When I heard about the virtual workshop Shannon Kelly had designed, I knew I wanted to interview her about it because it's message stirred something in me.
Personally I've been struggling mightily since the election of our POTUS. I've felt victimized by the many unflattering emotions and thoughts I've been experiencing since the day of his election, and after many discussions, arguments, and tears, I'll admit I've often felt a level of helplessness and a sense of doom I've not experienced before. I've felt untethered, ineffective and uninspired as an American citizen. I know that the Trump presidency has awakened something in me, and until now, I felt that my only alternative was to hide, shut down, numb out or do my very best to ride this presidential term out. After concluding this interview, I'm willing to believe in another possibility; I'm willing to believe that what's being exposed and activated in me, is in fact my work to reveal and heal.
I thought of you beautiful seekers and healers who may also appreciate this interview and jump at the chance to engage in some deep cathartic inner work with Shannon's Standing in the Shadow of Trump workshop. Here is our Interview:
Monica: Where were you the evening of the 2017 Presidential Election and please share a version of events that best describes your emotional state when you learned the outcome of the race.
Shannon: I felt my heart sinking around 10:30 or 11pm. I went from a feeling of hope and pride to disbelief to nausea to panic. I finally went to bed, unable to face the results. When I woke up the next day, I was completely floored and devastated. I had an 8am coaching call and made a (wrong) assumption that my client would be similarly distressed. When I asked, "how are you doing?" She said, "well, I am actually really happy about the outcome!" Talk about a need for a quick perspective shift on my part!
Since the election, I have been disheartened by the daily stress of having an inexperienced and reactive person in the role of POTUS, as well as the actions of his supporters. However, I am grateful that the racism, sexism, xenophobia and all the other "isms" are coming out of the shadows and the Left is snapping out of complacency. I started Standing in the Shadow of Trump because we on the Left are suffering, and we are often the cause of that suffering. We are drowning in rage, blame, and self-righteous indignation. This is great when it has us take empowered action but deadly and divisive when it isn't channeled for good.
Monica: Have you always been politically involved? If yes, can you share your earliest memory of your awareness of politics and your role?
Shannon: I was the 8th child (and one of only two girls) born to a US Army Major General and a 'traditional', southern belle, stay-at-home-mom. They were conservative, right-wing, and Catholic, and from a very young age I knew I was very, very different. The thirst for social justice was born in me when I first moved to North Carolina and was teased and shunned by white girls because I "hung out with the black girls." I was 8 years old and the shock of this woke me up early. All I knew in my early years was Reagan-Bush. I was so excited to cast my first vote for Bill Clinton, and later, Ralph Nader, John Kerry, Hlllary Clinton, Obama, and Hillary again. Two out of six ain’t bad?
Monica: At what point did you become an “activist” and what does that term mean to you?
Shannon: My first activist moments were standing up for people on the playground. I wrote impassioned editorials for my high school paper, spoke before the school administration on issues like sexism in the dress code and mandatory dissection in required courses. In college I found feminism and attended and spoke at many rallies focused on sex, race, and gay rights. I also went into social work as a career and focused on various social justice issues for the first 15 years of my professional life.
"My first activist moments were standing up for people on the playground."
Monica: Why do you think we have not yet had a Female President represent our country and how does that impact you?
Shannon: I think that our country is a lot more sexist than many would like to admit. The intensity of the contempt leveled at Hillary Clinton, while not totally unexpected, took my breath away on a daily basis during the campaign. We have a long way to go. I was part of the Facebook group Pantsuit Nation before the election and the thrill and optimism from women of all ages about having the first female president was intoxicating and uplifting. I wept openly when I cast my vote for HRC because I was so thrilled to vote for whom I was sure would be the first female POTUS.
Monica: At what point did you realize that this election - Challenge/ Upset was actually an opportunity for personal growth and what about it is personal for you?
Shannon: I turned 45 in April and I was so upset, not about getting older but because “HE” was “45”—meaning, Donald Trump was the 45th president and I had taken to calling him, “45.” I have done my own and facilitated other’s shadow work and other personal growth work for a long time, and I joked to a friend that I would have to name a workshop, “I am 45.” The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I needed to create a different sort of activist space, that focused on the inner, on what we could impact, and on the deep well of grief that many of us are covering over with rage or numbing out with wine and apathy.
There is a different way to create change that starts by looking within. There has never been a public figure who is a clearer mirror for some of the most difficult aspects of human nature: a narcissist, a pathological liar, a racist, a show-off. How do those qualities live in you, and in me? How do we use what is happening “out there” to heal and illuminate what lives in each of our hearts?
Monica: In order to get the benefits of your workshop, do you have to be “against” Trump? Do you have to have been “for" Hillary Clinton?
Shannon: You don’t have to have been “for” Hillary for sure. You could have even voted for Trump. But you need to be deeply disillusioned and distressed by what he is currently up to, and to know that most of the people taking the workshop probably did not vote for him. There is no political discussion or arguing, though. The focus is on each participant and their growth and learning.
Monica: What do you want to say to those who of us have remained on the sidelines and not gotten involved in politics in the past?
"You don’t have to be an activist in the traditional sense to feel ACTIVATED by what is happening in our country right now."
Shannon: You don’t have to be an activist in the traditional sense to feel ACTIVATED by what is happening in our country right now. This is a beautiful place to start, in a supportive community who are open to taking responsibility what they are creating and who know that simply fighting and making the other side wrong isn’t working.
Monica: What is your dream for our countries future? What vision do you hold for the United States that you want to share with others?
Shannon: Human rights for all. Healthcare for all. A real living minimum wage. A return to a more progressive tax code. Campaign finance reform. So many things. We are so wealthy. We are so lucky and blessed. And yet there is so much disparity between white and black, poor and rich, on and on.
Monica: Who is your greatest female hero and what values and qualities does she embody that you aspire to, or admire…
Shannon: The spiritual teacher Gangaji. She stands for liberation, truth, freedom, and love. She is deep, wise, honest, hilarious, and humble.
Same question for male….
Right now, my friend John Gatto. He has dedicated his life to service. He recently lost his precious husband and he is sitting in the fire of grief, loss, and growth. He is definitely one of my heroes.
Same question for transgender…
Glennda, a late friend from many years back, full of fierce love and radical self-acceptance.
Monica: What made you believe that you could make a difference with this type of workshop? Did you experience something that gave you the idea?
Shannon: I knew I needed it desperately. And If you need something, and are moved by something, your world usually needs it too. I took a deep breath, made it up, and off I went with it.
Monica: You named your workshop: “Standing in the Shadow of Trump” and I make up that you are using that title as a play on words and also notice that you cast the shadow in the marketing image of yourself. What do you want us to know about the “shadow" and how did you come to choose that title?
"The shadow is the part (s) of us that we disown, dislike, and don’t want to look at or take responsibility for."
Shannon: The shadow is the part (s) of us that we disown, dislike, and don’t want to look at or take responsibility for. And unfortunately, when we don’t look at those parts, they often run our lives. Only when we shine the light of consciousness can we recognize, acknowledge, forgive and change these things—first in ourselves, and then in others. What I see and abhor in Trump lives in me, and in you. When we dare to see how, we can experience true freedom.
Monica: In The Revelation Project we use the phrase “What gets revealed gets healed” - What is your greatest revelation for yourself around this work and how did it offer “healing” ?
Shannon: My greatest revelation thus far is that I, like Trump, can get very hateful towards those who believe differently than me. Charlottesville about did me in—I was blind with rage and hatred toward the marchers and spent an inordinate amount of time focused on railing against them, reading about them on Twitter, and being excited when they were “taken down.” None of these behaviors actually creates the change I want in the world and in our country. They are just like what I say I can’t stand. This is only one example, there are plenty more! Trump is a surprisingly good teacher if I let him be.
"Trump is a surprisingly good teacher if I let him be."
Monica: For participants on the fence about doing the workshop, what can you tell them about this work that might further compel them to enroll themselves. Whats available for them? What feels urgent?
Shannon: A beautiful, supportive, tender and thoughtful community of allies. Acceptance wherever you are in your process. Freedom to speak or be silent in the large group. Small group activities where you can share more privately. Lots of “aha” moments. Peace of mind and even some laughter and fun. Please join me—this work is profound and in our own individual way, we can each ignite the change we long for in our world. Finally, if you want to attend, and you sincerely cannot afford it, please contact me and offer what you can. The last thing I would want is for the price to keep someone who is burning to do this work away.
About Shannon Kelly:
Shannon brings authenticity, love, and courage to the circles of belonging she creates as a coach, psychotherapist, and designer and leader of personal and professional growth seminars. She helps people be more creatively and spiritually fulfilled; bold, alive, and awake; and at peace with themselves and their lives. Shannon utilizes a creative, active, personalized approach, and is committed to evoking transformation in individuals, groups, and organizations.
To learn more about Shannon Kelly and her work in the world please click here.
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