Loving Kindness

Loving Kindness

Thursday, February 11, 2016

A Necessary Reminder: Martin Luther King Jr's Steps/Principals of Nonviolence



THE PRINCIPLES: 

1. Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people.
• It is active nonviolent resistance to evil.
• It is assertive spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
• It is always persuading the opponent of the justice of your cause.

2. Nonviolence seeks to win friendship and understanding.
• The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
• The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

3. Nonviolence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.
• Nonviolence holds that evildoers are also victims.

4. Nonviolence holds that voluntary suffering can educate and
transform.
• Nonviolence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
• Nonviolence accepts suffering without retaliation.
• Nonviolence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
• Unearned suffering is redemptive and  has  tremendous educational and
transforming possibilities.
• Suffering can have the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

5. Nonviolence chooses love instead of hate.
• Nonviolence resists violence of the spirit as well as of the body.
• Nonviolent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
• Nonviolent love is active, not passive.
• Nonviolent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
• Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
• Love restores community and resists injustice.
• Nonviolence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

6. Nonviolence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.
• The nonviolent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.

THE STEPS:

Step 1:  Gather Information
Learn all you can about the problems you see in your community through the media, social
and civic organizations, and by talking to the people involved.

Step 2:  Educate Others
Armed with your new knowledge, it is your duty to help those around you, such as your
neighbors,  relatives, friends  and co-workers,  better  understand the problems facing
society.  Build a team of people devoted to finding solutions.  Be sure to include those who
will be directly affected by your work.

Step 3:  Remain Committed 
Accept that you will face many obstacles and challenges as you and your team try to
change society.  Agree to encourage and inspire one another along the journey.

Step 4:  Peacefully Negotiate
Talk with both sides.  go to the people in your community who are in trouble and who are
deeply hurt by society’s ills.  Also go to those people who are contributing to the breakdown
of a peaceful society.  Use humor, intelligence and grace to lead to solutions that benefit
the greater good.

Step 5:  Take Action Peacefully
This step is often used when negotiation fails to produce results, or when people need to
draw broader attention to a problem.  it can  include tactics such  as  peaceful
demonstrations, letter-writing and petition campaign.

Step 6:  Reconcile
Keep all actions and negotiations peaceful and constructive.  Agree to disagree with some
people and with some groups as  you work to improve society.  Show all involved the
benefits of changing, not what they will give up by changing.

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Welcome to The Loving Kindness Revolution

Sage Mahosadha is the founder of The Loving Kindness Revolution.

What is The Loving Kindness Revolution? What inspired it?

The Loving Kindness Revolution is a social justice and sacred activism movement that has the goal of placing loving kindness—as presented in many of the world’s wisdom traditions, perhaps most clearly in the actions of Yeshua (Jesus the Christ), as expressed in Judaism and Jewish teachings, many mystical expressions of various wisdom traditions, and as embedded in the teachings of many schools of Buddhism—at the heart of its philosophy and actions. The Loving Kindness Revolution was inspired by two things. First and foremost it is guided and inspired by this quote by the beloved social justice activist and revolutionary, Grace Lee Boggs:

Being a victim of Oppression in the United States is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieves power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.

Second, The Loving Kindness Revolution was inspired by the actions of Marisa Johnson and Mara Willaford, who, on August 28, 2015, interrupted Bernie Sanders during a campaign speech he was scheduled to make in Seattle, Washington.

The distinction that Grace Lee Boggs makes between a rebellion and a revolution is seen as being absolutely essential and fundamental to understanding the heart of revolutionary action. People who have responded very positively to this quote, it is thought, consciously or unconsciously see and probably more accurately feel the deep wisdom contained in it. Many of us have likely been engaged in movements that had far more rebellion energy than a true revolutionary spirit. Or we have observed from afar different movements or specific actions that we may not have been directly involved in and intuitively felt that something was off kilter; that something wasn’t quite right; that there was something missing (or that there was something present that would have been better missing).

That Bernie Sanders rally, with those two young women interrupting him, stands as what meditation master and longtime Buddhist monk, Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh calls “a bell of mindfulness” as well as a potent call to action for us. That is because it was a cogent and very powerful reminder of how easily oppressor consciousness can find its way into actions designed to be those about positive social change. It was a moment of illumination. That quote by Grace Lee Boggs provides the necessary prism through which to understand it. These two women’s action was very powerful for us, mostly in that it expressed the internalized values of the oppressor even though they valiantly tried to present the illusion that something much more honorable was happening on that stage in Seattle. And most importantly, it revealed to me how the exact same seeds of internalized oppression resided in my heart and soul and how I must constantly seek to monitor my own motivations as a result. Still, I don’t believe anything truly honorable was in fact occurring on that stage in Seattle, nor in the boisterous reaction of the crowd, except perhaps as expressed by the graciousness and humility in the response of Bernie Sanders.

People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution.

Some social justice activists are perfectly content with making a rebellion. For them the entire Grace Lee Boggs quote that inspires us is perhaps relatively useless, especially this specific part of it. There is a place in this world for them and their beliefs, of course. However, for those of us who desire a revolution not based merely on the internalization and expression of oppressor consciousness, these words provide an excellent and clear focus and provides a space for us to mobilize around a Loving Kindness based Revolution.  

Is this a revolution you could see yourself participating in? facebook page

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The intersection of the "Pain War" plea and the teachings of Yeshua



The "Pain War" plea:

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who is the *most* oppressed, *most* disenfranchised, *most* marginalized, group of people of them all and/or which intersections of oppression, disenfranchisement, and marginalization is the *most* horrible set of intersections to ever, ever conceivably walk the earth. Please, mirror answer me, for I am certain that it is the group or the intersection that I am a representative of that certainly is the most egregiously oppressed one of them all! So please answer me and satisfy my curiosity. Is it women, black men, black women, different groups of people of color and people of color combinations, various First Nations peoples and/or indigenous peoples? Is it members of the LGBTQI community or communities? Is it people living with disabilities, people living with terminal illnesses and all kinds of other illnesses and diseases? Is it people living with chronic mental illness? Is it homeless people? Is it people who are the survivors of all kinds of horrifying and protracted abuse and trauma in childhood, adulthood, or both? Or have we now gotten to a place in the world where the only real contestant capable of winning The coveted Pain War sash and crown is necessarily someone who has a mighty powerful combo like a black lesbian heroin addict schizophrenic double amputee who is homeless. Please beloved mirror answer me. Please assure me that since it is completely inconceivable that I could win any contest for being the "most Blessed" of anything, please give me something by letting me know that I am at least the most non-Blessed among all of God's creation and the one most destined to suffer the most. Please!

Yeshua's response:

Come to me all who labor and are heavy burdened,
and I shall give you rest.
Take up my yoke and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart,
and you’ll find rest for your souls.
Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden is light.


Matthew 11:28-30

Monday, January 18, 2016

When Things Go Wrong


When Things Go Wrong

When something “goes wrong” in our lives, which is to say, when we either don’t get something we want (which can come to us in a mind dizzying array of possibilities) and/or when we find we get something we don’t want (which, for all intents and purposes essentially means getting some form, some expression, some degree, or some experience of pain) we have a choice about how to respond/react. Many of us however, consistently choose blame as the principal go to response/reaction. So when we either don’t get something we want and/or when we get something we didn’t want…

We can…

1.      Blame ourselves.
2.      Blame someone else.
3.      Blame a group or community of people.
4.      Blame both ourselves, someone else, and additionally blame some group or community of people
5.      Blame some situation, circumstance, or reality that is present in our lives at the time like a recession, or being unemployed, or being diagnosed cancer, etc.
6.      Blame God.
7.      Blame one or more dead people like a parent who physically abused us or a drunk driver who crashed into our car many years ago, causing us to be wheelchair bound for the rest of our life.
8.      Blame some phenomenon that does in fact exists or that we believe exists in the world such as astrology, fate, bad luck, bad weather, “acts of God,” etc.
9.      Blame some single or some collection of social, organizational, structural, governmental flaws, imperfections, and syndromes such as the history of slavery that various groups of people on the planet have a history of being subjected to over the course of human history, structural and generational racism, patriarchy, sexism, homophobia/heterosexism, “Obama Care,” etc.
10.  Blame one or more personal life circumstances, situations, influences, experiences, personal histories, and/or perceived personal limitations or personal traumas, being born into poverty, being abused either as a child or in adulthood or both, or being dyslexic or being born with a congenital heart defect, etc.
11.  Blame some combination of numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10.
12.  Or we can do none of that and go within and go from there.

We may be very tempted to dismiss #12 as a viable option for us. We may be very highly aware that some of the things that show up on our personal list in terms of #9 and #10 are indeed very real problems, very real difficulties, and very real challenges in the world that can and often do cause very real pain, very real suffering, very real trauma, and very real, tangible grief in the world and that we as individual people can also personally experience and be very hurt, impacted, abused, marginalized, disenfranchised, and/or extremely limited by in certain ways. Because of all of this we may conclude that #12 does not apply to us, is a joke, is unrealistic, is only an option for people who do not have a rational understanding of the world, is only for “suckers,” is only an option for white people, etc. I understand all of this. I have compassion for all of us and for all the pain we have all experienced in this life and that we either may or may not be trying to actively work through or on.

I assure you however, none of that are reasons to dismiss #12 out of hand, as an option for you personally regardless of the pain nor the extent of pain and trauma you have experienced in life. However, it may be true that you simply may not currently be at a place either emotionally, psychologically and/or spiritually to invite into your conscious awareness the level of desire for liberation that is necessary to honestly and seriously do the work that is required when choosing #12. That’s OK. Only you know about that. I do not. I am only the messenger here.

Some more about blame

Social science research shows us that the process of blaming comes about as a result of, among other things, experiencing pain, dis-ease, and discomfort emotionally and physically and also having the experience of understanding that these feelings need to somehow dissipate; that they must go somewhere. There are both functional and dysfunctional ways to dissipate these feelings inside of us. Sincerely and honestly surrendering to what is, is an example of a functional way to dissipate these feelings. So is engaging in some type of compassion practice and/or what we know in Buddhism as “metta practice.” A dysfunctional way of attempting to dissipate these feelings is by blaming—either blaming self, blaming others, or blaming some personal, life, or some societal situation, circumstance or reality.

Blaming also comes about as a result of a fear of being made to feel vulnerable, a fear of confrontation, and an inability to hold oneself accountable for the feelings we experience and/or an inability to hold others accountable for how we perceive them as treating us when that perception is that we have been treated in a way we experience as being negative or counterproductive. 

A.    Fear of being vulnerable: When we have an interaction with another and we come away from that interaction feeling hurt or somehow unappreciated, disrespected, or a whole host of other possibilities, it is our job, when deemed appropriate, to somehow find the courage to tell the person how we are feeling in a way where we are not consciously adding more negativity to the situation. Doing this, among other things, requires the ability to be vulnerable. The reason this requires vulnerability is because there is always a possibility, no matter how lovingly and how gently we express this to the other person, that the other person may reject us and very few of us are truly welcoming of the experience of being rejected.
B.     Fear of confrontation: Telling someone how an interaction we have had with him or her has not gone well for us or has us experiencing some negativity not only brings with it the possibility of rejection, it also brings with it a something less extreme, which is the fear of some kind of confrontation taking place. Many people have a very deep fear of confrontation, chiefly because there is a fear that this will in fact lead to the more extreme experience of rejection.
C.     Holding oneself accountable: When we tell someone how we perceive an interaction with them has negatively impacted us we are holding ourselves accountable for being vulnerable enough and also being emotionally mature enough to be honest with ourselves about having these feelings and with being comfortable enough with our emotional truth to express this to the other person.
D.    Holding the other person accountable: When we tell someone how we perceive an interaction with them has negatively impacted us we are also holding the other person accountable for whatever action they may have engaged in during the interaction that may have been problematic.

Forgiveness

For many of us forgiveness—both forgiving of ourselves and the forgiving of others and possibly even forgiving God or forgiving society—is extremely difficult. One of the reasons we may be so quick to blame is because on some level, either consciously or unconsciously, we have difficulty with forgiving or with forgiveness itself.

How We Perceive the World and How We then hold those Perceptions

You may also find that when you look out into the world, you only see or mostly see “problems.” This may take the form of violence, a lot of pain, or a lot of suffering. All of this and more may collectively create your principal view of the world. When you think a little bit more about all of this, you may have the thought that one of the reasons there are so many problems and so much suffering in the world is because…

1.      People are basically bad.
2.      People are basically selfish.
3.      People are basically stupid
4.      People are basically greedy.
5.      People are too heartless.
6.      People are too self-absorbed.
7.      The world is going to Hell. People have abandoned God and simply need to find Jesus and accept him as their personal savior, and place him front and center in their lives.
8.      Some or most people in the world are simply not as smart as me (you may be very hesitant to admit this is something you think or believe. However, it is very important to be as honest with yourself as possible here).
9.      People are simply not religious or spiritual enough.
10.  People are too conservative.
11.  People are too liberal.
12.  People don’t take enough personal responsibility, for their actions, in their own lives

If anything in that above list serves as something of a “go to” thought for you—a though or set of thoughts you often or fairly often find yourself having, you may be someone who may approach life primary through an external locus of control rather than through an internal locus of control.

Locus of control

Locus of control (whether external or internal), in various branches of psychology, is seen as what points toward how we perceive where power is mostly located, in our lives. In other words, for our purposes here, people who understand the world primarily through an external locust of control tend to look to others, or to other life situations, circumstances, and realities in order to understand and explain their world and their experience of that world. People with a more internally based locus of control tend to look within to understand their world. I am oversimplifying this concept at this point. I will go into more detail about locus of control in later discourses. For now I will give a simple example of both. In these examples there are two people in a classroom situation. Both people recently got their test papers back in their history class. Both students received a “D” on the test. Student A comes from an external locus of control orientation and so when attempting to understand why she received the low test score she comes up with these thoughts: The teacher doesn’t like me. The room was very uncomfortable the day of the test and this was a serious distraction. The instructor framed the questions on the test in a very unclear way, etc. Student B, on the other hand, comes from an internal locus of control orientation when trying to understand his low score on the test. He comes up with these thoughts: I didn’t study adequately enough for the test. I didn’t allow myself to get enough sleep the night before the test. I didn’t understand some of the questions on the test clearly enough, etc.

There is not necessary anything inherently wrong with the existence of either locus of control in our lives. No man or no women is an island in this world after all, people are undoubtedly social beings, and it is impossible to separate ourselves completely from the environments that are around us and that we are also around. The difficulty arises however, when this gets out of balance, when we only view our experience through an external prism or only view our experience through an internal prism.

Some questions for self reflection

Does it feel good when I assign blame?
If it truly feels good when I blame, why does it feel good?
Who or what has control over my life?
Who or what has the power in my life?
Who or what have I given power to in my life?
What is my idea of being truly free?
Am I free?
Do other people understand me?
Do other people like me?
What are the five most common feelings I experience?


Friday, January 15, 2016

Death


I think a lot about death. And I think a fair amount about my own impending death. When I say I think about death and my own impending death a lot, I mean I think about both almost every day, sometimes several times a day. It’s not that I plan on thinking about death as much as I do. I don’t, for example, schedule time for it. I simply find that both rather emotionally distant and philosophized thoughts about death and also the very deeply personal thoughts about death just seem to pop into my head with frequent regularity. This does not feel unusual, macabre, strange, depressing, morose, nor unhealthy to me. It feels very normal to me given how I define normal. I am comforted by the fact that I am so comfortable with death. And I am especially comforted by the fact that I am comfortable with thoughts of my own ever increasingly approaching proof of mortality.

I don’t believe I am obsessed with death. I do believe I think about death more than most people do although I do not know this for certain. If that is indeed true, I believe it is more a case where other people are in denial and I simply am not. All of us are going to die. So it is one of the very basic aspects of the circle of life. On one level it just makes sense to me that I think about something pretty regularly that is such a normal and inescapable aspect of life. I am neither afraid of death, nor of dying, nor am I fascinated with it either.

I used to be afraid of death. I can’t remember exactly when that ceased to be true. Perhaps it was while I was working for hospice. I know for certain that after working at hospice for a short time, I no longer was afraid of death. I worked as a grief and bereavement coordinator for hospice. Death greeted me my very first day at work. I remember that very first day as a hospice employee. I could scarcely forget it. As soon as I walked in the door on my first day of work, I was turned right back around and instantly whisked right back out that same door by Jenny, who was the other bereavement coordinator and who had been assigned to train me. I also remember her words: “We’ve got to go the hospital. One of our AIDS patients is actively dying. Grief and bereavement people don’t usually go to patient deaths. But we’re going to this one because there may be complications. This is a family man. He had hidden his sexuality from all of them until he became very ill. So they found out their father and husband was gay, had been living a secret life for decades, and had AIDS all on the same day. So this might be a difficult case. The whole family is at the hospital.” We arrived about twenty minutes before this man died. His wife and two children were around the bed. They had worked everything out in extremely quick fashion, as I would learn was typically the case when there were all kinds of unresolved issues present. People intuitively understand that when the angel of death is in the room, there is absolutely no time for bullshit nor unnecessary drama. One either deals with and begins to heal sometimes many decades of hurt, misery, pain, feelings of betrayal, anger, and murderous rage in very short increasingly fleeting and disappearing chunks of time or the bus is simply missed—forever. Boom!

When I worked at hospice I witnessed people come together in unrestrained, uncontained, and sincere mutual tenderness. People who had not spoken to one other, in some cases, in more than fifty years or more. One does not witness reunions like this on a regular basis without being significantly transformed in some very serious ways even if that transformation is extremely subtle. Once, while working at hospice, I visited a good friend and her newborn baby, attended the funeral of a very well-loved hospice patient, and attended another good friend’s wedding, all in the same day. I am at a loss to describe that experience in words nor how it impacted me emotionally.

There are many reasons why I think so much about death. Naturally one obvious reason is that I am getting older. I didn’t think about death much when I was younger, even while I was working at hospice. Most young people tend to think we are going to live forever.
 
I have also had what feels like an unusually high number of close friends and acquaintances die in the last couple of years. And so perhaps because of this, I had been thinking about one of my good friends from high school. David and I were pretty close—close using the high school definition of that word, of course. He had been a year behind me. I completely lost touch with him after I graduated a year earlier and had gone directly onto the seminary. So last week I decided to look him up on the internet. I still somehow remembered a number of details about him and his family. I didn’t have any thoughts of contacting him after all these years. I simply wanted to find out what he had done in life. He was exceptionally bright, fun loving, and had a great and acid-tongued sense of humor. I imagined him doing quite well and was excited at the prospect of discovering that he was doing something quite fabulous these days. It probably took me less than five minutes to find him—well, his obituary notice that is. He had died five years earlier in 2010. He was 48 years old. If there was any doubt (which there wasn’t) that this was the correct David I was searching for, there was a picture attached to the notice that completely erased any potential doubt. I have no idea when the photo had been taken. However, in the photo he looked exactly like he had looked in high school. It was uncanny in fact.

The internet in an unbelievable tool. It was sort of weird how much information I was able to find out about David almost six years after his death. I was able to discover where David had gone to college and what his major had been. I was able to discover that he had also earned an MBA. I discovered he had worked for the same company for over twenty five years—from graduate school graduation to shortly before his death. He had owned a house valued at several hundred thousand dollars and had left a sizable estate. I clicked on one link and there before my eyes was a copy of a letter his sister had written to the attorney who had settled his estate. That letter included personal family details it didn’t seem right that I was able to read about so easily. I was able to locate the church community he had belonged to. I was able to discover through the church’s website that he had been extremely active in that church and had contributed quite a bit—financially and in many other ways. Though the internet I was able to piece together almost every major aspect of his 48 year long life. I was not however, able to discover precisely how he had died. The obituary notice had simply said he had died “after a long illness.” I could find out no other information about this. I thought about this and thought it was extremely odd that I could find out how much money David was earning at the time of his death and how much his house had been appraised at but I couldn’t find out exactly what had caused his death. Somehow this seemed to be a clear indication of how we in The West approach death or I should say, distance ourselves from it.

I have also experienced a lot of non-death related losses in the last couple of years as well. I allow myself to ponder and deeply explore, often with great intensity, many things I believe many people don’t allow themselves to think about. I am very aware and attuned to the death that is constantly all around me. I am aware, since it is winter here in the Pacific Northwest, of fallen dead leaves from the non-evergreen trees. I’m aware of other vegetation that has also died. I’m aware of communities of insects that are dead or have otherwise vanished during this time of year. I live one and a half blocks from a large, old, Catholic Church. And like perhaps many old, Catholic churches these days, this parish has a very rapidly aging population. I know, I’ve gone to services there a few times. So when I walk around the neighborhood, as I often do, there is fairly often a hearse parked out in front of the church, indicating that a funeral mass is in process or is about to be.

As a spiritual seeker I am also very aware of all the little deaths I experience every single day. I am conscious of the various "deaths by a thousand cuts" I experience by having to coexist in this life with many people for whom my personal welfare is of no or little concern. I am also aware of the deaths that occur when I am occasionally able to rid myself of a particular attachment and how that is experienced as both death an ascension.

But back to the body and its physical death.

I’ve given some thought to how I want my body treated after I die. Of all the religions and cultures I’ve read somewhat about (and there are many I haven’t read much about), the way the Jewish people traditionally approach death, mourning, and the physical body of the deceased, is very attractive to me and feels appropriately sacred. I like how the body is lovingly washed and I like the idea of the opportunity to “sit shiva.” I also like a few of the attendant customs around sitting shiva. Much of this feels so, well, holy to me, and appropriately honoring of the process of death as well as the process of grieving. I appreciate the custom of visiting the mourners known as Nichum Aveilim. I also like how things happen very quickly in Jewish tradition.

If it were possible, my clear preference for what to do with my corpse after some ritual bathing and prayers of and around my body would be to have a traditional sky burial in the charnal grounds as observed in various regions of China, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and other areas. This practice is also observed in some expressions of Vajrayana schools of Buddhism. For those unfamiliar with this practice I’ll give a brief description here. In sky burial the corpse is placed preferably on a mountaintop where it is to decompose. It is placed there to be exposed to the elements and to be eaten by scavenging animals, specifically, carrion birds such as vultures. This is the way to go!

My second choice would be cremation the way it is done in the cremation ghats of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges River in India although it wouldn’t have to be on the banks of the Ganges though that would be wonderful. Here the body is placed on a pyre and set ablaze until the body is completely or nearly completely reduced to ashes. I should say that I do not have an overly romanticized impression of either sky burial or the Ganges based funeral ghats. I am aware of the collision that has occurred with each of these methods of bodily disposal between tradition and this modern world. For instance, I am aware of the great amounts of wood that is required and used in India to fuel those pyres and all the economic and environmental concerns and problems that come as a result. My guess is that if I am lucky I’ll simply get the standard cremation that takes place here in America. But I can dream, right? Good Lord. That’s a little bit of a strange image even for me—dreaming about how I want my body disposed after I die. Maybe I need to get out more.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Non-traditional love based romantic relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships, Part I





In the movie, Harold and Maude, which first came out in 1971, viewers are presented with a love based and romantic relationship between a free spirited, some might say eccentric, but I wouldn’t, elderly (79 years old) Nazi concentration camp female survivor and a quirky, death-obsessed yet good hearted young and very wealthy man in his early to mid-20s. It is based on a novel by Colin Higgins written the same year. And if it had not occurred before, at least not in cinematic form, the world now had one of its best, beautifully presented, and most enduring examples of a non-traditional, authentic, loved based, and romantic relationship that did not have anything to do with same sex attraction or overwrought insanity on the parts of one or both partners. And if you know anything at all about me you know I find absolutely nothing wrong with same sex attraction nor overwrought insanity. Well, as long as the overwrought insanity doesn’t involve anything it is assumed any believed to be sane person might not also desire in a love based relationship.

I, for one, have been in a number of love based relationships that many fine, upstanding, Christian Americans with a mortgage, two car garage, a pet Maltese, and a pet Siamese cat would probably consider very non-traditional, fake, or even scandalous. In fact, when I think about it, every single one of my romantic relationships probably fit that description and very easily so, including my current one. Because of this, I have thought about the topic of non-traditional love based romantic relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships quite a bit over the past many years.

First let’s identify the (false) gold standard of love based relationships, marriages and lifelong partnerships. This is likely changing because of the ever increasing number of countries that are now legally recognizing marriage equality, including the good ole USA—this, BTW, often does not extend to couples where one or both partners are transgender—and, I believe that false gold standard, for many people across the world, still leaves out same sex relationships. So here is what I believe that baseline gold standard is. It is a relationship between one man and one woman where this one man and this one woman do not primarily have a power exchange/BDSM/fetish or “kink” based relationship. It is a relationship where it is believed these two people are “soulmates” or “twin flames” or otherwise are deeply “in love” with each other, and where this “in love-ness” supersedes any and everything else that might possibly also be present in the relationship. And it is necessarily believed that no other person can realistically or even possibly ever threaten the assumed monogamy and eternal in-love nature of the paring. I may be forgetting a point or two. However, I think that’s essentially it in a nutshell. A dazzling Miss Congeniality crown and sash will be given to two person limited, monogamous, gay male or lesbian couples who otherwise meet the rest of that criteria.

So that false gold standard, I believe, leaves a whole lot of present day couples flailing out in the breeze. And it is that massive wind vacuum that I desire to respectfully, lovingly, and beautifully explore and legitimize.

Into that tunnel are love based relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships that involve more than two consenting adults in the mix, all of whom have specifically and very consciously in conjunction with one another designed the relationship, marriage, or partnership to include more than two such people. It includes power exchange/BDSM/fetish or “kink” based relationships that have this as the primary or one of the primary glues and shared interests of and in the relationship. It includes relationships where the conventional definition of “being in love” is not present, never has been present, will never be present, and is believed is not needed to be present to substantiate and legitimize the relationship nor its longevity. It includes relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships where simply finding an additional parent for the kid or kids was clearly the principal and either the stated or unstated principal reason for the relationship and where a more traditional in-love based element either has or hasn’t developed. It includes relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships that do in fact involve a coupling between one man and one woman, where this one man and this one woman do not primarily have a power exchange/BDSM/fetish or “kink” based relationship. It’s where it is a relationship where it is believed these two people are “soulmates” or “twin flames” or are otherwise deeply “in love” with each other, and where this “in-love-ness” supersedes anything else that might possibly also be present in the relationship. And it is where it is necessarily believed no other person can possibly ever threaten the assumed monogamy and eternal in-love nature of the paring—however, it’s also one where the woman is twenty-five or more years older than the man.

This false gold standard does not include relationships where financial security for one of the partners is either the stated or unstated yet absolutely the principal reason for the coupling. It does not include relationships where one partner has been classified as having “average or above average IQ” by the American Psychological Association’s intelligence testing based guidelines and where the other partner has been classified as having “borderline intellectual functioning” or has Down Syndrome or otherwise has been determined as having “significantly below average or lower IQ.” It does not include relationships, marriages and partnerships where both partners have consciously chosen to live in different countries for all but a few weeks of each year and where this arrangement has successfully been in place for decades. It does not include relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships where one partner is on death row or is otherwise incarcerated. It does not include relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships where one or both partners have taken a traditional vow of celibacy as this applies to Roman Catholic clergy and other Roman Catholic religious personnel guidelines, Orthodox Christian, or other religious group guidelines, etc. I could go on and on. However, I believe you get the picture.

You may have found that some or a lot of judgment and resistance around reading about one or more of these type relationships as being legitimate came up for you as you were reading all of those different relationships types.

Nevertheless, many love based relationships, marriages, and lifelong partnerships do not represent the false gold standard that many cultures have set up around this topic. And many such relationships marriages, and partnerships that believe they in fact represent this illusory gold standard, in point of fact, do not. Boom! Bam! Thank you ma’am!

So, just where do we go from here with all of this? I’ll attempt to grapple with that in part 2.

Photo by devilskey