Tag Archives: meditation

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.

Courting the Divine


“Speak to Him thou for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet. Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet,” writes the 19th century poet, Alfred Tennyson in his poem, The Higher Pantheism. This passage has always resonated with me, although I never knew its source until researching it for inclusion here. The passage reminds me to go within to know God, that even in my darkest moments I am not alone. And even when appearances would suggest no hope, the power and presence of the divine is right there in the midst of it all.

While I have always liked the phrase “courting the divine” as in the title of this article, perhaps the truer phrase is opening to the divine. The divine is always there and our courtship is really about paying attention and cultivating within ourselves the space to listen, feel, and experience it. And it’s important to note that we all relate to the divine in our own unique, personal way, so it is for us to notice how grace reveals itself to us, how wisdom is known, and in what ways we feel connected to our divine source. This is all the divine courtship.

One of the most important things is validating how we uniquely experience our divine nature. Without that, there is a tendency to look outside ourselves toward how someone else experiences the divine, which is good in itself, but can only take us so far.

Ours is to know God, or the divine, right where we are, as we are.

Back in Philadelphia where I grew up, I remember as a young adult having some deep mystical experiences after beginning a meditation practice and studying J. Krishnamurti. Because no one around me was having similar experiences, I made the decision to keep them to myself, and at the same time I had some uneasiness about them. For me, I walked through life that way for 15 years before finding validation in spiritual community, validation that now is no longer needed from external sources.

If we are unable to feel validated in our own experience of the divine, it is a good idea to seek guidance from a trusted spiritual practitioner who can help us sort out and make sense of what we are experiencing, and learn how to hold and be with our experience in the most healthy and useful way for our spiritual growth.

For me, there can be no greater experience than to know God or the divine right where we are. It is to know love, faith, trust, and wisdom right where I am. It is to walk in this world knowing with certainty that there is more than just this world. Everything in life takes on different meaning and context when we know our divine nature and the divine nature of all. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience some of the same pain and challenges that others do on this earthly plane, but it does allow us to transcend the sense of finiteness and limitation that come from only seeing the material.

The invitation this day is to fully honor the way the divine shows up in us, to welcome it, embrace it, open more fully to it, and remember, as we take every step in life, that God is closer than our hands and feet, closer than our breath.

Enjoy the journey.

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.