Deshae Lott

determined sojourner


FAQ: spirituality

A strong sense of spirituality flows through your writing. How might your religious views be best described?

I was baptized and raised in the First United Methodist Church. I have studied with the ministers there and with a Presbyterian minister and a Catholic priest. My most solid religious foundations rest in Christianity. However, for more than three decades I have academically and privately studied many of the world's religions. I relate to Huston Smith’s assertion that when we take the best from all of the world’s religions we find the distilled wisdom of the human race.  Among other religions I have studied, the four with elements that most closely resonate with my beliefs are Buddhism (especially as presented by Buddha and Thich Nhat Hanh), Hinduism (especially as presented in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad-Gita), Rosicrucianism, and Sikhism (as presented by founder Guru Nanak).

Since its commencement in 1990, I have been a member of the Christian Mystics and Metaphysicians Society (CMMS), founded in 1990 and lead by my friend and spiritual mentor Mary Saurer Smith. It operates as a spiritual support group for individuals who experience an ongoing sense of the divine presence within, practice abstract reasoning and apply abstract ideas to practical living, and/or have had a direct encounter with God through a vision or abstract creative ideas or a sudden influx of light producing revelation. The participants discuss, study, and practice spiritual ideas, believing spiritual understanding is vital to soul evolution and that understanding emerges more rapidly through study of how the universal laws operate in the mind as well as in other fields of energy. Prayer and meditation are integral practices. (See our beliefs and processes here.)

In 2010 with Tony Smith, Mary Saurer Smith continued and expanded her spiritual work under the name of The Keys to Enlightenment Program, which was formerly known as A Path to Higher Consciousness (2007-2009) and—prior to that—as the Christian Metaphysicians and Mystics Society—or CMMS (1990-2007). After more than 15 years of study with Mary Saurer Smith, I was ordained as a minister on August 4, 2006. Ever since then I have continued studies with my spiritual mentor Mary.

CMMS Deshae Lott Ministries Inc emerged in 2007 from my years of interest in and pursuit of spiritual and religious studies and, in particular, my studies with Mary Saurer Smith. I also have certified as Spiritual Teachers of this program’s literature and ideas five active participants in my study group.

Do these beliefs have anything to do with your being a vegetarian?

No. I chose vegetarianism at age 4. Between then and age 21, once a year or so I ate a small, lean piece of meat, well-cooked. Then I began to use vitamin B12 supplements about once a week and haven't really eaten meat since. I spent my first few years on dairy farm and was so attached to the cows that I gave up my pacifier when a new calf was born; my father assured me the calf needed it. At age 4 I took my first visit to my maternal grandfather's ranch in Oregon, where I traipsed around with him to feed all of the animals their grains. He called me “too short in the poopin’ dikes” because I muddied myself trying to jump the canals he easily stepped over. When we approached the farm house I asked him what the chickens ate. "Snakes," he said. I hadn't really reflected on the idea of flesh eating flesh until that stomach-turning moment. I remain grateful that my mother willingly prepared plenty I could eat each day of my upbringing. Dad, a hunter and fisherman, wasn't too pleased with my choice. For years I would try a bite of different game meats as I could not contest the argument that I couldn't know I disliked something without trying it. I also helped clean, process, and package for freezing many meats. Many of my friends and most of my relatives eat meat. I don’t think less of them for doing so. There's nothing political about my position; it simply suited my tastes; many years later I read an article about some medical evidence suggesting a meat-heavy diet may speed up the deterioration of muscular dystrophy.

Do you see a connection between your spirituality and your disability?

I see my response to my disability as a choice. I’ve chosen to see my disability as a tool toward greater illumination rather than a cross I can’t or shouldn’t have to bear. This life has proven incredibly edifying in terms of what I learn from it and in terms of what I can help others learn as they witness my responses to personal hardships.

How do you think the world perceives your disability?

Observers of persons with disabilities often find it easiest to place us into one of three categories: (a) victim to pity and care for in a controlling way; (b) monster to alienate, ostracize, or outcast, or (c) hero who holds so much more courage than others and works so much harder than others. If I were to internalize any of these, it would be destructive to me and to the observers stereotyping me; I would allow others’ projections to define my life, and I might just become full of self-pity, distrustful of my community, or arrogant; the need to resist easy patterns reminds me of free will; moreover, I see that to maintain inner joy and peace I must rely on my inner strength and confidence, trusting myself to do what is right for me, quietly doing so in cooperation with a community when feasible but gently – or, when need be, passionately -- asserting what is right for me as I make choices or behave in ways others do not understand.

The media inadvertently or otherwise often perpetuates the three stereotypes I mention in the previous paragraph. Of course I applaud the media for many of its achievements and efforts. Communication proves itself to be a powerful dynamic in any respectful, constructive relationships. But communication is an art we probably never quite perfect; most of us at times find ourselves careless or ignorant with our use of language. One area that fascinates me for its reflection of our deep-seated resistances to physical deviance is fantasy TV programming or films. For example, in the 90s my husband showed me one of the best-rated or all-time-favorite episodes among Trekkies: "The Menagerie." Viewing Star Trek’s treatment of physical disability in that episode and others, I felt shocked that a program that seemed to pride itself on its technological and social progressiveness, its logical and humane responses, suggested that an able-bodied captain upon finding himself disabled and living from a "wheelchair" could only find happiness through total escapism. If the focus had been on telepathy rather than illusion, I would have felt more comfortable with it. More recently, the film Spiderman 2 (though I recognize this emerges from a dated comic narrative) presents Doc Ock as another brilliant leader constructively contributing to his community UNTIL biology and machinery co-exist to support his physical body. At this point the professor becomes a menace to his society and needs to be eradicated. Granted, Star Trek in its many varieties and Spiderman convey many beautiful, important themes. I don't mean to suggest complete disrespect for those art forms. I use them nonetheless to illustrate how many of our cultural narratives continue to suggest that physical deviance requires displacement, sublimation, and/or eradication. In time I think we will do better than this with our narratives on physical deviance and the use of technology to sustain lives that can indeed prove constructive in community settings, yielding a win-win situation to the life sustained and the efforts others invest that make lives like mine possible. Such a transformation in consciousness has begun, but there's a long way to go still until we drop the Frankenstein sensibilities entirely -- if we can.

In a slightly different way I also address this theme in a published essay about how should those who are disabled interact and present themselves to the larger world.