Browsing the archives for the Connecting with Your Imagination category

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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How to end relationship dysfunction

This excerpt for A New Way to Be Human was published on Beliefnet.com February 2013 with permission of the publisher New Page Books

Risky invitations interrupt the imagined or assumed course of your life, raising the stakes right where you struggle the most. Responding to these invitations takes you beyond your comfort zone, inviting transformation and an enlarged understanding of yourself, others and the Holy. The murder of Steve Biko in 1977 presented me with a risky invitation.

“Biko’s death cannot go unanswered,” I said. “None of us want to sit back and be passive do we?” asked Maureen as she looked around the room where seven of us sat cradling mugs of tea. We all shook our heads in silent agreement. I said, “It’s why we’re here. I feel helpless and I want to do something.” We were beginning to respond to a risky invitation. I had no idea that the journey we were about to embark on would reveal so much about being spiritually and physically present.

Steve Biko was a hero to many of us. In 1977, while being held in custody he was killed by the authorities. In an attempt to crush the reactions to his death all public gatherings of more than three people had been declared to be illegal.

In his death I realized that the government’s desire to control, to dehumanize and to deny happiness to others was like a voracious demon with an insatiable appetite. As we sat with Maureen’s question one person said, “We can begin by praying.” I suggested, “What if our prayers become part of an eight day fast leading up to Biko’s funeral?” The willingness to give something up in order to be awake to new possibilities stood in contrast to the lust to deny the humanity of others that would stop at nothing to achieve its goal.

As our small group of students and faculty planned a fast built around prayer, meditation and discussion our raw emotions ranged from anger and disbelief to mourning and lamentation. “What if we took some visible action?” I then quickly added, “As much as praying let’s engage people in thinking about what is happening in our country.”

“But what about the ban on public gatherings of more than three people?” someone asked. I felt fear at the mention of this ban because I knew that contravention of it would result in harsh actions from the authorities for whom human lives were dispensable. I said, “Let’s think about a procession of mourners in which you only see one mourner at a time.” The idea electrified the group. Quickly we decided that the university’s tradition of wearing black academic gowns in the dining halls at night could become the dress code of a planned procession whose route would be through the main street of the college town.  One person at a time would travel the route wearing a black gown, carrying a wreath in their hands. So our protest march of mourning and lamentation was born as a companion to the fast.

Two days later the phone rang in my dorm.  “Please withdraw from this fast and protest,” my parents demanded. They had seen the photograph of me in the protest march which had appeared in several South African newspapers. “We’re scared for your safety. You know what happens to people who speak up in this country.”

As they implored me to “be quiet” I said, “What if people had spoken out against the Nazis?  What if we worked for the humanity of every person instead of rejecting, excluding or killing?” Our conversation ended tersely.

I woke up in the early hours of the morning thinking about the conversation with my parents. At seven o’clock I was in the chapel for our morning meditation time. I finally interrupted the silence and said, “Let’s attend Biko’s funeral.” No sooner had I uttered the word than I thought, “You must be crazy Robert!”

On the day of the funeral we left early on a bus that would drive us several hundred miles to the football stadium in which it would be held. Our small band of college students quickly noticed the helicopters flying overhead and the talk about police informers photographing those present. We entered a stadium filled with more than thirty thousand people.

At the end of the funeral a very short man appeared on the stadium field. He told the crowds, “God loves you. Please be God’s partners in love. If you take up violence you will become just like those who have killed Biko.” He begged the mourning crowd to find another way to end apartheid. “With violence you will lose your humanity” he said. This man of small stature with a towering message was Desmond Tutu. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand. Every person was straining forward so as not to miss a single word or inflection.

Back at the campus a South African curry with its intriguing blend of spices, vegetables and meat that had simmered for hours, seemed to be a fitting meal for the breaking of our fast. Over the meal we spoke about Tutu’s invitation that continued to reverberate in our conversation. One person said, “He treated everyone like an adult with a choice to make about where our hearts belong.”

In responding to being both physically and spiritually present in this time of turmoil I began to understand the pathway of responding to risky invitations.

When you clutch at the imagined certainties of your life you keep life at bay, and drain and distance yourself from your journey with the Holy. To turn back from the risky invitations of your journey is to trifle with life by willfully denying yourself the fullness of who you are meant to be.

The risky invitations are much more than a surprise disrupting your familiar patterns; they are a gift connecting you with others in new mindfulness about what it means to be fully human. Our lives are replete with refusals and acceptances. It is never too late on your journey to develop mindful openness to the risky invitations presented to you.

Read my in A New Way to Be Human available at Indie bookstores, B&N and Amazon

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Have you had your holy surprise today?

Robert V. Taylor

This piece was first published on Fox.com February 10, 2013

A holy surprise will grab your attention. Holy surprises are the events and people which interrupt the expected plans of your day. When you live with awareness of them your own humanity is enriched and expanded. Will you choose to allow them to punctuate your day with their invitation to playful delight about life?

For many people the work week, a job, family dynamics, a marriage or their own self-image is something to be endured.  They have become so practiced at “survival” that the endurance seems normal when in fact it is life and spirit sapping.  It serves no one for this to be your “reality.”

Instead, these four tips for choosing to be present to holy surprises invite you to a more enlivened experience of life.

1. Live beyond the “If only” half-script of your life.

I frequently hear people suggest that “If Only” a particular circumstance were different then they would be ready to embrace the yearnings of their lives. This only cedes your life to fear. It results in you becoming a bystander to your own being and purpose.

Holy surprises are the events and people which interrupt the expected plans of your day. When you live with awareness of them your own humanity is enriched and expanded.

It is on the edge of my fears that I am open to even small steps that become a pathway to transformed living. I once allowed my fear of failure to keep me from writing. I thought that if it was not excellent enough it would disappoint those around me and the institution I served. Too many of us allow others to keep us from our script.

A half-script is a gatekeeper to life. When we view events or people that rattle our complacency or awaken our fear of ourselves as a holy surprise we discover that they are an invitation to make choices to live into our own script. Our choice to respond to the surprise invites others to do the same and experience a life of richer engagement and delight.

2. Cultivate imagination each day

My maternal grandmother was born in Nazareth in the Holy Land. When I was young she would tell me Bible stories with graphic descriptions of the landscape and characters. They were tremendous!

Decades later I realized that her Bible stories often bore little resemblance to the book she was referencing. Her imagination engaged me and the kernels of wisdom and truth of the stories remade in her imagination seemed radiant.

Somewhere between the age of 6 and 8 many children are told to stop being “so silly” in exercising their imagination. In the creation stories of many religious traditions we learn that humanity is made in the image a Creator. But what if you think of yourself as being made, not in the image of, but the imagination of the ever-creating, ever-expanding Universe?

The closest word to “human” in Hebrew or the Latin homo is Adam which derives from the Hebrew root word for “imagination.” To be human is to participate in limitless imagination! Cultivating imagination allows us to experience the holy surprises that interrupt our days with new eyes.  Instead of disbelief, fear or resistance, we greet them as possibilities engaging our imaginative self.

3. Expect life to engage you with unexpected people.

Our own story is not a personal treasure for only ourselves and those within the circle of comfortable friends. When we can hold the diverse elements of our story together – including wonder, shame, regret and joy – there is a seamlessness about who we are that reveals wisdom and truth in the arc of our story. The result is a new and heightened compassion for yourself and others.

When you share your story with others you experience curiosity about their story. It becomes a common, sacred meeting ground with unexpected people who are not in the usual orbit of your life. Real differences may still exist with unexpected people on this expanded field of life but it is marked by anxiety making room for delight.

The professional and business groups I work with yearn to know how a story can be used to engage more authentically with colleagues and clients. Whether it is in your professional or personal life, the holy surprise of engaging with unexpected others through story allows suspicion to give way to insights previously unimagined. Oneness with humanity is no longer a theory but a delight.

4. Choose to bring new life to others and yourself.

When you engage in acts of generosity or self-giving your happiness index increases. Instead of being overwhelmed by seemingly inextricable problems in the world or your community be open to a holy surprise inviting you to respond with a simple action.

Walking on a Florida beach I was surprised by a bevy of volunteers marking off sites on the beach with stakes and tape. They were protecting the loggerhead turtles’ nesting ground in the sand. One volunteer told me he was inspired to do this work after learning that only one of every one thousand eggs laid results in a surviving turtle. I marveled at his simple yet joyous response in becoming a midwife to the turtles.

The surprise is often presented by an opportunity. A grandson noticed his 84-year-old grandmother’s delight in surfing the Internet and using Facebook to keep up on her large family. He knew that her old computer could not be used for watching the videos posted of her great grandchildren. He decided to buy her an iPad. The grandmother relishes the new tool she has for connection and learning.

Will you allow these four tools for embracing holy surprises to grab your attention each day? Your own well-being will be expanded by the playful delight you discover.
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Loving Abandonment

Robert V. Taylor

This article first appeared in Watkins’ Body, Mind, Spirit (UK) Spring 2013 issue

If there is to be a day of reckoning the only question to be answered is, “Did you love with abandonment?” Living life awake to that question is where we discover a new way to be human.

The disengagement and helplessness that so many people choose makes them bystanders to their own lives and the world. It does not have to be so. Instead, it is possible to choose a new way to be and discover that the world desperately needs your voice, story, imagination and delight as much as you do. It is an invitation to a spirituality of being fully alive.

The Holy or sacred is infinitely more expansive and generous than the often narrow confines of any one religion. I admire those who are spiritual but not religious for engaging in life-changing practices of love and compassion that religion often only tips its hat to. I experience awe in observing the way in which the seven pathways of A New Way to Be Human find expression in those who mindfully live lives of generous compassion and profound inter-connection with others.

So what are some of the stepping stones to anchor your life in loving with abandonment?

In my first one-on-one meeting with Desmond Tutu in 1980 I asked for his advice on how to survive imprisonment for refusing to serve in the South African military that enforced apartheid. I was unprepared for his question, “Tell me about your life Robert – not what you’ve done, but who you are.” It transformed how I think about and experience life.

In the story I told Tutu we discovered an unexpected connection and through it a sacred meeting ground that revealed not our difference, but our shared transformation decades apart. With that he organized for me to leave South Africa immediately and head to New York City.

“Tell me who you are” is an invitation to know your story with all of its many elements – joy, shame, wonder and regret. Appreciating and integrating each of these elements we develop tenderness and compassion toward ourselves and therefore toward others. It opens up a life of curiosity, attentive listening and delight in the connecting stories that surprise and remind us of our oneness. In the arc of your story ancient wisdom and the Holy are revealed. If that is true for you, how can you resist discovering those truths in others?

All too often we live behind an enclosure in which we allow others – perhaps family, religion or culture – to squelch our voice and keep us from being participants in expanding divinity. Claiming and celebrating your voice often takes you to the edge of your life where you discover the center.

Claiming and celebrating your voice often takes you to the edge of your life where you discover the center.

Your journey to the edges is what disturbs others as they try to clutch on to life as they know it. Their bad advice is not offered because they are bad people but because your journey to a more generous, expansive life disturbs them. In suggesting “should, would and could’s” about your life they attempt to enclose you from the journey in which generous love, compassion and courage are revealed in claiming your voice.

This is important because grounded in your story and voice you enter into oneness between yourself, the Holy and the Universe. There you discover that you are made in the imagination of the ever-expanding, ever-creating Universe. Cultivating and celebrating imagination alive in you invites you to be an active participant in the enterprise of loving with abandonment.

A New Way to Be Human, Career Press

The Universe yearns for your imagination to be fully alive acknowledging the sacred within you and becoming a midwife to the expansion of divinity. The old way of being seduces you into believing that your voice, actions and imagination do not matter. The new way to be says that your every contribution is of inestimable worth to the ecosystem of life.

The criticism of spirituality is that it is often obsessive about self-realization with little accountability or connection to the human family or Creation. Self-worth is only as worthy as the ability to place extraordinary value on the lives and worth of all. The new way to be assumes that we do not and cannot live in isolation from the human family and Creation. It is in the very circumstances, cruelties and joys of daily life that we are invited to imagine the world not as it is, but as it might be.

When I seek my own well-being and happiness I intuitively want those same things for others. When that grounds my way of being every word, action and choice that I am awake to becomes part of polishing the world. Imagination, love, compassion and well-being are part of a circle that cannot exist without you, me or any other sentient being. In loving with abandonment the luminosity of our oneness is revealed.

On this journey the risky invitations that upset the imagined course of our lives or the hairpin curves which disturb our journey are invitations to go to the edge of our fears. The doubts that our fears reveal are grand birth-givers of new consciousness. The disillusionments we fear reveal unexpected blessings.

These pathways are not revealed or entered into in one moment of nirvana or in elegant order.  They’re experienced like the path to the center of a labyrinth whose surprising curves invite us to pay attention to where the center will be discovered. If that center is love, we are invited to know what grounds our heart. Your own story reveals the many places and people who illuminate your heart center. It offers a choice between detaching from the hubris and noise of life-draining energy and choosing the life-giving energy of those people and places that ground your heart and make it your home.

Your own story reveals the many places and people who illuminate your heart center. It offers a choice between detaching from the hubris and noise of life-draining energy and choosing the life-giving energy of those people and places that ground your heart and make it your home.

Each of these pathways is illuminated by cultivating a spirituality of delight, wonder and playfulness.  It is vital to your well-being and that of others. Lucy, my chocolate Labrador, is a constant companion reminding me to take time from my work to enter her exuberant joy in a walk or playing fetch.

Although I relish preparing meals for friends, strangers and family it is in the ordinariness of everyday encounters that I feast most often. Each day I invite myself to be present to the delight and wonder of a simple feast experienced in being present to another person over tea or coffee or in conversation with the salesperson in the grocery store.  In moments of feasting, playfulness or awe I am reminded that the holy surprises of delight are as much fuel for my journey as the more obvious transformative moments of my journey.

The new way to be human is a path of spiritual generosity and loving abandonment discovered by living in the now of each day, receiving it as a gift. My doubts and fears may still be real but they are companions of truth inviting me to stop clutching at life and enter into it. It is a journey in which being fully alive is embraced and welcomed with the abandonment of loving oneness.

Robert V. Taylor is a speaker, teacher and author. His book A New Way to Be Human: 7 Spiritual Pathways to Becoming Fully Alive has been endorsed by Deepak Chopra, Desmond Tutu and Bernie Siegel. He is Chair of the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation in New York City. Robert lives in Seattle and on a farm in rural Eastern Washington State.

 

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To change your life in 2013 choose a new word

Robert V. Taylor

This first appeared on Foxnews.com as an opinion piece December 30, 2012

The New Year is an invitation to enliven your spirit and life rather than making another burdensome resolution that will quickly be consigned to dust. Choose a word as your guide or mantra for the year – a word that reflects your yearnings or takes you to the edge of your fears.

Your chosen word becomes your pathway for experiencing a new way to be in the year ahead. My resolutions from years past filled a closet with wistful longings as easily abandoned as the cheap pronouncements with which I had made them.

Eventually I gave up on the obligatory ritual and enjoyed the peace that ensued from avoiding unrealistic self-inflicted pressure.

But something was missing.  Like many who I have worked with over the years, the start of a new year kept presenting a nagging invitation to re-examine and recalibrate my life. Acknowledging the importance of ritual in our lives, I wondered if a different possibility existed to embrace a new year.

In conversation with a wise friend we discussed the importance of language and the inherent power revealed in the nuances and interpretations of a single word.  In that moment I wondered about choosing a single word to focus on for a year. It was a liberating moment of almost giddy glee!

In the intervening years a few constant themes have emerged in my conversations with those who embrace this practice.  People describe a desire to move beyond resignation about their life and choose pro-active steps that enliven their lives. The willingness to go to the edge of your fears because you know that is where the journey to the center of your heart and spirit is most often revealed. Appreciating that cultivating your imagination, playfulness and heart space is a journey of spiritual growth.

How to choose the word can be a predicament and a richness of blessings.

If the New Year is an invitation to new growth and a deeper appreciation of how we choose to be in the world the word chosen becomes your mantra, compass or theme by which to respond to the invitations of life.

Openness, balance, compassion, delight, creativity, expression, time, love, friends, goodness, gratitude are among the words that I and others have selected in years past.

Choosing the word is not unlike trying on shoes or gloves for the perfect fit.  As you try on several words you instinctively know the one that appears to invite you into its presence.

This matters because choosing a word for a new way to be in the year ahead is not a passive activity. You will make daily choices to be present to the word and in the process it will become your truth-meter, challenger, comfort, friend and companion for twelve months.

Those who use this practice often put the chosen word on their refrigerator, nightstand, dashboard, vanity, desk, office door or even screensaver as a reminder of the choice that has been made. Many choose to speak their word out loud at the start of each day, perhaps over their first coffee, in the shower, on their commute, between appointments, at a store, exercising, cooking, readying themselves for sleep or in prayer and meditation.

In each of these ways you avoid enclosing the chosen word with your predictable understanding of it. Instead, you allow it to percolate and surprise you as your engagement with it reveals new insights and truths.

When I first embarked on this practice I wondered how steadfast a companion I would be to my chosen word. Like others, I have shared my word with a trusted friend or mentor, inviting them to hold me accountable to be present to how the word shapes my experience of choosing a new way to be.

The endless repetitions of old conversations and the negative energy that we unwittingly allow into our lives frequently derail the year long journey with the selected word. Awareness of these realities allows you to identify, name and detach from them in order to allow the spaciousness of life-giving energy to be present.

Appreciation and thankfulness are markers of the yearlong journey with your word. When you express daily or weekly gratitude for the insights of your word you begin to notice the seemingly small ways in which you embrace and make life-affirming choices.

Choosing a new way to be in the New Year with a specific word may not have the sweeping grandeur of a short-lived ephemeral resolution. It will be a choice of slowly revealed substance that deepens your appreciation of yourself and others.

It’s a choice I keep making with anticipation each year. As I prepare to greet my 2013 word – Awe – I expect it will be a source of surprise, renewal and new discoveries of how to be.
Read more, share or like: http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2012/12/30/to-change-your-life-in-2013-choose-new-word/#ixzz2HDDBD5ww

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Beyond Holiday Stress: Steps to Reclaim the Holiday Spirit

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post December 17, 2012

If you’re feeling a growing low-level anxiety about holiday stress, you are not alone! The season of joy, peace and goodwill can be reclaimed for you and your family with five intentional choices. The holidays do not have to be endured. Instead, they can be reclaimed by the choices you make!

Rethink family obligations. Like many families, Emily and Carlos have spent many Christmases on an endless shuttle with their kids, going from one family gathering to another. With both sets of their parents divorced and remarried, they felt obligated to attend four different events. After addressing the dread of this stressful routine and the crankiness it produced in their three children, they realized they had a choice. They’ve since chosen to alternate spending the holidays with two sets of parents each year. They have noticed that their choice has already relieved anxiety and stress in thinking about the holidays.

Reclaim joy! Explore possibilities for less stressful holiday experiences by expanding the season. Think about gathering friends and family for a tree-trimming party that might include an activity for children to make decorations for the tree. If your extended circle of family is scattered over the holidays because of travel, consider a January holiday party that has child-friendly games or activities. The spirit of joy is often best experienced when we do not try to cram it into one or two days!

Make a goodwill choice. Talk with your children about what the goodwill of the season means. Listen to their ideas about an act of goodwill that you can make as a family. One family volunteered at an animal rescue shelter because their 6-year-old daughter wanted animals to celebrate the holidays. Another volunteered as a family on a local river cleanup project because their 10-year-old son thought it would be a Christmas gift to the earth. A goodwill choice can become both a family experience and a teaching moment about the spirit of the holidays.

Celebrate peace. The holidays provide an opportunity to talk over the kitchen table about how you and your children think about the holiday theme of “peace on Earth.” The Hebrew understanding of peace — meaning the well-being of all — offers an entry point to conversation.

One 13-year-old expressed his concern about a classmate who was being bullied. He was looking for guidance on how to stop the bullying.

A 7-year-old said she wanted to ask her friends to bring cans of food to their Christmas party because people needed to be fed.

Inviting your family to think about peace and well-being offers the opportunity for unexpected answers from your children and the forging of a family commitment that lasts well beyond the holidays.

Expand your thinking about gifts. In this economy, many families are stressed about how to afford the multitude of gifts that they have been accustomed to buying in the past. For others, the sheer volume of gifts seems overwhelming and stress-producing. One couple has asked their family to join them in only having one wrapped gift for each child. Another has invited their family to buy gifts for only the children in the family. Others have created a holiday ritual of family gift-making, from cookies and jams to artwork. Instead of allowing gift pressure to derail and stress your holiday, creatively rethink how gift-giving can be appreciated and celebrated in new ways.

Any combination of these five steps can become part of a conscious, mindful choice to lower the stress level of the holidays for you, your children and your extended family. Instead of being a victim to holiday stress, choose a proactive path that allows you to enter their spirit and enjoyment!

Post your comments on the Huffington Post link or below

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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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Aurora – No More!

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, July 21, 2012

Beyond the grief and despair over the Aurora massacre lays an invitation – to say “No more!” There is oneness in our responses of disbelief and anger to a massacre of those watching a movie in Aurora, Colorado. What if we believed in the possibility and power we possess to change the conversation about gun control?

Like many I’ve lit a candle for those killed and injured and for their loved ones. I’ve mindfully said out loud the name of each person killed where that information is known. Along with others I keep the grieving and perplexed family members in my intentions.

I’ve been surprised by the responses to my question about why we are still debating the need for tighter gun control restrictions. I know and appreciate that there are a range of views on this issue held by good, decent and thoughtful people. But I’m troubled by the despairing helplessness of so many who say that our political leaders refuse or are too scared to address the issue or that the debate is so polarized with entrenched arguments that their voice is insignificant.

They’re legitimate feelings but they are a cop-out.  They are a marker of disengagement and helplessness. Yes the political intransigence and cheap slogans of those on the extremes of the gun control debate are pervasive. But haven’t we allowed that by our silence? Instead be part of creating a new course of conversation.

Speak up. Your reactions to the Aurora massacre are vital. Give voice to them and the urgent need for a rational conversation about gun control. The Constitution is clear about the right of any citizen to bear arms but that is different than the arsenal of weapons that the Aurora killer was able to acquire legally. Your right, and that of every American, to safety and security without fear of being massacred is at issue.

Teach our leaders about civility. The name calling of those with opposing points of view denigrates public debate about issues and is nothing less than an abdication of leadership. Be clear that you expect adult conversation that is civil.  Call people out when civility is lacking. Model civility in the midst of different opinions.

Respect differing opinions.  Allowing others to be demonized because they do not share your view is the easiest way to cede your voice and power to those who have no intention of engaging in discussion that matches the seriousness of the massacres experienced in Aurora and Seattle among other places. Insist that our leaders frankly address the implications of their position so that the possibility of further Aurora’s become a remote possibility if not impossible.

Assume the goodness of others until proved otherwise.  Most leaders are in their fields because they have a desire to make the world a more just and better place. Engage them on gun control with that assumption. Be clear that you need to know how their position and actions will impact public safety and reduce the possibility of another Aurora massacre of innocent people.  Keep asking until they can tell you about expected impacts and results.

Our voice and imagination about how things might be are vital to our own humanity and the world needs the voice and imagination of each person – without it we are all deprived.  What we say, hope and do matters!

To speak up, model civility to our leaders, show them how to respect different opinions and assume the goodness of others is a life-giving way of honoring those injured and killed in the Aurora massacre and their loved ones. How will you claim the invitation that this tragedy invites to say, “No more!”

Join the conversation – post your comments below

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Discovering a New Way to Be Human and Polish the World

This blog interview appeared on the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation website on June 11, 2012

We don’t often stop to think about how the way we choose to manifest our unique humanity impacts ourselves and the world around us.  We are not conscious of the limitations we place on ourselves by old ways of being.  Yet we live in a world that needs our courage, creativity and imagination.

In his best selling book, A New Way to Be Human, nationally recognized speaker and author Robert V. Taylor explores the question of how we can each leave a footprint of compassion in the world by tapping into our personal spirituality and innate values.  We had the opportunity to talk with him recently about his ideas for more fully realizing our human potential.

 

DTPF What motivated you to write A New Way to Be Human?

RVT To invite readers to be happy and change the world. The sense of helplessness and disengagement that so many people feel about the world – “My voice doesn’t matter; my actions don’t really count” – leads you to clutch at life. There is another way! To live into the fullness of being human; to discover your magnificence and the truth that the world needs your active engagement as much as you do. The book invites readers into a more fulsome, happy and engaged new way to be human.

DTPF You speak in your book about connecting with stories – our own and those of others. How do we know which stories are the most important to share?

RVT Listen for the ones that make you feel alive, along with those that scare you. Pay attention! When you know your story and can be compassionate about every part of it – the wonder, regret, shame and joy – you tell it knowing that eternal wisdom and truth is revealed through you story. You then find yourself listening compassionately to the stories of others, attentive to the eternal truths and wisdom being revealed. Not every story is safe to share with just anyone but you will know that intuitively. Sharing your story you discover common ground with the most unexpected people. As you share who you are – not just what you do – your stories remind you that we need one another in order to be human. It’s a life-changing way of living each day and claiming your voice in the world.

Archbishop Tutu & Robert V. Taylor

DTPF One of the ideas you discuss in A New Way to Be Human is the limitations – enclosures – that we allow ourselves and others to place around us. What is the best way to recognize the enclosures we experience in our lives so that we can address them?

RVT Become aware of the things that you resist doing or think you’re not good enough or loved enough for. Beware of choices that are driven not by your passion and desire but by the needs of others or the habit of pleasing them. Each of those things constrains you, holding you back from your magnificence. They squelch your voice and cramp your compassion. You serve no one’s good by hiding behind whatever encloses you from being fully alive, happy and engaged. The book offers practical tools for stepping beyond what encloses you from your fullest self.

DTPF You talk in your book about reflecting the imagination of the Holy and “polishing the world?” What exactly to you mean by that?

RVT Our greatest failures come from a lack of imagination. When you chose to embrace your imagination life is different. Instead of looking at the world and accepting it the way it is you imagine the way it can be. That’s engaging and enlivening! Every seemingly small action that you do to make something better in the lives of others, in your community, school or in world helps to change and polish the world. What you do matters! Your actions allow the humanity of others to flourish. Lives and communities have a new shine to them!

DTPF One memorable story in your book has to do with your friend Joe who had stopped following the news because it ultimately made him feel helpless. This is something that many people experience today. Can you tell us how Joe was able to turn that deeply felt negativity around in his life?

The Los Angeles launch of A New Way to Be Human at LACMA

RVT Joe heard the challenge of a good friend to stop being disengaged and to see in the news an invitation to be part of changing the story line from bad to good news! Of course there are lots of terrible things in the world. But when we sit back we give them power. We are hard wired for love and compassion and we know it when discover life-giving energy by choosing to do something. As Joe responded to his friend’s challenge he found that he was drawn to stories about girls and young women denied education in many parts of the world. The bad news of those stories led him to learn about people and organizations doing something to give women access to education. It is probably one of the most transformative changes imaginable for the human family. So Joe got involved in an organization working in partnership with local organizations to provide that access. It’s changed his life. He’s no longer a helpless victim of life. He’s become an active participant in change and says he’s more fully alive because of it.

DTPF Many of us grow up being told that to think of others is virtuous, but that thinking of one’s self is not. How can your book help us better understand the difference between looking inward with love to learn who we are versus just being egotistical?

RVT Loving yourself is the greatest lesson and gift you will ever receive! You develop tenderness for yourself – warts and all. When you love yourself without conditions you want your own well-being. That’s where you discover happiness and how to be happy. With each step you take you become more compassionate about yourself. But none of this is a personal treasure to hoard. You discover that other people are loveable too – with all of their quirks. You can’t help but yearn for their well-being too. You desire happiness for all people. Loving yourself is the exact opposite of being egotistical! It makes you more fully human and alive because you realize that we need one another, that we’re inter-connected. Self-love becomes a generous outpouring of love for others.

DTPF You share a great quote in your book related to “limitless imagination.” You shared the story of a woman, Zelda who, because of the demands of her corporate career, was denying the “invitation to let go of the pause button” on her imagination. How can each of us learn to let go of the pause button on our own imagination?

RVT Listen to the tweets that your passions send you! There may be just one thing that you’re passionate about, that makes you feel alive. Pay attention – it’s the Universe inviting you to live life fully with whatever your gift is. That’s where you discover limitless imagination. When you choose to not listen to your passions and imagination you hit the pause button on your life. Imagine if any of your heroes had paused their imagination – the environmental, civil rights, gender equality, LGBT and other movements exist because of imagination that is alive and engaged! The world needs your imagination at work every day as much as you do – it’s how change happens.

DTPF How would you describe being “at home in your heart” to a group of young people today?

RVT Listen to your heart! Science reminds us that our heart and brain are connected and when we only live in our head space we miss out on our heart pointing us to happiness, purpose and meaning. Celebrate the people and places who make your heart space alive and detach from the toxic people whose energy limits your ability to be at home in your heart. Allow your heart to feed your intuitive response to the people, places and causes that make you at home by filling you with life-giving energy.

DTPF What is the most important idea your book can offer a young person who wants to better their lives and those around them?

RVT Love yourself and share that love! Be kind to someone today, speak out on something you care about, take an action to make the world a more just place. Love – it’s in your DNA. Love like it’s the best day of your life.

Post your comments below or join the conversation about this interview on the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation website

Robert’s new book A New Way to be Human is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and your local Indie bookstore

 

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Is Good News Underrated?

Robert V. Taylor

Watching the news is often an exercise in testing your endurance about crises, disasters and heart-breaking stories.  The tsunami of bad news buries the abundance of good news stories that exist. If we are what we surround ourselves with then paying attention to the good news stories alters our experience of being alive.

A man I know was determined to stop watching or reading the news because he said it made him feel helpless and despondent. A friend of his challenged him – “There’s an invitation in the news inviting you to respond to an issue and become a participant in repairing the world.” It was a transformative challenge for him.

Finding himself repeatedly drawn to stories about the lack of access to education plaguing young girls around the world he began to educate himself on the issue and ultimately give of his time to work with others to build schools aimed at educating girls in Africa and Asia. His life has been changed by the work he has become passionate about. He says, “I’ve become a proselytizer seizing every opportunity to talk with anyone I can about the need to educate girls. I tell stories of the amazing work people are doing!”

His proactive response to the challenge of the bad news that had overwhelmed him is a story of good news. Some media platforms are responding to the yearning for good news.  With its CNN Heroes awards and features CNN has tipped its hat to highlighting positive transformative stories of ordinary people putting compassion and hope to work.

Huffington Post has taken a bold step in launching their Good News platform to counter the cynicism that much of the news invites. Arianna Huffington says that, “Those of us in the news media have provided too many autopsies of what went wrong and not enough biopsies.” She has raised the bar and that is worth cheering!

With every act of compassion, with every idea implemented to improve the lot of others, with each word of kindness the experience of being human and being alive is transformed. The courage, imagination and voice of each of us have a cumulative energy and power to polish the world.

The real crisis and heart-breaking stories invite us in, reminding us of our common humanity and our need for one another. The mantra of media executives is that the titillating, the scandalous and the invented crises are what the public responds to or craves. That presumption and the life-draining news that results from it can only be changed by you and me.

In neighborhoods, offices, community groups, families and towns across the country the stories of the good abound. When you intentionally tell those stories you create a different energy. When you interject a conversation about gloom and doom news with positive stories you shift the narrative of what is possible, of what it means to be human.

The negative news is highly overrated. The way to change those ratings is to engage with the positive stories. Not to avoid the awful realities or crises that exists for many, but to invite ourselves and others into a fuller narrative. Good News will become more highly rated, more sought after when we make our need for it known. Social media reminds us that it lies in our hands to do that!

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