Spiritual teacher Emily Carson on queerness, oppression, and identity
By Nick Mattos, PQ Monthly
At first glance, Emily Carson seems like a common Portland woman. She certainly doesn’t fit the popular perception of an enlightened spiritual teacher, and for good reason — she, by her own admission, is not enlightened.
However, Carson’s life took a fascinating turn when she began to receive messages from an enlightened being that she calls “Guidance.” Now, nearly a decade later, Carson regularly transmits the Guidance’s messages to packed audiences in several states, leaving many marveling at the wise, incisive, and at times confrontational messages from the entity.
PQ sat down with Carson to talk about her work and to seek the Guidance’s, well, guidance on the challenges of queer identity and 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 accidentally, actually. I started doing some personal, internal work. … 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. … 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. … 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.
PQ: [Asking the Guidance] 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.
Guidance: Why does it matter to you that you’re queer? What difference does it make to you?
PQ: It’s hard for me to speak for the community, but I know that for some queer people, they face so much oppression, and have to go through so much to identify with that truth within themselves. Their identity is so hard-won that it becomes precious to them.
Guidance: … 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 percent 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 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: … 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: If I may ask the Guidance, 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.
Check out the full version of this interview on the PQ Monthly blog. Emily Carson holds regular public sittings, meditation groups, and retreats in Portland, San Francisco, and Mt. Shasta. She also offers one-on-one consultations for those dealing with illness and injury. For more information about Emily Carson and the Guidance, visit www.soundofrain.org.