Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Feeling the feeling

When I was recording my audiobook, it struck me a few times how intense and traumatic my journey has been.

I never really gave myself the "luxury" of saying, "hey Jim, that was some pretty crappy shit you went through" and then taking the time to actually feel the impact of that.

When I've read about other gay christian stories of struggle and trauma, I feel for them with a passion. But I've always felt a bit emotionally detached from my own story. Of course, its a protection mechanism, one of the fruits of a good British family - stiff upper lip old chap!

Many of us tend to do this with all sorts of stuff. We can acknowledge the pain we've experienced, but devalue its impact by saying things like "there's always someone worse off", "no use crying over spilt milk" etc.

But there's a paradox here as well. We DO need to realise that the past is gone, despite the effects on our lives, it's only a memory, and yet we have to acknowledge and actually feel the emotions of our painful past. It's an integral part of our psychological make up.

So I'm letting myself, a little at a time, finally embrace the pain of my past, and emotionally embrace the words I write and the memories in my heart.

I'm totally into the belief that "now" is the only thing that has meaning, but if we don't allow the full experience of "now" in all its emotional glory, we keep robbing the next "now", and the next...

The emotional process allows us to embrace the moment to its fullest, provides healthy context for the next moment, and frees our hearts to be fearless.

Its OK to feel

Thursday, 25 June 2015

THIS MOMENT

Thanks to Jeff Foster for this amazing insight

THIS MOMENT, FRIEND, THIS MOMENT
This is for anyone who is going through a crisis, big or small.
Friend, I know that sometimes it feels like everything's falling apart, and even the most beautiful spiritual words sound like bullshit, meaningless, flowery, new-age drivel. We lose everything we thought defined us, or made us happy, everything that seemed to matter to us, and it feels like we will never recover. We are left in total despair, disappointment, disillusionment. It seems like 'the end', with no hope of recovery.
Yet in life, there are no true endings, only transformations, new beginnings emerging from rubble. Old dreams dying, the false falling away, which can be excruciatingly painful, of course, of course! Destruction, breakdowns, disruptions, shocks and losses, often feel like enemies, but always contain seeds of the new, and sometimes it just takes time to recover. This devastation you are going through, this crucifixion of dreams you feel, is an opportunity to let go of EVERY SINGLE IDEA you've ever had of how your life was "supposed to be", all those cherished dreams that were simply false, yet beautiful and useful at the same time (or even how your life never even seemed to get off the ground!).
The invitation today is to be present to your life, to wake up to it, to turn towards this immediacy, to dignify what is actually happening where you are. If there is loneliness visiting you here and now, do not turn away. If there is fear, do not push it away or try to escape. If there is frustration, anxiety, or just a quiet sense of hopelessness moving in you, do not reject these energies. They just want to be felt, now. They are not wrong. They are your lost children, orphans of awakening, and just want to move and be felt. Sometimes life brings us to our knees so that we will FEEL everything we've been running away from all our lives. And yes, the 'meeting' may hurt. But perhaps feeling the hurt is the beginning of healing, not the ending of it.
And watch the mind. How it constantly spins, rewinds and fast-forwards, constantly leaves the present scene of your life, here and now. Thought is constantly running away from the present moment. It goes into memory - of how good things were before, of how wonderful your life used to be. And it longs to return there. And it feels unable to. And despair results. Regret. Longing.
Homesickness. And it fast-forwards into the future, imagining all kinds of future scenarios, many dark and scary. It takes you into regions way beyond your control. And both movements into past and future disconnect you from where you are NOW, which is all there is. They take you away from your only point of power - this moment.
But this moment is all there is. This breath. These sensations. Present sounds, smells. Present beating of the heart, the feeling of your butt on the chair. A little bird singing on the tree outside. The buzz of the television over there. A feeling of contraction in the chest, tenderness in the throat. This is a call to radical, radical simplicity. To honouring the not-knowing. To admitting humility in the face of life. Without the story of past and future, can you really know that your life has 'gone wrong'? For that is the belief at the core of everything, isn't it? That your life has 'gone wrong'. That the 'me' has failed somehow. That the universe is cruel and somehow against you. It's an intelligent conclusion to make, yes. I won't judge you for it. But perhaps it's not the truth. Perhaps the mind doesn't know.
My friend, your disillusionment, your inability to believe all those spiritual teachings now, including my own, is not a mistake - it is pure intelligence at work! Your disillusionment is part of waking up, not the end of waking up! This is all an invitation to a deeper awakening than you ever thought possible. You are being forced to question everything - everything - including all those cherished spiritual teachings that once held so much value. You are being called to find your own authority, to let go of all those bullshit ideas about what 'a good life' means. You are being invited to let go of everything second-hand, everything old, everything received - from parents, teachers, gurus - everything in memory, and be present to life, raw and naked.
Sometimes we have to lose everything to remember our total humility, to remember that we are not in control, and that each moment is full of wonder and thrilling uncertainty. You are on a path of devastation now - it was exactly what Jesus was teaching.
This is not the end for you - it is the beginning of a new and different life, a new way of moving in the world, however hard that is to see. It is a time of renewal, of slowing-down, of discovering the abundance contained within the nothingness. A time to be kinder to yourself. There is so much potential for you, friend, even if you cannot believe that.
There have been many times in my own life when I felt unable to go on, unable to stand. I felt that I had lost everything, that nothing was possible, that the void was the only life. But I just didn't know what the universe had in store.
Even though you feel lonely and abandoned, frightened and angry, friend, know that many others are walking with you, and many others understand. You will write your own book of transformation one day.
This moment, friend. THIS moment.
- Jeff Foster

Sunday, 21 June 2015

And now for something completely different

Just listening to some classical music and felt inspired to write a few ponderings about music in general.

I'm a muso myself and have a few offerings on my Music page if you are interested.

I find the role that music has for us absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I've spent most of my life trying to understand why we love it - what it is that makes some music special for some but not others - the feelings that it evokes in us etc. Its a huge field of study and one that's still quite lacking in any real answers.

I would say that there are basically two types of music - "folk" based, and "art" based, and the differences cross over into all the fields of art in many ways.

Folk based music is all about cultural and community identity. I don't mean hippies with guitars and musical genre of "folk". Its far more encompassing, being music that expresses common values among communities. It's music that provides comfort, meaning and purpose. Through the ages its been the music that the "common folk" could sing together, or the traditions could be passed down through the generations. It's music that everyone can understand, learn easily, sing along with and identify with. It often links with key points in our own journey through life and triggers significant events - good and bad.

Folk music can cover everything from classical music to rock to hip hop to country to metal... whatever. Its not the style of the music. Its the purpose.

Art based music however, is about exploring forms and expression, creating new sounds that stimulate emotions and reactions, that dig deep into our souls to confront the "status quo" (subtle pun intended). Art based music is like the painter who goes beyond the traditional images to purposely challenge emotional paradigms, to draw responses and emotions that we may not be comfortable with, to stretch us.

Of course, these two basic approaches aren't clear cut, and often the boundaries between the two are blurred. A lot of what we might consider traditional classical music is nothing more than folk music, in that it creates a place of structure and comfort from easily recognisable forms, melodies and harmonies, rhythms with tried and proven "clich├ęs" (not in a derogatory sense, but simply meaning well used motifs, phrases, patterns etc)

Modern music is the same. Most of it is just a collection of commonly established forms within certain genres, drawing from well defined boundaries to create music that's comforting, familiar, inspiring and defines and builds a particular community identity.

But there's always those who push the boundaries. Those who feel deeper than the commonality of the "folk" expression. Those who long to explore the full range of passion and emotion that can be expressed through sound and word. These are the people who break the traditions, and yet often the very things they wrestle and struggle to give birth to, become the musical norms for the next generation of "folk" music.

But despite all that, there's always the profound words of John Cleese: "Ooo, I like a nice tune - you're forced to!".

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Confession of a father

I'm angry. I'm frustrated. 

I spent all my life so obsessed with the battles of religion and desperately trying to be a "normal" heterosexual husband and father, that I missed so much of my son's needs.
I could see he was hurting. I could see as he hit his teen years that he was struggling, and withdrawing.
I could see the calls for help when he was sick, and battled with IBS for so long.
I could see the darkness when his mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer when he was 15.
I could see the ache and the walls he built as she died when he was 17.
But I was never really there for him. I tried, I really tried, but it was too late in many ways, and I couldn't get through.
He hurts, deeply, and I feel the remorse.
We'll get there, I know we will, and he knows I love him, and I know he loves me.
And my daughter, grown and long moved on. But I missed out on her life, her pain, and wasn't there for her either. I'm so grateful to her mother and new father for being what I couldn't be. And yes, she loves me too, and she knows I love her!

Here's the bitter irony.

I wasted most of my life living the lies of religion, denying my own integrity and living a dishonest life. But that life brought forth my children. Two beautiful people.

If I'd lived with the integrity I so craved (to the point of being suicidal), they would not be here. So my life of "faking it" still brought something good.

What do you do with something like that? I hate the lies that told me I couldn't just be me. I hate them with a passion. But living those lies produced two beautiful people. Well, I guess that's just how it goes. But the pain of not being able to be the father they really needed, because of some screwed up religious dogma makes me angry.
I spent every ounce of emotional energy on maintaining the lie, leaving nothing for them.

It'll be OK, I know. But I'm putting this out there to show just how disgusting religion in all its forms can be. I lived some christian lie that directly affected the lives of two women and two kids. I know they still love me, but it hurts more than they may ever realise. And that hurt is something untold numbers of gay men (and women) experience.


It's got to stop!
How many more screwed up lives do there have to be before things really change?!?!

I'm not saying this looking for pity, I'm saying it so we can grow, and live real lives - to get the word out there to every LGBT person on this planet - we don't have to be someone else, to live up to some religious expectation or cultural demands. We really are free to be who we are!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Do I hate christianity?

This isn't going to be an easy or short blog, just sayin...

Someone innocently said I hate christianity today. It was an interesting comment and I had to stop and think. I went for a walk (my default processing mechanism) and pondered this, pulling together all my random thoughts, sifting through my reactions, looking at how I've grown and changed over the last few years.

I decided that it was a serious comment I couldn't take lightly, even if it wasn't intended that way.

If you've read my book you would understand my journey and why I have left it behind.  I can still respect where people are at with it, and understand the comparative freedom and peace it brings to so many. Its just that I regard it as one of many stepping stones in our understanding of spirituality. It can be used or abused like any other belief system.

But...

Do I hate it? I have to weigh up everything I know about it over the 40+ years of being deeply devoted to Jesus. I was a Jesus purist in many ways, and always strived to see the reality of Christ through the "religion", although miserably failing most of the time to see all my glaring inconsistencies and hypocrisies!

I think "hate" is the wrong word, or at least just one in a long list. I have to sift through the emotions I've experienced and would say that they cover disappointment, frustration, confusion, embarrassment and a sense of "what a fool I was". I'm repulsed by the control and manipulation of religious leaders - big and small. I loath the self righteousness of fundamentalism and biblical literalism. There is a lot of deep emotion there, and hate may well be among it all.

Perhaps frustration is the primary emotion. Frustration at the unwillingness of christians in general, to be willing to see beyond their mindset. It's that whole sense of "we've got the ultimate truth", christianity is the only way any human can be "saved", and the absolute devotion to bibliolatry - the worship of the bible as the complete and only source of truth and the revelation of God in its entirety.

There is an inherent sense of arrogance in christianity (although most religions are the same to various degrees) that is repulsive. But it hooks people in. It's that sense of belonging to an elite club - the "saved", the "righteous ones", those who have "made it" into the kingdom. It builds complex doctrines enforced by centuries of tradition and dogma, twisted by cultural, political and social paradigms that constantly aim to reinforce the exclusive nature of christendom and its superiority to all other religion (again, many other religions also have the same mentality!)

I've written other blogs about why I think christianity works as a belief system, but does that mean I endorse it? Would I tell people who are looking for spiritual meaning to look at christianity as a viable option? Probably not!

If you are currently embracing the christian paradigm, then I would say that's fine, just don't "park" there, in the sense that you need to keep asking questions, explore, dig deeper and recognise dogma for what it is. Yes, the psychology behind christianity can provide a lot of comfort and peace, and that has it's place. It's an easy religion to use as a psychological booster, especially with it's concepts of scapegoating, sacrifice, forgiveness etc.

But it also encourages us to stop there, without questioning. It demands that we refuse anything outside of it's own paradigms and constructs. It builds complex and punitive doctrines to keep people at at that level of spirituality.

I could go on but you're probably bored by now!

So yeah, umm, do I hate christianity? Mostly, I guess I do. Despite the benefits it may have hidden in its doctrines, I hate it's passion for dogma, it's exclusiveness, its bigotry and patronising expression of love. So in those terms I hate ALL religions! I just don't have the working knowledge of all the other ones to speak with any authority.


For those few christians who manage to weave deeper spiritual truths and real love into their beliefs, I say congratulations and "go for it", and be prepared to keep growing, no matter where it takes you! But you are a minority and will suffer (something about the narrow road, lol).

Our real nature, the reality of who we are, of what the universe is and how it all works is so much bigger and better than the little christian religion that its almost laughable. Not that I have much to offer, apart from a passion to search, question, explore and live with as much integrity as we can!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Something VERY personal

I'm sharing this very personal information, NOT because I'm looking for sympathy, because seriously, I'm OK in many ways and have worked through it to the point where I feel comfortable enough to put it out there! This is something that needs to be said.

I'm making some assumptions that you know my story and may have read my book. But in a nutshell, I never had the chance to be in love. Sure, I did fall in love, but I could never act on it. Having a deep romantic relationship with another guy wasn't even an option for me.

I was confined to living a lie and shutting down every bit of attraction to guys that was possible so that I could live as a straight guy, get married and have a family.

But what that did to me at a deep level, was shut down every bit of relational identity and growth at my late 20s. From that point on, I was a fraud. I had shut down, no life, no integrity, a fake!

But now I'm free to live my true self, finally with the integrity I craved for so long. But here's the problem. I still feel like, in terms of what I'd look for in relationships, I'm stuck at that point in my 20s. I love the vibrancy of youth, the sense of so much to learn and grow, the passion and life.

I really feel like my life stopped back then, but now I'm this old guy who's missed out.

Of course, that's just my body getting older. Like many of us older folks, we still feel young inside, lol! But for me it's like I never had the chance to be that romantic youth, finding the joy of intimate love without any shame, guilt or fear.

I know there are many older gay people out there who know this feeling, and I'm simply saying its OK. There are many of us who know what it feels like. I know many older guys in the same place, and there's often a quiet sadness there and a resignation to the inevitable. Some find love where they least expect it of course, and other's just go on, and some... well, it can get really sad.

I'm comfortable with myself these days. I like my own company, and am at peace. I have amazing friends and confidants. Perhaps I'll grow enough to not even think about the issue any more. But even so, I'm content. My identity in myself is whole. I don't need someone else to "complete" me, because that would put unrealistic expectations on any relationship!

So there you go. This isn't a pity party. It's just the way it is, and there can be a beautiful contentment in that!


Sunday, 31 May 2015

For the Love of Facebook!

Facebook!!

What an amazing place!

Sometimes I think I spend way too much time there. I belong to about 50 groups (far too many to have meaningful contact with them all!). I have four of my own pages and a couple of groups, so yeah, I'm committed to this!

Some days I get overwhelmed. Too much crap! Depressing world news, pictures of people being tortured, children abused, all sorts of horror hitting me in the face, demanding my attention, emotions, responses, money, time. So much that I can do little or nothing about. So much that overwhelms, to the point of desensitising and just skimming over it all.

But then there are cats, and food, and babies, and funny memes...

There's also the friendships - with people you've never met. Some become quite deep and personal, others are just fun and flippant. I've had the wonderful fortune of meeting a couple of FB friends from overseas - and it was wonderful!!

But there's also a huge world of discussion, argument, conflicting views, exploring ideas, discovery, growth - and also the world of preaching, bigotry, hate, dogma, ignorance. There's a lot of really ugly stuff as well.

So why do we do it? Why do I spend so much time on it?

On one hand, I like it when I'm "Liked". I express some idea, post something funny or meaningful and the Likes come rolling in - it feels good. I post something controversial or challenging and get the Likes, the encouragement, the discussions and arguments, and it feels good to have triggered something bigger than myself.

On the other hand, I can get attacked. I can be vulnerable and have people take advantage of that. I can be abused, misunderstood and victimised by people completely unwilling to hear others, or who are just victims of their own biases and dogma. But it hurts, especially when you know they don't see you as a real person, with the same loves and passions and fears as all of us!

But on the other hand (Ok, three hands, but who's counting), I see a mass of humanity, all wanting to be understood, to be accepted, affirmed in their humanity, to be honoured for where they are at. People wanting to be loved.

I get torn. There's so much shallow thinking, so much obsession with meaningless stuff. So many who fail to see the most basic consequences of their thoughts and actions. People totally unaware of their paradigms and biases, who they are and what made them that way. People who are so self centred that they refuse to believe for a second that they could be wrong about anything.

I get torn because I know these people need love - more than anything else, they need to experience pure, unconditional love. But we also need to educate, to challenge - and some are so ignorant of the damage they inflict on other people that we can't simply sit back and let them go on.

Perhaps empathy is the key. When we stop and really want to understand others, to get inside their heads and feel the way they do, we might be able to respond in a way that brings life and healing.

Some christian circles might call it prophesy or "word of knowledge", but we don't need some wanky religious jargon to apply a basic human attribute. Empathy has nothing to do with our belief systems. It transcends any religion or dogma. Empathy is unconditional love. It's as simple as taking the time to listen without prejudice and put ourselves in their shoes.

Facebook! (and the entire internet/social media network) - we can make it a place of life and love. It's the most powerful tool for the growth of mankind that the world has ever seen!!

 

 

Thursday, 28 May 2015

On Being Offensive

It's been an interesting few days! I've learned a lot about being offensive and taking offence!

One of the Facebook groups I frequent had a blow-out. I won't go into details, but you can imagine, if you've been on Facebook long enough.

It wasn't pretty and people got hurt, blamed the administrator, relationships broken, and now there's all the subsequent slander and back-biting that inevitably comes after people are hurt and feel betrayed.

I even tried to bring some understanding, hope and life into the mess and got slammed for being controlling, insensitive, passive aggressive etc.

It hurt. Many simply couldn't or wouldn't understand what I was saying.

What came out of all this though, is the whole idea of venting - expressing our offences and hurts, working through the pain and frustration, being free to look at abuse and how it affects us, and right through to holding the other person accountable for
what they've done.

This is a huge issue, and something we aren't really good at discussing in depth. When people are really hurt, the last thing they want is to be rational. They need the space to process and work through it all. But there's also the issue of inflaming the problem, of causing damage to others, that down the line sometime, we may realise was completely unjustified. We can cause a heck of a lot of damage to others during the venting process.

What do we do? How do we express this stuff in a way that affirms our own pain and feelings of injustice, rejection, control or whatever, but allows the "offender" the same right to process the events - all in a way that brings life and love.

All too often the end result is complete separation and division, and, especially where there has been religion involved, accusations of selfish, evil intentions, fraud, slander, you name it. It turns into a witch hunt, looking for any action the offender may have made that could be construed to fit with the initial offence.

Perhaps the very public acts of control, abuse and deception by high profile "preachers and ministers" that have affected many innocent people, have created a mentality that is overly sensitive to these issues? We are far more aware of how this dynamic works than we ever have been. But here's the thing - we are all capable of it, and actually do it all the time as part of our complex systems of interactions and relationships.

I've often caught myself trying to manipulate a situation, say the right words to get people to agree with me and do what I want. I've juggled group dynamics to my own benefit, and as a worship leader, its something we are trained to do very well (but that's a whole other story!!). I want to protect my vested interests, my security - not in terms of income etc, but in terms of my self value. I've worked hard to protect myself and I want to maintain that, even if it means using manipulation to achieve it.

This is what we do as humans. We all do. But when we are in a position of power and responsibility, these habits become far more problematic.

So how does this all work in relation to my original idea? Bloody good question!!

Perhaps it simply means that we ALL have a far greater responsibility to own our emotions than we care to admit. Perhaps our propensity for self pity, however well deserved, is our Achilles Heal. We need to be honest with ourselves on every level, to admit our weaknesses and to give ourselves room to process, work through the emotions and grow. We need the space and freedom to come out the other end with dignity and self-worth. But if we do that at the expense of anyone else, have we really achieved anything?

I don't know. Relationships are hard. All I DO know is that love, compassion and empathy are absolutely key to all we do, no matter how difficult, even in our worst pain! Love is a key we so easily throw away in focussing on our own needs.

Let's work together - be vulnerable - be open - share our pain - remember that we all need the same amount of love; no matter if we have offended, or are offended.


Monday, 25 May 2015

Woe is me


(Plagiarised from, and inspired by David Hayward, aka The Naked Pastor, who runs The Lasting Supper)

 
You suck. You're a failure. You're useless and worthless!

Is that what you tell yourself?

"I'm a complete failure and I should just give up"

So here's something to ponder - self-pity is the greatest obstacle to your personal spiritual progress!

Even though on one level I despise pity, I’ve had to come to realize that on another level I cherish it. It’s delicious. Not only does it make my story feel validated, it also makes me feel soothed and comforted in it. 


My version of my story is not necessarily reality. I am discovering from brain science and psychoanalysis, which also agrees with philosophies like Buddhism, that me clinging to my version of my story, my attachment to certain thoughts or beliefs, or even any thought or belief, is the cause of suffering. My attachment to a thought is suffering.

”Perhaps the most important revelation is precisely this: the left cerebral hemisphere of humans is prone to fabricating verbal narratives that do not necessarily accord with the truth… The left brain weaves its story in order to convince itself and you that it is in full control… What is so adaptive about having what amounts to a spin doctor in the left brain? The interpreter is really trying to keep our personal story together. To do that, we have to learn to lie to ourselves.”



It's as if we are clinging to a story about ourselves, that we are relishing a thought that causes us intense suffering. On the one hand, we want to stay attached to this story because it evokes pity in ourselves, and in others for us. On the other hand, we realize we simply could not continue in this vein because it would only perpetuate our suffering and therefore our need for pity. Pity can kill our motivation to move on.

It’s a vicious, circular trap… the more I pity myself, the more pity I get, the more I need to stay in my suffering, then the more I pity myself and the more pity I get. There would be no possible way out until… UNTIL… I realize that this is all orbiting around a lie: a fabricated narrative that says I suck as a person, and that I am a failure as someone trying to help others. It is a lie that I suck as a person. It is not true!

As soon as the centre disappears… the lie… so does its gravitational pull, its orbit, and its planets: my need for self-pity and pity from others. They are flung into the furthest galaxies.

It’s not a one time magic disappearing show. When I am inundated with negative "press" every day, not only from my own false mind as well as from those who don’t respect me, it is a daily project for me. But it’s not too difficult. It’s just a matter of looking at these accusations and simply asking, “Is this true?” Is it really true? No, it’s not. It’s a lie.

This is what progress looks like. It helps us escape from our victim mentality that would keep us  bound in our own pity and the pity of others for the rest of our lives. It helps us move on to really become healthy and independent. It helps us to become truly free. In fact, it sets us free to become a better person who truly does help others.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Silent Gays Meeting


Meeting Saturday 23rd May at Dazzle Cafe, Ponsonby - 1:30pm to 3:30pm

A safe place to find love and support for LGBT people who've suffered at the hands of religion and the church, to explore their spirituality outside of religious dogma, and be loved simply for who they are.

RSVP:
or
info@silentgays.com