The agitated, middle-aged, gay man on the phone wanted to know, “Are we losing ground? Will we lose everything we’ve worked so hard to accomplish? Gay men in bars don’t seem to care about our civil rights. How are you dealing with it?”
My response was possibly disappointing. “Look out another window.”
Our brain will focus on whatever we choose. If we love to watch cruel, slasher movies, our brain will work hard to find one on television. The feelings that result, and the impact they have on others, are our responsibilities.
Our brain will also do its best to find evidence to support our judgments. It’s a loyal workhorse that wants to please.
So, if we find ourselves depressed by the words and behaviors of the current President, and believe no one is doing anything to stop him, our brain will look for proof. It will choose to watch the news, and listen to all the commentary. It will decide to hate Donald Trump as a person, as well as all GOP voters and elected officials. It will seethe with anger over the influence of Fundamentalist Christians. Every shred of evidence gathered will be thrown on the raging fire of our focus.
If we feel that most gay men are apolitical, and only interested in booze and Grindr, then we’ll get angrier and angrier when they give evidence to support our beliefs. Every bare chested hunk on gay male periodicals will be seen as part of the problem.
How do I know this? Because I know myself, and I know how it feels to hate Trump, Republicans, and seemingly stupefied gay men. It’s an awful feeling of defeat, which, for a lifetime LGBT activist, can be debilitating. In order not to feel so angry, and awful every day, I practice and practice my spiritual beliefs, calling to mind everything I’ve learned about my relationships, body and soul, to all living things.
Like many of you, I have what’s called “Monkey Mind.” I have a monkey in my brain that runs from window to window, chattering incessantly, and judgmentally about everything it sees. If it finds a window that makes it really upset, it pulls up a seat, stares, and grumbles. In order to calm myself down, and rid myself of feelings of helplessness and anger, I tell the monkey to look out another window.
“Find something to watch that doesn’t ruin my day.”
I don’t draw the drapes on the other window, the one with “Dangerous Donald” on the other side of the glass. I know that there are many gay men who have no awareness of how hard it was to get us to this place of freedom, and who leave the bulk of their money on the bar rather than in support of anything “political.”
But, I can’t do anything about them. They are living out the stories of the lessons they need to learn. I am doing the same. Learning not to judge them, to ridicule, and shame them, is the story of the lessons I need to learn.
Donald Trump, and the “sex-crazed” gay men who so upset my telephone caller, are soul brothers whether I like it or not. Focussing on their behaviors, and needing them to change or suffer before I can be happy, is like me choosing to watch cruel, slasher films. Those movies creep me out.
That doesn’t mean I only go to see Disney productions. I watch Succession on HBO, for heaven’s sake. But I know that the things to which I give my attention are the things that influence my life, and form my identity. There’s chicken soup for the soul, and there’s poison. I prefer the chicken soup.
I’m not unaware of what’s going on in the world. I read four or five on-line news summaries each day, always with an equal number of online spiritual readings. That’s my diet of choice. If you are so distraught by what’s going on in Washington, and what’s not going on in gay bars with guys addicted to vodka and Grindr, that you wake up depressed, and you’re constantly angry and afraid, take a good look at what you give your attention.
Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference. The ability to do that consistently takes lots of practice, and lots of focus. Let’s not give our power to others. Donald Trump has no power over our self-esteem. The behavior of other LGBT people doesn’t impact our relationship with the Universe.
To seek equanimity in our lives by putting our energy into loving kindness with the people who surround us is not the path of the weak or gutless. It’s the wise journey of the spiritual warrior.
What has given me the strength to walk into the global lion’s den of heterosexism and homophobia my whole life has not been anger, frustration or fear. It has been the wisdom, understanding, and joy I get from my commitment to my spiritual trek. I have touched hearts and minds not with tantrums, but with patience, understanding, humor, and loving kindness.
Am I afraid that we LGBT people are losing ground? In some legal areas, yes, but the losses are reversible. Where it really matters, though, “No,” we aren’t sliding into oblivion.
We have climbed to the mountaintop of personal awareness. Nothing can be done to me to make me regret coming out. I have inhaled the life-giving air outside of the closet, and I’m not going to give an inch of the heights I’ve climbed. I have discovered my unique, sacred role of manifesting the will of the Universe/God that there be a gay man named Brian McNaught who is proud of, and happy with himself. No one can take away from me my dignity, my experience of deep abiding love, or my treasured spiritual awareness.
Only I can give away my serenity, my union with my angelic self, my sainthood.