Tag Archives: love

As Good as It Gets

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In the 1997 movie, As Good as It Gets, Jack Nicholson plays an obsessive-compulsive character who is also lacking in social skills. The movie title refers to the character’s coming to terms with his OCD and making peace with the possibility that some things about his situation might not change.

As practitioners of the Science of Mind philosophy, we are strong believers in our ability to change our conditions in life by changing our thinking and way of being.

It’s a paradox, because life is always evolving and yet there is never a time that is better than now.

When I was in Ukraine in 2009, our host, an American woman who established a Science of Mind spiritual community there, shared with us that the people in Ukraine live more in the present than we do in the United States, partly as a result of the uncertainties that existed when the country was a republic in the former Soviet Union.

One day when I was teaching the spiritual principles applied to manifest what we want to experience in life, a young man asked me if that meant we were living in the future rather than the present. It was a good question. My response to him was that when we apply the principles correctly we are always being and thinking now what we want to experience. We aren’t projecting into some far off future. We are making the shift right now that corresponds to what we choose to experience now. Some things may take time to manifest, but we are always practicing the principles in the present moment.

The basis of practicing the principles in the present moment is that divine perfection exists right now. All we are really doing is revealing it. All the peace, joy, or fulfillment we could ever want already exists within us now. In that respect, this is as good as it gets. No matter what is taking place in our lives, we have access to peace, love, and joy right now.

It is certainly easier humanly to feel joy, fulfillment, and other divine qualities when we are at peak moments like right after accomplishing a goal or having something we want manifest in our lives. In reality, that type of fulfillment is fleeting and likely to be replaced very shortly by anxiety or longing for the next accomplishment, unless we choose fulfillment independent of what is taking place in our lives.

The choice is whether we want to live a rollercoaster life of constant ups and downs or a life of more consistent joy, peace, and fulfillment that is based on a choice to live in that state of mind and being.

This is a choice we can make every morning when we rise. We can say to ourselves, “I choose to be at peace today. I choose to feel love today. I choose to experience joy today.” We can say to ourselves before going to bed at night, “It was a good day. I am grateful.” This type of outlook leads to a more consistent sense of fulfillment because we are not looking outside ourselves for fulfillment. We recognize it’s an inside job and choose to access fulfillment in the only place it can be found – within ourselves.

In this way, we can enjoy the peak moments that occur after reaching milestones and we can also enjoy the journey, including when things don’t seem to be going our way.

This really is as good as it gets. All the joy, peace, love, and fulfillment that are possible exist within each of us right now. Therefore, “as good as it gets” is quite amazing. The invitation is to remember and to choose to be happy now.

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.

Principle-Based Decision Making

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In my experience, making decisions from principle is like a double-edged sword. On the one edge, intuitively we sense that making decisions from principle would be the highest choice. On the other edge, principle itself does not point to any particular decision in an absolute sense in most cases.

This was clearly illustrated some years ago when I was in a relationship with someone who was as steeped in spiritual principle as I am. In the early days of the relationship we would use spiritual principles to argue our point of view in disputes. It quickly became apparent that the same spiritual principle could be used to argue for opposite points of view. For example, love is a core value behind all spiritual principles. One could argue that love dictates that we fulfill our partner’s requests or we could argue that love dictates that our partner fulfill our need for self-care at a given moment.

Looking to spiritual principle to point us to any particular outcome, in an absolute sense, I find is usually futile. However, that does not mean we cannot make decisions from principle. On the contrary, for me it is essential that I do so. When making decisions from principle, our intention and motivation are key.

In his book, Ethics for the New Millennium, the Dalai Lama said, “In Tibetan, the term for what is considered to be of the greatest significance in determining the ethical value of a given action is the individual’s kun long. Kun long is understood as that which drives or inspires our actions.”

In the relationship example above, one can be in principle by choosing to fulfill a partner’s request from the intention of love, or one could be in principle by choosing to honor their own needs in a given situation from the intention of love. Similarly, one could take either of these actions and not be in principle if the intent or motivation were not love. If we honor our partner’s request out of guilt or we do so with resentment, that is not acting from principle. If we decide not to honor our partner’s request out of spite or selfishness, that is equally not living from principle.

Making decisions from principle then is about where we are coming from. Our intention and motivation are key. So this is where we can place our attention: Whatever we choose, we do it from love and we align with our values and the spiritual principles that are true for us.

Knowing the mind’s ability to rationalize most anything, it is important to check in with the heart to make sure we are truly moving from a principled intent. The heart is the seat of true wisdom and of our intuitive powers. If we pause for a moment and feel where our intention is, we are more likely to be authentically aligning with our values and principles. Then a particular outcome is likely to become apparent as the right one for us right now in the situation we are facing.

In summary, right action can be revealed to us relative to a particular situation in a specific moment in time, but rarely will principle dictate that the same action is right in all situations or all the time.

The invitation this day is to be clear on your values and the principles you choose to align with, and to pause for a moment in making decisions to listen to your heart in aligning with your values and principles. In this way, we are powerfully and authentically living a principle-based life.

Enjoy the journey.

Living Without Limits: Manifestation Checklist

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As I was encountering some seeming “roadblocks” in manifesting what I wanted in my life recently, I decided to create a manifestation checklist to examine where I could align more completely with spiritual principles.

Science of Mind philosophy founder Ernest Holmes stated, spiritual laws are “exact and exacting.” He also said “Our belief sets the limit to our demonstration of a Principle which, of Itself, is without limit.” The laws or principles of which he spoke are those that govern the spiritual universe, or how things work spiritually. Paying attention to them and aligning with them brings us into our highest expression of who we are.

In examining some core spiritual principles and truths, I developed this simple six-step checklist:

  1. Oneness: Am I living in the awareness and embodiment of my oneness with infinite presence, power, and intelligence?
  2. Mental equivalent: Do my beliefs and the way I am looking at life match and support what I desire to create in my life?
  3. Love: Are my thoughts, intentions, and actions grounded in love, for myself and others?
  4. Gratitude: Am I continuously grateful for all the good that is in my life, including in the area where I am wanting to make a change?
  5. Surrender: Am I steadily surrendering and letting go, allowing room for grace to unfold beyond my own seeming limitations?
  6. Forgiveness: Am I forgiving myself and others freely for perceived mistakes and transgressions?

While this checklist is not exhaustive, if we can answer “yes” to each of these questions we are likely very well on track in creating the fertile ground and opening for what we wish to manifest in our lives.

In my own case recently, it was the very first item on the list that held the greatest opportunity: oneness. This meant coming fully into my body temple in the remembrance that the all-ness of divine presence, power, and intelligence is right at my center, at my core. Further, it involved grounding into my core to feel and experience it all right there. That got me right back on track.

Which step is calling you for more attention? Which one will free you to more powerfully create the life you are envisioning? The invitation today is to choose one item from the list above to deepen your practice. It could just be the one thing that creates the breakthrough you’ve been seeking.

Enjoy the journey.

Beyond the Noise

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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.

Finding and Loving THE One

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Last week, at the invitation of a friend, I attended an event that was focused on love and intimacy for both singles and couples, particularly centered on really seeing each other. While most of us were complete strangers to one another, within minutes we were in deep connection one-on-one as we moved around a circle making eye contact for extended periods.

This sort of experience is not new to me as I have both facilitated and participated in such experiences before. Yet, it was still profound and is profound every time for me. It is always a reminder of how often we really don’t see each other, of how often protective walls are erected in our energy fields to keep us secure from the others. At the same time, it was a reminder of how we all deeply want connection. There was not a single person who did not appear to be totally relishing the experience, albeit we were a group that chose to be there having some idea of what was in store.

All in all, I don’t find this group any different from the rest of humanity. Deep down it is my experience and observation that we all want deep connection. Time and again when I have facilitated or participated in gatherings where we are encouraged to let down the wall and to look deeply into the eyes of others, I find without exception that we all dive into the experience, even when it feels uncomfortable or unfamiliar.

It has often been said that the eyes are the window to the soul and this type of experience would surely be evidence of that. Something magical, deep, and profound happens when we look into each other’s eyes and really see who is in there, not just their external persona. And what we always seem to see is beauty, love, compassion, vulnerability, longing for love and acceptance, joy, and pain, but mostly just profound beauty.

All of our judgments about body types, fashion wear choices, posturing, and other external effects are gone. What is left is the real person and the real person is always truly, deeply beautiful. And it is so easy to love that person and be loved by that person, and so easy to love ourselves when being seen so purely for who we are.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, where some celebrate romantic love, may we find and love THE one, and realize that THE one is ourselves. In coming into our true selves and loving our self, perhaps looking into our own eyes in the mirror, may we then truly see all others and allow ourselves to be seen by others.

In a world where we are truly seeing others and truly allowing them to see us, we find love and beauty everywhere, not just in one partner whom we either search for or whom we have already chosen to love. When love is our common experience, how much more love can we then share with a partner if we choose to be in partnership?

Today’s invitation is to see and be seen, to extend love and allow love in, and, most of all, to discover the truly beautiful being that you are and to love yourself unconditionally.

Enjoy the journey.

Is Violence a Call to Love?

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As we read and see reports of events unfolding in our world today, it is easy to go into separation, thoughts of “us” and “them.” It is easy to think that there are different types of people in the world and that those attacking us are somehow very different from us. In my travels around the world over the years, one of the most striking observations is how similar we all are as human beings.

While we have varying cultures that inevitably lead to differences in values, our primary values are very similar. No matter where I’ve gone or whom I’ve met, humans all have love as their primary need. Each one wants to be loved, respected, and honored for who they are.

When we see individuals or groups of individuals act out and commit horrendous acts it is much easier to see them as different from ourselves, and perhaps even to move into hatred, fear, or to support acts of vengeance.

One of the greatest personal examples I have of feeling and believing in separation, and regarding a particular group as ones I should fear, is when I helped facilitate a spiritual workshop in Lovelock Prison in Nevada some years ago. When I signed up to be part of the project I was very optimistic, idealistic even, and did not think of the inmates as so different from me. I just thought of them as people who had gotten off track.

But then we began to sign waivers and get many cautions from prison officials about things we could not do inside the prison, and repeated warnings that what works outside the prison walls would not work within them. I began to question my decision to be part of the workshop in the prison. Particularly, I became concerned that my wife at the time was also going into this male prison environment to participate.

However, within minutes of being with the inmates, all of the fears and perceptions of great differences ceded. Being in the presence of the inmates, we felt their hearts, their pain, and their aspirations, all very similar to what we had experienced offering the workshop to people in the world outside the prison. The workshop involved a lot of hugging and physical affection, which we were warned would not be a good idea in the prison. Despite that, we conducted the workshop the same as we would in a setting outside of a prison, and with the same results.

In hindsight, I felt silly to have bought into separation and into believing that somehow I would discover a different type of human being inside the prison walls. I did not. While many of the inmates had committed serious crimes and caused hurt to many, they were fundamentally the same as anyone I knew on the outside. And the greatest similarity is in how we each respond to love and compassion. At our core, we all want to give and receive love.

The lesson is that love is always what is being called for. And ours is to discern how and where we can love more. This solution or conclusions do not excuse horrendous acts committed by anyone; they merely remind us what is ours to do in response to them. We have seen over and over the results of meeting violence with violence, and it has only led to more violence. We have never fully seen the power of a world responding to all acts with love and compassion, a world that seeks out the opportunities to love more rather than the opportunities to blame or retaliate.

Where is there an opportunity for us as a global community to love more? Where could we be doing more to remedy injustices? Where are people in great need, while we sit in relative comfort? Where are the opportunities to foster greater human dignity? Finding the answers to these questions and responding accordingly with loving, compassionate action is our best hope for creating a world free of violence. We can do this!

Enjoy the journey.

How to Be a Spiritual Activist

A Heart with Copy Space

The Merriam Webster Online Dictionary defines activism this way: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. I’ll focus on “a practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action.” Since oneness is a core precept of spirituality, the second part of the definition, supporting or opposing one side of an issue, does not seem to fit.

But can we be activists without taking sides when so much of the world begs us to take a stance, either for or against, on so many issues? Since all of life is one, what we call sides are simply different aspects of the one. All are contained in the one.

What if we simply be for love? Love is our essence, our divine nature. Love has no real opposite. We can be for love without being against anyone. Hate is not the opposite of love; it is simply the masking of love. Fear is not the opposite of love; it is turning away from love. Love is the core essence of who we are and what life is, the divine nature of all things.

I can remember, in one of my past relationships, coming to the realization that all conflict could be resolved if we could get reconnected at the heart. Once I had that realization, I never saw it fail. Time and again in the relationship, when we seemed to be at a great impasse, getting connected at the heart transcended the conflict and allowed for not only resolution, but also deeper understanding of one another.

To be for love is to bring more love into all situations. Everything is made better with love. Everything is lifted up with love. When we have love in our hearts we see more clearly. Love points the way, allowing us to find common ground or a higher possibility. It points us to inclusion, fairness, and justice. It allows us to see beyond our biases, opinions, and judgments.

It is very destructive to believe our opinions are right. When we feel we are right, and we are guided by that notion, we are blinded to other points of view and we limit higher possibilities. Rather than being right, how about if we are true, true to love? Love doesn’t cast anyone out. Love doesn’t put us in opposition to anyone else. Love connects us.

To me, being a spiritual activist is about vigorously acting from love, sharing love, emanating love, opening to love, and allowing the infinite reservoir of love at our core to flow out into expression.

An indicator of spiritual maturity is the ability to love even when it is not seemingly deserved. As the master teacher Jesus is quoted as saying, “Love your enemies and bless them that curse you.” We do this because of our own expanded conscious awareness of who we are as beings of love and light. We know the transforming power of love, so we’re not waiting to return love from where we receive it. We are proactively allowing love to flow from us in every direction.

5 Questions to Know If You Are Being a Spiritual Activist

  1. Do I allow the opinions of others to hold as much weight as my own, even when their opinions are contrary to mine?
  2. Do I easily love people regardless of whether they meet my expectations?
  3. Do I love and forgive people even when they do something hurtful to me?
  4. Do I open my heart and provide a space of love in difficult situations?
  5. Do I love and embrace those who seem very different from me?

If you answered yes or mostly yes to these questions, you are being quite the spiritual activist according to the definition put forth here. If not, perhaps there is an opening to expand your role as a conduit for love. In any case, our essence and nature is love. The question is, how true will we be to our nature?

Enjoy the journey.

How to Forgive Anything

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This is the second article in a two-part series on forgiveness. The first article addressed the question of “why forgive?” Here I explore the practical “how to” of forgiveness.

Let me begin by saying that there are many different ways to forgive and each of us is likely to do it a little differently. You might consider the steps here as the foundation upon which you can build your own forgiveness practice.

Remember, forgiveness is something we do first and foremost for ourselves, not the person we are forgiving. We forgive because our nature is love, and to have anything flowing through us that is unlike love begins to block our true nature and potentiality.

So our goal is to get back to the love within ourselves. The love is always there at our center, as our essence. In forgiveness, we are simply freeing it to flow unencumbered within us and out through us.

No matter what has happened, we forgive because we need to get back to our own true nature of love, in order to be fulfilled in our lives and to fully express the gifts that are ours to give. Forgiveness is not condoning the behavior of the other person. It is an act of our own self-care.

Seven Steps to Forgiveness:

  1. Acknowledge that you’ve been hurt.
  2. Feel your feelings of anger, betrayal, resentment, or any others that come up. Allow yourself to feel them and experience them fully within yourself. They are part of your natural process. Share them with your spiritual practitioner or someone you really trust. Write them in a journal.
    (We do this step so that we are not bypassing our feelings, only to have them resurface later in some unhealthy way.)
  3. Bless the feelings from step 2. Say a prayer of blessing and acceptance of the feelings. Remind yourself that the feelings are not who you are, just something you are experiencing.
  4. Make the decision to forgive. Before doing so, intuitively determine whether you have spent a healthy amount of time experiencing your feelings.
  5. Open to the power of divine love, grace, and wisdom to guide you in your forgiveness. Recognize that, though you may not feel you know how you will forgive the person or situation, there is a power, presence, and wisdom within you that does know.
  6. Ask your divine wisdom to reveal to you how you might find empathy for the person you are choosing to forgive. (For example, you might realize that the person hadn’t experienced much love in their own lives, and empathize about how difficult that must have been for them.)
  7. Open your heart and allow love to flow to the person you are forgiving. Repeat this step every day until you feel nothing but love toward the other person. (This step takes whatever amount of time it takes – days, months, or years, and it does not mean you have to let the person back in your life.)

While these steps appear sequentially, in practice one might need to go back and repeat steps. Step 7 in the process can be a big step, depending on the nature of what happened. Be gentle with yourself in this step. Allow yourself whatever experience you need to have. Remember that forgiveness is a process. Some situations are likely to be easier to forgive than others. Forgiveness transforms us, and transformation does not usually feel good while it is happening.

May you know only love. May the love in your heart flow freely in your being. May you be transformed by love, and may your love transform the world.

Enjoy the journey.

Lasting Relationships – Part One: The Willingness to Grow

by Gregory Toole

Lasting relationships, particularly those of the romantic type, seem quite elusive for many. Even short-term relationships may be elusive for many. Relationships, if they are to be truly meaningful, require a degree of vulnerability, risk, and growth.

Being hurt in a former relationship can greatly diminish our possibilities for future relationships, depending on what we internalize from the previous experience. For example, in my early thirties I began to wonder why it had been about ten years since I had been in a meaningful relationship. As I peeled back the proverbial layers of the onion, looking deeply into what was the underlying cause, I remembered an experience I had ten years before, while I was in college. I had fallen in love and found myself heartbroken when the relationship ended. The pain seemed too great to bear at the time, and I vowed never to be hurt like that again. What I really had set in motion, unbeknownst to me, was to never get into a meaningful relationship again.

Once I saw this clearly in my early thirties, I realized I was stronger than I had been in my twenties, and the decision I made in my twenties to protect myself no longer served me. As I began to allow myself to be open and vulnerable again, willing to fall in love, accepting there was a risk I could get hurt emotionally, I opened the possibility for meaningful relationship, which occurred for me.

Then I learned there is something more than just being vulnerable and willing to take a risk. Once the fear of being hurt was gone, there was awareness that in order to move forward, to have the relationship last, one must be willing to grow. While one could probably maintain a fairly shallow relationship without being required to grow very much, anything meaningful would require growth every step of the way.

The requirement of growth comes from the very nature of relationship. Relationship shines the light on all the dark places of fear, insecurity, unworthiness, and those places we’d just rather not go at all. The latter are those places within us that we’ve built a wall around, or more like a fortress, for the very purpose of making sure no one or nothing would take us there. Then, relationship, by its very nature takes us right to the doorstep of that place and says, “This is the doorway to that meaningful relationship you want.” At this moment we might be tempted to begin bargaining, saying, “No, I’m willing to go anywhere but there. I’ll do anything else, but not that.”

All of this bargaining is to no avail because love is designed to transform us; to bring those dark places into the light and free us from the fortress we have built that ultimately has limited us. Love is here to tell us we are bigger than our fears, insecurities, and beliefs of unworthiness. Love is here to invite us into that greater experience of life that is beyond even our own imagination.

If we are willing to breathe into our deepest shadows, face them with the love of a partner, and bravely walk through them, we invite the deep healing and freedom that love offers us. Then, not only does our relationship last, it also frees us to experience the fullest possibility for our lives.

See next week’s blog for Part Two:

            Lasting Relationships – Part Two: Is It Over or Time to Grow?

Namasté,
Gregory

A Spiritual View on Marriage Equality

by Gregory Toole

As we read about marriage equality and hear arguments before the United States Supreme Court, it is easy to say, “This is a political issue; I’ll stay out of it.” In reality, this is a human and civil rights issue.

If we can move into our hearts, we can evolve humanity past its criticisms and judgments and into its deep-felt divine wisdom that has infinite capacity to guide us into higher choices. We can move from incremental evolution into that place where all that we need to know can be known now. How much suffering could be alleviated if we could come to the place where we see the full divinity of others without having to first move it through our filter of fear and ignorance? Think about how much suffering could have been alleviated in the civil rights movements of the 60s and 70s if, instead of the filter of humanity’s lowest common denominator, we saw directly into the divinity and equality of African Americans and women?

We now have the capacity to go directly to higher wisdom. Higher wisdom, the wisdom from divine knowledge, is not arrived at through debates and slaying all of our inner demons first. It is arrived at by a willingness to let go of all that, to let go of our fears and prejudices, and to open to divine knowing.

Higher wisdom calls us to see ourselves fully in the mirror, recognizing our own inherent divinity, knowing that once we see our own divinity, it will be impossible to not see the divinity of others.

When we see our own and others’ divinity, we can only want the best for others and want them to have all we would want for ourselves. For it is only in our sense of separateness, and our false belief that difference equates to something to be feared or something less than divine, that we persecute and withhold equal treatment for others.

The call is to enter into our hearts this day and ask from our deepest sense of compassion and love, who would we cast out of heaven? Who would we deny happiness and fulfillment? Who would we deny equal treatment under any human-made laws? Love will surely point us to inclusion, equality, and freedom for all. We don’t need to debate this with anyone. It is already a truth planted deeply in the heart of all whose soul springs forth from eternity. We simply need to call each other into our hearts.

May all beings everywhere be happy. May all beings everywhere be well.

Namaste,

Rev. Gregory Toole