Browsing the blog archives for April, 2013

Made in the Imagination of Love

What does it mean to be made in the imagination of love?

Talk at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral available as a Podcast – click here

With friends at my San Francisco talk!

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“Tell me who you are” – 3 reasons to share your story

Desmond Tutu and Robert V. Taylor

This article first appeared on the opinion page of FoxNews, April 14, 2013

It was a life-shifting question from South African social rights activist and Anglican Bishop Desmond Tutu inviting me to tell him about my life – “Not what you’ve done, but who you are.”

No one had ever asked me such a question before.

Most of us expect the inevitable question of “What do you do?” from strangers. When you can respond to “Tell me who you are” a dramatic shift happens in your engagement with others and your experience of life.

It was 1980 and I was in my first one-on-one meeting with Tutu. I had decided that instead of serving in the South African military — which enforced apartheid — I would go to jail. I didn’t know if I could survive prison so I went seeking Tutu’s advice.

I was a 22-year-old privileged white kid in the presence of a 49-year-old internationally known human rights activist who was an iconic figure to me. I was honored to be in his presence and my nervousness quickly gave way to being floored by his unexpected question.

As I told him about the physical pain that had transformed my life during two spinal surgeries as a teenager I wondered why I was intuitively telling him these details. I spoke about the loneliness and fears while hospitalized for six weeks at a time.

I related how a book I read and re-read in the hospital by Trevor Huddleston had upended my life.

Huddleston described the vibrant multi-ethnic, multi-cultural community he had served outside of Johannesburg that had been bulldozed by the apartheid government because of those defining qualities.

I described Huddleston’s book as my first conscious awakening to the realities of my own country and an invitation to be involved in the anti-apartheid movement.

When I told Tutu that Huddleston had been like a visitor to me in the hospital he burst out laughing!

Desmond Tutu & Robert V. Taylor speaking at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

I wondered what I had said to evoke such a reaction.

After settling down Tutu told me of the loneliness and fears he had experienced as a teenager hospitalized with tuberculosis. Then he said, “Trevor Huddleston was my priest. He used to visit and read stories to me.”

In that moment I realized how profound Tutu’s simple question was. “Tell me who you are” is an invitation to discover who we are in oneness with others revealed through unexpected connecting stories. It is why the question matters for the sake of our well-being and that of the world.

On the surface anyone might have assumed that there not much of a common thread to our lives. Yet his question revealed shared transformation, decades apart.

On this new common ground he said that there would be a time for young men like me to go to jail for refusing to serve but that time was not now. He arranged for me to leave the country and within ten days I was on a flight to New York City.

So how do you respond to the question of “Tell me who you are” and what does it mean for your life?

Own the fullness of your story! When we are mindfully aware of the arc of our story it becomes an invitation to see the many threads woven together. Instead of banishing the painful or fearful experiences to a closet, choose a trusted guide or mentor to be authentic with.

Tell your stories in a safe environment and listen to yourself with expectancy about what they reveal or point to. Your own courage will become a mirror to loving yourself.

The fear, loneliness and physical boundaries of the spinal surgeries could have handicapped my view of myself.  I could have chosen to live with anger, resentment or pity.

Instead it offered me the gift of compassion and empathy towards others. Instead of youthful invincibility my awareness of the frailty of human life became an invitation to live life fully in every moment.

Most of us prefer the joyous, happy and wonderful experiences of our journey. Yet it is usually the challenging parts of our story that shed new light on how we choose to live with gratitude and delight.

When you own the fullness of your story, the superficiality of “tell me what you do,” becomes a poor substitute for “tell me who you are” that reveals your richly textured life egging you on to live fully alive.

Listen with curiosity. Like the ever-expanding Universe, the arc of your story reveals new insights and wisdom in each new season of your life.

Instead of living with regret, shame or embarrassment about some part of your story those defining experiences invite you to develop new tenderness and compassion toward yourself.

That combination of attentiveness and self-love takes you beyond self-absorption to a life that is enlivened by curiosity. You intuitively become engaged with others because you want to know what their story reveals. Like the unexpected connecting story that Tutu and I shared, you discover surprising connection with others. Like mine, your life is changed by those encounters.

Cultivate Awe. Studies reveal that our capacity for awe expands our sense of fulfillment, meaning and satisfaction. When I experience awe in nature, music or a soaring architectural space I am awake to being part of the grandeur of life beyond any confines of my story.  Similarly, I am awed by the stories of those who know who they are.

Lives of courage and love filled with simple and seemingly small actions of hope leave me breathless!

If I’m tempted to view my life as a series of obligations or something whose course is set, the stories of those who know who they are pull me back from that life-draining path.

Instead my awe finds expression in gratitude for the abundant generosity their lives point to. Awe becomes a pathway of celebrating our oneness.

In owning the fullness of your story with the companions of curiosity and awe your life is seen through a new lense. Instead of what you do, the knowledge of who you are transforms what it means to be human and fully alive.

How will you choose?

Post your comments below on directly on the Fox website

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Wake Up Call! – Loving You in Spite of You!


Loving yourself in spite of you is a pathway to expansive love.

I once received a gorgeous Valentine’s card with an array of colorful hearts on the cover with words proclaiming “I love you!” How sweet it was until I opened it and read, “In spite of yourself!”

Initially unsure of what to make of this, I came to see those words offering a reminder of a profound spiritual truth.

I’ve not always loved myself as much as I have loved others. On the journey of love I’ve learned to include those parts of my life about which there is regret, shame or ambivalence.

The result has been to be more tender and compassionate about the many facets of me. I can love me, not “in spite of myself” but “because of myself.” It’s enriched my compassion and tenderness toward others in their fullness. So how do I keep growing into the truth of a Universe whose pulse is love?


  • Name the things you love about yourself

  • Identify what you do not love about you and invite tender compassion toward them

  • Celebrate the moments of loving you because of you!

Notice how your heart of love expands toward the Holy and others.

Share a story about loving yourself here.

3 Reasons to Share Your Storyan opinion piece by Robert

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on Twitter and Facebook

©2013 Robert V. Taylor

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Wake Up Call! – A Candle in the Darkness?


When I light a candle to the darkness I say “No” to it and claim the light.

Human acts of carnage and terror are an emotional juggernaut. In my heart and tears I experience empathy with victims and their loved ones. My anger at the perpetrators is mixed with sadness and questions I cannot answer.

I can choose to remain consumed by those reactions or I can participate in banishing the darkness.

In lighting a candle I deny power to the darkness and instead join the goodness and light of the Holy and so many.

The result is a renewal of what centers me. Against shadowy rash judgments, stereotyping, hatred and lust for revenge I’m reminded that a life of compassion, oneness and justice invites different responses. In that moment I am awake to opportunities to join others in affirming the light discovered in every action and word of ours.


Responding to tragedy:

  • Light a candle saying “No” to the dark and “Yes” to the light

  • Be awake to what your emotions and reactions reveal

  • Join your words and acts with those of others to participate in goodness and light

Notice how your authentic responses to acts of tragedy expand your heart of compassion and oneness with others.

Share a story about responding to darkness or tragedy here.

Join Robert at engagements in San Francisco next weekend

3 Reasons to Share Your Storyan opinion piece by Robert on Fox News.

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on Twitter and Facebook

©2013 Robert V. Taylor

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WakeUp Call! – Your Blessings


What blessings are you willing to have fill your day?

I was on a New York subway this week as a disheveled but dignified man came into the car carrying a small milk carton as an offering plate. “If you can help me with some money I’d be grateful. But if you can spare some food I’d be just as grateful” he said. Then he added, “Have a blessed day.”

I could have assumed he was yet another panhandler. But I was captivated by his blessing freely bestowed to all.

When I got off at my stop I noticed him ahead of me heading to sit on a bench. So I sat down next to him. Hector said he was down on his luck but filled with thankfulness for all who had blessed his life over the decades.

I keep thinking of this gentle, generous man. Blessings received in his life are blessings he freely shares with others. I wondered if my day was too focused on the meeting I was heading to. What blessings would I be awake to? Which blessings would I would bestow on others? Was Hector reminding me of something?



  • Are you awake to blessings today?

  • What blessings will you bestow on others?

  • Will the blessings of your life affect how you engage with others?

Notice how attentiveness to blessings shift your experience of yourself, the Holy and others.

Share a story about blessings here.

Join Robert at engagements in Miami & San Francisco

What does Passover teach us about our spiritual consciousness – click here to read

Robert talks Gay Marriage on FOX News – click here to watch

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on Twitter and Facebook

©2013 Robert V. Taylor

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Difficult Situations

When I’m faced with a difficult situation I remember the anonymous saying “if your life is free of failures, you’re not taking enough risks.” I also think of Robert’s soothing words of love and compassion that moves mountains. Thanks for all that you do in the world and thanks for being part of my journey, Robert.

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Wake Up Call! – Loving Encouragement


Every word or act of encouragement sheds light on the path.

A friend knew that I was unusually nervous about a TEDx talk that I was making last week. She sent me an email – “I believe you will be wonderful tomorrow. Just open your heart and be yourself and the audience will recognize themselves in you.” I kept re-reading it!

Instead of seeing it only for the generous message it was, I chose to receive it as a blessing of loving encouragement.

The talk went well. I went to it thinking about the words of my friend and as I spoke I had an image of her in the audience.

It’s resulted in my gratitude for her intuitive loving encouragement when I needed it. I’m more mindful of the opportunities before me today to express my encouragement to someone.


Each day:

  • Be open to the nervousness or uncertainty of another

  • Express your loving encouragement

  • Give thanks for the person as you entrust them to the blessings of the Universe

Notice how your own life is enriched by being part of a circle of loving encouragement.

Share a story about being encouraged here.

Join Robert at engagements in Miami & San Francisco

What does Passover teach us about our spiritual consciousness – click here to read

Robert talks Gay Marriage on FOX News – click here to watch

A New Way to Be Human – available at Amazon, B&N and your local Indie book store.

Join Robert on Twitter and Facebook

©2013 Robert V. Taylor

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