2016 GSV Winter Meditation: Happiness


GSV 2016 Winter Meditation

GSV 2016 Winter Meditation

Happiness: Positive Emotion and Creating a More Vibrant GSV, LGBT Community, and World

January 15 – 17, 2016
at The Mountain, Highlands NC

Two Nights: $226.48

Register Today


Tony James, Convener

Tony James, Convener

Dear Brothers,

Come join us for a conversation on happiness, true happiness. Come to this heart-centered, upbeat, uplifting, inspiring, experiential, interactive, energizing, and enlivening retreat.


People who live mostly in positive emotion are healthier and live longer lives. They make better friends and have a wider circle of friends. They make better spouses and have better relationships and marriages. They are smarter and more creative. They are more resilient—they bounce back faster after adversity. And they are also kinder, more loving, more generous, and more giving.

Happiness does not happen by chance—it happens by choice. It is a practice, and the more you practice, the better you get at it. Anyone can be happier, and happier, and happier, if they choose.

Cami Delgado

Cami Delgado, Keynote Speaker & Co-Creator

This workshop provides the vessel for you to examine and begin to dissolve obstacles to happier living and gives you insights as to how you can be a more valuable presence in GSV, the LGBT community, and the world.

“To be (happy)… or not to be (happy)…THAT is the question.”
— Shakespeare/Delgado


Tony James, Convener
Cami Delgado, Keynote Speaker & Co-Creator
Jim Stratton, Co-Creator

From the Visionary – Bliss: Finding Joy

This is the third in a series of articles about finding Bliss, republished from the Visionary archive.


Paul Plate

Paul Plate

Paul Plate

About a year ago, I mentioned to a friend that I was having trouble with joy and that hawks were coming to me often. She suggested that I go see the therapist whom I have been journeying with for the past year. Together we experienced a spiritual, counseling, backpacking adventure in the high desert above Santa Fe and a breath-work retreat with other therapeutic activities to look at the issue of not experiencing joy.

For me, sadness seems to come easier than joy and I am aware of its presence more. Sadness is comfortable; I know how to do it.

Although I understand the idea of balance – that there is joy and sadness – when I review my life, I think mostly of the sadness.

Although I understand the idea of balance – that there is joy and sadness – when I review my life, I think mostly of the sadness.I am aware that the sadness seems more overwhelming or more intense than the happiness.

I often seem apart from joy, detached, as though it is not reachable or that it is not mine. I know that I am not moving toward joy and that, sometimes, I am clearly moving away from it. Not only am I not experiencing it, I am turning from it. Last year, after a week of learning about culture and teaching counseling in El Doret, Kenya, I spent a couple of days in the Maasai Mara. The great herds were already assembling in the northern part of the Serengeti. I felt like I was home. I felt joy in the presence of these incredible creatures and with people who were living their lives so close to the earth.

Then, after an incredibly wonderful year, the dog of my heart died in December. I had to make the decision about when she would leave. I was heartbroken. I remember the intensity of the pain of losing her more than any of the joyful experiences of the past year.

I get stuck on wanting things to stay the way they are when they are good and not to change. Maybe I get stuck on wanting things to stay the way they are when they are not so good.

What I have learned is that there is a script, one that I did not write but that I am great about following. At first, I accepted this idea somewhat halfheartedly until I mentioned it to two of my siblings. My brother knew the feelings while my sister knew part of the script. It has something to do with honoring the joyless life that our Mom has experienced. In loyalty to her, we can’t experience the joy of our lives.

So, back to the counselor. Knowing my love for ritual, she told me that I needed to use ritual to move the script from a place of power. I’m not exactly sure yet how the script goes and I’ve not finished the ritual. What I do know is that the script lives deep inside my heart and that it hurts.

For me, the journey to living in my own joyful place is slow. I’ve made some progress. My partner of nine years died about eight years ago and, when I lost him, I also lost his family. He gave me cherished gifts; both beautiful things and wonderful memories. He helped me to know how to be in relationship. I learned some things that I wanted and that I wouldn’t do without in future relationships; honesty, trust and sex. I have since spent some time with two incredible men who fueled some joyful feelings. Through them, I knew that I’d learned some lessons well.

So, joy is not easy for me. However, there is joy in my life. I think about:

the rising moon,
lightening bugs,
the first daffodil,
the smell of a gardenia,
the salt mist of the ocean,
the hawk circling above,
loving family,
supportive friends,
a talented and dedicated staff,
a sarong in the morning air,
feeling the fur of an animal companion,
resting in the arms of a lovely man
and being grounded in the earth.

Paul Plate is executive director of PositiveImpact, an organization that provides mental health and prevention services for people affected by HIV. He lives in a 100- year-old farm house in Decatur, GA, with several animal companions.  He has room for another loved one. 

This article was originally published in the Summer 2006 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.  Read the original article in the Visionary.


November 2015 Update from Paul

So much has transpired since the writing of this short essay.  I am especially aware of several significant endings that usually come spaced further apart.  The death of my Mother and my Father within the last three years also initiated the dismantling of the family home.  After about five years of service, I completed my elongated term as Walks between Elder of Gay Spirit Visions.  After 23 years as the only director of Positive Impact, the agency merged with AID Gwinnett to form Positive Impact Health Centers and I transitioned to a staff position assisting the new director. This is also part of my retirement plan which has been extended.  At sixty-six, I am still vitally committed to important work and feel that I continue to make meaningful contributions.

This journey is still very intense, and although I cannot say that joy has been evident, I have learned a few things.  Most important, I have learned that I have been given many gifts and opportunities and I have been given the time and respect to fully participate in how these endings play out.  This has been a gift and I will look at this time as a joyful opportunity to understand and hold my accomplishments and to fully contribute during the transitions.

from the Visionary – Bliss: A Positive Perspective

This is the the second in a series of articles about Bliss and Passion republished from the Visionary archive.


– Lem Arnold

GSV Lem Arnold (1)

Lem Arnold

When I think of what keeps me sailing through life with a positive perspective on the people and the world around me, I think of my perspective of where I am now. (I will add that my partner, Pat Boyle, asked for the ability to respond to this article.)

I am a complete person. I have a tendency to not be as open to expressing my feelings, so sometimes I may seem standoffish. That’s just the insecurity speaking or because I am lost in thought. The complexity comes from the fact that often I operate on two levels simultaneously, emotional and intellectual, most times without realizing and hopefully better integrated than it sounds.

My intellectual side comes from a strong interest in analytical thinking, evaluating issues, acquiring data and coming up with solutions. I see challenges not as barriers but opportunities to challenge my own thoughts and abilities. I thrive on finding unique solutions to these challenges and sharing them with peers or friends. Much of this comes from my love of math as a child, especially doing complex calculations in my head without paper. In college this interest was significantly stimulated by an elective I took my freshman year that challenged us to find answers in fields beyond our educational training at the time by using a logic-based approach to problem-solving. This is a part of my daily life especially in the office as a physician as well as in everyday life experiences. This is also true with adoption of new technology – digital cameras and digital photography as an example. This does not feel impersonal, because it is the drive to bring positive results to those around me. I have learned that convincing people that my idea is a good solution requires that they need to have had time to process the problem for themselves before I share my proposed solution. So one thing I have learned is greater patience.

My creative drive also carries over into my gardening. It is a great way to see results of my work on a more concrete level.

I thoroughly enjoy digging in the dirt and planting seeds and watching them grow.

I thoroughly enjoy digging in the dirt and planting seeds and watching them grow. It is interesting that, at times, I enjoy planting and caring for the garden more than actually harvesting the product of my endeavors. (I can sometimes use help harvesting!) However, giving away the results is great fun and I so look forward to the arrival of the first sweet corn out of the garden.

On an emotional level, I see myself as a caregiver who enjoys giving and frequently has a hard time receiving. Recently, I had one of my families at work tell me how they love me as a doctor. I have learned to say thank you and am becoming much better at hearing that when said. I learned long ago that the best physician is one who listens well and expresses care and interest in addition to making the right diagnosis and treatment. As an only child, one of the things that I really missed was having siblings. I always dreamed of having a brother and at one point had an imaginary brother. I have had some close friends in the past and have a wonderful partner with four brothers, but it was getting involved with GSV that allowed me to feel that I really have that family, that brotherhood, that I missed. I have come to realize that the intellectual challenges are good, powerful and a great adrenalin fix, but it is the feeling of true friendship and care that I experience with many of you in GSV that keeps me going and giving, letting me experience that natural high that can only be felt and not thought.

Lem Arnold is a 54-year-old physician, partner and son and educates health care professionals on culturally competent care for the LGBTI. He lives in Atlanta and LaFayette, GA.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2006 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.  Read the original article in the Visionary.



Following my bliss 10 years later finds a life that is little more complicated. With the onset of physical problems – specifically my back problems – I have come to realize that there can be limitations in life and I am not ready for those.  I can no longer ride the tractor and gardening has become picking only.  I had one major surgery and am hoping that I do not have to have another one. I still get the patient gratitude fix – back to work after 3 ½ months off after surgery – and hugs from my brothers in GSV, but I am uncertain what the future will be.  How mobile and free of pain will I be? So I will keep on working a while longer, contemplating retirement in the not too distant future and trying to keep a positive outlook. So for the time being, it is taking life just one day at a time.

From the Visionary – Bliss: Following Bliss Home

Bliss Wings

Since “Happiness” is the theme of the 2016 Winter Meditation, we searched the Visionary archives for past articles on a similar theme and found them in the Summer 2006 issue which had Following Your Bliss as its theme.

Lem Arnold, Roger Beaumont, Randy Johnson and Paul Plate authored those articles and have kindly agreed to republishing them now. At least three of the articles have follow-ups written in 2015.


This is the first in a series of four articles about following one’s bliss republished from the Summer 2006 Visionary Archives.  It includes a brief 2015 update from Randy.


Following Bliss Home

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson

Randy Johnson

Today I believe that to follow one’s own bliss is to be on a journey that is, itself, one of bliss. Daniel Webster has defined bliss as “great joy or happiness; spiritual joy; heavenly rapture.” Thus, I can rephrase my opening statement in simpler terms: the way to happiness is to find happiness along the way.

I stated that “Today I believe…” because for most of my 41 years, I could not even see past myself to really be open to the possibility of a life of bliss. For many and varied reasons, growing up as a black male with repressed homosexual feelings in Spartanburg, SC, in the late 1960s and 70s was distressful, frightening, and lonely. Both of my hard working, high school-educated parents insisted that my sister and I strive to reach our fullest potential. I knew that they loved me and sacrificed to make our lives materially comfortable. But I did not feel that I could share certain parts of myself with them. So, I buried these parts – hid them away from the eyes of the world and myself. I did not have close friends or relatives that I felt I could open up to, although I was fairly popular and well-respected. And, despite having grown up in the church as a conscientious, God-fearing child, I had yet to experience the reality of love.

In the 13th chapter of I Corinthians, love is described as the quintessential virtue, without which all of our most noble sacrifices and exquisite gifts are empty and vain. When I used to read this passage, I could never understand why anyone would do such sacrificial, heroic deeds if they did not have love. Now, however, I can look back over my life and see how much of my giving and doing was rooted in my own neediness – my desperate attempts to get something from God or others to validate myself. I was trying to earn the favor of God and men when these are the inheritance of those who have chosen to believe that they are already loved, highly favored, heirs of happiness.

Despite all of my religious exposure and education, my heart remained full of doubt, unbelief, and fear. I did not believe that the world was a safe, nurturing place where I could expect to flourish. I did not understand how this God that I sought to worship could love me and yet permit my existence to be so utterly lonely and despondent. I longed to be able to share myself with a male companion in an intimate, caring relationship, but doubted that such a longing would ever be fulfilled. I was afraid to speak of my true feelings of attraction for classmates who may also have been homosexual, for fear of rejection or ridicule, if I turned out to be wrong. In short, I was a double-minded man, saying I believed/wanted one thing, but in my heart distrusting the very desires and questions birthed within me by the One who created me, was lovingly indwelling me. Instead, I chose to remain reliant upon my achievements, my reputation and my possessions for any sense of significance and self-worth (the full-time job of the ego). This need to continually feed my ego, or false self, was directly opposed to following a path of bliss because it led me away from my truest, most natural self.

My coming to follow bliss meant giving myself the gift of self-acceptance of my history, positive and negative traits, dreams, and desires.

My coming to follow bliss meant giving myself the gift of self-acceptance of my history, positive and negative traits, dreams, and desires It meant seeing the beauty in the midst of the hardships and the disarray of my life. It was finally beginning to feel, in a lasting and profound way, the love and understanding that I had so longed for. It meant knowing that I had the power to choose to become what I’d always hoped I might become. I heard the familiar words to Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All” in a downtown Charleston restaurant a few years ago and, for the first time, really understood the beauty and power of what they meant. This is the love that, as I Corinthians 13 so eloquently states, will never fail. To quote author Aldous Huxley: “The spiritual journey does not consist in arriving at a new destination where a person gains what he did not have or becomes what he is not. It consists in the dissipation of one’s own ignorance concerning one’s self and life and the gradual growth of that understanding which begins the spiritual awakening. The finding of God is a coming to one’s self.”

As I considered how far I have come on this journey of “the dissipation of [my] ignorance” about myself, and the opening up of my heart to all of the good it longs to experience and to share, I was overwhelmed with feelings of bliss. I sobbed uncontrollably as my heart flooded with gratitude for the relief and delight of having, at last, come home to myself and found God already there.

In 2006 Randy Johnson lived and worked in Seneca, SC, as a dentist. His interests included bicycling, physical fitness and development, study in the fields of spirituality and psychology, massage and new recipes. He currently lives in Asheville North Carolina. The article was originally published in the Summer 2006 Visionary.


Where Bliss Abounds – Randy’s 2015 Update

As I stated just over nine years ago in “Following Bliss Home,” the joy is in the journey. Reflecting on my circuitous path since 2006, I am delighted that I have continued to follow the energy of expansion, joy, and possibility. Being with what is, without judgment or resistance beckons the lightness of bliss. It is Life’s ongoing invitation to Be. All of me. Here. Now.

Since 2006 I have moved six times between four cities, been involved in six different intimate relationships lasting from four months to my current one of five years, left private practice, worked for three different dental companies, studied massage therapy, steeped in a year long program of energetic healing and awareness, traveled to Italy, developed new friends and let go of old ones, and started a new enterprise. Though some of the situations and relationships were fraught with difficulty and angst, I can now see that they were a reflection of some aspect of my internal state which required acknowledgement and integration.

In his book The Presence Process, Michael Brown posits that as we allow ourselves to fully feel and integrate unresolved fear, anger and grief, we become more available to experience the present moment. And that, I believe, is where bliss abounds!

From the Visionary – My Little Altar

This is the fifth, and final, in a series of articles about altars republished from the Visionary archives. It was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.

My Little Altar


By Andrew Ramer

Andrew Ramer

Andrew Ramer

 The small wooden chest beside my bed comes from a Danish Modern wall unit that my father and his second wife purchased in the mid 1960’s. I got it in 1975 when I moved to my first apartment in Brooklyn. The vertical supports didn’t reach the ceiling of my hundred-year-old brownstone so I put them out on the street, along with all the bookshelves. But I kept the chest and it’s been my meditation altar ever since.

A succession of objects have sat on top of this chest, with only one constant feature: a pair of brass Sabbath candlesticks that my mother’s mother’s mother brought here from Russia.

In the middle of my earliest altar, created when I was 5, were two ceramic figurines I was in love with, a cowboy and an angel. They no longer exist, except in a blurry photograph.

Around and between them have been crystals, feathers, shells, beach rocks, post cards, photographs, icons, statues of goddesses, gods, animals, angels and often – nothing. Today a glass hand sits between the candlesticks. To the right of it are a brass egg, a crystal on top of a polished lapis disk my mother gave me and a statue of two metal flute players sent to me by Sister Who. To the left are the silver kiddish cup my father’s father sipped his wine from on the Sabbath, a tiny glass globe of the earth, and a plastic deer that I bought in Cliff’s hardware and variety store on Castro Street for $2.29

In the middle of my earliest altar, created when I was 5, were two ceramic figurines I was in love with, a cowboy and an angel. They no longer exist, except in a blurry photograph. Arranging altars has always been calming and focusing for me. Long before I ever heard the word “meditation,” I would sit in front of my altar; tuning into … something. The objects remind me of things that are important, the burning candles still my senses and the blank white wall behind the altar has always been a source of rest. As a firm believer in disorganized religion, I do not sit and meditate every day at my altar. But Its there all the time, generating an energy field that I can slide into when I need it.

I also have altars on top of both of my toilet tanks and on a kitchen shelf. My public altar is in the living room, on top of two larger chests from the same old wall unit my bedroom altar came from. It is covered with icons, kachinas, menorahs, Buddhas, Zuni fetishes, rocks and more candles. Some of my friends think it’s a coffee table and put their cups on it when I have a party.

This article was originally published in the Summer 2001 issue of GSV’s Visionary journal.  Read the original article in the Visionary.

Call for Participation: Annual Planning Retreat

GSV Annual Planning Retreat
January 17 – 18, 2016

Sunday afternoon – Monday afternoon
No cost for participants*


Every year, the Council of Elders of Gay Spirit Visions sponsors a Planning Retreat for the Council and all working groups. Participation is open to those who currently serve on a work group, those who have attended at least one GSV conference, or to individuals that have received prior Council approval.

We especially encourage work group liaisons and active work group members to attend. Expenses for the Sunday overnight stay and meals will be paid by the Council. You may attend the Planning Retreat without attending the Winter Meditation.

Read more about the annual Planning Retreat >>
Register for the Planning Retreat >>

* Planning Retreat registration costs are paid for by the Council of Gay Spirit Visions.

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