Ireland

April 8, 2018

“Take time to see the quiet miracles that seek no attention” ~ John O’Donohue

As I prepare to depart for Ireland, my 14th tour with an added 4 solo pilgrimages, all since 1998, I am often asked, “What compels you to return to Ireland so frequently?” The answer it that Ireland is the land of my soul and an integral part of my ancestry. Something comes alive in me there that I can’t quite name. I remember hearing the late John O’Donohue say something like, “Ireland has a way of getting’ into ye.” Old Erin sure does!

I’ve also discovered that those who travel with me to Ireland on tours (for people who would never go on a tour), something comes alive in them as well. An elderly woman comes to mind, walking into the remnants of an ancient cathedral and suddenly bursting into tears. Later she was able to express that she had a sudden and profound memory around the loss of a child, many years before. I wonder how many Irish women mourned their children in that same cathedral?

I remember a middle-aged man taking his 80year old mother on a tour. I did not know until the last day of the tour that she had one leg, and it didn’t stop her. She turned 80 during the tour and we threw her a wee surprise party. Same with a girl who turned 13 while on a tour. Makes me wonder how many Irish people immigrated to the U.S., never again celebrating a birthday with loved ones.

Then there was a woman in search of a crow feather. To her surprise it arrived in the form of a crow carcass, long dead, feathers still intact. The eye contact we made in that moment is still with me. It is her story to tell, not mine. Because of her, I relish receiving crow/raven feathers while I’m journeying about.

Another woman found herself one day in a constant flow of unexplained tears. This while we were roaming about the wild and romantic Connemara region, one of the hardest hit areas of the potato feminine. Was she feeling the feelings of families torn apart by hunger and death?

One woman who has traveled with me to Ireland 3 times found herself leaving the group for a bit to tend to a health need. In the one hour away from us, she encountered one of the premiere Irish scholars. They enjoyed a lively conversation. Mischief was afoot!

My own first call to Ireland was because of my mother’s only regret before she died in 1997. “I never did get to Ireland,” she said with a sigh. I told her I would go for her one day. There I was, on the one-year anniversary of her death, stepping into the ritual site at Newgrange. My world changed. It continues to change with every journey to Ireland.

I am a guide, not a scholar or teacher. I deliver people to sites and invite them to have their own experience. The land and landscapes of Ireland, and her people and critters, are our true guides. It will be so again this year with my 14 travelers. I will likely post daily photos on Facebook and write a follow up upon my return. If you are so inclined, we welcome your prayers for safe, timely and joyful travels to, around, and home from Ireland.

Many Blessings,
Kathleen, Daughter of Mary Kathleen Connolly McKern

Thinking

“We are dying from overthinking. We are slowly killing ourselves by thinking about everything. Think. Think. Think. You can never trust the human mind anyway. It’s a death trap.” –Anthony Hopkins

Over-thinking seems to be the way of life for many of us. Imagine my introduction at a 12-step meeting for Over Thinkers Anonymous. “I’m Kathleen, I’m an over thinker.” Those in the room welcome me, knowing that we are at the mercy of our thoughts. You can almost hear the estimated 1 to 10 million neurons firing in the brain—in one brain—as thoughts begin to form words. Imagine what’s firing in the brains around you. Suddenly, the well-intentioned meeting turns into a noisy riot of thoughts, but the room is eerily silent.

National Science Foundation, 2005, “The average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before and about 80% are negative.”

When I was in ministry studies I created an exercise to help me hear and address the negative voices in my head. I had recently been diagnosed with an undetermined type of arthritis. The painful inflammation would roam from joint to joint. With each flare up would come a new voice of fear. For the exercise, I wrote down on several notecards a variety of real thoughts I was having at the time. Here are a few of the negative/limiting thoughts.

Arthritis will make you disabled.
Your hands and feet will become gnarly.
You won’t be able to work.
You’ll go bankrupt.
Constant pain is your destiny.
Arthritis isn’t sexy, so you’re not sexy.
No one will help you.
You’ll fade away and die alone.

Reviewing this list, made some 30 years ago, still brings a wee punch to my gut and a tear to my eye. I was thinking and re-thinking and over-thinking those thoughts, over and over and over again. My life wouldn’t change until I changed that stinkin’ thinkin’.

After writing the limiting thoughts on note cards, I passed them out to my fellow ministry students. They gathered in a circle around me, prepared to speak the words aloud so I could hear them. Standing in the center, my task was to listen. To hear, coming from outside of me, what had been churning in my thinking brain. The individuals, one at a time, read aloud my thoughts.

For the first round I asked them to speak neutrally, as if stating a fact.
My thoughts: Oh, so that’s what it sounds like. I can feel it dragging me down.

For the second round I invited them to color their words with tones of judgment and shaming.
My thoughts: Ouch! These people are being mean to me. Why would they do that? I’m a good person.

For the third round I asked the readers to get louder and louder. I asked the speakers to read over each other, creating a symphonic cacophony of gloom and doom. Even anger.
My thoughts: Okay already, I hear you. Stop it. This hurts.

As the readers’ voices became over-powering, I forced myself to turn around in the center and look at every person. They got louder until they heard me shout, “STOP!!!” The immediate silence we deafening, but I could hear my own heart beating.

Slowly, I went from person to person, looking them directly in the eye. I told them the Truth about me. The readers were to listen and not give me back the note card until they really believed me.

I am whole, healthy & complete.
My hands and feet work perfectly.
I can ask for help.
I am prosperous beyond measure.
Pain, you can visit, but not stay.
My sexiness is more than my aching joints.
I have a wonderful support system.
I am alive. I am awake. I am the holy one, forever and ever.

I have since done this exercise with a few of my mentoring clients. In essence we are addressing the voice of the archetypal Saboteur. It rules our thinking, if we allow it. My advice is to invite in those voices. To hear them and then put them in their proper places. When they re-emerge, I now have the tools to address it in the moment. I even have a song I sing when I first become aware of a limiting thought. “Hey, old thought, I got along without you before I met you, gonna get along without you know.”

Irish Wit

March 17, 2017

“I’m an atheist and I thank God for it.”
George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright  

One Sunday afternoon, while on holiday in Ireland, I enjoyed a chat with an Irish fisherman. After some idle conversation, he began weaving a story, fondly recalling the image of his childhood priest, Father Joe. “Oh, he was a funny, that one, a real performer. We kids couldn’t wait to go to mass to see what outrageous thing Father Joe would do or say. I’ll never forget one Sunday when it was time for the offering. Father Joe came down from the holy altar and stood at the front pew looking at a sea of faces, mostly women and children. He was really looking at us. No one was invisible.”

This is how the story goes. Father Joe spoke with authority when he said, “Look at all you good people. You’re here, on holy ground, on the Lord’s Day. God loves you!” He then ordered the passing of the offering baskets among the pews.

While altar boys took over, Father Joe called out to the men standing at the back of the church, most of whom were husbands of the women in the pews. Now he spoke a little louder: “Now, to you good men in the back of the church. You, too, are standing on holy ground, on the Lord’s Day. God loves you just as much!” He made sure an offering basket passed through the hands of the standing men.

But Father Joe didn’t stop there. He looked again at those in the pews, primarily the women alone. He said “To the misses here, whose husbands are not standing in the back of the church, I believe I saw your good men in their cars outside waiting to give you a lift home. Now, they’re not in the church, but they are parked on holy ground, on the Lord’s Day. God loves them too!” Then he asked that an offering basket be passed from car to car.

And still Father Joe’s inspiration continued: “Now, I suspect there are people in cars waiting at the other end of the bridge. They are close to holy ground, and aware of the Lord’s Day. God loves them, too. But for those fecken’ bastards at the pub, well, there’s no hope for them at all. Thanks be to God. Let us pray for their evil ways.”

Causeway

March 1, 2017

“The law is a causeway upon which so long as he/she keeps to it,
a citizen may walk safely.” Robert Bolt

 

One of my teachers in Ireland often speaks of the “causeway.” In times gone by, the approach from the road to a bridge was often land that was marshy and muddy. This is in sharp contrast to modern roads and bridges, which usually deliver us from dry pavement directly to the bridge and beyond. The old causeways must have been difficult to negotiate. Picture yourself on a definite path, with a bridge ahead in clear focus. You know you will cross that bridge and travel on to your destination, but first you must figure out how to move through the causeway mud.

It is my belief that many spiritual seekers get caught in the causeway. It can throw us off balance, creating the illusion that we are stuck. This sometimes forces us to retreat back to safe ground, sometimes even paralyzing us. With a clear picture in mind, that the bridge ahead will deliver you to your desired destination. What will it take for you to move through the causeway?

One time, in a dream, I found myself trying to get from dry land to a house filled with friends from my earlier days in theatre. The mud was wet and thick, and the area it covered would require a bit of planning. I was not wearing proper shoes for such an endeavor. Suddenly, one of my former actor friends came out of the house and beckoned me over. I shouted, “I’m afraid I’ll get stuck in the mud!” He told me to move through it quickly, as that would be easier. I started to follow his advice. Very quickly I felt the mud begin to cover my feet. I stopped and looked down. The mud was now up to my knees. I was stuck. My friend called out, “You’d better not stop, because it’s not mud you’re stuck in. It’s poop!” With that, I picked up my feet, swiftly disengaged from the poopy mud and landed gracefully on the other side.

Do you see the metaphor? When I’m stuck in the causeway, it’s because of my own choosing. We are not meant to linger there. We are meant to push forward, sometimes with the help of an anam cara. Are you willing to call upon a soul friend for support? Someone to remind you that you are indeed on your right and true path? A trusted friend that will, like in my dream, call to you and say, “It’s not mud, it’s poop!”

Self-Care is the Foundation for Surviving Grief

January 16, 2018

“Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean me first, it means me too.”
― L.R. Knost, Author, Speaker

Self-Care is the Foundation for Surviving Grief

by Georgena Eggleston, M.A.

Home

What if the only reason for this journey of life was to learn to love, cherish and adore yourself no matter what was happening in your life? Could Self-Care be the door to open and begin to explore learning to love, cherish and adore your precious self, your grieving self? Could Self-Care be your life-line to surviving grief? What if a simple phrase could remind you throughout the day to care for yourself? Remember choice is our birthright. How often do you choose healthy foods, exercise and get deep, long sleep? Hopefully regularly. Each of these choices is sound self-care, the foundation through grief and mourning. I know from first-hand experience.

A Simple Sentence
I had the luxury of creating a private practice as a speech-language pathologist. My sons were young so they were my first priority. Then in the few afternoons or time on Saturday morning when they were watching cartoons, I would serve my clients.

I was concerned that I was ‘doing enough’ and ‘being enough’ as my practice grew. One morning during my Spiritual Practice after I had gotten done speaking to God through prayer, I began to listen for guidance. I heard ‘Teach them this is ‘My I Love you.’” So as I baked cookies I served them to the boys with the phrase “This is my I Love You.” They not only eagerly reached for the cookies, their smiles and deep eye contact affirmed they “got it”.

Ironing their t-shirts I would silently say “This is my ‘I Love you.’” as I was folding them. Driving the boys in the car to a soccer game I would listen to what they were saying and pretty soon I began to hear them say ‘This is my I love you’ to me or to each other.

In the Midst of Grief I Chose to Remember…
After my son, Reed, passed I had very little energy in my early Raw Grief state. My body was shot. I felt as though I had been flattened like a reed in the wind. My mind was a blur. Trying to do the simple tasks of making the bed and cooking breakfast each morning were overwhelming, especially as I was simultaneously rewinding the night of Reed’s death over and over in my mind. So stopping in the midst of my deep sadness to rest with a nap I would remind myself “This is my I love you.” As the confusion cleared from my brain and I moved into the Fragi

Conflict

January 30, 2018

 

“You cannot fix a problem in the world unless you’ve already resolved the underlying conflict within yourself.”  ― Oscar Auliq-Ice, author, musician, businessman

“Oh, how I hate conflict,” I once complained to my husband. His reply, “Are you kidding me? You thrive on conflict.” We were both sort of right and both sort of wrong. What I hate is the physical discomfort that usually accompanies conflict. What I love is the possibilities that can surface during times of conflict. The key is to move beyond right and wrong, with resolution as the goal and the desired outcome for the highest good of all. Here’s an example.

Many years ago I was a member of a women’s gym where I worked out and took classes. The monthly dues of $25 were automatically paid through my credit card. I needed an extended leave for travel and physical ailments, so my credit card was put on hold for three months.

Three months went by and I forgot about it. For whatever reason, my husband paid my credit card bill for a few months. When my credit card statement was back in my in-box to pay, I noticed I had been charged the monthly fee at the gym, and had been while he was paying my bill. I was out a total of $100. That seemed outrageous to me. So, with a calm and hopeful attitude, I phoned the gym. My hope was that they would apologize and reimburse me since I no longer wished to be at that gym. That’s not what happened.

The staff member at the gym was adamant that I indeed owed that $100, per the agreement that I would let them know after the three month respite if I wished to continue or not. “I forgot” got me nowhere, as did saying someone else paid my credit part bill for a few months after the hold. I could feel the heat rising in my body. I could hear the irritation in her voice. We were both hell bent on being right.

Before everything blew up, I felt a sudden calmness come over me. I remembered the words from a workshop I had taken years earlier: Am I committed to being right, or am I committed to resolution? Somehow I managed to say, “I’m wondering how we might resolve this in a way that we’ll both feel good about it when we hang up.” In that moment I had the gym woman in the palm of my hand, because my hand is connected to my arms and my heart. My mind wanted a fight. My heart wanted peace. My body wanted the discomfort to pass.

“How about this,” she said. “We’ll reimburse you half and call it even.” That sounded to me like a great resolution. “Thank you,” I said. “Now let’s both get on with having a great day.” She agreed.

I think about the conflict in our country and wonder if we can apply the same reasoning. Am I committed to being right, or am I committed to resolution. When I’m confronted by someone with politics different from mine, and if I choose to engage with them, am I doing so to prove me right and make them wrong, or am I committed to resolution. Here’s an example.

During the presidential conventions two summers ago, I had a conversation with a relative who sees himself as a patriot—in what I would call the extreme. He could not talk about President Obama without fuming. The hate was palpable. In the past I would have argued until we were both blue in the face. But this time was different. I really wanted to hear what he had to say about Obama. “He was not born in the U.S., he wants Islamic Sharia Law, and he just fired 60 cabinet members and generals and replaced them with Muslims.” He spewed this out in one long breath. After a brief pause, I looked at him with a soft expression on my face, and said, “I don’t believe that.”

The difference? In the past I would have said “I don’t believe YOU.” Those are fighting words for us! This time I took it out of the personal and replied impersonally. He suggested I look it up, which I did when I got home. He was totally wrong. (I won’t even address the birther and sharia law stuff.) What I learned was, that Obama only replaced one cabinet member with a Muslim. It was tempting to phone this man and do what we did as kids when one was right and the other wrong. “Nee ner, nee ner, neeee ner.”

The late John O’Donohue has a beautiful blessing titled, “For Love in a Time of Conflict.” Here is the closing passage:

Now is the time for one of you to be gracious,
To allow a kindness beyond thought and hurt,
Reach out with sure hands
To take the chalice of your love,
And carry it carefully through this echoless waste
Until this winter pilgrimage leads you
Towards the gateway to spring.

So I ask you, my anam cara, when in conflict are you committed to being right, or committed to resolution?

Stuff I Learned in 2017

December 31, 2017

 

Before I put up my new 2018 calendar, and before I say goodbye to 2017, I pause to reflect on stuff I learned in the past year. The high lights and the low lights. Here are a few morsels from my life. I’d love to hear some of yours.

Blessings,
Kathleen

 

In 2017 I learned that…
…sitting is considered the “new smoking.” Bad for us, but some of us do it anyway. My sitting too much (wallowing in the wake of the November 2016 election) proved to be the root cause of months of lower back, hip and sciatic pain, and hundreds of out-of-pocket dollars in seeking help.

In 2018 I intend to…
Continue the specific exercises, while returning to the swimming pool for water aerobics and returning to the senior center for yoga. And to stop blaming others for my discomforts, whether physical, mental or spiritual.

In 2017 I learned that…
Even healthy minded and deeply spiritual people can get cancer and die. Even fun and robust people can drop dead of a heart attack. Even people with dire predictions of longevity can out-smart the doctors.
In 2018 I intend to…
Embrace my aliveness while fanning the flame of aliveness in others.

In 2017 I learned that…
…saying “I’m sorry” never goes out of style. Sometimes that’s all it takes to mend a wee crack in a friendship that could have led to an impassible chasm.

In 2018 I vow to…
…before speaking my “truth” to another, I first reflect on my part in the perceived dis-connect. Am I committed to being right, or committed to peaceful resolution?

In 2017 I learned that…
…I was carrying judgment about Christians traveling the Baptist path. While feeling over joyed in finding a new church home in McMinnville—First Baptist Church—I learned that there are many, many kinds of Baptists. FBC happens to be the liberal wing. My atonement was humbling.

In 2018 I vow to…
…examine my other hidden or veiled judgments and prejudices, take action when needed, and strive to practice what I preach—That we are all one, and that we are all in this together.

In 2017 I learned that…
…there are good, intelligent and kind-hearted people who voted for our current president. Just as there are many good, intelligent and kind-hearted people who voted for the candidate of my choice.

In 2018 I vow to…
…contribute my voice, talent, skills and money to political candidates I respect and admire, and to causes that enhance the gift of being an American citizen.

In 2017 I learned that…
…the same number on the bathroom scale looks different depending on whether I’m moving above that number or below it.

In 2018 I vow to…
Treat my body as the sacred temple that it is. Or, as I’m fond of saying, to tend to my body as if it were a loaner vehicle.

We really are one, and we really are all in this together.

Empowerment Revolution


“I did what my conscience told me to do,
and you can’t fail if you do that.” – Anita Hill

October 1991, a law professor named Anita Hill testified before a Senate panel that then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. After disturbing testimony and grilling by male senators, she was made the villain while Thomas was appointed to the Supreme Court where he continues to serve. Some are calling for the re-opening of this sexual harassment claim.

STUFF I KNOW – Guest Blogger
Empowerment Revolution (c) Jen Moore

Jen is a Gender Studies instructor and activist, and maintains a blog at http://afeministspeaks.blogspot.com/

Many of us went to bed depressed and dejected on November 8, 2016, as we processed the news on election night. Within weeks protest marches were being planned and on Jan 21, 2017 the world saw the largest demonstration via The Women’s March. Trump’s presidency ignited a social justice movement around the United States.

Like no other time in history we are seeing powerful, wealthy, white men fall from their positions of power and media influence. Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Charlie Rose and now Matt Lauer have all been fired as a result of sexual harassment or sexual assault charges brought against them. Remember when scores of Bill Cosby accusers spoke out a few years ago and the public was slow to support the women and instead defended Cosby? Those days are gone thanks to the countless women who have come forward with their accounts of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

Meghan Kelly, who publicly spoke out about Former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes sexual misconduct towards her said: “We are in the middle of a sea change in this country. An Empowerment Revolution, in which women, who for years felt they had no choice but to simply deal with being harassed at work, are now starting to picture another reality. To feel that change is within their grasp… it is a sign of progress – of women finding their voices, their courage and of the erosion of a shameful power imbalance that has been in place for far too long.”

It seems each day another man learns the hard lesson that power, control and dominance over women in the workplace is not only unacceptable, it’s worthy of a destroyed career. But instead of focusing on the details of each case, I’m more intrigued with the bigger picture, the larger significance of the past few months-women are being heard and believed! Our stories are no longer being brushed aside and their criminal behavior being tolerated as “boys will be boys.” We are seeing a move away from victim blaming-what were you wearing? Why did you go to his hotel room then if you didn’t want to have sex with him?-and moving towards justice for the victims and survivors. This is an incredibly healing time!

For us spiritual seekers it’s also an opportunity to go within and reflect. Where have I blamed myself? How have I silenced my own voice? How can I hear my own truth, embrace it and honor it? By taking action! Act on your own behalf whether it’s literally speaking up when you’d rather be quiet about an issue you feel passionate about. You can also acknowledge that blame doesn’t serve to do anything but make you feel worse about yourself. But instead take on more self-care practices. I love to bundle up and take walks in the rain while listening to music. I sleep in on Saturday mornings. And I make it a regular practice to hang out with people who adore me and lift me up.

Now that we are seeing Hollywood elites topple, I’d like to see the same swift justice take place in all our institutions starting with the Supreme Court (Clarence Thomas don’t think we’ve forgotten what you did to Anita Hill) as well as in the Senate and the House. And yes, I do believe, there will be a day soon when President Trump will have to face his accusers, admit his wrongdoing and accept his punishment. Women’s voices will be heard.

 

The Presentation Project – Watch this very important short video from 60 Minutes.
http://therepresentationproject.org/we-seized-the-mic-in-2017-and-created-a-sea-change/

Tension

November 17, 2017

 

“If you watch young children play, you will notice that they create
games, characters, situations, whole worlds in which they immerse
themselves with intense concentration.” – Daniel Greenberg, politician

We are living in a really intense time on the planet. How many times have you heard or said that? Check out Mark Dodich’s new moon message below. “Galactic Center urges you to step back to an expanded view of what is going on in your life and the world.” Oh, for joy, I muttered when I first read his message. More tension that I need to re-frame. But then I did as Mark suggests. I put on my detective hat and looked more closely at the word intense. By definition intense means…

Existing or occurring in a high or extreme degree: intense heat.
Acute, strong, or vehement, as sensations, feelings, or emotions: intense anger.
Having a characteristic quality in a high degree: The intense sunlight was blinding.

Breaking the word into syllables, we find in and tense. In, as a prefix, is often synonymous with un, depending on the first letter it is attached to. For example, consider this information found in a spelling website:

Not noble – immobile (we wouldn’t say un-mobile or il-mobile)
Not legal – Illegal (we wouldn’t say un-legal or in-legal)
No relevant – irrelevant (we wouldn’t say un-relevant or in-relevant)

Use of n before any other letter goes like this:

Not adequate = inadequate
Not capable = incapable
Not decent = indecent
Not offensive = inoffensive

My intensely curious mind then deduces that intense means without tension or not tense. What if tension is really a good thing, and not something to un or in?

Consider that it is tension applied to piano, guitar and harp strings that create beautiful music. Tension is a common feature in structuring the plot of a novel or play. How interesting would Indiana Jones be if there were no tensions in his escapades? Or James Bond, or Wonder Woman, or my life, or your life?

When I next declare that life, right now, is intense, I plan to pause and reflect on what I really mean. Are we without tension? Likely so since it is me creating the tension with my judgmental thoughts of separation. I can do the same the next time I catch myself thinking I’m too intense. (Yes, I’ve been told that.) Can I transform the tension from separation to connection? Breathe into the tension and allow beautiful music to emerge, or at least a new tune? And what about these intense times we are living it? How can I re-frame my perception in a way that will empower rather than feed into fear? The answer is simple. By connecting with anam caras like you.

As another Thanksgiving holiday approaches, thank you for being a friend of my soul and a friend to Anam Cara Connections. Our gift of gratitude to you is a blessing you might share at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Enjoy!

Grace Before Meals
Benedictus: A Book of Blessings
John O’Donohue (1956-2008)

As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage toward harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.

Alive

November 3, 2017

“When death finds you, may it find you alive.” – African Proverb

 

I am awake, but am I alive?

It’s a question we ponder in The Anam Cara Journey as related to the Gaelic term anam cara, which means soul friend. The anam cara was the priest (or priestess) that walked with you through your dying process, posing the question: As you are dying, how shall you live? Irish theologian John O’Donohue brought the term anam cara into mass consciousness by reminding us that we are all dying. The broader question becomes: Am I alive today? Or have I become one of the walking dead?

As a student of archetypal patterns, it occurs to me that the popularity of zombies is reflecting how many of us are going through life as if we were one of the walking dead. Not fully dead, but not fully alive. Going through the motions. Looking but not seeing. Listening but not hearing. Spinning stories in our heads that confirm why aliveness is a fickle friend. It is only recently that I shed the zombie garment and once again engaged in my aliveness.

I’ve been energetically asleep for two years. It started the summer of 2015. That’s when the Medicare mail started arriving. At one point I allowed all of the mail to pile up. I recall sitting with my morning cup of coffee in one hand and the other elbow leaning on the table. Aloud, I said to my husband, “I get it. Turning 65 is when you get ready to die. Is that what I have to look forward to?” He laughed, I slumped even more. Doug is five years my junior. “Just you wait,” I said, channeling the Wicked Witch of the West.

I decided to take a year off from my mentoring work and speaking schedule. During that time we re-located from the city of Portland to the small town of McMinnville. It was a great move! And then came Nov. 8, 2016. I was horrified by who my country elected as president. I fell into a deep depression for a few days, not even getting dressed. I sat on our couch and watched Hallmark movies throughout November and December. Sometimes three in a sitting. Always with comfort food as my friend. I was looking for a happy ending to my situational depression. I know the TV movies are cheesy, but, hey, everyone lives happily ever after.

Add to the mix the loss of friends. Not just moving away from my home city of 40+ years, but also literally losing friends who died. Most of the deaths were sudden. When you mix shock with loss, the path to healing can be extra bumpy. “Who’s next?” I sometimes mutter to myself, knowing that one day it will be me that death finds.

Then, early in 2017, I felt the quickening of aliveness return. “I am alive,” a shouted one night to the starry heavens above. And there it was. A shooting star. My aliveness in that moment was likely 100%.

The important part of this message is not just about waking up. It’s about staying awake. We can’t afford anymore to drift, hide or give up. Much is being asked of us. As individuals and a country. In the words of Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi:

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!

With my renewed sense of aliveness, I am once again healing my body temple. I am enjoying reading books about the second half of life. My heart has softened as I continue to pray for our country and its leaders. I can truthfully say, “I am awake AND I am alive.” Then I hear a little whisper from the ancestors, “Don’t go back to sleep!”

CHANT: I Am Alive, David Zeller
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1npUzSqhtJo