Today I am writing about:
1. Amy the CODA, a facilitator at the upcoming
2. Heaven and Earth Life
3. The offerings that Amy is gifting to the Cabin Retreat
guests (see end of story)
Growing older is a funny thing. Watching the years transform the ones we love into who they have always been is a privilege.
As the years go by the past starts to recall like a dream -- like something that you know to be true, but something that you also might have made up.
I guess in the end, the past is something we did make up within each moment.
I want to talk a little bit about my friend Amy. She is going to be facilitating space at the coming Kundalini Yoga Retreat in a few weeks. She is one of those faces from the past who has transformed and shifted -- but always, has remained the same kind, caring, strong and courageous soul I knew her to be when we met back in high school.
If you haven't seen her on the Ascend Mountain Yoga instagram account before, then I need to explain a bit. Amy is a singer -- but you will not hear her sing a note when you watch a Half/Asian + Amy the CODA show. She sings in sign language. A lead singer and non-vocalist.
Hit play and keep reading.
What is a CODA?
CODA is an acronym for Child of Deaf Adult. So the better way to word that question is -- who is a CODA?
There is a portion of the population that share the experience of growing up with parents who are D/deaf. These children are CODA's, and you maybe wouldn't think of it at face value, but that shared cultural experience ultimately is unique to that of those who grow up in households with hearing parents.
As Amy has stepped into her CODA identity, legit calling herself Amy the CODA as a performing handle, I feel like we are all watching her step into a powerful part of herself that was always there...but just...not completely seen. She's not the little scene kid that I met when I was fifteen, nor is she the high achieving student who gave herself complexes demonstrating all of her ability.
Instead, it seems to me, that since saying to the world, "I am Amy, and I am a Child of a Deaf Adult" she's becoming more and more fearless. I believe she's existing in Heaven and Earth life.
What is a "Heaven and Earth Life"?
Heaven and earth lives are the path that calls for courage, focus and highest good. It is the point of the Kundalini kriyas. Heaven and Earth life is the point of inner-work, of hardships and life lessons. A Heaven and Earth life is when you have heard your hearts calling and you know it to be what you are doing. Not what you're meant to do, but what you are.
Does it sound like I'm putting a lot of pressure on Amy right now? Hahaha, it shouldn't. Because the thing is that you can still be yourself, you can still get nervous, you can still wonder if you're doing okay -- but when you are aligned -- when inspiration moves through from the top down to the ground, then you become flow. Opportunities come along as if by design -- so you say "yes, life...I will go for it" and you just do your best.
Heaven and Earth lives require courage, focus and love
I interviewed Amy awhile back (the bolded quotes below are excerpts from that interview process) and we talked about life as CODA. We talked about the reality of "inclusion" and accessibility for the D/deaf community within the world community. We talked about the moment she knew she was different than other kids, and the ways that she understood there was no difference at all.
I believe Amy is walking her Heaven and Earth life because it takes courage to be seen. I believe she is walking her Heaven and Earth life because her focus is noble -- she is creating community space for everyone -- hearing and D/deaf. I believe she is walking her Heaven and Earth life because she is living a purpose that goes beyond her own ambitions. She is motivated by a deep love and belief that everyone deserves to belong.
Not just included. Amy is and has, as long as I have known her, made space for others to belong. Heaven and Earth lives are not about "I" -- Heaven and Earth lives only open up as a channel when we are inspired for us.
You see, I have always admired Amy.
Always. Even when she traced thick eyeliner around her eyes, wore skinny jeans and skater shoes and smoked cigarettes with me.
I admired her because to me -- she carried something that I don't know if many of our peers saw her carry. I don't think our peers saw it all of the time because the way she carried her responsibilities was with love, joy and sincerity.
She carries herself and her task in the same way as an adult. You see, while Amy and I spoke -- I learned an incredible amount about an entire group of people that have always lived alongside me. It took her words to help understand the depth to which contemporary culture excludes the D/deaf community.
Amy the CODA is a lead singer and non-vocalist.
I understood this while she unpacked her experience, her mothers experience, and the complicated ways in which their experiences are not really unique to others of their identification group. Amy is a singer even if she never makes a sound.
Sign language is a language.
It is a language that is spoken all over the globe by citizens born into their home countries; and yet, it is not a recognized official language in most places around the world (Mexico is the only country in North America, many European countries recognize sign language officially -- a few Canadian provinces acknowledge it as a minority language) Only 41 countries out of 198 in the world actually recognize it, and considering Alberta is technically a province that acknowledges ASL as a minority language -- it's not hard to imagine what that governmental commitment looks like in practical application. Even where ASL is recognize the challenges that exist to ensure that basic human rights to language are met are still great.
Consider how difficult navigating bureaucracy can be while you are speaking your native tongue. Imagine the limitations that would be in place in the event that certain "hoops" or "hurdles" did not accommodate your actual language.
Would you feel confident enough to demand your rights? Would you have the time and energy to go through the entire process? What about if you needed to find work -- what would that look like?
I admire where Amy the CODA's path has taken her, because as she embraces her life, self and experience -- she shifts into a space that opens up meaningful advocacy dialogue for those who, often, literally cannot have these conversations to the same calibre.
This, as I understand it, is the bridging experience of being CODA. Of bridging the gap between the D/deaf and hearing communities.
I remember when Amy used to go to her moms work and interpret for her so that she could understand different directives and general information. Amy would duck out of every day high school life and juggle her assignment deadlines, extra curricular clubs and social life -- all without ever mentioning anything to any of us -- her peers.
Amy: "The amount of things [the deaf community] has access to — events, education opportunities, free seminars — it is limited.
It is really hard for a deaf person to want to do something like that and then to ask for that help. Its asking for that cost to come out of somebody else’s pocket — and often they themselves are not well-off enough to just pay for that out of their own pocket.”
I remember when we would all be at parties in the country, bonfires burning, fields lit up by stars. I remember laughing with Amy in the backseat of Alycia's mom's van driving to the city and planning out the next fun thing that was coming down the pipes for our "group". I remember feeling together.
Amy: "...I think about the ways I’ve interacted with the music scene for the last six years and nobody knew that I speak sign language or that my mother is deaf.
I think about the informative years; kindergarten to grade 12 — everyone knew that my mother was deaf — it was so much a part of my identity. And then I left my hometown and moved on with my life and I stopped signing and stopped sharing that part of myself.
That’s why it feels so good to be embracing CODA — I feel like CODA’s bridge two very different cultures. The deaf and the non-deaf.
[HalfAsian] and I have talked about how many similarities CODA’s share with children of first generation immigrants. There is a lot of translation and bridging that is required of the kids — both with language and with culture.
One of our missions as a band is to be willing to look at what doesn’t get talked about and then have those meaningful conversations.”
I remember walking into the little farmhouse of Amy's childhood for the first time and meeting her mom for the first time. I remember realizing that her mom was deaf. I remember standing in Amy's bedroom, the artwork, the drawings, the funky little chair in the corner that she had purchased herself and the collection of photos. I remember her pulling out a photo of her mom..."Look at how beautiful she is" she smiled and as she held out the headshot of her mom from the year that she was Miss Deaf Canada -- a beauty queen.
Amy: "I understood that my mom had some differences but I didn’t feel like it made me different.
I had always spoken in sign with my mom and she had always been my mom.
So, its not like I was grappling with feeling like I didn’t fit in because my mom was deaf. That is just who she is and that is just who I am. Her daughter.
If anything, it made me try harder to make sure that she didn’t feel different or…excluded.”
If you have not already followed Amy the CODA and/or Half/Asian (Ian Griffiths) -- then please, check them out on Instagram. They are social justice advocates, human rights voices and incredibly beautiful hearts just living in joy and sharing their art.
(p.s - lately they've been putting out micro-videos of their song samples and I love their synth-pop sounds.)
Yoga Retreat Programming
Amy and Ian are collaboratively offering a special surprise that will be shown when the schedule is released (haha, yea -- sorry, not a great announcement).
But the thing that I am so excited about is that Amy is bringing with her all of her experience as a photographer and videographer. She will be with us throughout the weekend, participating and also facilitating.
Each of our guests will have the opportunity to sign-up for a one-on-one, private photo session.
If you're joining for this weekend. Please do not let that scare you. Please, instead, meet that nervous feeling in your stomach as the tinglings of excitement. The fast heart is telling you that this is a process of empowerment.
Be seen. Be loved.
You are so supported by my dear, and old friend, Amy the CODA. I know her heart to be one that is here to lift others up. I am so deeply honoured and grateful to be standing alongside her with all of our guests.
All of my love to anyone who read this far, have a wonderful day.