Donna Quesada: Well, welcome Seane!
Seane Corn: Thank you so much. It’s my pleasure to be here.
DONNA: It’s a delight to finally meet you. I’ve been a fan of your work for many years.
SEANE: Thank you.
DONNA: And I’d like to thank you on behalf of awaken.com,as well. So, I don’t know if you know, but we have a fun little tradition. We like to sort of start in the deep end, so to speak. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to ask you what it means to you, to awaken?
SEANE: To awaken means to do the inner work or inside-out transformational change. Remember who I am… my higher self. So, I can remember who we are to each other. To embrace the God within, and within all, so we can show up in the world and do what needs to be done. In order to create an equitable and free and fair and safe and peace-filled world for all. And so, waking up means to reconnect with our higher essence, so we can love bigger than we ever imagined possible.
DONNA: That’s a tough bill. So, it’s doing the inner work.
DONNA: Do you think there are degrees of awakening, or is there such thing as a complete, once and for all enlightenment? And are we talking about enlightenment, here?
SEANE: I mean, maybe there is enlightenment. I certainly haven’t experienced that, so I wouldn’t know, on a personal level. In my own experience, it’s degrees of evolution. That spirit seems to meet you where you are at. It gives you the essential life lessons and tools for integration. And then, as you are ready, or sometimes even before you are ready, more information is provided, that allows us to continually step up our game.
So, I do think it comes in degrees. For years, when I got into Yoga, when I was 19… My practice was purely physical, for five years. I could care less about prayer or any relationship with God. It meant nothing to me. All I cared about was the health and wellness of my physical body. And it took five years of hard-core Yoga before I ever had an emotional response in a yoga pose. And of course, the emotional response is what opened my heart, and helped me to connect more to spirit. It doesn’t mean that those five years of extra push-ups were meaningless. I had so much tension and so much resistance that all of that was essential to break down the control of protection that had built up within my body… to allow me to safely feel. It was an integral part of the process… as important as anything else.
Yeah, there were degrees of awakening that happened, that allowed me to get comfortable in my skin… more grounded in my body. That then opened me to another level of emotional awareness, which when integrated… helped move me into a deeper spiritual practice. So, I think it’s going to be different for all souls. I don’t think enlightenment should be the goal. Empowerment is something that we can do today. But enlightenment takes lifetimes.
DONNA: I love that. There’s so much I want to respond to. You’ve said so many interesting things. For example, I’d like to talk more about the role of asana. One thing at a time. I’m so excited to pick your brain. In preparing for this interview… I’ll just take a step back here. I watched another interview with you that you did. It’s probably been a few years, you’ll correct me, with Waylon Lewis, from Elephant Journal. And it was such a fascinating story you shared with him about those days when you first got into Yoga, and you were invited on The Today Show… And you stayed up all night thinking about, what is Yoga? They are going to ask me, what is Yoga?… And you froze, and you didn’t like what you said. And so, I want to ask you today… As you sit here today, with us… what is Yoga?
SEANE: It’s as complex today as it was 25 years ago, when I was on The Today Show, and had to really ponder that. I mean, of course, Yoga means to come together and make whole and it recognizes that there is no separation between anything. But I think, ultimately, Yoga is about recognizing that liberation is bound. And that no one can be free unless we are all free… and that Yoga provided the pathway and the tools in order to reconnect with our true identity, and cultivate the empathy necessary, so I can care about the world around me, as an extension of my own inner self. And Yoga helps us understand that inter-dependency… that connection, and give us a philosophy that allows us to be able to stand in the presence of our own fractured self, with access to healing those parts, so that we can heal the world around us.
DONNA: So, it’s all about healing.
SEANE: It’s all about connections. And the pathways that can lead to healing, that the practice of Yoga can provide.
DONNA: Now, you spoke about true identity, and in my tradition, which is Kundalini Yoga, we call that sat nam. What do you mean by true identity? What do you say when somebody says, “what do you mean by that? Here I am… what is my true identity?” How do you bring that into a sort of… understandable vocabulary?
SEANE: When I think about God or Goddess or whatever it is that you want to call it… how I define that which lies within, with truth and love… and that which exists within, exists within all. So, to me, our true identity is truth. Our true identity is love. Everything else is fodder for experience that allows our soul to mature. But who we are is pure love and it’s something that we awaken to. Unfortunately, within our culture, we are seeking for this thing. But to seek is to look for something that is outside of us. So, our work is to go back in and develop the self-confidence necessary, so that we can trust our inner guidance. And this requires us to reframe our story. To understand the power of the ego. To be in a relationship with our shadow self. So that we can truly integrate. And so, our highest self… our true identity is the love… the light that is within. That’s God.
DONNA: That’s beautiful. So, we were talking about empowerment and healing. How did Yoga empower you, in this way? So that you could connect and experience that transformation for yourself. Would you mind sharing a bit of your own story?
SEANE: Like I said, it’s self-confidence. Self-esteem is a pandemic in our culture. Systems are set up to constantly make us second guess our own essence. The systems are designed to make us feel less than. Unlovable. Too old. Too weak. Too Skinny. Too fat. Whatever it might be, but never enough. And my work is to recognize the impulse of the shadow. Not to buy in to those narratives. The way in which it is more comfortable within our consciousness to move towards feeling like a victim… or, blaming someone else, instead of seeing a bigger spiritual picture as to why things happen as they have. And to recognize that we can’t change what is.
It just happens. And sometimes the events that happen within our lives are incomprehensible. But, there is always meaning, even in the devastation. Even in the heartbreak. Even in the loss. And, if we can see a bigger, spiritual picture to the events in our lives… heal from the ways that we have been disempowered… call our power back… recognize that it is through our judgement that we learn compassion… it’s through our loss that we learn acceptance… through our fear that we can embrace faith…
And as we begin to reflect and reframe these narratives, as sometime more useful to our higher consciousness, then we can begin to trust our intuition. Intuition is not a gift… it’s a skill. Everyone is intuitive but when you have low self-esteem, you don’t trust it. So, my work, in terms of moving towards empowerment, was to reframe my narratives, develop my self-esteem, and move towards trusting my intuition, no matter where it took me. And especially, if I was like, oh God… not there… that seems messy! Just to believe that the messiness is where I need to be… because it’s within the messiness that I will continue to transcend. And instead of resisting it… just accepting it and moving forward.
So, empowerment is something that happens every day in different ways. Within our work. Our creativity. Our sexuality. Our relationships. Enlightenment…I don’t even hold on to that as a goal. If it happens, it happens. It’s not going to happen in this lifetime, I’ll tell you that. The complexities of the ego are too huge. Trauma is massive and my trauma is not only in present time… It’s historical. It’s ancestral. It’s cultural. It lives within the body. This takes life-times to unpack. And so, if I can put down the burden of enlightenment as some kind of goal and instead look towards empowerment as something that I can work with, and in relationship to… then I think the path is much more liberating, and not as pressure filled.
DONNA: How did Yoga do that for you? How did it bring you to that place that you were able to sit with that discomfort?
SEANE: Like I said, It’s its own unique pathway. When I got into Yoga, I was young. I was 19 years old, and it was not because I was interested in anything spiritual. For me, I can look back on it now, and I can see it was destined. It was karmic. Maybe it was just dumb luck. Just because of where I was at that time. I lived on the lower east side of Manhattan, in the East Village. And I worked at this place called Life Café. It was owned by a man named David Life. And he and his partner, Sharon Gannon… She was a waitress there. Eddie Stern, who went on to open the Ashtanga Shala, in New York City, was a delivery boy. And at that time, back in the 80’s, they were doing a lot of Yoga… talking about it a lot.
And within this café, there was a division. There were people doing Yoga, and there were people doing drugs. And I was on the side of the people doing drugs. And David, at one point… he didn’t force everyone to do Yoga, but basically said, “look, you have an opportunity here to learn something about Yoga, to live a more meaningful life, to be more conscious in your intentions, to eat vegan…. do that, or find a different job.” And I made the decision that I wanted to try this thing. And so, I went and practiced Yoga and my body adapted to it quickly. I’m strong and flexible. But, I couldn’t breathe properly. I fidgeted, like crazy. I fantasized, non-stop. It was very hard for me to get present in my body. But the habits, the drugs, the alcohol, the smoking, the bad eating… Eventually, I didn’t want to put those things in my body because it just didn’t make me feel good.
So, that was the first step of empowerment. Realizing that to feel better in my body, I had choice. And, I could… every day be diligent about those choices, to be in service to my health and wellness. Well, after years of practicing yoga, it wasn’t emotional… it wasn’t spiritual. But, it was evolutionary. And, the one day I was in a Yoga class… I was in LA at that time. And I could not get comfortable in my body. The sensation. It was in my hips. Was so intense. It wasn’t painful, but I couldn’t focus. My mind was everywhere. I was projecting all over the woman next to me. And mean-spirited, internally. And then all of a sudden, I gasp. I feel like this gulp got caught in the back of my throat. And I realized I was going to cry. And I didn’t know why. Everything was fine in my life. My body started to tremble. I knew I was going to lose it. And I actually had to get up and leave the room. I went into the bathroom at the school. And I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. And my hands were shaking and I couldn’t understand what was happening.
Eventually, I went back into the room, got into the pose on the other side, and heard everything the teacher was saying, in a completely different way. It was somehow… all those years of contraction… of me being so addicted to my tension… slowly chipped away. And it allowed my body to discharge the accumulated energy… the tension within, to make more space.
After that, I became obsessed with the mind-body connection. What are these narratives that live in the body? How long have they been there for? How does it work physiologically? Is there a chemical response to trauma? Is trauma individual? Is it collective? And it forced me to have to look at my own narratives. Where I come from. Who are my family? What are the traumas in my own body? Have they been reconciled spiritually? So, my practice moved from a physical/mental practice, into an energy/emotional one. And it’s stayed there for a very long time.
And it was in that process, that I had to re-evaluate who I was… where I came from… what I believed… And ultimately, it was through the release of tension that moved me into my vulnerability. And it was my vulnerability that opened me to God. It helped me to surrender. So, empowerment came from moving from the physical, into embracing my vulnerability. The more feminine aspects of my being. And from there, once I was able to begin…I don’t want to suggest to anyone that is listening, that it’s a one and done. It’s an ongoing process of reframing narratives. But really asking myself… Why am I here? Why am I in this body? And… What is God? And… Do I care? And… Does it matter? And… What is love? And… Is that enough?
And the philosophy of Yoga helped me to understand that we are here in these bodies to learn what love is. Everything happens the way that it needs to, in order for the maturation of the soul… that we all have Karma to burn and lessons to learn. And the work of Yoga teaches us to be in relationships. All aspects of our being. Not just the parts we like. But, our rage, our shame, our fear, our grief… To be in that relationship is also going to teach us acceptance and compassion and surrender.
And so, that became a very empowered time within my practice. That led me to where I’m at in my practice today, which is service. Which is moving from the individual to the collective. Recognizing that our liberation is bound. Seeing the ways that I am complicit in the suffering of others. Really, because of my own privilege… because of my own ignorance… because of the systems that are in place and my own internalized biases. This is where my Yoga has evolved to. But, it was the empowerment of moving into my body, of connecting with my emotions, of embracing the individual path, cultivating forgiveness and empathy, that allowed me to look off the map and see the world as an extension of my ever-beating heart. And knowing that I have a responsibility to be of service. Especially because I have privilege. But part of the empowerment is recognizing that. And not allowing limiting beliefs… low self-esteem, or my own arrogance get in the way of what needs to be done, in order to alleviate suffering for all.
Read and Watch Part 1 Here: Awaken Interviews Seane Corn Pt 2 – Moving From The Individual To The Collective
Read and Watch Part 3 Here: Awaken Interviews Seane Corn Pt 3 – Service To Something Bigger Than Myself