Manifesting Embodiment: Integrating Race, Ethnicity, Gender, Ability, and Sexual Orientation into Awakening
The current socio-political climate in the US, and much of the world, is such that we all have work to do to understand our relationship to differences in personal identity. Doing awakening work today requires us to lean in to how we embody our lived experience. In the Trillium Path, we awaken as embodied consciousness, which means that we do not transcend who and how we are. We transcend the limitations of who and how we are. It’s a fine distinction.
Our work starts with Greenlighting, saying yes to what is. As we Greenlight our experience, our feelings, patterns, and conditioning, we come to a point at which we can drop more deeply into Radical Embrace, which means that we embrace what is at the root of ourselves and we embrace it fully. The difference is between saying yes and saying come home to me. Radical Embrace is how we begin to integrate all of who we are. We awaken to the paradox of both and: we are both undifferentiated consciousness and a limited, finite, human person. These two things can’t be separated. I know that I am undifferentiated consciousness because I am in this body. Otherwise, I would live in the spirit realm!
For myself, awakening healed a lot of past trauma around gender and sexual orientation. It brought about an ongoing integration of my parts, past experiences in which I was shamed or which brought about a sense of shame; emotional wounds from not being seen and by being seen as a threat to masculinity, femininity, and heterosexuality. It brought me to a place of familiarity, in which I knew myself as Self—beyond gender, orientation, ability, race, and ethnicity. I think for many of us, this relief of awakening to the truth of our Self as consciousness is a deep release from the burden of being separate, being Other. At the same time, the ongoing integration process requires that we deepen in our lived experience of the core paradox. We are simultaneously Divine and Human. In his book, Tantra Illuminated, Christopher Wallis says something very helpful about this: “It is out of love for itself that Consciousness bodies itself forth.” Consciousness bodies . . . forth.
Each of us bodies forth as a particular manifestation of consciousness, what I think of as a flavor or a filter. We have a race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and physical ability. These things are of the body. They’re not outside of us like religion and social class, and they are less fluid than age. Everyone everywhere experiences aging to a greater or lesser degree. We’re born; we’re infants, toddlers, children, adolescents, adults, elders. We can still be othered because of these differences, but they’re not inherent to who we are in the way that race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, and ability are. These are things that we cannot and never do leave behind. They are the filter through which the world sees us and we see the world.
Today it is more than ever important that those of us living awakening come to a deeper understanding of the role these elements play in our embodiment. When we say, with all good intentions, that we are color blind, what we’re saying, in effect, is “I don’t see you.” Because a person of color is never not a person of color. A Transgender person is never not transgender. A Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, or non-binary, non-gender conforming, or asexual person is never not that. That is who and how consciousness bodies forth as them. When we say, “I don’t see your race, color, ability, ethnicity, orientation or gender identity,” we may mean to say “I see your soul” or “spirit,” or “essence,” but that soul, spirit, and essence abides in a physical body that has its differentiations.
I have a number of tattoos on my arms. I wasn’t born with them. I had them put on my body on purpose. I chose them. I didn’t choose to be a cisgender, Queer, white woman of European extraction. My lived experience in the decades before my awakening was shaped by those qualities, and they cannot be removed. I’ve integrated my unique holding of the feminine with its flavor of the masculine, my sexual attraction to men and women, my Queerness in my generation’s LBGT spectrum which made the Q necessary as a place for those of us who identify as outside of what felt like a limited menu for sexual and gender expression.
Having lived among Black people for much of my life, I see their Blackness. I see the differences between African, African American, and African-Caribbean. And yet there is a world of Blackness that I do not know or inherently understand. But what I do understand is that Blackness is part of who those people are. It’s a part that has been denigrated, and subjected to attempted erasure. So I would not say to a Black person: “I don’t see your color” because to say that is to say “I don’t see your history. I don’t see how you got here.” I can see them as more than their color, but I can’t see them without it.
For many of us of a certain generation, we were taught to try to become colorblind. Michelle Alexander makes great use of this concept in the title of her groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, which in itself explores the paradox that we are not colorblind in this age. A recent image that appeared on Facebook makes this clear. Two men, one white and one Black who committed the same crime from the criminal history, adjudicated by the same judge, got horrendously different sentences. The white man got 2 months in county jail. The Black man got 26 years in federal prison. No age colorblindness there.
The murder of George Floyd, one in centuries of murders of Black men and women at the hands of whites, set off a strong chain reaction. It has put us on notice that because all lives matter, Black Lives Matter and Black Trans Lives Matter. While children of immigrants are separated from their families and kept in inhumane detention centers, Brown Lives Matter. All of us, wherever we land on the spectrum of Race, Ethnicity, Ability, Gender Identity and or Sexual Orientation have a responsibility to lend our love and our courage to supporting those who for centuries have been shown by our mass dominant culture that their lives are expendable. When we say “I see you,” we have to mean “I see ALL of you. And all of you is welcome here.” Anything else is too little to honor the beauty of consciousness painting herself on the canvas that is herself.