Artist, Ellen Sauer
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Love and Fear

Love = Feelings of empowerment, creativity, and the willingness to risk.

Fear = I might lose whatever it is that’s important to me because I’m stepping away from what is acceptable to my family/group/culture.

Keep in mind that…

Consciousness is a cloud of potential awareness, part of the unseen world that permeates all of the space and material of existence. We grow in consciousness in response to different conditions life presents to us and must consider how we’ll respond. Will we respond from an internal position of love, or will we choose to react in fear?

If we move into this Re-individuate & Risk facet of consciousness in any area of life, it means that living by a culturally accepted rule now feels so constricting that we must stop living by it. We feel discomfort because the rule doesn’t align with our core self and because of that, feels irrelevant and possibly even obstructive to our lives. This can happen in any area of life. As I said in the last chapter, moving out of a role that is socially acceptable to align with inner truth from our core self can feel as painful as a divorce. After we’ve taken this step often enough, the fear we feel in the Comply facet of consciousness is no longer able to control us. We begin to live more areas of life in alignment with our core self.

Remember that this facet of consciousness describes all of the following:

  • It is a facet of human development that we continuously go through, in every aspect of life, throughout our lives; and because of that, it also is
  • A facet in which an aspect of ourselves can either participate or be stuck, while the dominant part of us lives from within a different facet of consciousness;
  • And can be the dominant facet of consciousness expressed by a group, while individual members may be primarily functioning from within another facet.

Think of this move into the Re-individuate & Risk facet of consciousness as an uptick in independent, critical, and creative thinking. What does it look like in life when we stop following a rule or stop trying to live a version of ourselves that no longer fits? Have you ever stood up to a friend when he or she has said something racist, and risked losing that friend? Have you stopped someone who is objectifying or catcalling a woman or girl, and risked being maligned yourself? Have you come out to your family and friends as gay, lesbian, or transgender, and risked losing them? Have you ever left a church because it no longer supported your spiritual growth, and risked losing family and friends who still belong to that church? Have you ever had to stand up to a bully at work and risked losing your job? Have you decided to eat vegetarian food even though you’re immersed in a family culture that is all about meat, and risked being ridiculed? These are all examples of personal Re-individuation & Risk. It takes courage to be true to ourselves when who we have become goes against the grain of the family/group/culture in which we are immersed.

One of the ways this shift from Comply into Re-individuate & Risk occurred in my personal life is that I’ve stopped trying to create the structure of an idealized marriage. We begin learning about it in the fairy tales of early childhood and that story had a very strong hold on me. I have been married and divorced four times. In our society, that is viewed as failure on a fairly grand scale.

I used to feel that way about myself too. I thought something was lacking in me—“if I were a better person, maybe one of those marriages would have lasted.” Now I view it both as an education and a personal journey, one that has been filled with the risk of losing family and friends with each divorce. My family of origin was Catholic, a religion in which divorce is forbidden. But even without that background, our culture views 50th wedding anniversaries as a huge cause for celebration, and more than one divorce as cause for ridicule and embarrassment.

I want to tell you about this part of my life because we can have the idea that moving from one facet of consciousness into another is clean and happens all at once. It can be that way. But most of the time, it’s messy and the process is slow and difficult.

I left the last marriage when the risk of staying became much greater than the risk of leaving, and when leaving became the only answer to the question: “What would Love do if the answer includes me?”

The fairy tale story of love was yet to be rewritten in me. During my last marriage, I painted two oil paintings of my husband and myself, setting the intention with every brushstroke that the love we shared would be large enough to sustain us. When I left him, I brought the paintings with me, along with a mixed media artwork that friends Cheryl and Ellen had created for my fourth husband and I for our wedding. When I settled into my apartment and unpacked the paintings, they simply made me feel sad.

I thought about burning them—making it a ceremony by doing it with friends. When I told my friend Ellen what I was thinking about doing, she suggested that it might be more useful to create something new with it instead of just letting the artwork go up in smoke. I cut the two portraits into strips and my friend Cheryl helped me weave one into the other.

 “Reweaving the Patriarchal Story of Love.”

30”x30” Mixed Media

Contributing Artists: Ellen Sauer, Cheryl Spieth Gardner, and Regina Leffers

I stitched the weaving together, and stitched the little portrait of Kwan Yin[2] onto the weaving. Then I appliqued pieces of Cheryl and Ellen’s mixed media artwork onto the weaving. That’s Ellen’s river and palm tree and Cheryl’s poppies and little handmade ceramic fish, shells, and stars that are sprinkled throughout. Now this piece, “Reweaving the Patriarchal Story of Love,” hangs in my living room, and when I look at it, instead of sadness, I feel joy. I actually feel joy. The fairy tale story of love has been rewoven inside of me, and I am released from its hold.

I have always felt differently at my core with my friends than I have with a partner. I didn’t always know that—it lived beneath the surface of my own consciousness. With a partner, I felt ultimately unlovable, unworthy, and unwanted. Because of that, I felt the need to continually prove to my partner that I deserved to be loved, wanted, and treated as worthy. With my friends, I have always felt the opposite. I know that I am loved and accepted exactly as I am.

My partners treated me as I treated myself within the partnership. My friends treat me as I treat myself within the friendship.

Recognizing that difference and the mirrored quality—from/in my brain, to/in my world—allowed me to get to the underlying subconscious material and unpack it.

My friend John Beams, who is also a member of this book’s Focus Group, brought the following quote from Thomas Keating to me. I love it because it does a good job of explaining why one area of life may be stuck within one facet of consciousness, while we live predominantly within another facet. Father Keating says:

“We can have a mystical experience at any stage of development. But if we have…no practice to heal our early emotional wounds, that energy is not digested. If you have high graces and mystical unions, but other lines of development are incomplete, then the shadow will appear, even as you move forward spiritually.”[3]

Translated into the language of consciousness, Keating is saying that even as we explore multiple facets of consciousness, and live predominantly within a more expanded facet, unhealed material in any area of life can keep us stuck within a less expanded facet.

When we leave a marriage or church, or do anything to align with our own truth, our own core self, but that goes against the grain of our dominant family/group/culture, we can take those actions from love or from fear. If we take the action from fear, we will likely feel victimized and find ourselves bashing the person/church/etc. If on the other hand, we take the action from love, we will find ourselves looking for lessons learned and being grateful for the experience. It is always possible to stop bashing and look for lessons learned.

Gratitude is a transformative tool.

One Action to Take Today to Explore Consciousness:

Think about what love is in Re-individuate & Risk—feelings of empowerment, creativity, and the willingness to risk. Ask yourself to feel what that love feels like in the body. Now think about what fear is in Re-individuate & Risk—I might lose whatever it is that’s important to me because I’m stepping away from what is acceptable to my family/group/culture. What does that fear feel like in the body? Notice any areas of life where these thoughts or feelings are present. Ask yourself to inhale the feeling, and exhale peace into that feeling. Repeat several times. Repeat whenever you feel fear of any kind.

[2] Kwan Yin is the Buddhist Bodhisattva of Compassion.

[3] From an interview: “A Spiritual Life Review with Father Thomas Keating.” Dr. Connie Zweig. The Reinvention of Age. March 27, 2018.

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