In our May/June issue, PQ ran an excerpt of our interview with Emily Carson, the local spiritual teacher whose channeled transmissions from the enlightened entity she calls “the Guidance” have challenged and inspired her audiences and clients for nearly a decade. In this full interview, Carson talks more about the work of her organization The Sound of Rain and the release of her new book Something Makes Me Open My Eyes — and offers the Guidance’s first transmission of teachings specifically for the queer community.
PQ Monthly: First off, can you tell me a little about you, and how this came about?
Emily Carson: I got started doing this really accidentally, actually. I started doing some personal, internal work — I had a pretty crappy childhood, and lots of issues that built up inside me to such a point that it became apparent that I really needed to deal with them. The things I was doing to secondarily deal with them while I kept everything else in my life primary just wasn’t working. So, I started working with a few different facilitators who actually use Buddhist and Taoist principles in treating trauma and dealing with yourself psychologically. Through them, I got hooked up with another facilitator, Ira Fish, who took that work to another level for me. In the process of that, I was introduced to the concept of “guidance,” which in the work that these people do is really just something that everyone has access to — something that is still a principle that I use. It’s something that a person can use to know what’s true, and oftentimes really discern what to do when your own fear-based thinking is not going to give you the right answers. There are techniques for finding your own guidance, cultivating it, and knowing what it’s saying to you. So, I was already using this thing called “guidance” for a long time, but it’s really this thing that you use for yourself, not as a teacher for other people.
In 2003, I lost my job, and I also I started to get these longer dictations from my guidance — usually you get a couple sentences, and I started getting these paragraphs about things. It was right about this time that I also got that I needed to start speaking with people. I didn’t know what that meant. But when I lost my job, I started stting with people I knew from the therapy community and seeing what it was that my guidance meant by that. That was when I started, from the very first time I sat with people, receiving these long talks and teachings, and answers to the questions of others. Over time, it became clear that this thing that I called Guidance was an entity in another place — he’s elsewhere, and while he doesn’t have a body he has some kind of a form. He’s not visible to everybody, so he says what he wants to say to me, and I say it to other people. I’m just a secretary for this very wise guy! [Laughs] I didn’t really know any of that, though — it came down to sitting on a couch, in front of people, not knowing what I was going to say, just listening and saying what I heard.
Read more from the interview after the jump:
PQ: When you started getting the transmissions from the Guidance, how was it apparent to you that it was something external rather than something internal?
EC: The very first time that I ever heard this thing that I call Guidance, nobody had even told me about “guidance” — it was about ten years before I started doing the channeling thing, and during an acupuncture treatment I heard the first appearance of this voice. It was probably the first time I was really quiet enough to hear something other than my own chaotic thinking. At that moment, and every time afterward, it was as obvious to me that [the Guidance] was not me as if somebody was literally standing next to me talking to me. There’s absolutely no confusion about it. I suppose I could be confused about whether or not you were there really talking to me, but that’s really just philosophical — basically, it’s completely obvious. It’s the same way with him: [when I hear him, it’s obvious that] I couldn’t have thought of that, it doesn’t have any quality that I otherwise have inside me, to even feel that it’s not in me. I hear it, I suppose, “in my head,” but I hear everybody’s voice “in my head” — I know that it’s not mine. It’s never been confusing. Also, people who’ve known me for a long time say something similar — they say “it was so completely clear that wasn’t you! It just wasn’t you, and you can hear it when it comes out!”
PQ: Is it ever scary?
EC: The presence and the voice of [the Guidance] is never scary. Sitting up in front of a room full of people who expect you to say something incredibly profound and having literally no idea what it is that you’re going to say — that’s a little bit scary! [Laughs] You know, I was terrified at first because I didn’t even know that it could do this. It took some iterations, though, and now that I’ve done this hundreds and hundreds of times I have a whole body of data saying it will actually work the next time I get up in front of the room to do it. It’s never not been there.
PQ: I notice that you refer to the Guidance as “he…”
EC: I have no idea what pronoun to use for the Guidance. I could say “it,” but in a way that feels kind of wrong — it’s not really, like, the Universe is speaking to me, and it’s certainly not like God is speaking to me. It’s an enlightened being that is speaking. If I say “he,” that sounds wrong, and if I say “she,” that sounds wrong. Sometimes this being feels very feminine, and at other times he or she feels very masculine, but most of the time there’s just this total absence of anything that would feel [engendered] — it’s in a particular form, and to me it feels personal, like I have a relationship with it, but not a relationship with it as a man or a woman.
PQ: I understand in your public sittings that you deliver both a general message and answer questions from the audience. Is the general message directed towards the specific people who are there, or to humankind at large?
EC: They’re very particular to the audience that comes. It’s something I’ve been aware of from the beginning. As much as you can have one statement that is applicable to however many people come, that is! Sometimes it’s just for the three people in the audience who are really listening, or sometimes it’s for everybody. Sometimes one or two sentences in there are only intended for one specific person in the audience, exactly the thing they need to hear, and it ends up in the opening talk.
PQ: You recently put out your first book, Something Makes Me Open My Eyes. How did that come about?
EC: I wanted to put out a book for a long time, and I wanted it to have images alongside the text because beautiful images help people to slow down and absorb the text rather than just fly past the written words. You can’t read these things that way — you have to contemplate them. One of my clients [Jolyn Fry] is an artist who did a series of landscape paintings, most of them from one perspective on Mount Tabor but as different angles on the same perspective, and they felt like a really good match for the talks. So, I went through nine years of talks and the Guidance chose these to go alongside the paintings.
PQ: Are these intended to be Guidance-transmissions for the general audience?
EC: Yes. Some of them are inspirational mediations in nature, others are teachings from talks, but all of them are very general in terms of what the Guidance says to people. It covers a range of people that he often covers in talks.
PQ: Your organization The Sound of Rain is committed to “supporting the work of Emily Carson.” What do you see as that work?
EC: This entity that I call my Guidance has something to share with people — some combination of philosophical paradigms that often end up being a “course correction” of the ways that various parts of the population have gone astray in terms of spiritual philosophy. He, or it, seems to want to address individual’s concerns about how they are going to progress spiritually rather than just providing general messages. He’s doing that with what he wants me to say to people, what he wants me to do with people, and I feel like my whole job and the job of the Sound of Rain is to make that possible. Honestly, my work is just to say what he tells me to say, and to do it exactly right! [laughs] My work is to be totally, 100% true to what the Guidance wants me to say, and the Sound of Rain is the organization that makes that happen with the help of about a dozen volunteers!
PQ: Does the Guidance give a specific teaching of practices — say, a specific meditation form that he teaches?
EC: No — and in fact, when people ask about that, he usually says something very particular to the person that I’m talking to. In general, when it comes to questions about practices and methods, what he normally says is that it almost doesn’t matter what you do. By all means, if you’re called to pray or chant or meditate or spin or do erotic dancing, do what you want to do. What really matters is that your longing for the divine, or for God, or whatever you want to call it, is really palpable to you and that you’re really conscious of it — that you don’t let it recede into the background but instead feel it in you. Feeling that longing and being aware of it drives you to whatever practice, method, or teacher will work for you.
I host a monthly silent meditation gathering, and we just get together and sit in silence. I have no idea what people are doing internally! [Laughs] I think sometimes the practice is sitting there observing “Oh my god! My mind won’t shut up!” for 35 minutes. The method is really not what matters.
PQ: Has there been any specific messages from the Guidance about queer people or the queer population?
EC: You know, honestly, I can’t remember that anybody has ever actually asked about it, which is kind of strange because I have quite a few queer people who see me regularly. In terms of identity questions, though, I don’t think anyone has actually asked. You’d have to be the first!
PQ: May I?
PQ: So, tell us about being queer.
EC: Just to preface it, the Guidance likes to do a back-and-forth, so I’ll probably ask you questions — those are just the questions I’m receiving to ask you.
[A moment of silence.]
Guidance: Why does it matter to you that you’re queer? What difference does it make to you?
PQ: To me personally?
Guidance: You can answer for yourself or for your community if you feel you can speak for them.
PQ: It’s hard for me to speak for the community, but I know that for some queer people in the queer community, they face so much oppression, and have to go through so much to identify with that truth within themselves. Their queer identity is so hard-won that it becomes precious to them.
Guidance: My general sentiment would be that it really matters that you are queer and that you identify with that for as long as it takes for you to feel like you are firmly settled in yourself as you are. But after that, let it go completely. It doesn’t matter at that point how hard-won that battle was — it doesn’t matter what you went through, it doesn’t matter what you suffered. At the point at which that identity is 100% yours, consciously and deeply settled into your personality, then part with it. Let it go, and once again have no idea who you are.
PQ: What does that look like on a practical level in terms of letting it go?
Guidance: It’s very hard to give a prescription like that for a whole group of people, mostly because the adjustment that is required is so fundamentally internal that there may or may not be any change in appearance or even behavior on the part of the individual. Internally, it is a profound difference. The first place you let go of an identity is in your mind. In the same way that you would stop thinking of yourself as any sort of person in particular, you stop thinking of yourself as gay, or bi, or whatever words you’ve used previously to define yourself. But the change goes deeper than that, into a sort of letting-go at the level of your heart, and also at the level of your solar plexus, where your power and your will and your anger reside. In your heart, the change is one of not just loving what you have decided you love, but just loving, period, with no idea of or even need for an object. At the level of your solar plexus, that letting go of identity allows you to keep the sort of power you gained through your struggles but dispense with all the anger, all the blame, and all the judgement that you acquired along the way. Letting go of your identity doesn’t make you less of who you are, because who you are can’t disappear — it has no boundaries. As you’ve already learned, there is no choice about it. But letting go in the way I’ve described makes you free of any need to be anything in particular at all, and allows you to be whatever you are even more fully, and more deeply, than you’ve found so far. The last thing I will say is: please do not attempt this while you are still coming into your own as an individual with a queer identity. That is too soon, and it can’t work. By all means, take this part of your path to its absolute end and then shed that identity — but only then.
PQ: So, Emily, do you ever disagree with what you hear from the Guidance?
EC: The fact is, there are quite a few times when I don’t know where it’s going, so I have no idea if I like it or not! The fact is, when I get these things, I simultaneously can feel in my whole person how completely true it is. There’s so much resonance that there’s not the slightest bit of me that is tweaking or glitching on something that is said. It feels like the truth, and I don’t find myself capable of disagreeing. Perhaps if someone had said that to me, I would have argued, but when it says it to me, it’s like “well, what am I going to say to that? That’s true. I guess I have to deal with that.” I never come away disagreeing with it.
PQ: Do you ever worry about whether the things the Guidance says are politically correct?
EC: You know, I don’t really worry about it, because I’m not really concerned about being popular. I suppose if I was attached to being popular, I would be concerned!
EC: I just say what it says, and some people just really aren’t going to like what I say. I’m just surpised by how gracious my audiences tend to be towards things that contradict their political ideas, or things that they hold really precious. With only a few exceptions, they’re very gracious and open to what they hear. I can only imagine there’s a similar kind of resonance in them that makes them unable to argue, even if it’s not a popular notion. I personally spent a lot of years as a very politically active person, and I’m honestly happy to be done with it — I felt like I exhausted what I had in me for that. I really needed it when I was involved in it, but now the question that comes up in me: “is this really it? So, now what? Really, that’s all? We get mad and eventually there’s aggression and then everything is… better?” I think my Guidance helps me to see another way of approaching it.
PQ: If I can ask the Guidance about what, politically, the next steps for queer people are.
Guidance: I have no political advice, which is to say that no advice that I give do I intend to be political. If you ask me what a gay teen needs to do for himself, I will probably tell you that marches, and long talks with his parents, and a really strong, really “out” primary relationship are great things for him. But that is just an example, and I mean those things to be nourishing and empowering for him personally and not as things that change our sociopolitical structures. The fact is that nothing changes the world except people in the world changing. There’s really no such thing as structures that make us do things — there are personal inhibitions, confusions, and delusions that manifest as structures. The source of the problem is our wrong ideas. Change those, and you have organically all the change you are asking for.
PQ: Some people perceive that there is a lot of fighting in the queer community — a lot of covert hostility and bickering amongst ourselves within the community. Can you, or the Guidance, or whomever is compelled to answer this one, talk about what the root source of this problem is, and how we as a queer community can be kinder to each other?
Guidance: Do you agree with that perception, that covert conflict and bickering exist within your community?
Guidance: The very first thing I would say to that is that everyone who feels that way and sees that with their own families and friends needs to be just as willing as you are to stand up and say “this is happening, we have a problem, let’s do something about it.” That accountability is more than half the battle. The rest of the battle is knowing very deeply that all that contention is nothing but the kind of defensive reaction that people who’ve had a hard time of it gravitate towards. A kind of reaction that is normal, and predictable, and for a while even inevitable, but which ultimately must be overcome for the sake of vulnerability and courage and the kind of surrender it takes to really feel the pain you have rather than fight everybody else over it.
PQ: What about the hostility and oppression we face from outside of the community? Can you speak to the causes of that, and whether there is a solution to it?
Guidance: What I can say is that people who want to overcome their homophobia will, and not everybody does. Not everybody is going to come around to a loving, or even sane position regarding queer issues in your lifetime. There will always be people who hate you for something you can’t change. I want to point out that there are a lot of people, queer and otherwise, who are hated for things they can do nothing about. There is nothing we can do about that sometimes except to learn to be comfortable with hatred as it comes at us. The fact is that hatred from others is painful, but it is far from intolerable — it can be borne just like every other experience, and it is ultimately harmless just like every other experience. That is not to say you should not speak your mind when your mind needs to be spoken. I do not suggest that you cower, and I certainly do not suggest that you hide. But it is not our right to be loved by everybody around us. Nobody is entitled to that, and nobody has that privilege. You must be strong enough to realize that the quality of your life is determined ultimately by your own internal and external actions and not by the thoughts or feelings or behaviors of anyone else. I know this is a tough pill to swallow, particularly for anyone who has been very recently and very egregiously abused, but this is true for all of us. You must trust that you can have the kind of life you want, even while other people’s opinions and laws disrespect, admonish, and even hate you.
PQ: So, Emily, is there anything else you would want the queer community to know about your work?
EC: June 17th, I’m having a day-long retreat around the theme of money, and people can sign up for it on the website. I’m also going to start doing some one-on-one consultations with people specifically around the emotional and psychological roots of their illness, injury, or disease — physical health things, focusing on a diagnostic perspective that you can’t get from your doctor. I’m looking to help people who really have an actual illness or disease, not people who are just like “I’m tired all the time because I can’t get enough sleep.” They don’t need me to tell them to get enough sleep! [laughs] Rather, people who have a psychological component to it that has gone diagnosed and who aren’t getting everything they need from their normal health practices. I have public sittings every three months — the next one is in July — and monthly silent meditation gatherings with a space in between the two sits for people to ask questions about spiritual practice and topics.
PQ: If I may ask the Guidance now, is there anything you’d want readers to walk away from this interview with?
Guidance: Deep inside you there is something full, and rich, and waiting — your queer identity is a part of that, but really only a part. If you can use your explorations of that identity to plunge into the furthest reaches of your own person, then you have used it well. But find your whole potential, and don’t stop until you feel you have absorbed every experience available to you, and until you know yourself so well that even your ideas about yourself become obsolete. Being queer is the beginning of who you are, not the end. Take it all the way into the heart of yourself. Take it all the way home.