Browsing the archives for the Claiming Your Story tag

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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Gay, Spiritual & Fully Alive

Robert V. Taylor

This blog first appeared in LA Weekly June 4, 2102, in response to their question “What does it mean to be gay?”

I’ve discovered that my spirituality is informed by being gay as much as being an out gay man shapes my spirituality. Gay, spiritual and fully alive is a choice about how to be human.

To be out, proud and thankful for it does not come easily to many LGBT people. I recall the shame I felt as an adolescent struggling with my sexuality. Surely the messages that religion tweeted about us could not be true? The agitated righteous anger of so many religious people was my clue that religion was huffing and puffing to conceal a more generous spiritual path.

In my teenage despair I thought it would be easier to end my life. I collected a handful of Paracetamol pills from the jar my mother kept, squirrelling them under my pillow for the night when I would end it all. On the night my shame seemed overbearing I took the ten pills I’d collected and said “I hope you’ll still love me God.” I was surprised to wake up the next morning as my mother called out to ready me for school.

To be ready for school became a metaphor for going beyond my fears readying me for a different path. I’ve never forgotten my thankfulness for being alive that morning. I still had years of work ahead to accept, love and be proud and thankful for the gift of being gay – a journey whose truths I would never have known otherwise. It’s given me a lifelong passion for every person to have the love and courage to embrace their identity.

That thwarted attempt on my own life left an indelible mark of wanting young LGBT people to have role models and mentors so that they will not harm or take their own life. Even with the seismic shifts in the acceptance of LGBT people the struggle to come to terms with sexual orientation is still a minefield for young people who are bullied and harassed for who they are. I can give back by being proud and sharing the resources of truth that keep me ready to be enlivened.

I’ve learned that courage is not about the celebrated triumphs of those we lionize. Courage is about love which begins with self-love. That’s a lifelong journey for many. I began to pay attention to the spirituality of love and compassion that knew no exclusions. It terrified me at first but I intuitively knew it was an invitation to love that embraces all – even me – including our sexual identity.

My own well-being was not visible on the GPS of my life back then. My young adult involvement in the anti-apartheid movement was rooted in justice and inclusion for all. Except for myself! To discover well-being is to seek happiness. Not the happiness presented by what we consume or own, but the happiness that is discovered in eternal truths about our own beauty and purpose in life.

Along the way I’ve discovered that the arc of my own story, like that of every other person, reveals spiritual wisdom and truth. It emerges when I stop compartmentalizing my life and see that all of the wonder, shame, regret and joy of life form a narrative that allows me to be compassionate about my story and life. Our story is not a series of unrelated experiences but a vessel of spiritual insight inviting us to live in all of our magnificence.

In naming my love and sexual orientation it points me to the invitation to live an intentional integrated life in which every facet of my being is cause for thankfulness. Spirituality is not disembodied – it is revealed with each embrace of our identity.

The courage of self-love, our own well-being, the spirituality revealed in our story and thankfulness about human sexuality is not a treasure for us alone. I need others to claim those same truths for themselves – then the celebration and journey of being at one with me as a gay man makes spacious room for others. It is a generous, joyful and enlivening choice about being who you are. How will you choose?

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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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Is Gay Spirituality Better…?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what are the markers of your spirituality?

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