Closing our June Series, Lola encourages us to move from self-improvement to transformation in her talk titled, “Stepping Into the New”.
This “talk” is electronically transcribed. Please excuse any errors or omissions.
Lola: All right, so this place Bodhi was named in honor of the tree under which the Buddha awakened. While we are not a Buddhist community, what we always affirm is that awakening is for the many, not the few, and the big idea behind that is that if we spend our lives outsourcing our awareness, our growth, our transformation to a few guys like Jesus, or Buddha, or Moses, there’s this kind of like schism that occurs there. It actually prevents us from awakening to the one that lives right here, so the idea is those beings came along to actually go, you got it. You’re the one. Wake up, wake up, wake up, wake up, and so that’s the big idea, is that we’re here to awaken to the truth of who we are. This idea of transformation can occur a little bit like self-improvement, and I want to create a distinction between self-improvement and transformation.
Lola: There’s a great book called The Places that Scare You by Buddhist nun named Pema Chödrön. We just read that book in our conscious leadership program, and one of the things that she talks about is the distinction between self-improvement and transformation is that self-improvement can be fleeting. It can occur for a period of time, whereas transformation is a shift such that you know yourself as the source of wisdom and compassion. Do you know the one in you that’s like, if I just lost a few LBs, then I’d be a better version of myself, or if I just had, fill in the blank. If I took one more class, then maybe. That’s not the game. The thing about Ann Marie’s book Little Seed’s Journey is it’s based on the idea that the seed has encoded within it all the wisdom, all the intelligence, all the compassion, and it transforms itself into a new iteration of itself.
Lola: The seed didn’t say, “I need to be improved, thus I’m going to plant myself in some bank, dark soil, and hopefully the tree will be better looking than the seed.” There’s a creative impulse that lives in the seed. That is true of you and I. There’s a creative impulse that lives at the center of your being, that actually is being invited to strip away the stuff that’s been labeled on top of you. That’s not your essence. See, there something that pressed through, and it’s whole, holy, and perfect, and we’ve been having that conversation for 15 years, .and I’m 41 I would venture to say I’ll be having this conversation for 50 more years, and it’s just a reinvention, every week. It’s actually not a new conversation. It’s one conversation, and the conversation is, I remember, I forget, I remember, I forget, I remember, I forget, and so we gathered to remember, over, and over, and over, and over again.
Lola: Today is my mother’s 70th birthday, and for those of you who’ve been around long enough, she usually sits in the front row, and sort of lovingly heckles me throughout this experience. She is like my biggest advocate, ally, accomplice. She’s been the one from the time that I was born in various ways, kept saying, “Come on, come on, you’re here for something. You’re here for something. You’re here for something.” My mom is one of the greatest demonstrations of transformation for me. Let me tell you a little bit about my mom. She’s the oldest of nine kids that were born in 11 years. There were a lot of social constructs around who she was supposed to be, primarily a second mother. There was a cultural agreement that she’s there to be helpful and you can imagine 70 years ago growing up in that consciousness, all of the agreements that you consciously and unconsciously say yes to.
Lola: It worked for a period of time, but there was a kind of irritation that stirred in her. She did what she was supposed to do. She went to college. She got married in her early twenties. She didn’t want kids, but the consciousness said, “You’re married. That’s what you do. You have kids.” Thank God she did, right. She had kids. She had two. She was married for 22 years inside of a context that was not an authentic self-expression for her. She was living a suburban life, throwing parties that raised lots of money, and when I was 13 she said, “I don’t want to do the same more. This is not my authentic self-expression, and it turns out I’m having an affair with a woman in the neighboring town.” Sort of inconvenient, as you’ve heard me say, in 1992, but she really rolled the dice on her life. She really, she disrupted all of the agreements that kept the nice, neat box in place.
Lola: I don’t know what nice, neat box you’re trying to maintain right now, but it’s a lot of energy. It’s exhausting to keep the thing together that you think is supposed to be a particular way because it makes others really happy and comfortable, but meanwhile you’re selling yourself out over, and over, and over again. When she disrupted the family, she had few fans, not many applauses, not many thank you so much. On this day, about 28 years ago, I was interviewed by Kurt Loder of MTV. You remember that guy? I was interviewed by Kurt Loder in the staircase at sidetrack. It was the first Pride parade I’d ever gone to with my mom and her then-partner, and he got real close to me and he said, “What is it like to be a part of this new family construct that’s led by two women?” I was like… In my belly, I’m dying. Pride is very fun for some now.
Lola: It is the out-picturing of a lot of trauma, and I think it’s important to understand that, that what has now become Gap ads and grocery store installations, none of which needs to go away, but that’s not the essence. Someone said, “Enough, I’m going to start throwing some stuff and disrupt a whole bunch of stuff because transformation is needed now.” See, transformation is not comfortable. Transformation is not comfortable. It doesn’t have to be sacrificial, but it is disruptive. Movements don’t get formed by your creature comforts. Yeah? I bow deeply to my mom for being an early example, despite my own resistance to what it means to live a transformed life, to what it means over, and over, and over again, despite the lack of popularity, to be honest and authentic to your self-expression. That’s really the essence of Pride, to live authentically and to disrupt any constructs that suppress that. Yeah?
Lola: In this family blessing they give their children these names, but as a community that’s on the cutting edge of consciousness – over, and over, and over, again a number of people, myself included, have renamed themselves. As parents, we hold that lightly. Yeah, we hold that lightly because actually what parents are, they’re just, they’re just a portal through which something comes forward, but we can act like, this is mine. This is my child. This is my place. This is my thing. You just got to open your hand, and hold it loosely, and hold it lightly. When we are going through times of transformation, it can feel scary, whether it is little or whether it is big. My 19-year-old son is in South Africa right now, and he’s there with a friend of mine named Prexy Nesbit, who takes about 12 trips a year, and the single purpose of Prexy’s trips to South Africa, and Namibia, and Mozambique is to essentially disrupt the American worldview and politicize the people on the trip such that there’s an exposure to liberation movements, and people can reenter with an awakened state. Yeah?
Lola: He throws a couple of lions and tigers and because Americans love that, but the real point of the trip is to free your mind. I was talking to my son as he was preparing to leave and as a mother I was tightly wound, and had all kinds of things that I wanted him to consider about the trip. And at some point he just said, “Mom, would you please stop?” He said, “I’m not leaving this planet. I’m actually going to be on the planet still, and I’ve actually traveled before, and it’s okay,” but fear will get you wound up and it will lose presence. You and I will lose presence to what is true and real. We as a community are going through a transformation. We are rising up and out of a previous state of consciousness into something new. The distinction between self-improvement and transformation in this round goes a little bit like this.
Lola: As I said earlier, it’s something that the church paradigm has been doing for probably about 40 years. Get a rock band in. Maybe then the people will stay. Get a fog machine in. Maybe then the people will stay. Don’t touch the theology, but bring a sexy pastor in. Maybe then the people will… Stop. What feels true for me as we wind down this iteration of Bodhi over the next five weeks is that we’re not being called to dress this up as a self-improvement. If we go through this transition as a sexier version of what has been, nothing new is coming forward. You remember last month we talked a lot about releasing the good to experience the greater good. What am I holding onto in my life that I needed to stay a particular way to experience safety? I’m asking us to disrupt that thought pattern, because that will keep you on a loop, and that loop is nothing more than survival.
Lola: See, what Pema Chödrön said in that is that transformation is when you know yourself as the source of wisdom and compassion. Bodhi is not my source. This Sunday experience is not my source, so I just need to look and see, what am I believing is the source of my life, and sometimes you have to strip everything away, such that something new may come forward. Have you ever experienced that in your own life? That as much as we would like things… See, I imagined my mom did that for a period of time. I imagine she thought, well, maybe I could just stay married, and just have this situation over here for a minute. Have you ever done that, had a situation over here for a minute? I remember my parents thinking maybe if we move to Santa Fe, then we could create a new experience of family. Nothing like a geographic change to think you’re going to get fixed.
Lola: Maybe. I don’t know. Maybe my mom was like polyamorous before it was hot and sexy. Maybe she was thinking… We will have to ask her. Maybe she was thinking we could get this whole thing going, but staying with my dad was not the most true thing, and so she had to risk it all. She had to roll the dice and say, “I let everything fall away,” and guess what happened? People started coming to her in secrecy. I’ve been living this double life in the city. I have a lover nobody knows about. I can’t be here fully self-expressed. When one person gets free, it creates a portal in consciousness for others to awaken. The question is simply, where am I holding onto something that feels safe, because I’m afraid to risk the good for the greater good? I believe that this Sunday paradigm is not the future. It’s not the future. There’s a future for these teachings. There’s a future for these principles. There’s a future for people gathering and waking up together, but the way we’re doing it here is not the future.
Lola: We could hold on to what we know, because it’s more comfortable than what we don’t know, and then we could just wait til we are brought to our knees and have no other choice, except that I don’t like to play that way. That to me is no fun. You got to roll the dice sometimes. You got to say, “Something else is possible. Something else is wanting to come through.” Huh. They said, “You have to be out of the theater by July 28th.” That’s uncomfortable when you don’t know what’s happening August 5th. Let me just tell you a little bit about where I am in my own experience of transformation. We thought that we had the Dunn Theater secured, which we thought was great, because you wouldn’t even have to create really a new traffic pattern. It’d be real easy, and actually it’s closer to the Blue Line, so then you wouldn’t even have to be upset about you… The only thing you could be upset about is there may be less parking, cause you will get towed in the dual parking lot.
Lola: It was good. We were going for it. Map this onto your own life where you think the thing showed up, and you’re like, oh, thank god. I don’t have to feel the real discomfort. Okay, great. The Dunn Theater, and then Thursday they sent us an email, and they said, “It turns out that we can’t have you, for a whole variety of reasons,” and I felt so angry. I felt like they really were doing something to me, those Dunn Theater people. Because I was attached to an outcome and I need it now, and I don’t want to sit through the discomfort. I don’t want it to metabolize the collective discomfort, so please just make this go away. Yeah? But you got to release the good to experience the greater good. Just take a breath in this now moment and check. Just check and see, is there something that I’m holding onto in my life that is creating a short-term experience of comfort, so that I can avoid the experience of discomfort?
Lola: Is there a kind of discomfort that I’m avoiding that is living in the guise of self-improvement, and would you be willing to consider that actually you’re being called to transcend the realm of self-improvement, and move into the realm of transformation? I invite you to take a deep breath. Who will you piss off if you say yes to who you’re here to be? Who will be upset? For me, there is one thing I know. This is for planet Lola. I am here to support people in uncovering and unpacking the programming that has been put in by outside constructs. I’m here to support the freeing up of that, and I’m not attached to how it happens, except that I want to have fun doing it. That’s my only requirement. Can there be a band, and some live human beings, and awakening happening? That sounds fun to me. But the risk is that those of us who are attached to a particular way things have been could get very upset, and then I’d have to sit with the discomfort of your upset, and so then I saw myself out. What’s your version of that?
Lola: What’s the conversation you don’t want to have with your parents about who you truly are, and what you really want to be about? What’s the conversation you’re not having with your partner, that you keep trying to dress it up? Maybe if we do date night once a week, that will be the thing, but you know there’s something deeper happening there. It’s an invitation for transformation, not self-improvement. It’s an invitation to know yourself as the source of wisdom and compassion, not to outsource your comfort to people, places, and things. If anything comes from our acknowledgement of pride, it is the vocal, loud, violent activity of self-expression, violent activity of self-expression. It wasn’t buttoned up and made pretty, because true liberation is usually sort of messy, so if you’re trying to keep it neat, it might just take a lot longer.
Lola: These last five weeks for me feel like an eternity. I feel like we’re playing dress up at this point. It feels inauthentic to my self-expression, but we paid for the month of July, and it seemed a little unfriendly and traumatic to just drop the mic and be out. I know my tendency to be like, I’m out of here anyway, so I pay attention to that one. I could have it that that’s wrong, but actually sitting in the discomfort is part of the process. No matter how much I’d like to hurry up to July 28th. July 28th is the last day the Bodhi Spiritual Center is in this iteration here at the Vittum theater. After July 28th, there will not be a Sunday experience. There will be a large group gathering, likely on a weekday evening, and there will be classes and workshops, because those are the things that the 120 plus of you who completed the survey and have sent emails, those are the things that you’ve told us really mattered to you. The good news is they highly aligned with the people who work here, so we have alignment.
Lola: Rather than trying be all things to all people, and exhausting ourselves in the process, we’re choosing to get very focused. We are here to awaken humanity through disrupting the unconscious, and that’s going to occur through a weekly gathering, and classes, and workshops. Where, we don’t yet know. When, we don’t yet know, but as beautiful as our young people are, and remember, I have four of them, there is a way that some of our programming is not sustainable to carry forward, and we are in a moment of sobriety. When you are sober, sometimes you have to say, “Here’s what we can authentically do well, and here’s what we can’t do so well.”
Lola: I’m not interested in being a sacrificial lamb. Jaye isn’t willing to be a sacrificial lamb. Abby isn’t willing to be a sacrificial lamb. Ameerah’s not willing to be a sacrificial lamb, so my hope is that you trust that nobody’s thinking about this more than me, but I’m not just casually like, well, I’m out with Sundays. Hope you got what you got. I’ve given my life to this work, so no decision here is made lightly. Not one decision here is made lightly. Every decision that is made here is an active practice of awareness, so with that, I hope you will join us on this journey of transformation, and take it on as a spiritual practice to move through the unseen realm that is wildly uncomfortable, because you’ve been preparing for this. You are not here for some kind of creature comfort.