Today I am pleased to present my interview with Reverend Ed Bacon, author of 8 Habits Of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind.
The Reverend Ed Bacon is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, California. He is an advocate for peace and justice in the world and focuses on interfaith relations, integrating family, faith and work systems, and articulating the Christian faith in non-bigoted ways. He has received several honors for his peace and interfaith work. He has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and has a current role as guest host twice each month on Oprah’s “Soul Series.” His book, 8 Habits Of Love: Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind, has recently been released.
Question 1: Welcome to my blog, Reverend Bacon. I’m honored to participate in this interview with you. I’m looking forward to exploring several issues with you today, but first I’d like to know more about you, as a person. Could you describe yourself—your personality, likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, values, habits and so on. I know this is a tall order, so just tell me about yourself, and help me to get to know you.
Thank you for asking! I appreciate it, because I do feel there is immense value in connecting with individuals in a more intimate way, even in situations that are business-like or goal-oriented. When we connect on a deeper level, knowing that we are each individuals and yet part of a larger interconnected family, it allows us to get to the heart of the matter with a more open-minded attitude. But how to characterize myself? That’s not so easy. I am a man who is on the go 14 hours a day, and I thrive on this action. I feel passionately about my work and my family. I’m married to my college sweetheart, and have two wonderful children who are adults now. I love family gatherings around the dining table or any vacation spot. Our grandchildren bring me endless joy.
I know myself well, and my areas of weakness, so each morning I take an hour in Stillness so that I can say prayers, actually experience God’s love, and think deeply about the issues I am called to work upon during the day. I sink into that time to energize myself for later when I’ll be on the go. I see it as synchronizing my breathing with the breath of God. This has been the key for me in finding personal equilibrium and joy .
People have told me I’m an extraverted introvert. I think this paradoxical label suits me quite well. I’m gregarious and energized by community, but I need significant amounts of quiet time for reflection and rejuvenation.
Question 2: Your ministry also reflects who you are. Could you tell me what led you to the ministry, how your path brought you to where you are today and the wonderful work you’re doing in the world.
I grew up in small town called Jesup, along a historic railway stop in pine-studded, rural Georgia. My father was a Baptist preacher, school principal, and later the county school superintendent, and my mother was a teacher. My parents expected me to become a Southern Baptist minister (in fact, my father wanted me to be a medical missionary), but the version of God that I heard preached from my father’s pulpit was one who was often loving, but ultimately was wrathful, punitive, and condemning of those who did not believe. All around me I saw people who were marginalized and suffering, in particular African Americans, and I struggled with a sense of inner confusion that left me feeling isolated. I could not reconcile these images and messages.
When I chose to deviate from my inherited script and enter Law School at Vanderbilt, my family was proud yet confused. Truth be told, I was confused too. I was running away from my vocation because I was religiously confused. Although I loved studying the law, after I came upon the writings of Thomas Merton—this was during the Vietnam War—I realized that all along I had indeed been called to become a minister, just not in the tradition in which I had been brought up. After that, I was able to articulate my vision and passion to my family. In time they accepted and supported my decision.
I first returned to my home for ordination as a Baptist minister and to work as Campus Minister at my Alma Mater. Several years later I was ordained an Episcopal priest and have served in four churches whose community of believers have all been theologically and politically progressive, as well as spiritually diverse and inclusive. The entire portrait of broad opportunities for transformational social action and service—as well as personal and professional development—has made my heart beat fast with excitement. I have continued on this path throughout my career as I find the work compelling and infinitely rewarding.
Question 3: We humans tend to forget we all belong to one race, the human race, and we tend to divide ourselves into groups by ethnicity, religion, political views, socio-economic levels, and so on. And then we create conflict between our groups. Do you have any thoughts on reasons for this way of life, and what we may be missing in our human experience because of it? What do you believe is the answer to reaching the truth of who we are and living in love and peace with all?
It is a primordial instinct to forge an identity and to find ways to belong. There comes a time, however, when we must examine our identities and our sense of belonging. We must ask ourselves: Are they resources for expanding our sense of connectedness to the world at large? Or do they instead keep us constricted in unconscious enclaves where we try to protect what we have, fear any dilution of our power, or fear that we won’t have enough for ourselves if we share or give in? What we fail to realize is that by separating ourselves—mentally or physically—from others with whom we do not agree or who we don’t understand, we ourselves become weaker, not stronger. The human spirit, just like the seas, needs both inflow and outflow in order to foster life and create energy.
When love flows out from within us, more flows in. The more we give, the more vital our lives, the bigger our spirits, and the deeper our living. When people are on the receiving end of this kind of generosity, it opens their hearts in a way that is deeply transformative and sends ripples of love outward into the universe.
Overcoming the fear of scarcity is quite challenging, especially in our day and age, but it is absolutely necessary in order for us to live in a healthy and thriving world. The very first step is to recognize the power of community and the necessity of generosity and in so doing, take small steps every day to open our hearts toward others. This may mean showing a small kindness, or stopping to help or compliment someone, or recognizing a good deed and expressing gratitude. It could also mean supporting a mission or cause with our time or our money. At the end of each chapter in my book I give suggestions for actions that readers can take to actively engage the Habits of Love in their lives.
And we must also take time to pause and reflect on our values and the way we are living them in our lives. What fills us up and what depletes us? What can we give to others and what do we need? What “truths” need to be jettisoned because they no longer serve the experience we are having in the world? When we incorporate stillness into our days, as I do every morning, we soon come to see the world more holistically. We come to recognize our part in creating a human family in which each and every person has a place at the table.
Question 4: Writing your book, 8 Habits Of Love, must have taken a great deal of insight, contemplative thought and inspiration to create such a valuable answer to our human need for guidance in this time of global upheaval. How did you come to write this book, and in what ways will this gift help us to move into the understanding, love and peace we seek?
It all started in 2008 when Oprah Winfrey wanted to interview a person “of the cloth.” She had hosted Eckhart Tolle for a teaching series from his book A New Earth on her radio show. A number of people had challenged her, claiming the material was too New Age and un-Christian. I accepted her invitation to talk this through with her in Chicago on “Oprah’s Soul Series.”
Then, later that year, I participated on a panel called “Your Spirituality” on her national television program. Ms. Winfrey pointed out that I was the only one of the three who hadn’t written a book. Less than a year later, I had a book contract!
The idea for the book came from decades of thinking about the nature of love. I have long been interested in the dynamics of love and fear. I often noticed that the most frequent injunction in scripture is, “Do not fear” and that Jesus said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” My sermons at All Saints in Pasadena on living in the House of Love versus the House of Fear have generated the most response over the course of my many years of preaching.
My hope is that this book will open people’s hearts and minds, as the subtitle states. In reading about each Habit of Love, people will begin to see what an integral role these habits play in having a full and meaningful life. There should be many aha! moments while reading the anecdotes and coming to understand the philosophy behind the Habits of Love. These moments of recognition will propel the reader to take the journey toward love with me. When we all work together in this way, it is inevitable that we will function better as a community, and be happier and more fulfilled as individuals.
Question 5: What is your dream for our human experience in the future? And what do you think it will take to get us there?
My dream is that we will shift away from seeing ourselves as separate entities in the human race and become a human family instead. It will take millions of us developing our awareness that we were created in an interconnected web of life and that the only sustainable way of living is in harmony and respect for our interconnectedness. That will in turn require a certain lifestyle on the part of each of us – the kind of joyful, exhilarating set of habits I describe in my book. The great news is how energizing it is to live a life with Generosity, Stillness, Candor, Truth, Forgiveness, Compassion, Play, and Community.
Thank you, Reverend Bacon for sharing with me and my readers. I so appreciate your insightful message and the work you do to promote a more loving, peaceful and interconnected world for all of us. I have already begun using your 8 Habits of love.