Tag Archives: consciousness

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.

Seven Steps to Up-Level Human Evolution

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by Gregory Toole

We live in times of rapid change. Is it possible that it could speed-up some, or at least in ways that are more enlightened?

In the arena of human rights and social justice, in our time we have seen the civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s that eventually led to greater equality for African Americans and women, the election of the first Black president of the United States, and now marriage equality that includes gay and lesbian couples.

On the global scene, the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union dissolved, and the Apartheid system of South Africa was dismantled, the latter of which I witnessed personally on the ground in the form of the first fully democratic elections in South Africa.

These are but a few examples of the enormous changes that have occurred. Yet, why do I ask if we could get better at hastening some change? Mainly, it is because so much suffering was wrought in most of these changes before they occurred, often over a period of decades or centuries.

Have we now evolved to a place as a human species where we can skip the mass suffering part? Philosopher Ernest Holmes stated, “The world has learned all it should through suffering.” Can we see into the mystical truth of oneness, the connectedness and sacredness of all of life, and today end the infliction of suffering as part of our evolution?

The wisdom already exists to do so, if there is the willingness. We know enough to eliminate suffering and injustice in all its forms. All that remains is for us as a human species to let go of our need to maintain the status quo, our fear of change, and our need for gradualism.

The issues of immigration, homelessness, famine, genocide, animal cruelty, and so many others have solutions in the full recognition of our oneness and connectedness with all other beings. When we truly understand and live from a place of oneness there can be no ‘other;’ all suffering is our collective suffering and we come together to eliminate it.

Here are some practices, values, and ethics that, if embraced, have the power to eliminate needless suffering from injustices:

  1. Make it a priority to end suffering due to injustice in all its forms.
  2. Allow your greatest quest to be understanding the truth that all of life is one indivisible whole, and look deeply into this truth to discover the common ground that already exists.
  3. Embrace and learn to love change and personal growth. (We cannot evolve very well as a human species if we are not committed to our own personal evolution.)
  4. Put your attention on core universal truths and values, such as oneness, love, fairness, and justice rather than personal opinions and dogma.
  5. Expand your capacity for empathy, truly desiring to understand life as it is lived through and as other sentient beings.
  6. Dispel the myth that change can only occur gradually.
  7. Practice unconditional love of all sentient beings by living in the question, “What would I do if I loved each being (and myself) unconditionally?”

Will you join me in up-leveling human evolution? Together we have the power, wisdom, and love to change the world in enlightened ways that are unprecedented. Let’s do just that!

Enjoy the journey.