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I Tell On Myself

By November 6, 2019 January 22nd, 2020 Podcast

This episode features host Lola Wright in conversation with Bodhi Center’s Creative Producer Tyler Greene.

To financially support the on-going availability of our live events, classes and this very podcast, visit us bodhicenter.org/giving, or text GIVE to 773-770-8577. No contribution is too small and no contribution is too large.

For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at lolawright.com.

Listeners to And This Is Bodhi with Lola Wright know Lola as a master public speaker, a bold and unapologetic presence on the planet. But, as she shares, “being a loud, bold, big woman was not always easy.”

After her parents divorced, Lola left the wealthy Northern Chicago suburbs and found a greater sense of belonging among counter-cultural scenes in the city: going to punk parties with Hare Krishnas, hanging out in clubs, and hanging out in the Chicago hip-hop scene. Eventually Lola entered into an intimate relationship and had her first child at the age of 18.

Lola’s young adult life was a search for a greater understanding of the world and how to find meaning. She read everything she could get her hands on about the Black American experience: books like Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver and writings by Assata Shakur. She discovered the spiritual teacher Michael Beckwith and eventually Bodhi. She describes the process of learning to move beyond deeply painful experiences and the limiting self-definitions that accompanied them and to embrace forgiveness and growth. Finally, Lola shares a practice with listeners to inspire their own growth beyond limiting self-definitions and thought patterns.

Lola also did a TED talk, and appeared as a guest on The Rebel Mindset podcast.

For more information on Bodhi Center, please visit us at http://bodhicenter.org.

For more information on Lola Wright, please visit her at www.lolawright.com.

Transcript
This “talk” is electronically transcribed. Please excuse any errors or omissions.

Lola Wright: You are more than this meat suit. A feeling lasts 90 seconds.

Lola Wright: A multiracial, intergenerational, queer affirming, non religious, pro woman community in the most segregated city in America, Chicago. Hello and welcome to, And This is Bodhi with Lola Wright. If you’re not already familiar with Bodhi, we are a conscious community based in Chicago. We attract Chicagoans from North, South, East and West. We also have a very significant community well beyond Chicago, around the world. The big idea of Bodhi is to support human beings in shifting out of fear based patterns of lack, limitation and scarcity. The idea is to rise into higher states of consciousness such that you can access greater creativity and aliveness. The big idea is that freedom is the birthright of your soul and when we rise out of our survival states, we have greater access to the freedom that has always been at the center of you. I hope that this gathering, this digital gathering space is in service of your awakening.

Lola Wright: If you are fed, inspired, expanded by anything and everything that you experience through Bodhi, I ask for you to contribute financially. You can text the word GIVE to (773) 770-8577 or visit us at bodhicenter.org/giving. On this episode, our guest is me! I’m interviewed by Bodhi’s creative producer, Tyler Greene. Now I’m someone who spends a lot of time doing public speaking. It feels like my soul’s purpose. It is for sure a calling. I am a very bold person. I am loud, I’m big. I have very bright red hair and I embrace who I am. But being a loud, bold, big woman was not always easy. Tyler and I talked about a time in my life before I learned to really celebrate these aspects of myself. Now, I not only celebrate these aspects of self, but I really understand them to be my superpowers. We also talk about the radical change my life took when I transitioned from Chicago’s hyper affluent northern suburbs into living with my dad in the city.

Lola Wright: I all of the sudden found myself immersed in hardcore, straight edge punk scenes, finding myself in backyard concerts with Hare Krishna’s, exploring different traditions and different frameworks for living that I felt had been kept from me up until that time. I then got woven into the Chicago hip hop community, which forever altered me. All of that led me to an intimate relationship and having my first child at the age of 18. The winding path of my early adulthood led me to this place called Bodhi. I was looking, I was searching, I was seeking, I was trying to understand how life got to be the way it was. The traditional frameworks that I had been raised in felt too confining and they weren’t of service to me. Bodhi helped me untangle a huge amount of hurt, of resentment, of shame. Bodhi has informed and molded every aspect of who I am today. Thank you for being here for this conversation. I hope you enjoy this interview.

Tyler Greene: So let’s start with Glencoe. You mention, have mentioned feeling generally sort of out of place where you grew up. So can you talk a little bit about how that manifested itself in your life and what, what was uncomfortable for you about that place?

Lola Wright: There were always these like thematic looks. So for example, like Landsend jackets, you know, it was like that was a look. I never seem to be able to execute it. I would show up with like an acid washed jean jacket and think like we’re tracking and then I’d get there and I’m like, ah, I’m totally off the mark here. Or like tretorns were a big thing. And I would come up with the grand idea that like, actually I think I’ll wear green cowboy boots. It wouldn’t occur to me that this was not applauded until I arrived at school.

Lola Wright: I just could never quite fit in the pocket of the North shore. You know, as an adult, I have great appreciation for that now. You know, I really value the fact that I was unknowingly always sort of pushing the envelope. And as a kid it actually created a fair amount of discomfort because it just wasn’t fitting neatly inside of the agreed upon boxes despite the fact that they were never articulated.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. And your grandparents were pretty influential to you, I think especially politically, socially, also spiritually. Can you talk little bit about them as people and their influence on you?

Lola Wright: Yeah, I think I would say even more specifically my grandmother. My grandmother’s mother, so my great grandmother, was part of a particular order of Catholics. She would wear rocks in her shoes to remind her of her sins. And so the fact that my grandmother was raised in that kind of context and then continued to really like push up against what she was told was also acceptable. I think it was just like a very powerful example that I didn’t even realize I was absorbing. And it’s funny cause there’s, there is a narrative in my family of how erratic and irrational and unreasonable and out of control the women are. And it’s got this sort of like comedy sketch that accompanies it. And I remember growing up and sort of buying into it like, yeah, my mom’s fucking crazy. My aunt is like totally out of control. And what I’ve come to understand as an adult was actually that was just, it continues to completely be inside of trying to dampen the female voice. And so of course inside of that paradigm, my grandmother occurred as unreasonable. It’s really interesting to me in my family system that there is always a strong critique made of my grandmother and almost never do I hear a strong critique made of my grandfather.

Lola Wright: There’s always a strong critique made of my aunts and almost never do I hear a meaningful critique of my uncles. I mean I said to my mom and her best friend recently, I don’t know that I would have made it as a woman of their era. Like I for sure would have been one that was burned at the stake.

Tyler Greene: Hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: I mean just a giant pain in the ass. That’s how I occur, I think.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: I had to get out of that environment because it felt profoundly oppressive to me.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. I’m just very curious because I experience you as, and I think many of our listeners experienced you as a very open person, a person who is willing to speak up when other people don’t. And I’m just like genuinely curious about, you know, family of origin and the people who have shaped and influenced that person in the world. So I ask about your grandparents, and your grandmother now specifically i know, because I wonder like is that one of the first people, one of the first relationships that you had that kind of sort of opened you up in a way?

Lola Wright: I mean, my mom was always calling stuff out. You know, there is a way that I can understand that my mom and perhaps her sisters, my grandmother seemed quote unquote erratic. But anytime you suppress something, it is gonna come out sideways when it comes out. And so, you know, I saw my mom and I, again, I thought my mom was like totally out of control growing up, but I have huge appreciation for the modeling that she gave me of expressing what was most true for her despite popularity.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. You talk about a religion that you grew up in, which is Catholicism.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: I don’t hear you much talk about that experience.

Lola Wright: Mm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: Um, in terms of what was your relationship to Catholicism when you were six, right? Like what was that day to day like for you?

Lola Wright: Well, I went to Catholic school kindergarten through eighth grade, which meant religious education. And um, I think there’s sort of a overarching critique of Catholicism that you don’t really learn in the Bible. So, you know, if you’re more familiar with like Pentecostal traditions, then you really learn the Bible. The gift that I got out of being raised in a Catholic school environment, which I understand is not globally true just happened to be my experience, the great emphasis on service, being mindful of others’ needs, having a sense of responsibility for that, orienting myself inside of a community. My school very much felt like a community. I love, I do love ritual. I love practice and I did get that experience there.

Lola Wright: I have oftentimes said like it wouldn’t be impossible for me to have maintained my identification with Catholicism if there weren’t things like the absence of women in significant levels of leadership. If right to choose was not such a big deal. If marriage equality had gotten reconciled or would get reconciled. You know, if it was really just about like, wow, there was this great guy who walked on the planet, his name was Jesus. He was an incredible demonstration of what it looks like to be the presence of love, of generosity, of contribution, of service, of really invoking in people that they could be some broader, more expansive version of themselves that we didn’t get so locked in this dimension of reality. If that was the big idea. That’s cool.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: I’m totally down with that. It just wasn’t that. It was all of these rules of who qualified and who didn’t and it really remains that way. Yeah, I mean it was actually one of the things I appreciated most in my conversations with Saul. I think I said at one point to him like, what would you do? And he said, “Get rid of the church. How the fuck I’d do it.” And I’m like, yeah, I get that.

Tyler Greene: You just helped me remember something that actually to you when you were nine years old, you sat with your uncle who died of AIDS.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: And it occurred to me that especially at that time, this was a person who would not be welcome at the Catholic church, who would not be welcome in many places. And so I was just very interested in kind of going back to that moment where that was happening and talking a little bit about what you got from it in terms of sitting with a human who was dying in that way and being present with that person. Sounds like a very simple question, but maybe too simple of a question, but what did you draw from that experience?

Lola Wright: I have many memories of my uncle Bill singing at the piano in our house and it’s a player piano. So you put these paper rolls in and the piano plays by itself. And my uncle bill and my grandfather had these big beautiful operatic voices. And so I, I have many memories of my uncle, very healthy. And then I watched at a pretty young age the deterioration of his physical body by way of AIDS. You know what we don’t have lots of, in the same way these days, is watching the cycle of death, you know, because we all live in these, you know, relatively isolated experiences. So I think just having the contrast of him as this very powerful, beautiful man and then watching his body literally deteriorate.

Lola Wright: The other thing is, I remember being however old I was like second grade I guess, and being afraid that you are going to get AIDS sitting on the toilet seat. You know, like people were really scared.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. I remember. Yeah.

Lola Wright: And it was like, I remember sort of really being aware of how affirming, I mean I have these words now, how affirming my family was of my uncle and simultaneously sensing the fear that came with that period. Watching my uncle, I remember, I think we were with him weeks before he died and he had lesions all over his body. And you don’t see that so much anymore because you know, we have made all these medical advances and you know, so people can really live with HIV and this sort of amazing way. But to watch someone develop these lesions on their body and to see their body begin to emaciate, I just have a lot of gratitude for the opportunity to have witnessed that.

Lola Wright: Again, what I now have, the thought is that like it was a very graceful, beautiful dying process. It just felt like a sacred journey. I mean really like if you ever have the opportunity to sit with someone as they’re dying, give yourself that gift because it is really a sacred experience.

Tyler Greene: And so I’m thinking about your nine years old and you’re, you’re going to Catholic school and then you’re having this, right. So what role did religion play in that moment for you, if anything, for better or worse as you’re watching this person deteriorate?

Lola Wright: I mean, I think I had a general sense that my family was like weird. It just always felt like we were a little different. I think I felt that, you know, I think my mom did a really incredible job. My entire family did an incredible job of really celebrating my uncle who was a forensic psychologist and you know, really worked on prison reform. My family really celebrated him and I could just energetically sense the fear around it all.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: From the larger community.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: I mean, people were not like walking in an openly gay lived experience and having it be like met with like joyful celebration.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: That just was not what was occurring.

Tyler Greene: Right. When you were 13 years old. Um, there was another sort of, what I guess I would call it big inflection point in your life. Your mother and father separated because your mother revealed to your father that she was in relationship with a woman.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: So can you talk a little bit about that moment as you experienced it?

Lola Wright: Yeah, I mean I guess what I will say is that I didn’t have like a moral response to it. It didn’t feel like she’s morally wrong. It just felt like this is painfully inconvenient. I am 13 I’m in eighth grade. I feel super awkward for a whole variety of reasons and now your disrupting our entire family system and doing so in a very public way. My best friend is no longer allowed to sleep at my house. Our community, as I knew it, as I experienced it, was completely fractured. Yeah. It just felt very lonely. My thought was like my mom was being incredibly selfish. Now here again, I understand as an adult that she was really honoring herself and I have huge appreciation for that, but it was hard.

Tyler Greene: Did she stay connected to the church in that moment?

Lola Wright: No. I mean, I think that like my experience with a lot of Catholic communities or Catholic people is that it is as much a cultural commitment as it is a religious commitment. And for many people, even more of a cultural commitment than a religious commitment. So I think, you know, my mom, when she opted to have us go to Catholic school, it wasn’t because like she wanted us to be indoctrinated with the Catholic faith. It was more like she wanted us to have a smaller community. So I think she was like, forget this, I already haven’t thought you guys were all that great anyway.

Tyler Greene: [laughter]

Lola Wright: And now I clearly don’t neatly belong, so I’m out.

Tyler Greene: Bye!

Lola Wright: Yeah.

Tyler Greene: So those two, I pulled those two stories out of your sort of biography because to me they feel like big inflection points. And you talk about this period of your life, 14, 15 being a time that you started to seek out. Right. I know we don’t love that word necessarily. I think we’ve talked about that, but, but you were looking, we’re looking out at the world for more. You talk a little bit about that in this moment.

Lola Wright: I just kept really thinking like how could it be that if you don’t accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, you’re going to hell like that just didn’t make any sense to me. I just started to wonder how could it be that this is the only way. And then I started to read books about the black American experience, the civil rights movement, the black Panther Party, Soul on Ice, Assata. Books that really started to question my sort of westernized, Christianized worldview and I was like really, really moved by those texts and then got very deep into the Chicago hip hop community and there was a publishing house called third world press. And it was considered radical, a radical press and I would read every book out of that house that I could get my hands on.

Tyler Greene: Mm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: It didn’t make sense to me to identify as Christian. I could identify with this master teacher Jesus, but I couldn’t identify with Christianity.

Tyler Greene: Mm [affirmative]. I probably didn’t read a philosophy book until I was 20 and I mean I consider myself a fairly intellectual person and definitely had my sort of intellectual awakening in college. It sounds as though you had yours way earlier than that. So I’m curious about two things. One, like what led you to those texts specifically and what led you to the hip hop community specifically in Chicago?

Lola Wright: When my parents got divorced, my dad moved to Lincoln park on Chicago’s North side. I decided I don’t want to go to my local public school anymore and we started looking at boarding schools. And I knew that I didn’t want to go to an East coast boarding school because if you’re a kid that was raised with access and money, you know the typical place you go, if you want to go to boarding schoo,l is like Andover, Exeter. And I knew that, that, that the paradigm that I would later understand as sort of a oppressive paradigm was only going to be amplified at an East coast boarding school. It was like going to be the North shore, you know, on speed.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: I needed to go West. That was like more progressive, seemingly more liberal. And so I started going to this school Fountain Valley and leading up to my sophomore year there, the school said, Hey, we’re going to hook you up with this person who also goes to school here from Chicago so that you can know someone by the time you arrive. And her name was Katie and she and her brother grew up in Lincoln park and were sort of running with this crew, the Chicago hip hop crew. And so she took me into my first party on Western and it was like a loft party. All of a sudden I was like, Holy smokes, there is a world well beyond what I am familiar with. And we then went to this place called Medusa’s, which was an all ages club.

Lola Wright: I started to feel a sense of a liveliness, like wow, I became exposed to the punk movement and you know, started hanging out with that community that was like, I was going to hardcore punk shows in people’s backyards with Hare Krishnas and vegetarian food. And that was are all happening at like 15. And so even being at a hardcore straight edge punk show with Hare Krishnas, who are passing out their literature. There again, it’s like this is something different. I want to know more about this. Why has this been kept from me? Why haven’t I been invited by my family of origin or my educational system to explore? I mean if I’m at a parochial school, it’s sort of curious to me that there wasn’t more exploration of like world religion, you know, because how do you know what you believe about something if you can’t contrast it?

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: So the punk scene, the hardcore scene, fused then into the hip hop world and I felt a sense of belonging and community that I had not ever experienced in my community of origin. My experience is that I struggle in affluent white communities. And my story about that is that I am too opinionated, too loud, too radical, too big, physically. I am too much. And the very things that I have experienced being critiqued for in the white community, in the Chicago hip hop community, which at the time was primarily black, I was celebrated for. I was invited into greater self-expression. You know, my physical body had been given a context for beauty. You know, I oftentimes say I previously would have been called pleasantly plump or chubby and all of a sudden I was called thick. I oftentimes say that community really saved me and I’m deeply, deeply grateful for that.

Tyler Greene: At that time, you also met your first husband. Um –

Lola Wright: We weren’t married, but yeah.

Tyler Greene: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: I’m sorry.

Lola Wright: No, that’s alright. My mom said like, look, if you all get married, you’re not going to get this down payment for the condo. It was real simple.

Tyler Greene: That made it real easy.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative]. It actually was a source of great resentment between us for a long time. You know, he struggled with his own alcoholism and I think my mom was worried and you know, I’ve watched my parents use the leverage that they had the best they knew to do. And at the time we really wanted that condo, and we didn’t have a down payment. So it was like, okay, well we’re not going to get married then.

Tyler Greene: And so track for me too, you had your first child. Can you walk me through sort of the progression of events when you met him? What happened around the birth of your first child?

Lola Wright: So I met Roland when I was 16 at this place called Alcatraz. It was 1993 94 or something like that. I remember exactly what I was wearing. I was wearing this iridescent Adidas tennis skirt and this like little golf shirt. I saw him and he was wearing these khaki shorts and he was wearing this very crisp polo shirt with this like Indigo blue polo sweater vest. And he just had a way of being that I was super attracted to. Like I could tell this guy is in charge of this thing.

Tyler Greene: Mm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And so I was very drawn to him. Somehow we got acquainted, he was the party promoter and uh, I said, “Hey, you know, I got to go out to my mom’s house,” at the time she was living in Highland park. And I said, “You know, if you want to come with me, we can do that.” And he was like, “Yeah, that’s cool.” So you know, he probably paged me. So I drove from my dad’s house in Lincoln park to pick him up. He lived at Morris and Ashland in Rogers park. He hopped in the car and I said, “Hey, you know, we’re gonna go to my moms house.” We went up to my mom’s house. Nobody was there. I take him down in my bedroom cause I don’t know what the hell I had to do there. I don’t even, I’m, I like very probably made up a reason that I had to go there. You know, like I was sort of a mischievous, I don’t want to say I was a liar, but I was like sort of manipulative.

Tyler Greene: Mm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: I was just lonely. I was like wanting to be part of something. My family had been completely blown up and my dad was in total like post traumatic stress and I do not like the overuse of that terminology. And that’s exactly what he was experiencing. My mom was completely in her own world. And so we get into my bedroom, which is fuchsia. There is a giant Marilyn Monroe poster, a giant Tori Amos poster. And then do you remember when you would make those like collages? You know, there was like a collage and pretty quickly he was like, “how old are you?”

Tyler Greene: [laughs] Speaker 3: It’s like pretty perceptive. And I like how literally in a split second was like, how old am I? Like I knew what he was asking. Like if this girl is under age and I am out here in this Tori Amos bedroom, I am in a very precarious situation.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: And so I said, “Uh, I’m 16.” And he was like, “I gotta go, I gotta go now. You gotta get me out of here. I am a black man, that lives in subsidized housing, in Highland park, in a 16 year olds bedroom. Like, this is a bad scenario.” And I was just like, “What? I don’t got it.” Just total moron. And so we swiftly excavated the scene or we –

Tyler Greene: Excavated would not be the word [laughs].

Lola Wright: We didn’t excavate the scene. We exited the scene [laughing].

Lola Wright: Yeah. So we exited and a, he said, “Hey, why don’t you call me when you’re 18.” I imagine that on the day I turned 18 I called him.

Tyler Greene: Right, yeah.

Lola Wright: And I was just like naive. I just was like, I mean naive, but also deeply unconscious. Right? So I did not have the thought like I want to get pregnant. And I obviously had some unconscious commitment to getting pregnant. He moved into my apartment. I got pregnant, you know, it was February of my freshman year of college. I remember walking to the Lincoln Park market. There was a grocery store on Clark street, just North of Fullerton, called the Lincoln park market. And we probably went there five times that night to get pregnancy tests, just to be like, how could this be? And he said, “Look, if you want to do this, I will support you. But understand you’re going to experience a kind of lifestyle that you’ve never experienced before.” I was like, “Okay, that sounds great.”

Tyler Greene: Hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And my dad wrote me a long letter saying, you know, if you do this you’re gonna lose all financial support, but if you have an abortion you can retain everything. Something told me I am to do this.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: I noticed feeling like some sadness telling that story, which is interesting cause I don’t usually feel that. There’s something about, you know, I’ve gotten very skilled at talking about that because it’s like, Oh yeah that happened dah dah dah. And it was like really scary and really hard.

Tyler Greene: That moment with your father and the letter –

Lola Wright: Just all of it.

Tyler Greene: – all of it.

Lola Wright: I have an incredible ability to like white knuckle things and just like plow through and like I will overcome kind of thing and like there was a big, big cost to doing that. And despite the many, many twists and turns in my relationship with my older children’s father and how incredibly challenging and difficult and dramatic and traumatic that relationship was for both of us. That guy, when he found out I was pregnant, he was like, “Okay, let’s do this.” And he really took it on –

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: – and I have like just a lot of appreciation for him.

Tyler Greene: Somewhere I read or heard you reference that relationship and you said something like, we need to write a book on forgiveness.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: And I was very curious about that.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: How did you come to that conclusion? This notion of forgiveness and going through what I’m getting the sense was a difficult interpersonal relationship at times.

Lola Wright: I sorta didn’t know who I was outside of the identity of a single mom that had come out of a violent relationship riddled with addiction. That was like who I was.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: And I became increasingly clear that labeling myself with those adjectives was becoming just like profoundly limiting and that it was only one very narrow aspect to the story.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: And so I was clear that I really had to dig in on deconstructing my hurt that occupied me. Hurt in that relationship, hurt in relationship with my mom, hurt in relationship with my mom’s then partner, hurt in relationship with my dad. You know, there was just a lot of experience of hurt. I needed to do my own work on that so that I could get free. And I’ll never forget doing a meditation in a class at Bodhi with my brilliant friend and at the time teacher Sara Connell. And she had invited us in this guided meditation practice to call forward a person that was really up for us to practice forgiveness around. And he just emerged. And I got, you know, in that moment that this was a complete co-creation. It was really easy to look at him as the villain in the situation and me as a kind of victim. But those tables could be turned just as easily. I mean, what that guy was expected to walk into and thrive in the midst of was completely unreasonable.

Tyler Greene: Mm [affirmtive].

Lola Wright: You know, I mean, he was just like being judged at every twist and turn as inadequate. You know, he doesn’t have a college degree. He doesn’t come from a family with money. He’s, you know, and it was always subtle but very pervasive. And so I called him right around his birthday actually and said, Hey, and we, you know, we weren’t really on speaking terms at the time. I said, you know, I just really want to apologize for how I created this relationship with you and I just want to really just take responsibility for the ways that you got demonized in this whole thing. And I’m sorry for that. It just began the process of he and I, which then continued to be very, you know, tumultuous and challenging and stuff like that. But I really consider, he’s my family now.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm.Yeah.

Lola Wright: That’s taken 22 years of creating. He and my husband have deep appreciation for each other. You know, he’s sober. He’s like just an amazing human being.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. And so track for me this moment that we’re talking about with your first children and sort of, I’m gonna ask you to kind of give us sort of some high levels of from that moment to when you became ordained. So that’s 2015. So it’s kind of a chunk of time, but you talk about being in banking and sort of meeting Nathan your now husband and then finding Bodhi and I think it will be helpful as I go into this next section to ask you some bigger picture questions about the future of Bodhi, some big life questions I have for you. It would just be nice to kind of close out the timeline and just catch us up to speed if you can.

Lola Wright: Yeah. So in 2005, I started attending the spot Bodhi and uh, I was, you know, a single mom at the time and I was looking for an experience of community. I was looking for an experience of belonging. I knew that I had some sort of self reflection and healing that I needed to do and wanted to do. I knew that a traditional religious framework was not a fit for me. I did not want it to be in a church environment, but I wanted community. And so I started going to Bodhi and the message very much resonated with me. It was really an invitation for me to affirm myself, appreciate myself, love myself, you know, that was a big, big shift out of a religious construct that was largely oriented around, you know, sin and shame and morality. In being at Bodhi, I started taking classes and workshops and you know, listening to music that felt affirming and uh, met Nathan there in 2007. Simultaneously I was working in banking, so I’ve worked for many significant global institutions, Bank of America, Chase, Credit Suisse, and I was trying to prove that I had not royally screwed up my life. That despite the fact that I had gotten pregnant at 18, I too could hang on the upper echelon of the North shore and I would demonstrate that I could do this thing called life. And it was miserable in a lot of ways. I mean there were some wonderful aspects. I became a great leader at Bank of America. It was actually a time in that organization’s history that was really inspiring and it just was not mine to do. It just was clear that I was really trying to squeeze myself into a box that was not designed with me in mind.

Lola Wright: And so through taking classes at Bodhi, I really started asking myself like, who am I here to be? Who am I here to be? Who am I here to be? What am I here to contribute? And uh, met Nathan in 2007 many years before that had stumbled upon Michael Beckwith and was really, really moved by his voice and his work on the planet.

Tyler Greene: So for those who don’t know Michael, just briefly –

Lola Wright: Yeah, he’s the founder of the Agape international spiritual center and Bodhi really was formed out of Agape. And um, yeah, so in 2007, I met Nathan and he moved in two weeks later and four weeks after that we got married and two weeks after that we closed on our house and it was this very mystical, you know, passionate meeting that then was met by 10 years of a dark night of the soul.

Tyler Greene: Hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And it was like super challenging. I mean, I was like a type A single mom, corporate soldier working, working, working, working, working, trying to prove my worth. He was essentially like a Buddhist monk that was meditating 12 hours a day and I mean we could not have been two more extreme ends of a spectrum. And what’s ironic is he now has this business that’s growing and he really identifies as like an entrepreneur and I’m now leading this progressive conscious community and teach meditation.

Tyler Greene: In the same house.

Lola Wright: [laughs].

Tyler Greene: That’s very exciting. I’m also in a relationship now, we’ve been together since 2012 and married since 2015 and you know, relationships are not necessarily what they are on TV. They are not what they are on TV and in the movies, right? They’re hard work.

Lola Wright: There are two things that I tell people.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: Hey FYI, nobody told you this but I’m about to tell you breastfeeding is fucking painful. Be prepared because it’s like this sort of magical fairy land that breastfeeding’s like this wonderful experience and like your nipples are going to crack, they’re going to puss, they’re going to bleed. That’s going to happen.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: And the other is your intimate partnership is going to be filled with lots of uncomfortable, heartbreaking, awful, painful experiences [laughs]. And –

Tyler Greene: Where do I sign?

Lola Wright: the thing is if you know that you can enter into those things with a level of sobriety so that when they happen, you don’t think that like something’s wrong with you.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: Nothing’s wrong with you. It’s just called intimacy. And it’s challenging and it’s confronting and it’s uncomfortable and it’s difficult. The willingness to practice intimacy when you get on the other side of all that drama is amazing!

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: And it takes work.

Tyler Greene: Do you feel like it’s, easier is not probably the best word, but easier in that you are both sort of working on it together or –

Lola Wright: 100%.

Tyler Greene: And was that your experience in your first relationship was the opposite of that or something different than that?

Lola Wright: No, I mean, Roland, my older children’s father is a super, super spiritual human. And in fact, when I think back to our relationship, there were times that he was asking me to consider practices together that I was like young and thought were super weird. And you know, he and I track, we’re in lockstep.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: But there were a lot of other things going on. Youth.

Tyler Greene: Sure.

Lola Wright: You know, family addiction, et cetera, et cetera.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: Nathan and I, if we did not have a shared context for our relationship as a tool for growth, expansion, awareness, transformation, freedom, very tactically a mortgage and a marriage kept us together.

Tyler Greene: Hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And for me that was actually a really good thing because I am very prone to be like, I don’t need this. I’m out. And it became financially much more challenging to unravel because we had a mortgage.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: And so that really kept my butt there. And to Nathan’s credit over the last 14 years of our marriage, he has much more consistently been the one who’s like, nope, we’re here for something. I’m not leaving. We’re going to figure this out. And the moment we get to the point where we both feel like our work here is complete, we’ve actually done the work and it’s complete.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: He’s like, then I’m willing to move on.

Tyler Greene: Right.

Lola Wright: But until I know that we have exhausted all of our own personal exploration, I’m not going anywhere. I mean I’m the kind of, it’s like, well I will put your stuff in garbage bags, I will through it out the window and I will change the locks.

Tyler Greene: [laughing]

Lola Wright: And I mean that is like sort of how I roll sometimes. Although that has tempered a lot over the years. And to his credit he’s like that’s fine, you can do all those things and here I will sit.

Tyler Greene: Hmm, that’s awesome. There are a lot of things in our culture that are under attack right now and Bodhi stands with many of them by adhering to eight statements of belief. I don’t know that you and I have ever talked explicitly about these beliefs. I went onto the website and I was sort of just doing some like research and you know we’ve been hanging out for months but you know a lot of our work is talking about the show and like the podcast and, and I read this statement, these eight statements of belief and it was just like this is why I’m here.

Lola Wright: Hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: This is why every day I feel totally like I’m sometimes running around like crazy, and what the hell is going on. But I always at the end of the day, feel like I’m in the right place.

Lola Wright: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Tyler Greene: Can you talk about those beliefs and why they were created and the framework around them?

Lola Wright: Those statements of belief were inspired by a, an unexpected chance encounter with Carl Lentz, who’s the lead pastor from Hill out of Hillsong, which is a hipster church based in New York. And he’s known as like the rock star, pastor. Justin Bieber’s pastor, Ariana Grande’s pastor. And I met him in this teeny little cabana in Mexico, very unexpectedly. We had a mutual connection and they said, Lola, tell Carl about Bodhi. And I was like, uh geez, here we go.

Tyler Greene: [laughs]

Lola Wright: And very swiftly, he basically said, well, what’s your relationship with Jesus? I said, my relationship with Jesus is that he’s a master teacher who said, do what I’ve done in greater things still. You know, I do not believe that he’s my Lord and savior and I’m going to hell if I don’t accept that as truth. And I think that unnerved him. And then I responded, so what’s your church’s position on queer people in leadership? And he did this super skillful dance around the topic and never ultimately answered it.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And it became very clear to me that we as a community needed to be explicit around our perspective and beliefs in some social issues. Simultaneously, there had been this controversy around the seven word ban. That the CDC would have access to greater funding from the Trump administration if it omitted these seven words from its funding requests, and those words were words like fetus and transgender and diversity and evidence-based and science-based, like really radical words.

Tyler Greene: Totally.

Lola Wright: I just felt very inspired to use that as a framework for what do we believe, and then we added the word immigration because it’s an a very important topic that this country is oddly grappling with right now.

Lola Wright: You know, there’s certain, a certain population of people who would have preferred us not talking about these issues because it confronts oneself, but that’s actually precisely the point. I want to know when I’m shopping, who am I shopping with and what am I supporting? There’s a reason I don’t shop at Walmart, for example.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: So if you want to shop with Bodhi, in other words, if you want to contribute your resources, your energy, you might want to know what it is you’re supporting.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: And so things like fetus, you know, which was probably the most upsetting word that we were playing with. The fact that it triggers you as it does is precisely the reason to explore it. I at 18 when I got pregnant, opted not to have an abortion. It was not what I wanted to do. And I believe it is essential that we do not legislate people’s bodies, that we actually trust there’s a higher order to life here. And that we trust that each person who has a fetus in their body is equipped to decide what is right and best for them.

Tyler Greene: Right. You talk a lot about separation and disconnection from ourselves, from other people being the cause of a lot of suffering in the world. You also have said to transcend tribalism is what will heal the consciousness of humanity at this time in history. So I’m very curious, especially at this time where I’m, I just finished reading this incredible book called, “Lost Connections” by this guy, Johann Hari, and think a lot about connection, disconnection. I’m just really curious to hear you talk about how you believe disconnection and tribalism negatively impact us today.

Lola Wright: Yeah, well there’s a lot of research to support these sort of social media efforts to attract young, isolated people into fundamentalists, supremacist groups. Because if you’re looking for belonging and you are feeling isolated and I’m going to give you an experience of belonging if you join this white supremacist group, it makes sense to me that there’s some appeal to that. What I’m interested in is how can we celebrate our identity as unique individuals? How can I celebrate being a woman? How can I celebrate identifying as Irish Catholic? How can I celebrate being a mother? How can I celebrate being all these things and not have that create further disconnection but rather connection. And so, you know, you’re seeing like the media is doing an incredible job right now of really working to divide people by identity. I was recently at a wedding in the, you know, rural Western region of Illinois and industry has left the town.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: There are significant levels of poverty. Housing stock is totally deteriorating. And it’s a very homogenous community. It makes perfect sense to me how that community, by and large views the world the way it does. In the same way that I live in the people’s Republic of Oak park.

Tyler Greene: [laughs].

Lola Wright: And it informs a particular worldview. And if I’m not aware of that, I start to believe it. And to me it’s like, it’s very easy to be a midst people that you share a worldview with and get self-righteous. I mean, anybody can do that, but can you go to a community that completely shakes up your worldview and be with all of that? If we don’t create ways for that to happen, we will watch our political climate, our cultural climate, get more deeply and deeply divided. And that to me is just like meh.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. So you and I have been making stuff together for a couple months now. The long period of time of a couple of months and recently Bodhi lost the lease to the place where we were putting on a traditional sort of Sunday experience and you released this video and in it you said the following, it was called changes inevitable.

Tyler Greene: You said, my invitation for you is would you be willing to really imagine what this thing we call Bodhi could look like? You said, what’s the kind of global impact we could have on, what’s the kind of affirmation we could put out into the world? I’m imagining it could include podcasts. I’m imagining it can include live events and experiences. I’m imagining it can include pop up experiences throughout the city of Chicago, across the nation, perhaps even around the world. What are the essential ingredients that we have to offer? So around the same time I watched this video, I came to hang out with you all for an hour and then you basically hired me to co-create this thing with you and your team and the people that we’ve amassed, right. And so I’m curious to hear you talk about is now that time has passed since you made that video, what has your experience of the creation of a new live show, which we’ll be doing monthly and not weekly, and a podcast that we’ll release every week, which is kind of meta cause they’re listening to it right now and we’re talking about it. How has that process unfolded for you?

Lola Wright: I feel like it’s been a total gift. I think it’s been, for me, I mean one I give my life to as inviting people to step into more and more aliveness. And we lost our lease. But we also, as a staff, as a leadership body had declared that we were not going to stay in this space any longer because it wasn’t working for a variety of reasons. I mean, we lost sound guys who were like, we love this place, but this kind of set up is so unfriendly and the rate of pay is so poor that we can’t keep justifying doing this. And so in one sense it’s like what? I love to be able to continue creating a live audience event each week. Totally. I mean, I love a mic and a platform. And, I wasn’t willing to do it in a way that dishonored our staff and myself, and that’s what it was taking. So what feels exciting to me as we moved into this next chapter, and actually even hearing you read that, it’s like, that’s exactly what’s occurring. That was sort of a vision cast. Like I wonder what could be possible. And your word is your wand. So when you speak, be mindful of what you speak, right?

Tyler Greene: Hmm [affirmative].

Lola Wright: And so this live show that we’re doing is going to be flipping awesome. I cannot wait. I’m super excited about the talented musicians and cultural leaders that we’re bringing together. The venues are incredible. I think the podcast is going to be a beautifully intimate way to be in our own self reflection and inquiry together. And it’s just the beginning.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: I mean, I am not so arrogant as to think that what we have come up with is the solution for eternity.

Tyler Greene: [laughing]

Lola Wright: But what we’re paying attention to is what can we do right now that contributes to the awakening of humanity? Is done in a sustainable, viable, creative way, leverages our resources, and is in alignment with the people who are creating the thing.

Tyler Greene: Yeah. What’s your greatest hope for the live show and for the podcast in that context? Like I’m a listener and I’m hearing you right now and I’ve made it this far and I’m like, okay, I’m in. What am I going to get from those two experiences?

Lola Wright: My intention is that that monthly gathering is something that creates a deep sense of connection. It feels profoundly restorative. There’s a sense of community that’s created. It’s a visual inspiration of what can happen when people say yes to the things that they’re passionate about and that really it’s a group of people that are committed to funding, if you will, through their own energy, their time, their talent, that it’s a demonstration of what can be possible when people work together to create inspiring bodies of work. I hope it wakes people up so that we can shift out of this sort of scarcity mindset of like, well, circling the drain, just trying to pay the bills. It’s like imagine that there’s something more that your here on the planet to be of service to.

Tyler Greene: And you have said a few times that you have an ability to sort of see a vision of something in the future, right. I’m very curious of two things, this Bodhi Center and Lola Wright. What are your far in the future visions of those two things?

Lola Wright: I got a hit five years ago when I said yes to moving into the role of leading this community that it was a 40 year assignment and I don’t know if that was like a metaphor, but I took it fairly literally. So we’re like five years in, which means we have 35 years remaining. My intention is that so long as Bodhi has a willingness to grow and expand, I’m in. I am who I am because Bodhi exists, and I feel like the mama bear of Bodhi. That it may be available for those who have not yet even found it. So I feel excited about Lola Wright continuing to expand and grow, Bodhi Center continuing to expand and grow, our community members continuing to expand and grow. And one of the things that I’m really working on right now is cultivating other leaders. What would be very boring for me is if it, if it was just about Lola Wright talking.

Tyler Greene: Yeah.

Lola Wright: I love talking, but let’s create something that has such impact that it requires dozens of voices.

Tyler Greene: Mm hmm. Last question, which is a question you asked Saul, and one that I spend a lot of time thinking about myself. How do you stay grounded, in your words, in the midst of all of this.

Lola Wright: I tell on myself over and over and over again. I woke up this morning and I think, you know the first few words out of my mouth to my husband where I’m freaking out. I’m freaking out over here. And he’s like, that’s great, hon. Take a deep breath.

Tyler Greene: [laughter]

Lola Wright: I was like, okay, I’m going to take a deep breath. So I mean that’s one thing is I just tell on myself. The other thing is I teach these principles because as I teach them, as I speak them, it causes me to practice. If I have any level of integrity, I cannot teach a thing I’m not practicing. And so it’s very lived for me.

Tyler Greene: Well, I just want to say that I’m extremely grateful to you for extending this opportunity to me to create these things with you. Um, I’m noticing some emotion coming up because I, my spirituality is really my grandmother.

Lola Wright: Hmm.

Tyler Greene: God, whew. Every time I talk about her I do this. Um, which is cool. She guides me and I have this recurring thought that like she has put you here and the people around me in this room here, you know, I left my job of eight years to start my own business and this was kind of the push over the edge and it’s still hard to start, you know, your own business and deal with what that is. But I get to wake up and end the day knowing that I actually created. I cannot wait to see this vision continue to materialize and really help people. So thanks for taking this time to talk a little bit about yourself. I think the listeners will appreciate it and I would also encourage everybody to watch, um, definitely the Ted talk we’ll link to in the show notes as well as a couple other links we have about Lola’s life because the path to getting here today for you, to hear it, to hear you tell it is just incredible. So thank you.

Lola Wright: Thank you.

Lola Wright: And that was my interview with bodies’ creative producer Tyler Greene. I think one of the things that really stands out for me in that interview was recalling the years that I related to myself almost entirely as a single motherhood who had come out of a relationship that was riddled with violence and addiction. I think one of the ways that I’ve been able to untangle that is through an integrity exercise. You might consider taking a sheet of paper, folding it in half, and in the left hand column doing a chronology of your major life events in the right hand column indicate the beliefs that you think you’ve come up with the correlate to that event, the judgements, the stories that you secured by way of those experiences and just begin to challenge them. Do they serve you? Are they still running you?

Lola Wright: Bodhi is in this new phase of evolution, this new iteration. If you weren’t with us in October for the launch of House of Bodhi with Lola Wright at Schubas Tavern, I must ask that you be with us Chicago on November 26th at Lincoln hall. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of, And This is Bodhi with Lola Wright. I’d love to connect with you on Instagram and Facebook. Find me @lolapwright. Find Bodhi @bodhichicago. You can also visit both of our websites lolawright.com, and bodhicenter.org. All of our programming at Bodhi Center is made possible because of your generosity. I would love for you to pull out your phone right now and text the word, GIVE to (773) 770-8577. You can also visit bodhicenter.org/giving. There is no gift that is too small. There is no gift that is too large. Thank you for listening to And This is Bodhi with Lola Wright.

Lola Wright: And This is Bodhi is a production of Bodhi Center funding comes from our incredibly generous contributors. I’m your host, Lola Wright. This podcast is produced by Katie Klocksin with editorial guidance from bodies’ creative producer Tyler Greene. This episode is engineered by Collin Ashmeed Bobbitt at WBEZ Chicago Public Media Studios. Our theme music is provided by independent music producer Trey Royal.
Speaker 1: [inaudible].
Speaker 2: Pretty quickly, he was like, how old are you.

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About Bodhi

Bodhi is a conscious community in Chicago, IL. We offer in person and online experiences for people who are ready to transform themselves and their world. Bodhi uses media, education, entertainment, and like-minded community to support transformation.

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