Spring Cleaning

March 12, 2017

“It’s time for a spring cleaning of your thoughts, it’s time to stop to just existing it’s time to start living.” ― Steve Maraboli,  Speaker, bestselling Author, and Behavioral Scientist

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Years ago in a metaphysics class, we were studying the scientific principle that “nature abhors a vacuum.” It is also a spiritual principle. If we want something new in our life, we must make space. When we create the open space, we must be vigilant about what we fill it with. Because it will get filled, either by more of the same, or something gloriously new.

In the spring, our class assignment was to clean out a closet, a junk drawer, a messy glove compartment, or whatever area in our life where there was serious clutter. This sounded silly to me, but I was willing to do it.

The assignment arrived at a time when I desperately wanted to be released from my long-time job producing a live morning television talk show, while longing to write and produce documentaries. I had taken a summer off to write and produce a documentary on child sexual abuse. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, including an Emmy Award nomination. Bitten by the documentary bug, I begged and pleaded with my bosses to allow me to work on documentaries full time. I created a proposal that demonstrated why this would benefit the television station, and not just me personally. Still, my bosses said no. I was growing despondent. Doing the cleaning out ritual couldn’t hurt.

I chose the closet of my guest bedroom. It was small, and had a built-in chest of drawers. It was my expanded version of a one junk drawer. All drawers were stuffed to the gills with stuff. Random clothes were hanging on the rack, while a waist high pile of junky items cluttered the floor. It took a good half day to complete this project. I took a load of stuff to Goodwill, and put much of the other stuff in my garage for a future garage sale.

Once the closet was emptied, I then cleaned it–sweeping, dusting, and wiping it down. In its empty and clean state, the closet looked huge. My voice echoed in the emptiness. Throughout the rest of the weekend I would step into the cleansed closet from time to time, wanting to feel the good vibes. As Sunday evening approached, I remembered that I would likely face again a rejection regarding my desire to be a full-time documentary producer. In utter despair, I stepped into the closet and closed the door. There I stood, alone, in the dark, in a totally empty closet. I said aloud, “Okay, Universe. I’ve done my part. Now you do yours. Provide!”

I went to bed that night and slept very well. At the very least, I had cleansed my negative thinking. Early Monday morning, arriving at work at 6:30am, the first person I saw in the Channel 2 hallways was another early morning producer. He knew of my desire to leave the morning talk show grind for wider pastures in the world of documentaries. His eyes brightened when he saw me. He walked fast towards me and said, “Have you heard? Channel 8 has an opening for a documentary writer/producer?”

Ah, the Universe had provided, I inwardly chuckled. Not only did I eventually get the job at Channel 8, I also enjoyed the satisfaction of a clean closet. Note that this guest room would eventually be a bedroom for my young step-kids, with the closet drawers filled with their clothes and toys. An even bigger dream had manifested!

The Void

February 27, 2017

“Worry not if you are in darkness and the void sucks you in further. This is not the place we go to die. It’s where we are born and our stories begin.” ― Kamand Kojouri, writer/poet

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

As Easter approaches (April 16), I am reminded of a Sunday mass in the little Irish village of Ballyvaughan.  I heard the priest remind his flock that Easter is not a day, it is a season. Whether or not we choose to celebrate Easter through Christian practices and traditions, we are dwelling in a resonate field that recognizes renewal. By definition, renew means to “restore to freshness or vigor.” By the laws of nature, to renew, something must first die. To die means that something must enter The Void. The trick is to not get lost in The Void.

My first conscious encounter with The Void took place twenty-some years ago when I resigned from a long-term job to pursue a new vocation. A minister friend encouraged me to take time off between the jobs. “You need to spend some time in The Void before jumping into the new,” she said, and recommended I read the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges. The author’s last name was perfect, as he demonstrated how to cross the bridge from the past, showed us how to not get stuck in The Void, before we successfully landed on the other side of the bridge. Sounds simple, but for most of us The Void is something to be avoided. But, as Bridges said, it can be a rich time of self- reflection and personal growth.

This academic year was the first time since 2006 that I have not offered my nine-month women’s program. I felt the need for a break. Not because it wasn’t fulfilling work, but because I wanted to step back and re-evaluate. I purposely entered The Void, knowing it would be uncomfortable at times but also a time to renew. The big move last summer from the city to the country was part of that process. In order to renew, I had to withdraw. To do that, I had to take the risk of shaking the spiritual container that holds the body of my work. I knew that some of the events and ceremonies I have traditionally offered would go away. My mind often spun thoughts of concern that my work was done. Maybe I’ve gone as far as I can go. Maybe I’ve fulfilled my sacred contract for this lifetime. Maybe I should retire and fade into the mists. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What if? I don’t know. Maybe. Ugh.

Remembering the relevance of The Void, when I had those thoughts I immediately shifted my thinking and intentions. That’s the key to crossing the bridge. To engage with The Void. To look it fully in the face. To dance with it. To sing to it. To pray into it. But don’t forget to name the necessary feelings that arise as a result of engaging with The Void. Then, remembering the idiom “nature abhors a vacuum,” we imbue The Void with something positive and regenerative.

All too often we find The Void to be so uncomfortable that we drift or run back to what was familiar and predictable. Misery and inertia return. Conversely, that discomfort can also push us to leap into new territory before we’re ready. Fear takes the lead. But remember this. The Void can be our friend. Out of my current Void came a surge of excitement when a past mentoring client reminded me of one of our sessions. “That changed my life,” she said. Our eyes locked as she continued. “You should really be offering your groups again.” In that moment I realized how much I had missed facilitating women’s circles. “I agree,” was my hearty reply. My time in The Void was well spent.

Stay tuned for news about my next Anam Cara Journey women’s circle!

Feelings

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It was the morning after the November 8th election. I wanted to stay in bed with the warm blankets over my head. I recall saying something similar to a therapist years ago when I was going through a rough spell. “Then do it,” she advised. “Put a blanket over your head and just be with it.” And so I did, and continue to do so when the going gets rough, and, as the daily news reveals, when the rough gets going. The key is to stay awake while I’m taking refuge under my blankies. I can almost year Rumi whisper, “Don’t go back to sleep!” That is both an invitation and a challenge.

It’s no secret that I am a news hound and not because I worked in broadcasting. It’s because I have an insatiable sense of curiosity. (Some say it’s because I’m Irish and therefore I’m nosey.) A news story is an invitation for me to learn, to understand, to figure out how an executive order impacts my life and the world around me. The challenge is to stay neutral. I often tell my mentoring clients—“Put on your archetypal detective hat and explore.”  Because the news since January 20th has been mostly shocking and depressing, I occasionally invite myself to retreat and hide under the blankies. It is there that I nurse my wounded spirit. I don’t stay there, but I do go there—unapologetically. Feelings make me human.

My dear mother, now departed nearly 19 years, had a habit of saying to me me, “You don’t feel that way,” or, “You shouldn’t feel that way.” I know she was trying to protect me, but in this case her intentions took me down a hellish road of confusion. It wasn’t until my mid-30s that I was finally able to identify a real feeling. Now, in my mid-60s, and after this bizarre election, my feelings have been all over the map. At times I feel discouraged. Sometimes I shake my head and mutter WTF under my breath. Other times I step outside and take several deep, cleansing breath. I remember that joy is also a feeling, and I’m entitled to it. So where do we find our joy in the midst of so much chaos? For me, I turn to Nature.

“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.”
Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American Lawyer

In the Northern Hemisphere we are teetering between winter and spring. What was cold and grey is in the process of becoming warm and green. Could this be similar to my perceived need to hide under the blankies? Because I’m not quite ready to say spring has sprung? By that I mean I’m not quite ready for the rebirth of our country under new leadership. Under the covers this morning, while I lingered in bed before rising, a meditation from years ago came to mind.

An old crone wagged her finger in my face and said, “You’re trying to give birth quietly and cleanly. Birth is noisy and messy. Now get on with it.” Today I think she would add, “And don’t go back to sleep!”

 

Most People

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives
a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wilde

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Back in the late 1970s, I was a twenty-something year old promotions assistant at KATU-TV, the ABC affiliate in Portland, Oregon. At a programming meeting, I mustered up the gumption to contribute to the visioning dialogue. I began with, “Most people…”  After I stated my claim, the general manager turned on me. “What is your source to back up the claim?” I was mortified, and can still feel a mild twinge of residual angst as I type this. He was right. In truth, I was stating an opinion, not a fact. What do I know about most people?

Last week, on Facebook, I read a poem titled “Most People.” It triggered the memory of the TV meeting many decades ago. Jay Simser is a long-time friend from my youth in Ames, Iowa. (Our mothers were in Eastern Star together. We’re sure they’re marching around in their fancy gowns Heaven!) Jay has given me permission to share his poem.

Ask yourself, do I want to be like most people, or be more like myself? I know where I stand. Do you?

Most People by Jay Simser, Retired Educator
Ames, Iowa  JaycoleS@gmail.com

Most people sing just one song
give just one speech,
have just one conversation –
usually with themselves.

Most people dance
just one dance,
walk just one walk
Go to just one place – many times.

Most Rock Stars give the same concert
over and over.
Most comedians tell the same joke –
although sometimes with different punch lines.

Most Authors who write just one book
can do it many times.

Most politicians have just one idea –
usually someone else’s.
If you change your audience no one knows you are boring!

Some people however
Sing several songs,
Dance many dances,
Walk in different worlds.

Some people have endless conversations with many people.

Some people never listen
but others always do.

Some people stand out and stand up.

They are original, diverse, endlessly fascinating shining stars.

Jay Cole Simser
April 25, 2005

The Edge

“If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room.”   ~African Proverb

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Many times in my life I have been called to “the edge,” that universal place of great discomfort that hovers between what was and what is becoming. That place where we are symbolically “living in the leap.” We have let go of one trapeze and made the turn in the air. We should be prepared to grasp the new trapeze. Do we want to go there? Probably not. Do we have to go there? Yes, if we are to live a conscious life of purpose. That is edge upon which I am hovering as 2016 comes to a close and I prepare to move into yet another New Year.

One of the world’s most brilliant edges is at Dun Aonghasa, a 3,500-year old promontory ringed fort on the west side of Inis Mor off the west coast of Ireland. After the half-mile hike up to Dun Aonghasa, pilgrims are beckoned to cross through two stone walls. The inner most wall reveals a stone platform, with a 320 foot sheer drop off the edge into the Atlantic Ocean. I have been blessed by visiting this edge on three occasions, each time with a different experience.

In May of 2000 I traveled to Ireland for a month-long solo pilgrimage of the soul. Recovering from a broken ankle, it took me a while to negotiate the rocky path up to Dun Aonghasa. Upon arrival at the inner stone wall, I was met by blazing sun and strong winds. Much too unstable to approach the edge, I stood at a distance watching others perform an ancient ritual. Locals say you must crawl on your belly to approach the edge. This is for safety, and for respect of the spirits of the land. More than one cocky tourist has been swept over the edge, only to meet an untimely and visibly traumatic death. I should also note that this has been the site of more than one suicide. Not wanting to play in either of those realms, I stood safely back and just watched. This was a wise decision, yet also showed me how in many ways I have risked my own adventure by just watching others—vicariously living through others rather than living my own destiny.

My second visit to Dun Aonghasa was in May 2002 while guiding my first sacred site tour to Ireland. With 22 pilgrims following my lead, and with healthy bones this time, I enacted the ancient ritual. It was again sunny, only this time there was no breeze. It was amazingly calm, which helped steady my nerves. A bit shaky, I knelt down, crawled on my hands and knees, and took myself to the literal edge. How exhilarated I felt by looking down the steep drop-off!  The water below was churning spirals of green and blue. The puffins were dancing on the air, the sun blessing us all. I even performed a yoga posture—the Cobra—right at the very edge. By first going to the edge myself, I welcomed others to join me. Some could, some could not. This time I learned that each time I take a risk, it not only and empowers me, it empowers others.

May 2006 found me once again on retreat on Inis Mor, and once again I was blessed by sunshine. My walk up to Dun Aonghasa was a brisk one this time, totally trusting where the path would lead. The third visit gave me confidence in the familiar. It was interesting to note that, although the breeze was mild, not one of perhaps 50 tourists was at the edge. I gauged whether this was for a proper reason, and decided perhaps they just needed permission. About 20 feet from the edge, I once again dropped to my knees. Saying a silent prayer, I crawled on my hands and knees to the same edge I had visited twice before—the first time as a by-stander, the second time as a hesitant participant. Looking down this time felt like a welcoming home.

Reflecting on my three treks to Dun Aonghasa, I recall the mixed feelings of caution with a dab of dread.  But, in truth, it is excitement I felt. Today I have the knowing and the know-how, and now the confidence to bring the two together. That’s the edge upon which I’m dwelling as 2016 comes to a close. As 2017 arrives, will I just watch, or hesitantly participate, or be an active participant? I get to choose, and so do you!

Christians and Pagans – Can we be friends?

“I suppose leadership at one time meant muscles;
but today it means getting along with people.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

One December day, many years ago, I got a phone call from my mom. She was having a theological dilemma. I could hear it in her voice. Very tentatively, and precisely, she asked, “So, if you don’t believe in Jesus, then should I not get you a Christmas present?” She was dead serious. I was flabbergasted and couldn’t wait to dive into another juicy spiritual dialogue with the woman who gave birth to me.
Previously I had explained to her that I don’t believe that Jesus is my savior. I believe he was a master teacher. A profound role model. A way shower. A few days after this conversation she phoned me with news. “I was telling my bus driver today, a very nice young Christian woman, about your beliefs. She told me I should get down on my knees and pray for you because you are a sinner.” Which led me to tell Mom that I don’t believe I am a sinner. I was born of Original Love. I make mistakes and miss the mark. When I get the learning, I strive to make amends and move on.

“So are you Christian?” she eventually asked. Out of my mouth came these words. “I’m outside the box of Christianity, but inside the circle of God.” That was our moment of connection. “Got it!” she shouted. Religion no longer mattered between us. Spirituality took its place. The Christ Consciousness guided many more dialogues between us during her dying process. I miss the depth of that sharing and exploring, and yet remembering it inspires me to re-visit the meaning of Christmas. Am I Christian or Pagan, or does it matter?

Singer/songwriter Dar Williams says it beautifully in her clever holiday tune, The Christians and the Pagans.

Dar Williams – THE CHRISTIANS and THE PAGANS – live in concert from Teaneck, NJ
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hCVt_j1A68c

If the Christians and the Pagans can sit together at the table, “…finding faith and common ground the best way they are able,” then we too can find common ground—if we look for it. That’s my intention this holiday season. To savor all of the many sights and sounds of the Winter Solstice and Christmas. Pagans celebrate the birth of the SUN. Christians celebrate the birth of the SON. We are all one, and, goddess knows, we’re all in this together.

My Close Encounter with Botox

“Some people are walking around with full use of their bodies
and they’re more paralyzed than I am.”  — Christopher Reeve

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

It was about this time 12 years ago when I had a mutual birthday lunch with a younger friend. I recall saying that I was okay with aging, except now my crow’s feet are falling and they can’t get up. She suggested Botox. I laughed until she pushed aside her bangs and showed me a remarkably un-lined forehead and no frown marks between her eyebrows. Yep, she was getting Botox and had for quite some time. My first question was the cost. It was a mere $150. That’s when I decided to do it but keep it a secret, even from my husband.

The procedure wasn’t that difficult. Tiny little zaps here and there, with the promise of looking much younger than my 53-year old self. Feeling smug, and ever so youthful, I arrived at the front desk of the clinic to pay. “That will be $450,” the receptionist said. How could that be when my friend only paid $150? That’s when it dawned on me—because she was 14 years younger she needed fewer injections. Adding $450 to my credit card in early December was sobering. “What have I done?” I thought. The question faded as women friends began to remark on my youthful appearance.

You look so relaxed…
Did you just return from vacation?
Are you doing a new skincare product?
Have you replaced your old makeup for new?

I loved the questions. But even more I loved my answer. “It’s Botox!” Every single woman leaned in for a closer look, followed by my first question, “How much did it cost?”

It was fun for the first week or two, but after that, not so much. I could not move my usually expressive eyebrows. My eyelids created a landslide, almost obscuring my usually lush eyelashes. Worst of all, it felt like someone was constantly grabbing and squeezing both eyebrows. Constantly!!!! When I returned for a follow up appointment, this is what I was told.
“Oh, no worries. That’s just your paralyzed muscles trying to talk to your awake muscles. It will go away in a few months and then you’ll return for more.” Once again I wondered, “What have I done?” It didn’t take me long to answer that question. But first, understand that I have no judgment around you or anyone else who chooses Botox. If it makes you feel better, and you can afford it, then go for it.

The learning that emerged for me was around how I was feeling about aging. This as opposed to how aging was making me look. At 53 I realized I had entered what Irish writer John O’Donohue called the “autumn of my life.” The dead and useless aspects of my life were encouraging me to let go, just as a massive maple tree sheds her multi-colored leaves in autumn. Do you think the maple tree thinks, “Oh No! I’m losing my leaves! I’ll look awful! I’m old! I’m going to die soon!”

Therein lies the invitation to love and embrace my aliveness, at whatever age. I will soon turn 66. I intend to do so with gusto. I can’t twerk my bum, but I can my eyebrows. My husband still likes it when I coyly bat my eyelashes. Today I declare, I am awake, and so is my face. But, dang, those crow’s feet continue to fall and can’t get up. I wonder if there’s an alarm for seniors when our crow’s feet finally hit the floor.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzs-gpQj2cU
My Favorite Things-Senior Words
Bill Horn Show