One month ago, my brother-in-law killed himself.

This single, tragic event has generated great disturbance - both inwards within me, out externally amongst his family. In this posting, I reflect on some of my own thoughts, feelings and processes.

I was in Thailand for the month, visiting my partner's family in their home village. My partner had remained working in the UK. One evening, around 8.00pm I received a call: "Something terrible has happened. I mean, really terrible. El has just killed himself at mum's house." I drove round there straight away, wondering what I would find and how I might help in a country where my language skills were limited and I would be the only farang present.

The house and garden were strangely desolate and confused in the presence of death. Friends and neighbours stood around, some taking pictures of the scene. A uniformed policeman and medical assistant were making notes. The family stood on the front terrace of the house. El had a simple room in an out-building where he'd been sleeping for a year since his girlfriend was killed in a traffic accident. He'd returned to the house an hour or two earlier, shouted something to his mother as he walked past her house, and disappeared into his room. He'd had a troubled life - little education, random casual jobs, no money, frequent drinking, some crime; his behaviour and outbursts were familiar to friends and family. Once inside his room, behind the closed door, he'd fixed a rope to a beam, knelt down on the mattress on the floor, put a noose around his neck, and strangled himself. His half-sister found him dead half-an-hour later; his mother cut down the rope. He lay on the mattress in a pair of old jeans. In that moment, in his presence, nothing came to me. Only in retrospect did I even remember the notion of blessing and prayer.

The impact of such sudden and unexpected death is shocking and brutal. Alone. No goodbyes. No explanation. Deliberate. Final.

It prompted so many unanswerable questions. Why now? Why this day and evening? Did he consider anyone else? What prompted this method of dying? What did he think would happen? What were his final thoughts? Is he at rest now?

In a Buddhist culture, suicide raises many anxieties and fears. The local understanding of Buddhist teaching is that death comes when the time is ready and should not be foreshortened. This self-inflicted death is a life cut short. The life cycle is incomplete. When the spirit returns in the next life, there is 'unfinished business' from this one. The restless spirit will 'haunt' the place and the family and neighbours as a ghost, roaming at will and disturbing the waking and dreaming states of those left behind. Fear and superstition will follow people for months.

I wasn't aware that El had a daughter, and a young grand-daughter. Now both the daughter's parents had left her suddenly and without any farewell. El left his sole possession, a beaten-up motorbike, to his daughter. Everything else was worthless and burned.

How does a mother cope with the sudden suicide of her son, on her own land? Although the son was feckless, sometimes out-of-control, and frequently demanding of money, he was still her firstborn. What mix of sorrow, grief, blame and relief lies there?

And yet .....

The three days of funeral rites that followed showed something of the dignity and value of all human souls. We are all equal in death, no matter what judgement is placed on our life. El's physical body is respected and even revered. It is placed in a simple coffin and taken from the mortuary to the temple. There it has a place of prominence. It is decorated and honoured. Villagers gather every evening for an hour of chanting. Neighbours make garlands and offerings. Food and drink is prepared for over 200-300 people every day. His photograph is decorated with flowers. People come from workplaces and villages to pay their respects. Incense is constantly being lit to ward away any evil spirits. Gifts are made and given. An elaborate wooden shrine is erected over the coffin for the funeral on the third day. A final feast meal is shared together in the open air of the temple compound, in the presence of the coffin. Finally, the coffin and shrine are loaded onto a cart that is hand-pulled by monks and villagers to the outdoor cremation site a kilometre away. There everyone gathers for the final rituals. All the temple monks are present. Everyone receives a gift. Everything is loaded onto the funeral pyre of logs, the shrine reaching high into the sky. Finally, an elaborate arrangement of acoustic fireworks and zipwire bangers around the cremation site is used to ignite the pyre in a spectacular display of light and fire. We all depart - without looking back.

What feelings and thoughts am I left with?  Shock ... disturbance ... waste ... helplessness ... witness ... grief ... dignity ... equality ... worthiness ... unknown mystery ...

Dear Prime Minister,

I invite you to reflect on just what it is that is driving and motivation you this year? Can you step aside from the ever-present chattering of you mind to listen to the 'still small voice' of your heart or your soul. The achievement - and retention - of power is a heady process that often succeeds in fulfilling the needs and desires of the ego-mind. It's possible to rationalise this as some kind of self-less service-to-others ... yet is this really true when you take time to listen more deeply and reflectively to that small insistent voice within? What truly motivates you in this role?

I look at your actions and find paradoxes.

You vote for the UK to remain a member of the EU ... yet you are intend on leading a path that takes this country out of the EU. Do you experience integrity with your true self? Although you talk of 'people coming together', what I notice are deep and clear divisions: the referendum result was finely balanced; the leave/remain divisions continue to be deeply felt; the cabinet appears to be divided on what it wants; the two largest political parties are divided; the country itself feels divided on what should happen. In such a situation, it is incumbent on leaders to search for what will bring people back together. Favouring one side or the other is a head exercise. The deeper search must be for a 'third way' - a holistic Tao than encompasses and transcends both sides of the argument. Do you have some awareness of where such insight may lie and how to bring it into being?

You speak about improving the lives of the just-about-managing ... yet years of austerity, wage control, rising indirect taxes, rising national insurance, and inflation have ensured that the least wealthy half of the population of this country is now living on a lower relative income than ten years ago. How do you reconcile this apparent contradiction?

You talk of compassion for others ... and yet unaccompanied children are left languishing on their own, scattered throughout Europe, when there are families that are willing to accommodate them here; and a harsh 'hostile environment' seeks to deport people before the proper investigation and judicial process is complete. How does this square with the moral invitation to 'Love your neighbour as yourself'?

You offer yourself to the public to endorse your mandate and give you a stronger negotiating hand ... and when the public weakens your position, you continue anyway. At a personal level, that must have felt a humbling and humiliating outcome ... and yet you decide to continue, almost as if nothing has changed.

I empathise with the dilemmas and pressures that you must be facing ... and yet I wonder what that inner voice of your heart or soul is calling out, and whether you can hear it and act upon it, should the direction it urges be any different to the one you are pursuing publicly.

Pace e Bene,

This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967. The Guardian newspaper has been running a feature inviting readers to tell their stories about the significance of this moment. I'm republishing my responses here.

What are your memories of the 1967 Sexual Offences Act?

I was 15 at the time, and attending a progressive/liberal boarding school. I knew my sexuality was 'different' and had been experimenting sexually with other boys for the previous three years. The Act didn't really register with me at the time - other than that some increased discussion of homosexuality in and around my school only served to heighten my fear of being exposed. The risk of being 'caught', of ridicule and of bullying was very much alive. Whilst I wanted to find other boys who felt similarly, the risk of telling anyone else about my sexual attractions were far too frightening. Beyond a small group of other boys, everything was very secret.

How did the Act make a difference to your life?

At the time, it didn't. I continued through school and then through university in the early 70's. University perhaps could/should have been an opportunity for freedom and liberation. I was entirely celibate. Fear, shame, self-protection all ruled. I didn't know other gay men. I recall sneaking a look at posters for the university Gay-Soc and thinking there was no way I could go there. I moved into teaching and youth-social work and this caused me to keep my sexuality even more secret - the fear of being thought a paedophile, and the fear of being ridiculed by the young people I was working with. It took several more years before I made the first move to phone London Gay Switchboard (anonymously!), and then to take the first tentative steps into a local gay social group.

At what point did you feel that equality had achieved – or are LGBT people yet to get there?

For the past twenty years, I've come to regard my sexuality as a fundamentally important aspect of who-I-am. It has shaped my life experience; it has presented challenges and opportunities; these experiences are core to my values of social justice. The person I am yesterday, today and tomorrow is inextricably bound up with my sexual identity. It has contributed to my path towards ordination as a minister in recent years. It continues to lead me into work with men, with gay men, and with youths about their sexual and spiritual lives and self-development.

From that point onwards, life became considerably easier - first adult relationships, coming out to family, coming out at work to colleagues, and then ever-increasing involvement with various gay networks and communities. I don't feel equality has yet been achieved. The process of 'coming out' is still a significant challenge for most gay men and women - a statement that you have to make and then can't withdraw. It's something that heterosexual men and women never have to go through.

Do you have anything to add?

One thing I am particularly pleased about. Same-sex marriages were legalised in England and Wales from March 2014. In May 2014, I married my same-sex partner in what is almost certainly the first sacred same-sex marriage in the UK - that is, a marriage solemnised in a formal place of worship and within a religious context (as opposed to the civil marriages conducted by civil registrars). The fact that I married a Non-EU citizen in that ceremony - and also needed to jump through all the hoops of UK immigration - made the barrier-breaking nature of the ceremony even more rewarding.

This article is based on the inspiring daily meditations of Richard Rohr. It draws upon a spiritual understanding of the way in which violence arises in our society and how we can develop a resistance to violence in our world through practicing active nonviolence.

I sense the urgency of the Holy Spirit, with 7.5 billion humans now on the planet at the same time. Our future is either nonviolent or there is no future at all. 

The root of violence is the illusion of separation—from God, from Being itself, from being one with everyone and everything.

If we do not recognize the roots of violence at the first and hidden structural level (“the world” - the structural and exploitative patterns of capitalism, consumerism, materialism, communism, etc), we will waste time focusing exclusively on the second and individual level (“the flesh” - our individual misperceptions and mistakes in that world), and we will seldom see our real devils, who are always disguised as angels of light (“the devil” - the military / penal / institutional / banking / global corporate / establishments that seek to 'save' us whilst actually harming us).

Nonviolence comes from an awareness that I am also the enemy and my response is part of the whole moral equation. I cannot destroy the other without destroying myself.

Most of our conflicts arise from a very fragile sense of the self. When we’re full of fear, the enemy is everywhere. We endlessly look for the problem outside of ourselves so we can expel or exterminate it.

Jesus undercut the basis for all violent, exclusionary, and punitive behaviour. He became the forgiving victim so we would stop creating victims.

A Vow of Nonviolence

Recognizing the violence in my own heart, yet trusting in the goodness and mercy of God, I vow for one year to practice the nonviolence of Jesus who taught us in the Sermon on the Mount:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God. . . . You have learned how it was said, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy”; but I say to you, Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. In this way, you will be daughters and sons of your Creator in heaven. (Matthew 5:9, 43-45)

Before God, I vow to carry out in my life the love and example of Jesus

  • by striving for peace within myself and seeking to be a peacemaker in my daily life;
  • by accepting suffering rather than inflicting it;
  • by refusing to retaliate in the face of provocation and violence;
  • by persevering in nonviolence of tongue and heart;
  • by living conscientiously and simply so that I do not deprive others of the means to live;
  • by actively resisting evil and working nonviolently to abolish war and the causes of war from my own heart and from the face of the earth.

God, I trust in Your sustaining love and believe that just as You gave me the grace and desire to offer this, so You will also bestow abundant grace to fulfill it.

Through regular mentoring and supervision, I find myself quite often asking the question: how does my ministry show up today? Perhaps ministry is not quite the right work. It feels more relevant to talk about 'conscious presence and service'. So where do I currently seek to offer 'conscious presence and service'? Here are a few pointers:

  • Through regular service to the Male Journey movement - serving as an elder at events such as the Men's Rites of Passage, an event leader, a designer of new programmes such as Return to Source, a mentor to other men on a one-to-one basis, and a trustee engaged in the governance of the movement.
  • As an aspiring volunteers within the Circles of Accountability movement working to support sex offenders within the community through their reintegration and self-management.
  • Providing spiritual direction and supervision to a range of students from the Interfaith Seminary, as well as to other men and women in search of deeper spiritual accompaniment. 
And throughout, I am sustained by a developing spiritual practice centred around silence and stillness, contemplation, journalling, retreat days in nature, and reflective study.