My Daily Spiritual Practice

Published in sightly different form on Bilerico.com

I’ve had some interest in my own daily practice of meditation and prayer, and several requests to share. So at the risk of serious spiritual over-exposure, I offer you the following:

I try for at least four periods of meditation and reflection every day. These aren’t hard, and are mostly linked with things that I do anyway. Since I often am awakened earlier than I plan by my care-giving duties, a consistent, early meditation time is not always possible. I work around this by using my exercise time, usually right after breakfast and the morning emails and other work- normally between 10 and 11am.

I have a treadmill and exercise equipment in my home because I’m usually required to stay in the house with Sars, but sometimes, when the weather’s nice and I have a helper, I’ll go for a run on the Copperway, a walking path close to my home. Wherever I’m doing it, the first half is usually all about the music- usually a Scooby Mix (see my blogroll to check them out!), high energy and motivating. The second half is mostly about silence and mindfulness. To facilitate this, I’ve adapted the Metta Prayer, or Loving kindness Prayer from the Buddhist Tradition. I’ve memorized it, so I can use it anywhere. I say it slowly and thoughtfully, sometimes out loud, sometimes silently to myself.

May I be filled with Loving Kindness.

May I be well in Body, Mind and Heart.

May I know that I am Always Safe.

May I be Peaceful and Truly Happy.

May I be filled with Loving Kindness,

May I be Free.

I pray this first for myself. I then say it for my loved ones, then for those I’m having trouble loving, then for my country, then for all beings. When I pray for others, I usually name them in place of the “I” in the prayer, or simply picture them in my mind. It creates in me a feeling of being connected to others and a sense of purpose.

I also have 12-20 minutes of formal meditation time as a goal every day. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. I will use my Metta Prayer, there, too, but often I am simply still and concentrate on my breathing and simply being aware and quiet.

I pray in the shower. It’s a place I can usually count on not being disturbed. I think about being purified and cleansed and the great gift of water, present as sacrament in so many traditions.

The fourth time is when I get into bed, and usually right after I call Ken to wish him goodnight. I think of at least three things I am grateful for in the day, and sometimes I think of the challenges and what they have brought me. It’s a good way to end my day, with gratitude and the knowledge that I am a blessed person. It often carries over into my dreams….

I’ve found this practice to be life-changing and centering. Let me know if you have a daily practice, or, if you feel like trying something I do, let me know how it’s going.

I really enjoy hearing from you!

Faceless Servicemembers

It’s not everyday that something I’ve supported and promoted comes to fruition. I’m pleased to announce that Jeff Sheng’s Photo Essay on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is now a book. And yes, I’m shamelessly promoting it.

Jeff has captured the pain, the shame. the difficulty and the bravery of women and men serving in our armed forces while holding the secret of their sexuality- and he’s done it with each photo he’s taken.

Every subject is in uniform, in a bedroom, face hidden and beautifully representative of the suffering endured under this policy. There are also emails and commentary from service members, detailing the day-to-day experience of these men and women.

Have a look. http://www.jeffsheng.com I think it’s important to support Jeff in his efforts to put a human face on this policy by not showing faces. Get a copy for the LGBT Community Center, get a copy for your local library, get a copy for your local ROTC recruiter. Just get a copy and help end the suffering. www.DADTbook.com

I bought two.

Via

The way seems perfectly clear,
Laid out in front of me
And marked
And easy- except for the big trucks.
Those impersonal behemoths
Scatter snow as they roar past,
Blinding and harsh.

Now, in this little moment,
It’s not so clear,
Not marked, not easy-
Only white and loud.
Can I remember the path I just saw
For the instant it takes them to pass-
And stay on the road?

I wonder, and grip tighter,
Mind going to that place where
Everyone wears black and says
Nice things about me.
The seconds pass and I remain
On course, not dead,
But slightly less alive than my fears
For a moment longer.

DGS

“I can’t stand people who make broad, sweeping statements.”

It’s been a week with a lot of challenges. I’ve felt less than 100% physically, dealt with some challenging client issues, and in the last few days have been increasingly aware of gross generalizing statements by people I thought knew better.

The first was made in reference to a new doctor: “As long as he’s not a raghead. I won’t ever go to one of them!”

SRSLY? I was stunned. All I could do was roll my eyes. My perfect response welled up immediately in my mind: “Well, as long as he’s not a fuckin Polack…” (the person I’m quoting is Polish). Sadly, (or, maybe not) it remained unsaid.

The next was overheard in the grocery checkout line: “Those Orientals are just so vicious- I don’t like them.” I once spent three months in Japan as an exchange student and found nothing but kindness and hospitality. My response: “Yeah, it was completely non-vicious to murder a quarter of a million people at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” I said that one out loud and got the satisfaction of blushes from the “offend”ers.

Then, a post on Bilerico disparaged all Mormons as hateful, freedom hating people.

Now, my maternal grandfather was Mormon and I have Mormon relatives. They are, for the most part, kind and loving people who accept me and show me the same respect non-Mormon relatives do. I often don’t understand their faith, but I think it’s completely inappropriate to attack their beliefs. Fair game, however, is practice and policy- especially regarding funding of Prop 8 in California. Bad move, but not on the part of the everyday Mormon….

Which groups of people do I generalize about?  Great question. I’m determined to pay closer attention to that, because it’s a lazy behavior I don’t want to be guilty of, at all. It’s a cheap way to artificially inflate self-esteem and position, and I don’t like it- especially when, much of the time, it’s completely untrue.

Oh, and the title? Irony intended.

Still

…having some illness issues. The cold is hanging on- and I had to go to the Emergency room on Saturday to have an abscess behind my ear looked at. I’ve had MRSA. Arguably, it still lives on my body, so I have to be careful. So, whenever I get a skin infection, it’s off to the doctor I go. I had gotten a haircut on Wednesday, and she nipped the back of my ear slightly. That allowed some bug to crawl in and take over the (small) space between the bell of my ear and my head. Very painful. It was so swollen, it was actually making my ear stick out noticeably- making me look more unbalanced than usual.

The first thing I noticed when I entered the emergency room was a sign that said:

No guns, knives or weapons of any kind

in the Emergency Room or Waiting Room.

Please check all such items at the desk.

Welcome to Butte.

I got the thing lanced and was sent home with a couple of enormous pills to take twice a day for a week. All’s good, but I’m still a little woozy. It’s amazing how my body is not as young as I often feel. I have to keep reminding myself (or Ken reminds me) that I’m middle-aged and disease or no disease, I just don’t heal like I used to. Anyway, I felt good enough to see people today in my office and churn out an article for Bilerico, so progress….

Peace.

A Problem- And A Proposal

Also published on The Bilerico Project

“Why can’t they just let me have this? Why does it have to be such a fight?”

These words came from the mouth of one bisexual client, but they have been echoed by almost every bisexual client I’ve ever had- and there have been many. They were describing the pain, the anger, the sadness felt as a result of comments and treatment by gay/lesbian friends.

Surprised? I’m not. I hear these stories of pain all the time. You’ve probably heard comments like, “Bi? More like bi now, gay later; She says she’s bi, but it’s just a college thing; He’ll screw anything with a hole- that doesn’t make him bi, just a dog, etc.”

There’s a perceived pecking order in our communities, generally with wealthy, healthy, gay, white males at the top and poor, differently abled, positive, transgendered Christian bisexuals of color at the bottom.

OMG. Did I just say that out loud?

It’s a human trait to want to feel satisfied and happy, and to avoid feeling like shit. There’s nothing inherently wrong in that. However, sometimes the finessing of our feelings can get a little sloppy.

Psychologically, one of the fastest ways to feel good is to make someone else feel/look bad. You know it’s true. We all do it- or have done it. The problem is, when this behavior occurs, the good feeling it brings to the perpetrator is fleeting. So, like an addict who is becoming used to the heroin, it takes more and more to feel good as time goes by. It’s also not very sophisticated psychologically, it takes far fewer skills to simply react or attack than to actively evaluate and respond with integrity.

People tell me what they see, and I also know what I myself have seen. We see the cliques that form at clubs and bars and in social circles- the packs that hold court and put down and look down. We see sides being taken in problematic relationships. We see people flirting overtly and disrespectfully to our dates and partners right in front of us. We see posturing and gossip intended to intimidate and hurt.

There are also power struggles in our organizations and communities- outcries of pain and rage among members who feel left out or ignored by those in power. From ENDA to the HRC to our local AIDS organizations, people are struggling to be heard, fighting to be included. Ironic, huh?

Many of us were bullied in school because we were different. Some would argue that we are still being bullied by public policy and perception today. We know what it’s like to take that kind of abuse. Maybe we think that’s what people in power are supposed to do, because we certainly know how to dish it out. In fact, we do it so well, someone responded to a survey I was doing about LGBT Community by saying, “I’m more afraid of my gay friends than my straight friends- they can hurt me more.”

And so it goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we can be fantastic and loving and supportive as a community- we have plenty of examples of courage and loving kindness. My concern however, is with the amount of pain we can cause each other, which seems so contradictory to the kindness and support many of us have experienced. Is it a sign of confusion? A result of bullying? A type of post-traumatic stress disorder manifesting in confused and non-reflective behavior? Are we so desperate for security that we will trample over others in order to get it? Have we become so interested in self-preservation that we’ve lost all compassion for the other wounded people around us?

I certainly have my suspicions.

Maybe I’m oversensitive to this because in my work I hear so many stories of pain and confusion- it’s the nature of the beast. I hear about the anger and sadness felt by people who feel disadvantaged by their peers- real or perceived. I hear tales of insecurities exacerbated by pressure from LGBTIQ culture. I see the damage caused by the struggle to fit in to two worlds- and in the case of bi or trans persons, more than just two. Maybe my sense of this is over-exaggerated, hyper-inflated and ridiculous.

Maybe. But the pain felt by my bisexual clients is real. It is echoed by others, by me and maybe by you reading this now. That’s my concern- the suffering we cause each other, often out of ignorance or fear.

I have a proposal. A not-so-modest one.

It hinges on the science of personal development and experience which says that self-understanding unfolds over time. It develops gradually. That applies especially to sexual orientation of LGBTIQ persons who face the added difficulty of pleasing several different groups of people- and attempting this with the added difficulty of often having to do so with a still-developing brain. My proposal is this:

When our own people are easy targets for us, let’s refuse to take the shot.

When a person says, “I’m bisexual,” let’s give them that. Let’s allow them that place of self-understanding and respect. Let’s quit being so hard-assed, bitchy, petty and small-minded about defining people- it’s damn near impossible anyway….

Let’s even take it a step further: When someone isn’t wearing the right clothes or eating the right food or going to the right places or in the right job, or… you get the idea- let’s find ways to be supportive instead of destructive. Look a little deeper and maybe we’ll see the fear and the pain and the anxiety and the need for a friend. Maybe we’ll see people that remind us of ourselves at some point along the crowded way….

I’m proposing that we let each other be human- that we actively work towards respecting and understanding each other and create a community, not just a Political Action Committee. And that will take some work. It will mean taking steps outside of our established circles, being a little uncomfortable, standing up when someone’s being put down, looking a little more deeply instead of making a shallow snap judgment.

It will mean being more reflective, more responsible humans.

I think we owe each other that.

Back to Butte

I got home last night, promptly unpacked and went to bed.
Travelling at the best of times can be trying, flying with a head cold is damn near torture. During the descent into Helena, the plane dipped several times- very quickly; my head and the pressurized cabin were not compatible; the screams of the woman next to me almost did me in.
I managed not to strangle her and exited with as much dignity as I could muster, deeply suspecting that my right ear was bleeding….it wasn’t.

Anyway, today had all the energy of a wet firecracker, so I medicated and watched a couple of movies: The Last Picture Show and Romero. So different, and yet there was a vague sort of melancholy hanging about both of them, and no, it wasn’t Cybill Shepherd’s acting. Two completely separate scenarios- El Salvador and West Texas- the poignancy of fighting for what one believes in, versus the poignancy of not knowing what to believe- there’s some film student’s thesis in there somewhere.

So, still feeling a bit cruddy, but counting my blessings- and grateful for the opportunity to count them.

Relax, Dammit!

It’s one of those times.

It’s when my body says, “Okay. I know you have plans- but today, you’re going to have to prioritize because I’m going to be having a cold. I get the irony of being in Seattle and having a hundred things to do. I get that you could do this much more easily in Butte. I get that it seems totally unfair and that it seems perfectly reasonable to think that maybe whining will make it go away faster. I get it. But this is the reality, Bub. Love it.”

I’m trying. Prioritize. Ok.

Well, seeing my doctor today can’t change, that’s at 1:30. Dinner with John Carroll and drinks with Al and the Dooleys- don’t know if I have the stamina, srsly. I can make that call later.  Ditto the matinee of whatever movie won’t reach Montana until April. I think I need an emergency haircut, so I could theoretically do that before the 1:30. Trader Joe’s for a few supplies? Doable- it’s close to the hospital.

Okay. I’ll love it.

And, I’ll take my Dayquil.

More Rain Brings Good News

Last time I had my blood drawn, three months ago, my T-cells were 583. They had been increasing steadily in the  last three years from my diagnosis level of 101 (AIDS) and my health has been steadily improving. However, I was stunned yesterday to get a reading of 903! For people without a compromised immune system, the normal range is between 400-1400, so this is encouraging, if not down right exciting. If simply quitting smoking  (2 or 3 cigarettes a week) created this jump, then I highly recommend it….

I spent some time today with Joe Mirabella, another blogger for Bilerico- we had a nice visit at Oddfellows over warm liquids and a lurking Dan Savage (he was busy typing in a corner). Joe’s covering the Prop 8 trial and his good energy and intelligent comments encouraged me to do more on the activism front.

On the other end of the spectrum, I had a keratosis burned off my face (sorry, no cool scar- not even an eye patch!) and I think I’m coming down with a cold. Well, it’s excellent weather for staying warm and dry inside with a cup of Bengal Spice….

Peace, all….