self-awareness

Know who you are.

Kanye West is making news from what he sees as his powerful self-expression.

It's confronting people and challenging them in many different ways.

I feel compassion for him. I wonder if he's actually doing ok. I wonder how much of what he's sharing comes from intentional choices to get media attention or because he's actually ignorant.

At a basic level, I do support his self-expression. I support him saying what he thinks is true and real. We all deserve that. But he's speaking from a position of power in our society, and incredible wealth and privilege at the moment. And with that platform comes responsibility.

People have strong feelings about what he's saying and doing.

It comes down to knowing who we are, not only for ourselves with our own opinions and perspectives but who we are in relation to all human beings. We don't exist as islands. We have impact. We all have relative privilege and disadvantage. Each and every one of us, some of us more than others.

I shared this sentiment on the two panels I sat on this month, once in Pittsburgh to an audience of tech/startup-minded individuals and last week in NYC to an audience of activists, social media marketers and all sorts of other people.

I am consciously positioning myself on those panels and outing myself as a #transgender person to share insights about privilege and power and identity development. I'm working to help the current social awareness of trans* people and what we can do or are capable of being and where we belong. I am also just sharing from the deep reservoir of information and knowledge I've acquired throughout my career.

Most people don't know who they are outside of what society has shaped them to be. Most people aren't given the tools to explore identity and know themselves as complex, dynamic beings capable of changing and evolving with each moment.

It's the work I've been doing for my entire career. It's the message I've been sharing since becoming a coach. It's starting to gain traction. The time is now for me to keep expressing myself and sharing this knowledge to help others. I know everyone won't agree with me and the ways I'm doing it and how and why.

It's why I support Kanye sharing his truths, even if I disagree with him.

Ultimately, we all deserve to say what we need to say.

When we can do it with integrity and from a place of deep introspection and awareness, we can be even more powerful. When we can do it from a place of love and wisdom and compassion, like I did several weeks ago, we have the opportunity to change lives for the better. We can empower ourselves to inspire others toward their own self-empowerment.

This happened for me several weeks ago at my talk in NYC and my schedule has been so packed I haven't even been able to share about that. Here's a small video that's a bite-sized recounting of that experience. And know I'm working hard to make it happen again and more often as much as possible.

When we know who we are, we are unlimited.

"Please" and "Thank You" From a Whole New Place

please-and-thank-you

please-and-thank-you

I don't think I was actually raised to say please and thank you. I know I picked it up along the way, and I was probably taught it as basic good manners as a kid. But I can't say for sure that I remember being taught to say it. Is that weird?

I realized this recently when I started really paying attention to those exchanges that so many of us take for granted. "Please" and "thank-you". We can just say it as robots or we can really mean it. You know? I didn't feel the difference before. But I've paid closer attention since I've started to really lean into my own gratitude and relish in it. And I've only been more aware of my gratitude since I stopped lying to myself and hiding in my life.

I don't think I was taught "please" and "thank-you" because I think it takes a lot of self-awareness and introspection and humility to say it from a deep, real place. I don't know that my parents "went there", really. I don't know that many people do. I can say that the gratitude I know lately is deeper than any I've ever known and I thought I was digging deep before.

Before I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in 2009, I wasn't really awake so I wasn't aware of this kind of gratitude. I also didn't know what it felt like to know myself and my needs so well that I could ask to have them met and be humbled and grateful to the point where words failed me when they were. I was on my spiritual path, but still asleep at the wheel, so to speak. Not at all in the driver's seat of my life. There were some important changes I needed to make and the IIN program and community were really effective in helping me to see that. I saw the ways I was hiding. The ways I kept myself stuck in wrong situations: jobs, friendships, relationships, etc. And especially eating habits and patterns.

My work hasn't stopped, because my life is always changing (if I'm doing it right). IIN taught me to better assess when something needed to change and how to summon the courage to make it happen.

What I've found as a result of my life changing, or rather--me changing my life for the better-- is that I have more gratitude on a daily basis. It's easy to feel unhappy, negative and hopeless when your life isn't shaping up the way you'd like it to. I never realized how much of this was my responsibility and how much control I had over this. When I felt stuck (or stayed stuck), I felt angry. When I was angry, I didn't attract people or situations that improved my situation--in fact, I drove opportunities like that away. And I suffered a lot as a result. Perhaps the biggest sadness is that I didn't even realize that. I was causing my own suffering by making specific choices and avoiding certain necessary changes. That suffering felt bottomless at times but it taught me so much that I even find myself grateful for all that pain. How else could I have learned, right?

But I am probably more grateful for the wisdom that came not like a bolt of lightning but more like a steady hum in the background of everything I did, said and thought. That steady hum came from some very basic Buddhist philosophy and practices. I chose Buddhism as a spiritual practice because it was so effective in helping me cut through my own bullshit--the thought patterns and habits that weren't bringing me more peace and happiness, you know? I needed something to move me away from that paradigm.

Buddhism and healthy living are a perfect combination for me.

Now, because my life is full of things that I have intentionally chosen and opted for (anywhere from friends to jobs to food), I have a lot more peace and gratitude on a daily basis. The deep knowing that came from a lot of trial and error ends up being this toolbox that I carry around. When something comes into my path, I draw from my experience and say, "yes or no?" and it's awesome.

And then I can say, from a place of deep confidence and balance, "please" and "thank you".

I sit in total awe and gratitude these days, over the simplest things, because I am so present with how they came into being because I chose them.

Even when things don't turn out as I'd thought I still was the one who brought it into existence and it taught me something, and I have gratitude for that. There is no longer a feeling of something being a mistake. Like when I go into a restaurant and order something that sounds great. It can arrive and I can taste it and it's not a win, but I can send it back and try again with something else. And be grateful for limitless opportunities and options.

I see life as a big restaurant these days. So I order up, give shit a try and I'm not afraid to send it back and try again.

And always, on the tip of my tongue, is "please" and "thank you".

An Open Letter to Myself circa 2006 -- "Being Transgender is a Process, Not a Finish Line"

Hey there.

I am writing this because you will get it. You will understand now. Because you're older and wiser and your Buddhist practice has helped you come to fully understand the concept of karma. Many people understand/misinterpret it as "punishment" but you get it is more how energy sent is energy returned.

I know there was a lot going on back when you moved to Boston in 2006. Even before that, there was a lot going on. There always has been in your life because, well, it was a long climb to where you are. And not an easy climb, at that. For many years.

But here's the thing: you know you judged people. You still do. You do it because you have your own insecurities to work out, still. I get it. But back in the day, when people around you were coming out at transgender--you weren't as kind or understanding as you could have (should have) been.

And now it's you in their shoes. And now you get it.

You Really Get It Now.

You get that being transgender is a process---not an elitist race with an agreed-upon finish line. 

You get that making decisions to change your name, inject yourself with hormones and spend thousands of dollars on surgeries--or not to ever do any of these things--is an extremely difficult and complex process. I mean, damn, how many years has it taken you to get this far? And you've been dressing in men's clothes since you were able to choose what to wear so where was the mystery? You remember how bad Catholic school was-the boys were really mean because you were stronger than them and more concerned with kicking their asses than kissing them at recess. Or because you loved their green polyester ties and would have given your left arm to wear one to school everyday instead of your plaid skirt. But the skirt it was.

You get that burying your identity has been easier than giving it room and air to breathe all these years.

You get that calling yourself gender queer was your way of hiding/stalling another few years--but it's ok, because it felt right at the time.

You get that transgender looks lots of different ways for as many different people and everyone who is brave enough to even mention identifying as transgender deserves a lot of space and patience as they make the decisions they want to make to become or just be.

You get all this because...now it's you.

It's cool that it took you walking in others' shoes to become more compassionate. That's a good thing. It's cool that you can reflect on ways you could have been gentler on people who were doing their best during their own process of coming out to themselves and others.

It's cool----because internalized transphobia is a difficult thing to overcome. It's no easy task to be honest with yourself about who you are so you can be honest and compassionate and in turn, an advocate, for others.

Especially when that honesty means you living it out loud, exposed to the opinions, judgments and assumptions of other people every single day.

No shame. No blame. Just name.

Here's what I'm going to do, because now the ball's in my court.

I'm going to do the best I can to be the best ally possible. I am going to create and advocate for safe spaces for anyone based on who they are---not who they were or aren't yet. Transgender is a delicate, vulnerable place to live in---so I will do my best to make sure (not matter where I am on my own journey) that each person I meet is treated with the respect, patience and compassion you weren't able to summon when your repression was an enormously powerful force.

No matter what comes next on the path, I promise that the journey won't be forgotten and I won't judge people based on their progress toward a self-determined destination. I won't play gender police and have a sign ready when people are "male enough" or "female enough" because maybe the gender binary is not their goal. If or when I pass for male, I won't succumb to heterosexist behavior because I'll remember that passing privilege doesn't erase my past.

I will create spaces and make room where there isn't yet space for people who are brave enough to live out loud outside the boxes that our country and the world have created for the bodies that house our precious, love-filled souls. A soul doesn't know a box. It only does once it's told the box it belongs in.

Some of us feel we got the wrong box, like mail that comes to the wrong postal address. Or a salad when we ordered a burger.

I'll make space where you drew boundaries.

I'll speak up for the times you were silent.

I'll ask for the times you assumed.

I'll do what a lot of trangender people forgot once the privilege to physically evolve became no longer intangible. Even though the past is always present in the mirror and within.

I'll remember that being transgender is a process, not a finish line.

I'll do this because the scars of this process run deeper than those from my acne and tattoos.

I'll do this because you couldn't.

But I can.