Thoughts on Being

Living alone on Beech Mountain is certainly a process of living in the now. One of the important practices in meditation is learning to just be present to the moment. Thoughts on being are prevalent in all religious traditions. NPR even has a great radio show called On Being with Krista Tippett. She interviews great speakers from around the world to talk about being.

In my experience, being can be challenging if it means I must sit still. Sitting still is a type of challenge for me since I am a wiggly person. Since getting older, I also move to try and deal with the pain that is constantly

Grayson – He was a very good cat!

present in my body. For the best example of what I mean by merely being, think of a cat.  I no longer have a cat, but our cat, Grayson was great at being. I often called him my Buddha cat. It always seemed that when I was having problems paying attention to “being” instead of “doing”, Grayson was sitting at the window merely observing the world as it passed by.

My wife was better at being still than I was. But, learning to be present to the moment, as meant here, is more than being still. Just as Grayson was able to be all cat in his “being”, our being means to be all you and for me, all me without trying to be someone else. It means being present to all that makes up the person you are (not who you want to be). The only person who can know if one is good at that type of being is the individual.

A new part of my “being” has been very hard for me to accept. It is accepting my physical limitations as I accept my physical illness and challenge. Yet, as I continued to push and try to be who I was in the past, those actions only caused more harm to my body, peace of mind, and relationships with others.

Being a spiritual person has meant that in my life, I paid more attention to the interior process than the body. Constantly working to train the mind, heart, and soul to be godly was my vocation. That vocation played out in music and church work. I also enjoyed softball, biking, and hiking. Though competitive, there was no interest in harming myself to win.

Because of being attuned to my body, I thought that meant I took care of my body. Though I did in many ways, one of the most acceptable ways to destroy one’s health is also one of the most rewarded ways of destroying health. Many call it work and for me, it turned into workaholism.

Growing up, I knew at an early age I was a lesbian, though I didn’t know the word for it yet. I only knew that my crushes were on girls and I dreamed of growing up to marry a woman. I did have crushes on a few boys and those were the ones I spoke of aloud. But in my childhood dreams, I was the boy and I always had a girlfriend. That wasn’t happening as a child, but it was a dream. I learned quickly that I had to find ways to divert attention from myself. Luckily for me, work did the trick. It was also a good thing that I had a good singing voice. As I began to sing at school and at church, it seemed to be a good cover.

Many will ask what this has to do with “being” and I’m getting there. During this same time, I had always been a religious kid too. I was merely interested in God and the Bible without understanding the religious condemnation at the time. All these years later, it’s become clear that some of my natural gifts combined with my physical and intellectual capacity for work empowered me to become my own wizard of oz. The only thing is it caused me harm.

Busy all the time means that someone is ignored. Always on the go means several things: not eating right, missing quality time with friends and family, waste of natural resources. Sometimes a body has to stop. Rest. Rest is the part that we Americans want to leave out of the equation for happiness. I don’t mean vacations that require more money, time, or travel. I mean sleeping. Unwinding. Reading. Being quiet. What many call unplugging. Yet, many of us are afraid of unplugging because in that place of solitude and stillness we come face to face with who we really ARE.

There are some things that can be changed about who I am. I can cut my hair, wear different clothes or makeup, ink my skin. Yet those are all exterior changes to the body. The body is a temple for the source of our being. The changes we can make to our body are merely adornments. Not taking time to rest or listen to our heart and mind can cause physiological changes. Those are not the ones we want or need. What does it mean to be you? What makes you afraid to be you? How are you creating smokescreens to divert YOUR attention away from who you really are?

 

One of the things this place on Beech Mountain is not a thing, but a place. I have a place where I can be quiet and simply BE. Even the little town below us has a sticker with the word on it.  This sacred place allows me to let the dust of the world settle and see what remains. Every time I can be patient with myself and have courage, these things remain: G_d, spirit, music. Another way of saying that for me is faith, hope, and love. I must also admit to myself in those moments that there is an essence of life that is uniquely Robin. G_d does not want that essence to change for Robin was created for a divine purpose whether others recognize it or not.

 

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Robin will be giving a talk about her book and the power of community on May 5th in Albemarle, NC. Please join the conversation at Second Street Sundries at 1:00 p.m.

PayPal.Me/RobinsRadio

 

 

 

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Friendship and Marching Forward

I like puns. Marching forward in March. Seems appropriate for the month of March and to celebrate a new start. I am using the word celebrate, while also hoping that a positive new start will actually come true. Yesterday was the one year mark of my separation from my beloved wife. It’s been a hard year. And yet, during this year I’ve also been blessed to reconnect with friends across North Carolina and given the opportunity to make friends from other states and other countries even. It’s amazing how many different people come to Beech Mountain.  I always celebrate friendships!

 

It is through friendships that we can get through life. I know that I have been blessed with many friends who have helped me learn to accept myself and live my truth. As a lesbian, this has been pure gift to me in a world that did not accept me when I was younger and even still struggles with acceptance at times. When I was younger I didn’t understand the problem, can’t say I really understand now. I am at the point however, where I get it when people say, “It is what it is. Deal with it.”

 

When I was younger, I wanted to change the world. My hope was to change the world to be a more loving place. Yes, I was idealistic and I still have that tendency. I think it’s what gets me through life so I don’t want to give that up. At the same time, one does have to have a grasp on what is real and present in our time. Our times continue to bring forth good things even amidst the craziness of the world at large. But by being truthful and good people, we can empower others to be good and truthful people. We must never give up hope. That is when friends come in. Friends give us courage, wisdom, love, and often a shoulder to cry on.

 

Throughout life, I have been blessed with precious friends. Some of my deepest friendships have come from my undergraduate alma mater, Pfeiffer College. Pfeiffer is now a university. In my time, it was a growing college. Next week I have been asked to be a part of a forum to talk about the challenges of coming out. This will be a huge honor for me.

 

Pfeiffer was a great place to go to college. I still think it’s a great college even though it’s grown. I attended the small campus in Misenheimer, North Carolina. Misenheimer is on the edge of Stanly County. Halfway between Salisbury and Albemarle, it was a liberal arts college that  had an excellent choral program. It is also located in the county where I grew up. That’s not what attracted me however. It was the small classrooms and the excellence in music.

When I attended, it was during the days that it was both a Methodist campus and also an alcohol free campus. It was more conservative than UNCG which was the other choral program I considered. My first choice of all was App State, but they focused on band music. As much as I loved band, I knew that I wanted to focus on choral music. Singing was my first love, and Pfeiffer also had a Church Music program. As a missionary wannabe, Pfeiffer fit where I thought God was leading me at the time.

Looking back, I see Pfeiffer as an even more perfect fit, because I needed a liberal arts education. The liberal arts education helped me to broaden my horizon and broaden my knowledge. I liked the anonymity that the vast campus of UNCG offered because I knew that I was different. Knew that someday I would need to face the fact that I was a homosexual. Stanly County was a little too close to home to do that. I tried to date guys. Wasn’t ready to come out to others and very afraid to come out to my family. Like me, my family was religious.

What ended up happening is that at Pfeiffer I was able to begin to explore who I was as a human being. And in being human, God was there through the friends I made at Pfeiffer. No-one pressured me to give up on my faith. God provided an angel of a roommate who  put up with me for four years. We had a blast! She was more like my sister than anything. When I did begin to explore accepting myself as a lesbian, my roommate was the first person I could trust with the information. Slowly, I began to come out to a few other classmates.  Because Pfeiffer was a Methodist campus and I was focusing on Christian education as a minor, being able to come out in this atmosphere helped me better reconcile faith and who I was as a human being.

That doesn’t mean that I came out of Pfeiffer with my degree and a totally integrated sense of self.  If that were the case, life would be much easier. But even all these years later, I still turn to my friends from Pfeiffer when I need someone to talk to about music, God, or life. The friends I made in college have  been there as I came out, and became more fully who God created me to be.

 

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have dear friends outside of college. Yet, because of the friends I had in college, I became brave enough to talk to the friends outside of college and realized those people love me too. During college, everyone is struggling to become. We don’t know what we’re trying to become, but some of the struggles are the same even though in different fields. If you’re in the area of Pfeiffer University next Monday night please join us at the Coming Out Forum at 7 o’clock. We will talk from different aspects of life about the challenges of coming out and especially coming out in a small rural community.

http://www.pfeiffer.edu/events/coming-out-forum-coming-out-all-over

Monday, 3/26/18 – 7:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Misenheimer
Stokes Community Room (Stokes 207)

 

I am thankful beyond measure for friends and family who still love me and who see the good in me. It is because of good people who are  kind and loving that our world has hope.

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Robin Whitley has an undergraduate in music (A.B.) from Pfeiffer University. Her Masters Degree (M.Div.) comes from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, South Carolina

 

 

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Snow Kisses

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The Politics of Life and Faith

My friend from India, Reji, a Coptic Orthodox priest gave me this message when I left an ecumenical conference. I asked him, “If you could say ANY THING to the people in the US what would you say?”

I expected him to give me a beautiful spiritual quote on Christianity or living in peace together. He was an Orthodox priest and we were there to study, talk about religion and how we CAN get along even with differences. Here is his response:

“Tell your people to get out and vote. You may not think your vote matters, but for India, it decides whether or not many of my own people can afford to eat. We grow bananas near my town but we ship them to the US and then prices are raised so high we cannot afford to buy our own bananas.”

When there are no more hungry people,
When there is no more poverty (LOTS of artists in poverty)
When there are no more wars or violence against women, children, and those of different beliefs or different races…

Then, and then only will I quiet my voice.

When an artist can make a living doing what an artist does
When a painter can paint AND feed her family
A singer can sing and not have to compromise his or her integrity to make a living

Then, and only then will I quiet my voice.

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The above post is from a writing that I did in October of 2008 on my Redbubble Journal. I was new to the “blogosphere” and trying to find a safe place to write politics. Had hated them all my life until my friend from India gave me the above message.

I can’t say that I like politics any better, but what I do understand now is how political actions or statements can have far reaching effects. I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s journals as a nighttime meditation. His concerns about the political situation in the 60s resonates with now. Some of the things he discusses, I remember from the things I experienced as a child. Politics have always been a part of the life of what it means to be human. The word “polity” implies civility. Yet, our discourse is far from civil.

Mystics, contemplatives, and other spiritual greats of history always call for non-violent change. Choose justice, mercy, peace is a message that dates to Micah in the 8th century B.C.E.

[God] has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

 Micah 6:8 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

We can no longer be silent about what is happening in our world. At the same time, we must stop pointing fingers at each other. How can we change the conversation? Justice, mercy, kindness is my responsibility. Each of us must look in the mirror of our soul and start there. The only change we can truly “control” is how we act or react to life, events, and those around us. I can only begin political activism by starting with me. I choose to love my neighbor in respect, dignity, and mercy. Make your choice. Are YOU willing to change and “… do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

“There is no consolation, only futility, in the idea that one is a kind of martyr for a cause. I am not a martyr for anything, I am afraid. I wanted to act like a reasonable, civilized, responsible Christian of my time. I am not allowed to do this. I am told I have renounced this – fine. In favor of what? In favor of a silence that is deeply and completely n complicity with the forces that carry out oppression, injustice, aggression, exploitation, war. In other words, silent complicity is presented as a ‘greater good’ than hones conscientious protest – it is supposed to be part of my vowed life, for the ‘glory of God.’ Certainly, I refuse complicity. My silence itself is a protest, and those who know me are aware of this fact.”     ~Thomas Merton March 3, 1964[1]

[1] Merton, Thomas, et al. “Part V: Seeking Peace in the Hermitage 1963-1965.” The Intimate Thomas Merton: His Life from His Journals, Lion Publishing, 2000, pp. 215–216.

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A New Year of Creativity – 2018

 

© 2017 Skyview by JRobin Whitley

Creativity is my passion. At the writing of this blog, my life dreams are coming true with three published books, a CD, and more creative projects becoming manifest. Each year of my life has been filled with poetry, reflection, music, meditation, and all of the good that life has to offer. This new year promises more of this goodness.

January 1 started out with guitar work. Then I found a song I had started writing posted on one of my recorders. Got some great photos of the snow that happened on New Years Eve. The wind wasn’t blowing that night so I didn’t exactly “ring in the new year” but it’s coming into my life with promise and hope.

Chimes

This will be my first year without my partner and wife of 12 years. In many ways, it saddens me. I’ve always believed in true love and feel that she was my one. We can’t change situations or other people though. We can only change our attitudes and viewpoints. That being said, my disabilities have shown me how precious and fleeting life is. We mustn’t waste one minute for wishing for the past.

One of the things I’ve learned since my dad died, is that in looking at the past, when love has happened, love remains. All the bad of the past fades in the light of love that shines on. Love lasts when nothing else does.

One of the hardest challenges for many people however is learning to love the self. This is not in the manner of narcissisim, which is an entirely selfish and self-serving love. To love oneself means to live the life that makes you glad to be alive. Be the person you want to wake up beside of in the morning, because no matter what, the one person who is always there is you. Allow yourself to be okay with who you are.

 

“Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life.”
~Golda Meir

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