Browsing the blog archives for April, 2011

Is Gay Spirituality Better…?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

“Gay spirituality is better than any other” – the reporter desperately wanted me to endorse his belief.  I wasn’t going there. Righteous spiritual segregation is antithetical to the idea of a spiritual journey. So where does spirituality
for LGBTQ people connect with the human family and the Holy?

Our normative story usually includes experiencing bullying, fear of coming out, rejection by family when we do, the Holy used by religion to condemn.  We
might even be the victims of violence or discrimination. Our journey also
contains another story line. It is about courage and love birthed in us.

A more spacious invitation than the reporter’s belief invites us in. Spirituality in not about a theory, it is discovered in the reality of who we are. I’ve discovered that in the spiritual journey of immigrants, women, people of color and other minorities my own journey is inspired. Many of us fall into several self identifying categories.

The question is not whether your spirituality or mine is “better.”  It’s how does your journey create empathy with others?  How does your spirituality get fed by the
wisdom of those who are different from you? How does it connect you to oneness
with others?

Unlike the belief of that reporter my spirituality is not celebrated as a “better” treasure. I discover a much richer inclusive path in three pathways to celebrate and share the gift that is my life.

Whoever and whatever tries to define you wants to confine you. It creates an enclosure keeping you from the Holy discovered in your life. In accepting an enclosure you become cut-off from the unique gifts that only you have to offer.
You deprive yourself and the world of them. Allowing yourself to be enclosed can happen subtly over time. The good news is that we have a choice to break out of the enclosure.

When we discover our voice and claim it as an LGBTQ person we are on sacred ground. Instead of listening to the bad advice of those who do not want you to claim your voice, you discover that in the Holy is present in it. Not outside “there” somewhere, but in you.  You begin to be free of a narrow consciousness. Claiming your voice is a spiritual practice taking you to a field of feasting with others.

The Universe needs your story as much as that of anyone else. As you tell your story you discover self-compassion. In the telling you become awake to the sacred in you as an LGBTQ person. As you settle in and celebrate your voice you begin to listen to the stories and voices of others with new attentiveness. They become connecting stories. Through them your appreciation and love for yourself and others deepens. You discover a new way of being alive.

These three pathways of moving beyond enclosures, discovering and trusting your voice and connecting stories are markers of your authentic experience of being gay.

Love is the only thing that matters on our spiritual quest. Everything else pales in comparison. I am loved by the Holy for all of who I am. It’s a struggle for many to know and believe it every day. When I love myself and know that I am loved life becomes more radiant. I become more fully human, more alive as I am.

It takes courage to journey through the three pathways. The root word for courage means love. To be grounded in love we cannot avoid being courageous about who we are. Not the lonely isolated warrior courage, but the courage discovered in trusted people to call on along the journey. It’s all part of our spiritual positioning system.

When I’m grounded in these three pathways my encounters with others become sacred ground. Like the Hindu greeting Namaste the light me honors the light in you.

The three pathways are not just for GLBTQ people. Love and courage are not confined to GLBTQ spirituality. They’re each part of our common journey to become fully human –  as we are. We bring to the journey the only gift we can – ourselves.

So what are the markers of your spirituality?

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Passover – Free for New Consciousness?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

To be free of a narrow consciousness is the invitation of Passover. I’m not Jewish but the rituals and journey of Passover restore my balance and also disrupt my spiritual positioning system. It’s about freedom from those things that constrain us being human.

For many Jews, Christians and others, the story of the people of Israel fleeing oppression in Egypt is a touchstone of the narrative in the arc of human freedom.  It was a unifying metaphor in the Civil Rights movement, giving sustenance to those on the ground. The Exodus narrative shaped the movement in claiming the higher moral ground of inclusion.

In recent months commentators seeking to explain the movements for freedom in the Middle East have attempted to connect those aspirations to the arc of the Passover story. It is too early to tell whether the higher moral ground of inclusion will shape the new Egyptian and other Middle Eastern steps toward freedom. The Passover story led to decades of being in a literal and figurative wilderness. A new consciousness is slowly birthed.

Sustainable freedom engages the questions of what we want to be freed from and what we seek freedom for. The twentieth century is replete with triumphant liberation movements resulting in one form of tyranny or repression being replaced by another. Clarity about “freedom from” without imagining “freedom for” is not freedom.  It is often an abusive rearrangement of privilege and power. The Civil Rights movement was liberation from Jim Crow laws toward a promised land of freedom in which to realize equality. It was an invitation to a new consciousness.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim meaning a narrow or constrained place. The mystics teach that the liberation of the Hebrew people is a metaphor for freedom from a narrow consciousness, becoming free of a small vision of you. The destination of that vision is not we alone. The purpose is to recognize the sacred in others. In this view Passover is about the Exodus in the particularity of becoming awake to those things that keep us from oneness with others.  

This is the consciousness that leads many Jews to speak of repairing the world – tikkun olam. It is the practice of connecting the dots between your personal spiritual grounding and living it out with actions. The Hebrew prophet Micah describes these actions as doing justice, loving mercy and walking lightly or humbly on your journey. I call it polishing the world.

Preparing for my own observance of Passover I’m aware of my frustration and indignation about a few things. I’m appalled by suggested Medicare reform jettisoning vulnerable elderly Americans to a world of wolves in which medical care will be a distant memory. I have a visceral physical response to the stories of young girls, boys, men and women purchased to be slaves in the sex industry. The scale of this human trafficking, abroad and in the USA, makes my mind reel with questions about law enforcement and ending the violence and abuse of this new slavery.

I could choose to remain constrained by stewing or muttering about those two issues. My Passover practice is to choose to be informed and then act to make my voice heard about human trafficking and supporting access to health care for the elderly. Every action will join with those of others in collectively polishing the world. It is about freedom from devaluing the lives of some and freedom for oneness expressed in honoring the humanity of those deemed disposable.

My own vision of my self becomes more fulsome in discovering I am one with you, with others. In the Passover story Yahweh did not talk in the abstract about freedom. It was freedom yearned for in the pickle that was Egypt; liberation from injustice was the presenting cry; moving beyond the physical constraints was about freedom to create a new narrative of what it meant to be a people.

Passover invites me to pay attention to my place within the narrative of spiritual consciousness. My own liberation from the narrow places in my life shifts my spiritual positioning system.  Every Passover that attentiveness shift invites me to polish the world in unexpected ways that disrupt my life.

Freedom, liberation and exodus from Egypt did not come without courage, disruption and surprises. Our own liberation and freedom is discovered in the disruption and surprises of oneness with others.

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Freedom Beyond Your Enclosures

      

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

 Our journey is a dance between freedom and what encloses us. When we are active participants on our spiritual journey we assume responsibility for being willing to be transformed and free to grow into our magnificence.  Paul offers tools for this journey in the fifth chapter of his letter to the Galatians. How will you use those tools?

     What is an enclosure? Enclosures are self-fulfilling actions and beliefs that keep you from being who you are meant to be. When we allow ourselves to be confined by unacceptable expectations and boundaries drawn by others – such as family, culture, religion and politics – we accept an enclosure, and so define a limited us.

     When hiding behind your own particular enclosure you choose to live with a cramped heart, a squelched voice, and often, a lack of compassion for yourself—and others. While the choice to be enclosed can happen subtly over time, enclosure is no small thing. Your life is at stake! Enclosures lock you away from the fullness of joy intended for you by the Holy, and deprive the world of the gifts that only you can give—shielding you from the people who most need your influence.

     The good news is this—since we choose our way into an enclosure, we can choose to break out. Life presents us with such invitations each day.

     In a workshop I led on the pathways to becoming enlivened one of the participants raised her hand towards the end of the day and said to the group, “I’ve had an unexpected epiphany that I’d like to share.” Martha said, “I’ve spent years engaged in contemplative prayer practices. They’ve been a gift to me.  But today I’ve felt like a bird breaking out of my shell learning to sing for the first time.” The other participants leaned in listening to someone who was clearly not used to speaking in public. 

     Martha went on to talk about her practices saying, “I’ve always listened for the voice of the Holy somewhere out there” as she gestured with her arms to the space around her. “I’d never imagined what I was missing is the Holy in here” pointing to herself. Smiling broadly she added, “I feel as though I’m beginning to learn a new song. The notes and the lyrics have always been there but I’ve never paid them any attention.”

     Our own song, once recovered in us, is a gift of freedom opening a pathway to a more richly layered life.  In the months that followed I heard from Martha who kept testing her own newly reclaimed voice. She wrote saying, “I used to believe that my voice was insignificant and that it would be a selfish thing to pay attention to it. This was normal for me. As I trust my voice I’m discovering that I listen to the voices of others with new ears. And I can discern which voices to ignore. My life has been like breaking out of a thousand egg shells since that moment of epiphany with you.”

     “I’ve begun to remember the voices from my childhood” said Martha. “Voices of those who loved me but who repeatedly asked me ‘Who do you think you are?’ or ‘Why do you think such thoughts?’ I’m realizing that the voice I’m appreciating as an adult is not a new voice. It’s my voice unearthed after years of storage.” The truth being revealed was the inverse of those questions that had resulted in putting her voice into a holding pen for decades.

     We serve no one’s happiness or life by trying to fix or mend. Detaching from those whose voices insist we fix or mend their lives is an exercise in affirming the humanity of all and the Holy present in each person. Each of us can only save the life we are responsible for—our own. By detaching emotionally and spiritually we say to another person “I love you; I want your happiness; I will be actively hoping for you to recover and claim your own voice and passion. Someday I pray we will celebrate our voices finding a new harmony.”

     As Martha’s enclosures opened, she began to listen and engage with other people in a new way, unafraid of what their voices might reveal. On another occasion Martha wrote to say, “For the first time I’m appreciating the Universe and the Holy in the voice of all kinds of people. My every encounter seems different. I’m appreciative, I’m learning and I’m filled with anticipation about what I will hear.”

     Paul’s Damascus experience was an opening of an enclosure. His own life and experience of the Holy was experienced through new lenses because he chose to break out of his particular enclosure. Is this why he writes with such fervent, urgent passion about being “called to freedom”?  Is this why he offers the “fruit of the Spirit” as guideposts for the journey?

     Like my friend Martha your life and mine presents us with invitations each day to live into the freedom that the spiritual quest invites. A freedom to be fully alive, fully human. Is this part of your spiritual positioning system for the journey?

This blog was posted originally on Darkwood Brew where Robert is a guest blogger for their online discussion on Galatians

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