ISE 2, The Future of Love, is set up as a three-day journey, as was the first one. This year we’re moving through the Three Stations of Love. These stations are apparently found in several wisdom traditions, and the organizers have integrated them with parallels in models of developmental psychology. Yesterday was the day of Submission/Identification. Basically it was time to fall in love, the big embrace, and my post yesterday, although I didn’t note this stage dimension, was infused by the big heart opening that the day’s practices were meant to release and enable. It was a re-exploration of what love is, as was noted, and a chance to experience a new contact with love’s broader contexts and possibilities. Yesterday was the honeymoon period.
Today’s station is Separation/Individuation. It’s interesting to view the notion of individual (and collective) development through a particular lens, in this case love. At each stage of our development we are identified with, and often love, something in particular. Maybe it’s our family, our tribe, or our nation. Maybe it’s our job, our duty, our station in life. Perhaps a creed, a mythology, a tradition. But every time we grow and develop, we must differentiate out from our embeddedness with this identity, with this station in life, and usually this ain’t no fun at all. The pain of separation is very real, but there’s no growth without it.
We were put into small groups to share an experience of differentiation from our own life histories. Some folks talked about leaving abusive relationships or parents; others losing loved ones or jobs and thus whole identities. Some left high paying jobs or career tracks, others broke with old friends to set out anew. In each case a differentiation had occurred, and the pain of these moments could still be heard somewhere in all our voices. But each story also included the fact that this break was the beginning of a fruitful journey, one that was at the time unforeseen.The Reverend David McCallum spoke beautifully of differentiation as the descent into death in the tomb, before resurrection. In differentiation there is demolition. I was reminded of Freud’s twin terms Eros and Thanatos. Eros is the drive upwards towards higher and higher unities, it’s essentially the yearning charged force that fuels the desire for differentiation, for growth and evolution in the first place. But as Freud pointed out, it’s always the force of Thanatos, the force of destruction and dis-integration, which opens up a system to more Eros. Without this disturbing disruptive force we would otherwise cling fiercely to an identity, to a station, to a current formation, to the safety of our existing place in life. Again, some pain and destruction is always involved in the differentiation.
As a practice to help us move through this pain, yoga teacher Sofia Diaz led us through an exercise. We sat in a chair, put our feet on the ground, closed our eyes, and put our palms on our knees facing up. We then focused on our heart, on opening our chest wide, and took a deep breath- and then we were instructed to dig deep down and let out the ugliest cries possible as we pushed through the place we wanted to grow into but were afraid. There were five hundred people doing this in one big hall. The noises were something between Hades and the loony bin. But boy did it feel great after. As we sat in a certain still reverberating heart opened glow, we were instructed to bring into our heart the place we wanted to go, what we wanted integrate and live into. It was a powerful practice.
It was also noted by Diane Musho Hamilton, who has a wonderful sensitivity to subtle energies and currents in a room, that the whole energy surrounding the hall and the exploration of differentiation was actually very lively and excited. Basically, growth also includes energy and dynamism. It’s the phoenix rising, the transmutation of darkness into light.
Part of this day is to simply empower individuals with a clearer understanding of and attention to what it means to grow and develop and differentiate, with I assume the intention that this will empower us to be more willing and capable of doing so in the future. But it also relates to individual intimate relationships too. In terms of the future of love in that context, it brings into our romantic relationships the capacity to create a space where both people can explore what is really true for them. There’s no fusion; there’s two unique individuals left to grow into their full capacities. Most of the afternoon workshops were centered on how to negotiate conflict in this place of differentiated mutuality. My fiancée and I went to one hosted by Arjuna and Chameli Ardagh, who shared their Deeper Love practice, something we’ll definitely be practicing in future. Tomorrow apparently there is a return to Falling in Love, where we’ll explore the paradoxical “neti, neti” relationship, which technically means means "not this, not that", and in this case 'not one, not two'. Hard to say what’s in store.