Tag Archives: making a difference

The Deeper Call of the Election

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This presidential election season is clearly different than any in recent memory. Many feel frustrated, disillusioned, or perhaps even resigned with regard to the election.

However, as conscious beings, it behooves us to look beneath the appearances and to ask what is the higher calling that is beckoning us. Some insight can be gained from looking at the surprising popularity of candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, clearly not presidential material by past standards of electability.

Although very different candidates, the success of these two candidates stems from similar longings in the voters. The success of each represents a strong desire on the part of the electorate for significant change.

Whether we like either of these candidates or not, we can take solace in the symbolism that depicts a desire and willingness for change on the part of so many of our fellow citizens in the United States.

If we focus on this desire for change, and align with it, then we may find cause for hope and a place for us to take action.

What role can each of us take in casting a greater vision and joining with the many others who want change, and to harness that energy to bring about good in the world?

If we can turn away from what many see as the unseemliness of this election season, and instead see how the collective desire for change is an energy to join with, then we can let the politicians be politicians, while we ourselves put our energy into the important role that we are to play to bring about change.

In this time when people are so ready for change, what great ideas are we called to give birth and to invite others to join us in birthing?

This is a time that is ripe for new ideas, new ways of being and doing, and new paradigms. Will we waste our energy complaining about the politicians or will we take our rightful place? Will we worry about the politicians getting it right, or will we make sure that we each get it right, that we don’t miss the opportunity to bring forth what is ours to bring forth?

The invitation this day is to recognize that the timing is perfect for bringing forth your great idea and to focus your energy on inviting others to join you in creating newness. Let us bless the candidates for elected office, vote our conscience, and relish this auspicious time in human history.

Enjoy the journey.

Gregory Toole offers spiritual life 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

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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.

Creating A World That Works for Everyone

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by Gregory Toole

On the spiritual journey, we are frequently presented with paradox. Paradox occurs when two seemingly opposite statements are both true. One such paradox is that each person is divinely given everything they need, and each person plays an essential role in everyone else getting their needs met.

One reason we might be challenged with this paradox is our tendency sometimes to think of ourselves as separate entities, only theoretically or metaphorically connected to one another. Since we all navigate the world in what appear to be our own unique bodies, it is easy to think of ourselves as individual silos or islands, and to think of the spiritual teaching that offers us dominion over our lives to mean we have little or no responsibility for our fellow beings, or the opposite, that we have to take care of each person because they are less capable than we are.

We see the dysfunction of this belief in separation played out through the two major political parties in the United States. In general, Democrats vie for more social programs because of a belief that society has a role in meeting individual needs. Republicans vie for fewer social programs espousing the virtue of individual personal responsibility.

When we understand the paradox discussed here, we realize that both parties are arguing for the two different sides of the paradox. And since both sides of the paradox are true, it is a meaningless contention, with the real opportunity for dialogue being on how to balance resources between the two truths.

It calls us to remember that all of life is one divine whole. The very earth that we live on is but one planet in a galaxy of tens of billions of planets in a universe with tens of billions of galaxies, numbers that we can’t really even comprehend, except to know that all that we inhabit is but a speck in the universe.

Our bodies literally have trillions of cells all working together to allow one human body to function perfectly. And yet each living cell is also an entity unto itself, perfectly capable of fulfilling its purpose. We, as individuals on the planet, are like the cells in the body. We are all individual parts of one body called earth, each fulfilling our own purpose, and also playing an essential role in the functioning of the whole.

While the cells in our body, under normal conditions, do not vie with each other to meet their individual needs without regard to the other cells and the overall functioning of the body, we as humans often do that very thing.

Every person is divinely provided with everything they need, and we each are part of the meeting of everyone’s needs. We each are the hands, feet, and eyes of the divine. It is through each of us that the world works for everyone, or not. The whole is one of harmony and each individual is called to work in harmony with others for the benefit of the whole.

Each of us has great potential to create a world that works for everyone. This need not be a burden, but more an expansion of awareness. When we are aware of the essential role we play, it is all the little opportunities that make a difference.

There is the well-told story of two people walking along a beach where thousands of starfish have washed ashore and are drying out in the sun, ultimately destined to die. One person begins to pick them up one by one and throw them back into the ocean. The other person says, “What are you doing? There are thousands of starfish here. How can you possibly make a difference?” The first person, upon casting the next starfish into the ocean declares, “Made a difference for that one.” And that is each of us – we have great capacity to make this a world that works for everyone.

Thank you for the difference you are making, just one starfish at a time!

Enjoy the journey.

Conscious Stewardship of Our Environment

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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.