As LGBTIQ persons, many of us feel estranged from or alienated by organized religion. We can feel hurt, misunderstood, persecuted and sometimes afraid because of religious positions, teachings and practices.
Personally, I have always made a distinction between being religious (observing a particular religion) and being spiritual (belief that you are connected to the universe somehow). I've known and read about LGBT persons who have actively shunned anything spiritual because of their negative experience with religion, and I think that's unfortunate. There seems to be an important component in the human experience that can often only be defined as "spiritual," and in that sense, I believe it's worth exploring - despite, or perhaps because of intellectual stances of agnosticism, atheism or indifference.
For me, it's not simply a question of God. It's a question of exploring and finding my place and the place of others in the workings of the universe. That can happen with or without a concept of God. In fact, I would argue that it's happening every time we work for civil rights or environmental responsibility, or simple justice....
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 at home with the elderly man I care for, 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 do it, the first half is usually all about the music - usually a Scooby Mix, 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(It's especially helpful in nightmarish traffic!). 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, then 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 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 reflect in the shower. It's a place I can usually count on to not be disturbed. I think about being purified and cleansed throughout my life's experiences and the great gift of water, present as holy symbol and 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!