A few Saturdays ago, during our Midsummer Mardi Gras celebration here in New Orleans, I was wearing my pink unicorn puppet hat (yup!) and chatting with a friend dressed as a seafaring space alien (again, yup!).  We were catching up on various aspects of our lives when, from out of nowhere, he put his arm around my shoulder and said, in his most compassionate seafaring, space alien voice, "You know, most people are making fun of you for saying you're a shaman.  But, I think it's pretty cool.  I mean, you're crazy, but you're cool."  

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.




9/26/2012 01:55:12 pm

This is SO timely as I myself am walking the "coming out Spiritually" path and sitting with some of the same experiences and questions. And as serendipity would have it, I just posted that very same Rilke quote today. Your post was a gift to me today. Thanks for your authenticity.

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Randi
9/28/2012 08:15:36 am

I still love you sweetie dahling, and having finally gotten to see you for the first time in ages this past May, I can also attest to the fact that honey -- you are still fun! I am sorry for not being more present for and more visibly supportive of your second coming out. I am with you always. xoxo, Your Sis Bliss

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Kevin
9/30/2012 02:46:35 pm

Another great essay. I'm glad you're out about your spirituality and your sexuality. You're a better person for it. And you have much to share and teach ahead of you.

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Debby
10/4/2012 01:50:30 am

I don't know you, but I think fun is your middle name!

From my own dabbling, I think it's because people don't know/realize/care/believe it's possible/etc to believe in religion and spirituality. Just as some don't believe a person could be gay/lesbian/transgender etc and be religious.

Each person needs to find their balance. For me it's a little bit of everything: I believe in God AND in other higher powers AND things that we can't explain but that do exist.

But with anything that isn't main stream, people tend to think people imagine things. I've always had incidents but for a long time decided they were in my imagination. Now I embrace them but I'm still very careful about who I tell - I hate those crazy looks!

I'm not as brave as you are.

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Randy Hobbs
11/3/2012 03:06:50 pm

I am writing you because I have been given information by several guides and a Shaman as well that I am a Shaman. I have Cherokee ancestory on both sides of my family but know nothing about Shamanism. Unfortunately I have moved from the area I used to live where I could find out more, but now I am in eastern NC and no one seems to have a clue about anything I am talking about. I am a Reiki Master Teacher and I am also gay. I came out when I was 32 and am now 55. I want to learn about all this as I have been urged very strongly to seek more on this path as it holds the key to many things pertainent in my life and past lives. According to what I have been told, Shamanism has been a part of my many incarnations.
Thanks,
Randy ( I am on Facebook as Randy Hobbs in Richlands/Jacksonville, NC)

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Brett Will Taylor
11/8/2012 01:11:15 am

Hi Randy,
Thanks for being in touch and what I wonderful journey you seem to be experiencing!
I wouldn't worry too much about who knows what/where--local or not. The shamanic journey is mainly a journey within..the resources which can best serve you are your Soul and your Shadow, plus the shamanic guides who quite possibly are waiting by in this field or that to strike up the band and join you in the dance of discovery and growth.
If you have specific questions or would like to know a few of the contacts who are out there, please feel free to contact me at bwtshaman@gmail.com
Peace.

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