I believe that this kind of spiritual realization, which comes from practice, has strengthened me as a gay man because it has made me something larger than a gay man, just as it makes anyone larger than a particular sort of identification with the historical or surface aspects of being.
This past Sunday I attended a retreat sponsored by InsightLA and held in its beautiful new center on Olympic Boulevard in Santa Monica called, “The Precious Experience of Belonging--A daylong meditation retreat for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Intersex communities.” The retreat was taught by Larry Yang (pictured), the core teacher of the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland, who is also trained as a psychotherapist and lives part of the time in Palm Springs. He is one of only a few openly gay vipassana meditation teachers in North America. Thirty-some people attended the retreat and were graciously welcomed with open arms by InsightLA’s founder and lead teacher, Trudy Goodman. The event definitely filled a space that people felt to be lacking in the Los Angeles Buddhist community and there are now preliminary plans under way to form a LGBTQI sangha (community) that would meet regularly under the auspices of InsightLA.The retreat consisted of sitting and walking meditations, mindful eating, a community-building exercise, and a dharma talk devoted to “the precious experience of belonging.” One of the things we were invited by Larry Yang to do at the outset was to consider the unique opportunity we had to come together as a group and to sit with one another in silence, to be aware of the ways that forged a particular kind of intimacy not always available among people. The community-building component of the retreat consisted of small group conversations focusing on two questions that were more or less as follows:
1) how does your spiritual practice affect your LGBTQ or I identity, and
2) how does your LGBTQ or I identity affect your spirituality?
These, I thought, were great and large questions that obviously have complex, personal, emotional answers that we just began touching upon in the discussion groups so I wanted to further explore them here. (I will answer only for myself so will simply substitute gay for LGBTQI).
Read the rest.