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.

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.

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