I learned something yesterday.
I listened to Krista Tippett interview Seane Corn, a renowned Yoga teacher, and Ms. Corn said something that had a huge impact on me.
She said that we all come into the world with karma, which I understand to be a kind of energy/experience that separates us from God, something that separates us from a full understanding of love.
She said that as we move through our lives, we pick up experiences that match our karma, that reinforce our karma. Our nature (our karma) determines how we move through the world and how we make meaning out of our circumstances.
We come in with karma, we pick up experiences, we make meaning, we build an identity.
And then, we are us. We become the selves we know. We are us, with our likes, our dislikes, our passions, our frustrations. Much of our identity grows out of that initial karma, out of the nature of our initial separation from God.
Seane Corn, for instance, was molested as a little girl. This injustice and abuse led her to get involved with Children of the Night, an organization in LA that exists to rescue children from prostitution. Seane Corn made her way into a form of service that is a perfect response to her own karma, to her own experience of life, to the experiences that have formed her. Her molestation created in her a great anger toward injustice and sexual abuse, which led her to the Children of the Night.
If the karma language isn't working for you, you can simplify it this way: Stuff happens to us, and we react to it. We build our lives in reaction to our experience, working to right the particular wrongs that impacted us as young people. Our lives lead us back to those initial experiences of hurt and upset, the loop closes, we come back to where we started.
Ok, so enough with the book report. If you're curious and would like to hear a complete expression of Ms. Corn's philosophy, go check out the unedited interview. I highly recommend it.
So what did I learn? Why am I talking about karma and identity and woman named Corn?
Well, yesterday, while listening to this interview, I realized that much of my work is motivated by my own early experiences of life. As a young girl, I experienced social exclusion and shame. I was not invited to the party, not invited to the dance, not invited to the lunch table.
Looking back at the reality, my experience was likely not any more extreme than your average middle schooler. For some reason, though, these experiences had a huge impact on me. My response to that shame and exclusion has been a huge force in my development and subsequently, in my work.
I have become a woman committed to building community, belonging, and inclusion. I am allergic to any system that creates social capitol through exclusion. I have great anger around any system that creates value for the people on the inside by making sure there are people left on the outside. I hate these systems, they make my blood boil.
Which on the one hand, makes me really effective. I have a third eye for exclusion, and I design around it. I build events and dinners and communities that are inclusive and self selective. I'm moving to Detroit, the city where nobody wants to be, the city where there's room for everyone, room for anyone that wants to show up. I live in Owosso, a city full of apartments that rent for $300. If you want to live in Owosso, you can. There are few barriers, economic or otherwise, keeping you from becoming part of this community. All this, it makes me who I am, and I love the person I am; I love my work.
And a fourteen year old is running my life.
And pissed of fourteen year old, to be exact.
I am still reacting to my experience as a teenager, still reacting to feeling left out and abandoned. And although that anger sometimes makes me effective, it also tears me apart.
It's painful and it makes me do crazy things.
Just the other day I was in Detroit talking to a very nice young man from Washington DC. He was lamenting his high rent and before I knew it, I was practically yelling at him. Not yelling as in speaking loudly, but yelling as in eviscerating him, cutting him down, insulting him.
"If you want to live in your bull shit city full of cool people doing cool things, your city full of hipsters and politicians and the rich, your city full of people eating at fancy restaurants and going to private parties, if you want to live in this elite city, then you just have to f***ing deal with your high rent."
And oh dear, I did not want to be that person. That person did not create anything beautiful in the world. That sucked, for me and for him.
Which brings me to the bid lesson that Ms. Corn had for me.
Our karma will lead us back to the battle field, it will lead us back to work perfectly fit to our experience. She will keep coming back to abused children, and I will keep coming back to excluded people.
I will coming back to that fourteen year old that didn't get invited to the party.
And if I want to heal, if I want to grow, if I want to do work that matters, that makes an impact, then I need to meet my fourteen year old self. I need to be present with my pain.
I need to stop running from those experiences, stop trying to fix it, stop trying to pretend like it didn't happen.
I need to sit with it and feel the pain and acknowledge it. I need to sit with it until it doesn't scare me anymore.
Then, maybe, I can finally move through it. Then I can burn off that karma, heal that separation, move closer to myself, move closer to my community, move closer to God, move closer to a full understanding of love.