Tag Archives: spiritual practice

Staying Centered in an Election Year

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Current events surely have the potential to throw us off our center, and presidential elections in the modern era often push our buttons like nothing else does. The presidential election this year in the United States is like none in our modern era in that regard. Not only are the candidates in the two major parties polarizing, but even the primary elections generated a lot of passion.

In such an election where we have a strong draw to a particular candidate or great angst about a candidate, how do we keep our center? How do we deal with anxieties about a candidate that we feel would be harmful to the country and its people?

It provides us an opportunity to look at where real power comes from. In the Science of Mind philosophy, we teach that there is only one power that we all have access to in infinite measure. It is the power and presence of the divine, and it is good in its essence. While we all can access this power, and while we have choice as to how we use this power – for good or for ill – ultimately its nature is good and the greatest power comes from aligning with power for the highest good.

Our call is ultimately to each personally use the one power for the highest good. In an election, we can look to what we can do individually and collectively to bring about the greatest good. Some examples include:

  • Voting our conscience in terms of what choice we feel will bring about the greatest good.
  • Educating ourselves and others on the candidates, their likely policies, and any other relevant information about the candidates.
  • Engaging in other activities, such as campaigning, for the choice we feel is optimal given the range of choices.
  • Inwardly hold the space for the highest outcome to occur through prayer and whatever ways we use to align ourselves with the highest.

Once we have done everything we feel we can do, then we are called to make peace with whatever the result is. We do not control results. If the electorate votes in a candidate we feel is not the best, we get to make peace that this is where we are collectively and to work from there to help in the evolution of our collective consciousness.

Just like in our individual lives, we might sometimes need to experience our darkness or shadow to come more fully into the light, so this is also true in a macro sense with all of us together. This may not be the path we consciously choose, but this is the way it goes sometimes. Fortunately, it seems we are coming to a place where our evolution keeps us moving closer to the light, but we need not resist or fear those times where we brought to experience the shadow.

We do what is ours to do, make peace with the results, and then do everything we can to work with the results to again do what is ours to do to evolve individually and collectively.

In this way, we don’t have to hold out any candidate themselves as evil, even as we might see that they represent our shadow or darker side. We move toward the light, but also embrace the shadow when it appears, knowing it is there to serve in greater healing and evolution.

The invitation this day is to come to center, act in the highest, and make peace with all possible outcomes. Remember, we are all one. There is nothing we see on the outer that doesn’t represent some part of us.

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.

Vacation as Spiritual Practice

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Most of us are conditioned to look forward to our vacations. For some it’s an opportunity to travel to a new or favorite destination, for others it’s a chance to spend time at home, perhaps with family or on a hobby, and still for others, a chance to tune out. Generally speaking, vacations are about rest and relaxation, or for those who are more active, about play and adventure.

None of these reasons is inherently better than any other. However, vacation is also a great time to reconnect to our center and to get back on track with our spiritual practices, like meditation. When we get away from the busyness of our daily lives, there is time for reflection, contemplation, and stepping back to see where we are.

Many will go to a spiritual retreat for this purpose, and while those are great (I love them), for many this would not satisfy all of their needs for a vacation. A 20-minute meditation first thing in the morning before starting the day could really serve well, or a mindful walk on the beach that is focused inward rather than outward through the use of silence.

Vacation is an excellent time to reconnect to our center if we feel out of balance or stressed. Reconnecting can be as simple as letting go of the to-do list and focusing more on just being, with less of an agenda and more presence. How could you be more in the present moment rather than planning for the next moment?

Our intention to be present can also be very revealing to us. I remember some years ago taking vacation time on the northern California coast in Mendocino, which is about a three-hour drive from the San Francisco Bay Area where I was leading a very busy and active life. My first day I was feeling impatient with how slow people were driving and observing myself wanting to get from place to place as quickly as possible. Then it dawned on me – I’m on vacation, where do I have to be in a hurry? It was a good check-in to see how much I had formed a habitual pattern of being in a hurry.

If nothing else, an intention to be more present can make us aware of our habitual ways of being. Awareness gives us more choice as we can then decide, is this how I consciously choose to be?

None of our spiritual practices need to be heavy or feel like too much of a burden while on vacation. The choice to be conscious and present is a choice that leads to greater aliveness and more connection to the simple things that bring us joy, like watching a sunset or appreciating the beauty of nature on a hike.

The invitation is to bring more presence and connection into your vacation and downtime this summer, and to make it fun!

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.

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.

Meeting the News of the Day

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How are we as conscious spiritual beings to meet the news of today, where events of the world can seem to compete daily for how extreme and outrageous they can be?

One strategy used by many spiritual seekers and practitioners is to avoid the news. This strategy has the advantage that it allows us to keep our attention on that which we choose and therefore to align with a vibration more conducive to creating the world of our choosing.

Whether we choose to avoid the news or not, we are not completely untouched by it. We are still touched by the collective vibration of all that is taking place in our world.

Many, including this author, have chosen to see everything that is taking place in the world as a prayer request or as an opportunity to steep even more in the vibration of love, oneness, and wholeness.

When we realize that all beings essentially want the same things – love, respect, and honor – then we can see the most outrageous behaviors as a deep cry for those wants. While this knowledge doesn’t excuse harmful actions, it does keep us from going into a sense of separation or hatred, and it takes us deeper into ourselves to expand our capacity for love and compassion.

It is easy to get caught up in effects, or appearances, and miss the deeper underlying meaning of what they are calling us to. In saying this, I don’t mean to minimize the appearances, because they are highly impactful and at times greatly harmful to many. But as Einstein, and many others after him, said, we can’t solve the problem at the level of the problem, or with the consciousness that created the problem.

We can’t stop bombing with more bombing, hatred with more hatred, or ruthlessness with more ruthlessness. Compassion and wisdom together form the basis of what we individually and collectively are called to cultivate in order to truly create a world where all feel loved, honored, and respected. When we truly feel whole, we act whole and are incapable of harmful acts.

What we see, in so many corners of life today, is an implicit demand: see me, accept me, respect me, honor me; and an apparent desperate desire to have that demand met.

The invitation today is to give what is so desperately being asked for: really see those you encounter, notice their pain as well as their longings. Find ways to communicate “I honor you, I respect you, I have compassion for you.” When reading of atrocities, offer the same in your heart to the victims and perpetrators in the situation, “I honor you, I respect you, I have compassion for you.” Surely it is challenging to do this with those we see as the perpetrators, but wisdom guides us to remember the underlying cause of so much that is taking place – a sense of separation and isolation from one’s fellow beings.

Yes, the invitation today is big, and I know we can do it, and I know it is what is needed if we are going to truly meet the news of today.

Enjoy the journey.

Practice Makes Perfect Imperfection

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Often times when spiritual students observe their teachers they end up being disappointed at some point. They put their teachers on a pedestal based on the ideal that the teachers represent, not realizing that the teacher is not the ideal itself, but rather is practicing the ideal.

For example, a spiritual teacher who has a tense moment with a student, perhaps even becoming angry with the student, may still be practicing the ideal. Let’s say the ideal is unconditional love. The fact that the teacher has a moment where anything but unconditional love seems present doesn’t mean the teacher is not practicing the ideal. What we need to watch for is what happens next. With a teacher who is practicing the ideal of unconditional love, what we’ll see next will look exactly like unconditional love. An acknowledgment of missing the mark and an apology are likely, as is even deeper embodiment of the ideal, unconditional love in this case.

Where many err in terms of their expectations of their teachers (and themselves) is in believing a good teacher has already perfected the ideal. What is more realistic is to watch for what the teacher’s practice is.

With a dedicated teacher who is practicing the ideals set forth in a spiritual or religious teaching, we will always see them come back to those ideals, and usually rather quickly. The Catholic Church’s early response to pedophile priests within their ranks was a very poor example of practicing their ideals. The current pope is correcting that by acknowledging the problem, making corrections where needed, and taking steps to make some amends to those affected.

I knew a masterful spiritual teacher who would have her human moments, which would sometimes cause upset. What was amazing, and what stood out far more than the human moments, was her deep commitment to practicing her ideal of unconditional love, and how quickly she would return to practicing that ideal even when others were still being unloving toward her.

Practicing ideals not only applies to so-called spiritual leaders; it also applies to each one of us. Rather than being self-critical when we miss the mark, or holding ourselves to unrealistic standards, instead we can practice our ideals, acknowledging that sometimes we are likely to fall short of those ideals.

And when we do fall short, our response is not to judge ourselves, but rather to remind ourselves of what our practice is. In other words, we return to the ideal, with even deeper commitment to it. If our practice is to be a peaceful presence and we found ourselves fostering disharmony in a particular situation, the spiritual master makes amends where possible and then returns to the practice. There is no value in being self-critical or defensive. That will only delay our return to the practice and further exacerbate the situation.

Returning quickly to the practice, whenever we miss the mark, keeps us steadfast in our intention to embody the ideal, and, for all intents and purposes, allows us to consistently be the embodiment of that ideal.

With someone who is committed to practicing the ideal, we know what we can expect from that person. They may let us down for a moment, but we know who they are, and we know what will ultimately shine forth. They become defined by their practice of the ideal rather than the few moments where they miss the mark.

What ideals are you committed to practicing? How could you use your moments of falling short as a catalyst to go deeper into your practice? This is the invitation this week, to let go of questioning who we are and to keep remembering to practice our ideals. In this way, we become those ideals and our shortfalls are easily forgiven.

Enjoy the journey.

Prayer without Ceasing

It is interesting how, even as a minister, I can sometimes forget the power of prayer. Of course, I am praying all the time. But then there will be that one nagging situation that I’ll just keep dealing with at the material level, somehow forgetting that prayer would be helpful there too.

The title for this blog comes from the Christian Bible in first Thessalonians: “Pray without ceasing.”

In Tibetan Buddhism, there are prayer wheels with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” inscribed on them so that one can continuously turn the wheel and repeat the prayer, said to be the most important mantra in Buddhism. It is thought to contain the essence of the entire Buddhist teaching. Its literal translation is “Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus,” and it is about purification in all aspects of our being.

In the Bhakti yoga tradition, devotional prayers or mantras are sung in groups, repeating the same lines over and over, sometimes using mala beads to count to the sacred number 108, repeating the prayer that many times.

Jesus, when asked, “How often should I forgive?” responded “up to 70 times 7.”

In so many religious and spiritual traditions, we find the practice of repetition when it comes to prayer. Surely, this is not because God “out there” needs to hear our prayers many times before answering them. Rather, it is because we in human form need to practice aligning our own consciousness with a greater spiritual truth. Often we have deep-seated unconscious beliefs and alignments from past conditioning and these can be transmuted with continuous, or repetition of, prayer.

I liken our subconscious, habitual thought patterns to a floating board in a swimming pool that just keeps returning to the surface once we stop applying conscious attention. Often, awareness of a limiting thought pattern is only the first step. Old thought patterns can be so insidious that we need to continue applying new wisdom until we clearly establish a fresh thought pattern.

This was certainly true for me when I began to learn the spiritual principles of prosperity. At first, I had grasped the principle of God as my unlimited source only intellectually and consciously. I had previously believed in ‘prosperity through struggle’ for so long that, whenever I discontinued my conscious prayer practice around prosperity, I would find my thought patterns contracting back to the belief in struggle.

The invitation today is to remember the value of prayer; not the kind where we beg ‘God out there’ for something, but affirmative prayer, where we open ourselves to accept something greater in our lives.

Where could you apply prayer in your life today? You might take a moment and open to a new possibility. Perhaps you could say to yourself, “I am open to this situation being resolved. I now accept peace and prosperity” (or whatever applies in your situation). Then claim something greater for yourself by declaring it specifically, such as “I now have peace in my relationship” or “I am supported in being successful in my business.”

When we state such affirmations, which can also be included in an affirmative prayer, we begin to open to grace. We align our thoughts with a belief that life is meant to be good for us. In truth, there is really nothing in a spiritual sense that is working against us, and everything that is working for us. Even if we don’t currently believe this, just opening to the possibility is helpful. Try it, and begin to see the power of your words and thoughts to align you with a greater experience in life.

Enjoy the journey.

Next week: A Primer on Affirmative Prayer

Humor as Spiritual Practice

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by Gregory Toole

Humor is something that has always come quite naturally to me, perhaps influenced by growing up in a family where there was a lot of laughter. In high school, I was always trying to get a laugh in class, much to the dismay of my very serious Chemistry teacher. And now as an adult I can often be counted on to provide some comic relief.

Spiritually, humor is a way reduce our attachment to outcomes and to enjoy the process of life more, to see that what is happening right now doesn’t define us, nor is it permanent. It is a way to be in greater surrender, to recognize that we are not in control of everything, and to acknowledge the sometimes fragile nature of our humanity.

There are so many places to find humor and to bring ourselves to laughing in day-to-day life. For example, if we just finished preparing ourselves a couple slices of toast with our favorite jam on top and then clumsily drop them and watch as they land face down on the floor, do we break out in laughter at the ridiculousness of the situation or do we blurt out a cuss word? There really is an opportunity to laugh at ourselves there.

I remember many years ago having just bought a new outfit – shirt, slacks, and blazer – and going out to dinner. I was feeling good in my new outfit. I ordered a Piña Colada with dinner and when our server brought the drinks to the table on a tray, the Piña Colada, seemingly of its own accord, came flying off the tray and landed in such a way as to spill on each article of new clothing. The other drinks on the tray remained intact and undisturbed. I admit that I didn’t laugh immediately, but I did laugh shortly thereafter, especially after the manager offered drinks and dessert on the house and to take care of the cleaning bill.

The Jewish holiday of Purim has been called the Jewish Mardi Gras. It is a festive, upbeat, and joyous holiday. Ironically, it was born out of tragedy. It is a celebration of the Jewish people being rescued from a plot to exterminate them as told in the Biblical book of Esther. Mark Twain said, “Humor is tragedy plus time.” Rabbi Noah Weinberg refers to Purim as the official “Jewish day of laughter.”

The Mayo Clinic has written about the long-term potential benefits of laughter, including improved immune system, pain relief, increased personal satisfaction, and improved mood, among others. Here are a couple suggestions from the Mayo Clinic to tap into humor:

“Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office.”

“Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.”

Those who practice Laughter Yoga laugh just for the sake of laughing. They come together in community just to laugh. It may be strange to watch people breaking out in laughter on cue, but it seems to have great benefits to those who practice it.

How could you find more ways to laugh in your life? Perhaps there is even some humor in that situation that has really been nagging you and disturbing your peace. The invitation is to not take ourselves nor our situations in life so seriously, to step back a little and observe the ‘movie’ that is our life and enjoy it a little more, even with all of its drama.

Enjoy the journey.

Copyright Gregory Toole 2015. All rights reserved.

Finding Security in a Rapidly Changing World

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by Gregory Toole

Someone said to me early in my career, “Your security is in yourself, not a particular job.” That turned out to be very wise counsel. It led me to focus on developing myself – my skills, knowledge, and inner resources. That way I was making myself valuable rather than holding the value as something that is received from the outside.

In today’s world that seems even more important. Employers today often hire temporary or shorter-term help. Technology is changing so rapidly that skill-sets quickly become outdated. Whole industries come and go in a much shorter span of time than in the past.

Rapid change is also a reality in so many other areas of life, such as relationships, health, and finance. Traditional ideas of relationships, dating, and marriage have changed dramatically, such that one who is newly single might feel a bit lost. In the field of health, there are so many alternative treatments and approaches. In finance, the defined benefit retirement plans that our parents and grandparents relied on for their future financial security are, for the most part, relics of the past.

The early advice I received, that our security is in ourselves, turns out to be consistent with the spiritual truth of how life unfolds from the inside outward. It speaks to that divine creative power within all of us that, no matter what our situation is, responds to what we give our attention to in consciousness. Ernest Holmes, founder of the Science of Mind philosophy said, “Principle is not bound by precedent.” There is a divine creative principle that only responds to what we believe and intend today, and responds to all alike no matter what mistakes, missteps, or missed opportunities we might have experienced before.

Spiritually, our opportunity is to begin today right where we are to fashion a new experience for ourselves. With work and employment, we can begin to design, with our imagination, a new way that we show up that highlights our value and leads to being well-compensated. In relationship, we can begin to cultivate love within ourselves and begin to recognize our own and others’ divine nature. In health, we can build on our sense of wholeness and lean into that inner divine wisdom to discern what is good for us. With finances, we may deepen our understanding that the source of all of our good is one divine source, manifesting in the world through one channel or another.

Once we recognize that our security is in us, then we are called to go in us more deeply, and more often. If it is in us, then why would we be looking for it outside ourselves? Going more deeply into ourselves is accomplished through more dedicated spiritual practice, including daily meditation, affirmative prayer, and being in spiritual community.

Before we say we don’t have time for these things, remember that the remedy for what ails us is in us. So we can think about all the time we spend on things outside ourselves, then choose to let go of some of those things in favor of the inward spiritual practice that will really make a difference in our lives.

Here are three simple practices that could have a major impact on your well-being and prosperity:

  1. Sit daily in silence for at least 15 minutes. Dedicate that time to simply communing with your divine nature. It is sacred time to just be. This time in meditation creates the spaciousness for more grace to operate in your life, thus moving you out of struggle.
  2. After your meditation, ask yourself what is it you are called to bring into your manifest world. Then in your mind and inner being, begin to claim that thing as yours now. Say “I am one with the divine whole. I deserve this good. I accept this good. I allow this good in my life. I am grateful for it. I let it be.” That’s your affirmative prayer.
  3. Find a spiritual community that resonates with you and regularly spend time with people who align with you and support you in your intentions. Notice when opportunities represent answered prayer, and act upon them right now.

Enjoy the journey, knowing you are safe and secure in the awareness and reliance on your great inner divine strength and creativity.

17 Practices to Transcend Fear

by Gregory Toole

Fear remains a prevalent part of the human experience, inhibiting or derailing the fulfillment of many heart-felt dreams and intentions. What can we do to transcend fear? Here are some practices that may support you in transcending fear.

  1. Recognize that the feeling of fear is natural when you’re trying something new or on the edge of your comfort zone.
  2. Be aware that fear is primarily a feeling or sensation in the body and that you still have choice about your actions.
  3. Journal about what specifically you are afraid of and ask yourself, objectively, whether there’s anything to actually fear? (If the answer is yes, take steps to address those concerns.)
  4. Put your attention and energy on what you want to happen rather than what you fear will happen. (What we put our
    attention on expands).
  5. Take steps every day (no matter how small) that move you toward your desired outcome. With every step you take,
    the feeling of fear will subside, even if only little by little. Fear breeds in the imagination; bringing reality to it diminishes
    it.
  6. Let go of any idea that you are doing it all yourself. You are the vehicle for an infinite intelligence, power, and creativity.
  7. Let go of responsibility for outcomes. Your role is to take the divinely guided actions and you ultimately have little control over how others receive or respond to them.
  8. Let go of the idea that you need to get it right the first time. Allow yourself to enjoy the creative process.
  9. Spend time in meditation daily, listening for divine inspiration, and follow it in faith and trust.
  10. Stay centered in love and gratitude. It is impossible for fear to live there.
  11. Let everything you do be guided by love. If it’s not from an intention of love and offering love to the world, don’t do it.
  12. Let go of the need to personally accomplish anything. Let your only goal and intention be to fulfill the vision of your higher self, your divine destiny, or your soul’s highest calling.
  13. When fear comes up, don’t push it down. Keep breathing, fully feel it, and let it be your teacher. What is it telling you
    about how you look at life?
  14. Be on divine timing, not your own human timing. When divine inspiration or perfect opportunities show up, know that
    it’s the right time for them, even if it’s inconvenient personally.
  15. Treat each day as a new day. What you couldn’t do yesterday you may be able to do today. What was confusing
    yesterday may be clear today.
  16. When feeling overwhelmed, take baby steps. Any step that moves you in the direction of your vision is progress.
    Every time you do something you were previously afraid to do you dissipate the illusions of fear.
  17. Be in it for the long haul. Don’t give up at the first setback.