Vacation as Spiritual Practice

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6270

Most of us are conditioned to look forward to our vacations. For some it’s an opportunity to travel to a new or favorite destination, for others it’s a chance to spend time at home, perhaps with family or on a hobby, and still for others, a chance to tune out. Generally speaking, vacations are about rest and relaxation, or for those who are more active, about play and adventure.

None of these reasons is inherently better than any other. However, vacation is also a great time to reconnect to our center and to get back on track with our spiritual practices, like meditation. When we get away from the busyness of our daily lives, there is time for reflection, contemplation, and stepping back to see where we are.

Many will go to a spiritual retreat for this purpose, and while those are great (I love them), for many this would not satisfy all of their needs for a vacation. A 20-minute meditation first thing in the morning before starting the day could really serve well, or a mindful walk on the beach that is focused inward rather than outward through the use of silence.

Vacation is an excellent time to reconnect to our center if we feel out of balance or stressed. Reconnecting can be as simple as letting go of the to-do list and focusing more on just being, with less of an agenda and more presence. How could you be more in the present moment rather than planning for the next moment?

Our intention to be present can also be very revealing to us. I remember some years ago taking vacation time on the northern California coast in Mendocino, which is about a three-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area where I was leading a very busy and active life. My first day I was feeling impatient with how slow people were driving and observing myself wanting to get from place to place as quickly as possible. Then it dawned on me – I’m on vacation, where do I have to be in a hurry? It was a good check-in to see how much I had formed a habitual pattern of being in a hurry.

If nothing else, an intention to be more present can make us aware of our habitual ways of being. Awareness gives us more choice as we can then decide, is this how I consciously choose to be?

None of our spiritual practices need to be heavy or feel like too much of a burden while on vacation. The choice to be conscious and present is a choice that leads to greater aliveness and more connection to the simple things that bring us joy, like watching a sunset or appreciating the beauty of nature on a hike.

The invitation is to bring more presence and connection into your vacation and downtime this summer, and to make it fun!

Enjoy the journey.

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

Seeing the World as Sacred

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6270

Today I was on an online radio program hosted by Rev. Mark Gilbert. The episode will air in a couple weeks and I will post the link here so you may listen. The theme for the episode was the same as the topic for this blog, Seeing the World as Sacred, so you’ll get a preview here.

My notion of sacredness is best captured with the word, value. When see something as sacred we see it as valuable and worthy of our care and attention.

In order to see the world as sacred, first we must see ourselves as valuable and intrinsically good. If we don’t see this in ourselves it will be difficult or impossible to see it in others or in the world.

I have often said that a person who doesn’t know who I am (see my value) doesn’t know who they are. So my goal is not to change their opinion about me, but rather to help them to see their own value.

When we know our own value, it is easy to see others’ value. When we know that our own life is divine, we can see divinity in others and in all things.

Those who commit harmful acts toward others really don’t know who they themselves are, and our collective calling becomes to help every person know the greater truth of who they are, their sacredness, their goodness and value to us and to the world.

There is a song that goes, “I love myself so much, so I can love you so much, so you can love you so much, so you can start loving me.” While our goal is not necessarily to get others to love us, it is natural for people to love others when they love themselves. Many of our issues in society have their root in a lack of self-love.

And ultimately, self-love is an inside job. There’s a saying that all the water in the ocean won’t sink a ship, except the water that gets on the inside. This is true for both negative and positive qualities. While love from the outside helps us develop love on the inside, in the end we have to let it in and accept that we are lovable and worthy of love.

With recent events in the news of shootings in various parts of the world, it is good to remind ourselves that all of life is sacred, and for us to recognize our own sacredness. Then we can remind ourselves of the precious gift that we are and the precious gift that each person is.

When we pass someone on the street or in a coffee shop, do we acknowledge, at least silently to ourselves, that this is God passing before me? Do we bow, even if internally, to the sacred that we see all around us? Do we bow to the tree, dog, cow, soil, or flower as we behold it? Do we recognize in inanimate objects that there too goes the sacred?

To see the sacredness, the value, in all things and all beings creates the opening for us to show greater care, respect, and reverence for all. Yes, we have our opinions about this person or that person, and our likes and dislikes of things, but beyond these biases we can see the greater truth that all is sacred.

The invitation this day is to remember the sacredness or value of all beings and things, and to focus more on the value than on our judgments or opinions. In this way, we live in a world of the sacred.

Enjoy the journey.

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

Be of Service, Change the World

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6233

Bengali writer, Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.

The Bible, Matthew 23:11, says “The greatest among you will be your servant.”

Most of us have likely had the experience of what joy it is to serve others, and have felt the intangible, but very real sense of fulfillment from being in service. Whether it is in our work that we do for compensation or in volunteering, there is something in us that wants to serve, that knows this is our greatest purpose.

Mother Teresa is quoted as having said, “Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service.”

We are meant to serve. And I would say the greatest service is selfless service, known as Seva (pronounced say-vuh) in Sanskrit. There is something about serving just for the purpose of serving, without expectation of anything in return. There is a purity and innocence to this type of service that aligns us with the highest of who we are.

How do we know where to serve? I love the way the Dalai Lama speaks of it in his book, Ethics for the New Millennium. He says that when we see an opportunity to benefit others we take it, referring to is as a universal responsibility. In other words, we have a responsibility to do something whenever we are in a position to do so.

In that sense, selfless service is not a checklist item that we do to soothe our conscience. Rather, it is part of the natural fabric of life, part of who we are, and something we do in the regular course of things just as we would pick up a piece of food scrap from our kitchen floor when we noticed it there. There’s no thought process or self-congratulations; there is just the natural movement into action.

If we take the approach that there is always something we can do in any situation, then what is ours to do is easily revealed to us. We don’t need to think hard about it. Perhaps in one situation ours is simply to offer a prayer. In another we might be called to roll-up our sleeves and do some work, and in another perhaps we are to bring love and compassion through listening and offering our heartfelt responses.

We are never powerless, there is never a situation where we have nothing to contribute, and what we offer always makes a difference. This is somewhat self-evident, and at the same time contrary to what we often think and feel.

There is an example from my own life that had a profound impact on me. It involves a situation where I felt the least powerful and the least confident as to having anything of value to offer. I was asked to be of support to a man who had just lost his wife and child the day before due to complications in giving birth. The man was obviously in deep grief and inconsolable. The best I could do was to just be present to him and to offer some very practical assistance like driving him to appointments. I wanted so much to lift his pain in some way, and there were no wise words to accomplish that.

After spending time with him over a period of a week or two during his initial phase of grief, his support transitioned to others and I lost touch with him. Several years later, a man stopped me on the street in a popular shopping district and asked if I remembered him. I confessed that I did not. He reminded me that he was the man I had supported several years earlier. He recounted how valuable my support was to him and he thanked me. That experience reminded me to never again doubt that I, and all of us, can always make a difference.

The invitation this week is to remember the difference you make and to take action in any situation that presents itself, by simply doing what you can. It will make a difference.

Enjoy the journey.

When Is Right Timing?

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6233

It is common to speak of right timing, but how do we know when it is right timing? Certainly, we can look at our lives and see that we are busy and perhaps based on that say that the time is not right to add something else. Or we could look at our own sense of whether we are equipped, either with skills or mental bandwidth for a new activity.

These are all good and have their value. However, there is another aspect of timing that I would call divine right timing. The things mentioned so far consist of human timing. That is, what seems convenient based on our human perception of the situation.

I describe divine timing as when something lands in our laps such that it is now fully available to us. This is particularly important when it is something we have been saying we want in our lives. For example, let’s say we’ve been wanting and praying for an intimate partner. A person shows up in our lives who has all the qualities we’ve been looking for, but this a very busy period in our lives and we just can’t see how we could also fit in a relationship. This is where we might want to pause for a moment.

Divine timing doesn’t necessarily work in alignment with human timing or convenience. It doesn’t necessarily match our perception of what the timing ought to be, the ideas or stories we’ve made up about what it ought to be. In the relationship example, we might have decided that before we have a relationship we want to have our body looking just right, or we want our job situation to calm down, or we want our kids to be off to college. These are all just stories that we can change.

It is my experience that when what we’ve been wanting and praying for shows up, that usually is the perfect timing. When we try to make divine timing fit human convenience, we take ourselves out of the flow of life. We assume that our limited finite mind is important enough that it can finagle with what infinite intelligence has brought forth.

One poignant example of this in my own life was about 25 years ago when I had a desire to live and work in France. I couldn’t see how it would happen and eventually got busy and stopped pursuing it. Then a job opportunity became available at the company where I was employed that was also right in my current area of expertise. By then I had grown more attached to the area in California where I was living and decided it wasn’t good timing to pursue this job opening in France. While I choose not to have any regrets, when I look back on it, I can see that there really was no better time than when that opening came about, and no clearer opportunity again presented itself.

It was a great lesson in divine timing vs human timing that I never forgot. When prayer is answered or life presents us what we have wanted, it is a great time to pause and really consider accepting the good that has been given. I have come to believe that whatever time prayer is answered is perfect timing, and I get to rearrange my thinking or activities to fit divine timing rather than the other way around.

The invitation today is to be open to divine timing, which may require letting go of some of our ideas of right timing. If not now, when? Will there ever be a better time? You decide!

Enjoy the journey.

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

Where’s the Perfection in Tragedy?

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6270

A friend recently asked me, where is the perfection in this recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida? My response was that any words that would try to explain divine perfection in that situation would just be platitudes, and there are no words that could describe divine perfection there.

When we relinquish the idea of an all-controlling God who controls all the affairs of humans, with that we accept that all manner of events will take place that represent where each one of us is, and where all of us are collectively, in our embodiment and expression of our divine nature, which is perfection.

Our nature is perfection. Our nature is love. Yet, because we are all free and have choice, it is up to each one of us to recognize our divinity and the divinity of all others. In the meantime, some will continue to engage in wars and other violent acts, and we will all be affected by that on some level.

Acts like the recent mass shooting in Orlando do not call us to trust less, nor to become more fearful, nor cynical. They call us to love more, to extend ourselves more in caring and compassion for others, and to stand even more clearly in the vision of a world that works for everyone.

It is the consciousness of love and wholeness that heals. If the world is to receive healing, it will happen through more love, and expanded consciousness of wholeness and oneness.

In tragedy that is perpetuated by another human being, our human tendency is to go into separation, to look for how the person who committed the violent acts is different from us, and to look at how to protect ourselves from “them” and those like them.

The greater calling is to do the opposite, to see it as a call to bring even more people into our sense of oneness, to love even more, to connect even more with those who seem different than us.

According to the John P. Hussman Institute for Human Genomics, the differences in human beings of all ethnicities and races is defined by less than 0.1% of our DNA. In other words, for all human beings we share 99.9% of the same DNA. This should be a clue as to our oneness and how much more we have in common than differences.

For anyone who has traveled or really gotten to know people of different cultures, we can see that all of us human beings are fundamentally similar. It is ignorance and a sense of separateness that cause us to begin weaving wild stories about the “other” and their culture, and often this occurs in both directions to the point that animosity and fear continue to grow. It is these mythical stories that allow us to do harm to one another. Without them, it is unlikely for a healthy mind to commit acts of violence against others.

My friends, let’s not fall for any story that would have us believe that others are so different from us. Let’s find out first hand by listening deeply with an open mind and heart. We can honor and respect differences and be genuinely interested in learning about other people’s cultures and religions and, not only does it enrich our lives, but it also creates the possibility for world peace as each person fundamentally wants to be seen, honored, and respected for who they are.

My friends, we are truly all one. The call this day is to see, honor, love, and respect all of God’s children. Let us approach others with genuine interest and curiosity rather than fear. Let’s wear our hearts on our sleeves and let everyone know how deeply they are loved by God through us.

Enjoy the journey.

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

Beyond Right and Wrong

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6233

The practice of meditation creates spaciousness that provides the opportunity to see ourselves and the world more clearly, through a more holistic perspective, rather than through a binary, or black and white, lens.

In a recent conversation I had with a person who was highly identified with a particular political party, it quickly became evident that his identification with his political party was so all encompassing that there was no room for any other point of view. It was no longer a perspective; it was the gospel truth. I shared with him one of my favorite lines that I originally saw on a bumper sticker: “don’t believe everything you think.”

Is the world really in need of more opinionated, dogmatic people, or would we be greater served by an expansion of open-minded, independent thinkers who are capable of changing their minds upon hearing new information or different perspectives?

I have come to realize for myself that, while I have opinions, I’m not fully convinced that they are right, and I am more convinced that they are only part of the truth when it comes to anything in the objective world.

It seems the world could use a large dose of beginner’s mind. In beginner’s mind we look at situations freshly, letting go of preconceived ideas and fixed ways of considering ideas. Rather than thinking in terms of big government or small government, is my religion more peaceful than your religion, or is it better to be a vegetarian or a meat eater, maybe questions like what is the value of each perspective or choice, and how can we reap that value, would serve us better.

This approach provides us with an opportunity to really hear one another, to take a deep interest in each other’s concerns and needs, and the possibility that real learning and understanding can take place.

One of the most dangerous things is to be right. When we feel we are right, or when we are right, we are more likely to feel justified in all manner of unkind acts. Some of the worst human atrocities were committed by those who were utterly convinced that they were right, from Hitler to some of today’s modern dictators.

Very rarely are we actually right. We are certainly right about certain aspects of situations, but then we are oblivious or blind to so many other aspects that to act purely from our rightness is not likely to serve us well. What might serve us better is to bring our understanding and perspective to each situation, fully knowing that we only have part of the solution.

If we can let go of the need to be right altogether, then we can solve most of our problems because then we are open to seeing the whole picture, which is most often an evolving picture that requires us to continue learning and growing.

I conclude with that popular Rumi quote, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” See you there!

Enjoy the journey.

Let It Go!

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6135

In the spiritual practice of visioning that was developed by Michael Bernard Beckwith, one of the questions commonly asked in the practice, as we surrender to a higher vision, is “What am I called upon to release in service to this higher vision?” Having personally led the practice of visioning in many groups, I chuckle in observing that this question is the one where participants most often reply “I didn’t get anything for that question.”

Whenever we are birthing something new there is always something to release, even if is just the status quo, what exists right now.

As we look out into our world where change seems to occur at an ever increasing rate, the ability to release bygones seems even more paramount. Beloved musicians like Prince and Michael Jackson leave our midst. Technologies like smartphones, drones, and driverless cars render older technologies obsolete. Definitions of family and relationships expand. In the political arena, we see major evolution in what voters want from candidates. Yes, change is occurring at a rapid rate.

Accelerated change is not just taking place out there, it is also taking place within us and in our personal lives. There is a degree of restlessness. We want more from life and more from ourselves.

All of this forward momentum is calling us to let go, to release our previously held notions in order to usher in a greater vision for ourselves and for humanity.

What we are called upon to release are limiting ideas and concepts, those that stand in the way of a greater possibility. In this sense, what we are letting go is what no longer serves us, what is holding us back. A divine spark moves within us and speaks forth, “there is more.” Our “yes” to that divine spark includes an inherent “no.” Yes to the new means no to some of the old.

We need not release everything; only that which we see doesn’t fit with standing in the greater truth of who we are and what we are called to be.

One way to decide what needs to be released is to close your eyes and consider the idea, concept, thing, or person and the role it plays in your life. When you bring it into mind and consider it as part of your life, do you feel expanded or contracted? Does it make you feel bigger or smaller? If you feel contracted or smaller with something in your life, it is worth contemplating whether it is time to let it go.

The invitation this week is to ask what am I called to release and let go in service to a greater vision and possibility for my life? And then ask am I willing to release what no longer serves in order to have the greater experience of life that awaits me? You are totally at choice. What do you say?

Enjoy the journey.

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

Super Consciousness – Taking It Up a Notch

ForLinkedIn_WarnkeGregoryToole20140509-IMG_6135

We have reached the point in human spiritual evolution where many may be ready to step into what I would call super consciousness.

So many people are now intimately aware of the power of their thinking and their focused attention, and that their thoughts create their reality. Within that group there are further still many who have meditated for many years and have a great deal of dominion over their minds, thus having choice about the direction they point their minds.

The combination of these two faculties provides the opportunity for more people than ever possibly to step into super consciousness. Once we are keenly aware of the power of our thoughts, while simultaneously being able to choose what we think and the state of our consciousness, we have the opportunity to bring the two together to harness great power of manifestation.

No longer do we need to fret that we know where we should be placing our attention, but the mind just does what it does. No, we now can say, “I know what kind of thinking and state of consciousness would create what I want and I now choose to think in that direction and live in that consciousness 24/7.”

To do this, we must make the choice to be fully present moment by moment. In addition, when we observe our own negative or disempowering thinking, we choose to discontinue it and instead shift our thinking in that moment to be in alignment with what we want to create. This is truly super consciousness. It means having the ability to create the life we want and the world we want to experience.

Perhaps the first step is to ask what is the responsible use of this super consciousness? This question can be broken into two parts – firstly, what do I want to create for myself personally; and secondly, what do I want to create for the world?

Perhaps the first thing to manifest for ourselves personally is transcendence of any limitations that would have us spending time on anything other than what we feel is our unique divine purpose, also known as that which we feel passionately about in our hearts.

Having gained such freedom, we are in a position to serve the world. Surely, intentions like manifesting peace and prosperity for all would be a high consideration. This would include the tangible realities of all having food, shelter, and an environment free of violence.

While all of this may seem overly simplistic, in reality, many may have reached this point of being ready to live in super consciousness. It was inevitable that we would get here. For decades we have known collectively the role that our beliefs, and, by extension, our thoughts play in creating our reality. Over these decades, conscious people have been practicing and training their thought based on this cause and effect relationship of thought to manifestation.

At the same time, many of these same people have been practicing meditation to harness the mind so that they don’t live from merely habitual thinking and habitual responses.

Perhaps we now have a critical mass of individuals ready to live in super consciousness and to powerfully manifest what Centers for Spiritual Living refers to in its Global Vision as “a world that works for everyone.” Are you one of those who is ready to live in super consciousness? If so, the invitation this week is to make a commitment to do so. The time is right; the time is now. Let’s do it!

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole works with individuals and groups to coach them in developing the faculties of super consciousness. For more information, go to gregorytoole.com.

It’s the Law! Spiritually Speaking, That Is

I am recently coming into a deeper fascination with the spiritual law of cause and effect, and the absoluteness of it in producing a result. Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy, said, “Our belief sets the limit to our demonstration of a Principle which, of Itself, is without limit…As much as we can believe will be done unto us. When the consciousness speaks, the law receives and executes.”

This to me is really the beauty of the Science of Mind teaching – its emphasis and clarity on the absoluteness of spiritual law. The Law will always produce something of like kind to what is in our consciousness.

What we set in motion with our consciousness, through belief and our speaking it forth, is a cause, not an effect. I think this is why we can sometimes get frustrated and think we are less powerful than we are. The cause we set in motion always produces something like itself, although it may not always look like the effect, or outer manifestation, that we thought it would.

Nonetheless, our word is powerful, and our word is especially powerful when backed with strong belief, conviction, and trust in the Law. That this is true is less subject to debate than it is to experimentation. Why debate it? Try it out and see if it’s true. See if what you constantly dwell on or what you open yourself to and claim for yourself with feeling and trust begins to manifest in your life in some form. In trying this in earnest, we quickly see that it does.

Ernest Holmes also said, “trained thought is far more powerful that untrained.” When we understand that spiritual law is at work and we begin to practice our cooperation with this law, we begin to train our thought. We begin to only think on those things we want to create in our experience.

I recently found that I had allowed my thought to be a bit out of training, sort of like going through the motions at the gym rather than really working out. To digress for a moment, I remember a man at a gym I belonged to who used to show up at the gym, get a towel (presumably to wipe off sweat), and then walk around the gym talking to people while carrying his towel, never touching any piece of equipment or doing anything strenuous. Clearly, over time his body began to reflect this behavior.

In training our thought to make use of spiritual law, it is also important to continue with the training and not just carry our spiritual towel around. For me, this has first meant remembering how powerful and unlimited our use of spiritual law is, and then getting refocused and reinvigorated in my use of it. It includes what some have referred to as “going to God for everything.” Put another way, it is speaking my word powerfully in all situations, rather than meekly muttering something like, “it’s all good.” It is all good and calling forth the good involves continuing to train our thought in the direction of our desired good.

The invitation this week is to speak your word powerfully and specifically around some area of current challenge. Call forth what you want to experience, let your thoughts be in the direction of having what you want, fully accept it, and trust that the Law is operating upon your word to make it manifest. Then report back on our Facebook group page about the demonstration or manifestation. Make it count – this is not a dress rehearsal!

Enjoy the journey.

One Human Family

IMG_0452

The word family conjures up a range of emotions and thoughts, usually linked to our family of origin. Some of us have had especially loving experiences in families, while others have had horrific experiences, and most of us have had a mixed bag of love and good intentions, along with some degree of dysfunction.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary definition of family is quite benign:

1 : a social group made up of parents and their children. 2 : a group of people who come from the same ancestor. 3 : a group of people living together : household.

To most of us, the word family is not benign at all, but perhaps what this dictionary definition gives us is an opportunity to define for ourselves what family is, beyond the facts of having some common DNA or a shared residence at some point.

What’s missing from the dictionary definition is that family is really about loving and caring for one another. This need not be confined to a particular structure, nor does it need to be based in biological connections.

I am inspired to see that family is being redefined in so many ways to meet the diverse needs of individuals and groups. I know many people who have their family of origin, and then they also have their family of choice, who are those people they have consciously come into relationship with to create the function of family in a more meaningful way than what they experience in their family of origin.

Aside from the natural role of family to provide a unit of people who care and look out for one another, family also provides us with the learning and experience to bring this love and caring on a larger level to our one human family. Whatever our family looks like, whether of origin or choice, the potential is great for uplifting our planet as we apply what we learn in family on a much larger scale in our world.

Putting all of our judgments aside, we are ultimately here to love all beings. Our nature is love. Love is a synonym for God. Family is the place where we learn to love and accept each person for who they are, and to keep on loving them with all of their seeming shortcomings and missteps.

Together as a human family we are learning what it is to love and care for one another. We are further learning how to embrace all of our diversity and differences, coming to appreciate our differences rather than feel threatened by them.

In 1993, the United Nations proclaimed May 15 of every year as the International Day of Families. The invitation this week as we approach May 15 on Sunday is to reflect upon and give thanks for the role family has played in your personal evolution as a spiritual being having a human experience. The call is to take some time to deepen your connection to your family (of origin or choice) and then to reflect on how you can bring the loving and caring you bring in family on a larger scale to our one human family.

We would love to hear about any of your family insights or experiences on our Somseva Facebook group page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/somseva/

Enjoy the journey.

 

1 4 5 6 13