10 moments to remind you to pause for a few minutes every day

MOMENTS

1. Stopping at a traffic light.
2. Arriving at your office every morning.
3. Turning on your computer.
4. A call from your boyfriend.
5. Setting the alarm of your mobile phone at a particular time.
6. Stopping for a cup of coffee or a cup of tea.
7. Changing into your workout gear.
8. Having a shower after your workout.
9. Unlocking the door of your house when you get back home.
10. Undressing and changing into comfortable clothing before dinner.

Stop

STOP PARAR MINDFULNESS

“When I was a young monk in Vietnam, each village temple had a big bell, like those in Christian churches in Europe and the United States. Whenever the bell was invited to sound, all the villagers would stop what they were doing and pause for a few moments to breath in and out in mindfulness. At Plum Village, the community where I live in France, we do the same. Every time we hear the bell, we go back to ourselves and enjoy our breathing. When we breathe in, we silently say, “Listen, listen”, and when we breathe out, we say, “This wonderful sound brings me back to my true home”.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese monk, one of the best advocates of mindfulness, founder of Plum Village.
YourTrue Home. The Everyday Wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh. Boston & London: Shambala;2011.


What could be your personal reminder to stop for a few minutes during the day?

Spring

spring 2

“But there’s the springtime, insanely generous. It calls out to your senses, and through them to your heart, where it comes in warming your blood and flooding your mind with light.”

Luis Cernuda
From Spring, a prose poem from Ocnos (1942)

Practicing mindful yoga

Mindful Yoga

“Through the practice of mindful yoga, we can expand and deepen our sense of what it means to inhabit the body and develop a richer and more nuanced sense of the lived body in the lived moment”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

“It is a profound meditation practice, especially when practiced mindfully, and develops strength, balance, and flexibility of mind even as it is developing those same capacities at the level of the body”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

Yesterday morning, today

JAIME GIL DE BIEDMA

Yesterday morning, today

You rest your temple against
the open window pane
watching rain falling down
over the ocean.

In a split-second image-
your body outlined
serely in half-light, still
naked from the night.

And then you turn toward me,
smiling. I´m thinking
so much has changed but this
is how I remember you.

Jaime Gil de Biedma, Spanish poet and writer, 1929-1990

Falling asleep during the body scan

body scan thailand

I am sure that every one of us has fallen asleep or has dozed off at least once while trying to meditate…

I must admit this has happened to me a good number of times. This is especially so whenever I do the body scan.

It does not matter what time of the day it is, there’s one point where my mind disconnects completely. I am on the left leg, and all of a sudden I am on the right hand, not being quite sure what has happened…

At the beginning I must say I felt quite guilty about it, especially if I had snored, or I thought I had snored…

I felt bad, and that made me be on guard during my next body scan. Would that happen again…? Would the person lying next to me complain of my snoring?

Then I realised that falling asleep could be part of the process, of the experience, of my experience… and as such, I just had to embrace it, to accept it. I had and have to treat myself with kindness and gentleness, also when I meditate…

Having said so, I was taught a couple of tricks that have proved really helpful. One is doing the body scan with my eyes open. Second, if I still feel tired, I raise my arms, and try to maintain them raised for a while. This helps me just for a while, because shortly after I have started doing so, I get cramps in my arms…

And if in spite of these hints, I still fall asleep, I try to treat myself with gentleness… Catching up with the body scan wherever in the body the rest of the group is.

And trying to live in the moment the rest of the time that is left before the body scan comes to an end…

Practising the body scan

Body scan. Thailand

“We can surrender completely to the embrace of gravity, and let go into the floor or mat or bed and let it do the work. Sometimes it can feel like you are floating, and that can be very pleasant and increase your motivation for taking up residence in your body and in the present moment.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Coming to Our Senses. Healing Ourselves and the World through Mindfulness. New York: Hyperion, 2005.

“All you need to do is lie here and feel different regions of your body and then let go of them. The body scan is systematic in the sense that we move through the various regions of the body in a particular order. But there is no one way to do it. It could be done scanning from head to feet or from feet to head or from side to side for that matter.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

Don’t go back to sleep

Sleep Rumi

Don’t go back to sleep

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill.
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Rumi, sufí, persian, IVth century a.C..

Andrew Harvey

Andrew-Harvey

Andrew Harvey was born in India in 1952, where he lived until he was 9 years old. He then went to several English private Schools, and studied at Oxford University where he later taught Shakespeare and French Literature until 1977.

He is an author, religious scholar and teacher of several mystic traditions, especially Hinduism and Sufism.

Harvey also emphasizes the Divine Feminine, as expressed with different names throughout the history as Isis, Kali, The Virgin Mary, or Mother Earth.

Harvey is widely known for his books on spiritual and mystical topics, among which should be highlighted Dialogues with a modern mystic, The Direct Path, The Essential Mystics, The Essential Gay Mystics, The Return of the Mother and Son of Man.

As an scholar and an expert on Rumi, he has written several books on the subject, namely The way of Passion, Celebration of Rumi, and Perfume of the desert.

In 1990 he col-laborated with Sogyal Rinpoche and Ptrick Gaffney in the writing of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.

Throughout his work he synthesizes different mystical explorations and tries to reconcile eastern and western mysticism.

He is the founder of the Sacred Activism movement, to which he dedicates much of his time and energy. In The Hope, A Guide to sacred Activism, he defines this movement as “a spirituality that is only private and self-absorbed, one devoid of an authentic political and social consciousness, does little to halt the suicidal juggernaut of history. On the other hand, an activism that is not purified by profound spiritual and psychological self-awareness and rooted in divine truth, wisdom, and compassion will only perpetuate the problem it is trying to solve, however righteous its intentions. When, however, the deepest and most grounded spiritual vision is married to a practical and pragmatic drive to transform all existing political, economic and social institutions, a holy force – the power of wisdom and love in action – is born. This force I define as Sacred Activism”.

Andrew Harvey is one of the sixteen gay writers interviewed in Mark Thompson’s nook, Gay Soul. In the book Harvey among other things states that “gayness is a large wound, but also a large opportunity”.

The BBC edited in 1993 a documentary called The Making of a Modern Mystic, based on Harry Harvey’s life and works.

Harvey lives now in Arkansas where he continues to write, and travels around the world lecturing, and organizing travels to sacred sites around the world. The Watkins mind Body Spirit Magazine nominated him as one of the 100 Most Spiritually Influential People in the World.

More about Harrey Harvey’s life, books and Sacred activism can be found at: www.andrewharvey.net

Sources:
Andrew Harvey: Institute for Sacred Activism, www.andrewharvey.net
Mark Thompson. Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature. 1994, HarperSanFrancisco.
Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Harvey

Barcelona will host the first ever MindfulGay workshop!

WORKSHOP BARCELONA MINDFULGAY

It’s such a honor to share that our first MindfulGay workshop will be held in Barcelona, Spain, from the 21st of April to the 8th of June of 2015.

Please, read the information below and write us if you have any doubt or want to join us along this 8 weeks MBSR workshop.

Sign up in http://www.mindfulgay-training.com

Next workshops worldwide will be added very soon, so stay tunned!

Good starting points

MINDFULNESS GAY MSBR

Anyone interested in Mindfulness and Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) should start by looking at these three links:

1. The Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where it all started more than 30 years ago. It is the world reference point for Mindfulness, MBSR, and Mindfulness Education in general.

http://www.umassmed.edu/cfm/

2. Mindfulness Meditation NYC is a collaborative of MBSR teachers offering classes in the NYC area. It is a great source of information for anyone who wants to know about Mindfulness and MBSR, regardless of their location.

http://www.mindfulnessmeditationnyc.com/

3. The Center for Mindfulness research and Practice at Bangor University in Wales, United Kingdom, is one of the leading centres for teaching and research on Mindfulness in Europe and throughout the world. Their courses and workshops complement perfectly those offered in different centres in the United States.

http://www.bangor.ac.uk/mindfulness/

Three Joyful Mysteries

LUIS CERNUDA TRES MISTERIOS GOZOSOS

The singing of the birds, at dawn,
When the day is mildest,
Happy to be alive, already slips
Between sleep, and the contagious
Joy of one waking to the new day.

Happy smiling at his poor
And broken toy, in the door
Of the house the little child plays alone
By himself, and in happy
Ignorance, enjoys being alive.

The poet, dreaming upon the paper,
His unfinished poem,
Finds it beautiful, rejoices and thinks
With good reason and madness
That nothing matters, his poem exists.

Luis Cernuda, Spanish poet (1902-1963)

Walking meditation at Paris airport

walking meditation airport mindfulness

I have always being scared of practising walking meditation in public spaces. I think people will stare at me. I am afraid of looking like some sort of walking ghost.

I decided I wanted to do something about it, so with the prospect of my trip to New York for New Year’s Eve, I told myself I would do a walking meditation at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, while changing planes and terminals, arriving from Valencia on my way to New York.

Going through a big airport, from one terminal to another, waiting in long lines, going through immigration, through security, is not the most relaxing thing in the world, and it can be a rather stressful situation, especially if connecting times are tight.

Although I had plenty of time between flights, I tried to live my experience in a completely different way, being mindful, being aware of each step.

Going out of the plane, walking along the airbridge towards the terminal…

Being aware of my breath while I walk, the air coming in and going out, and at the same time being aware of my hips, my legs, my feet…

Concentrating on my foot lifting as the other touches the floor. Feeling that contact. The skin against the sock, the sock against the shoe, the shoe against the floor. Only this exists at this particular moment. Savouring it.

Being aware when my mind wanders, wanting to complain about how heavy my bags are, on how long the immigration lines are, or if someone tries to bypass the queue…

Going back to my breathing and to the movement of my legs, and my feet. Finding refuge and peace at these anchors.
Trying to bring this awareness to my posture, to my body when I am standing in a line, or observing the planes on the runway.

And doing this with gentleness, without any judgement.

Finally getting into the big bird, finding my seat, taking my place… realising that I feel different to other trips, I feel at peace, I feel well.

Mission accomplished! I say to myself. You’ve managed to do it and it has been great…!

About walking meditation

walking meditation

‘In traditional monastic settings, periods of sitting meditation are interspersed with periods of walking meditation. They are the same practice. The walking is just as good as the sitting. What is important is how you keep your mind. In formal walking meditation you attend to the walking itself.’

Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever you go there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. (1994)

‘We have to awaken ourselves to the truth that we are here, alive. We are here making steps on this beautiful planet. This is already performing a miracle. But we have to be here in order for the miracle to be possible. We have to bring ourselves back to the here and the now. Therefore, each step we take becomes a miracle. If you are able to walk like that, each step will be very nourishing and healing. You walk as if you kiss the earth with your feet, as if you massage the earth with your feet. There is a lot of love in that practice of walking meditation.’

Thich Nhat Hanh
Your true home. The everyday wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh. (2011)

‘Peace is every step’

Thich Nhat Hanh
Peace is every step: The path of mindfulness in everyday life. (1991)

Breathing and mindfulness

Breathing & Mindfulness

“So, at the beginning, you might want to stay with the breath, or use it as an anchor to bring you back when you are carried away. Try for a few years and see what happens”

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever you go, there you are. Mindfulness meditation in everyday life.

“Use the breath as an anchor to tether your attention to the present moment. Your thinking mind will drift here and there, depending on the currents and winds moving in the mind until at some point, the anchor line grows taut and brings you back”.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life

“There are many ways to come back to the here and the now and touch life deeply. But they all involve mindful breathing, If we´re anchored in our mindful breathing, we can practice anytime. Otherwise we risk missing our lives, our lives that are lived in the here and now”.

Thich Nhat Hanh, Your true home. The every day wisdom of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Men of Spirit, the interview

MENOFSPIRIT

Roger, the creator of the Men of Spirit website, has agreed to answer some questions about this project for the readers of MindfulGay.

Roger, could you define what Men of Spirit is, and what is the main purpose of it?

Men of Spirit is a website that was created with the intention of raising awareness of men’s gatherings. I often attended workshops and talked to the attendees about other retreats and realized that many of these men had not heard of  the other workshops going on in various retreat centers through out the US. The criteria for the Men of Spirit calendar of events consists of gatherings that focus on advancing personal growth, spirituality, sacred sexuality, the connection with Self, nature and other like-minded men. Its purpose is to help others explore events, teachers, programs, schools and gatherings that create greater awareness of who and what we are. Events that help us align our lives with our deepest desires. All of the events listed on this website are for men who love men. 

How did you come up with the idea of creating this project?

I have been attending men’s workshops since 1998 and the impact of my first workshop changed how I would live my life forever. I also witnessed others having similar experiences and I realized the importance of this type of work. For years, I spent hours online looking for workshops and spirit related travel opportunities that interested me. I kept a personal calendar of these events and used this information through-out the year to plan my travel according to the workshops that were interesting to me. The process of finding and documenting the workshop information from multiple websites was time consuming. I often thought about how convenient it would be to have a website that listed all these events in one online location. Obviously, such a website didn’t exist and my method was the best I could manage. 

In 2012 I attended a local college to learn web design to help promote my design business. The students were asked to develop their own websites as their project for a final grade. I started building a website for my business, but I quickly realized that it would take weeks to prepare the photo content suitable for a design business. I then started using images that I found online and paired them to the workshops that I was planning to attend in the future. This was a very effective way for me to learn to use the software without spending countless hours on preparing content. I needed a domain name and Men of Spirit seemed fitting and it also happened to be available. It came together very quickly. Essentially, it was developed as a homework assignment.

I continued working on Men of Spirit website to practice my software skills not knowing that I’d actually publish it someday. I posted my first event in March 2013 and haven’t stopped since.

Would you say your website covers all areas of physical and spiritual exploration and development for a gay or bisexual man?

I think that Men of Spirit is reflective of the type of workshops available today for men who love men. I don’t think that the website reflects all areas of Spirituality for gay/bi men because Spiritual paths are not exclusive to men. The Men of Spirit website posts events that are exclusive to men. In fact, it’s very specific and limited in the realm of most men´s Spiritual development.

At the moment the information you give is about venues located in the United States, have you got plans to expand it to Europe and the rest of the world?

It’s difficult for me to post an event that I’m not familiar with in some way. I seldom offer personal opinions about an event, but I think there may be an implied recommendation by my posting an event on the website. My experience of workshops has been expanding over time and I’m starting to learn and recognize that there are many workshops in various countries that the Men of Spirit audience would be interested in attending. The Men of Spirit audience is global and the viewers are from all over the world. However, the vast majority of viewers are from North America and Europe.

Have you got any additional plans or ideas regarding Men of Spirit in the years to come that you would like to share with our readers?

I would like to see Men of Spirit sponsored workshops and events. However, I solely support the existence of the Men of Spirit website. It’s a free service to the facilitators and venues of all the events listed. Without additional financial resources and others to help with the growing process, I don’t know how that would be possible. I believe that this project will continue to move me towards a greater purpose. I’m just not sure what that will be during the infancy stage of Men of Spirit.

It has been a real pleasure  to have you at MindfulGay. Thank you so much Roger for sharing your time and your ideas with us.

ROGER from MEN OF SPIRIT

Men of Spirit

Men of Spirit

www.menofspirit.com

Men of Spirit is a website that all gay men interested in spirituality and body work should have in mind.

There you can find an up-to-date accurate listing of all the scheduled gatherings – exclusively for gay and bisexual men – related to advancing personal growth, spirituality, sacred sexuality, and the connection with Self, nature and other like-minded men, which take place in the United States during the year. A list of websites providing more information is also included.

Men of Spirit

Morning sea, by Cavafy

Cavafis

Morning sea

Let me stop here. Let me, too, look at nature awhile.
The brilliant blue of the morning sea, of the cloudless sky,
the yellow shore; all lovely,
all bathed in light.

Let me stand here. And let me pretend I see all this
(I really did see it for a minute when I first stopped)
and not my usual day-dreams here too,
my memories, those images of sensual pleasure.

Translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

Constantine Cavafy.

Alexandria (1863-1933). Greek poet

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist Zen monk, as well as a writer and peace activist. He is well known throughout the world for his teachings and books on mindfulness and peace, having published over 100 titles on meditation, mindfulness and Buddhism, as well as poems and children’s stories.

He was born in central Vietnam in 1926. In the early seventies, after attending peace talks overseas, he was denied permission to return to Vietnam and went into exile in France, where he has been living for nearly four decades. In 1982 he founded the community of Plum Village near Bordeaux and has lived there since. In addition to the one in France, he has established several monasteries in other counties including the United States, Germany and Vietnam.

Thich Nhat Hanh introduced the concept of Mindfulness to the Western world within a Buddhist context, and wrote the The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation which is considered one of his best known works. Some of his other best selling books include Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living, Savor and Mindful Eating, Mindful Life and You are Here: Discovering the Magic of the Present Moment.

“His key teaching is that, through mindfulness, we can learn to live happily in the present moment—the only way to truly develop peace, both in one’s self and in the world.” (http://plumvillage.org)

Martin Luther King called Thich Nhat Hanh “an Apostle of peace and nonviolence”. The media has called him “The Father of Mindfulness”, “The Other Dalai Lama” and “The Zen Master Who Fills Stadiums”. He is affectionately known by his students as Thay which is Vietnamese for ‘teacher’.

Thich Nhat Hanh is also a renowned calligraphist. His works feature short phrases and words capturing the essence of his mindfulness teachings and have been exhibited in galleries and centres in numerous countries.

More recently, Thich Nhat Hanh has founded Wake Up, a worldwide movement of young people who want to train in the practices of mindful living, and he has launched a teacher training programme to introduce mindfulness in schools throughout the world.

Thich Nhat Hanh is now 88 years old and continued to write and teach at Plum Village.Until recently he travelled widely visiting his various centres and leading retreats around the world.On 11 November 2014, he experienced a severe brain haemorrhage and was taken to hospital, where he still is.

Sources:

http://plumvillage.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Th%C3%ADch_Nh%E1%BA%A5t_H%E1%BA%A1nh

Nhat Hanh, Thich. Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life.
Arnold Kotler (Ed). Bantam, 1992.

Nhat Hanh, Thich. The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of
Meditation
. Beacon Press, 1999.

Nhat Hanh, Thich. Touching Peace: Practicing the Art of Mindful Living. Parallax Press,
2009.

Let’s have a mindful shower…!

mindful shower

How many times have you had a shower in your life?

It´s something we do practically every day, perhaps even more than once… Usually alone, sometimes with someone special…

But, are we really aware of what we´re doing when we step into the shower…?

As with many things that we do on a daily basis, it frequently turns into a mechanical act, something we do while we´re immersed in our thoughts, trapped in our routines, lost in our inner world.

Why should we keep on going like this…?

Let´s try another approach to things, another approach to life.

Let´s be curious, let´s be bold.

Why don´t we give it a twist, why don’t we experiment with it?

I invite you to shower as if it was the only thing that mattered, the only thing that existed in this world.
Suspended in time, no past no future, just the now… Our naked body, and the water… Like a conversation, even like a dance… Nothing else exists…

Gazing at the water flowing out of the shower head

Feeling the water sliding down from head to toe… Water droplets travelling down our skin, caressing the surface of our body…

Feeling the touch of our hands applying soap to our skin, soap mixed with water cleansing every inch of our body.

Noticing the temperature of the water, adjusting it to our preference, and just sensing how it feels.

Listening to the sound of water splashing against the walls, against the floor, against ourselves.

Smelling the scent of our body, smelling the scent of the soap.

Tasting the water in our mouth…

No thinking, no worrying, no planning.

No other thing exists in this very moment.

Just our wet naked body and the water.

Harry Hay and the modern gay movement

Harry Hay

Harry Hay was born in England in 1912, but a few years later he moved with his family to Los Angeles, where he lived most of his life.

Many people consider him to be the founder of the modern American gay rights movement. He fought against the treatment and the intolerance that gays were suffering in the 1920s and 1930s from the police and from society in general. He was widely involved in politics, considered himself a communist and was active in different labour and civil rights causes until the end of his days.

In 1950, Harry Hay founded an underground organisation, called the Mattachine Society, which was America’s first gay rights group. In the 1970s he decided to become more public about his activism for the gay cause, and he co-founded the Radical Faeries, a gay men’s movement which affirmed gayness as a form of spiritual calling.

“His central idea–as revolutionary then as now–is that gay people have a special role to play in human evolution. He was the first to insist that we are a separate, distinct minority with certain traits and talents, mainly in the areas of teaching, healing, mediating opposites, and creating beauty” Thompson RadFae,org. As a result of this he was against the progressive assimilation of gay men and gay culture into the mainstream society.

He lived with John Burnside, his soulmate and lover of 39 years, until his death in 2002 in San Francisco at the age of 90.

Anyone who wants to know more about Harry Hay should read Stuart Timmons’ biography, The Trouble with Harry Hay: Founder of the Modern Gay Movement, and the collection of Harry’s writings and essays, Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of its Founder.

His life has been the subject of a documentary by Eric Slade called Hope along the wind which won several film awards, More information on the film and on Harry´s life and work can be found at www.harryhay.com

Three questions

Three questions Harry Hay

Every time Harry Hay gave a talk or a conference, he used to start by asking 3 questions regarding us as gay men:

Who are we?

Where do we come from?

Why are we here…?

Harry Hay (gay man, intellectual and activist, one of the founders of the Radical Faeries movement)

The guest house

The guest house MindfulGay

The guest house

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Jelaluddin Rumi, translation by Coleman Barks

Anchors

Anchor Anclaje

Anchors or anchoring points, are places we go back to again and again when our mind starts wandering off while we are meditating, while we’re practising sitting meditation.

They are places to go to, when our mind gets lost. It’s like a refuge in the mountains for those who need to rest, or need to spend the night. They are safe havens, places where we can go again and again, and we will always feel welcome. It is like going home or going to see a good friend, or someone we feel secure with.

When we meditate our mind frequently starts to become active, and starts to think… various kind of thoughts…

When we start meditating, our first anchor is the breath. Breathing in and breathing out. Going back to the breath again and again… It doesn´t matter how many times… we just do it.

It could be that we keep meditating for a long time, for a number of years, and we just use the breath as an anchor.

But after using it for some time we can explore other anchors…

The next step is contact… the contact points of our body with the chair, with the cushion, with the mat, with the floor.

We can also use those intense physical sensations like itch, tingling or pain.

Of course there are the sounds… All sorts of sounds around us, that can distract us, even unnerve us while we are trying to keep concentrated, meditating… But as it can happen with intense sensations, instead of getting angry, or disturbed, we can befriend that sound that has got in without permission, and use it as an anchor…

Is there anything missing…? Of course the thoughts… And again as happened with those other unwanted visitors, we can use them as an anchoring point, in a ¨touch and go” kind of way. We are aware of it, we touch it, and then we let it go…

After the breath, we can go in a systematic way to the different anchoring points that we have just mentioned, or we can keep it open, welcoming whatever comes along… A touch, a thought, a sound…

Everything is welcome, everyone is welcome… Whatever it is… Whoever it is…

Interview to Scott Dillard, convener at the 2014 Gay Spirit Visions Fall Conference

Scott Dillard

Scott Dillard has been an active member of Gay Spirit Visions for a number of years, and he was the convener at the 2014 Fall Conference which took place in September at The Mountain in North Carolina, USA.

Hi Scott, it is a pleasure and an honour to have you with us today. Could you tell the readers of MindfulGay what Gay Spirit Visions (GSV) is, and what is its main purpose?
The main purpose of Gay Spirit Visions is to host conferences three times a year (fall, winter, and spring) for men who love men and are on a spiritual path.

How many years have you been gathering for, first once a year in the fall, and then three times a year, winter, spring and fall? Why this time, was it so special?
We have been gathering for 25 years in the fall but not as long during the winter or spring. This year was very special because of the 25th anniversary which was a time for us to take stock of where we have been, where we are now, and where we wish to go next.

You have always been meeting at The Mountain in the mountains of North Carolina, do you think the special energy that place has makes the meeting so unique…?
I have a long history with The Mountain since I used to be on the faculty and then was Dean of The Mountain School for Congregational Leadership which is a leadership school for lay leaders in the Unitarian Universalist Church. I’ve also hosted for a number of years a group of actors/performers who come to The Mountain to new performance workshops. And, I must say, that ´The Mountain` is a special place that is welcoming to so many kinds of groups. I do think that the mission of the place leads them to embracing and holding in love whoever comes to the retreat center. That and the beautiful natural setting make it very special and sacred. I do believe that GSV has imbued our own special energy into the place that adds to the loving embrace that is practiced by The Mountain.

Many of the men come from the states of Georgia and North Carolina. Some of them live in small communities…? Does this strengthen the feeling of brotherhood and community…?
I think that for all of the men who come, regardless of where, there is a sense of a larger community of men out there beyond their geographical location. I’m sure it is a godsend to men who are a bit more isolated in very small communities to have a gathering place that puts them in the center of the universe rather than at the margins of their smaller town.

Could you inform the readers what types of activities they will be able to attend to if they decide to come to a GSV conference?
At a typical fall conference you will often times hear a keynote speaker who is there to examine the theme of the conference. You will always be put into a small group that meets throughout the conference. These small groups help process the information and experience of the conference. There is always a dance and a talent show. Often times there are workshops to choose from, labyrinth walks, and spontaneous offerings from the men in attendance.
Of course, the winter and spring conferences are a bit different. They are shorter than the autumn one and they have their own flavor. The winter is more contemplative and meditative and the spring has a looser structure and changing features.

Spirituality is an important part of the GSV Conferences. Are men from all kind of religions welcome to the conferences…?
Men from all religions and spiritual paths are welcome at the conference. We come from many faiths many journeys. We gather to learn from each other and to support one another as we seek meaning and connection.

I understand Gay Spirit Visions is a non-profit organisation, and all the people who are involved in the organisation and planning of the different activities are doing it in a completely altruistic way. Is that true?
Yes, it is a totally volunteer organization. There is a council that oversees the business of the group and plans the conferences. These men serve for a limited time and then are replaced by others associated with GSV. In addition, there are many committees staffed by men from across the country who contribute to the success of the conferences by handling different aspects of the gatherings such as ritual, alter spaces, entertainment, and small groups.

What did it mean to you and to the rest of the attendees at the conference to have John Stasio, founder of Easton Mountain, as guest speaker?
I was delighted to have John attend and speak with us. I met John a number of years ago at a conference of gay spiritual leaders and then was fortunate enough to present a performance at his Easton Mountain retreat center. Interestingly enough, John by coincidence was at my ordination as an Interfaith Minister in NYC. He was looking at going to the same seminary as I was graduating from and had no idea I was being ordained when he attended the ceremony. When I decided that our Fall Conference theme would be ‘community’, John was the first person I thought of inviting as a speaker since he has lived in community for many years at Easton Mountain. The feedback I have gotten from the men in attendance has been very positive. John spoke to our hearts and even challenged us to think in bigger and more ambitious ways as an organization.

Now that several days have passed since the end of the conference, what feelings and memories have you got inside of you after being convener of the conference?
The image that sticks in my mind was at the very end of the conference. There was a young man who was volunteering at The Mountain who came to our closing circle. When I led the men into a spiral with our bodies and I looked up from the center there was that young man looking at me and he was just sobbing and smiling and was so overcome with the experience. I reached out my hand to him and held it through our singing and mouthed the words to him “It will all be alright”. He shook his head yes at me and smiled through his tears. To me that is what GSV is all about. It is a place where we save each other from isolation and loneliness and we help men feel whole and alive. In that moment with that young man I felt like I had done my job right. I had held the space for him to enter into and to be embraced and loved by his brothers. He was home.

Thank you so much Scott for your time. It was a real delight to have you with us.

Mountains and mindfulness

man meditating

After coming from ‘The Mountain’ in North Carolina, nestled deep in the Appalachian Mountains, the image of a mountain is vivid in my mind. It made me think how important the notion of it is in Mindfulness and MBSR.

Frequently when we do Sitting Meditation, crossed legged on the floor, or sitting on a chair, we use the image of a mountain, emerging with majesty, with dignity, like us, sitting in an upright position in a dignified posture, aware of our breathing, rooted, motionless, oblivious to what is happening around. As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “by becoming the mountain in our meditation, we can link up with its strength and stability, and adopt them for our own”.

We also use the parallelism with a mountain when we do Mindful yoga. Standing with our feet shoulder-width apart, our arms parallel to our body. Our spine erect, standing with dignity, focusing our awareness on the connection with the floor. Being with our feet grounded, anchored, stable, like a mountain emerging from the earth. Going back to it again and again when we connect from one posture to the next while we practise Mindful movement. Knowing that we can come back to it frequently throughout the day, whatever we are doing, wherever we may be. Feeling secure, feeling connected, feeling rooted, feeling present.

Let the mountains inspire us, men who love men, while we practise Mindfulness meditation, let’s have them present in our imagination, in our mind, in our body.

Sources:
Kabat-Zinn, John. Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion, 1994.

An approach to James Broughton

James Broughton

James Broughton is the very epitome of a writer who constantly experienced mindfulness both in his personal life and in his work.

He was born in Modesto, California, in 1913. He was a poet and experimental filmmaker and was associated with the San Francisco Renaissance, a movement which preceded the Beat Generation poets. He was involved with the counter-cultural movement the Radical Faeries and was a member of the group The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.

His life was a mirror of his work. He was a free spirit and kept exploring and transcending boundaries of male and female, straight and gay, young and old, wilderness and civility, body and spirit. In spite of ongoing pressures from his family and society, he was never afraid of following his instincts and beliefs.

Poet and publisher Jonathan Williams gave him the nickname ‘Big Joy’ and James really lived up to it throughout his life.

In the 1940’s he began experimenting with filming, making avant-garde films, exploring themes of sex, death, and the meaning of life, earning him several awards, among which should be highlighted a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute, and an award in Cannes from Jean Cocteau for his film The Pleasure Garden.

He wrote more than 20 books, poetry being one of his favourite passions. An example of the importance of the here and now in his work are the poems ¨Closure`, and ´This is it`, which feature in other posts in this blog.

James Broughton had both male and female lovers during his life. With his wife, the artist Suzanna Hart, he had two children, and he also had a daughter with the film critic Pauline Kael. In his 60s, James Broughton formed a relationship with a Canadian student named Joel Singer, which lasted for nearly 25 years until Broughton’s death in 1999.

Abundant information about James Broughton’s life and work, as well as the 2012 award-winning film documenting his life (Big Joy: the adventures of James Broughton by Stephen Silha et al) can be found at http://bigjoy.org

YOUTUBE

This is it, by James Broughton

 

This is It

This is It

and I am It

and You are It

and so is That

and He is It

and She is It

and It is It

and That is That

O it is This

and it is Thus

and it is Them

and it is Us

and it is Now

and Here It is

and Here we are

so This is It.

 

This is it (# 2)

This is It

This is really It.

This is all there is.

And it´s perfect as It is.

There is nowhere to go

but Here.

There is nothing here

but Now.

There is nothing now

but This.

And this is It.

This is really It.

This is all there is.

And it´s perfect as It is.

 

James Broughton

Eating chocolate mindfully

chocolate mindulness

Alone with a piece of chocolate.

Trying to eat it in a way we have never done before…

As if we did not know what kind of object it is, what we have in our hands right now.

Handling it with our fingers…

Handling it with curiosity, and respect.

Is it soft, is it hard? What texture does it have…? Is it smooth, is it rugged? Is it sticky…?

How does it look, what shape does it have, what colour is it…?

Does it have any smell?

What happens when we put it close to our ear? Does it make any sound by itself…? How does it sound when we rub it against the skin of our ear…?

We can pass it gently along our lips. What sensations are we having right now…? Is it starting to melt already…?

Now, we proceed to put it inside our mouth, and start playing with it with our tongue.

What taste does it have…? Sweet, sour, salty? A mix…?

Is it cold, is it warm?

Do we let it melt in our mouth, or do we start biting it with our teeth…?

Are we aware of what happens while we are swallowing it…?

The object is not in our mouth any more. Is anything left there…? A flavour, a particular sensation, something we cannot describe, or just nothing at all…?

What type of experience has it been…?

Has it been different from other times when we’ve eaten chocolate on our own, with family, with friends, with a lover, with our partner…?

As occurred in the exercise with the raisin, this is an example of what happens when we step out of automatic pilot, which we are in quite often in our lives.

When we put awareness and full attention into what we are doing at the present moment, a whole new world of sensations opens to us.

Welcome to the challenge.

Meditating open air

open air

Meditating open-air.

Feeling connected to the earth, feeling grounded, feeling rooted.

The wind blowing in your face.

Listening to the sound of water, the power of water, water falling into the void.

Blending with nature.

Becoming merged with it.

Becoming one.

By Manuel Grau (in the picture), founder at MindfulGay

Andrew Ramer, sharing the same tribe

2 Flutes Playing Andrew Ramer

Andrew Ramer is a poet, novelist, and a maggid (a sacred Jewish story teller). Born in New York, he now lives in San Francisco, California, where he is an active member of an historically LGBTQ synagogue, a spiritual counselor for a Mennonite church, and teaches in the Jewish Studies and Social Justice Program at a Jesuit university.

Spirituality and more specifically gay spirituality is a vital component in his life, and he has been actively involved in several communities such as the Gay Spirit Visions conference in North California and the New York Healing Circle.

For several years he wrote a column on spiritual practice for White Crane Journal and has published several books ranging from novels to books on angels, gay erotic anthologies and short stories.

Andrew writes about himself: “You will find in my writing a range of voices, some my own and some received, a term I prefer to ‘channeled´”.

The best known among all the books he has written is Two Flutes Playing (Lethe Press, 2005).

In the book, he reviews and stresses the importance of mythology for gay men, and the reality of the existence of the gay tribe as a unique group of men who love men that has to regain its place in history and everyday society.
Talking about the book, Andrew Ramer says: “(…) I want to speak here of the saints and heroes of the gay tribes. For this is a period of human history that has been lost through time, whose return is vitally needed. For you know the heroes of the other tribes. But of this small, sacred tribe, whose history has been obscured, you remember nothing”.

Andrew Ramer is one of the gay writers and intellectuals portrayed and interviewed in Mark Thompson’s book, Gay Soul: Finding the Heart of Gay Spirit and Nature (Harper, 1994).

He can be found online at http://www.andrewramer.com.

Our special touch, by Andrew Ramer

manos gays mindfulness

“The most important thing we can tell each other as gay men is that we are here for a reason and all of us know what the reason is. We know when we sit with ourselves and notice who we are, what we do, and what we bring to the world. There´s a line from a Native American medicine chant that says: ‘You bring to all of life your special touch’. We gay men know what our special touch is”.

Andrew Ramer, North American gay writer and story teller.

Mindful Yoga

mindful movement

Mindful yoga or mindful movement is one of the formal meditation practices used in MBSR – Mindfulness-based stress reduction.

People frequently wonder what  yoga, or movement in general, has to do with meditation.
The purpose of it is to bring awareness to movement. Being conscious of what is happening to our body, and in our body when we move.

Although we call it yoga, it is not exactly yoga. It takes movements and postures from that discipline, but also from qi gong, tai chi, dance, or even from everyday life, and adds an element of awareness and consciousness to it…
It can be done standing or lying down. Most of the time it is done with our eyes open, but some movements can also be performed with our eyes closed, what may deliver a different dimension to the movement.

Do we have to be extremely fit in order to do the different movements? Not at all! This is the beauty of it, there´s always some sort of movement that every one of us can do. It doesn´t matter if we exercise regularly or not, if we have our four limbs or not, if our mobility is impaired or not. It is a matter of being aware of that particular movement, at that particular time, even if it is barely a movement.

It is not a competition between the people in the room, nor a competition with ourselves, it is just a matter of living the moment, experiencing our experience, as we do when we practice sitting meditation or the body scan.

Listening and self respect are also vital here.

Listening to corporal signs, listening to what our body is telling us… How far can we reach? When do we have to stop? When do we have to go back  to the starting position?

Self respect: we all have to learn how to respect our body, and be aware of our limits.

Limits that differ from person to person; limits that within ourselves may vary from day to day, or even, from moment to moment…

While we practice mindful yoga or mindful movement, nothing else exists.  Ourselves, our bodies, that particular movement, experiencing it, listening to it, embodying it….

We may have raised our hands  and  arms thousands of times in our life, but when we do it with awareness, we reach a new dimension that probably we never thought  could exist.

Walking meditation

walking meditation mindfulness

Walking is something we all do every day. But in most cases, we do it automatically, without thinking on the added value it can bring us.

Jon Kabat-Zin wanted to give a new meaning to walking, so he introduced the walking meditation within the formal practices that form the MBSR – Mindfulness-based stress reduction.

Practicing walking meditation is as simple as walking, but while you do it, you can add to the meditation other stimuli, p.e., what you see, what you feel, the smells, the feel of your feet when they get in touch with the ground… what you should avoid is not to try getting caught for other thoughts that alienate us from cultivating our inner observation.

It may be difficult at the beginning: for many years we have used our legs mechanically likely you could even feel awkward during the activity. You can set your eyes straight ahead or you can look down and see how the foot up from the floor and back down, and feel the rhythm of your steps.

Any time is good for practicing walking meditation: in small displacements, at home, in a park, in the way to or back from work … there’s always a good chance to make that path a chance to meditate. Walking as a practice itself, try not to treat it as a further goal, as we usually do during our busy daily life.

Take your time. Do not run. Only wander without looking for a goal, not a destination, without the intention of reaching a particular location. If, for example, you put it into practice during a journey that you are used to do it in 5 minutes, allow yourself to do it in double time and practice walking meditation for 10 minutes.

Before starting practice, think about breathing slowly during those two or three initial steps to accustom your body and mind to this new way of walking. The soles should focus your attention: be aware of the contact between them and the ground you walk on.

You have to control your breathing. Make it mild and slow. It will help you to reduce the effects of stress and facilitate meditation. Make deep but slow breaths inhaling air through the nose and exhaling through your mouth.

And, most important advice: do it lively. Don’t think about a minimum or maximum time for practicing this meditation. And at the end, take a moment for reflect on what you have done, how through the practice, you have found serenity, peace, inner joy.

Body scan

body scan mindfulness

When we hear the term body scan, it can conjure up all sorts of thoughts and mental associations.

Body scan is one of the formal meditation practices which are part of mindfulness-based stress reduction or MBSR, and it is the first kind of meditation which is taught in the MBSR course.

It is a type of lying down meditation in which we focus our attention on the different parts of our body, in a systematic way.

Usually it is done lying down on a mat , with our arms parallel to the body. But it can also be done sitting down, or adopting other positions like, the astronaut pose (body on the floor, and knees bent on a chair).

While we do the body scan, our eyes are usually closed, but if this makes us feel uncomfortable, or we feel that we are falling asleep, we can leave them open.

While we are lying down, relaxation can occur, but it’s not the ultimate goal of this meditation. Throughout the exercise, we are invited to stay alert and awake. But again, if we happen to fall asleep, it is okay, we just resume the exercise in the part of the body where we were just before our attention drifted away.

We do not pretend to change anything, or achieve any particular goal, just being aware of how we are and what we feel as we check each area of our bodies.

In the body scan, we go through the different parts of the body, acknowledging what is happening in that particular point, in that particular moment. Accepting whatever sensation or feeling we may have, or accepting (why not?) that there is no particular sensation or feeling.

We move our awareness through the different parts of our body, following a particular order, but there is no one best way of doing it. We can start from the toes and end on the head, or the other way around.

Again as what happens with sitting meditation, it is a matter of experiencing the experience, accepting whatever is there for us in the here and now.

Sitting meditation

 

Sitting meditation mindfulness

Finding some time for oneself…

What a difficult thing to do in a fast-paced world like the one we live in…

We all deserve some time for us. Time in which we will not be disturbed. No phone, no interruptions, just ourselves.
It is not easy. There are always other things to do. The current in which we are all immersed is too strong…

In order to get some consistency and commitment, effort and discipline may be needed.

At the beginning it can be just five minutes. Five minutes to start with.

We can sit indoors or outdoors. We can sit on the floor, on a cushion, or on a chair. Sitting in an upright position, in a dignified posture.

We can place our hands on our lap, or on our thighs, whatever feels best for us.

We start by focusing our attention on our breathing. Breathing in, and breathing out. Feeling our abdomen how it expands with the in breath, and how it retracts with the out breath.

Nothing else exists. Just the breathing. The air going in and out.

All kind of thoughts will try to capture our attention. Thoughts, feelings, emotions… It’s okay. No guilt, no judgments. Just being aware of it, and going back to our breathing.

Once more, our mind starts wandering… Just being conscious of it, and gently returning our attention to the breathing.

It is not a struggle, nor a competition with one self or others.

It is an encounter with the now, with the present moment, with ourselves.

All of a sudden, we realize that the time is over. We may have the feeling that our mind has been wandering all the time. That we haven’t done it right, that something has failed, that this was not made for us…

We may feel discouraged, or even disappointed.

No expectations here… Just letting things flow, trusting, experiencing the experience…

Whatever it might be, wherever it may lead us…

As John Kabat Zinn says: “Try for a few years and see what happens…”.

MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

MSBR Mindfulness

You may already be familiar to what MBSR stands for, and know that these four letters mean Mindfulness-based stress reduction.

As you already know, it was created by Jon Kabat-Zin in the late seventies. Although it is based in Buddhist meditation principles, the course it’s structured throughout 8 weeks, and its main aim is to reduce stress and to give you tools to bring awareness to your life moment by moment.

The main meditation practices that are used in the course are sitting meditation, body scan, walking meditation, and mindful yoga, also known as mindful movement.

Those are different types of what is known as formal practice. In all of them the main anchor or object of awareness, at least at the beginning, is the breath. As Jon Kabat-Zin says: “Try it for a few years and see what happens”.

Informal practices are also introduced. This means bringing attention to different activities that we all usually do in our daily life, like eating, brushing our teeth or washing the dirty dishes.
Sessions are complemented with weekly practice at home listening to Cds and using reading material.
When a group is established at the beginning of the course a bond and a commitment is created.

A bond between the facilitator and the participants, and also among the participants themselves which will develop and grow as the course goes on. It is like weaving a patchwork quilt between all the participants of the course including the facilitator.

A commitment to attend all the classes for the benefit of one self and the rest. And a commitment to do the home practice during the week after each session.

Many questions can come to our minds before starting an MBSR Course.

Do I need to be an experienced meditator? Not at all. It’s not about perfection, nor about competing with yourself or others. It’s as simple as focusing on the breath, and going back to it every time the mind wanders. It is about befriending something as familiar as the breath, which has been with us since our birth, and that will be with us until we die, but that frequently we are not aware it’s there.

Do I have to have practiced yoga in order to do mindful movement? Not at all. Mindful movement focuses on being aware of our body when it moves. It can be as simple as raising your eyebrows, or moving your feet.

What benefits can I get by doing the course? You will get to understand stress better and how to reduce it. You will learn how to deal with thoughts, emotions and feelings in a more skillful way.

What is Mindfulness?

02

Mindfulness has become a popular topic in the last few years. It has been the subject of numerous television programs, magazines and books. An example of this, is one of this year’s cover stories for Time magazine which was titled The Mindful revolution.

Numerous courses and workshops with mindfulness as the main subject are sprouting in many countries around the world.

In spite of the term is familiar to many of us, do we know what does Mindfulness really mean?
The word Mindfulness comes from the translation of the word sati in Pali, the language in which the teachings of Buddha were originally recorded.

The term connotes awareness, attention and remembering.

Just by becoming aware of what is occurring within and around us, we can begin to entangle ourselves from mental preoccupations and difficult emotions.

By redirecting attention, rather than trying to control or suppress intense emotions, we can regulate how we feel.

Another aspect of Mindfulness is remembering. This does not refer to memory of the past events. Rather it means remembering to be aware and pay attention.

It was Thich Nhat Hanh, zen master, spiritual leader and world renowned author, who used it for the first time in his book The miracle of Mindfulness, a letter he wrote to his disciples in Vietnam, when he was in exile, reminding them the importance of the practice of breathing and constant awareness to the present moment in order to achieve peace.

Years later Jon Kabat Zinn, a PhD in Molecular Biology, introduced Mindfulness meditation in Medicine. He was the first who realized the potential use of mindfulness in the treatment of chronic medical conditions, and adapted it into the structured eight week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction course, at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, in 1979.

He first created the Stress Reduction Clinic which later evolved into the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society. For more than 30 years he and his team have worked on the integration of Mindfulness meditation and other Mindfulness-based approaches in mainstream medicine and healthcare.

Although Mindfulness is based on Buddhist Meditation principles, it is taught in a secular environment, completely devoid of a religious connotation.

Mindfulness stress reduction is now offered in numerous medical centers, hospitals and medical organizations throughout the world to help patients cope with stress, anxiety, pain and illness.

For some time Mindfulness has gone beyond the realms of Medicine, and it is being used in diverse fields such as education, social work, law firms and law schools, and in the corporate world with companies like Google, Target, Asana or Medium, which uses it with their employees.

MindfulGay is Born

MindfulGay is born

Stress is an element that forms part of our lives.

Even if we don’t want to admit it, this is an statement that is true for every single one of us.
We live in a fast paced world where we have little time for ourselves, to reduce our speed, to listen to ourselves, to listen to our inner voice.

We, gay and bisexual men, are especially prone to lead stressful lives with additional issues that many of us carry in our backpacks: these can be high demanding jobs, present or past coming out issues, homophobia, a past history of bullying, the need to keep fit and beautiful, trying to find our place in a predominantly straight world or, why not, trying to find our place among other gay men.

For our own sake, we should slow down and release some of this unnecessary burden.

In MindfulGay we want to share with you ways to reduce our pace, to be able to respond more skillfully, to learn how to live in the present, moment by moment, to lead a happier stress-free life.

MindfulGay is a platform for gay and bisexual men. A place where we can learn. A place where we can call home, a place where we can be ourselves and be safe and secure.

Our workshops and courses are based on the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program initially created by Jon Kabat Zinn at the University of Massachussets 35 years ago.

Numerous articles and scientific studies show the benefits of Mindfulness and MBSR techniques to reduce stress and improve the quality of life.

Why should there be a Mindfulness workshop or course just for gay men? When we, men who like men, gather together, we share a common energy that empowers us as members of a group or tribe: our group, our tribe.

Our aim is to promote Mindfulness Meditation and MBSR techniques, offering 3 and 5 days workshops, in different locations throughout the world. The different events and locations will be announced on the MindfulGay website.

At the present moment the full 8 week MBSR Course will only be offered in Spain, in the cities of Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia.

As we live in a global society, the workshops and courses can be given in English, Spanish, French or German.

One to one sessions are also offered, allowing for greater flexibility and a more personalized attention.

Through our blog we want to create an space where gay and bisexual men can find information about Mindfulness, mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and other methods to reduce stress. We also want to be a place where gay men can learn and share ideas about gay spirituality.

We invite you to stay tuned, to participate.

Helps us build a mindful and spiritual community!