In this conversation titled “Set Yourself Free”, Gentzy Franz and Lauren Henley join Lola Wright to open our July Series , “Disrupting the Unconscious”
This “talk” is electronically transcribed. Please excuse any errors or omissions.
Lola: Well, I want you to meet my friends, Gentzy and Lauren. Yeah. We’re kicking off this July series titled Disrupting the Unconscious, and I asked them if they will be willing to come here and kick this series off with me because I feel like over the last year we’ve been in a kind of conversation about this and I feel like there’s a way that you two know me very distinctly. I think you, I think you’ve been like midwives for this next iteration of Bodhi.
Lola: I also have deep appreciation and respect for you as organizational leaders and I feel like where Bodhi is in its existence is in a state of transition, and I think the two of you understand transition in organizational settings really well. So I just invite you, if you’re new to Bodhi and you’re thinking to yourself like, “I don’t really have anything to do with the transition of this organization,” that there’s something of service in this conversation that you can map onto your own life.
Lola: So each one of us, the way we define leader here is one who influences. And the way that we hold that context is that all of us have influence, so whether it’s influence over your own being, whether it’s influence over your family system, whether it’s influence over the building you live in, the organization you impact, that we all are leaders and have the capacity to influence. The other thing that I think we each share is our own untangling from traditional contexts and frameworks, so I would love if you would to just start by sharing a little of your own personal story.
Lola: One of the things that you should know about Gentzy and Lauren is that they’ve been supporting the two-year Conscious Leadership Program that exists here, that just completed nine months and they’ve been of huge support to me and the 26 people that are on that journey together. So I’m very, very grateful for that, and I feel like you all came in at a time where I was in my own breakdown, where I was sort of like, I was hitting my max capacity. As someone who knows herself as very powerful to be in like a state of being brought to my knees was both deeply humbling and super scary.
Lola: I just love and appreciate the two of you and I’m grateful that you’re here. I don’t know, would you be willing to share a little bit of your personal story, Gentzy, so people feel related to you?
Gentzy: Yeah. Hi.I knew this was going to be the first question, and I kind of thought like, “How do I… Where do I begin? How do I start? Which part of the journey do I kind of latch onto to share?” And I think most helpful for me to express my truth to this audience is to start in January of 2015.
Gentzy: I grew up very devoutly Mormon, and I was really good at being a Mormon. If you know anything about Mormonism, you know there are certain things you do and certain things you don’t do, and I did all the things and I didn’t do all the other things. There was a way to measure myself against all of those things. It was very, very black and white.
Gentzy: As that construct started to break down for me for a variety of reasons that we could talk 16 hours about, it became clear that something was happening to me to be pulled away from that particular environment, that particular belief system, something that was sacred to me, sacred to my family. I came from a wonderful family and yet there was a pull away.
Gentzy: When I finally made the cut in January of 2015, it was an untethering and not in the good way of untethering like, “Now I’m free.” It was an untethering and like, “Oh shit,” and I’d never said shit before, so that was even new.
Lola: I actually believe you.
Gentzy: It was true. It’s true. It’s like really liberating to say that, just “Shit.” Can I say, “Shit”?
Lola: Say it.
Gentzy: Shit. Now what do I do? I didn’t know, and so I started doing some of those don’ts and some of those do’s I didn’t do anymore. Throughout the process of the course of the past four years, came to my knees multiple times, looked at collateral damage of getting into what was my own personal truth, picking up the pieces, rebuilding relationships, letting other relationships go.
Gentzy: At a very basic level, my identity was most closely aligned with family, and throughout the course of the past four years, this meant the disillusion of my marriage, meant parenting in a very different way than I had before, and all of this was incredibly, incredibly difficult. And yet throughout the entire process came from me in touch with what am I going to do for me? I think the song in the beginning, Freedom, not because it’s given to me by a system or by even my parents who loved me and I loved them, but what was true for me.
Gentzy: That has been my journey, a journey that I’m still on, a journey that feels a lot better now than it did four years ago, and yet still a groundlessness around that, a groundlessness that is becoming more and more my norm, more and more what I want as opposed to a right and a wrong, more a truth for me. That’s the introduction I want to give.
Lola: So there’s something that I want to create context around. Some of you are familiar with this idea of the creative process, so if we were to have like a circle and that circle represents all of existence, and of course it’s inherently limited because there’s an inside of the circle in and outside of the circle, but work with me in this dimension of reality. And then we would say that like, let us say the top third of the circle is infinite possibilities, the unseen realm where all of creation exists: freedom, love, joy, harmony, balance.
Lola: That then presses through the soul, which is that middle section that we call the subconscious, the soul, the law, also known as the unconscious. It’s where all your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, your judgments, your opinions exist. That’s where they exist at the level of the individual. That’s where they exist at the level of the collective consciousness, so the infinite possibility of reality presses through the subconscious mind or the unconscious, it’s like a filtration system, and then out of the bottom third is the body, the world of form.
Lola: So you have this idea of abundance. It presses through a system of beliefs that are limiting, that involve lack and scarcity. “You can’t do this. That’s what your family said.” “You can’t do this. That’s what your neighborhood said.” “You can’t do this. That’s what these rules said,” and then you get a particular thing that exists in this dimension of reality. This dimension of reality is a very, very, very, very small dimension of all of existence, and yet we attach to it like it’s the most real thing, right?
Lola: So the idea for the month of July, and really has been in the essence of this organization since its inception, is to disrupt the unconscious patterns that do not serve the highest expression of humanity. If the possibility of love exists, and I don’t mean like a sort of romantic kind of love, I mean like if the possibility of love and freedom and power and creativity exists, then I want to become what I call the master excavator of my soul, the master excavator of the unconscious mind so that I can be wildly honest with myself around what needs to be released such that my highest expression comes forward.
Lola: That’s really the big idea of this place, and just when we think about releasing Sundays, for example, one of the things that feels most true for me is that this, disrupting the unconscious is all I give my life to, how it shows up. I listen to what the unseen realm is guiding, if I can say it like that. As you know, like we lost the space July 28th, so it’s not like we were like, “Yeah, we’re done here.”
Lola: It was like, “No, you’re done here.” I’m like, “Oh, okay. Thank you,” and so then we listen for what’s wanting to come through. So I just wonder what’s wanting to come through each of our lives that’s requiring us to disrupt the unconscious patterns. One of the things you and I have been talking a lot about is the pattern of co-dependence and how deeply seductive co-dependence is. Would you be willing to share a little bit about that, inside of introducing-
Lauren: You want me to tell my story first?
Lola: Okay, please. I really… Inside of my own co-dependent pattern, I really want to hear your story. No, I’m just kidding. Please, tell it.
Lauren: Hi, I’m Lauren. I was thinking about my story today. We all have a story. We get to choose how we tell it and how we think about it, and how I think about it now is very different than how I did most of my life. I guess I would say that I’ve been kind of like more than a freedom gangster, I like to think of it, for disruption, and that when we talk about disruption, it’s no joke. It does open you up to more possibilities for freedom, joy, peace, aliveness but it is a conscious decision of courage over and over again.
Lauren: I think about how many times I’ve unraveled myself and rebuilt, and it’s almost exhausting to even think about it. I grew up in northwest Florida, also known as the Redneck Riviera. Hi mom, dad, sister who’s watching somewhere. It was a very southern town, southern Baptist. My family’s very conservative, and I had a really disruptive experience with race around someone I really cared about in high school, and it really blew up my entire identity, the identity of my family.
Lauren: It made me look at everything differently. I felt like I had been lied to, that there was this whole experience of injustice that I had been blessed I guess by my privilege to be blind to up until that point, and it set me on a whole different course.
Lola: I actually don’t feel like you were blessed. That doesn’t… I just want to catch that because for me it’s like I… Part of that conversation that I find super annoying is like even the power structure that lives in that context. Does that make sense?
Lauren: Yeah. Let me-
Lola: Actually you were fucked.
Lola: You know what I’m saying? Like to really get that.
Lauren: Yeah. Then, I guess because of my privilege you’re saying.
Lauren: Right. Yeah. I just want to check in a second about that. What feels true to me? I guess what I want to say is that there is something about being allowed to be naive for a certain amount of time. There was a way that I didn’t have to deal with the discomfort of other people, you understand?
Lola: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lauren: Or what other people were dealing with, and there is a way that… It’s not freedom and it’s not empowering, but there was a way that I just got to ignore it. You know what I’m saying? So what I’m saying is that like at that point I had this confronting experience where I couldn’t ignore reality, the reality that most people were living all the time.
Lauren: To clarify that. And then I… So, I went to college, blah, blah, blah. The bottom line is I moved 900 miles away and I was like ready to totally reconstruct my identity and I, up until that point, I really hadn’t questioned at all who I was or who I now would say I was programmed to be. It’s no one’s fault that I was programmed but just by living in this universe, I’m absorbing all these messages about who I am, not actually knowing at the core who I really was.
Lauren: And that process led to a pregnancy that was totally unexpected, an unraveling of like the kind of family I thought I was going to have as an adult, an unraveling of a deep seated addiction that went generations in my family, an unraveling of post traumatic stress disorder. I mean, over and over again, and then also then to go live and to work in North Lawndale and fall in love with so many students and families, and to realize that in order to love them and to be available for them, I had to unravel even more. It was just, been like an ongoing like, “What does love want now? What does love want now?” And then I came to Bodhi four years ago, five years ago?
Lola: Yeah. I’m scaring myself that I scared you.
Lauren: You don’t scare me.[inaudible audience]
Lola: Settle down.
Lauren: Did you hear gangster in my title? It wasn’t-
Lola: Well, I scared me. That’s what’s more true. I scared me.
Lauren: I just wanted to make sure that I spoke what felt most true to me, and so when you challenged me I was like, “Well, what did I mean by that statement?”
Lola: Yeah, thank you.
Lauren: Thanks for checking in. I would just say that when I came to Bodhi, there was this whole new reality of I’m like, “What if I create my reality? What if I’m actually responsible for what happens? What if I was responsible for everything that happened up until now,” and that just started entirely new process where I feel like I’ve always been unraveling, but up until around then I started consciously unraveling.
Lola: So co-dependence.
Lola: What thoughts do have around that in an organizational setting?
Lauren: Something I feel passionate about is, in this program that we work, it’s called The Conscious Leadership Program, we talk a lot about being below the line and above the line. And below the line, there’s a cycle of drama that’s created, a hero, victim, villain cycle. In order for a hero to exist, you must see someone else as disempowered and unable to support themselves.
Lauren: So, I have mainly come from non-profit settings and I’m passionate that I believe that all of those organizations have been built under the fundamental premise that someone is a victim and disempowered. And as a result of this cycle of drama, we just keep disempowering and have created a consciousness of disempowerment and a consciousness that we need something or someone to come and save us.
Lola: Well, and that we need to know ourselves as powerful by saving people.
Lauren: Right, exactly. Yeah, totally, which I’ve definitely been… I live that hero existence.
Lola: So what do you notice, just in the spirit of candor-
Lauren: You want to be candor? Lola?
Lola: What has had you dance around Bodhi, but not fully jump into Bodhi, and what feels like is shifting here that excites you about engaging here now?
Lauren: I have danced around Bodhi because of my story around spiritual bypass, and Bodhi being a place that’s like a warm blanket that you can like… I heard it actually Nathan say this, “A warm blanket you can put it on your shoulder and feel good about your life and then go back out in the world and be whoever you want to be,” and that’s not really what I’m about.
Lauren: What I’m about is like going into the darkness, being willing to look at everything, to deconstruct it and to reconstruct it on behalf of the collective. I don’t think that collectively we can afford to keep pretending that all of these things in our consciousness are not informing our reality. And so the reason that I am supportive of the direction of Bodhi now is because it seems like there’s a step of, I guess the best word would be faith and courage.
Lauren: We don’t know what this is going to look like and we actually know it’s going to be uncomfortable, and people’s warm blanket may not even be around in the same way that it was before, but we want to stand for a collective awakening and collective freedom, and that’s our highest value.
Lola: So Gentzy, when you bring this work into… You’re with a… I mean, is it even called a startup anymore? Yeah. So you’re with a hot tech startup in the city of Chicago and when you… Yeah, when you –
Gentzy: When you say startup you have to shake like this. Start up.
Lola: Yeah, and when you bring this conversation of consciousness into an environment that people aren’t really there for that, I mean I’m imagining that they’re just like, “Look, I want to get paid, I want to get paid a lot and I’m not really here for my own personal awakening,” why you man bun man, are you here to talk to me about my awakening? Sorry.
Gentzy: Now who’s scared? Funny story about that. So I, anytime we have new employees come into our, speaking of the man bun, anytime we have new employees come into the company, I do like an hour and a half overview of conscious leadership and what that means. I do a fact versus story session just so people can kind of get in touch with that vernacular and also what those terms mean. So a fact is anything that’s observable with your eyes, with video, with audio, and then a story is all the stuff that we put in there to make sense of those facts.
Gentzy: So, I always have fun with the new employees. I say, “Let’s play fact versus story, facts about me and then stories,” and this intern raised his hand. He’s like, “Am I going to hurt your feelings?” I was like, “No,” and he said, “You have a man bun.” I was like, “Well, I have hair. The fact is I have hair,” and he was like, “I think you’re a doofus.” I was like, “Thank you,” and then I started crying. I didn’t cry.
Lola: When we did this practice the first time you came to our Conscious Leadership class at Bodhi, you asked all of the participants to do fact versus story and it was like, something like, I’m noticing your pants, or whatever, and the story I’m making up is that you eat a lot of kale.
Gentzy: Well, thank you. I like that story. So back to the question, it’s tricky because it is at some level hippie to be bullshit and people can come into a tech company and say, “You talk like this because you’re supposed to or because you watched an episode of Silicon Valley on HBO, and it became the thing that you’re supposed to do.” I don’t argue with that. At some level, I can find the truth to that. This is trendy.
Gentzy: People talk about mindfulness, they talk about consciousness as something to be consumed and then left as opposed to something to be lived, something to really wrap your head around. So, it’s a dance inside of an organization where we espouse this as our leadership framework because you say leadership framework and all the sudden all these bells and whistles go off of like, “Oh that really is just another corporate thing to manipulate behavior,” and so we have to be very careful to say, “This is for individual awakening, yes, and we’re running a business and we want to make some money.” We just do.
Gentzy: To me, those two things are not divergent but they can actually compliment one another. My example for this is working in teams, and if you have individuals working on a team that are dedicated to principles of consciousness, whether it’s being radically candid, whether it is recognizing how to feel feelings, move them, those teams are going to operate more effectively because all of the sludge is already removed and when it’s time to actually get down and work, you don’t have to work through the subtext at all. You just don’t.
Gentzy: That is tricky because that requires some difficult conversations, that requires people to set aside ego in a lot of cases, and there’s no place like work to get an ego going. So, to do all of that really requires a lot of effort. It requires modeling from leaders and it also requires people within the organization to not hold their leaders accountable to perfection. As soon as the leader does something that’s unconscious, see this doesn’t work. The thought is, the thing to teach within the organization is, you’re absolutely right, this person’s going to get it wrong a lot. They are going to slip into the unconscious just like the rest of us.
Gentzy: They’re going to do these things that drive us absolutely nuts, and their business is their business. And if we follow along, get swept along into that particular behavior and use that as a rationale to justify our own unconscious behaviors, nobody’s benefiting. So, there’s this idea of how can we drive individual commitment, individual improvement, whatever you want to call it, awakening, and also use that as a way to drive productivity and efficiency within an organization.
Gentzy: Oh, you hear that? I almost want to throw up in my mouth for saying that. There should be like a towel, like somebody in the audience should raise their hand every time I say something like that. But that’s, to me that’s the way that we approach it, and it’s tricky.
Lola: So having left the Mormon tradition, having left Evangelical Christianity, how do you dance with this word “God” now? What is that for you?
Lauren: I need a reveal real quick.
Lola: Okay, go ahead.
Lauren: One of my practices is to be fully revealed, and when I checked in about your question, have you scared me, I think you did scare me, and I think I skipped over it. And then my like bad ass persona came up, like, “Don’t mess with me,” so I just want to be clear about that.
Lola: Is there anything else you want to say about that?
Lauren: It is, the fear was I said something you didn’t like or I didn’t say it in the right way, and then what came up after that is like, “I don’t want to edit the way that I say things on behalf of somebody else.”
Gentzy: Breaking the cycle of co-dependency.
Lauren: So God, so Jesus, who’s sitting right here.
Lola: Only some people’s Jesus.
Lauren: You want to start?
Gentzy: So what’s coming up for me, I’m noticing, I’m thinking about my parents watching this, who are still devoutly Mormon. Still the little boy in me that does not want to disappoint them, does not want to disrespect God, whoever she is.
Lola: She doesn’t have gender pronouns in our world.
Lauren: Right, whoever they are.
Gentzy: Sorry. I’m trying to think of how to answer this in a way that… I’m just going to say it. I was going to say, “I don’t want to answer this in a way that sounds cliche,” and then that’s going to be me managing my message. And then I’m going to go up here in my head and I’m going to pick all the perfect words to try to impress you. I kind of don’t want to do that this morning or ever, even though I do.
Gentzy: God is an energy. God is a oneness that draws us together in some magical, mysterious way that I don’t fully comprehend, that I feel. I will say this. During my journey, there was a time of absolute distance from the term “God”, from the idea of God that left me feeling incomplete. I have… I moved from a paradigm of answers to a paradigm of questions, and what I’m recognizing now in this new reality for me of questions is that God can still exist with all kinds of questions surrounding that term, that being, that energy.
Gentzy: That feels freeing to me as opposed to, “This is God, this is what he looks like, this is what he will do if I do X, Y and Z,” to a god of love, a god of acceptance and a God who is there whether I want to believe it or not. I also recognized, this is kind of a funny anecdote, I realized as my meditation practice kind of blossomed, I prayed really, really well my entire life and I realized I was actually praying even when I was all by myself to impress God.
Gentzy: I’d even use words while I was by myself, kneeling by the side of my bed to impress him. It was a him. You should’ve seen him, like beard and everything, and it was to impress him so that I would get what I wanted. I would pray in a way to this being, this very real being, who wanted to be benevolent, who was full of abundance, I believed that, and if I said the right things and then followed it up with the right actions, I would get certain things.
Gentzy: There was all kinds of attachment to the outcome, not the process of just being in communion with God, and what I’ve realized, I missed the point of prayer the entire time. Prayer is actually the process itself. Meditation now is just for me to be with me and that is God.
Lola: Yeah. I asked that question because I actually think the unwillingness to explore that question creates so much suffering in human existence, so if you don’t know what the presence is, call it whatever you want, the infinite, like for me the language I like to use is life, the spirit of life within me is the source of my supply. If you… I think that when you don’t do that inquiry, it’s really easy to live in a lot of suffering.
Lola: It’s sort of like a perpetual existential crisis, and so for me it’s like what I know to be true is the breath of life is moving through me. It is the essence of all that is. It is uniquely expressing as me. I don’t use the word “God” very often because my experience is that most people have not deconstructed that word enough to use it in a way that invokes freedom, and most often that word is used as a trap, and that’s just not what I give my life to. So how about for you?
Lauren: I’m just thinking about, like for me the word “God” is very limiting at this point because it’s a sematic experience of all there is including the darkness and the light. I think often pain and suffering are also thought of like separate from the experience of God. I think all of it is God, but I’m thinking about how like the idea that there’s a god out there, like a very specific that I am indebted to or that I am in need for has the narrative of oppression that has been created, because we fundamentally then believe that we can’t create our reality, that we aren’t empowered divine being, that we don’t have the capacity to change anything outside of something that we’re dependent on.
Lauren: So, if we want to know where co-dependency came from, I’m pretty sure that was a pretty big starting point. But it has been a very long journey, and people close to me know this, to me getting to that place where I have somatically experienced it for myself, it’s not a construct, it’s not a belief. It’s a knowing because I have tested it and I want to support other people to test it out.
Lola: So just as we close this segment, just any final thoughts around this idea of disrupting the unconscious and what’s the vision cast that you hold for this next chapter of our expression as an organization?
Lauren: I mean, for me, you don’t get to avoid disrupting your unconscious anymore. Maybe you did before but you don’t now, and it’s really just do you want to experience in a way that is less suffering and a little bit more easeful with tools and support and community, or do you want to go at it on your own? Because I don’t think consciousness is waiting for us anymore.
Lauren: This is the healing, the collective healing, of our trauma that we agree to. We have agreed for generations to sign up for agreements that have created denial, oppression, ignorance, and we were able to say, “Just ignore it. Just move on,” to get a microwave and a TV and feel super comfortable, like, “Everything’s good on my end,” even if that’s happening over there, and we don’t get to do that anymore.
Lauren: So for me, the direction that Bodhi is going is like, it’s like we’re going to be on the front lines, we’re going to be out front, we’re going to be stepping forward first and saying, “This is already happening and anybody who wants to rally and do it together, here’s where you can come and and hear about that, get support around it, understand what it means for you as an individual in the collective.”
Gentzy: One of the biggest elements of freedom around this journey for me has been letting go of outcomes. I think the unconscious and what is handed, what is handed kind of through this circle to us is handed not because it’s bad, not because it doesn’t work. There is X, Y and Z leads to this and it always of course, but there are blueprints, there are roadmaps, that are handed to us and that’s how we get on autopilot. That’s why we turn into automatons. That’s why we do these things unconsciously and just move throughout.
Gentzy: The whole switch to consciousness then is, I’m going to be aware of the present moment. I’m still going to plan. I’m still going to do things for the future, but I’m going to recognize that I have very little control over what this is leading to over what this may look like. So, as I think about Bodhi, and I think about watching the transformation that’s occurred over the last several months, and I think about what’s next, the lack of a clear, crystal clear, this is exactly what it’s leading to, this is exactly what it’s doing, because sometimes you want a leader that’s going to say that, “This is what it’s going to look… ” And if you know anything about really good leaders, they don’t.
Gentzy: They’re open with their fears. They’re open with the mystique of it all and open to whatever may be. What are those outcomes? We don’t know. We’re going to be deeply, deeply aware of the journey, of the process, of the presence that we’re in, recognizing there will be a set of outcomes and how do we move towards those allowing what to be to be?
Gentzy: That, to me, is a significant shift in disrupting the unconscious because the unconscious wants outcomes. It wants a clear direction to a goal, to a destination, and the reality is, and we could probably all sit here and share our own individual stories, sometimes the unexpected is pretty incredible, and when we open ourselves up to that consciously, the journey can be pretty, pretty fun.
Lauren: Well, in the unconscious, it creates from the past. It creates a template of what have I done before and how did it keep me safe or keep me from dying, basically. In the present moment, creative intelligence is creating something that’s never been before. So, you get to be a part of that unfolding at the highest level of intelligence versus repeating the past.
Lola: All right. All right. So we’re going to do a little practice of meditation. I think, my hope for this morning is just that we were each able to map this on to what’s occurring in our own lives, like where do I keep myself unconscious so that I don’t have to confront my fears when really all I’m doing is perpetuating my fear-based survival states of consciousness. Yeah. So perhaps, as we go onto this meditation, you might consider asking yourself, “What fears am I unwilling to look at?”