I just laughed, toasted him with my Tang and Sailor Jerry's rum cocktail (double yup!), and thought to myself, "My, my, my, how things have changed." You see, it wasn't that long ago that his words would have devastated me.
Not long ago at all. Like five years ago. Even one.
Why? Because it’s not that easy to come out as a shaman.
Which, when I first started coming out, really caught me by surprise.
You see, this wasn’t my first time to the coming out rodeo. I had been there before in the late 80’s and early 90’s when I came out as a gay man. And, to a person, my friends and family were enormously—and immediately—supportive. Oh, sure, some were surprised and a few were worried, but all were happy that I was living an honest, open life.
Flash-forward about 20 years later and, after months of ravens rising, spirit guides cycling, dead great-grandmas appearing and dragons diving, I was ready to tell those exact same friends (plus a few new ones) that I was a shaman.
A few were enormously—and immediately—supportive. Four to be exact: Meghan, Kevin, Rich and Harry. Our conversations are some of the most precious memories of my life. I’ll never forget Meghan’s sister-like concern, Kevin’s immediate promise that “I still love you sweetie dahling!”, Rich’s free-wheeling debate about free will, and Harry’s one question: “Honey, but are you still going to be fun?”
I’ll also never forget that those four were the only friends who were supportive. Everyone else just stared blankly, immediately changed the conversation or, in the case of my college mentor, responded by saying “Well, you’ve either gone insane or joined a cult.”
I was crushed and angry. Both built steadily over the years when I’d see these friends again and I would get the same blank stares or changed conversations whenever I said the word “shaman.”
Now, in addition to being crushed and angry, these continued responses also made me curious.
Why it is easier to come out in this country as a gay man than as a spirit-filled one?
Why is one declaration of truth met with open arms and the other with averted eyes? From people who themselves have had to come out.
To paraphrase Orwell, are some truths more equal than others?
Why do the progressives who embrace gays (and lesbians…and bisexuals…and transgenders) have no room in their big tent for folks who are spirit-filled?
Is it because so many people equate spirit with religion and their childhoods were filled with painful religious experiences?
Is it because the journey of spiritual exploration is a mysterious one and we live in a society whose arrogance has tricked us into believing that there is an answer? For everything.
Or, is it because spiritual exploration also is filled with vast uncertainties. You don’t know what you’ll find, when you’ll find it, or what it will do to you when you do. How does that jive with our plan-obsessed world?
I asked these questions for over five years.
Then, to borrow a line from Rilke, I simply decided to “love the questions” and leave them be.
And when I did, something wonderful happened.
I realized that the questions didn’t matter. Not the answers, either. Because, you see, by the very act of wondering why people responded as they did, I was feeding the oh-so-shadow flames of acceptance.
I was looking for folks to validate the fact that I was a shaman.
And that is an arrogant, destructive and extremely insecure game to play.
Who cares how folks feel about me being a shaman (just as who cares whether folks like it or not that I’m gay…or that beans make me clear-the-house gassy)?
Who cares what other people think of me? Or of you? Do you really think we’re here to win a popularity contest (or, heaven help us, accrue the most friends on Facebook)?
No. We’re here to live our truth. In our way. For our Souls.
That’s where love begins. It is how compassion grows. And it’s the only stairway to ecstasy.
So, what do you say? Let’s open some doors. You wear what you want, I’ll wear what I want. You be who want, I’ll be who I want. Let’s just live. Our truth! Because, sweetie darlings, in the words of Auntie Mame, "A truthful life is a banquet. And most poor suckers are starving to death!"
This post is dedicated with eternal gratitude to Meghan Finegan, Kevin Tuerff, Rich Carson and Harry Collings.