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Practicing Safe Spirituality

LGBTQ Diversity Training for Human Services

Presented by Rev Jenna Zirbel, MS, MTS, MDiv For Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc And Church Within A Church Movement, Inc
July 1, 2011
Permission to use context may be obtained by emailing

This is a training that will encourage participants to reflect on a spirituality that nourishes their lives as people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer. The session will be informed by the participants individual perspectives leading toward communal wholeness and wellbeing.

The hope is that people will leave the training with a renewed understanding and a refreshed sense of the value of spirituality and diversity of sacred worth. People who may be addressed through this training may feel estranged from their inner spirit, banished from their own expressions of spirituality, even completely numb from the word beatings hurled at them from organized religions.

The amnesia caused by neglect or abuse can be dispersed in recognizing and/or reaffirming individualized, personally unique ways of practicing safe spirituality. Beliefs that are personally invalid can be nullified and replaced by the congruence of spiritual expression and life experiences.

The exercises in this training are intended to be inspirational, affirming self exploration of what is and/or can be expressions of individual experiences of the spiritual in life, experiences of the source of energy in life, the divine, and/or the eternal.

Practicing Spirituality is about embracing that in life which: nourishes creativity enhances the sense of worth of individual lives increases understanding of what really matters in life Therefore, practicing spirituality can bring moments of joy!

Practicing Safe Spirituality is about exploring/investigating individual practices and respecting that others in the community have a different perspective on spirituality and that denigrating the other does nothing to enhance the value of either spirituality.

Safety comes in being able to practice spirituality within the understanding that the goal to spirituality is peaceful and just existence in community. What is lost in practicing safer spirituality is the competition for rightness as well as giving up the opportunity to offer unrequested assistance in helping the other see the error solely because it is different.

Spirituality is the energy that touches lives with joy as well as helps people to move through painful losses, floundering and numbness, toward wholeness and healthy well being, individually and collectively in community.

Individuals envision the source of life from the experiences that we have in our own skin: how we see the power of the universe in our minds eye; how we recognize what is sacred in our humanness; what is eternal in how we are loved and how we love others.

If we so desire, collectively we can share interpretations and expressions of spiritual practices that a community holds in common, celebrating friendships built on understanding in a particular time and place.

Gathering in common community is not a necessity for everyone, as spirituality can be addressed individually and/or in unspoken expressions without the formality of gathering.

Imaging Spirituality
There are countless ways of describing the spiritual in ones existence. How we conceive what is spiritual informs ourselves and others about: who we are what we most treasure in our lives, and what it is that defines the value and worth of our lives.

There are limitless ways of imaging the spiritual in ones existence. One might conceive the source of spirituality as a presence and/or a power. A practice of a pervasive spiritual presence has been the concept of a creating source.

Exercise I: Imaging
Reflection: What images, words, thought, and/or sensation come to you in relation to spirituality? Note your response, honoring and respecting what is honestly your own.

Previous participants in this training have noted diversity of spiritually evoked images, some of which included: Zen; [picturing hills that gradually became mountains]; solitude with higher connection; hearing music and words of Bob Marley; individual journey to God; the actual action of singing & music; sense of self dance; oneness; peace; love

Spiritual Symbols
In exploring and honoring ones unique expressions of individual spirituality, movement is made toward bringing wholeness of self as authentic, accepted and respected, thus remembering and affirming self worth.

Exercise 2: Spiritual Symbols

Reflection: What symbols or images for you represent spirituality? Note your response, honoring and respecting what is honestly your own.

Participants involved in developing this training noted a diversity of spiritual symbols and images, some of which included: cross & 5 pointed star, images of bright, dusk, tree, roots, happy place, acts of justice and caring, feeling waves drawing down the moon, pebbles, sound of water flowing, tears of joy and sorrow, home with wall to block out, hearts all connected, mountain, spire, hand, dance, music

Spiritual Practice
Affirmation comes with the sense of self recognition and congruency in spiritual symbols that are true to the real experience of life valued and leading into a fuller life to be lived.

Exercise 3: Safe Spiritual Practice

Reflection: What ways do you bring spiritual images into your daily life? Note your response, honoring and respecting what is honestly your own.

Participants in this training have noted people watching for a feeling of sense of self relating to each other, poetry, reiki, listen to inner soul and act out, affirmation, practicing gratitude and generosity, listening to and playing music, having purpose in community work, and daily practices of prayer.

Practicing spirituality daily

Practices of inner spirituality address common life experiences that include: celebration recognizing joy struggle sorrowing in loss, fear, anger &/or painful experience hope feeling of possibilities within an void appreciation for lifes opportunities

Practicing Safe Spirituality

Self determined spiritual practices may connect one with the source of spiritual energy and creativity, and ultimately connect others in common expressions of spiritual practices. Growth and continued development toward wholeness comes with adaptations of those unique expressions to changes and new learning in life.

Identifying spiritual symbols and practices specific to ones experiences as lesbian, gay, transgender and/or queer can overcome barriers to spirituality erected by organized religion and the practices of civil religion. This work of naming spiritual symbols and practices enhances the sense of worth in individual lives and realizes the reality of our spirituality.

The sense of well being and wholeness in individuals develops in spiritual practices that increase understanding of what really matters in life, individually and communally. The purpose of learning the techniques of practicing safe spirituality is to overcome barriers that have been placed by dominate social/cultural practices where diversity is at times ignored, negated and denegrated.

This training was designed to encourage and celebrate the skill of reflecting on a spirituality that nourishes lives as people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer and their families live in community and are served by practitioners in the human services.

More information
Contact Church Within A Church Movement, Inc Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc.

Some useful resources

We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For (2006) by Alice Walker; New Press. Let There Be Light (2002):Poems and prayers for repairing the world compiled by Jane Breskin Zalben; Dutton Childrens Books. Chop Wood Carry Water (1984):A guide to finding spiritual fulfillment in everyday life by Rick Fields, et al.; Putnam Book. Subversive Devotions (2003):A journey into divine pleasure and power by Pat Youngdahl; Bean Pole Books.