New Love: A Book Review

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I have often written of the work of undoing patriarchal thought—facing our assumptions, our fears, our wounds. While we all must do this inner work, to face patriarchal thought as a woman is to touch upon the core of the matter: to define and honor self in a society that degrades female self. Doing this work means opening yourself up to grief—to deep sadness, to fear and rage, to the contempt that culture holds for woman. It also means opening yourself up to great power and peace—a gift of grace that is your birthright as a human being. This work is a process, and at its core is self-knowledge: this is who I am, you must say. This is where I hurt, and where I dream. This is how I would spread my wings, if only I thought I could.  I accept myself, and I love myself. Standing on the ground of self-love is a truly transformational experience. But you can’t do it alone—you need a guide, or more than one. Sometimes the guide is a professional, sometimes a friend or a sister. Sometimes the guide is a book that allows you to gently meet yourself in sacred recognition. New Love: a reprogramming toolbox for undoing the knots, by Trista Hendren and Arna Baartz, is just such a guide—this wonderful book will lead you straight to yourself, and to freedom.

The process of releasing ourselves from patriarchal thought necessarily includes facing demons not of our own making—not every woman has each demon to the same degree, but we’ve all been handed the same playbook. Fear of your erotic self, fear of money, a sense that to do something only for you—in your own name—is the deepest kind of wrong. New Love gently takes you through these fears, but first it allows you to speak your truth and your dreams, grounding you in your visions before finding the knots that need to be untied. Although the process can be as short or as long as you like, it is presented in the form of a month—thirty days in which you spend just five minutes a day answering questions, reading inspiring quotes, and coloring artwork that depicts women celebrating wholeness.

From Day 1 (“The Natural Desire to Change”) to Day 30 (“Change My Mind—Change the World”), this workbook focuses on what it takes to rewrite the narrative you’ve been handed. Early questions include “What are the dreams you don’t dare utter?” and “Is there anything you want to give up struggling with?”—questions that provide the key to unlock unconscious or half-conscious restrictions. As the book progresses, it asks you to face the deep wounds many women carry, including those of abuse, as well as to embrace what you have been taught is taboo. As a workbook, New Love is as practical as everyday life, presenting you with questions such as “What positive steps within the confines of patriarchy can you take to be more financially abundant? How might you think outside the box?” and “In what ways has the erotic been suppressed in you?”—and giving you plenty of space to answer, including several pages for notes at the back of the book.

Throughout the book, you will find healing words—poems and quotes that provide affirmation of your deepest sense of self, the yes that resides within each of us. You will also find helpful information in the introduction and conclusion—guiding words about self-love, scientific information about how our brains respond to feelings of joy and abundance, and practical information about the wounds of patriarchy, including physical/sexual and emotional violence. The workbook is not meant to take the place of a therapist, and you might find that you need a safe space—within personal or professional relationships, or both—to untie your knots.

Engaging in the nitty-gritty of the process of self-love as a woman within  patriarchy can be messy—it isn’t linear, as we often return to a subject we thought we’d laid to rest long ago. My own process has drawn on all the resources I mentioned above—friends, sisters, professional guides and natural-born gurus who showed up at just the right moment. It has also relied on a process just like the one in this book—a gentle self-exploration, with transformative love at its core.

If you are beginning 2016 with an intention to embrace abundance and release yourself from self-limiting narratives, New Love is the perfect guide.  Here’s to peace and prosperity in the new year—and to a new love that will transform not just women, but the very ground on which we walk.