Miscellaneous

Baba Haridas

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Last evening as I participated in satsang with Baba Haridas Vancouver community, I felt his presence and grace very strongly. At the end, prayers were offered for his health, which was said to be declining [at 95].
I just received this announcement about his passing today.
He was one of the two Indian gurus who deeply touched my heart. It was at his ashram at Mount Madonna near Santa Cruz, California, that I felt inspired to take the name Sequoia: on my 35th birthday in 1979. That inner guidance profoundly altered my life: it symbolizes being my authentic self.
I am so grateful for the grace he brought to me and to so many. May his grace touch you as well, now that he is free of his aging body.
Some of his photos:
Babaji-mudra
Here he is shown with his famous chalkboard, which he wore around his neck for decades, as he observed a vow of silence. He would answer complex questions with a few choice words.
BabaHaridas-mug
Baba-Hari-Dass-Image
This image is from 1999:
 babaji-1999
His presence was a blessing.

Om Guru Om!

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A father’s scientific and deeply heart-felt perspective on homosexuality.

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What most resonated for me was feeling this man’s intense love for his son, and witnessing him express that love so whole-heartedly in public.

For many if not most straight people, we queer folk are a total mystery very foreign to their felt experience of life and love and sex. Those who know us personally are forced to somehow “understand” us. This doctor uses his [very limited] scientific lens in that attempt to make sense of his intense love in the face of the stigma that still surrounds sexual minorities. I appreciate his core message: his son, hence gay men, hence queer people are not merely tolerable or acceptable. We are essential threads in the fabric of human society. We make the family, the culture, and the world a better place.

It’s to his loving affirmation of us that I say a big YES!

Inter-generational love

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Am delighted to be making some deep connections with amazingly conscious young men in their 20s and 30s: a whole new generation of wonderful relationships.
When I was exploring gay life in the 1970, older queer men were generally quite unattractive. Aside from their physical aging, they were generally quite emotionally unhealthy as well. I now realize this was a result of the terrible oppression they encountered in the years Gay Liberation, which really began in the early 70s, just as I was “coming out.” They were often bitter, cynical, jaded and plagued by low self-esteem, which was painful to see.
So it’s a happy surprise, now that I’m in my 70s, to experience young men drawn to me, not despite my age, but because of my maturity. Inter-generational friendship and love are becoming quite common among queer men. In part that may be because we are somewhat rare: so many of my generation were wiped out by the AIDS epidemic in the 80s and 90s.

This summer, Ziji and I celebrated our shared August 7th birthday: he turned 32, and I 73:
I find hanging out with young people helps me stay young…or at least be in denial of my actual age 😉

Denis Simpson was such a gift to so many!

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My heart is full of both grief and gratitude today, which would have been Denis’ 60th.

He was such a rarity among “performers”: a real friend to many, many people. I feel blessed to be one of the many.  He touched my heart both on-stage and off. This photo is now on my alter: Denis is one of my angels.

4 Nov 1950 - 22 Oct 2010

For a  small taste of Denis’ very huge heart, please watch this or any of several other clips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_StYLcOpfY

I love you, Denis. Thank you for gracing my life.

sequoia

Equality at last!

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On this celebratory weekend, when both Canadians and Americans observe the birth of our nations, I am feeling quite celebratory myself.

It was nearly as momentous an occasion of us as it was for the bride and groom. Since Chris is newly out as of March a year ago, our appearance as a couple felt a bit like a debut. We were both deeply touched by the warm welcome we received from his rather large family. I felt immediately embraced as a part of the family. This was a huge relief for Chris: perhaps one of the biggest hurdles in his journey of coming out. For me, who have no siblings, and have lost my parents over 25 years ago, it was very heart-warming to feeling instantly a part of such a large and generous family.

Two days later, during our leisurely return drive, the Canadian Parliament finally approved a re-definition of marriage to refer to ‘two persons’ of whatever gender. Thus, the love that a hundred years ago ‘dare not speak its name’ has finally been recognized as fully equal. For me, who grew up in the era when being gay was severely castigated, it feels deeply validating to have such full legal recognition. Chris and I proudly held hands in as we walked in archly conservative Alberta, even as we do in the gay neighbourhood in Vancouver. I believe that in another couple of generations, people will wonder why there was ever such a fuss: of course people love each other, regardless of their gender, and wish to form lasting partnerships based on that loving bond.

I realize that there are still some Canadians, and even more Americans, who are troubled by the idea of legalizing same-sex marriage. They see it as an unwholesome change in an institution which is the bedrock of society: the family. But the idea of family and marriage has been evolving, and will continue to do so, to meet the needs of a changing world. A hundred years ago, families were large, and ‘extended,’ with three or four generations living in close connection; now families are small, ‘nuclear’ and more intentional. Couples often choose to have few if any children. At a deep level,  many realize the planet no longer needs more people. It is more common, and acceptable, to form relationships for mutual support and love, without the expectation of raising a family. So the gender of the pairing is no longer important.

Some are resistant to change, because they see the “tradition” of marriage as having a long, and even God-commanded history. Yet as we humans evolve into more conscious beings, many marriage “traditions” have changed. Wife-selling, which was commonly acceptable until the mid-19th century, is now abhorrent, as is wife-beating. Until 1965, Canada‘s Criminal Code made a distinction between beating your wife and common assault. Only in 1929 were married women in Canada declared to be persons in the eyes of the law, rather than chattels belonging to their husbands. Until relatively recently, it was not a crime for a husband to have sex with his wife without her consent; today marital rape is quite properly a criminal offense. Marriage is constantly being redefined as social enlightenment progresses.

Today, same-sex marriage is recognized in four countries: Belgium, Holland, Canada, as of a couple of days ago, Spain. In addition, civil unions for same-sex couples are legal in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, parts of Switzerland, and in all of Great Britain effective this coming December. This is clearly a trend. Humanity is evolving to higher consciousness. It is increasingly recognized that stable, love relationships deserve to be acknowledged and supported by society, because they benefit all of society, and the entire human family.

2002 in Review

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Two Thousand Two. It looks and sounds good: even, symmetrical. I felt good as it started, and I feel good as it ends. I had just enough illness [appendicitis in late February] to make me even more grateful for my usual, and continuing, very good health. I do notice, however, that at 58 I am taking things a bit slower. I enjoy sitting more and running less. I let myself sleep in or take naps. It feels luxurious. My work in the city seems to grow ever more fulfilling. And my alter-ego as a “country mouse” is a glorious time to read great books, or sit in my rocker and stare off into the infinite. I enjoyed sharing the glories of Gambier Island this summer with Doug from Toronto, David from Ottawa, Don from Santa Fe, and Eric from Miami. Eric and I are celebrating 30 years of brotherly friendship. We met in a gay bar in Berkeley early in 1973, and have been in almost weekly phone contact ever since, even though we’ve rarely lived in the same city. We are mutual confidants and counselors; he’s a wonderful support. At the same time as I am slowing down, paradoxically, I am becoming more fired up about world and local politics. I read the New York Times online almost daily, as well as keeping somewhat abreast of local issues. I have been saddened by the sharp veer to the right in the United States and here in British Columbia. Forty years ago, as I registered for the U.S. draft, Vietnam was looming on the horizon. I began to examine my soul about war. Having been raised by a proud veteran of WWII, I was brought up to “do my duty” for country. Yet my soul said that nationalism, which breeds war, is the real evil. Even at the tender age of 18, I knew in my heart that there really is no “them” — we are all “us.” Yet I felt too young to openly disagree with my parents, classmates, and national leaders. I dutifully trained as an Air Force pilot, and in 1970, at 26, headed west to fight “commies” in Vietnam. I had decided in my heart to draw a line: if ordered to drop a bomb or shoot someone, I would refuse. Mercifully, my job as a reconnaissance pilot never required me to make that awful choice. I played the role of warrior feeling deeply conflicted and sad. When I completed my “duty,” I moved to Berkeley and became active in anti-war marches, and am happy that the protests eventually brought an end to that misguided tragedy. I still believe war is not the answer: not then, not now. It is only to be used in the most extreme situations. It seems to me that American arrogance is breeding increasing resentment around the world. Military bullying is fanning the flames of hatred. True and lasting peace does not come from military might, but from the much harder work of building bridges of understanding and caring among all people. How can we in North America truly become good citizens of the world? Instead of billions for war, let us use our wealth and vast resources to help heal disease, to stop starvation, to reach out in friendship and caring to the neediest souls all around the world as well as here at home. Self-serving politicians use fear and war-mongering to bolster their standing. We must demand better of our leaders, or demand better leaders. If you share my deep concern about this administration’s eagerness for war, one organization I support is www.MovingOn.org    They are collecting e-petitions to “let the inspections work.” I have also written my U.S. Senators and Representative, and my Canadian Member of Parliament, saying I want the Iraq issue to be resolved by the collective wisdom of the community of nations through the U.N.—not by unilateral U.S. attacks. Here in beautiful B.C., our quality of life is rapidly being decimated by a new government, which is mimicking the Bush model. It is slashing taxes for the upper strata, while actually raising the revenue derived from the lower income half [through higher sales tax, user fees, transit fees, etc.] Spending on social services for health and education are being drastically cut, and the deficit is ballooning.  I have begun actively working to RECALL this government, and especially its leader, Gordon Campbell, in whose riding I reside. To learn more, and hopefully get involved, please visit www.RecallBC.com Even if you live in another riding, consider volunteering in the Point Grey riding to help UN-elect this disastrous Premier. If you live outside B.C., please pass on this web address to your B.C. friends and family. This so-called Liberal government must be stopped. Since my return from India nearly 2 years ago, I have wanted to simplify my life. I am doing less and enjoying it more. Living car-free has been a joy. I joined the car co-op, so that when I really need to use a car, there are several nearby I can reserve. If you are curious how the system works, visit www.cooperativeauto.net It’s a wonderful model, which is catching on in several major cities. This year, for the first time since my teens, I’ve lived “plane-free” as well. I decided I am content to stay closer to home, so the farthest I’ve gone is Seattle. I guess the India trip satisfied some of my wanderlust, and the tense atmosphere in the aviation world makes air travel much less appealing. I also recognize that traveling less is one of the many ways I can reduce pollution and energy consumption. The like the idea of “living simply, so that others can simply live.” There have been immediate payoffs: for the first time in decades, I am debt-free , and this has been the most enjoyable year I can remember. I have to acknowledge that the weather has had to fair bit to do with that: we’ve had the most sunshine and least rain the last 6 months than any previous year since I arrived here in 1990. I do love the sun! So life is very sweet here. I hope it is where you are, too. The challenge for me in 2003 is to balance the quiet enjoyment of my simple life here, with a caring involvement in the well being of those whose lives are not so richly blessed. I pray that you are richly blessed with health and love throughout the coming year. Your devoted,

Pilgrimage: Appendix

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Each of the last couple of years, I have taken journeys to sacred places in order to seek clarity about my life by stepping outside my normal place and activities. I found northern New Mexico the perfect place to welcome the Millennium, and India last year at this time was a profound teaching about living simply and with spirit.

 Now I find myself unexpectedly on new journey of discovery right here at home, simply by confronting the mortality and disability that comes suddenly with emergency surgery. Sunday, Feb. 17:  went out dancing and felt frolicsomely 25.Thursday, Feb. 21: Noon: played racquetball and felt on a par with my 38-year-old opponent. 4 p.m.: in bed with bellyache; lost my lunch. Friday, Feb 22:  slept all day; pain localized in my right lower abdomen, which felt hot; check the Internet under Appendicitis: suspicion confirmed. To my dismay, there were zero alternative therapies even mentioned, only the one I’ve always considered barbaric: surgery. I slept the night psyching myself up to deal with The Medical Machine. 

East or West?

 For over 25 years, as I have explored, preached, and practiced holistic health. I have looked critically on how mechanistically our Western medical system treats people. It view humans as machines, with parts that get worn or broken and need replacement or removal. I have favoured Eastern health systems that promote wellness on subtle levels as a way to prevent disease and experience truly high-quality living. Yet it was clear that none of my herbs, breathing techniques or meditations would cure the aching fever in my gut.  Saturday, Feb. 23, 10:30 a.m.: a friend delivered me to my destiny with The Knife.  Despite my dread, or maybe because of it, the experience was a series of pleasant surprises, which felt like grace. The E.R was empty; they had me in a bed in 15 minutes and began a 12-hour series of tests to assure an accurate diagnosis. Though the poking and prodding were not pleasant, I appreciated their thoroughness, which aligned with my own keen desire to avoid unnecessary surgery.   11 p.m., diagnosis confirmed; wheeled from E.R. to a regular room. (Instead of the ward or quad I expected, it was a semi-private, and on the 10th floor with a glorious easterly view!) Sunday, Feb. 24, 1 a.m.: a gentle nurse whispered, “They’re ready for you.” I was wheeled to the O.R. and greeted by a cheery team of bright-eyed, enthusiastic, caring folks. I felt safe, and in good hands. Knowing I was utterly trusting these total strangers with my life, I felt at ease as I deeply inhaled the anesthetic. The next moment [actually 2 hours later], I wondered where I was. It took a while to realize it must be all done; felt amazed to have gone so completely unconscious. Slept surprisingly well. Sunday was surreal (enhanced perhaps by morphine). A glorious sunrise shone in my “penthouse” window. I still had pain in my belly, but it was a different pain; I trusted it would heal in time. I contemplated that 100 years ago I would have simply died with a feverishly bloated belly. I felt gratitude for my “new lease on life.” Friends dropped by and called; I felt surrounded by love. In the sunny afternoon, I heard much cheering and horn honking: the Canadian hockey teams had swept up the Olympic gold. The sun set golden on snow-capped Mount Baker. It was a new experience to be weak, feverish, and in pain, yet elated and joyous all at once.  Monday, Feb. 25, noon: another friend brought me home to a new life; felt 95.  For at least a couple of weeks, most of my major activities will be on hold. I’ll hardly leave home, will not jog, bike, swim, or play racquetball. The healing energy I normally delight in sharing with clients will be directed entirely toward me. My apartment, which I usually view more as a live-in office, will become my nest of self-care. I’ll let go of lots of “doing” and allow much more time to simply BE.  It’s a new self-image. I usually view myself as a rather youthful, vigourous, helping professional and teacher. For the next while, I’ll go in Slo Mo: —fully acting and feeling “old,” —a dependent recipient of others’ care, and

—a conscientious practitioner of the many skills I’ve learned to restore high-level wellness.

West meets East

 When I gingerly walked out of the hospital, Western medicine left me to my own devices to regain true health. For that I’ll rely mainly on Eastern cultures:— gentle yoga and meditation;— acupuncture and Chinese herbs; In particular, I will use this break from routine to be more mindful about food. (The nurse said simply I could return to my normal diet, which might have consisted of Big Macs, fries, and six-packs. My recovery might be slow at best.) For three days, I had only water, and wanted nothing more. Now I am stepping out of habitual eating patterns: I am waiting until hungry, and asking what my body wants, choosing foods as medicines as well as for pleasure. I’ll restore my intestinal flora, damaged by antibiotics, with living yogurt cultures. My food portions, like my activity level, are much reduced. It feels good. Yet, never again will I malign Western medicine: there are times when we do “break” and need to be “fixed.” I also know that, walking out of the hospital, I was far from well. As I leave mechanistic medicine behind with gratitude, I will return with renewed appreciation to the subtle realms of holistic healing, to move from being merely mended to truly thriving once again. East and West truly are complimentary.  

Why this? Why now?

 I understand illness is most often precipitated by stress. This last year has been one of my happiest ever, with much fulfillment in work, love, and play. This past month, I’ve been taking a class about using play to open up the energy in the belly for both laughter and tears. I call it “Adult Kindergarten,” as we act out, let our child-like imaginations guide our cooperative play, and I gleefully giggle. So it at first seemed odd that I’d get sick when feeling so full of life. Then I remembered one of the principles of healing: our systems are always needing to cleanse. If our energy level is low to medium, toxins gradually accumulate; when stress hits, we succumb. When we do something to turn our energy level up “high,” in addition to feeling great, we may experience a cleansing “healing crisis” — a massive detox. I feel now that’s what I am doing. My appendix has been a collector of toxins; the fever tried to burn it out; the surgery excised it completely. I hope to recover to an even higher level of good health.The other “value” of illness is contrast: am surely grateful every day my health gets better. In the same way, when I’ve lived with perpetual sunshine, I’ve gotten bored.  After days of rain, I treasure the sun once again. Tuesday, February 26:  feel very hopeful; moving with more ease, and thinking with more clarity; (am already down to 80!) I am learning much on my pilgrimage: the fragility of the body and the beauty of spirit: my own and that of all the caring, dedicated folks who do the mostly unglamourous work of putting broken bodies back together. I am thankful to them for a chance to renew life. I am grateful for the vast array of health-enhancing traditions now at my disposal. It’s up to me to learn and use them all to experience true health. Sequoia Thom Lundy, M.A., is in private practice in Vancouver, offering stress counseling, yoga, and Mystical Massage: www.growinghealthier.com            While chronologically 57, he is exploring the whole range from 5-95, and maybe beyond!