Ellen Sauer

Dissonance

Several months ago, I wrote a blog about keeping the peace and what that phrase has come to mean for me. I feel the most peaceful when I remember that we are all connected in the deepest, most intricate of ways – each of us to every one and every thing, seen and unseen. There is not one thing we do or action we take or belief we hold that doesn’t affect the whole.

It’s all about connections – seeing connections, shedding light on forgotten connections, clearing out anything that gets in the way of them. I have found myself letting go of the notion that this process of seeing, shedding and clearing has to be calm and balanced, mediated and quiet, flowery and smiley, and all other adjectives that traditionally accompany the concept of keeping peace. Sometimes – most often – this process of reconnecting is uncomfortable, awkward, filled with friction and anxiety. Dissonance en route to harmony.

As I’ve carried this idea around with me these past months, I’ve come to remember that every time I’ve grown or shifted in little ways or major – every time I sought to undo what’s in the way of the peace that comes with deep connection – there’s been this dissonance. For me it manifests as that uneasiness of knowing something’s amiss and must be faced. Or the fear of not knowing how it will all unfold. There’s the awkwardness of walking around with a new awareness and the rubbing up against old patterns – how familiar yet ‘off’ they feel, the longing for their familiarity paired with the eagerness to let them go and be hurriedly done with the transition.

Time and again, despite its chaos and discomfort, that process of facing and clearing always has always led me to deeper connections. I’m so grateful for that. And if I’m grateful for the outcome, I must admit that I’m grateful for the dissonance. I not only practice sitting in the middle of it – getting comfortable with discomfort, as they say – to allow dissonance to do its good work, but I seek it out. I get excited when I feel it rising up.

There’s another layer of this that I’m anchoring now…just a slight two-degree-to-the-right shift in perspective. That is, I’m more willing to create this necessary dissonance. Not just deal with it when it comes or even seek it out, but actually be the dissonance that others may need in order to do their own questioning, remembering and clearing. Being authentically me in all situations with all people, not couching my words when they feel powerful and important, not shutting down or quieting when I sense others’ reactions in order to appease. To temper myself takes away the opportunity for someone else to see and that’s not my purpose.

When I feel dissonance, I need to move toward it and when I create the dissonance, I need to allow others the freedom to do the same.

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An Interview with MacKenzie Sanders

I recently wrote a blog about how I see the Sacred Feminine walking in the world today– in real people, in me. She walks with an open heart, willing to witness and connect; allowing and healing in all sorts of ways. I know so many folks who embody and express all of those attributes. And so I was inspired to connect with some of them to chat, both to strengthen and to expand my perspective.

I met MacKenzie Sanders about five years ago when we moved into the West Central neighborhood where she and her family lived. For the first few years of knowing her, I considered her a cute, super smart, personable individual. That assessment still stands, but since then I’ve had the privilege of seeing a few more of her layers – both directly in conversations and indirectly in her public speeches and our social media connection (Instagram and Twitter.) Please read our interview below and learn about and from this beautiful, strong, intuitive young woman.

Me: Since this series of interviews is related to the Sacred Feminine, I’m wondering if you have ever heard that term?

MacKenzie: No, I never heard of it before but when I read your blog, it was really interesting to me. There were definitely parts that I really relate to and see in other women and people I know. Particularly the part of living with an open heart and being willing to get hurt. I definitely have seen that in others and me and in the world around me. So it all was easy to connect to for me.

Me: As for living with an open heart…for me it was something that took awhile to understand. A medical intuitive once told me that at times my heart is wide open and then at other times I shut it down – often within the same minute. I realized that I walked through life wanting this open heart, but when there was too much to witness and feel, I shut it down so I didn’t have to deal with it all, but then I also realized that you can’t selectively shut out things. If you shut out pain, the joy leaves too. What part of the open heart writing resonated with you?

MacKenzie: When I was growing up, I was always that sensitive kid. I would cry easily. I still do, by the way. I was also that person that people were coming to when they were having an issue because they felt like I was that person that could help them. I could be with them and help them feel like there was some sort of control there. And in about seventh grade I wrote a journal entry about something that hadn’t gone my way and I was really angry about it and I wrote that I just shouldn’t have emotions anymore because then I don’t have to worry about feeling sad. It was during my melodramatic kid times and I eventually got over myself, but the point that resonates is that I couldn’t stand living like that. I did realize even back then that shutting down made it impossible to help other people. And it cut out all of the emotions, both the pain and the joy like you said, and so it eliminates happiness if you’re not willing to open yourself up to pain. Because one of the things I’ve said is that you never notice happiness unless you’ve been in pain. You can’t have one without the other.

Me: Do you ever feel like you shut down or protect your heart at times? What are the things or triggers you still struggle with?

MacKenzie: There are definitely times when I wish I could shut down. One of my best friends is very logical. He can look through things without emotion. There are definitely times where I envy him. Because I have to think of everything in an emotional way which can be frustrating. So there are times where I wish I was more able to shut it down and times where I’ve tried – like when my parents got divorced. And I live with people with mental illness as well as with it myself so during those times I wish I could just shut down the emotions, because then if I could do that, I could also shut down the anxiety and depression.

Me: So what you’re saying is – it’s not a question of shutting down your heart or keeping it open. Rather, you say you wish you could but you can’t. You live in a space with an open heart and you just continue to live in that space regardless of what comes along. That’s pretty remarkable.

MacKenzie: Thank you. I know that it’s also those things – my anxiety and depression and how I am emotional – whether or not I like it, that are part of who I am. So I need to move forward and work on making them slightly less intrusive, but not take them away entirely. I’d be an entirely different person if I hadn’t lived through those things fully and openly. Read More

An Interview with Dr. Ruby Cain

I recently wrote a blog about how I see the Sacred Feminine walking in the world today – in real people, in me. She walks with an open heart, willing to witness and connect; allowing and healing in all sorts of ways. I know so many folks who embody and express all of those attributes. And so I was inspired to connect with some of them to chat, both to strengthen and to expand my perspective.

I met Dr. Ruby Cain earlier this year when I accepted an open invitation to attend her monthly community dialogue, It Is Well With My Soul. I was taken in by her ability to lead by listening and her gentle strength when guiding discussion. Dr. Cain has had a full history of this leading and guiding, learning and teaching. I so appreciated her openness and honesty in talking to me, particularly in relaying her experiences as a woman of color. Here is some of her wisdom.

Me: I think a lot about living with an open heart. When I’m willing to move in the world that way I’m able to take in all the good stuff, but I also feel the pain and struggle more deeply. I can totally understand why a lot of people need to close their hearts because it’s just too much at times. I feel though that it’s a big part of sacred living. How do you describe living with an open heart because I feel and see that you do. 

Dr. Cain: You know, people describe this a lot of different ways, and one of the ways I like is that everyone has something to share and something to learn and it’s their responsibility to do both. And I believe each and every one of us has a purpose to being here and that there are no accidents in life. Whoever you come into contact with, you were pre-destined to meet them and to have a mutual interaction of sharing and receiving. For instance, I meet you and there are things that I can learn from you and, hopefully, there are things I can share with you that are meaningful to you, not just meaningful to me. And a lot of times we don’t want to interact with people who disagree with us and I absolutely feel like those are the people you need to interact with because those are the people you’re going to learn and grow from. Either you’re going to learn a different way of doing something or you may teach them a different way of doing something. But there’s a purpose in it. I’ve been in situations – some work places – where it just seems too intolerable to stay. So I ask myself, ‘Do I have something to share or something to provide and is there something to learn?’ And if I can answer yes to either one of those, then I’m supposed to stay. If I would answer no, then it’s time to move on. 

Me: I sometimes think of it as ‘getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.’

Dr. Cain: Exactly. Just because you’re in a state of dissonance, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing positive about a situation. A lot of times, people will withdraw from a situation before they get to the meat of what they are there for and what they are to learn because they feel like everything should be smooth sailing. And if it’s not smooth sailing, then it’s wrong. It’s called transformative learning. You experience that dissonance and see what is it that you can learn and then grow from that.

Me: So with the dissonance, you either open your heart to learning, or close it and say ‘I can’t do this right now.’ It brings some form of the peace back either way.

Dr. Cain: You know, there are different seasons in your life. Sometimes it’s OK to withdraw because you’re not ready for something right at that minute. But just because there is the dissonance doesn’t mean you’re not supposed to be there. So you have to approach it with a discerning spirit. It’s hard to explain it. Read More

An Interview with Summer Lydick

I recently wrote a blog about how I see the Sacred Feminine walking in the world today – in real people, in me. She walks with an open heart, willing to witness and connect; allowing and healing in all sorts of ways. I know so many folks who embody and express all of that. And so I was inspired to connect with some of them to chat, both to strengthen and to expand my perspective on it all.

The first person I was drawn to was Summer Lydick. I met Summer on Instagram a year or more ago and was intrigued by her colorful, layered art and her buoyant approach to life. In the last several months, though, I could feel a change, a deepening in her and I started to really pay attention. (It continues to be fascinating to me how unfiltered, honest sharing on social media can be felt so clearly.) I reached out to her through her artist website to set up a Skype connection. Meet Summer…

Me: It feels to me that PEACE is something you explore and feel deeply about. You have retreated for some solitude and quiet in the past months in order to find peace. Can you put into words or images what that feeling of peace is for you – how it feels in your body, how it changes you, how it changes your world, and/or how it shifts others when you seek and find it?

Summer: Another word for peace is acceptance – of the moment, of everything. I did a meditation retreat not long ago with a great schedule – first an inside meditation and then an outside walking meditation. I took off my shoes in the meadow between the forest trees. For my whole life I’ve been looking for this big bolt from the blue, this aha moment to tell me “here’s the purpose, here’s the path.” Then a thought came on this walk, “Is this it?” followed by a voice that said, “Yeah, and why do you expect more?” That’s the whole thing. We’re always seeking something else as humans that’s nicer than this moment or that we saw on TV that is better than we have. So peace to me is really about acceptance of the present moment because that’s really all we have. Everything else is a memory or a desire and so really feeling into that – leaning into that – and letting it be enough is peace. And then I went to India. Read More

The Sacred Feminine Today

I used to shy away from the term Sacred Feminine. Three reasons. One: It so often seems to elicit only religious connections for folks. This is fine if that’s your frame of reference for viewing the world and expressing your truth. But if it isn’t, then the term doesn’t resonate and you read no further. Two: Sacred Feminine can be considered New Age-y. Remember New Age? Again, it isn’t bad if that’s your language for seeing the world. It’s just that if it isn’t, then the whole concept can feel wrong or outdated. And three: It’s often linked with white feminism and we certainly don’t need any further separation there. 

I’ve tried to find other names for her to avoid alienating and offending. Something that felt neither dated, loosely tethered or biased, nor secular or sacred in the traditional senses. But I’ve given up on the labeling and instead have worked at embodying and expressing my own vision of what she is and how she looks as she walks in the world today, in this NOW age. Here goes…

Read More

Women’s March and Sister Marches – January 21, 2017

There is a long history of gathering en masse to shift energies and paradigms, legislation and belief structures. Wherever there has been oppression and injustice, there has been protest – sometimes via the oppressed and sometimes their allies, sometimes peaceful and sometimes not – but always with the intention of being seen, heard, understood, respected, and perhaps most importantly, welcomed into the collective. It’s about connection.

The Women’s March on Washington D.C. and its Sister Marches in cities across the globe are happening on January 21, 2017. The Mission and Guiding Principles as well as the Unity Principles are powerful.  They’ve inspired me to attend a Sister March and to create a series of posters to share with you. Below are their images and their stories. I invite you to download them for your own use and pleasure – to carry with you at the march, frame, tape to your dashboard, send to a friend. Each image is high enough resolution for printing up to 18×24″. And they are free. Just send me some love – either virtually or in a little love note – and we’ll call it even. (Links for downloading and printing are at the bottom of this blog post. You can also find these images on a variety of products in my Redbubble shop. All profits from these sales go to the ACLU.) Read More

Mom

My mom turned 94 years old yesterday. 94! If you caught a glimpse of her now, you would see someone doing simple puzzles, reveling in sing alongs, loving her sweets, repeating the same questions. A little confused or a lot. Perhaps quieter during conversations in recent years, content to just be in your presence for a moment. Forgetting you were there moments later. That’s what you would see.

But I see someone else. The further she moves into this place of content, unencumbered by personality and memories and to-do lists, that is, the quieter she and her life become, the more clearly I can see her core, much of which I missed in years past.   Read More

In Summary…Keeping the Peace

This week was all about Keeping the Peace, or rather, keeping the connections, or rather, seeing where we’ve forgotten the connections and illuminating them. That might make more sense if you read this blog and this poem.

And Rumi entered the building with his wise words that I tried to incorporate into this blog. You can never have too much poetry.

The artwork for the week was one of my own and one of my favorites – Web of Life. This one is mounted on an old pastel piece I did 30 years ago called Lonely Tree. I was feeling very alone way back before I remembered so many of the connections that kept me sacredly bound. So the web of life papercutting set on top of it made the image so much more complete.

That same image became the backdrop of a favorite quote from Dr. Martin Luther King (there are so many grand ones from him, yes?) quotescover-jpg-40 Read More

When a Three-Minute Writing Challenge Turns Into One Minute Poem

Keeping the peace at all cost

means peace is lost

to a sincere

respect for fear.

 

Smoothing over hurt, anger, hate –

Just see and wait.

Normalizes.

Compromises.

 

These shadowed oppressions need voice.

I choose this choice.

No more hiding.

Done dividing.

 

(Note: The Minute Poem consists of 12 lines, 60 total syllables formatted into 3 stanzas of 8, 4, 4, 4 syllables each, with each pair of lines rhyming. Isn’t that fun?)

 

A Community of the Spirit

Rumi. I always come back to Rumi. A poet who lived so long ago with words that make perfect sense now. This time it’s A Community of the Spirit. Every phrase of this does indeed make sense to me. This one – ‘feel the delight of walking in the noisy street and being the noise’ – calls me to be willing to speak up when called upon. And this – ‘close both your eyes to see with the other eye’ – speaks to the urgent need to see beyond what I think I know for sure; to trust my intuition. And of course, the end – ‘move outside the tangle of fear-thinking, live in silence’ – begs me to go beyond the fearful rhetoric of the collective pull and instead get still and clear, ‘flowing down and down in always widening rings of being’.

But it is the middle that is a true calling out. This part: ‘Consider what you have been doing. Why do you stay with such a mean-spirited and dangerous partner? For the security of having food. Admit it.’

For me, why do I stay with mean-spirited and dangerous thought patterns and beliefs that separate me from others, that cloud the connections? For the security of being right, being safe, being comfortable. Admit it. ‘Give up that life…Quit acting like a wolf and feel the shepherd’s love filling you.’

A Community of the Spirit

There is a community of the spirit.

Join it, and feel the delight

of walking in the noisy street

and being the noise.

Drink all your passion,

and be a disgrace.

Close both eyes

to see with the other eye.

Open your hands,

if you want to be held.

Consider what you have been doing.

Why do you stay

with such a mean-spirited and dangerous partner?

For the security of having food. Admit it.

Here is a better arrangement.

Give up this life, and get a hundred new lives.

Sit down in the circle.

Quit acting like a wolf, and feel

the shepherd’s love filling you.

At night, your beloved wanders.

Do not take painkillers.

Tonight, no consolations.

And do not eat.

Close your mouth against food.

Taste the lover’s mouth in yours.

You moan, “But she left me.” “He left me.”

Twenty more will come.

Be empty of worrying.

Think of who created thought!

Why do you stay in prison

when the door is so wide open?

Move outside the tangle of fear-thinking.

Live in silence.

Flow down and down

in always widening rings of being.

From Rumi – Selected Poems (Penguin Classics)

Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne

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