On June 12th, 2016, 49 people were killed by a gunman in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. I watched along with millions of others as the story unfolded, the news headlines repeatedly reminding us that this was “the deadliest mass shooting on American soil in history”. I thought and felt a variety of things along the way, but I watched the news at a bit of a remove – the story of a sad and tragic thing that happened in a different part of the country to people of a different sexual orientation perpetrated by a man from a different religion. I neither liked nor loathed myself for seeing it that way, but I did notice it, and it did make me think.

In my work in the world, I essentially point to two truths about life:

1. We live in a thought-created reality. Everything from money to national boundaries to the significance of skin color, religious affiliation, and sexual/gender orientation is made up of thought and then lived as if it’s “just the way it is”. Fortunately, we always have the capacity to think again – to have new thoughts and in so doing begin to live in a different world.

2. We are all part of a singular spiritual energy – the oneness of life. As individual waves in a universal ocean, we are both unique on the surface and intimately related at a fundamental level underneath.

As I continued to watch the news, I saw interviews with a number of people who had witnessed the shooting. One particular man being interviewed fit all my stereotypes for what a gay man looks and sounds like, and when he came on screen the thought “Oh my god he is so gay” came to mind. Instead of ignoring it or even judging myself for thinking it, I noticed it was followed by a new thought: “So what?”

Now this may not seem like rocket science to you, but for me, it rocked my world. I grew up scared of homosexuality, and while yes, some of my best friends are gay, I never really got past it. Somehow, in that moment, it stopped looking to me like a man sexually attracted to other men or a woman sexually attracted to other women was a remotely significant fact. In that moment, he stopped being “gay” and became “human”. And the sudden death of 49 of my fellow human beings broke my heart wide open.

One of my spiritual inspirations, Syd Banks, wrote about it like this in his book The Missing Link:

 

Before the formation of physical reality and the contamination of personal thought, soul and consciousness were the same divine intelligence. Cut off from innate wisdom, a lost thinker experiences isolation, fear and confusion.

This is why there are so many horrible atrocities throughout the world. Newspapers are full of wars, killings, children starving.

Ignorance of our own inner wisdom is the cause of sin. There would be no sin without such ignorance.

The malfunction of our own personal thought system instigates the breakdown of personal relationships and leads to the crumbling of societies, causing unnecessary suffering and sadness.

The misled thoughts of humanity, alienated from their inner wisdom, cause all violence, cruelty and savagery in this world.

Since the beginning, the state of any society is a direct result of its conditioned way of thinking.

As you think, so shall you hear.

At a simplistic level, all violence happens between “us” (insert my group of ethnic, religious, political, and/or sexual/gender identity) and “them” (generally everyone else who looks, thinks, and believes differently to me and couldn’t possibly understand my plight). “We” are always the freedom fighters – “they” are always the terrorists.

So the cure for violence is to wake up from the illusion that another person’s appearance, inclinations, or beliefs make them fundamentally different from me. On the one hand, there is no “us” and “them”; on the other hand, it really looks like there is right up until it doesn’t.

I don’t know if I carry prejudice against people of color. I like to think that I don’t, but my reaction to this week’s police shootings and recent articles like I, Racist make me question myself on the matter. But I know that I would never shoot my brother, wife, son, or daughter. And each time I wake up to my own “us and them” thinking and see through to the truth of our shared humanity, I also see that I’m surrounded by family everywhere I go. 

I’ll finish today’s musings with this Facebook post my wife wrote last December, back when ISIL and Israel were dominating the news cycles, before the shootings in Orlando and Baton Rouge and Minnesota and Dallas took their place. I love it for its honesty and humanity. It’s really hard not to get caught up in fear and anger and hate when all you see all around you looks like injustice, ignorance, and cruelty. But when you see through the noise of your personal thinking to our common core, and when you realize a lifetime of prejudice can disappear in a moment of clarity, it gives you hope…

Travel broadens the mind they say. I like to think that’s true. I have traveled a good portion of the world thus far and the thought which frequently strikes me is the knowledge that throughout the world, we are all the same.

All. The. Same.

Now, I know full well that statement will get some criticism in this current climate. Thoughts of ISIL and Israel and a whole host of global injustices come screaming forth. I get it. I’ve been spending a good amount of time lately having those thoughts too. Thoughts that fill me with with horror and fear and repulsion. They rile me up to the extent that I feel the stress physically.

I won’t let myself feel hatred. Hating another person is tantamount to hating oneself. Why?

Because we are All. The. Same.

To me that means we all want to live and learn and grow and love. Some of us want to serve, some of us want to inspire change. Some of us just want to be where we are in any given moment.

Many of us are damaged. Some more than others. A bunch of us think it’s just fine to justify our damage by inflicting harm on others. Many of us react to that by sequestering ourselves into our little corner of the world, surrounding ourselves with like minded people, protecting ourselves with the necessary accouterments, getting riled up all over again.

And then there are a bunch of people – and I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of knowing some – who acknowledge the damage in people, open their doors to them. Truly LOVE them, hope for the best for them and the rest of humanity. Gosh I wish I could be like that.

My greatest hope is that my children expansively open up their hearts to the plight of others in the world and do their best to know that we are, sing it with me now…..

All. The. Same.

 

With all my love,
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