regard to the election.

However, as conscious beings, it behooves us to look beneath the appearances and to ask what is the higher calling that is beckoning us. Some insight can be gained from looking at the surprising popularity of candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, clearly not presidential material by past standards of electability.

Although very different candidates, the success of these two candidates stems from similar longings in the voters. The success of each represents a strong desire on the part of the electorate for significant change.

Whether we like either of these candidates or not, we can take solace in the symbolism that depicts a desire and willingness for change on the part of so many of our fellow citizens in the United States.

If we focus on this desire for change, and align with it, then we may find cause for hope and a place for us to take action.

What role can each of us take in casting a greater vision and joining with the many others who want change, and to harness that energy to bring about good in the world?

If we can turn away from what many see as the unseemliness of this election season, and instead see how the collective desire for change is an energy to join with, then we can let the politicians be politicians, while we ourselves put our energy into the important role that we are to play to bring about change.

In this time when people are so ready for change, what great ideas are we called to give birth and to invite others to join us in birthing?

This is a time that is ripe for new ideas, new ways of being and doing, and new paradigms. Will we waste our energy complaining about the politicians or will we take our rightful place? Will we worry about the politicians getting it right, or will we make sure that we each get it right, that we don’t miss the opportunity to bring forth what is ours to bring forth?

The invitation this day is to recognize that the timing is perfect for bringing forth your great idea and to focus your energy on inviting others to join you in creating newness. Let us bless the candidates for elected office, vote our conscience, and relish this auspicious time in human history.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole offers spiritual life coaching to individuals and groups who want to create and live extraordinary lives. For more information, go to gregorytoole.com.

1 2 11