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"It may seem like a very mundane example, but spirituality is truly realized only when it is expressed in the small details of daily life. I think it was Einstein who said that an idea becomes real only if you write it down. I would say that a spiritual idea is made real when expressed in concrete actions"

 

 

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Home » Features » An Interview with Robert Tolz

Reflections on the Journey of Life
by Carolyn Cooper and Patricia Colleran

How do you infuse your spiritual ideals into the mundane world of making a living?

Bringing spirituality into daily life is my objective. Since my work occupies one of the largest chunks of my time, it's obvious that work has to be a major focus of integrating spirituality into ordinary life.

A wise man was once asked, "How can I tell anything about a man's relationship with God?" He answered, "Look at his relationship with you."

This anecdote illustrates what I think is one of the most important things about bringing spirituality into practicality. It has to be found in my relationships with those who are around me.

That means that if I happen to be in a position where I direct the work of others, I have to make sure that I treat them with love and respect, and not as mere objects to do my bidding. For instance, if I find that an associate has analyzed a point of law or a factual situation carelessly, I could choose either to snap at him and suggest that he's not competent enough to hold a license to practice law or else I could clearly, calmly and patiently go over the error in a professional way and with the view to teaching him something to avoid a repetition.

Similarly, if one of my partners yells at me for something that he perceives I did incorrectly, I could either defend myself and get into a pitched battle with him or else take another approach. For instance, in one case I remember just plain getting something wrong. My partner asked me incredulously, "How could you possibly do that?" To which I answered, "I made a mistake." I could tell that he had been ready to knock down all my excuses and justifications, and when I honestly reported that I had none, we then moved quickly to correcting the mistake.

Does your inner work have any effect on dealing with the pressures of work?

I have to say that one of the most important things I've learned well from the years of inner work is a sense of perspective. I don't get ruffled easily. Things tend to go pretty smoothly around me.

I received some cute feedback on this once from one of my partners who asked what I thought of an associate who was working for us. I told him, "I can work with him." To which my partner replied, "That's not enough information for me. You could work with a monkey."

How do your spiritual ideals affect how you raise your children?

One thing my wife and I try to do is nurture a sense of love, respect and responsibility within the home.

I believe that our kids are quite confident that they are well-loved, and they know this to be true even when they are disciplined. They also know they are well-respected, as well as being valued as individuals.

Before either of our children were conceived, my wife and I studied and used for prayer a section from Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet dealing with children. It begins "Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life's longing for itself." I commend the passage to everyone who is a parent and anyone who may become a parent. Actually, I think it's good reading for kids as well.

The essential idea I derive from that passage is that, if I may use some legal terminology, we are trustees for our children, not their owners. They are each unique souls whom we have a duty to nurture, teach and guide. But since they are not our property, we cannot tell them what they have to think or believe.

I remember when my first child was born, one of my companions in Cafh jokingly told me, "Get their respect before they're bigger than you." I think by giving respect, we've gained their respect in return.

I love the ending of the Kahlil Gibran passage. It goes "The Archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. Let your bending in the Archer's hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable."

I want to be a stable support and foundation for my children, not just economically, but emotionally as well; helping them to understand how life works, so they can learn to think for themselves and ultimately become self-sufficient in a way that benefits humanity and those who surround them.

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