The great puzzle of our spiritual lives
November 30, 2011 | 11:39 am
(Updated: June 2, 2012 | 6:40 pm)
I grew up humming mantras, practicing insight and heart meditation, breathing through Tonglen, taking part in communion, twirling in clouds of sage smoke, singing songs of biblical worship and offering prayers to the seven directions.
I was more spiritually diverse in my practice than any other kid I knew. I was, after all from the conservative suburbs of Fort Collins.
My dad believed in teaching us every tradition. “Each practice holds a piece of the infinite puzzle,” he has told me countless times over the course of my life. We practiced Buddhism, Hinduism, Mystical Christianity, Sufism, Native American traditions, Taoism and mixed it up with a healthy dose of Animism and Wicken traditions.
I was definitely different.
All of my childhood friends were practicing Protestants and I yearned to be “normal” and go to a “normal” church rather than our weekly meetings of meditation and sage smudging.
I never really knew the impact religion and spirituality had on my life, until I came out of the closet. I tried, for so many years, to just be normal. Normal, to me, would have been bliss.
Yet years later, after coming out of the closet, I realized that my broad spiritual upbringing was a service to the person I would become. It would allow me to explore my options and see the beauty in the multitude of practices that enrich our lives.
This issue of Out Front Colorado is particularly important for our community. Religion and spirituality have been a point of sore contention amongst many people in the LGBT community throughout its development. Yet, as we take steps forward in our fight for equality we begin to realize that we have always been as much a part of the spiritual realm as our straight allies and neighbors. And we are blossoming in our spiritual diversity.
We are, after all, survivors who have forged through our struggles in order to become passionate and inspiring community members.
Our religion columnist, Jeff Steen, set out into the Denver community to capture stories from establishments of inclusive worship, and has used his experience of religion to show the community that we are a vital source of a larger spiritual vision.
I’ve personally never been able to find just one spiritual community to belong to. I feel that a piece of my soul is imbedded in the diversity of creation. Thanks, Dad.
I use meditation to quiet my stressful monkey mind; I practice Tonglen when I want to reconnect my breath with my body and I pray to Mother Earth for guidance and inspiration.
I have received the warmest of embraces from Father Thomas Keating after early morning Mass and chanting sessions at the Snowmass monastery. I have taken part in witnessing words of compassion from the Dalai Lama at the great stupa in Redfeather Lakes. I have joined in drum circles with pagan leaders and witches in Fort Collins huts and San Francisco yurts and I have had the opportunity to be a part of a Navajo sweat lodge on the Shiprock reservation in New Mexico. And a piece of each of these traditions lives and breathes within me.
Although we as members of the LGBT community have struggled with the limiting bias of some traditions, the world is changing and with that comes the chance for us to regain our place as worshippers of God, Allah, the spirit within nature, Buddha nature, Mother Earth or Kali.
We live in a region particularly rich in spiritual culture. If Buddhism interests you, take a weekend trip to the Great Shambala Center stupa in Redfeather Lakes or attend a beginner’s class and meditation session in the great shrine room at the Shambala Center in Boulder. If you are looking to reconcile your sexual identity with Catholicism, the Lutheran tradition or any other facet of Christianity, there is a multitude of congregations to become involved in.
As the holiday season engulfs us with priorities of shopping lists and family functions, remember to take time to appreciate whatever traditions you identify with. The spiritual element of our lives is the one that keeps us hopeful and optimistic in a day and age of economic hardships and political corruption.
As the Dalai Lama said in his book The Path to Tranquility, “All of the different religious faiths, despite their philosophical differences, have a similar objective. Every religion emphasizes human improvement, love, respect for others, sharing other people’s suffering. On these lines every religion has more or less the same viewpoint and the same goal.”