Tag Archives: awareness

Being Consciously Conscious

man thinking over the beach

by Gregory Toole

The name of this article comes from a talk I gave nearly 20 years ago in the formative stages of my spiritual teaching practice. The same theme was coming up for me this week as I observed myself and others around me.

There are many definitions for the word conscious. At the most base level it refers to just being physically awake, rather than asleep, such as when there has been a car accident and the emergency responders ask if the patient is conscious. Then there is the spiritual definition of conscious, which involves awareness on more levels. A spiritually conscious person is conscious that they are conscious, or aware that they are aware. That person is both the actor and the observer of his or her experience.

Why does this matter? Without being the observer we are left with just being the actor, and usually that means the unconscious actor, simply responding from past conditioning, rather than consciously choosing our experience in this moment. We are really not at choice when we act based on past conditioning, nor are we in our power. Rather we are on a kind of auto-pilot, and we are tossed about by the experiences of life, on an emotional rollercoaster of sorts.

What is the alternative? It is to be fully present in this moment, consciously conscious, aware that we have choice in each moment, that there are no hardwired responses to the events of life. When something occurs in our lives, we experience it, we feel what we are feeling, we observe both what we are feeling and the conditioned response that wells up, but there is enough spaciousness in that moment, wherein we have choice. Is the conditioned response how I choose to respond, or is there some higher way in which I decide to respond?

This is true freedom. We are at choice.

How does one gain such choice and freedom? Spaciousness is the key. Without spaciousness, some short gap between what happens and our response, there can be no real choice. We arrive at spaciousness primarily through the practice of meditation. Meditation expands our awareness to the place where we become the observer, in addition to being the actor. Meditation calms the mind just enough to have that space. We may still feel anger, rage, fear or a host of other emotions, but now we are at choice as to how we respond. With this kind of spaciousness, we feel the emotions, but we are not the emotions. We are not identified with them as much. They are just an experience we are having.

Even when we create spaciousness, there may still be times when we go unconscious and an automatic response is triggered because a situation brings up some unhealed part of ourselves where there is a deep wound. Even then, as the observer of our experience, we can watch ourselves get triggered, see ourselves respond automatically from a place of hurt, and then come back into our sense of wholeness with greater clarity of what is ours to consciously heal. In other words, we don’t have to stew in it for weeks, months, or years.

A world where people are consciously conscious looks very different from the world we largely live in today. And it is the world that is emerging right now, the world that we are creating, and that is evolving as us. Such great possibility there is for peace and fulfillment in a world where people are thoughtfully responding with heart and conscious awareness. Let’s do our part to hasten the dawn of this new world!

Enjoy the journey.

The Power of Right Now

by Gregory Toole

On the spiritual journey we learn the spiritual truth that now, or the present moment, is all we really have. Yesterday is gone, just a memory, and the future hasn’t yet arrived. When the future arrives we will still experience it in the present moment. Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy, wrote that principle is not bound by precedent, meaning that the spiritual principles that allow us to manifest the life we want are not dependent on what we have or haven’t been or had in the past.

This moment of right now is where our infinite possibilities lay. It is this moment where we are creating and experiencing life. In his book The Power of Now, Eckhart Tolle writes, “I have little use for the past and rarely think about it.” Many do dwell in the past, and in doing so often keep recreating the past, or at least are unable to fully enjoy life. Memories can be fun, but what about all the life there is to experience right now?

In tennis, it is said that the best players have a short memory. Because the game happens so quickly, to be successful one has to be fully present to the moment of now. The last point is done, whether we hit a great shot and won the point, or if we hit a wayward shot and lost the point. It is done and truly has no bearing on the next point, unless we are still dwelling on the last point. Whether the last shot was the best or the worst we ever hit, dwelling on it will inhibit our being fully present to the current point, and diminish our ability to be successful.

This is also true in life, but not necessarily as evident. I met a woman once who had lent a large sum of money decades earlier that had never been repaid. From that point forward she had lived in lack, barely having enough money to meet her needs, lamenting that if the money she had lent had been repaid she would be doing great financially. Perhaps that is true, but what would happen if she focused her energies on manifesting prosperity in the present moment, rather having so much of her attention and energy on a past event?

Many of us have had experiences like this where we forget the truth in Holmes’ quote that principle is not bound by precedent. It’s okay because once we become aware that we have been focusing on a past event or a previous concept of who we are, we can choose in this moment to embrace a new concept. We can decide to accept a larger idea of who we are, what we can have and be, and what we choose to create now. Thus we are fully living now and likely energized by our expanded sense of possibilities.

What idea do you choose to let go of because it no longer represents your fullest expression in this moment? What do you choose to replace it with?

I know that some great good is wanting to burst forth in your life right now in this moment.

Enjoy the journey.

Is It Your Heart or Mind Speaking?

Two cards, isolated on black, clipping path included

by Gregory Toole

Often as I work with my spiritual coaching clients, the question of how to distinguish between the voice of our heart and the voice of our mind comes up. With practice and awareness, we can begin to distinguish between the two, and in doing so learn how to trust each of them for what they have to offer.

I sometimes refer to the mind as the “back and forth” because when we are engaging a question purely with the mind, we often go back and forth, saying things like “well maybe this is the best option because of such and such, or maybe this other option is better for this other reason, and then again maybe this third option is even better. That’s the mind, or what some Buddhists have referred to as the monkey mind, just running wild, and often leading us further into confusion.

The heart is more subtle, and surer, when we tune into it. We connect with it through our feeling nature. As we move closer to what is real in the heart, we feel more expansive and free. As we move away from it, we feel more contracted. I am reminded of that guessing game many of us played as kids where we hid something and we told the one trying to find it that they were getting “warmer” if they were moving closer to the hidden object, or “colder,” if they were moving away from it.

The heart is like that. We feel into it. In making a decision from the heart, we can ask, how does choosing each option feel? In other words, is there a resonance at a feeling level with a particular option or not. Unlike the mind, there’s no back and forth. The heart is more like a compass pointing the way, and we keep following it to see where it leads us.

The rational mind is a wonderful resource, and it can certainly steer us into making decisions that are reasonable, can help us avoid danger, and help us make sure we are being practical and realistic.

However, when it comes to decisions that are more about what aligns us more fully with our soul and our deeper calling, then it is only the heart that can guide us.

When I decided to leave my corporate career 20 years ago, my rational mind had previously convinced me to stay in that corporate career for years until finally I couldn’t ignore where my heart was guiding me. At some point, all the arguments of my rational mind just couldn’t overcome the intensity of pure feeling that was coming from my heart. It was less of a “yes” to something new than it was a huge “NO” to my corporate career. I had spent so much energy and effort silencing my heart in favor of my rational mind, I could hardly even access the “YES” that had been calling me for so long. At that time, I only knew there was a big “NO” to my corporate career, and it was over.

It took some time for me to really hear the voice of my heart again after pushing it down for so long, but gradually, as I began to listen more deeply, I got in touch with this great gift that is the voice of the heart. Then the “YES” came more clearly into my awareness, and I followed every expansion of clarity until it finally led me to the spiritual teaching and coaching services that I offer today.

The voice of the heart is really the voice of divine intuition, of divine wisdom and guidance. That voice is found through our feeling nature rather than our thinking nature. To hear the voice of the heart we must become still, and let the mind rest a little. The practice of meditation is the greatest aid in this process.

We need not discount the value of the mind as it has great value to us. What is important is to bring the heart and mind in balance, and to access the mind for what it is good at, such as planning and analytic tasks, and let the heart guide us in matters of the soul, our purpose, and direction.

How great that we have such powerful inner resources!

Enjoy the journey.

Conscious Stewardship of Our Environment


by Gregory Toole

There are so many ways we can positively impact our environment today. Many of our day-to-day activities have embedded in them the potential to have major, lasting impact on our environment.

Let’s take some examples. Most of us participate as consumers nearly every day of our lives. We buy products online, at local markets, in coffee shops, and through a vast array of merchants. A little conscious awareness can go a long way in these purchases.

Many years ago when I owned a house in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was tending to my yard and garden, and like many people I was using an herbicide to clear weeds. It was an activity I engaged in without much thought. The product was sold in great quantities at the big box home and garden store, so in my mind it had credibility.

Shortly thereafter, I was sitting back, admiring the garden and all the birds and insects it was attracting, and just how alive it all felt. Suddenly, my awareness returned to the herbicide I had used, and now I thought of all those birds and bees ingesting it. That was a very distressing thought as my mind wandered, seeing this poisonous herbicide spread throughout the ecosystem.

That was the end of my use of herbicides. I decided if I didn’t like the weeds, a little extra effort to pull them was a small price for protecting the ecosystem that is the lifeline for not only humans, but all life.

A subject getting much attention in the news and on social media today is laws being considered that either require or do not require labeling of foods with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). One possibility is to support food companies that are self-reporting that their products do not contain GMOs.

Personally, I choose to buy products from companies that self-choose to report, whether required by law or not. This puts the focus on the relationships I have with those from whom I buy food.

Buying organic food products is another opportunity for conscious impact. First, there is the positive impact on our bodies by not ingesting poisonous pesticides. Then there is the bigger picture of keeping these poisonous agents out of the overall ecosystem that sustains life on the planet.

Eating out at restaurants is another opportunity to be conscious. Does the restaurant serve hormone-free meat? Is the produce they use organic? Just asking the proprietor these questions lets them know it’s important to us, another conscious impact.

To me, it really comes down to whether our choices in life reflect our values, and whether we are aware of the impact of our choices. Guilt about our choices doesn’t serve much purpose, but awareness and choices in alignment with our values serve a great purpose in improving our environment.

Whether you share my values or not around environmentalism, the most important takeaway I offer is the opportunity we have, through expanded awareness, to align our day-to-day choices with our values, thus expanding our impact on the world around us.

What is one change you could make this week to align your choices with your values? Are you willing to make that change? Let’s go for it. We are powerful beyond measure. We only need to remember that. Aligning our choices with our values is yet another way we can demonstrate that awesome divine power within us.