Tag Archives: awareness

Vacation as Spiritual Practice


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.

Beyond Right and Wrong


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.

Super Consciousness – Taking It Up a Notch


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.

Beyond the Noise

winnie and fuzzy under table
In a perfect synchronicity, this was the view under my chair as I wrote this blog.


Beyond the noise of political campaigns and other news headlines, and all the thoughts that vie for our attention, there is some essence of us that is pure and innocent, that urges us to be present, to remember that our nature is love.

Within each of us is an idealist who still believes all things are possible, who wants everyone to get along, and who believes we can find a way to create peace and fulfillment for all.

Yes, on the surface, our skeptical minds take us into doubt and fear, but deeper within us is an encouraging voice that says “even now, all is well.”

In yoga classes, the teachers will often invite us to soften our gaze, to loosen our jaws, and to relax our faces. To me, this is the physical representation of coming back to center, of coming back to the innocence and purity that is our nature. It is taking off the armor that we have adorned to face a world where we sometimes feel we need protection.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the purity and innocence of those with a different point of view than ours. An important lesson in this regard was brought home to me so clearly many years ago when I came to know a different side to a woman with whom I had previously served on a non-profit board. We had been each other’s nemesis. In my mind, I thought “this is one of the toughest people I’ve ever met.” She would meet me head-on and we would butt heads on most any issue.

Several years after we had both left the board, I ran into her at the party of a mutual friend. We began to dialogue and ask what it was that made us each bristle so much in our encounters with each other. Very quickly we discovered that we had each assumed completely false ideas about the other. My assumption that she was one of the toughest people I had ever met was laid to rest quickly when she told me she went home and cried after every board meeting.

So much of what is going on in our world today is calling us to meet each other heart to heart, to see beyond the masks and armors we each wear.

First, we might need to remember to remove our own barriers, to soften our gaze, loosen our jaws, and to relax our faces. If the toughest-appearing people we meet are really feeling more like scared children, perhaps ours is to offer love and acceptance, to bring our hearts to all situations.

Ironically (and in a divinely perfect way), the woman I thought was my nemesis was one of two people who ultimately introduced me to the Science of Mind philosophy, which directly led me on the path to becoming ordained as a minister in this teaching and to the calling I am fulfilling today.

When we take off our armor and allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we can admit that we really just want love. And when we join with others who do the same, we can see that they too are like us.

Beyond the noise, there is that beautiful essence of each one of us that just wants to make a difference with our friends, our families, and in our world.

The invitation today is to remember that others are just like us at their core, and to see if we can extend our hearts with love to embrace everyone we meet.

Enjoy the journey.

Yes, You Can Meditate

gregory meditating at darleen's 01-22-16

(Gregory Toole teaches meditation and is currently offering a four-week online meditation course. Click here  for more information.)


(Audio version)

I started meditating when I was in college. Initially it was something I took up because I heard it was good for stress relief and I was working my way through school. It quickly became a spiritual practice for me. I noticed I was more at peace, more centered, and my life seemed to work more smoothly.

I would meditate consistently for six months or so, and then my practice would drop off and I’d go several months without meditating. At some point it would dawn on me that my life was working much better when I was meditating and I would pick it up again for another six months as a daily practice. After this back and forth for many years, I finally adopted meditation as a central daily spiritual practice some twenty years ago. It continues to serve me well.

Many lament that they can’t meditate because when they try, the mind drifts or there are just too many thoughts flowing. Meditation doesn’t cause that; meditation merely gives us a view into what was already going on with the mind, and the opportunity to shift it.

“Not enough time” is another common reason many people have for not meditating. What I offer to those with this dilemma is to start with one minute a day. Everyone can find one minute, so it takes away all the resistance to finding time. As we discover the value of meditation it will naturally expand in our lives, making us more effective and efficient with our time because of increased clarity, focus, and access to our inner resources.

To me, the greatest benefit is that we begin to have increased awareness of our minds and therefore have the opportunity to be less identified with them, thus leading to more dominion over where we place out attention.

Ultimately, meditation practice creates the space for us to hear more clearly the divine wisdom that is constantly speaking to us, to decipher it from all of the assorted mind chatter, and to live a more grounded existence centered in our divine nature, not so swayed by all the various currents in life that can toss us about.

While there are many forms of meditation, I personally find sitting meditation to be the ultimate, especially in our busy world where most of us are constantly on the go. The process in getting to a regular practice of sitting meditation may involve first having a practice of walking meditation for those who find it challenging to sit still.

The walking meditation involves being as mindful as possible of everything within and everything around us. Rather than allowing the mind to wander aimlessly, we practice being fully present to the moment of now, our breath, our heartbeat, our feet touching the ground, and our surroundings – fully present, awake, and alert.

In sitting meditation, we also come fully present to the moment of now. There are many forms and the common denominator is usually one-pointedness of focus. We allow the mind to focus on one thing so that when it drifts we have something to bring it back to, which in turn makes us more aware of when it drifts.

A good and simple focus is the breath. As we breathe in, we notice it and we say “in” silently to ourselves, and as we exhale, we notice that and we say “out,” silently. At some point we realize we are no longer focused on the breath; the mind has drifted to a stream of thought about something going on in our lives. We notice that the mind has drifted and we gently bring it back to the breath.

And this is how meditation goes. Moments of focus, followed by non-focus, followed by more focus. With practice, the moments of focus and stillness expand.

The invitation this day is to start a one-minute-a-day meditation practice, or if you already have a meditation practice, to re-dedicate yourself to the practice and to take it deeper. You can do it!

Enjoy the journey.

Experiencing Oneness Moment by Moment

gregory meditating at darleen's 01-22-16

The great yoga teacher, B.K.S. Iyengar described oneness in the most embodied sense I had ever heard. He said that to experience oneness is to feel every cell of our body simultaneously. Similarly, it could be said we experience oneness when we experience every other being as ourselves simultaneously.

Recently, I have been contemplating such a full experience of oneness. The Science of Mind philosophy articulated by Ernest Holmes has oneness as its central tenet. Holmes taught that a sense of separation, the opposite of oneness, was all that ever needed to be healed.

In my current contemplations I have been exploring what oneness looks and feels like moment by moment. The short answer is it feels quite good! It means we see no separation between ourselves, the creator, and all that is created. It means all the good that we desire is contained right within the infiniteness of our own being. So we are never seeking anything from outside, but accepting all good within ourselves.

From a philosophical point of view, this is not radical at all to those in New Thought spiritual circles. However, on an experiential level it is quite radical as most of us still struggle with this or that condition or situation in our worldly lives.

To truly know oneness at an experiential level would be to acknowledge, feel, and experience all situations as the unfolding of divine consciousness right where we are. This is really radical. Most of us would be willing to accept some responsibility for our own conditions, but few would go as far as to embrace the fullness of life as connected and flowing from their own consciousness.

In oneness, by definition, we are not separate from anything or anyone. The good news is that, when in the full experience of oneness, we no longer need to be in doubt or fear. We can know that we are crafting our experience of life through calling forth that which we already possess within ourselves.

One of my favorite spiritual writers, Joel Goldsmith, said we must allow infinity to flow out from us. Whether it be prosperity, friendship, relationship, wellness in the physical body, or anything else, the answer is always the same – tap into the reservoir of divine substance within ourselves and call it forth into form.

Experiencing oneness moment by moment is feeling the presence of the divine within us each moment. It is feeling and experiencing powerfulness at our core. It is recognizing the constant movement of divine substance through us, manifesting into form. It is also feeling all the pain and suffering of the world within our own being and allowing love to flow in those parts of ourselves.

Like many, I cannot say that I experience oneness in every moment as my mind wanders at times into the wilderness of separation. But the more I remember, and the longer the moments are that I am in full awareness of oneness, the sweeter life is. And I accept this as my charge – to keep remembering to remember. Remember that I am one with and as all that is. I am that I AM. And so are each one of us. There is only One.

The invitation this day is to remember you are one with all joy, creativity, wisdom, power, and love. The further invitation is to channel the flow of infinite divine substance into the highest form for yourself and all others. The possibilities are great, infinite in fact. Shine on my friends. The world is what we make it.

Enjoy the journey.

Going Directly to Happy


Most of us have at some point come to realize that happiness is found within. Living our lives as if that were true can be a whole different story. We receive so many external messages extolling the virtues of all kinds of things outside ourselves as the source (and necessity) of our happiness. Moreover, we have internalized so many messages that link external factors to our happiness.

In addition to all the various advertisements and social pressures to have the right relationship, drive the perfect car, smell just right with deodorants, perfumes and the like, and work in an acceptable career, at an acceptable pace of upward mobility, we now also have our social media profiles to maintain. Of course, we are at choice with all of these and this is where we get to check in with ourselves to see where we are placing our attention and energies.

On a trip to Ghana, West Africa 15 years ago, one of the most common observations of my fellow travelers was how the local members of our host community seemed so much happier than us even though they had so much less materially than we did.

It begs the question: why not just go straight for happiness? Since happiness is found within and that’s ultimately what we all want, why not bypass all the external things we desire, and sometimes crave, and just go straight for happiness?

I have a banner on my wall at home that contains the following quote from the Chinese philosopher, Confucius: Life is simple. We make it complex. Interestingly, Confucius was writing around 500 BC.

Looking at life simply, we could choose to be happy and then just enjoy whatever good comes to us, as well as what we call challenges. I remember one particularly difficult year in college. This particular day it was my birthday. Despite the whirlwind of activity around me, I decided that because it was my birthday I was going to have a great day no matter what happened. And I did! While I have continued to learn this lesson of choosing happiness over and over again since then, it is a reminder that happiness truly is found within and is a choice.

No matter how much we achieve or acquire in the world, it is still up to us to decide when it’s enough. Usually, if we are externally focused, it is never enough. The happiness is only momentary, until we think of the next thing we need to make us happy.

When our focus is internal, and we recognize happiness as a choice, and one that is really about how we look at our life, then we can be happy in almost any situation. We can be happy with a lot of money or a little money, being in a relationship or single, and with a luxury car or a bicycle.

The invitation this day is to go straight for happiness. Perhaps for one day to start, decide to be happy no matter what happens.

Enjoy the journey.

Getting Out of Your Way

getting out of the way

Ralph Waldo Emerson is famously quoted as saying “Get your bloated nothingness out of the way of the divine circuits.” While this may seem a little harsh, it has always resonated with me because it illustrates so well how we can sometimes get in the way of all the good that is trying to happen through us and for us.

A story is told that when Columbus sailed his ships to America, the indigenous people who inhabited the land couldn’t see the ships because the concept of ships like Columbus’ was not like anything they had seen before. I have always been a little skeptical of this idea and I’m still not sure that I believe it happened that way. However, I recently discovered my own example of where my present concepts did not allow me to see what was right in from of me.

For several years I had worked very closely with two individuals. Our roles were highly intertwined and we were colleagues in every sense of the word. We also became friends and socialized together. When I was nearing my last day at the company, my two colleagues offered to take me to dinner as a farewell. I agreed and we met at a place we had often frequented. While we were having dinner, one of them told me that she was in love. Excited to hear this, I asked if it was anyone I knew.

My colleague replied “yes” and I ventured a guess that was far off the mark. I couldn’t think of who else it could be so I asked her to tell me who it was. She replied, “He is sitting right next to you.” While I understood what those words meant, I still did not understand what she was conveying. After she repeated it a few times and I still looked puzzled, she finally said it was our colleague sitting at the table who she was in love with, and said his name. While I was a bit in shock, I finally got it – she was in love with our mutual colleague, and he was in love with her.

My entrenched idea of the three of us as colleagues did not allow me to see what was right in front of me. It was too far out of the realm of how I had thought about the three of us for six years. We all laughed at this and have shared this story with many other friends. However, it is the story’s relevance to how our minds sometimes work that causes me to tell it here.

The story illustrates how our present concepts can limit our ability to see new possibilities. While the particular story shared here may seem a bit unusual, the phenomenon is not so unusual.

I invite you to consider today where your present concepts or way of seeing life might be hindering your ability to see possibilities that are right in front of you. This could be an exciting exercise. Perhaps that seemingly intractable problem or issue in your life has an obvious solution, just waiting for your recognition. First, we might need to ask, what do I believe about the situation? Then we might question our own beliefs. How true are they, and to what extent have we given them credence because we’ve held the beliefs for so long?

Remember one of my favorite bumper stickers: “Don’t believe everything you think!”

Enjoy the journey.

Taming the Monkey Mind

waterfall at diamond lake, nederland, co

Buddhists describe the monkey mind as the restlessness of our minds, the mind that is continuously analyzing, worrying, vacillating, and otherwise jumping around. It can also refer to confusion in the mind and being double-minded, or having thoughts and beliefs that cancel one another.

I found a poignant example of the monkey mind running wild in 1994 when I traveled to South Africa to witness the first fully democratic elections there, which led to the election of Nelson Mandela as President. During the week before and the week after the elections, I journeyed around the various regions of South Africa as part of a delegation formed by a non-profit organization based in northern California.

It was an incredible trip where we encountered a country in the throes of great change, and its people doing their best to adjust to all the change. The example I cite is a person I engaged in conversation, an Afrikaner (descendant of former Dutch immigrants) who was caught up in the madness of the long history of racial segregation and discrimination that made up the former Apartheid system.

He was a friendly man, jovial and affable. With me being American, he seemed compelled to tell me how terrible the black population in South Africa was, seemingly oblivious to the color of my own skin. He would go on and on describing negative trait after negative trait, until I would ask him if it was fair or accurate to generalize about a whole group of people the way he was. At that moment, he would look incredulous and say “no, of course not,” agreeing with me that negative traits do not uniquely belong to one particular race.

In the next moment he would return to generalizing about the black population, again with negative descriptors. We did this dance back and forth a number of times with the same result each time. It was as if, even though he knew better, his old program and beliefs still ran on auto-pilot right alongside some newer beliefs. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such a clear case of unconscious beliefs running right alongside contrary conscious beliefs.

While this example may seem a bit extreme, it is also indicative of the nature of the monkey mind. In different spiritual traditions the monkey mind is addressed in a variety of ways.

In the Hindu tradition, the chant “Chamundaye, Kali Ma, Kali Ma, Kali Ma, Kali Ma,” askes Mother Kali to bring transformation or clarity to all the confusion and random chatter of the mind.

In the Science of Mind and Spirit tradition of Ernest Holmes, teachers have utilized a concept called “second crop thoughts.” Second crop thoughts are those beliefs that we thought we had neutralized or dissolved that rise again to manifest some unwanted experience. A common notion is “I thought I already healed that.” It is likened to a crop that we previously planted, then uprooted, but some of it still sprouts the following year. A few seedlings were apparently still there. Old beliefs can be like that too, depending on how deeply rooted they previously were in us.

This kind of experience calls on us to be vigilant about old thought patterns so that as they arise we may consciously replace them with new ideas. My own practice is to respond to old thought patterns that arise by saying within myself, “No, I don’t believe that anymore,” and then to affirm what it is I do believe. I do this without resisting the old thought pattern and without trying to force the new one. It’s just a gentle, confident reminder to myself of where I am today.

Today is a good day to give thanks for old thought patterns, knowing that at one point they served us in some way. As we release them, we may also rejoice in our new more consciously chosen beliefs and thoughts that support us in being more fully who we are here to be.

Enjoy the journey.