Do You Judge Yourself To Be Better?

As I observe life I’ve come to realize that many of us take great pleasure in not only thinking we are better than others, but by pointing out this fact. Nowhere has this been more prevalent than in my attempts at online dating. Anyone who knows me, knows I can talk to a brick wall. This is how I approached my online dating life. If someone chatted with me, nine times out of ten I would chat back. I thought I would get the same in return.

I learned quickly, that was definitely not the case. I was often ignored. There were numerous times I was greeted with a curt, “not interested” which I never understood. Not interested? Not interested in what? A friendly greeting? In one of my final forays before deleting all of my accounts, I asked the uninterested party, why they said, “not interested” when nothing but a simple hello was offered. Their response, “look at you, and then look at me, be realistic, bro.” Of course my ego shot straight to the forefront and defended my wounded pride. I am not proud of everything I said. And, ironically, I was more offended by this person than I was by the person that randomly messaged me to say, “you’re too fat and old to be on here, you’re gross go away.” Perhaps that one was easier to stomach because I had not approached them first. Perhaps it was because my ire had been spiked by numerous other slights that had been building up. No matter the reasoning I was angry.

Now, often in these situations I will linger on the cruel remarks and play them over and over again in my head. My first response was to be angry at the arrogance and shallowness of the affronting party. Then, my ego started to buy into the lies. Over and over in my head I kept saying, “you are a worthless sack of shit, why would you even say hello to a guy like that? Look at him and look at you! What were you thinking?” This went round and round for a few days until finally, I stopped the madness.  My first realization was that I was diminished by my own thoughts, but he was equally diminished by his. 

What I finally settled on was a simple question, Why have we allowed ourselves to create an ego based self that thrives on being better than others? I will admit, I am guilty of this. I in no way claim to be perfect.  I often feel I’m better than someone based on intellect, looks, or personality.  I don’t voice that belief, but I often catch myself enthralled by these thoughts.  Perhaps I have so many run-ins with overinflated egos thanks to Karmic vengeance.  But, I gives me great pause and the opportunity to reflect on our need to not only be better than someone, but to prove it and rub it in their face.  

Now that this realization has punched me hard in the gut I will be far more mindful of my own ego’s tendency to harshly judge others as being less than me.  No one is less than any other.  The moment you think you are better than someone else is the moment you are weakened by ego.  The moment you allow someone to make you feel less adequate is the moment your inadequacy becomes reality.

The Devine gave us each the gift of love.  Therefore no one can take that away from us. We are all worthy of the Devine’s love and have no right to diminish that in others or ourselves.  We can start by being mindful and standing up to our egos.  Don’t allow yourself to alter someone else’s self-image to improve your own.

Make this your new affirmation: “I am powerful and worthy of Devine love.”  Go on, give it a try.


I’m Homophobic (About Myself)

I have a fear.  I’ve only really mentioned it to a few people.  I am homophobic.

Let me clarify what I mean by this.  I am homophobic of my own homosexuality.  I recently watched myself in a video and I caught myself cringing at the things I was doing.  My voice is high and “feminine.”  My mannerism are über gay.  I even half joked with a colleague that there was no way, after watching this video, that anyone would EVER mistake me for straight.

In the last ten years people have compared me to Nathan Lane’s character in the Bird Cage, Jack from Will and Grace (though I’m not that shallow), and Cam from Modern Family.  This comparison is always followed with, “they always make me smile,” or “they make me so happy, like you do.”  It is never said to me maliciously.  The comparison is always made as a compliment.  And, more often than not, I take it as such.  I like making people laugh and smile, and I love knowing I bring them some form of happiness.

My homophobia (which is reserved and aimed exclusively at me) is most evident at work.  I have always believed that in life we actually never leave middle school.  We tend to group together in cliques much like we did in middle school.  We talk about others and stir up drama, just as our younger versions did.  Which is why, I think, working in a middle school has brought this feeling to the forefront.

Now, to be fair, in my life I have suffered little from homophobia directed toward me.  In high school the captain of the basketball team tried to throw my from the second floor of my school yelling, “faggot” the entire time.  I was called, “the little faggot” by an administrator at the first high school I taught in.  And, most recently I had a parent e-mail me that he does not approve of my “lifestyle.”  Beyond that, even growing up in a small town, I was pretty lucky.  My mother, like all protective parents, used to tell me to sit on my hands when I talked or to try to speak in a lower tone so people wouldn’t think I was gay. But, I know her concern came from that place all mothers fear; the pain that their children might suffer.

I’m not sure which of these issues, or more likely all of them combined, caused my inner homophobia.  In most aspects of my life, the fact that I’m a “flaming homosexual” is joyfully embraced.  The only time I hate myself for it is when I think a student will be malicious enough to call me a “fag.”  This epithet has been hurled at me by many students over my ten years of teaching.  When kids get angry their first thought is to lash out, and when it’s aimed at me, it is usually, “faggot” or “fag.”  The “clever” little ones even came up with the nickname, “Mr. Cava-queer.”  The first time this happened it was like a kick in the stomach.  Thoughts reeled through my head.  “How did they know?” “How can they be so cruel?” “What’s wrong with being gay?”

I was indignant.  I wanted the child who dared use such a term toward me thrown out of school.  How dare they?  Disappointment led to anger.  I was pulled into my administrator’s office (not the same administrator that called me “the little faggot”) and they talked me down from the ledge.  They also gave me a piece of advice that I’ve never forgotten, but that, unbeknownst to them, cemented my inner homophobia even further.  I was told that I need to keep these incidences much calmer because even though my administrator would back me up 100%, they would never be able to protect me if a parent came in complaining about the “faggot” teacher.  I was told that homophobia was the last acceptable bigotry in the education field.

Even today, that sticks with me.  When I can see a student getting angry I often prepare myself for the “fag” remark to be flung out.  I know I should not allow the hateful words of an eleven year old to get to me.  Nor should I live my life ever believing that there is something wrong with being gay.  I am amazing just as I am.  Each day I remind myself of that.  But each day I also tense up with the fear.  This is definitely a personal issue I am constantly working on.  I have come a LONG way since the scared high schooler being shoved by a star athlete, but I have a long way to go before I stop feeling bullied by the thoughts of an eleven year old.

I know this may make me seem weak. But, I believe that admitting this is a strength.  And the fact that I still do my job and what I believe is best for my students, even though I fear what they might say, is another sign of strength.  Each year, each month, each day, and with each student I get better at accepting and being proud of who I am.  And each time I can accomplish that pride my hope is that it encourages gay students to accept, with pride, who they are.  To not allow homophobia to settle in their souls.  If sharing my pain and fear makes even one person stronger then I have made this world a better place. Spread only love and love will return to you.


Why Buddhism?

I have been pondering this post for quite some time.  It’s a little difficult for me to write, because I’m not 100% sure of the reasoning myself.  Hence why my blog is called “Accidental Buddhism.”

Let me start by saying thank you to those who have been reading my blog regularly and have left comments of encouragement.  I truly appreciate your support and love.  I write this blog to put my ideas and thoughts down, but it makes it far more fulfilling knowing I have a readership; even if it is small but loyal.

No less important to me are those who do not seem to understand why I choose to follow the path of Buddhism.  Some cannot figure out why I would abandon my Catholic roots to pursue this new faith.  I was asked recently, “are you involved in some kind of Buddhism?” As though Buddhism was some kind of cult and not one of the worlds oldest religions.

Up until recently I have kept my dabblings into other faith systems to myself.  They were no one’s business but my own.  I did not take them seriously enough my self to put them on display for the world to see.  Then, as I’ve described in other posts (Can Diets Be Buddhist In Nature) I came across yoga.  Yoga, like Buddhism, finds it’s roots in Hinduism.  In Sanskrit yoga is defined as “to unite.”  It is one of the six pillars of Hinduism.  But, Buddhists practice yoga as well.  Since Buddhism’s founder Siddharta Gautama was originally a Hindu prince before he became The Buddha, it is understandable that the two faiths merge in many ways (much like Christianity and Judaism).

For my own personal beliefs I use yoga as a form of meditation.  My yoga practice and my study of Buddhism throughout college and since naturally led me “to unite” with the Buddhist faith.

Of course this is not a complete story of “Why Buddhism,” but it is a beginning.  Now, hold onto your chairs because here’s where I get a little provocative.

Disclaimer: please understand that what follows are my feeling and are in no way meant to demean or denigrate anyone else’s faith or beliefs.

Above I mentioned that I had “abandoned” my Catholic roots.  This is a misconception.  I have not completely abandoned my upbringing.  I still feel a deep attachment to Catholicism. The rituals of the faith have always been compelling to me; most particularly the praying of the rosary (I still carry one with me).  I find it ironic that people assume I have forgotten my former faith, but I am attracted to Buddhism for many of the same reasons I am attracted to Catholicism.  Like the rosary the Buddhists have the mala; prayer beads also used during meditation.  This gave me my first sense of connection between the faith of my birth and my chosen faith.

If you can truly say that I abandoned Catholicism (or Christianity to be more literal) it is because I felt that they had abandoned me.  Christianity has become quite contentious over the last decade here in the United States.  Instead of being the all inclusive religion of love and acceptance that Christ espoused, it has become a religion of exclusion and heartache.  This hits much closer to home for me as a gay man. The pastor of the church I grew up in (who I served as an alter boy for) has published articles in the church bulletin and given homilies from the pulpit condemning homosexuals and  homosexuality on a regular basis.

This is not one rogue pastor this is numerous pastors throughout Christendom.  Because of this and other reasons I have long felt excluded from Christianity.  This is not to say that there are not open and accepting Christians in the world; there most certainly are and I have been blessed to know them.  But when the outspoken of the faith launch an all out war against any of it’s followers, there is something wrong.

Please know that I am not running to Buddhism because I’m upset with Christianity.  That is far from the truth.  I was led to Buddhism because it feels like home to me.  Buddhism is a very individual practice.  There is of course a community that practices together (known as the sangha); I have not found one as of yet since my practice still remains in its infancy.  I have a friend that always admired Buddhism and he used to say, “What I like about Buddhism is that they say, ‘I’ll be over here practicing and you can practice whatever faith you believe and I’m here to help you when you need it.'”  It is that acceptance of others’ beliefs that I like about Buddhism.  I also like that it can be seen as a philosophy and less as a religion.  You can be a Christian Buddhist, a Jewish Buddhist, a Muslim Buddhist, or even an Atheist Buddhist (there is not God figure in Buddhism – you believe in the higher power you choose to believe in).  [I will focus on God and Buddhism in an upcoming post.]  So, I have not abandoned my belief in God or the Goddess, or the Universe, or whatever anyone chooses to believe in as a higher power.  I think this is what scares most of the people who are confused by my conversion.

I believe the other element that people find distasteful is how public I’ve made this transition from one faith to another.  Religion is a private matter for many people; up to this point is has been for me as well.  The difference for me; I don’t write this blog to convert people to Buddhism, that is a path they must choose for themselves.  I write this blog for my own understanding.  Putting my feelings in writing is another form of meditation for me.  It keeps me grounded and centered and mindful.

So, I come back to the question, “Why Buddhism?”  And the only answer I can truly give is because it is the best faith for me.  I will always respect others’ faith of choice; all I ask is the same in return.  And no matter your feeling about what I believe know I will always love you and hope you can always love me.