Om Namah Shivaya
Thank you, medusaowl, for starting this group. I found this group yesterday and have read through the previous posts and comments. I am particularly impressed with spiritofnow's comments and background.
I'm a 45 y.o. WM in a 23-year relationship with a 44 y.o. WM. I was raised Roman Catholic but began to feel uncomfortable with that religious identity at about the same time that I began to come out in college. I have consciously been on a search that has combined psychology and spirituality ever since that time.
Beginning in 1985, I began attending psychic groups and was introduced to A Course in Miracles
, other channeled teachings, and the writings of Ken Keyes (The Handbook to Higher Consciousness
). Through a friend of the friend who introduced me to the Course
I first heard of Sufism. From that point on I became interested in spiritual paths that had historical and cultural roots that seemed to reach deeper than the New Age ideas I had been exposed to up to that point. I became interested in Sufism, Gnosticism, and Hindu mysticism.
My first social contact with a mystical tradition came in 1992, when I met the Master of the Nimatullahi Sufi Order and was initiated by him. I tried to build an Islamic foundation to my spiritual practice, with limited success. Later that same year, I read Mark Thompson's Gay Spirit
and learned that Christopher Isherwood (author of the Berlin Stories
that formed the basis for the show and film Cabaret
) had been a disciple of Swami Prabhavananda of the Ramakrishna Order in Hollywood. I was intrigued to learn that Ramakrishna had been a Bengali saint who sometimes dressed in women's clothing as part of his religious ceremonies and who seemed to show quite a bit of favor toward his male disciples. It also turned out that an American Sufi shaykh named Lex Hixon had just published a book on Ramakrishna that same year. From that time forward I continued to practice Sufism, but my heart was also drawn toward Ramakrishna. I visited the Ramakrishna Center in NYC and the swami there was very welcoming to me, but I couldn't quite find the intensity of devotion and ecstasy there that I had found in the Sufi order. A couple of years later I met Lex Hixon at the Sufi mosque where he was shaykh and I discussed my spiritual background and my interest in Ramakrishna with him.
I relocated in 1996 and, in early 1998 I began to go online from home for the first time. I discovered the emerging presence of gay Muslims online at that time and eventually met a young gay Muslim of Indian descent in the city in which I was living. I began to attend prayers with him at the mosque and at the university where he attended. It was a pretty intense experience, and I gradually came to love it. A couple of years later I met a Sufi teacher who had been a student of Lex Hixon and attended zikrs (Sufi ceremonies) regularly at his home. It was the first time I had really become integrated into a spiritual community where I felt comfortable being out. I also co-founded a Yahoo group for GLBTQ Sufis. Through my gay Muslim friend I became involved in Al-Fatiha, an organization for GLBTQ Muslims.
In 2002 I relocated again and, although I tried to maintain my ties to Sufism and (mainstream) Islam, I found it more difficult to do than I had anticipated. In 2003 I met a gay devotee of Amma (Mata Amritanandamayi) and immediately entered into prolonged states of profound spiritual and personal insight. I met Amma that summer and had a really profound experience. I maintained my Sufi practices for another year, but received a mantra from Amma in the summer of 2004 and established daily spiritual practices within the Divine Mother tradition. Since then I have joined a local satsang and have gone through some ups and downs with other gay devotee friends.
My partner has been to see Amma in 2006 and 2007, and this year we will attend one of her retreats together for the first time. He was raised Protestant, but entered the Catholic church as an adult in 2002 and has been very active in a local Franciscan parish that is known for its gay and lesbian ministries. He has also been involved in servant leadership and has recently completed an internship in spiritual direction.
I seem to need a social and emotional component to my spirituality in order for it to achieve the fullness of expression that I look for. But I''m a professional academic and I have a need for an active intellectual life as well. I often feel frustrated with devotees who seem to plateau at a certain level in their practice, but don't seem interested in trying to integrate their spirituality as deeply into their lives as I try to do. Either that, or their devotional practices and attitudes seem to constitute a lifestyle unto themselves, but without the continuing philosophical and psychological inquiry that I'm drawn to. I would love to have more spiritual friends to hang out with and to have long, deep conversations with. :-) My most recent friend, however, is busy with his work these days, so we don't see each other as much as we used to. He's also planning to move across the country before long. I love him very much, and I'll miss him when he goes, but I feel that now is a good time to be open to beginning new friendships.
In terms of deities, I have been most drawn to Kali, and also to Shiva. In terms of my spiritual/philosophical orientation, the most appropriate label would be tantric. I need to qualify that, because I'm not drawn toward specifically sexual techniques or "magick" as part of my practice. But I am definitely drawn toward a wide range of moods and toward intense, palpable energetic states.
I enjoy reading both traditional spiritual material and material that helps me to synthesize my various interests. Lately I've been reading some teachings of Amma, contained in a series entitled Upadeshamritam
, a book on the Lalita Sahasranama
(Thousand Names of the Divine Mother), and the Qur'an. I've also been drawn to the writings of the contemporary thinker Peter Wilberg, whose work may be found at www.thenewyoga.org
as well as other places that may be linked to from that site. His work provides some keys that are opening up subtle understandings of many facets of my spiritual practice and life in general.
So, that's a bit about how I went from being a gay ex-Catholic to being a gay Hindu. I look forward to reading more here. Anyone who is interested in my personal blog, please join my LJ friends list. I'm in Connecticut and would enjoy meeting others who are in the area.
Om Amriteshwaryai Namaha (that's Amma's mantra),