Browsing the archives for the Oneness with others tag

Have you had your holy surprise today?

Robert V. Taylor

This piece was first published on 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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Steps to New Year Peace?

Robert V. Taylor

Is it possible to imagine peace in the New Year? It is if you claim your voice and imagination. The world needs that from each of us. Every intention and act of yours shapes what it means to be human and create a culture of peace as you take steps in that direction.

Peace sounds too big, too overwhelming to many.  Instead of being debilitated by what you can do to bring peace about back up and approach it from two other vantage points. Peace emerges when conflicts are resolved and ended. Peace in the tradition of the Hebrews is all about actions that promote the well-being of all. Not too different than the Buddhist intention of happiness for all beings.

When you think of ending a conflict, or seeking the well-being of another, or desiring happiness for others the possibility of peace is reimagined.

Your own choices and awareness will invite you to make a difference in the year ahead. These steps might add to your intentions:

Be Intentional. Peace is only possible when your hope becomes an active virtue. A specific intention to make peace will ground and make you accountable. Perhaps you will actively work with the children in your life to model attentive listening that transforms misunderstandings and makes reconciliation possible.

End a Conflict. Choose to end a conflict in your community, at work or in your family. When the happiness or well-being of all is a goal it becomes possible to imagine a resolution that moves those involved beyond entrenched positions.

Choose Compassion. We are made for compassion. Your intention to live a life of compassion creates a ripple effect among all whom you engage with. Every compassionate action of yours invites others into the circle of compassion. Learn from organizations like the Charter for Compassion or the Compassionate Action Network.

Say Yes to Peace by saying No to violence or bigotry. Join others in breaking the silences that give permission to violence or threats against people who are perceived as different.  Show up to a rally against school bullying; participate in a school board or legislative meeting to provide protections against discrimination.

Engage with the world and Universe to remember that we need one another.  Learn about an issue affecting the well-being of the planet or about a religion or culture you do not understand. Share your learning’s with those in your orbit; write, blog and speak about them. Your voice will mitigate fears of the unknown, illuminate others and point to our oneness.

With these and other choices you may already have made your voice and imagination is engaged in shaping a world where a culture of peace is possible. The happiness and well-being of yourself and others is all bundled together. Ending conflicts wherever you encounter them opens the path to a happy life of well-being for all.

Peace in the New Year depends on your active engagement!

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Your Voice as Person of the Year?

Robert V. Taylor

The Protester has been elevated by Time Magazine to a richly deserved new status. When you claim your voice as an individual you become more fully alive. When your voice joins together with the voice of others for the well-being of many you become more fully human. The Protesters invite us to new awareness about our oneness as human beings.

From the streets of US cities to those of Egypt, Libya, Syria, Myanmar and other countries a common human thread is being given voice to. It is the human yearning for our interconnectedness and shared humanity to be dignified and honored.

In place of the narrow interests of a few, the Protesters who Time honors as the Person of the Year demand that the well-being of all be reflected in political and economic arrangements marked by fairness and opportunity.  It is a reminder that our humanity is all bundled together. 

While the specifics of what that looks like will always vary from country to country the yearning for freedom and accountability stands in stark contrast to the violence inflicted by severe distortions of economic and political benefits that accrue only to a few. The magnificence of each person flourishes when the well-being of all marks how we engage with one another.

No wonder Time highlights the Protesters. They invite us to remember that our humanity and purpose is best discovered together.

The invitation to this truth is discovered each time we claim our voice. With every seemingly small contribution in our local communities our voices collectively turn into actions that seek to expand what it means to belong as members of the one human family. Every voice is of value; every voice is important; every voice is needed.

How will we each join with others as Persons of the Year in words and acts that point to the truth that we perish or flourish together?

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Can Ground Zero be Transformative?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

President Obama has missed an opportunity at Ground Zero. Beyond the pathos of his visit is an invitation beyond the cheap closure he talks about. Is it possible that Ground Zero invites transformation from fear into freedom for compassion; transformation into a new common humanity?

ABC News correctly identifies the “flurry of emotions” around the Ground Zero meeting.  The loss suffered by the families of those killed in the attacks of 9/11 is real. Our emotions are engaged in surprising, unexpected ways in the years following loss of any kind. The talk about bringing closure makes the President sounds like our Therapist in Chief. There is never closure about any significant loss or abuse because the reality of loss never disappears. Instead the process invites learning that is transformative.

The President is missing the opportunity to be a transformative leader on this one. It is we who are each accountable and responsible for the transformative work that leads to new insights beyond grief and loss. The President can set a tone but he cannot do that work for us any more than a therapist or friend can.

The events of 9/11 have marked the national and personal psyche of many of us with two powerful forces – fear and righteousness.  Both keep us from our truest selves.

In November of 2001 I was privileged to spend time on the secure site of Ground Zero. Two images from that place of devastation speak to being transformed from fear and righteousness into life-giving responses.

The first is of body parts discovered among the rubble. Each time this happened the rescue workers halted their excavations and silence enfolded the site. The reverence for the dead and those who loved them was arresting. People from over 90 nations were killed in the attacks of 9/11 and they included people from many spiritual traditions or none at all. The reverence knew no boundaries.

Fear paralyzes us and creates a paradigm for viewing the world as a battleground between whatever construct we create of “us” and “them. The first victim of fear is usually truth – our own fears separate us from the larger human story we are part of. We then choose to imprison ourselves behind an enclosure. In the moment we do that we give power to those who use fear to stoke division, hatred and mistrust among people, nations and spiritual traditions. We become victims.

Every time we say “I beg to differ” with fear we spread the light of a candle on the murky shadows of fear. When we live in fear we give victory to those who keep us from hope and compassion. The fears represented by 9/11 do not invite us to be mushy about security or stopping terror. But they do invite the transformation of stepping beyond our enclosures into life-giving actions of compassion and hope.

St. Paul's Chapel NYC adorned with messages of hope

The second image came from the historic St. Paul’s Chapel adjacent to Ground Zero. This church where George Washington was inaugurated as President was transformed from a place of religious services into a respite center for the workers at Ground Zero. Food from New York City restaurant kitchens, cots to nap on and massage services for stressed workers were all freely offered. The balcony and pillars were adorned with hand drawn and heart-filled posters from around the world.

Instead of righteous anger or litmus tests for those who entered its doors it was a nerve center of the compassion and care that we are made for. It knew no boundaries for the religious traditions or country of origin of the workers or those killed. No one person’s suffering, trauma, grief or need was more righteous or compelling than that of another. No group of people was scapegoated. Each was real, each was honored.

We often think of the extraordinary generosity and hospitality of Americans. It is legendary. Is it simply a different expression of the same human generosity and hospitality that many of us experience across the globe?

Transformation begins when we make understand and befriend our fears and righteousness. Instead of enclosing us they invite us to understand and enter into those same reactions experienced by any person who has experienced violent loss, terror, abuse or inconsolable grief.

Transformation moves to its own rhythm in the dance of our lives. It is always inviting us in. We can choose to be transformed by the very experiences that change or upend life as we know or imagine it. Each of us can choose to be participants in saying “I beg to differ” with the imprisonment that fear and righteousness brings. This is waking up to being our truest selves – compassionate and at one with others. Is it worth the journey and the work to you?

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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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Passover – Free for New Consciousness?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

To be free of a narrow consciousness is the invitation of Passover. I’m not Jewish but the rituals and journey of Passover restore my balance and also disrupt my spiritual positioning system. It’s about freedom from those things that constrain us being human.

For many Jews, Christians and others, the story of the people of Israel fleeing oppression in Egypt is a touchstone of the narrative in the arc of human freedom.  It was a unifying metaphor in the Civil Rights movement, giving sustenance to those on the ground. The Exodus narrative shaped the movement in claiming the higher moral ground of inclusion.

In recent months commentators seeking to explain the movements for freedom in the Middle East have attempted to connect those aspirations to the arc of the Passover story. It is too early to tell whether the higher moral ground of inclusion will shape the new Egyptian and other Middle Eastern steps toward freedom. The Passover story led to decades of being in a literal and figurative wilderness. A new consciousness is slowly birthed.

Sustainable freedom engages the questions of what we want to be freed from and what we seek freedom for. The twentieth century is replete with triumphant liberation movements resulting in one form of tyranny or repression being replaced by another. Clarity about “freedom from” without imagining “freedom for” is not freedom.  It is often an abusive rearrangement of privilege and power. The Civil Rights movement was liberation from Jim Crow laws toward a promised land of freedom in which to realize equality. It was an invitation to a new consciousness.

The Hebrew word for Egypt is Mitzrayim meaning a narrow or constrained place. The mystics teach that the liberation of the Hebrew people is a metaphor for freedom from a narrow consciousness, becoming free of a small vision of you. The destination of that vision is not we alone. The purpose is to recognize the sacred in others. In this view Passover is about the Exodus in the particularity of becoming awake to those things that keep us from oneness with others.  

This is the consciousness that leads many Jews to speak of repairing the world – tikkun olam. It is the practice of connecting the dots between your personal spiritual grounding and living it out with actions. The Hebrew prophet Micah describes these actions as doing justice, loving mercy and walking lightly or humbly on your journey. I call it polishing the world.

Preparing for my own observance of Passover I’m aware of my frustration and indignation about a few things. I’m appalled by suggested Medicare reform jettisoning vulnerable elderly Americans to a world of wolves in which medical care will be a distant memory. I have a visceral physical response to the stories of young girls, boys, men and women purchased to be slaves in the sex industry. The scale of this human trafficking, abroad and in the USA, makes my mind reel with questions about law enforcement and ending the violence and abuse of this new slavery.

I could choose to remain constrained by stewing or muttering about those two issues. My Passover practice is to choose to be informed and then act to make my voice heard about human trafficking and supporting access to health care for the elderly. Every action will join with those of others in collectively polishing the world. It is about freedom from devaluing the lives of some and freedom for oneness expressed in honoring the humanity of those deemed disposable.

My own vision of my self becomes more fulsome in discovering I am one with you, with others. In the Passover story Yahweh did not talk in the abstract about freedom. It was freedom yearned for in the pickle that was Egypt; liberation from injustice was the presenting cry; moving beyond the physical constraints was about freedom to create a new narrative of what it meant to be a people.

Passover invites me to pay attention to my place within the narrative of spiritual consciousness. My own liberation from the narrow places in my life shifts my spiritual positioning system.  Every Passover that attentiveness shift invites me to polish the world in unexpected ways that disrupt my life.

Freedom, liberation and exodus from Egypt did not come without courage, disruption and surprises. Our own liberation and freedom is discovered in the disruption and surprises of oneness with others.

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Libyan Challenge to Free Your Voice

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

“For the first time in 42 years my voice is free.” Transformative words from a Libyan freedom protester in Benghazi. That truth is liberating. Her courage to claim her voice is inspiring. This Libyan woman challenges each of us to courageously claim our voice. Your voice is too important to be devalued in any way.

It is no easy simple thing to claim your voice when you live in an oppressive situation.  I remember the courage that it took for those fighting apartheid in South Africa to use their voices to never let go of a vision of freedom, human dignity and oneness that would ultimately triumph over the decades of a system designed to denigrate and deny the humanity of people.

As I began to discover the truth of the violence of apartheid I found it impossible not to speak about what I was experiencing. I was often greeted with, “you’re treading on dangerous ground; you should be quiet!” and “There’s never smoke without fire; the government must know what it’s doing.”

I was discovering that it is often those closest to us who seek to enclose us by offering their bad advice.  Not because they’re bad people, but because when we choose a path to new truths about who we are and others and how to exercise our voice, they feel threatened. 

When we choose to grow on the path of realizing that our voice is part of becoming fully alive, the anxiety level of those who choose to remain in their own enclosures increases.  Ironically, the more you find your own voice, the more insistent those other voices can become. 

It’s tempting to become co-dependent and buy into the bad advice shrouded in soothing tones about our own welfare.  I’m guessing that the Libyan woman along with millions of her fellow citizens knows the raw truth of that. Stories on National Public Radio and CNN certainly point to that.

In a recent workshop one of the participants raised her hand at the end of the day and said to the group, “I’ve had an epiphany I’d like to share.”  Martha said, “I’ve spent years engaged in contemplative practices.  They’ve been a gift to me. But today I’ve felt like a bird breaking out of my shell learning to sing for the first time.”

Martha went on to add, “I’ve always listened for the voice of the Holy somewhere out there” as she gestured with her arms to the space around her. “I’d never imagine what I was missing in the Holy in here” pointing to herself. Smiling she added, “I feel as though I’m beginning to learn a new song.  The notes and the lyrics have always been there but I’ve never paid them any attention.”

Martha, like the Libyan woman, was discovering that her life was at stake in claiming her voice. 

Our circumstances of being enclosed or penned down may be different than that of courageous Libyans.  But like them our own lives are at stake in the courage and choices we make about letting our voice speak or sing. 

Like the Libyan woman, it is a path that usually connects us in a profound way to the voices of others as we break out of enclosures and discover freedom and dignity through new lenses.  This is transformation!

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If you enjoyed this blog you might want to read Egyptian Protesters: Meekness Be Darned! and Dalai Lama – Invitation to Show Up With Compassion

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Pets and Islam: Wisdom from Francis of Assisi

Robert V. Taylor

Is there a connection between the blessing of animals on St. Francis Day and raging debates about Islam? Francis’ wisdom from the thirteenth century is urgently relevant today. 

In churches around the United States people will bring their pets and animals to be blessed in honor of the October 4th celebration of his life. In decades of providing such blessings I discovered beyond the sweetness of a child bringing a rabbit for a blessing that something more profound was at play. 

In his writings Francis celebrated the fraternity between human beings and all of Creation.  It was a radical departure from the prevailing theologies of his time about human subjugation of the earth and its creatures.

Sentimentality about Francis shrouds his disruptive belief that love is the sole grounding of our lives.  He lived in an era celebrating the omnipotence of God.  Imperial images of Christ were shattered by a simple act of his.  In 1223 he created the very first crèche scene depicting an earthy, ordinary and vulnerable infant.  It was a seismic shift in rethinking the relationships between Christians and the Holy.

This vulnerability connected with the experience of ordinary people. Francis believed that vulnerable love was the grounding of his religious tradition. The religious authorities of his day generally despised him.  The Francis statues adorning gardens and car dashboards would be an affront to their understanding of religion and power.  How we love the world – including all of its creatures and people – is the ultimate question that Francis believed we faced.

Almost eight centuries later Francis would find a distressing, sad sense of déjà vu in the raging battles being fought over Islam and the building of Mosques.

Francis lived during the time of the Crusades waged by Christians against Muslims.  His understanding of loving the world and the interconnection of all things led him to denounce the war of his time against Islam.  He thought it was sacrilege.

Francis’ visit to Egypt met with strong resistance from one of the most powerful cardinals who pursued military victory and glory from the Crusades. Francis persisted, believing that love of the Holy was lived out in peacemaking as much as it is experienced among all people and creatures.

Returning from his visit with Muslim leaders Francis introduced a new greeting into the services of his monks – “May the Lord give you peace.”  It is thought that he adapted the traditional greeting with which Islam expects Muslims will greet all people – “Peace be upon you.”  We know that Francis was moved and impressed by the devotion of Muslims in their five daily calls to prayer.  Learning form this, he introduced the Angelus into Europe to be prayed three times a day.

The wisdom and ethic of Francis of Assisi speak as freshly today as they did centuries ago.  Like the Buddha who invites us to seek happiness for all people, Francis was driven by a passion for the oneness of all people.  Not a bland undifferentiated sameness, but the Holy revealed in his own tradition, Islam and Judaism as much as in Creation.

The blessing of animals will be celebrated with joy in countless places across the United States invoking and celebrating Francis.

Invoking Francis’ core message of our interconnection, of peacemaking and honoring the holy in all is an even more poignant celebration of this man from Assisi.

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Is Peace Possible?

Robert V. Taylor

Robert V. Taylor

Is peace possible?  Across the world people are observing International Day of Peace on September 21. We participate in polishing the world by cultivating and practicing peace in our lives.  The trinity of reconciling peace – peace within, peace among and peace between – is possible. 

Peace Within. We’re each made in the imagination of the Holy.  Each of us reflects something of the brilliance and magnificence that causes us to be loved for our existence. If that is true for us, it is true for each person.

The reality of the human story is that each of us has something that haunts us, keeping us from the fullness of who we are made to be.  Perhaps shame about a relationship, a sense of failure about something, a belief that you’re not good enough, or that something you imagine about you makes you less loveable.  Reconciling peace invites us to be reconciled with our own self.

The Buddhist notion of “happiness for all people” is about cultivating an awareness of wanting the best for another.  This happiness for all is a foundational approach to the trinity of peace.  For many of us, happiness for others is easier to focus on than happiness for ourselves.  Repairing the rift in our own lives invites peace within to be discovered and practiced. 

Peace Among. It’s never just about us.  Reconciling peace in our relationships invites awareness of how we encounter and engage with others. No matter how frustrating or obstinate your spouse or partner is, no matter how willful your child, how insulting your neighbor is, your own ease and comfort at being loved for your existence makes way for compassion towards others. 

Peace is not the absence of war.  In the Hebrew tradition peace is about the well-being of all.  It is a social construct.  It is about relationships among people and how they are structured. It is a reconciling peace among people.

The peacemakers whom Christ called blessed are blessed because they work for spiritual, material and social relationships which remove conflict and promote the well-being of all.  It is about tending to every aspect of life.  We can’t know peace when people are a distraction or when we bang doors, walk away from others or raise our voices to drown others out.  Peace among is about a mindful way of life in which the well being of those in our orbit is valued.

Peace Between.  Peace within and among invites a way of being which celebrates our oneness with others.  This oneness is an invitation to live, not curved in on ourselves, but to live with unclenched hands used for polishing the world.

The Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam is about repairing the world. In our personal practices active listening or compassionate listening is a tool connecting us with others.  It is a cultivated practice of being fully present.  To listen to and honor the stories of others revealing different perspectives of a particular reality creates a bridge between people. Across that bridge we begin to imagine life in the shoes of another. In the process we engage in being repairers of the world.

When I listen in compassionate or attentive silence to the stories of others I become present to them.  In the process we re-shape how we think about and experience each other.  As our empathy and oneness takes on a flesh and bones reality we work to heal the divides that exist in order to seek peace and the well-being of all.

Rumi once said, “Out beyond the ideas of right doing and wrongdoing there is a field.  I’ll meet you there.”  The International Day of Peace is a call to re-commit ourselves to peace making within, between and among people.   Every time we re-orient and ground our lives in peace we participate in polishing the world.  What we do matters.

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See the Charter for Compassion website for resources

Listen to Desmond Tutu and Robert V Taylor in conversation about peace on Unity FM radio

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Beyond Religious Bigotry?


Robert V. Taylor

Fear of the “other” and its cousin of hatred  are powerful emotions.  The energy they consume keep us from being fully alive.  Exclusion in the Name of God has been the experience of many, including women, people of color and those who are gay or lesbian.  Mitchell Gold founded Faith In America to respond to religiously driven bigotry against LGBT people.  Robert V. Taylor and Mitchell Gold talk about this work.

RVT: Faith in America was your idea.  Was there a defining moment that made you think about creating Faith in America

MG: About 5 years ago I realized the LGBT advocacy groups were afraid or uncomfortable talking about religion based bigotry.  That is the #1 reason the LGBT community does not have full and equal rights in America.  So, someone had to do it.

RVT: In your own life, how did your religious experiences shape your thinking about being a  gay spiritual person of great worth? 

MG: Actually not very much.  I was brought up as a Reform Jew and consequently homosexuality was not discussed in synagogue at the time.  But in a different way, when I observed how some Christians (like Jerry Falwell or George Wallace) would use their religious teachings to justify why they did not want people of color or woman to have equality in America that had a profound impact on me.  I thought it was just horrible.

RVT: You say that churches are indirectly responsible for killing about 500 gay and lesbian youth each year because of misguided religious values.  You add that religious organizations maim the souls of thousands.  How do you engage the religious organizations that you believe are responsible for this? 

MG: I encourage people to be understanding of where those misguided religious values are coming from as difficult as that can be.  We need to speak clearly, honestly and patiently.  And make no mistake about it, we must speak up.


Mitchell Gold

RVT: As an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa I discovered the way in which scripture was used to justify apartheid.  I later realized that the God and texts that I loved were being hijacked to justify subtle and not so subtle homophobia.   How does Faith in America respond to religious texts used to promote hatred and exclusion?  

MG: We don’t get into theological discussions but rather point out how in different times in history, like the ones you cite, scripture was used to cause great harm.  History is the arbiter of the harm and pain that has been caused and we hope that as people understand it better, they will stop.  The most recent California ruling pointed out how those against marriage equality for gays and lesbians did so purely on religious grounds, and that is unconstitutional.  History repeats itself again.

RVT: You and I were present with Chely Wright, the Country and Western singer, days before she came out as a lesbian.  Chely’s story is one of courage and integrity about who she is as a spiritual person.  Truth telling and personal stories are powerful.  How does Faith in America connect the dots between religious messages and personal coming out stories for young people? 

MG: We connect the dots by talking about them.  This is really not all that complicated!  The reality is that there are certain hard core people who are extremely difficult to change.  I believe they use their religious teachings to place themselves in a superior position to others.  They live a life of fear.  But there is a much larger swath of America that as they recognize the harm they have caused either by condemning LGBT people or by being complicit by watching the harm caused and not having the courage to stand up and talk about it, these moveable middle Americans do change when they hear people talk about who they really are.

Robert V. Taylor, Mitchell Gold & Tim Gold

MG: I realize that everyday there are young, vulnerable kids who are just starting to recognize they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.  It’s a frightening time….a crisis for hundreds of thousands of them.  More often than not, they do not have someone to talk to.  I know what it feels like and I don’t want one more kid to go through what I went through as an 11 year old.  History has clearly shown it is wrong to use religious teachings to justify discrimination to minority groups.  It is idiotic to have it continue today.  Not another moment should go by where people are harmed in the name of religious teachings!

RVT: What is your greatest concern about ending religious intolerance towards LGBT people? 

MG: I have no concern about it!  It will be a wonderful time.

RVT: Talk about your hope for the full acceptance and inclusion of LGBT people in the years ahead? 

MG: The great news is that you almost never hear of people who are accepting of LGBT people changing and becoming unaccepting.  All the numbers keep moving in favor of fairness and equality.  People who are transformed and lift the bigotry from their shoulders rarely turn back.  It’s very hopeful.

RVT: Are there spiritual passages that nourish you or remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing to end hatred?  

MG:  Actually no.  My real nourishment comes from the letters and emails I get from people who have been transformed to be loving and accepting of LGBT people, from kids who write and tell me CRISIS was an enormous help in their journey and from people like Chely Wright who contacted me after reading CRISIS to tell me how it helped get her on a healthy path to love herself for who she is.

 Share you stories of responding to bigotry or spiritual inclusion here

Exclusion in the Name of God – or inclusion?  Join Robert’s YouTube conversation here

Read Robert’s Blog: Chely Wright: Contagious Courage

Read Mitchell Gold’s Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America – click here or visit the Resource Page

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