Browsing the blog archives for November, 2012

Wake Up Call! – Cultivating Kindness


CULTIVATING KINDNESS EVERY DAY

Cultivating kindness grows in direct proportion to knowing your belovedness.

Keith was startled to hear himself being introduced as “A man who radiates kindness.” It was not the first thing he would have thought of to describe himself. He was flattered by the introduction but wondered what it meant.

Keith could have chosen to attribute the introduction to a generous introducer but instead engaged in conversation with trusted friends about radiating kindness in their respective lives.

The conversations revealed a common thread. Those who had journeyed to accept being unconditionally loved were tender and compassionate to themselves. Their words and actions revealed a tender compassion toward others expressed in acts of kindness.

The result is the Keith embraces kindness as a defining quality of his life. He says, “I have a renewed passion for inviting those I work with to step beyond negative self-images from family or religion. It’s life-giving to see people move toward loving themselves, to imagine unconditional love. The tender compassion they discover leads to acts and words of kindness in their daily lives.”

Call-to-Action:

Cultivate kindness each day:

  • Embrace your belovedness

  • Allow tender compassion toward yourself to ground your day

  • Be awake to opportunities to be kind toward others each day

  • Appreciate the kindness of others

Notice how your spiritual grounding shifts when tender compassion expressed as kindness becomes part of the flow of your day.

Share your story of cultivating kindness here.

Give a gift of A New Way to Be Human this holiday – avaialbe at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store

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©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Wake Up Call! – Choosing Thankfulness


CHOOSING THANKFULNESS

Expressing thankfulness each day enlivens your life.

My first experience of Thanksgiving as a twenty-two year old immigrant to the USA was filled with amazement at this holiday! Beyond the pumpkin pies it offered me an invitation. Could the spirit of the holiday be incorporated into my everyday life and what would that mean?

I could have chosen to focus only on joy of this new holiday experience but instead also chose to become mindful about embracing a thankful way of life.

Years later it has become part of the rhythm of my life to begin each day with expectant gratitude for a person with whom I will talk or meet. At the close of each day I offer thanks for at least one person and experience of the day.

The result is that Thanksgiving has become more than my favorite holiday – it is a choice about how to live. In the more difficult times its gift is even more radiant. Thankfulness reminds me of my oneness with others creating wonder about our interconnectedness.

Call-to-Action:

In your daily life:

  • Choose to be thankful

  • Begin and end each day with a practice of thankfulness

  • Be aware of opportunities for thankfulness for others, nature and life itself

Notice how your mindful choice to live a life of thanksgiving enlivens you and others.

Share your story of thankfulness here.

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

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©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Living Authentically

I am an ordained Unity minister serving a church in Ames, Iowa. I have a daughter who is transgendered and transitioning to male, although she defines herself as gender queer. My other daughter is straight and happily married. Their father and I divorced after he came out of the closet in 1989. It was the best thing he could have ever done for all of us. It allowed us all to live authentic lives and be the individual beings that we are. I have been happily remarried for 16 years. I live in a state where gay marriage is legal and I am delighted to perform this ceremony whenever I am asked. When I hear people say that marriage is between a man and a woman, I want to speak up and say, “NO IT IS NOT! You are confusing form with the essence of marriage!” Marriage is between two people who love each other and are willing to make a commitment to each other. No exceptions!

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De-Stress the Holidays

This blog first appeared in the Huffington Post, November 16, 2012

Holiday stress is an ironic reality for many. The anxiety that such stress produces is a sharp counterpoint to the holiday spirit of joy, peace, goodwill and gratitude! The good news is that instead of being captive to the stress, our mindful choices invite a de-stressing that is life-giving.

Here are four de-stressors that I and those I work with have experienced as transforming practices for holiday get-together s.

Appreciative Energy. As you prepare for a holiday gathering of friends or family, engage in “appreciative energy.” Visualize each person who will be present and then express your appreciation of one quality about her or him to yourself. For some, you will appreciate several qualities. For the challenging or quirky people in your circle, the act of appreciation allows you to step beyond life-draining energy that the relationship causes and instead allow yourself to enter into life-giving energy.

Be present and aware of the thing you are appreciative of in each person as you get ready to attend the holiday gathering. Your stress level decreases as you allow appreciative energy to ground you.

Spiritual Association. At work in my kitchen preparing for a celebratory gathering I realized that tension among a few guests had created a low-level anxiety and stress in me about how this might be played out in public. As I cooked I used a familiar practice of turning to images from a variety of spiritual traditions and associating one or more with each guest.

The images I associated with each guest included the “One who Plays” and the “Flute-Playing God” from the Hindu tradition, the “Nourisher” from Islam, the Sikh “Destroyer of Fear,” the Christian “Lover of Souls” and the Jewish “God of the Womb” and “God of the Breasts.” These playful, nurturing and tender images created a space in which I could mindfully anticipate each guest. While I could not repair the tension among a few, my stress dissipated in the images revealing something magnificent in each one.

Story Power. If there is a bigoted wildcard among the guests at a gathering, allow your stress to be replaced by the power of your authentic stories. One person I worked with said she was on the verge of withdrawing from family gathering because of the racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic comments of a few. Instead she chose another path. In response to anti-immigrant comments she told a story about the undocumented Latino family she worked with at a local community center. When faced with anti-gay jokes she told the story of attending the wedding of two women colleagues.

Your own story is filled with stories that reveal your joy and delight in the human family. Instead of trying to rebuff the bigot in the family share a story. You will be inviting another person to an unexpected meeting ground of oneness.

Detox Choice. If there is a person whose toxicity is untenable or threatening in some way, make a choice. You are not compelled to attend an event with them or obliged to invite that person to something you are hosting. Remember that in French, the root word for love and courage are the same. If your choice involves invites courage from you it will be an expression of love for yourself and your other guests. And love for yourself and others will be expressed in the courage to choose to detox a gathering.

Holiday stress is an oxymoron. Your choices can de-stress the holidays and allow the spirit of joy, goodwill, gratitude and peace to be present. Along the way seek out those who are grounded in delight, playfulness and wonder. They will become a mirror reflecting those qualities in you.

Post your holiday de-stress ideas or comments below or directly on the Huffington Post site

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Wake Up Call – For Goodness Sake!


FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

The energy of your goodness helps to polish the world

Rene and his kids were at a supermarket buying groceries to be delivered to needy families for Thanksgiving. The clerk commented on the purchase. Dealing with a stressful day and trying to get his kids to a choir rehearsal Rene was focused on getting out of the store quickly.

Rene could have chosen not to engage in conversation but instead chose to talk about why this purchase was important to his family.

He said, “When I told her who they were for she beamed and the way she packed them seemed different; she was personally sending a blessing to the recipients.” The shift in energy was palpable.

The result is that Rene has new appreciation for how a small act of goodness and conversation about it invites others to be participants in polishing the world. Back in the same store a few days later with his kids the same clerk called out to him, “Thank you” she said, “Because of our conversation I also got a list from the food pantry so I could buy food for others.”

Call-to-Action:

In every conversation and encounter:

  • Be aware of daily invitations into goodness

  • Appreciate how your choice to engage with goodness shifts the energy of each encounter

  • Be thankful for every small opportunity to polish the world

Notice how your engagement with goodness enlivens your life and that of others as you collectively polish the world.

Share your story of goodness at work here.

Click here to watch the book trailer for A New Way to Be Human

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©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared in the Washington Post November 2, 2012

My mom longed for a gay wedding. Specifically, my gay wedding.

In the months before she died, her repetitive question was: “When will you and Jerry be married?”

I offered, “When it is legal in Washington State.” I don’t know if her declining health and the impermanence of life drove her insistent questioning. At 79, she had done a 360-degree turn on her gay son. I wish she were alive to watch history being made on Election Day, when Washington voters seem poised to join those in Maine and Maryland in approving marriage equality.

When mom first asked the question about our marriage, I wondered if her lifelong mischievousness and proclivity to stir the proverbial pot was at work. While that was part of her DNA, she had also acquired a new perspective from living with us in the United States for a year. She freely offered her unsolicited critiques of U.S. laws on topics from gun control to marriage equality.

“Can you imagine,” she said reflecting on her life in South Africa, “we approved marriage for couples like you a decade ago.” With a twinkle in her eye she added, “Are you all just slow or scared of marriage?” Her capacity to change and become more generously expansive about life was instructive and hopeful.

Like many LGBT people, I remembered all too clearly the night of my coming out to my parents over three decades ago and the ensuing years fraught with volatile tension. Her anger at herself, my dad and me found expression in going to see our pastor to tell him that I was gay in order to try to prevent me from being ordained in a church that she knew all too well was homophobic.

But here she was, decades removed from that terror, on a farm in rural Eastern Washington, longing for a gay wedding! She and my father had been married for 53 years and she never fully reconciled to her grief following his death in 2006. Over tea one afternoon she brought out photographs of their wedding day, telling stories about each person in the wedding party. Unexpectedly she said, “I know you two love each other like we did; someday you’ll treasure the photos of your wedding.”

That afternoon she wanted me to know how pleased she was that we had decided not to get married in New York or Massachusetts, because her physical challenges would prevent traveling to the wedding. She was glad it would be in Washington so that she could attend! She wondered aloud what we would wear. This really was going to be her gay wedding.

The arc of her journey was one in which fear, anger and disillusionment over having a gay son had been replaced with pride, tenderness and hope. It mirrors the journeys that tens of millions of Americans are making about marriage equality.

I miss that she is not here to track the developments around the upcoming ballot initiatives on marriage equality along with the bonus of her freely offered unfiltered comments.

If the people that I speak to in rural Eastern WA are anything to go by, there are countless parents and grandparents, siblings and other family members in small towns and cities across America who are thinking about freedom to love and freedom to marry. Their gay and lesbian family members are no longer objects of fear, grief, terror and hushed conversations. Instead we are people whose love they know; a love that invites and demands equality.

Mom will be here in spirit to celebrate the ballot box victories: both our wedding, and her wedding.

Post your stories or comments below

 

 

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Wake Up Call! – Re-Engaging with Life


RE-ENGAGING WITH LIFE

Grief is transformed when we re-engage with life.

Penny’s grief at the death of her son from a drug overdose seemed inconsolable. In spite of having supported her son through rehab programs she wondered if something else could have been done. She says, “I wasn’t sure how I would carry on.”

Penny could have chosen to be immersed in grief but instead chose to honor her son by choosing a different path.

“I decided to give up a cerebral professional life and go back to school to get a master’s in social work. I hoped that by working with kids on the edge I could offer a path beyond despair and drugs.”

The result is a life that Penny says has expanded her heart and understanding of those grappling with addiction and despair. “My personal spirituality which sustained me through my son’s death grew into a spirituality of compassion and hope engaged with others. My loss is still real but my choices have brought me unexpected new life, hope and even happiness.”

Call-to-Action:

In your own loss, grief or despair:

  • Honor the reality of your experience and emotions

  • Be aware of what the Universe invites you into

  • Expect to re-engage in life with compassion and tenderness

Notice how your choices to re-engage result in a more richly textured way of living in the present.

Share your story of re-engaging with life here.

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©2012 Robert V. Taylor

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