I live and work on the ancestral lands of the Tongva/Kitz people, and I recognize the problematic space I occupy as an Asian American settler (especially considering I live close by a California Mission, which was built by the enslaved ancestors of the Tongva/Kitz people). Though the Tongva tribe is recognized by the State of California, it lacks federal recognition, which denies them the ability to negotiate with the United States government as a sovereign state.
As an outsider, I am doing my best to educate myself on the history of what has happened to this tribe, however I also lack the relationships with the tribe to effectively understand the nuances of the Tongva/Kitz names and provide support in a way that embodies decolonization. This is work that I am committed to doing, and want to do both carefully and slowly so that I do not inadvertently cause further harm.
To go beyond acknowledgement, I make a monthly financial kuuyam nahwá’a (guest exchange) to the Tongva Taraxat Paxaavxa Conservancy, the Tongva-led land conservancy in Tovaangar/LA where land has rightfully returned to their hands for the first time ever.
If you identify as Kitz or Tongva and and are reading this, please contact me and I would love to offer pro bono services to you and/or your tribe.
Hi, I'm Emily (she/her)
and I’m the human behind My Invisible Knapsack!
I help you get out of your head, into your feelings and body.
Why I Do This Work
We need spaces to hold our individual, collective and intergenerational grief, anger, and all the emotions that come with processing racial trauma. If we do not do the internal healing work, our efforts to create systemic change will only reproduce systems of inequity, just with a different flavor
My Mind-Heart-Spirit-Body Journey
Though I was born and raised in the greater Los Angeles area, I always felt like an outsider in my own community. My parents were evangelical Korean Christians and I was raised to obey and to serve, especially as a young girl. I was raised in an ethnic enclave and then suddenly thrust into the public education system, where no one else spoke my language or shared my culture. I was constantly see-sawing between a strict Confucian, patriarchal culture to one that promised me acceptance and equal rights as a woman if I drank the white supremacy kool aid. I had to learn how to navigate between these two worlds on my own and it was confusing and really hard.
A childhood photo of me at school during Halloween. My mother put me in a hanbok (traditional Korean attire) and told everyone I was a Korean princess for Halloween.
My junior year school photo, aka my "twinkie" years
I ended up spending my formative years in a predominantly white, upper middle class neighborhood. As a teenager, desperately wanting (and failing) to “fit in,” I got as close to whiteness as I possibly could. I rejected my culture, my parents’ religion and called myself a “twinkie” (yellow on the outside, white on the inside). I read a ton, unconsciously used that to develop my understanding of dominant culture, and tried to emulate my understanding of typical teenager life. To cut a long story short, I was in a massive identity crisis.
However, all this changed when I studied Asian American Studies as my undergraduate major. It was a total 🤯 moment and transformed my worldview. I finally saw my lived experiences reflected in the classroom, and it helped me understand myself and place my family history in a historical context tied to U.S. political, economic and military action in and towards East Asia. It was a powerful experience that forever changed my life trajectory and cemented my life’s work: to help make this world a more equitable place.
Me at a leadership retreat right after college, wearing a shirt in remembrance of Vincent Chin
Me questioning my life choices on top of a mountain in Colorado at sunrise, during a training for my teaching fellowship
I was really into androgyny at the time, so I looked like this while living in a predominantly white, small town.
However, at this point in my life, I was only in my head, thinking that intellect and theory would be enough. Life soon challenged these assumptions, when I got a teaching fellowship in a small, tourist town in the middle of the Rocky Mountains. It was an incredible experience where I got to work with amazing students and live in gorgeous nature, but I was waaaay out of my depth and completely overwhelmed.
I was in massive culture shock as a big city girl moving to a small town, for the first time I felt the weight of the word “minority” being one of a handful of Asian faces in the entire area, I was far away from my entire support network, and I was somehow supposed to teach using innovative and experiential methods in the midst of dealing with a year-long anxiety attack. I reacted by raising my walls, and I often felt like I was emotionally trapped in the bottom of a well. It was one of the hardest and most eye-opening experiences of my life, which eventually led to a spiritual awakening.
It took a good year of processing to understand what I just went through, and in time, I walked away with many important lessons learned. The most necessary and transformative lesson was the importance of compassion and humanization at the center of social justice work. I experienced the limitations of ivory tower theories. I saw firsthand what it felt like to work with people who claimed they were for social justice, but their own wounds and/or privilege blinders continued to show up and cause massive harm to others around them. Action alone wasn’t enough to shift the world towards equity, and that our success was tied to our individual and collective personal development and healing.
So for many years, I was comfortable in my head and in my spiritual beliefs, but I remained disconnected from my feelings and my body (which I’ve since learned that they are completely intertwined!). I’ve always felt deeply and cried easily, but I didn’t always know what I was feeling or why I was feeling emotional.
As it turned out, getting laid off from my job at the beginning of the pandemic ended up leading me to coaching and somatic healing. I clearly remember my first training that incorporated some somatic exercises—I was so disconnected from my body that I felt numb, and completely bewildered by how deeply others seemed to be aware of their bodies.
Since then, I’ve continued to learn and deepen my own somatic practice and I’ve learned where I consistently store tension and anxiety in my body. I’m slowly and gently learning to unpack what is being held, and I’m continually amazed by the layers of depth, wisdom and knowledge in my body. I’ve also transformed my relationship with my body, befriending it with care, honoring its boundaries, and treating it as a dear friend, rather than constantly judging, distancing, and battling my body as an enemy to be conquered.
So that brings me about to now. I’ve learned a lot, and I still have a lot to learn, but what I do know is this: to truly move our world towards antiracism, it requires tending to the wounds of dehumanization left by systemic oppression. This healing process is a holistic one, engaging our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits. It is an embodied act of communion and community.
And this is our work together
Somatics has helped me transform my relationship with my body, so I've been able to exercise more regularly and actually enjoy it, rather than having it feel like torture.
Pandemic life with a young child
Certifications, Education, and Training
Associate Certified Coach • International Coaching Federation
Organizational and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) • CRR Global
Certified Professional Coach (CPC) • Coaching for Transformation, Leadership that Works India
Social Justice Training Institute • Intern
Cross-Cultural Facilitation Skills for Diversity Trainers, Educators & Therapists • Stirfry Seminars
Mediation Training Emphasizing Cross Cultural Competency • Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center
M.Ed • Counseling and Personnel Services / College Student Personnel • University of Maryland
B.A. • Asian American Studies • University of California, Los Angeles
My Invisible Knapsack
A world where all people are safe and feel worthy, belonging, and wholeness.
Coaching and facilitating for healing and liberation, focused on supporting Black Indigenious People of Color (BIPOC) who want to embrace their authentic selves, embody personal values, and resist the oppressive forces of white supremacy, capitalism, and colonization.
defined as: freedom from oppression
- an embodied and spiritual practice
- an act of creativity
- a space where we all have agency and are already whole
defined as: taking care of each other
- with healthy boundaries that also honor self-care
- meets our core human need for belonging
- relational, not transactional
defined as: loving kindness
- requires the courage to be vulnerable
- creates space for witnessing and healing
- helps us feel safe on a somatic level
defined as genuine, real
- having the integrity and courage to show up as myself
- living in alignment with my values
- listening and honoring my intuitive self