Sunday, June 30, 2019

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 30, 2019 💌

One of the big traps we have in the West is our intelligence, because we want to know that we know. Freedom allows you to be wise, but you cannot know wisdom. You must be wisdom.
When my guru wanted to put me down, he called me ‘clever.’ When he wanted to reward me, he would call me ‘simple.’

The intellect is a beautiful servant, but a terrible master. Intellect is the power tool of our separateness. The intuitive, compassionate heart is the doorway to our unity. 

- Ram Dass -

Via Daily Dharma: Radiating Love and Acceptance

As we transform our own experience and relationship to our realities, we cannot help but affect those around us in radiating circles into the larger culture. These moments of freedom and transformation begin to change and elevate the consciousness and awareness of the world.

—Interview with Larry Yang, “Meditation Teacher Larry Yang Named Grand Marshal in S.F. Pride

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Via Lions Roar: Buddhism’s Call to Action

Buddhism’s Call to Action
Jack Kornfield on the importance of contributing to activism with Buddhist practice and wisdom.
How can you do this service work in the spirit of practice? As dharma practitioners, the first task is to make your own heart a zone of peace. Instead of becoming entangled in the pain or cynicism that exists externally, you need to face your own fear, your own sufferings, and transform them into compassion. Only then can you offer genuine help to the outside world.

Via Daily Dharma: The True Journey

All pilgrimages are internal.

—Gail Gutradt, “A Pilgrimage Among Friends

Friday, June 28, 2019

Via FB:

Via FB:

Via Daily Dharma: Lose Your Self

Anger is considered a poison when it’s self-motivated and self-centered. But take that attachment to the self out of anger and the same emotion becomes the fierce energy of determination, which is a very positive force … Drop the self-orientation from ignorance, and it becomes a state of unknowing that allows new things to rise.

—Roshi Bernie Glassman and Rick Fields, “Instructions to the Cook

Thursday, June 27, 2019

A Look At The Activism That Came Before Stonewall And The Movement That Came Out Of It

Via Daily Dharma: What Exists?

When we meditate, we relate to that unsettling, ineffable commodity: the present. We train in letting go of thoughts and feelings as they arise, and settle back into the present: that gap between two concepts—past and future—that don’t actually exist.

—Pamela Gayle White, “The Pursuit of Happiness

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: On Finding Each Other

We humans have a way of touching each other’s lives deeply even despite ourselves. In finding our way to each other, we find what is, after all, already there, waiting to be found, wanting to be found.

—Andrew Cooper, “Life’s Hidden Support

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 26, 2019 💌

Most of the beings that we call gurus are really teachers. The likelihood of finding somebody that’s a cooked goose is reasonably slim. Since they are not cooked geese, they have their own karma, they have their own stuff. So they become somebody through whom a teaching comes, but them themselves are not truth… If there is a purity in your heart in the way you see truth, you separate this purity of their message from the stuff of their karma. You take the truth and you work with it.

- Ram Dass -

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Kings Of Leon - Around The World (Official Music Video)

Taylor Swift - You Need To Calm Down

LEGO is hosting the world’s smallest Pride parade to celebrate Stonewall’s 50th anniversary This may be the only Pride event where you have to be accompanied by a child to visit.

There’s one event this June that may win the award for smallest Pride parade of the year. 

But don’t let its size fool you: the parade at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Westchester, New York, is more than its size.

Taking place in MINILAND, the amusement park’s recreation of parts of New York City, the parade features two floats with “Pride” and “Love Is Love” themes, an oversized “Stonewall 50” billboard, and a great number of bedazzled mini people dancing in a LEGO recreation of Times Square.

The miniature event celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rebellion and the birth of LGBTQ Pride.

Read the full article and more here

5 Same-Sex Couples Tell Us What It’s Like To Be Legally Married

Via Daily Dharma: Breaking from the Dream

We get quiet for a moment in meditation. We sink down to a relaxedness, a calmness, abruptly free from all the crazy dreams we confuse with reality. And in that instant, by mistake maybe, or because we aren’t thinking to stop it from happening—we experience, in a flash, things as they really are.

—William R. Stimson, “My Brief Career Composing Spanish Music

Monday, June 24, 2019

5B Official Trailer – Presented by RYOT a Verizon Media Company

Parada LGBTQ+ Avenida Paulista 23.06.19 - 3 million People!

Via Daily Dharma: The Weight of Every Step

Nothing is merely a means to an end, nothing is merely a step on the path to somewhere else. Every moment, everything, is absolutely foundational in its own right.

—Barry Magid, “Uselessness


All men -- whether they go by the name of Americans or Russians or Chinese or British or Malayans or Indians or Africans -- have obligations to one another that transcend their obligations to their sovereign societies. 

-Norman Cousins, author, editor, journalist and professor (24 Jun 1915-1990)

Via India.Arie "One" - Official Video

From her 2013 album, SongVersation, India.Arie shares the song that took her a lifetime to write. "One" says everything that India once afraid to say but love for humanity and her courage for truth gave her the words and music to express the powerful and universal truth in this masterful song. This song is dedicated with love to all. #worthy

Billions live their lives Now
Muhammad, Krisha, or the Buddha are the way.
Still some believe it's right to say
In the name of Jesus when you pray.

We are a human kind of 7 billion
So many different races and religions
And it all comes down to one

Some say God's a him
Still many believe that He is a Her
Does God Live in our hearts?
Or is She somewhere out there in the universe.


How far will have to go before we learn the lesson?
Gandhi, was a Hindu
Martin Luther King, a Christian
Regardless of religion, they knew love was the mission
And it all comes down to one.

Is there no God at all?
Or a pantheon of gods up in the sky
We can heal our broken hearts
If we give up the desire to be right.


How far will have to go before we learn the lesson?
Gandhi, was a Hindu Martin Luther King, a Christian
Regardless of religion, they knew love was the mission
And it all comes down to one.

We are a human kind of seven billion
So many different races and religions
And we all want the same things
Health, Love, Prosperity and Peace Tolerance is the seed
And the gift of pure acceptance is the tree


Whether you are red, brown, yellow, black, or white
Man with a husband, or a woman with a wife
We can debate until the end of time who is wrong or right
Or we can see ourselves as one
Cause it all comes down to love.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 23, 2019 💌

All that you seek is already within you. In Hinduism it is called the Atman, in Buddhism the pure Buddha-Mind. Christ said, 'the kingdom of heaven is within you.' Quakers call it the 'still small voice within.’ This is the space of full awareness that is in harmony with all the universe, and thus is wisdom itself.

- Ram Dass -

Via Daily Dharma: Invitations to a Clearer Mind

One of the essential elements of life is the understanding that everything we encounter—fear, resentment, jealousy, embarrassment—is actually an invitation to see clearly where we are shutting down and holding back.

—Aura Glaser, “Into the Demon’s Mouth

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: We’re Inseparable, Naturally

There is something special and precious about meditating outside and rediscovering our deep connection with the natural world. When we do, it becomes more evident to us that the world is not a collection of separate things but a confluence of natural processes that include us.

—David Loy, “How a Growing Buddhist Movement Is Responding to the Ecological Crisis

Via Daily Dharma: In the Real, Fast World

We do not have to be afraid of entering unfamiliar territory once we have learned how to hold experience within the gentleness of our own minds. Learning to transform obstacles into objects of meditation provides a much needed bridge between the stillness of the concentrated mind and the movement of real life.

—Mark Epstein, “Stopping the Wind

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: How to Build a Better Future

Even though we cannot see clearly how it’s going to turn out, we are still called to let the future into our imagination. We will never be able to build what we have not first cherished in our hearts.

—Joanna Macy and Sam Mowe, “The Work That Reconnects

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: Confronting the True Causes of Harm

Asking “Who is the villain?” is the prologue to asking who should be punished. But asking “What are the conditions that led to this?” leads us to consider how to change those conditions so that the situation is less likely to happen again.

—Matthew Gindin, “The Red Hat Rorschach Test

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 19, 2019 💌

One doesn’t have to beat down one’s ego for God. That isn’t the way it works. The ego isn’t in the way. It’s how we are holding the ego. It is much better to just do the spiritual practices and open to God and love God and trust your intuitive heart. As the transformation changes, the ego then becomes this beautiful instrument that’s available to you to deal with the world. It’s not in the way anymore. 

- Ram Dass -

Monday, June 17, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: Fear Is Not the Enemy

Fear is not the enemy—it is nature’s protector; it only becomes troublesome when it oversteps its bounds. In order to deal with fear we must take a fundamentally noncontentious attitude toward it, so it’s not held as “My big fear problem” but rather “Here is fear that has come to visit.” Once we take this attitude, we can begin to work with fear.

—Amaro Bhikkhu, “Inviting Fear

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 16, 2019 💌

For my spiritual work I had to hear what Alan Watts used to say to me: “Ram Dass, God is these forms. God isn’t just formless. You’re too addicted to formlessness.” I had to learn that. I had to honor my incarnation. I’ve got to honor what it means to be a man, a Jew, an American, a member of the world, a member of the ecological community, all of it. I have to figure out how to do that—how to be in my family, how to honor my father. All of that is part of it.
That is the way I come to God, acknowledging my uniqueness, if you will. That’s an interesting turn-about in a way. That brings spiritual people back into the world.

- Ram Dass -

Via Daily Dharma: Softening One’s Self-Concern

All meditation practices require that one relax self-preoccupation. Just like being too tense to ride a bike, when people are too concerned with themselves it can be very difficult for the mind to be soft enough to settle into meditation.

—Gil Fronsdal, “Evaluate Your Meditation

Via Daily Dharma: The Jeweled Net of Family

The Net of Indra is a vast, bejeweled matrix spanning and encompassing the whole universe. From every knot hangs a jewel, and each jewel reflects all the other jewels within the net. My father’s life was one jewel hanging from a knot in that infinite web, and in that jewel was reflected my life, and my brothers’ lives, and my mother’s life.

—Eugene Richards, “A Life Too Long

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: Making Space for Happiness

The joy of letting go comes from insight into what truly brings happiness and suffering, and choosing the lasting happiness. Letting go may take some work but it can be a joyous relief.

—Hai An (Sister Ocean), “The Joy of Letting Go: Spring Cleaning Inside and Out

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

from Song of Myself by Walt Whitman (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

Via Daily Dharma: The Wonder of Not Knowing

The fact that we don’t know—that nothing is certain and we therefore can’t hold on to anything—can evoke fear and depression, but it can also evoke a sense of wonder, curiosity, and freedom. Some of our best moments come when we haven’t yet decided what will happen next.

—Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel, “Open Stillness

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 12, 2019 💌

Surrender who you think you are and what you think you are doing into what is. It is mind boggling to think that spirituality is dying into yourself. 

- Ram Dass -

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Via Higher Perspective:

Via Daily Dharma: Embrace Slowing Down

When you look at getting stuck in traffic as an opportunity to slow down (literally!), it can seem like more of a blessing than a nightmare. Getting stressed out won’t make those cars go any faster. Finding ways to enjoy it is a lot more rewarding. It makes it feel less like wasting time.

—Brad Warner, “How to Not Waste Time

Monday, June 10, 2019

Via PsychologyToday: Buddhism and the Blues

Buddhism and the blues

FlowersBuddhist psychology’s core techniques of meditation and awareness may have much to offer ordinary Westerners.
By: Hara Estroff Marano
From: Psychology Today

To most people Buddhism is an ancient Eastern religion, although a very special one. It has no god, it has no central creed or dogma and its primary goal is the expansion of consciousness, or awareness.

But to the Dalai Lama, it’s a highly refined tradition, perfected over the course of 2,500 years, of analyzing and investigating the inner world of the mind in order to transform mental states and promote happiness. “Whether you are a believer or not in the faith,” the Dalai Lama told a conference of Buddhists and scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, you can use its time-honored techniques to voluntarily control your emotional state.

Yes, the Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of over 300 million Buddhists worldwide. Yes, he is the head of the Tibetan government in exile. But in the spirit of Buddhism, the Dalai Lama has an inquiring mind and wishes to expand human knowledge to improve lives. At its core, Buddhism is a system of inquiry into the nature of what is.

He believes that psychology and neuroscience have gone about as far as they can go in understanding the mind and brain by measuring external reality. Now that inner reality—the nature of consciousness—is the pressing subject du jour, the sciences need to borrow from the knowledge base that Buddhism has long cultivated.

Towards a science of consciousness
A comprehensive science of the mind requires a science of consciousness. Buddhism offers what MIT geneticist Eric Lander, Ph.D., called a “highly refined technology” of introspective practices that provide systematic access to subjective experience. Yet Buddhist psychology offers more than a method of investigation. Its core techniques of meditation and awareness may have much to offer ordinary Westerners, whose material comforts have not wiped out rampant emotional distress.

The Buddhist view of how the mind works is somewhat different from the traditional Western view. Western psychology pretty much holds to the belief that things like attention and emotion are fixed and immutable. Buddhism sees the components of the mind more as skills that can be trained. This view has increasing support from modern neuroscience, which is almost daily providing new evidence of the brain’s capacity for change and growth.

Buddhism uses intelligence to control the emotions. Through meditative practices, awareness can be trained and focused on the contents of the mind to observe ongoing experience. Such techniques are of growing interest to Western psychologists, who increasingly see depression as a disorder of emotional mismanagement. In this view, attention is hijacked by negative events and then sets off a kind of chain reaction of negative feeling, thinking and behavior that has its own rapidity and inevitability.

Techniques of awareness permit the cultivation of self-control. They allow people to break the negative emotional chain reaction and head off the hopelessness and despair it leads to. By focusing attention, it is possible to monitor your environment, recognize a negative stimulus and act on it the instant it registers on awareness. While attention as traditional psychologists know it can be an exhausting mental activity, as Buddhists practice it it actually becomes a relaxing and effortless enterprise.

One way of meditation is to use breathing techniques in which you focus on the breathing and let any negative stimulus just go by—instead of bringing it into your working memory, where you are likely to sit and ruminate about it and thus amplify its negativity. It’s a way of unlearning the self-defeating ways you somehow acquired of responding catastrophically to negative experiences.

Read the rest of this article

The Virtual Closet Experience - Armário Virtual.

Via Daily Dharma: Listening with an Open Mind

It’s hard to listen without judgment, to tolerate ambiguity, paradox, and in some cases, ignorance. But if we are ever to experience any measure of true peace, this is something we will all need to learn.

—Tina Lear, “Having Real Conversations (Even with My Sister)

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: When the Curtain Drops

In order to open—in meditation and in life in general—we must let go of our familiar thoughts and emotions, we must step out from behind the safe curtain of our inner rehearsals and onto the stage of reality, even if it’s for just a brief moment.

—Michael Carroll, “Bringing Spiritual Confidence in the Workplace

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 9, 2019 💌

The first step of karma yoga is to get free of the attachments to your own life, to develop a witness. We have thousands and thousands of me’s and there is one me that watches all the other me’s, right? That’s the only game. It’s not trying to change any of the me’s.
It’s not the evaluator, and it’s not the judge, it’s not the super ego. It doesn’t care about anything. It just notes, ‘hmmm, there he is doing that.’ That witness, that place inside you, is your centering device. And that begins to be the work one does on oneself. Once one understands there is a place in oneself that one is not attached, the first job is to extricate yourself from attachment. 

- Ram Dass -

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: Beginning with the Present Momen

Even if you practice meditation to become a paragon of love and wisdom, all it can do is put you face-to-face with who you are and with what is, which is where all meditation begins.

—Stephen Schettini, “What to Expect When You’re Reflecting

Friday, June 7, 2019

Via Daily Dharma: Let Self-Centeredness Breeze Through

Greed, hatred, and ignorance arise in our minds, and if we build a self on them, we’re trapped. But if we don’t make our nest there, though self-centered thoughts come, they also go like the wind that shakes the branches and then disappears.

—Rafe Martin, “The Brave Parrot: Being Small in a Big, Troubled World

Via Tricycle: Five Stories to Mark 50 Years Since Stonewall

2019 marks 50 years since the New York City police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in Greenwich Village. Though police arresting people for expressing a different gender than listed on their driver’s license (or demanding bribes) was not uncommon, rebellion was, and the riots and protests that followed launched the Gay Rights Movement.
For the last 50 years, cities across the globe have held parades and cultural events during Pride Month to celebrate the LGBTQ community and to raise awareness on pressing issues such as AIDS and marriage equality.

In the words of meditation teacher Jay Michaelson: “It’s no secret that many LGBTQ people have found refuge in the dharma, and it’s easy to see why. It helps us with the wounds of homophobia, recognizing internalized self-hatred for the delusion and dukkha [suffering] that it is.” Here are five Tricycle stories to celebrate Buddhism’s inclusivity this Pride Month.
1.Does Buddhism Support Sexual and Gender Minorities?
Buddhism for Beginners 
3. We’re Queer and We’ve Been Here
By Dr. Jay Michaelson
5. Becoming Jivaka By Pagan Kennedy

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Intersections: Tales of the City

Via Daily Dharma: Meeting Emotions as Friends

We have our mind and our thoughts, and they can rev up emotions. But if we use our emotions as the object of meditation, as our friend and support, it’s like standing on the bank of the river and observing.

—Pema Chödrön, “Meditating with Emotions

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Via Lion's Roar / Is Buddhism a religion, philosophy, way of life, or science of mind?

Illustration by Nolan Pelletier.

I’m confused. Buddhism is considered one of the world’s five great religions, but some people say it’s not a religion at all, but a philosophy, way of life, or science of mind. Which is it? 

The answer is really about how you define religion. On one hand, Buddhism looks a lot like every other religion, with monastics, temples, sacred texts, rituals, congregations, etc. So by the “if it quacks like a duck” sociological definition, it’s a religion. On the other hand, most people define religion as believing in some sort of God or Creator, which Buddhism does not. They consider the concept of “nontheistic religion” a contradiction in terms, so they label Buddhism as a philosophy, way of life, or science of mind (and many Buddhists in the West agree). We would like to offer a third definition: religion is that which posits a nonmaterial spiritual reality (whether God or mind) and asserts we continue in some way after death. By that definition, combined with the sociological and historical realities, we come down on the side that Buddhism is a religion—and all those other things too.

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Via Lion's Roar / The Math Koan: The practice of koan study isn’t so different from teaching math, says high school teacher Pat Higgiston.

As a high school math teacher, I run into plenty of obstacles: resistant students, anxious parents, not enough time or resources, and even my own burnout.

When I hit a wall, I find it valuable to return to the question at the beginning of it all: What’s the best thing I can do to help my students grow?

It’s easy to repeat this mantra to myself, but that doesn’t always help me access its core meaning. 

Sometimes I can’t realize the meaning until I manifest it in my life, new and fresh. Manifesting meaning isn’t about reciting, but creating. It requires work, patience, and not-knowing.

This persistence and discipline could describe Zen koan study just as well as it describes teaching. In my experience, koans are a ready guide for a high school teacher.

I spent the better part of a month reading and rereading Case 52 of The Book of Serenity, entitled “Caoshan’s ‘Reality Body.’”

Caoshan asked elder De, “‘The buddha’s true reality body is like space: it manifests form in response to beings, like the moon in the water’ — how do you explain the principle of response?”
De said, “Like an ass looking in a well.”
Caoshan said, “You said a lot indeed, but you only said eighty percent.”
De said, “What about you, teacher?”
Caoshan said, “Like the well looking at the ass.”

Koans in The Book of Serenity are accompanied by a commentary from Wansong Xingxiu, a 12th-century Chinese Chan Buddhist monk — an ancestor of my school of Zen. Wansong introduces this one saying, “Those who have wisdom can understand by means of metaphors. If you come to where there is no possibility of comparison and similitude, how can you explain it to them?”

In the koan, Caoshan’s metaphor of “the moon in the water” symbolizes the realization that enlightenment isn’t something outside of us. The moon is reflected in the ocean, in lakes and streams, in puddles after the rain, in droplets of dew in the early morning, and even at the bottom of wells. Likewise, enlightenment is reflected in every drop of our lived experience. One of the key realizations in Zen is that when we meditate, we manifest the meaning of Zen. We become aware of the moon’s presence, having somehow doubted it before. And looking for it outside, we find it closer than we expect.

This koan probes me to ask myself, “What do you see when you look at your students?”

Enkyo O’Hara Roshi says a koan is “a form that obscures what it intends to communicate.” This seems unhelpful in the classroom. As teachers, our intention is to clearly and concisely communicate a specific subject. At the same time, we understand that a bare presentation of facts — historical dates, mathematical theorems, a list of an element’s properties — isn’t enough to communicate the meaning behind a subject. More often than not, the student will look at the majesty of a mathematical proof and ask, “So?”
The challenge of teaching math is that you are communicating to an audience about math, while simultaneously communicating how to be an audience for math.
That kind of comment can send teachers to the bar on a Friday afternoon, exasperated and shaking our heads. We peer into our wells and wonder if there’s anything down there.

I think part of the challenge of teaching math is that you are communicating to an audience about math, while simultaneously communicating how to be an audience for math. To paraphrase scholar and educator Magdalene Lampert on teaching fractions to fifth graders: you are teaching them how to be the type of people who talk about math.

A math teacher doesn’t present proofs to an audience. Rather, a math teacher poses problems that have to be worked through. A problem is a form that obscures what it communicates, similar to a koan. In this regard, a good math problem is a koan for the student. Just as a koan is both a symbol of enlightenment and a means to realize enlightenment, so a math problem can be an expression of the problem and a means to solve the problem.

Among my students, not-knowing math seems to be the most shameful thing you can imagine. I remind them often that if they knew all of this math already, they wouldn’t have to be here. But they are here, and they’re facing what seems to be an insoluble problem. They work at it and it works at them, until suddenly the “problem” drops away and they communicate its meaning without speaking a word.

As teachers, sometimes we forget that this is what we’re trying to accomplish. Staring into the well, we think nothing will peer back. We throw up our hands and say, “The kids just don’t care!” And of course, at first, they don’t. Not now, not yet. We are in the business of cultivating people who care, who think, who create, imagine, argue, and collaborate.

I think the hard part about teaching—and about life—is that this is true for us, as teachers and as adults. We are always learning and growing, and every challenge that confronts us is a new koan, a new problem that obscures the truth of our lives. Working with koans and working with young people share this quality of resolving the insoluble. At the start, all you have is a jumble of words and feelings that you’re trying to convey.

What do you see when you look at your students? Wansong warns us against saying that we’re here to teach them. If I simply say, “I am here to teach,” then that isn’t a realization of my intention. In order to actually teach, I must do more than say I am teaching. I embody how to talk about math, and then how to observe and manifest its meaning. The meaning of math is communicated in every aspect of my being, and in every aspect of my students’.

With this understanding, I can turn to the next group of students, listen closely, and respond to them with a question or two. As we learn and grow together in this classroom, peering down the wells of mathematics, the meaning comes into view. How did I not see it there before?

Via Ram Dass / Words of Wisdom - June 5, 2019 💌

The technique of the witness is to merely sit with the fear and be aware of it before it becomes so consuming that there’s no space left. The image I usually use is that of a picture frame and a painting of a gray cloud against a blue sky. But the picture frame is a little too small. So you bend the canvas around to frame it. But in doing so you lost all the blue sky. So you end up with just a framed gray cloud. It fills the entire frame.

So when you say 'I’m afraid,' or, 'I’m depressed,' if you enlarged the frame so that just a little blue space shows, you would say ‘ah, a cloud.’ That is what the witness is. The witness is that tiny little blue over in the corner that leads you tosay, ‘ah, fear.’

- Ram Dass -

Via Daily Dharma: The Grace of Impermanence

The grace of impermanence is that we belong to everything, that we are not separated from anything, that we are not isolated. We may be waves on an ocean, but we are waves that know we are waves.

—Interview with Sallie Tisdale by Marie Scarles, “Travel Guide to the End of Life

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Via YAHOO News: Ethiopian churches oppose gay travel company's tour plans

Addis Ababa (AFP) - Ethiopia's religious leaders on Monday urged the government to block a US gay travel company from touring the country's ancient sites, and one group warned visiting homosexuals could face violence.

The Chicago-based Toto Tours, which describes itself on its website as "the only gay tour company in existence" that has been operating with the same ownership and management for almost three decades, told AFP it has received death threats since announcing a 16-day trip to Ethiopia, which includes numerous historical religious sites.

Their itinerary has sparked ire in Ethiopia, which like many in Africa is deeply homophobic and has strict anti-gay laws, punishing homosexual acts with up to 15 years in prison.

"Tour programmes and dating programmes that try to use our historical sites and heritage should be immediately stopped by the Ethiopian government and we urge Ethiopians supporting these sinful and evil acts to desist from their acts," Tagay Tadele of the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia told journalists.
The council counts seven Islamic and Christian denominations as members.

An influential Ethiopian Orthodox organisation, the Sileste Mihret United Association, also held a press conference Monday to condemn the tour company.
"Homosexuality is hated as well as being illegal in Ethiopia. Toto Tours are wrong to plan to conduct tours in our religious and historical places," the organisation's vice chairman, Dereje Negash, told AFP.

"If Toto Tours comes to Ethiopia where 97 percent of Ethiopians surveyed oppose homosexuality, they will be damaged, they could even die," he said.

Dan Ware, the president of Toto Tours, said the company had been "terribly misunderstood", in an email to AFP.

"Our company is not aimed at spreading values contrary to local cultures when we travel around the world. We are simply an organization where like-minded people can travel comfortably together to experience the world's most precious wonders.

"We come with only the greatest respect and humility."

He said the tour had been advertised on the company's social media pages and spotted within Ethiopia, leading to "death threats", and called for protection for the tour group from both the US State Department and the Ethiopian tourism ministry.

"This is terrible discrimination, and when the word of this spreads internationally, as it is most likely to do, it will have a negative impact on the important tourism industry in Ethiopia."

He said that by the time the tour takes place in October "the eyes of the entire world will be on the people of Ethiopia to see what happens to us."

Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Some countries, like Angola, Mozambique and Seychelles, have moved to scrap anti-gay laws.

However Kenya's high court earlier this month refused to do so, in a major blow to gay activists on the continent.