gay spirit

Welcome to the February issue of our Gay Spirit newsletter, which is distributed to 265 men interested in gay spirituality.

We had planned to announce our programme of events for 2012 by now and ask for your patience during a busy few months for both of us with house moves, family ill-health, and other personal changes. When our energies return, we will be running events later in 2012, and you will hear about them first through this newsletter. Meanwhile, here are a selection of other related events that may be of interest to you:

  • The Men's Rites of Passage are being held near Perth from 13-17 June. Tim will be one of the elders/teachers on this powerful process of initiation and growth, open to all men.
  • Natural Body, Natural Being is an Edward Carpenter Community event for gay men in Dumfriesshire from 1-8 September. Both Andrew and Tim are part of the organiser team for this week of transformation and emergence.
  • The LoveSpirit Gathering is planned to return in September. Details to be announced.
  • Entering the Silence - a desert experience, is a guided 9-day journey into comfortable peace, relaxation and silence in the Saharan Desert of southern Morocco, planned for September/October with Tim as one of the leaders. Initial enquiries welcome by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Before then, Andrew is continuing his counselling and spiritual facilitation practice in Oxford and London, and in January become Co-ordinator of the Oxford Men's Counselling Service. Tim is currently 'on retreat' in Thailand and returns in March to continue his work of spiritual counselling, ceremonies and bodywork in the Lakes.

We will stay in touch via this newsletter meanwhile – and we’d love to hear from you too.

With love from Andrew and Tim

Gay Spirit offers spiritual and personal development for gay/bi men and is led by Andrew Woodgate a Gestalt counsellor, spiritual facilitator and coach, and Tim Pickles an ordained interfaith minister offering spiritual direction, retreats, massage and civil partnership ceremonies. You can un/subscribe online at any time using the link below.

The decision to retire from my present role at One Spirit Interfaith Foundation later this year has come as a surprise to some - and it has been coming for a long time.

My heart and soul are drawn ever-more strongly towards living-at-the-edge as the wandering contemplative, the silver nomad, the urban hermit, and the mystic writer. This is where I am going now. These are the ‘Siren Songs’ of simplicity, stillness, silence, solitude, sacredness, sexuality, sagacity, sensuality, service, and surrender,

Looking back, there are always signs in the sand to be seen. I used to claim that I would stop working on the last day of the twentieth century. That day came and went and I did indeed reduce the professional workload. In 2007 I wrote an article on Retirement Beckons. The seminary training had led me into a far healthier balance of heart and body with mind. Then came the opportunity to offer my skills to the Foundation as community facilitator in 2008. The Type 3 Enneagram ego-mind revelled in re-engaging once again in tasks and projects, budgets and spreadsheets, ideas and solutions, goals and deadlines. Yet now I notice how the heart groans and resists each morning: “not more of this, please – it no longer serves – let it go – fall into what your truly desire”. There is little inner energy, no juice, to sustain working any longer.

Through the upheavals of the last 30 months, I have loosened or let go of many attachments: a large house that required constant maintenance; physical possessions that no longer serve a purpose; and responsibilities in Yorkshire that are now far less onerous. It is time now to release this persistent attachment to work and earning. The soul craves freedom.

I depart shortly for an extended sojourn in Asia where I suspect this next transition will take root. In May, I participate in a guided Death Lodge where I plan to lay down all that is fulfilled and unfulfilled in my professional career. In June, I shall be a teaching elder and a wilderness elder on the Men’s Rites of Passage. There are the annual celebrations of Convocation and Ordination in the summer. In September, I am co-leading a week on Natural Beings. There will be Gay Spirit retreats to lead. Freya has asked me to join her in leading retreats into the emptying silence of the Saharan Desert in Morocco (any takers?).  And in November, close family and friends are joining me for a birthday week in some Majorcan villas.

Thank you for all your messages of support about this transition. I shall follow this path and watch with interest where it leads.  Rejoice with me!

Dear friend,

As the time of darkness grows deeper, and we are drawn more into ourselves, I write to wish you well for the approaching time of re-birth, renewal and new growth.  This update offers you a selection of news, recent writings and forthcoming events.  As always, if you have any queries, you are very welcome to email or call (01768 775708) me.

Listening and supervision

The range of counselling, coaching, mentoring and listening services continues to deepen and I am grateful to all those who entrust themselves into this process of healing and growth with me. In this time of uncertainty and challenge for many, clients are looking to explore such issues as stuckness, illness and mortality, unexpressed feelings, loss of direction and life changes. I am now offering professional supervision to other counsellors and therapists working in a range of settings such as social care, health care, personal growth and ministry.

Time for massage?

There's nothing more nourishing at this time of year than to place yourself on the couch and allow your physical body to be deeply relaxed and re-energised though massage. Whether your preference is for a traditional oil massage (with hot stones?), a therapeutic Thai massage, or an invigorating Taoist massage, you are welcome to arrange a session.

sinai desertRecent Articles

The sound of desert silence
I recently spend time in the Sinai Desert engaged in deep contemplation. Having been influenced by Sara Maitland's The Book of Silence, I wanted to experience for myself the draw of the desert for so many spiritual seekers, and to deepen my own experience of silence. Amongst the highlights were night-time observations of the heavenly stars, the 'sound' of silence, and the wisdom of the desert. The whole experience added a whole new dimension to my appreciation of silence and stillness

Experiencing the world from Alpha to Omega
This articles explores the three different ‘lenses’ through which we perceive this world. The ordinary lens is one of 'story' in which the mind presents us with a non-stop series of sensations and emotions, fears and desires. The other lenses - the alpha (the beginning) and the omega (the end) give very different perceptions of both the cosmic and the quantum experience of what it is to be human.

Men's Rites of Passage 2012

I shall be part of the holding team for the 2012 Rites being held near Perth on 13-17 May. This is an amazingly powerful experience of initiation for men, that has the potential to take you from lifelong patterns of boyhood thinking into the full embodiment of a wise and assured man. It's suitable for any man aged from 18 to 80+. It's certainly been one of the most significant developmental processes of my life and I would recommend it to other men.  Early-bird discounts on the booking fee are available until early January.

inSOUL - one year on

It's now just over a year since I launched this weekly reflective meditation and subscriber numbers have climbed very steadily. Thank you for all the feedback and support. The aim is to keep this reflection short, pithy and relevant - and to distribute it no more than once each week. You can view recent issues and subscribe for free.

desert rocksGay Spirit 2012

Andrew Woodgate and I have plans for a full programme of Gay Spirit workshops and short retreats next year and we will be announcing details shortly. We are also working with other ECC members to facilitate a week-long event at Laurieston Hall in September on Natural Bodies, Natural Beings.  Also in the autumn we plan to again contribute to the second LoveSpirit Gathering

Retreats, workshops and courses

In addition to the various events and retreats mentioned above, I am available to facilitate retreats and workshops for groups on the following themes:

  • Death and dying
  • Contemplative mysticism
  • Deepening into silence and stillness
  • Finding 'my' spirituality
  • Approaches to meditation
  • Rites of Passage
  • Spirituality, sexuality and identity
  • Wilderness retreats and vision quests

If you are part of a group that would welcome the opportunity to spend time exploring one of these themes, please do get in touch.

Peace and blessings to you this Christmas, Tim

We have become very familiar in the modern world with the language of rights and responsibilities, but I want to explore a very different way of perceiving the human condition that we call ‘life’.

The soul – like all the energies of this cosmos – is eternal. Unlike human life, it has no beginning and no ending. A yet for a period of a few years or a few decades the soul becomes incarnate (- born) in human form; the soul appears in human form as a human being. And this human being is subject to the natural laws of birth, growth, death and transformation.

There are some interesting questions to ponder here. What triggers the eternal soul to appear in human form? Why does that transformation happen at the specific moment in history that we call the birth-day?  And perhaps most intriguing of all, what purpose is served by the incarnation of the soul in a temporary human form?

We have no awareness of any control or choice over when, where or how the soul is made incarnate. So life is simply a gift. Life is given to the soul by or through the Creator. Stop for one moment and stand in the enormity of this statement: as a human being today, my soul has been given this gift of life. I don’t know how long this gift will last. I don’t know why it was given. I don’t really know what I’m supposed to do with this gift.  It’s a gift unlike any other gift we receive. The gift grows with us throughout life: it keeps changing and transforming. We have some control over what we do with the gift and how we use it, even though we have no idea when the batteries are going to run out. It’s a most fantastic gift that we can use for all sorts of purposes, selfishly or generously, good or bad, constructively or destructively. When we talk in everyday conversation about human rights and human responsibilities, we are usually only scratching at the surface of the magnanimity of this gift whose origins and purposes we cannot know.

the road of human lifeThe only choice that we have is what use to make of this gift in each moment and each day that is given to us to live.

Does the Creator have a purpose for incarnating my soul here, today, in this place. Is my soul walking on this planet in human form at this specific time, for a purpose?  Given that I am surrounded by other incarnate souls during my time on Earth, then I can view the question of purpose in one of two ways. Either, this gift is given me for my benefit, to use for my own pleasure or selfish gain – whilst realising that any pleasure or gain is purely temporary and transient. Or, this gift of life is given me in order that I might bring benefit to other beings – perhaps through peace, wholeness, love, compassion and healing, and thereby leave a legacy beyond my life that has an impact on others.

This is a fundamental choice that each of us makes, consciously or unconsciously in the way we live this gift of life.

And if I am to live this gift in a manner that leaves a benefit or a legacy to others, it requires my incarnate soul to manifest physically and exist temporally with as much authenticity, truth, integrity and sincerity as I can muster. Uncovering this truth within us, finding this authenticity, appears to be a lifetime’s work for most human beings. Whilst the incarnate soul is born simple, pure and whole, it quickly become corrupted. Getting past our emerging self-deceptions, ego-ambitions, and judgements is the task of awakening into consciousness and the awareness of our own true soul nature.

This perhaps takes us full-circle. The purpose of the gift of life is to continually present us as human beings with opportunities to realise the nature of our eternal soul. And when we have re-membered that soul, we can lay down the human gift and resume the soul path.

This articles explores the three different ‘lenses’ through which we perceive this world.

The lens we are most familiar with is the everyday one employed by the mind: it shows us a world full of threat, fear, competition, struggle, sadness, loss, death – interspersed with moments of love and joy. This is the transient world where everything comes and goes but nothing is permanent. It is the world we all know. We may experience a connection with the Divine in this world – through nature, love, or inspirational beauty – yet this too is transient. For me, this is the ‘story world’ because we are always telling stories about our experiences in this everyday world. In time, these stories of past experiences are captured and interpreted as ‘his-story’. When we are not recounting our past, we are anticipating our future, usually with a mixture of excitement and fear. We do anything except experience and live in the present. The story is either a chronicle of the past or a fantasy of the future. It speaks neither to our soul nor to our spirit. Whilst this everyday world occupies nearly all the attention of almost the entire population, it is singularly lacking in any spiritual consciousness of the Divine Mystery.

Spiritual consciousness is evoked through the other two lenses, at opposite ends of the continuum of perception – the alpha and the omega of our awareness.

starsThe alpha is the cosmic view. The mystic traditions have so many ways of saying this: the Word – “in the beginning was the Word”; the big picture; the Kingdom of Heaven; the Universe; the Tao; the Source; the macro lens; the formless; the void. The alpha view is to experience something in its complete context and from every point of view. During my recent sojourn in the Sinai, I came to experience this directly. Lying on the desert floor at night, you can look up and see the heavenly panoply above – more stars and galaxies than it is possible to count, distances of light years beyond comprehension, and a process of creation that is continuing to expand exponentially. The cosmic view puts the human perspective into context. This is the Mystery. It is way beyond the comprehension of our mind. It is completely full of ‘stories’ whose sum total counts for nothing.

And at the other end of the spectrum of human awareness is the micro lens – the omega. This too has referred to in different teachings: the Presence; the ‘still small voice’; the flame; the mustard seed; the grain of salt or sand; the quantum. Referring again to my experience in Sinai, this lens is employed in the awareness of the uniqueness of each individual grain of sand on the desert floor. Physics now demonstrates that when you investigate any object at the sub-atomic level, you discover only electrical charges. Our world – and this universe – is comprised of no more than energy. Yet each tiny charge is capable of combining into the infinite variety and extent of the physical universe we see.

To experience our experiences through the alpha and omega lenses is to live in the here-now of the present. This is its beauty. The emergent thinking of quantum physics is beginning to reveal a wonderful symmetry and circularity in the energy patterns of these micro- and macro-universes.

We come closer to the experience of the Divine Mystery in the cosmic and the quantum, the two extremes of our spectrum of awareness. These are also the two spaces of transformation, the centre and the periphery, the spaces of liminality. To live life anywhere between is to live as story, subject to the whims and fancies of the errant human mind. The spiritual invitation is to experience our-Self beyond any notion of story, in the eternal Mystery of the Divine “I am” (Exodus 3:14).

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Revelation 22:13)