Friday, January 07, 2005

Liberation, Part 1

In May this last year, I interviewed with a writer for Just Out, Portland's GLBT newspaper. Pat planned to write an article on Buddhists who are not heterosexual, and after making queries she interviewed four people in my sangha. She wished to convey that Buddhism as it is practiced here is inclusive of people of alternative sexual persuasions. Before I interviewed, I was feeling some anxiety about being more out. As someone involved in ecumenical Buddhist activities, writing for NW Dharma News and acting as contact for the Portland BPF, I know that some of the people I encounter would be disturbed by my polyamorous activities.

I'm sure anybody who's done an interview can relate:

I felt really good about it. We talked at least an hour, and she asked me probing questions that encouraged me to dig for insight into myself. I especially liked that she asked me what I thought polyamory and Buddhism shared, and I realized that I love and appreciate these two paths because they are affirming, are inclusive, operate from an ethical understanding, and are liberating. It took awhile for the article to go to print, as other more timely issues were claiming priority.

When it did go to press in October, my hour long interview yielded a few quotes, and at least one mistake. (My husband is not Buddhist, in fact I explicitly stated he leans towards atheism.) She asked us all about a quote by the Dalai Lama because that had given her editor the idea that Buddhism is a homophobic religion, so our quotes included these almost irrelevant responses to something he said. We are all Zen folks, living in the USA, how relevant would HH the Dalai Lama's views on sexuality be to us? There was nothing about that transformative moment when I listed those qualities that polyamory and Buddhism shared.

I was happy with the process though. Since then my awareness of polyamory as a spiritual path in itself has blossomed. It was right around the time of the interview that I joined the Spiritual Polyamory yahoo group. Doing the interview made me more comfortable with being more out, and I looked forward to finding my name in the local gay rag. After all, the readership would be the accepting sort. I've come to feel an increasing certainty that it is important to recognize that non-monogamy and spirituality are not mutually exclusive. It is important to recognize that polyamory provides a fertile ground for loving action, openness, and connectedness: vital forces for a strong spiritual focus. The dialogs in this yahoo group have made me realize that for some people polyamory arises out of their natural spiritual impulses. Having lived in a society that views non-monogamy only through the spectrum of adultery, which includes lying and deception, our natural spiritual and sexual impulses toward this connection and unity have been tainted with shame and guilt. This view cannot imagine that love could deepen and trust could expand through polyamory.

Yet so many people who dare to love more than one person find their love does indeed deepen. I have fallen in love with two people since I met my husband and main squeeze, and each time my love for him has reached new depths. He accepted and supported me while I rocked through the rollercoaster of strong new emotions; he held my heart gently when those loves didn't work out. My gratitude knows no bounds. I have learned incredible things about myself and human nature through those loves, something that might never have happened if I were in a monogamous relationship. How liberating love is, even when painful.

In the next part, I will explore how I've found my Buddhist path and my poly path have informed each other.

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