Browsing the archives for the Oneness with Self & Creation category

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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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.
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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!

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4 way to embrce and understand your spiritual-but-not-religious family members

This opinion piece first appeared on the FOX News website December 16, 2012

Across the country, parents and grandparents constantly ask me, “How do I deal with family members who don’t share my faith yet tell me that they’re spiritual (just not religious)?” I respond by telling them that holiday gatherings present an opportunity to engage and embrace them.

I often hear “My religious faith is so important to me that I don’t understand how people talk about being ‘spiritual.’” Or else they dismiss their kids or grandkids with, “Spiritual-but-not-religious just sounds like a cop-out; it’s wishy-washy to me.” Beneath such responses lie a gulf of misunderstanding that can be bridged.

The Pew Research Organization reveals that the “Nones” – those who self-identify as having no religious affiliation – now represent twenty percent of the population. For those under 30, it is thirty percent. Pew data consistently shows an upward curve in the number of people in the United States who are None. It is time to engage with them.

Among these 46 million Americans, two-thirds believe in God or a Higher Power, and half report that their spirituality is affected by a connection to nature and the earth. The Nones are shaped by their rejection of organized religion’s focus on what they describe as money, power, rules, and an over abundance of politics.

Engage and embrace them with simple steps that require two things of you: the capacity to listen attentively and remaining compassionate in your conversation. Rigid posturing or anything perceived as proselytizing will serve to only deepen the divide. Your authentic curiosity offers the possibility of new connection between you. Here are four practical steps to engage and embrace your family members:

1. Ask about a spiritual experience that has shaped their life. You are likely to hear about the importance of yoga or meditation, the experience of awe revealed in nature, or the search for leading a life in which spirituality and authenticity co-exist. The responses will reveal a life that has been expanded and transformed by participating in something bigger than them. Be willing to reflect on an experience from your own life that speaks to similar truth or revelation about your experiences of awe or a surprising experience that placed your life in the context of the sacred.

2. Engage in conversation about the importance of love and compassion. Avoid the language of religious dogma or rules unless you wish to end the conversation.

Many of the Nones view religious organizations as sidelining the central importance of compassion and love, ceding it to doctrinal purity or judgment. They place great importance on aligning acts and words about love and compassion. Most None’ are not looking for institutional based experiences but those that reveal a capacity to be generous, forgiving and responsiveness. As you talk with one another, allow yourself to be present to the conversation; in your attentiveness be willing to share your own stories of experiencing love and compassion.

3. Express your own doubts or questions about religion. Not because you intend to abandon your religion or faith but because doubt is a common shared human experience. Talking about your doubt reveals your authenticity and invites conversation. As you describe the new insights and faith practices that doubt has led you to a new landscape of connection becomes possible. Be prepared for your spiritual—but not religious — family member to draw on spiritual wisdom and practices from a variety of traditions. Be aware of how they might connect with a practice from your own religious faith.

4. Invite a conversation about how spiritual values shape your respective lives. Defensive rigidity will not enhance the conversation! The spiritual-but-not-religious, and particularly those under 35, tend to have close non-sexual friendships with persons of the opposite gender, friends from diverse religious, racial and cultural heritages and those of sexual orientations that differ from theirs.

Their spiritual values are typically inclusive and expansive. It is an enlivening way of being human to them. While they don’t necessarily expect you to fully embrace their spiritual values they will be drawn to your authentic stories of how you integrate your spiritual values with the choices you make.

In each of these four steps, be willing to engage in stories that have shaped or changed you; those that have presented an invitation to see beyond an assumed belief or view. In your stories and those of your family member a shared connecting ground will be discovered. Approach each conversation with curiosity and a willing to engage.

These four steps are usually not reserved for just one conversation, but are an opening to understanding and embracing one another. Beyond dismissing, judging or writing off the spiritual-but-not-religious each conversation will reveal a new appreciation for the depth and joy of your respective experiences of spirituality and religious faith.

In the spirit of the four steps a new tenderness, compassion and love will be discovered in your embrace of one another.

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This blog first appeared in the Huffington Post, December 3, 2012

Imagine Rachel Crow’s Mean Girls meeting the political bullies of American politics. The corrosive polarization and resulting disengagement that exists in America begs for leadership that rebuilds a civil civic conversation. Mean Girls offers some pointers for a path through the existing morass of the bully culture.

Bullies employ a variety of techniques to achieve their objective of getting what they want with scant regard for others. Spreading rumors or innuendo, diminishing another person or excluding another person are as common techniques of bullies as the more publicized physical and cyber-attacks on another.

Many reality shows create a psycho-social context in which bullying thrives. These bully shows that are part of our cultural landscape elevate bullying to an acceptable norm of behavior. When political, religious or other leaders engage in bully tactics the expected outcry is muted because bullying has become, according to experts, the most common form of violence in the United States.

Rachel Crow’s video Mean Girls has gone viral with 5 million views on YouTube for a reason. The video names the bullying culture experienced and promoted by young girls and offers some advice to end it. Our political leaders might each watch it for inspiration. It offers the wisdom that any hope of ending the bully culture lies in our hands through the choices that we make.

These lyrics from “Mean Girls” are a basic primer for anyone who wants political discourse and decision making to be elevated to a state of higher regard than it is now.

Do you want to know what I think? Our political discourse has scant regard for differing perspectives other than trying to eviscerate them. The aggressive bullying behavior of achieving your own ends for short term gain might win pyrrhic victories but it is no way to sustain a civil society.

Dignifying difference and attentive listening are useful counterpoints. The unprecedented levels of polarization in American life will shift only to the degree that we embrace the reality that a policy position we disagree with is not heinous because it is at odds with our own. It is in the bazaar of ideas that robust, opinionated discussion improves your thinking and argument.

Curiosity — whether intellectual, emotional or spiritual — and the capacity to listen attentively convey something at odds with the bully’s scant regard of another person. It is the awareness that we need one another in order to be human. When we are genuinely curious to know what others think the capacity for civil engagement expands exponentially.

I can’t believe I let it go so far. The girls in Rachel Crow’s video have a moment of realization. Instead of remaining silent, averting their eyes, ignoring the bullying or being passive they have a choice. Not unlike those who have been in an abusive or co-dependent relationship they have a realization that bullying is not and never should be the acceptable norm.

They choose a different normal. Embracing a new normal dethrones the bully from her or his self-created seat of power. The bully culture in our politics survives because we have chosen to allow their idolatrous thrones of shimmering glass to delude us. We have the choice to admit that we have let the bullies go too far.

Robert V. Taylor and USF Tampa students

Be Kind. Pairing political discourse with kindness might be an oxymoron to many. In Mean Girls young women hold their palms up into the air with the words “Be Kind” written on them as if offering a prayerful intention.

While many yearn for the political culture of bullying to be replaced with constructive engagement and legislative policy achievements surely it is not unrealistic to expect that a civility of kindness or goodness permeate the work? Beyond the demonizing, most leaders in public service entered their work with a desire to do good. Creating such a norm of behavior would be an exercise in leadership.

“Mean Girls” you no longer run my world. It is a declaration of taking responsibility and not ceding power to the bullies. Those who make their living by fomenting a culture of bullying may not appreciate this claiming of personal power and expectations about our civic life. The girls in the video do not care about ruffling the feathers of bullies. They have imagined a new normal and chosen a different path. We could do much worse than try to emulate them.

Mean Girls has gone viral because it identifies and names the bullying that we have allowed to upend our discourse and view of one another as Americans. A different future is possible in which leaders lead and the common good is celebrated in the midst of vibrant, fulsome debate. Mean Girls offers some pointers. The choice is in our hands.

How do you respond to bullying? Post your thoughts, comments and ideas below or directly on the Huffington Post link to this blog!

 

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Claiming Oneness for the Human Family?

Robert V. Taylor

This blog was first published on Huffington Post, October 24, 2012

Is Oneness among the human family a sweet mushy sentiment? Or is it a movement that can reshape how we think of ourselves and the planet? The observance of Global Oneness Day on October 24 is an invitation to align our intentions in creating Oneness. When our imagination and mindfulness are engaged, dramatic shifts in human consciousness are possible.

Oneness is not simply an idea; it is a choice about how to be human, engage with life and align our intentions and actions.  It is an intentional, mindful way of being that joins us with others in creating a more hopeful, compassionate and peaceful world.

For the last six months I’ve travelled the country on a speaking tour and I’m struck by the frequent questions around being more intentional about our inter-connectedness. It’s asked with a profound hunger for something beyond the rhetoric of political divisiveness and the arrogance of religions which teach an exclusivist theology.

If, as I believe, we are intended for Oneness then why is it not realized or more evident?  In the questions of those I talk to on the road there is a tension between their head and heart space. In their heart they have permitted the seeds of division and fear sown by religious and political leaders to build a nest. In their intellectual space they know that modern science provides empirical data that supports ancient mystic traditions about the inter-relatedness of all forms of human life.

The tension is whether to allow what we know to be true about our inter-connectedness to be trumped by a more cramped and dislocated way of being.

Instead of being enclosed by jadedness, Oneness creates awe and wonder about the world. When I am awake to appreciating that protecting the environment is indispensable to my well-being and that of others my awe at the wonder of this intricate ecosystem of life expands how I see my place in the world.

Instead of being fearful of difference, Oneness allows me to be grounded in the truth that each person seeks happiness in their life.  This shared yearning allows me to see beyond those who foment division by living a life of intentionally seeking a meeting ground on which happiness for all is sought by the acts we take and the words we use.

Instead of succumbing to the hate mongers, Oneness is a choice to be grounded in compassion and love.  With each choice I make to choose acts of love and compassion I am reminded that we are each hard-wired for such a life. I want to work and allow for the magnificence of others; my own magnificence depends on it.

Instead of a cramped unimaginative view of others, Oneness invites me to remember that I am made in the imagination of the Universe which is ever-expanding, ever-creating.  I become awake to the truth that instead of stasis, our well-being and aliveness is intricately connected to honoring the imagination discovered in each other and creation.

Instead of rigidly clutching at one path of spiritual truth, Oneness allows the tradition I am grounded in to be informed, enlivened, challenged and given new expansive life when I am open to the truth revealed in the spiritual tradition of others. The sacred existed long before any one religion and spirituality then ceases to be a battleground for exclusion giving way to a feast of wisdom and truth for all.

Oneness already exists in the inter-connectedness of creation and the Universe.  Global Oneness Day is a wake-up call to the human family to enter and celebrate it. It is an invitation to choose to be part of a shifting consciousness of our need for one another. How will you respond?

Post your comments, reactions and ideas about Oneness below

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Romney’s Compassion Void – Turning Americans Against One Another

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared in Huffington Post September 20, 2012

Denigrate, disdain and disparage the 47% all you like Governor Romney. Among them are my American heroes. I invite you to meet some of these inspiring, iconic and irreplaceable members of the American family. Your humility and character will be tested as they invite you to withdraw those dismissive labels of “dependent” and “victim”.

I’m not easily outraged but your comments successfully turned my evening TV meal with Anderson Cooper into searing outrage. A few weeks ago I was impressed by the testimonials at your nominating convention describing you as a kind, generous man with compassion for those in need or trouble. Even though I do not share many of your views I thought kindly of you, Mrs. Romney and your family. The video chat about the 47% made me wonder if this was the same Mitt. The compassion void was incomprehensible.

I’m outraged because for almost thirty years I have worked with people who are in your 47%. I’ve led initiatives to improve their lives and participation in the American Dream.

Many are people on the edge trying to survive, hoping and working for a better future – of course there are always a few who abuse any system –but the overwhelming majority are not “victims “. Who would want to be –how does it feel to not have a job or earn enough to do want you want for your kids, or worry about how to survive on Social Security, unless you have a family that gives you a home or start in life which is where much financial stability comes from.

The homeless I’ve worked with for 20 plus year, the Vietnam Vets with HIV, the single mothers putting their kids in day care because they don’t have grandparents who can care for the kids, the grandmother raising her grandkids and working three jobs to do it they are my heroes! I’ll stick by their side any day and count it and the as a privilege and blessing.

Governor Romney

Governor, none of these people view themselves as a victim. They choose not to be. They do not have time to be victims. They are too busy trying to survive day to day never mind paycheck to paycheck. They have pride, joy, accomplishment, satisfaction just as you and those in the 1% do.

I came to the United States as an immigrant thirty-two years. The promise of America for us immigrants is way better than this. The American people are not like this, dishing people. I used to think that the once famously more moderate Romney might reappear if he was elected. Now I fear that you are capable of tearing apart our shared humanity by seeing some of us Americans as less than fully human.

As a partnered gay man I now understand that you have cast a wider net of exclusion than that revealed by your demeaning rejection of LGBT people. Your disdain, dislike and disparagement now embraces 47% of the American people – mostly the elderly, those on disability, retired veterans and the working poor who earn too little to pay taxes even while paying payroll taxes.

How about celebrating the people on social security who struggle to survive but who have worked hard with dignity, or the family that is receiving benefits because their child is terminally ill with no family to bail them out, or the disabled veterans who we sent to war and who employers refuse to hire.

The America I chose to become a citizen of and the America I love does not cast people aside or consign them to the rubbish dump of human history. We are better than this! I’m hoping you are too Governor.

I invite your comments below!

 

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Freedom to Marry – the Moral & Spiritual Arc of Inclusion?

This blog first appeared in  Huffington Post September 19, 2012 and the Seattle Gay News September 21, 2012

I came to the USA in search of freedom and in admiration of a country whose foreign policy in 1980 was viewed through the lens of advancing human rights. When voters in Washington State approve Referendum 74 this November giving lesbian and gay couples the freedom to marry, the moral and spiritual arc of the Universe will once again bend towards inclusion. New light will be shed on what human rights and freedom.

My husband and I have a vantage point of living both in Seattle and on a farm in rural Eastern Washington. Three years ago when we made that decision many Seattle friends worried what it would be like for us to be in what they labeled “Redneck country.” Surely, they said, it would be difficult to live outside the progressive liberal bubble of Seattle.

Yes there are differences between these two parts of the State. But our Eastern WA circle of acquaintances which includes farmers, cowboys and ropers as well as people in the wine industry, never makes us question our full inclusion as a couple.

Some whom we know will be voting for the Romney-Ryan ticket and to approve the referendum that will permit the legislation allowing same gender couples to marry to become the law of the State. While I cannot understand how someone can vote for a Presidential ticket so adamantly opposed to LGBT people as they vote to approve R-74, I have come to appreciate a factor that is at work for such people. In their eyes R-74 is about upholding the intrinsic values of freedom. For many of those, freedom to marry is colored by the loving relationships of gay and lesbian couples they personally know.

The latest tracking polls reveal that there is a statistical dead heat among voters in Eastern WA about approving or rejecting this November’s ballot initiative. To many in the Seattle area this is staggeringly good news about a part of the State that they had written off with dismissive labels.

Some religious leaders, including the notoriously homophobic Ken Hutcherson of Antioch Baptist Church in Kirkland WA, are promising to launch a new petition drive to overturn the law if the voters approve referendum 74. The organization Preserve Marriage Washington is actively recruiting conservative pastors with advice on how churches can avoid an IRS audit for financially supporting the defeat of the initiative.

Joining these groups, the State’s Roman Catholic Bishops opine that approval of freedom to marry is an assault on religious liberty. This, in spite of the fact that the legislation in question makes explicit exemptions for religious organizations retaining the existing conscience clause to choose whom to marry or not. In defiance of Seattle’s Archbishop, his own Cathedral and two parishes have refused to distribute materials from the Archdiocese urging rejection of the referendum.

I think of the couples whose unions I have blessed since the 1990’s and their joy in having their love and partnership receive a sacred blessing. I suspect most of them yearn for the day in which a second-class status gives way to the freedom to choose marriage. They, like my spouse and I, have no desire to deprive or infringe on the freedom of others when we know too well the costs of the journey to freedom.

Tiers of freedom in which some are relegated to a lesser status is no freedom at all. Alongside the great movements to end slavery, extend the vote to women and the successful struggle over Civil Rights, freedom to marry expands what it means to be part of the human family.

The radiant promise of freedom and human rights that drew me to the United States in 1980 will become brighter when the voters of Washington State affirm that freedom affirms the freedom to marry. It will be a celebration of the moral and spiritual arc that always bends toward inclusion!

I invite you to post your comments below!

 

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Coming Out in Hip Hop: Frank Ocean’s Radical Step

Robert V. TaylorThis blog first appeared on Huffington Post, July 6, 2012

Seven years ago, in an interview on MTV, Kanye West described the discrimination against gay people within hip-hop culture. “I wanna tell my friends, ‘Yo, stop it,'” he said. Now, Frank Ocean’s courageous, heartfelt coming out is a love-fest shout-out of “yo, stop it!” to the often homophobic world of hip-hop. It’s a striking complement to the much-discussed coming out of Anderson Cooper. From the urban streets to the rarified world of CNN, July’s coming-out stories are pushing aside more vestiges of homophobia.

In his Tumblr posting, Frank Ocean offered the world a striking story of unrequited love for the man with whom he fell in love. While Anderson Cooper offered nuanced and carefully parsed words about privacy, Ocean’s gutsiness in revealing his heart and the surprise of discovering that his first love was a man is more than just transparent. For any of us who remember a first love, it offers a common meeting ground beyond the rhetoric of LGBT rights.

Ocean writes that no matter who or where you are, “we’re a lot alike.” He adds, “Human beings spinning on blackness.” Every person in the world wants the happiness that is discovered in our own well-being; each of us wishes to love and be loved. This is the human story that Ocean chooses to tell. It is an invitation to honor our humanness beyond labels, causes, and issues.

Frank OceanThe riskiness of Frank Ocean’s coming out is directly related to his industry. Never mind the fact that he is poised for mega-star status; hip-hop has been marred by offensive and violently homophobic language for years. Last year Brandon “Lil B” McCartney received death threats for planning to release an album expressing support for the LGBT community. The reaction resulted in changing the name of the album from I’m Gay to I’m Gay (I’m Happy). That was not a happy capitulation in the history of hip-hop.

The unspoken truth revealed by Terrance Dean in his memoir, Hiding in Hip Hop, is that there has always been an active gay subculture in the hip-hop world. This week, with his courageous self-revelation, Frank Ocean invited participants in that subculture to name their own truth and set an example.

The immediate reaction to his coming out, from the hip-hop industry and culture at large, has been positive. If that continues to be the case, then that — and not necessarily Ocean’s coming out — is the big story. We’re living in a time of seismic shifts in public perceptions of LGBT people and marriage equality. It would be logical to see those same changing attitudes reflected in the world of hip-hop. Will the artists and the industry match Frank Ocean’s eloquent, courageous love song to the human family? Will Odd Future, the group that Ocean belongs to, reexamine its homophobic language?

Frank Ocean’s coming-out love poem celebrates our interconnectedness and need for one another. He lavishly praises the support of friends and family. The man whose unrequited love he sought “said kind things” and “did his best,” while Ocean’s own mother “raised [him] strong.” He writes to his mother, “I know I’m only brave because you were first.”

“We’re a lot alike,” writes Ocean, adding that he wants to “create worlds that were rosier than [his].” He also leads the charge when he says, “I don’t have any secrets I need kept anymore.” When you speak out with authenticity, you diminish the power of those who seek to hate as much as you invite others to meet you as a fellow human being. Because straight or gay, love is love.

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Slaying Emotional Vampires

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared on Huffington Post, June 12, 2012

Emotional Vampires are drawn to people with positive energy, insatiably soul-sucking your words and energy. They’re toxic and you do nothing positive to help them or yourself when you succumb to their insatiable needs. Detachment is good for you both.

It was a chilling question from the person who asked if I would get real and talk about slaying the emotional vampires in our lives. Slaying conjured up images of a drone attack or a video game. It conveyed an aggressive hostility that is at odds with detachment.

I responded by telling a story. When I first arrived in the United States I knew that I could not return home to South Africa because of my refusal to serve in the military that enforced apartheid at the time. For my own well-being I understood that I needed to create an extended family from scratch in my new home.

Shaun was one of those whom I believed would be part of this new family. My proactive engagement with him brought with it a slowly dawning consciousness that his energy was life-sapping. On my weekly calls to Shaun I would listen to a litany of complaints about those who had wronged, injured or offended him in some way that week. I would unthinkingly move into rescue mode and offer suggestions for how he might engage differently with the world around him.

After many months it dawned on me that the phone calls were unidirectional and that Shaun had little interest in making different choices in his life. In a moment of new awareness I realized that not only could I not save or rescue him but, all importantly, that was not my job! His toxicity was poisonous to me and my well-being as much as it was to him. I was in the presence of a soul-sucker.

Almost thirty years ago, it became my first intentional experience of detachment. I offered our acquaintanceship and the intention for Shaun’s well-being to the Universe. With love I released this relationship hoping that he would in time seek his highest good. It was a liberating moment for me. I later learned that it was for him too, free at last of listening to my well-intentioned advice!

There was a companion detachment. I detached from my own single-minded need and focus on creating extended family. With new awareness I discovered freedom in becoming mindfully aware about opportunities for organically extending my new American family. Instead of clutching at an idealized goal I was free to be embraced by and embrace the life-giving energy of those with whom mutual bonds of relationship occurred more seamlessly.

Two decades later Shaun and I reconnected. He observed a new ease about who I am. I discovered a man who had done equally important interior work resulting in his anger and distrust of others making way for a more expansive, generous way of life.

Instead of slaying emotional vampires, detachment allowed room for each of us to flourish and cultivate our own well-being. It is easy to understand the reactions of those who respond to the emotional vampires in their lives with umbrage, anger, ridicule and pain. Those feelings are real but in choosing to nurture them we imprison ourselves by connecting an IV line of life-draining energy to our own lives.

As I recounted this experience my questioner’s perplexed look gave way to an insight – “I don’t have to choose to do battle with the vampires do I?” she asked rhetorically. Indeed not! The mindful choice to detach is an infinitely more courageous, life-affirming choice. For all involved.

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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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