I’m feeling tender-hearted these days.  I keep writing in my journal, I feel like I’m breaking. Right down the center.

It has to do with being excluded.

Here’s the low-down:

I live in a very small community. There’s a relatively small group of people my age who are here right now, during the low-tourist season. The hub of the social action often centres around the beautiful yoga retreat centre where I teach yoga. There are some great people here.

Oftentimes I’ll go to yoga in the morning.  And I enjoy chatting with the other girls that are there.  For the last month, there have been several occasions where the conversation has turned to the fun that transpired the night before. There’s lightness and innocence in the tone of conversation. Celebration.

But for me, it hurts. Because I wasn’t invited.  I didn’t know that they were going to the hotsprings last night. I didn’t know that there was a ‘girls night’.  I didn’t hear about the party, until now.  And now, it’s just highlighting for me a familiar pain.

Like the time that I was ousted from the group of girls in middle school, and overnight had no friends to speak of.

Like my years of experiencing exclusion from the tight-knit groups at Outward Bound, a wilderness organization where I worked for many years.

Like finding out, through an off-hand comment of a friend, that I have been excluded from a regular speaking gig and the community that goes along with it.

When I arrived back here last month I was excited to connect. There are great people around, and I was feeling very open and social. And then, it started happening.  I rode my bike past one party, and noticed the cars gathered.  And then, the yoga conversations about the night before.

It all brings forth those familiar grade-school feelings.  I truly wish I was beyond this. I’ve done a lot of processing…and yet, here I am.

How it feels to be excluded:

There’s a bigger picture about leadership that I will paint in a moment, but for now, I’d like to just get down to how it feels to be excluded.

I feel that there is something wrong with me.

I am not good enough to be a part of the group.

I am not wanted. I am not loved. I am not appreciated.

I feel inferior, insignificant, invisible, invalid.

I am not seen.

I am not understood.

I feel a deep pain in my chest.  I just want to curl up and not exist.  It’s hard to breathe.

I don’t understand what is wrong with me?

I don’t understand why I’m not included in this group of people that I admire and respect and enjoy?

I feel helpless to change this reality. I feel powerless. I feel disempowered.

I feel angry. I feel hurt.

I feel tender. I feel soft. I feel raw.

I feel that I want to protect and love myself. I want to nurture myself. I want to learn. I want to understand what reality is showing me, so that I blossom.

The Strength to be me

One thing I was reminded of in this process is my Human Design.  In Human Design there are 4 types of circuitry. Circuitry refers to how we are wired. Here’s a brief outline of the 4 types of ‘wiring’:

Tribal – having to do with your friends and family…your small circle of people who matter to you.  (eg. making sure your friends and family are taken care of, fed, sheltered, etc.)

Collective – having to do with the greater whole and the well-being of all. (eg. making sure that all people get  taken care of, such as universal health care programs)

Individual – having to do with being unique and different from the collective and the tribe and bringing individuality. (eg. making sure that I take care of walking my own unique path)

Integration – having to do with self-love and self-preservation. (Integration is sometimes included under the umbrella of Individual circuitry and has similar qualities.) (eg. dancing wildly on my own path)

In my design I have 6 Integration and Individual channels and only 1 tribal channel. I have no collective channels.  In non-human design speak, this means that basically, I don’t fit in. I’m way more about marching to the beat of my own drum than I am about being in a drum-circle, or making sure that everyone gets a drum. ūüôā

Individual/Integration circuitry is highly ‘mutative’ and is about providing the tribe and collective with a useful new approach to life, just by being that example.

And this simple fact…and the natural tendency of groups to inadvertently and often innocently exclude me, is something that has been a real struggle for me to accept over the course of my life.

And yet, it’s an undeniable aspect of my design and my experience.

What is relevant to you about my experience, is that, I think that Life wants me to be strong.

I think the painful experience of exclusion is an invitation to centre back in my own self, my self-love and my conviction to be me.  In response, I’ve been following the impulses of my own inner-being to dance salsa everyday, to be consistent with yoga, both teaching and practicing and to write, write, write.

I’m being creative. I’m being me.

And I’m nurturing the sweet relationships that I have where I can. I find that the 1-1 connections are easier and more natural, more ME, than bigger groups.

The bigger picture of inclusion/exclusion

Along with the exclusion thing that is happening for me personally, the events last week in Charlottesville have broken me.

All last week, I spent my time reading and learning about race, white privilege and white supremacy.

I have a new understanding of the term “white supremacy”…meaning anything that promotes the notion that white is somehow better, more worthy, more privileged, more powerful.

Of everything that I read, the article that most touched me was this one, by Kelly Diels called “White Supremacy, White Beauty and your Brand Photos” 

In the article, Kelly points out how, as transformational leaders, our brand photos and what we show in the photos through our social media profile, is often perpetuating current standards of beauty and what is given value and power in our society.

And by doing so, it is inherently including certain groups of people and excluding others.

By putting a photo of me dancing on the beach, with my tall, slim, young-ish, white body, I am showing an image of, and actually benefiting from the current standards of beauty that are perpetuated in our media and beauty industry.

Also, I’m minimizing the likelihood that a person of colour, or of greater age or bigger bodied, would feel included and invited to come and be a part of one of my groups or retreats.

Through this lens, I’ve been seeing the sites and web presences of my friends and colleagues.

In my group of leaders, I called attention to this and shared Kelly’s article. One woman responded: “I teared up reading this. I am Latina and this spoke volumes to me.”

When I asked her to share more about her perspective, she did:

“I felt like she understood the impact that branding photos have on others on a subconscious level. I felt like I exhaled when she spoke to her contemporaries about being intentional about the branding photos and the message they convey.  

For me, when I look at events that I want to attend, I look at the photos to see if I am going to be part of an inclusive group or part of a handful of women who make the group diverse. It has an impact on how deeply I can participate in the transformative nature of the event.” 

Leaders, On being a convenor of groups

Part of what is magnifying my experience of exclusion in my town is that there’s a gal here right now that I don’t get along well with…we just generally are a bit like oil and water.

And while she’s here, she takes on the role of social convenor.  Many nights of the week she is gathering people, and naturally, she doesn’t tend to include me, since we don’t get along that well.

Sometimes she has gone out of her way to include me and other times not.  In either case, it draws my attention to the role of and the power of the social convenor.

A social convenor is a generally charismatic person who brings people together in groups.

Transformational Leaders (coaches, workshop leaders, conscious business owners), unless they only work 1-1, are usually social convenors.

One of my friends at Outward Bound once told me that the secret to being included, is to host parties and always invite everyone.

Invite the socially awkward guy. Invite the gal who is 30 years older than everyone and wears weird jeans.  Invite the person you don’t get along with. Invite the person who you wronged and now feel ashamed of and don’t want to be confronted by. Invite them because they are a part of the bigger whole.

Basically, the secret to being included is to be inclusive.

Being inclusive has varying degrees of importance depending on the situation.

There may be plenty of moments where you just want to connect 1-1 with someone or to go out with a few friends that you love, and enjoy yourself.  No problem.

But when it comes to being in a small community where we are living and working together, inclusivity and exclusivity begins to take on more meaning.

And then, in the realm of our ‘tribes’, or our following, it becomes even more important.

Since transformational leaders (coaches, workshop leaders and conscious business owners) are willingly putting themselves in the role of convening groups, then I think they can come into that role with an understanding of the power they are wielding and how it effects others.

And then, in the realms of the collective, things that benefit us all as humans, inclusivity is imperative and a matter of human rights.  Imagine facebook decided to prioritize white people’s posts. Or google stopped sharing information about a certain segment of the population.  Systemic exclusion is still pervasive and it’s easier to see how wrong it is.

As social convenors, we can play the role of being inclusive and ending the exclusivity of our parties. We can make sure in our brands, in our messaging, in our Facebook groups, that we have gone out of our way to include others in the party…even those we may not be comfortable with, yet.

It’s personal. I get it.

Personally, it pains me now to see the subtle ways that I have created exclusivity in my own brand and in my work.  It’s all coming home now.  I’m experiencing the very human, personal pain of being excluded.  And I know that this is an experience that many of us have had.

I know that my Latina friend experiences it when she looks at the websites of many of her colleagues, or possible mentors.

I know that it’s something my LGBTQ brothers and sisters experience when they watch a Hollywood movie and do not see their love represented anywhere (unless it’s a movie with a plot-line centered around Gay or Lesbian love).  Same goes for people of colour.

I know that the exclusion of First Nations people in Canada is so rife, and so pervasive. Many voices aren’t heard. Not only did they not get a chance at the microphone, they weren’t at the conference.

I know that the people of colour in the United States have experienced far worse than exclusion, probably daily in some cases.

I know that there are many people out there, who are excluded from the conversation, from the party, who feel that they are invisible.

They have the same feelings I’m feeling:

There is something wrong with me.  

I am not good enough to be a part of the group.

I am not wanted. I am not loved. I am not appreciated.

I feel inferior, insignificant, invisible, invalid.  

I am not seen. 

I am not understood.

I feel a deep pain in my chest.  I just want to curl up and not exist.  It’s hard to breathe.  

I don’t understand what is wrong with me?

I don’t understand why I’m not included in this group of people?  

I feel helpless to change this reality. I feel powerless. I feel disempowered.

I feel angry. I feel hurt.

It’s personal to me now.  I am feeling it.  I get, from a human-feeling perspective, what it is to be not-represented, dismissed and made to feel that I don’t exist and don’t matter.

And I know it’s not true.

the power of claiming your place

There is a beautiful thing about being excluded.

In the moment of questioning your importance, your visibility, your worth and your relevance to life, you begin to discover the truth….that you do have importance to all-that-is. And that you do have a place.

You are located precisely at the centre of the party.

You are.

You are all that is. And you are within all that is.

You are all that matters. You are it.  There is only one.

You begin to locate your power at the center point of existence, in the now, here.

Here’s a video that blew me away…of James Baldwin, social commentator and civil rights activist.

In the video he has clearly claimed his power back from exclusion and far worse than that, the hate, racism and legacy of slavery.  The degree of his knowing of his power and his value in this video is undeniable. He knows it more than any white person in our society can probably ever know.

He knows it because of the pain of exclusion. He knows it because he has lived it’s opposite and found this knowing on the other side of the pain.

James Baldwin, Speaking about Amsterdam. 1981.

What you don’t have anymore, is me.

I, the slave. I, the nigger. I, the black cat who believed everything you said once.

Nothing you can do will ever persuade me that I am worth less than you, in the eyes of heaven or in the eyes of earth – It is over.

I have dealt with you a very long time, and now you have got to deal with me. And I came to stay.  -James Baldwin

We can all do the inner work of empowerment, but leaders (especially white leaders), let’s do the outer work of inclusion.

This article¬†isn’t about me being excluded from some parties in my town.

It’s about the very human, very painful experience of being excluded in situations where ‘social convenors’ didn’t understand that even though they didn’ t know it (or sometimes even though they did know it), they were directly impacting us by not putting our names on the invitation list.

The end result is the same:  not being invited to the party had its effect.  

And at the end of the day, it reflects on the leader.

Did they use their power as social convenor to invite everyone?

Or were they using their power in a way that was exclusive and thereby, hurtful?

I, for one, will be integrating this confluence of experiences, into the most inclusive website that I can create for Leaders.

I will be learning how to speak differently.

I will be learning how to act differently.

I will be learning how ¬†to BE differently, so that my being is an open invitation to others, to step into my party and to ‘aprovechar’ (Spanish word for ‘enjoy/make-use of/take advantage of the opportunity).

I will be changing the images I use on my website. I will be re-thinking my messaging. I will be participating differently in the groups that I belong to, to include others.

That is how this experience has changed me.   

I¬†am breaking. ¬†I am breaking open. I am breaking apart. ¬†That’s how life wants me to be…so tender, so open, that I am less able to harm.

 

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours,

and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of rain are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile, the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese,

harsh and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.

I help Type A Hippies to get into flow in all three realms of Love, Sex and Genius.

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