Friday, December 31, 2010
This is excerpted from writer Joe Perez's blog. Joe is the author of Soulfully Gay:
A Gay Winter Holiday
For each of the past six years, I and small clusters of people have lit six colored candles to bring in the New Year. They are the colors of the gay community’s Rainbow Flag; they are the colors of the chakras; they are the colors of the great evolutionary Spiral. And this year, on December 31, I will once again remember, honor, hope, and heal.
I’ve been reminded time and again by well-meaning onlookers that new traditions need to evolve organically and not by fiat. Since I published newspaper columns and blogged about the Bridge of Light, I’ve wondered if anyone else is lighting the candles. I’ve heard at times from dozens of individuals who have kept the tradition, and had my spirit lifted.
But at other times, I’ve felt this was a quixotic, virtually impossible chance at shifting gay culture into more mature and evolutionary practices as well as shift American and world cultures into fuller appreciation of the LGBT community’s spiritual dignity and distinctiveness. What am I really hoping to achieve? And what sort of crazy idea is this as a way of shifting culture?
Bridge of Light 101
Before I dive into these questions, this is what you need to know. The holiday was founded in 2004 as a winter solstice celebration called Yuletide and by the next year was renamed Bridge of Light and moved to the New Year. Soon thereafter it allied with the World Spirituality Day, an event founded by the San Francisco-based Integrative Spirituality about the same time. World Spirituality Day is imagined by some as “The Earth Day for the Spirit,” and Bridge of Light is imagined as the distinctive LGBT community contribution to the international holiday.
The central tradition for Bridge of Light is the lighting of candles in six colors, one for each color of the rainbow flag. According to followers of the tradition, each candle honors a universal spiritual principle. In 2009, with the assistance of Kittredge Cherry, the principles were defined as follows:
1.The First Principle: Red, the Root of Spirit (Community), celebrated on December 26 or the first candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the first chakra.
2.The Second Principle: Orange, the First of Spirit (Eros), celebrated on December 27 or the second candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the second chakra.
3.The Third Principle: Yellow, the Core of Spirit (Self-Esteem), celebrated on December 28 or the third candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the third chakra.
4.The Fourth Principle: Green, the Heart of Spirit (Love), celebrated on December 29 or the fourth candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the fourth chakra.
5.The Fifth Principle: Blue, the Voice of Spirit (Self-Expression and Justice), celebrated on December 30 or the fifth candle of New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the fifth chakra.
6.The Sixth Principle: Purple, the Eye of Spirit (Wisdom), celebrated on December 31 or the sixth and final candle of New New Year’s Eve. The suggested practice is meditations on the sixth chakra.
There is also a seventh principle of the holiday: the Crown of Spirit (Spirituality). It is not symbolized by a separate candle, but by the unity of the six other candles, kept lit past midnight into the New Year. The suggested practice is a meditation on the seventh chakra.
Unity in Diversity
So there you have it, the seven principles of the Bridge of Light. If your spirituality is evolutionary (as mine is), then you’ll also be inspired to associate each of these colors with a stage in the development of spiritual awareness and progressive realization of dignity and justice and maturity of the LGBT community.
What I’ve said before about the holiday is:
Bridge of Light is a symbol recognizing the hidden unity veiled by the many colors of the rainbow, the symbol most closely associated with the gay rights movement worldwide. As important as it is to appreciate the diversity of unique colors, it is also important to recognize our commonalities and dignity as human beings, he says.
The Holiday’s Reception
Today there is the obligatory underutilized and perfunctory Facebook group and dozens of written endorsements from LGBT dignitaries who (honestly) may or may not care a hoot about the holiday’s status as an ongoing enterprise. I haven’t heard from most endorsers in a while and can only guess whether they keep the tradition alive or if they’ve lapsed into non-practicing status.
Over the years, I have heard from dozens of readers of my book Soulfully Gay (which told the story of the holiday’s origin in its final chapter) who tell me they bring the Bridge of Light as a component to their solstice and holiday parties. While that’s positive, I think, I’m not sure what the lighting of the candles represents if it is taken merely as decoration not as a shared practice of communal solidarity and universal harmony.
I have sent news releases faithfully to the LGBT newspapers every year for the past five years, but mainly the mainstream Queer press ignores the holiday. I have blogged about the holiday, but feedback loop on a blog is insubstantial enough to leave me guessing as to the holiday’s notability. At times, it’s been a lonely journey; and then I feel shame at caring about the holiday’s reception in the world at all. Surely there are more important things to be concerned about.
Today I have sober ambitions but anything but a somber outlook. I am content to keep my own Bridge of Light candles burning and let the world know that the wisdom it bears is not forgotten. The holiday’s message, I think, is best determined by those who keep it alive and share it with others, not with anything that I’ve written, done, or left undone. With the passing of years, the holiday remains. Its message of spiritual unity, human dignity, and celebration of life is carried forward and continually renewed.
Keeping the Candles Lit
To anyone without an evolutionary spirituality, the idea of starting a new holiday as a way of shifting culture has got to seem futile or crazy. They say what is real is what is traditional, and Bridge of Light’s heritage is a slight seven years. They say what is real is what is conventional, and Bridge of Light gets little press. They say what is real is what is popular, but I say the fire of every tradition that is popular today was once a torch carried by a minority.
The World Spirit, by whatever name, is in our midst today, as real and manifest as anything else I know. But it is almost entirely unrecognized by the human beings too busy with what is traditional and conventional and popular to notice the divine spark flowing in all beings at all times. Spirit itself, like the Bridge of Light, does not require a page one article in the Advocate or a mention on Perez-Hilton. It is what it is, and that brings me hope.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
I understand that the idea for the book came from an Oprah Winfrey television show on gay spirituality and if that show has not affected anything or anyone else, we are so lucky that it brought Sapienza to write this wonderfully concise handbook on spirituality. We learn that in raising our gay consciousness, we also find that we have a need for spirituality. Much too often gay people leave religions because they feel there is no place for them or that they are not wanted or welcome. Leaving religion does not mean that spirituality need be left behind with in.
It does not take much to uncover each person's inner gifts and in doing so finding the spirit. Whether we want to accept it or not, we must understand that we are part of a larger society and therefore we have to find a way to exist in it. Using our own natural spirituality makes it that much easier. Understanding our past also helps us come to terms with our spirituality and there's been gay spirituality as long as there have been gay people and that means forever. We just need to find out how to tap into it and the author here shows us just how, I am not going to tell you anything that he says to do because to do so would ruin a wonderful reading experience for you.
Let it be enough to say that Salvatore Sapienza writes like a master and uses words and ideas that are easily understood. To me, he is like a nurturer or mother hen showing us how easy it is top come to terms with ourselves and that is the first step we must take. We must accept ourselves before anything else. The book makes it seem so easy and, believe me, it is. Use "Gay is a Gift" as a guide and you will find yourself more at peace not just with yourself but with everyone.
I loved Sapienza's first book but now it will have to move over to make a place for my new favorite book, "Gay is a Gift". It is written so beautifully and says so much that, if you are like me, may find yourself reading it with tears in your eyes. That is the first step on the way to finding your spirituality.
-Amos Lassen, Eureka Pride
Monday, June 14, 2010
Out musician Levi Kreis won the Tony last night, and he thanked Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago (led by my friend, out minister Mark Anthony Lord). How cool! I am so grateful for the gay gift of Spirit that Levi and Mark bring to the world. Gay is a Gift!!
Thursday, May 27, 2010
Starting at 7 pm at the bookstore, Grand Rapids author David J. Sterken will read from his new book of poetry, Out Of Chaos Brilliant Stars Are Born. Sterken is an award-winning nurse practitioner and reiki master currently working on a doctoral degree in New Thought and Metaphysics.
Following Sterken, author Salvatore Sapienza of Saugatuck will read from his books, Gay is a Gift and Seventy Times Seven, which was nominated for two Lambda Literary Awards. Sapienza has appeared locally on NPR and PBS.
At 8 pm, the evening continues down the block at Wealthy at Charles for a reception and special musical performance by the West Michigan Gay Men’s Chorus. Proceeds from the evening will benefit the grand rapids Red project .
Literary Life Bookstore is located 758 Wealthy Street in Grand Rapids. For more information, call (616) 458-8418.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
I grew up - like many good Catholic boys - learning, memorizing and praying the "Our Father," the prayer that Jesus taught. Jesus spoke Aramaic, and I recently came across Neil Douglas-Klotz's translation of the prayer. As you can read below (and see on the video), the translation from the original Aramaic gives an entirely slant, one which touches my Spirit in a whole new Light. I hope it will do the same for you:
Lords Prayer, from the original Aramaic Translation by Neil Douglas-Klotz
from the book "Prayers of the Cosmos"
O Breathing Life, your Name shines everywhere!
May our future actions grow from here!
Release a space to plant your Presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us,
as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not forget our Source,
Yet free us from not being in the Present.
From you arises every Vision, Power and Song
from gathering to gathering.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Thich Nhat Hanh, the noted Zen monk, poet, teacher who shares these words about the Buddhadharma’s view of “homosexuality” in the latest book, ANSWERS FROM THE HEART.
A. The spirit of Buddhism is inclusiveness. Looking deeply into the nature of a cloud, we see the cosmos. A flower is a flower, but if we look deeply into it, we see the cosmos. Everything has a place. The base-the foundation of everything-is the same. When you look at the ocean, you see different kinds of waves, many sizes and shapes, but all the waves have water as their foundation and substance. If you are born gay or lesbian, your ground of being in the same as mine. We are different, but we share the same ground of being. The Protestant theologian Paul Tillich said that God is the ground of being. You should be yourself. If God has created me as a rose, then I should accept myself as a rose. If you are a lesbian, then be a lesbian. Looking deeply into your nature, you will see yourself as you truly are. You will be able to touch the ground of your being and find peace.
If you’re a victim of discrimination, then your way to emancipation is not simply by crying out against injustice. Injustice cannot be repaired by recognition alone, but by your capacity to touch the ground of your being. Discrimination, intolerance, and suppression stem from lack of knowledge and lack of understanding. If you’re capable of touching the ground of your being, you can be released from the suffering that has been created in you through discrimination and oppression.
Someone who discriminates against you, because of your race or the color of your skin or your sexual orientation, is ignorant. He doesn’t know his own ground of being. He doesn’t realize that we all share the same ground of being; that is why he can discriminate against you.
Someone who discriminates against others and causes them to suffer is someone who is not happy with himself. Once you’ve touched the depth and the nature of your ground of being, you’ll be equipped with the kind of understanding that can give rise to compassion and tolerance, and you will be capable of forgiving even those who discriminate against you. Don’t believe that relief or justice will come through society alone. True emancipation lies in your capacity to look deeply.
When you suffer because of discrimination, there’s always an urge to speak out. But even if you spend a thousand years speaking out, your suffering won’t be relieved. Only through deep understanding and liberation from ignorance can you be liberated from your suffering.
When you break through to the truth, compassion springs up like a stream of water. With that compassion, you can embrace even the people who have persecuted you. When you’re motivated by desire to help those who are victims of ignorance, only then are you free from your suffering and feelings of violation. Don’t wait for things to change around you. You have to practice liberating yourself. Then you will be equipped with the power of compassion and understanding, the only kind of power that can help transform an environment full of injustice and discrimination. You have to become such a person-one who can embody tolerance, understanding, and compassion. You transform yourself into an instrument for social change and change in the collective consciousness of mankind.
Thich Nhat Hanh, Answers from the Heart: Practical Responses To Life’s Burning Questions (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 2009), 119-122.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
I hope that looking at the gift box you created -whether it sits atop your desk or on your nightstand or in some other prominent spot in your home or office - will be a gentle reminder for you to reconnect with your Spirit each time you look at it.
I realize, however, that there will be moments when you’ll be stuck in traffic, or waiting in line at the grocery store, or sitting in a doctor’s waiting room, or at the flight gate of an airport where your gift box won’t be in sight.
And, it can be during these sometimes stressful moments when we need to be reminded of our Spirits more than ever. I began to think what I could do to create a visual that would always be in my sight; a visual that would remind me to shift my negative thinking and remain in the present Now moment every time I looked at it.
I thought about tattooing “Be Here Now” (after Ram Dass’s famous book) on my forearm - to remember that this peace was always “at hand.” Luckily, (to the relief of my partner, Gregg) I, instead, was inspired to create the “Gay is a GIFT” Wristband.
It’s just like those charity yellow wristbands that were popularized a few years back by cyclist and Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong, for the fight against cancer, and more recently, by Unity minister and writer, Will Bowen, who created the Complaint-free wristband as a reminder to stay positive.
The “Gay is a GIFT” wristband is rainbow-colored, of course, and is embossed with the words “Gay is a GIFT” on it. It’s available for purchase Here
It is my hope that by wearing this wristband each day, you’ll be reminded of all the wisdom you’ve gleaned from this book (though, really, it’s wisdom you’ve gleaned from inside yourself, right?), and that it will assist in keeping you grounded in the present moment (which is where Spirit lives) each time you look at it. May the wristband on your arm also inspire others to do the same. Wearing it, I’m sure friends, colleagues, family members and strangers will ask you for an explanation as to what the wristband symbolizes, providing you with a blessed opportunity to pass on your wisdom, pass on your Light, pass on your Gift.
Monday, May 3, 2010
I loved Howard Jones, the British pop star, back in the '80's. His songs were always so upbeat and positive.
Recently, I listened to his Greatest Hits CD on a car trip, and I came to realize how New Thought his songs are! Long before Eckhart Tolle and Wayne Dyer, Jones was advising: "Say goodbye to longstanding fears," "Bend your brains" and "Throw off your mental chains" and not to be "laden down by the doom crew."
Here are the lyrics to his "New Song"
I've been waiting for so long/ To come here now and sing this song/ Don't be fooled by what you see/ Don't be fooled by what you hear/ This is a song to all my friends/ They take the challenge to their hearts/ Challenging preconceived ideas/ Saying goodbye to long standing fears/ Don't crack up/ Bend your brain/ See both sides/ Throw off your mental chains/ I don't wanna be hip and cool/ I don't wanna play by the rules/ Not under the thumb of the cynical few/ Or laden down by the doom crew
You can hear these New Thought principles on Jones' other songs, too, like "Pearl in the Shell," "The Prisoner," "Things Can Only Get Better," and "Why Look for the Key."
Above is a fun video a group of young people did to Jones' "New Song." Enjoy.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
Then, I discovered his amazing video, "Beautiful World" (see above), so I ordered his CD. Wow! Listening to it makes me so joyful!
Emmanuel also co-hosts a weekly radio show called High Vibe Radio, another source of inspiration for me.
The name Emmanuel means "God is With Us," and this is certainly the case with Emmanuel Dagher, who shares from the One True Source and helps guide all of us to the remembering the Divinity within. I am so grateful for him and his work.
Monday, April 26, 2010
"A fine offering of affirmation, information and motivation that will raise both your spirits and your consciousness. Livened and enriched by personal anecdotes and practical exercises, Sapienza’s book illuminates one man’s struggle to eliminate the negativity of being gay and replace it with the fine, white light of positivism."-Out In Print
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Lately, I've felt called to learn more about him, so I was led to his book, Autobiography of a Yogi. About half-way through reading it, I attended Sunday service at our local Unity church, where - unbeknowst to me - the guest speaker was from the local Self-Realization group.
He spoke about the commandments in the Bhagavad Gita, translated as pleasure, prosperity, duty and liberation. When I got back home and started back up with reading the autobiography, Yogananda was discussing those very same commandments! There are no coincidences. Call it Synchro-Divinity!
I thought I'd share with you some of the widsom of Paramahansa Yogananda:
- "A man who has reformed himself will remform thousands."
- "The law of miracles is operable by anyone who has realized that the essence of creation is light."
- "The deeper the self-realization of a man, the more he influences the whole universe by his subtle spiritual vibrations, and the less he himself is affected by the phenomenal flux."
- "The more man realizes his unity with Spirit, the less he can be dominated by matter. The soul is ever free."
- "The goal of yoga is to calm the mind, that without distortion, it may hear the infallible counsel of the Inner Voice."
- "The Spirit of God is exhaustless Bliss. His body is countless tissues of Light."
- "A master - one who has realized himself as the omnipresent soul, not the body or ego - perceived in all men a striking similarity."
- "That hard core of ego is difficult to dislodge except rudely. With its departure, the Divine finds at last an unobstructed channel."