Father Ian

August 24, 2018

 

“Live by the trinity of what is true, good and beautiful.”
Alexandra Stoddard, philosopher of contemporary living

 

During my spring 2011 Ireland tour, I wandered into a contemporary Catholic church in the center of a thriving beach town in Co. Sligo. I was stunned to find the triple spiral everywhere. On the doors and the floor, even carved into the backs of every chair. Oh, how I would love to have those chairs at my dining room table! Later that day our B&B host said that she was so intrigued by my website that she invited her priest to come meet me. Now, being Irish but not Catholic, I felt a rush of fear. The priest is coming for me!!!

That evening I was introduced to Father Ian, a congenial fellow in his early 40s. He was a bit guarded in sharing. I thought talking about the church with the spirals would be a safe conversation. I told him that I thought it bold to have a pagan symbol throughout a Catholic church. He said it is not a pagan symbol, it is the Sligo Cross. (I had to laugh—a county in Ireland has claimed a 5,000-year old stone carving as their cross.)

I went on to say that I see the triple spiral as a more contemporary trinity, more fluid, freeing me from the traditional linear and patriarchal Christian cross. Father Ian, with hands clasped behind his back, leaned into me and added, “The Christian trinity is fluid as well.” I agreed, and then suddenly spurted out that seeing Jesus bloody and dying on the cross frightened me as a child. He was up there because of me. It was my fault because I am a sinner. And now I’m supposed to offer my prayers to him?!

After a pause, somewhat startled by my own passion, to Father Ian I calmly said, “The cross has not been comforting to me, but the triple spiral has.” I went on to say that, for me, a contemporary version of the trinity is Heavenly Father, Earthly Mother, Beloved I Am. It’s how I find my place within Christianity. I affirm this in prayer every morning. It brings me a measure of comfort that I previously did not experience with the traditional trinity and cross.

I was impressed to learn that there were three churches in Father Ian’s tiny village—his Catholic church, an Anglican (protestant) church, and the third a mainstream Christian church. Add to the mix that this priest had replaced a pedophile priest in this small parish. Father Ian had called together meetings and shared worship services with the three religious communities, with great joy and success. He urged me to let him know when my next tour group comes to his area, as he would like to host a special interfaith mass with us. Perhaps the triple spiral really is the Sligo cross!

A few years after meeting Father Ian, I took him up on his offer to bring my Anam Cara Tour group to his parish and share in worship with the three local churches. I was surprised to hear from the owner of the B&B that Father Ian had, sadly so, left the church. Seems he met a woman and they had married. I like to think that the triple spiral dialogue had something to do with that.

The blueprint for the Anam Cara Journey 9-month program for women is the Triple Spiral. Think of it as the archetypal yellow brick road, delivering you to your own personal Oz. There you find out that, like Dorothy and her friends, you had along the power within. There’s still time to register for the next circle, beginning Sept. 8th, mentored by Rev. Kathleen. All details are on under Mentoring. Be sure to scroll down and discover Rev. Beth Astarte’s next Anam Cara Journey for women exploring sacred sensuality and sexuality.

Causeway

August 9, 2018

“If you’re stuck in the past, you go forward in reverse” 
― Josh Stern, author

 

One of my teachers in Ireland often speaks of the “causeway.” Perplexed, and with a tour group in tow, I asked what he meant.

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 mud.

It is my belief that many spiritual seekers get caught in the causeway. Whether the source is ancestral beliefs, dysfunctional family patterns, or society’s idea of who and what we should be, it’s easy to get stuck. The causeway can throw us off balance, sometimes forcing us to retreat back to safe ground, sometimes paralyzing us. With a clear picture that the bridge ahead will deliver us to our spiritual destinations, 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 community 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 actor friends came out of the house and beckoned me over. I shouted, “I’m stuck in the mud!” He told me to move through it quickly, as that would be easier. I started to follow his advice only to get sucked in deeper. I stopped and looked down. The mud was now up to my knees. My friend called out, “You’d better not stop. It’s not mud you’re stuck in. It’s shit!” With that, I picked up my feet, swiftly disengaged from the stinky poo and landed gracefully on the other side.

Do you see the metaphor? When I’m stuck in the causeway, it’s because it’s a familiar place. I can see the dry land of safety behind me and the bridge of promise before me. Only I can make the decision to return or to move ahead. Remembering the dream, I remember that the poop is not my waste. It’s from somewhere else. I don’t belong there. When we realize that, it’s easy to take that leap of faith and move gracefully towards my destiny. Sometimes with the help of an anam cara, a friend of my soul.

Edges Have Ruffles

July 12, 2018

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

 

Are you, like me, feeling ruffled at the edge of all that’s happening in the United States and around the world? Our borders are invisible edges that some say immigrants have crossed illegally. The cages placed around the displaced immigrant children create sharp edges. The young Thai boys caught in the cave had to negotiate many rough edges in order to be safely rescued.

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, made the turn in the air, and yet not quite grasping hold of the second trapeze. Do we want to go there? Probably not. Do we have to go there? Yes, if we are to live a fully actualized life of purpose.

One of the world’s most brilliant edges is at Dun Aonghusa, 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 Aonghusa, 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 having 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 Aonghusa. 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 Aonghusa 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 Aonghusa 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.

Later that morning, relaxing in the soft sun and warm breeze, I opened my journal to begin writing. I was stunned to read a dream from the night before:

Dream, night of 5-11-06

I’m in the driver’s seat of a car high up in a parking garage. There are no barriers around the edges of each level. I am slowly moving forward towards an edge, and cannot figure out how to stop the car. It is on a forward moving path with no option to turn. I frantically try to find reverse, while the car continues to roll towards the edge. I feel panic knowing I will go over the edge and die if I don’t find reverse. At the very last moment, with the car perched precariously on the edge, I find reverse and the car stops. I wake up not knowing if I stopped in time.

Even recalling the dream brings about a sense of dread. But, in truth, it is excitement I feel. I have the knowing and the know-how, and now the confidence to bring the two together. That’s what I wrote 12 years ago.

So here I sit today, at the edge of the New Moon and Eclipse, reflecting on the edge I visited in Ireland many years ago. What does it mean to me today with the many rough edges swirling around me? Am I just going to stand back and watch others come to the edge? Will I remember to pray and take action that is, first, a safe step, and, second, necessary in order to facilitate change? What will I see if I muster up the courage to come to the edge of all that is happening in the world? If I come to the edge, will the feeling of being ruffled go away?

“Listen to the wind,” an inner voice sings to me. “The winds of change are at hand. Let nothing ruffle you. We are ready. Come to the edge and you will see.”

John Denver, “Windsong”

https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=youtube+john+denver+the+wind+is+a+goddess#id=1&vid=23379bbdb4aaa05b31888ed716b90d17&action=click

Desiderata

June 27, 2018

 

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

 

A friend recently posted the Desiderata on Facebook. I hadn’t heard it since the 1970s. I was stunned by how it resonates today. Please take a moment and read these profound words. Take them not only into your heart, but out into the world. Even in these senseless times, we can make a difference by staying open—in mind and heart—to new possibilities. We are one, and we’re all in this together.

Blessings,
Kathleen

 

Desiderata (Latin, “The things wanted, needed, or necessary”)
Max Ehrmann, 1872-1945

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

 

Desiderata with vocals
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bUTcy6w2Rw&list=RD3bUTcy6w2Rw&t=54

Great website to learn more about Mr. Ehrmann:
http://www.controverscial.com/Max%20Ehrmann%20and%20the%20Desiderata.htm

For Father’s Day

June 13, 2018

“When a father gives to his son, both laugh; when a son gives to his father, both cry.”
William Shakespeare

We always had a dog when I was a kid, usually mutts dropped off at the fire station where our dad worked. When my younger brother Dave and I were both in junior high, he got to pick out the next family dog from a litter at another firefighter’s house. This was our first pure bred dog, a beagle that Dave named Duke. He was a sweet and feisty little dog, a perfect companion for a sweet and feisty little boy.

One warm night in September 1963, I was at home practicing the saxophone as a dutiful member of the 7th grade band. My older sister was a ballet class. Mom was cleaning up after dinner. Dad was on duty at the fire department. My two brothers were enjoying a romp through the neighborhood with their friends, and our beloved dog Duke. He was a typical Beagle, frisky and friendly to a fault, and clearly belonged to Dave.

As I tooted on the sax, I recall hearing the back door fly open and Dave screaming, “Mom, Duke got hit by a car!” I dropped the sax while mom dropped the dish towel, and together we ran outside. My older brother had Duke’s limp body in his arms. The dog looked like he was asleep, except for a tiny trickle of blood at the corner of his mouth.

“Mom,” Dave cried,” we’ve got to take him to Daddy.” Mom reminded Dave that Dad was on duty at the fire station and shouldn’t be interrupted unless it was an emergency.

Dave looked at Mom, with this own puppy eyes, now wide with terror, and begged, “Please, can’t we take him to see Daddy?” Mom agreed that this was a true emergency.

Dave got an old plastic dish pan into which our older brother, Mike, gently placed Duke’s body. We were all shedding silent tears, except for Dave. He kept talking to Duke in a soothing and supporting voice, while stroking his still warm body. “We’re going to go see Daddy. He’ll know what to do. Everything’s going to be all right. You’ll see. Daddy can fix it.”

Mike drove into the alley behind the fire station where only families were allowed. One of Dad’s fellow firefighters came bouncing out, wearing a grin that quickly faded into a grimace. He disappeared into the station while we got out of the car. Dave was carrying the turquoise dishpan that held Duke’s lifeless but still warm body. Soon my Dad came out to meet us. The other three on-duty firefighters, all family friends, stood behind him. No one said a word. It was like time stood still.

Dave broke the silence when he held the dishpan up to Dad. “Daddy, can you fix him?” Silence. Complete silence.

“Daddy, isn’t there something you can do? Anything?” More silence. The wind even stopped. No one dared speak.

Arthur “Bud” McKern, second row left

“Please, Daddy, please. Can’t you do anything?” Silence ruled again, until a small bubble welled up in Dave’s throat, unleashing a wave of sobs. That’s when I saw the first tear fall from my father’s eyes.

He stood in stillness; one hand on Dave’s heaving shoulder, the other touching Duke’s lifeless body. Dad’s tear-filled eyes were on Dave’s face, now contorted by the ravages of grief. There was nothing my father could do but stand as Silent Witness to the harsh reality of life. His little boy’s heart was breaking, and he simply allowed it. No fixing. No rescuing. No miracles. Just witnessing—in silence, in gratitude, in love. We all belonged to the moment.

My older brother gently took the dishpan out of Dave’s hands, as Dad welcomed the sad little boy into his strong arms. There they stood, that warm September night, father and son, weeping together in recognition of the joys and sorrows that come with life. I saw the other three firefighters wipe a few tears, a supportive back-up team for everyone present. Dad was there for Dave, and would always be there for him, and for all of us. We belonged as a family that night, sharing a common loss. Mom was silent as well and knew that she had to be strong for all of us, especially Dave.

As Father’s Day approaches, I again reflect on the bittersweet story from my childhood. For me, it reflects the essence of why the church fathers called the supreme being Father God. They imbued in Him the highest qualities of all fathers. God doesn’t fix things. God simply witnesses and reminds us that we are loved, cherished and supported, and that we are never alone. Thank you, Dad, Dave and Duke for reminding me.

Horse

May 29, 2018

 

The horse is an archetypal symbol which will always
find ways to stir up deep and moving ancestral memories
in every human being.

~ Paul Mellon, American philanthropist and an owner/breeder of thoroughbred racehorses. 

The year 2006 was my third Ireland tour and my third post-tour pilgrimage to Inis Mor. It’s the largest of the three tiny Aran Islands hovering off the West Coast of Ireland. I encountered a horse there that would reawaken in me an ancient memory of who and what I am. A woman of power, strength and dignity.

Each evening during my solo retreat I took myself on a walk down a narrow, rocky path to watch the sunset. I wanted to witness the ocean swallow up the sun, imagining what my ancient ancestors thought of this daily event. My seat for the sunset show was atop a very old and rickety stone wall. I recall my senses being startled by the many shades of grey in the sky and water, the many shades of green in the lush grasses, and the many sounds of birds heralding the end of yet another day’s work. Sensing that I was not alone, I looked down and to my right. My eyes spied a beautiful grey horse standing proud, almost regal like, revealing an innate sense of power. Never one to pass up a mystery, I hopped off my perch and walked the winding downhill road until I was at the gate to the horse’s small pasture.

What a fine horse this was! Full grown yet retaining a sense of youthful playfulness. Its body was dappled shades of grey, and its mane a sturdy steel color. Its eyes were dual portals to a reality I did not fully recognize but found compelling. I was intent on gazing into the horse’s eyes and was amused by the dilemma of which eye to look into since they were so wide apart. “Ah ha, look between the eyes,” a mystery voice whispered. There I discovered a beautiful white starburst pattern. It is into that “third eye” that I gazed.

An unpleasant childhood experience with a horse triggered a wee bit of fear in me. Then I recalled spending a day with a trainer who taught me how to approach a horse—directly, from the front, so that the horse would know my good intentions. There we stood that May evening, face to face, gazing deeply into each other’s souls.

I spoke softly to this horse in human words, letting it know I came with good and pure intentions. Who are you? What are you doing here? What do you ask of me? I’m not sure who was asking the questions, the horse or me.

This first visit was casual, kind of like a first date. But when I said goodbye and started to walk away, the horse followed me along the fence line. I sensed the horse did not want me to leave. I promised to return the next day, which I did right after breakfast.

The horse was munching on the luscious grass when it noticed me. The grey beauty sprang into action. It was like having a long-lost friend greet me at the airport. I spoke softly again, standing directly in front of the horse. This time I put my hand out and slowly raised it to eye level. It was a moment of awkward trust, for both of us. Would I hurt the horse, or would it hurt me? Slowly I touched the magnificent white starburst on the horse’s third eye.

The moment of contact was like lightening, a precise bolt that illuminated a deep recognition. I didn’t know the history of this horse, its name, or even its sex. But I knew I was attracted to it on many levels—body, mind and spirit. It felt a bit like sensing a past life with another human, one that was erotic, sensual and profound. Was this horse my lover in a past life? This was too much to grasp, so I said a quick goodbye and left.

Later that day I came for another visit. This time the horse sauntered up to the gate and put its massive head over the top. I read it as an invitation to come closer. I reached out and touched the magnificent face. With each gentle caress I again felt that sense of deep longing and recognition. I stepped back a bit, still looking deeply into the horse’s face, and asked aloud— Who you are? What are you doing here? What do you ask of me?

Suddenly the horse stepped back, bowed its head, and pawed at the earth with its left front leg. I was stunned by this and had no idea how to comprehend the answer to my questions. So, again, I said goodbye and walked away. This time the horse did not follow me, but instead stood very still. When I had traversed the hairpin turn in the road, I looked down and saw something that both intrigued and embarrassed me. Here was the horse in a stance that demonstrated it was male, now in a state of full arousal. Horse owners sometimes refer to the stallion’s erection as a ”fifth leg.” It’s that obvious. My five-legged friend stood there in all his glory, now oblivious to my presence. I turned a few shades of red as I looked around to see if anyone else saw this. It’s a small island, with few people. I didn’t want to be a source of gossip.

On my final night on the island, more was revealed about this horse. He was not alone this time. Someone was feeding him. I soon learned that it was the owner’s cousin. He thought the horse’s name was Mayflower, which seemed way too wimpy for what I saw in him. Stud-flower would be more appropriate. That’s when I learned he was a valuable Connemara Pony, used for stud services rather than riding. The man warned me that this horse bites and proceeded to demonstrate. I said I had had a different experience. For my demonstration I slowly reached my hand to the horse’s cheek. As he stood still, I gently patted his face. There we stood—the horse, the man, and me—an odd little trio.

When I returned home from Ireland that year I sought guidance from the friend who studies horse. This was her reply:

Hi Kathleen,
How fascinating to hear of your “encounter”!  I wish I could have seen you two!!!

Here’s my insights as a student of horse nature:  You were VERY CENTERED IN YOUR OWN POWER!!!  It sounds like the horse was literally attracted to your power.  Horses love centered power in people, as then it makes them feel safe.  That is a HUGE compliment to you!!!  However, it has to be balanced with love and affection, or you’re just scary.  As you know, when personal power isn’t balanced with love, cruelty can be felt in a person’s energy.  Horses fear and hate cruelty.  Yet even more they disrespect when a person isn’t in touch with their own inner power, it’s how they pick their leaders within the herd, because they inherently know that the horse that is most in touch with his own inner power can keep the entire herd safe.  You were in that perfectly balanced place with both power and love – and as you found out, it is irresistible to the horse.  And they only bite those they perceive as being lower on the “pecking order” than they are.  Congratulations.

Would I have had the same experience had I known the horse was a biter? Would I have approached the horse differently if I’d known up front that it was male and valued for his stud services? Would I have been so bold if there were people watching?

I will be forever grateful to the beautiful Connemara pony that stirred in me ancestral memories of my innate and authentic power. In the absence of fear, I felt only love. Now, in moments of self-doubt, all I have to do is call upon my beloved horse and re-member what he saw in me, and what I saw in him. Power, strength and dignity.

Ancient Celtic Folk Song (In Gaelic)
Lyric Translation in description
This hypnotic and mysterious song tells the tale of a young girls’ encounter with the ‘each-uisge’ or water-horse.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLUY_WLMQoc

Dignity

May 14, 2018

“Remember this, that there is a proper dignity and proportion to be observed in the performance of every act of life.”
–Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor

An astonishing news story broke in the west of Ireland, March 2011. A local woman was missing from a favorite village that I had often visited. My husband and I heard the news on Clare FM Radio as we were arriving at our destination–Ballyvaughan, a tiny village in the west of Ireland, perched on the edge of Galway Bay. It was a “soft” weather day, meaning the sky was clear, the temperature mild, and the breeze gentle. We arrived to find a noisy search helicopter hovering overhead, and numerous garda (police) in yellow jackets moving around the old pier. Divers were bobbing in and out of the frigid waters. Gathered around in small circles were dozens of locals, standing with hunched shoulders and wearing somber faces. But something was missing. Suddenly it struck me. There was no evidence of the media. No satellite trucks. No cameras. No reporters asking probing questions.

Within two days we learned that a body had washed ashore in the nearby village of Fanore. That night we visited our favorite Ballyvaughan pub hoping to have our moods lifted by a traditional Irish music session. To our surprise, the there was no music. Just dozens of people whispering in a collective monotone. The barkeep apologized, adding that it would not be dignified to have music while so many are grieving.

The next day it was revealed that the body washed ashore was that of the missing woman. She was a long-time local with many relatives in the village of less than 300 people. That night, a Friday, we learned that a Ballyvaughan man had attempted suicide, and was hospitalized in a nearby town. We learned all of this from brief news reports on Clare Radio, and from rumors in the village. The garda and divers quietly left the area while funeral plans were made, and still there was a noticeable absence of media.

That Sunday, which happened to be Mother’s Day in Ireland, we attended mass at the invitation of the local priest. Father Richard surprised everyone when he stepped down from the pulpit and moved out among the people. “We have two grieving mothers here today,” he announced. The priest was standing among the community for a reason. “Let this tragedy not divide our community. Let us come together as one extended family, with respect, honor and dignity.” He was making a huge public statement, the first to say openly that the accused was indeed the suicidal man. No media was present to scoop the story.

The dead woman’s wake would be Monday night, followed by her funeral mass on Tuesday. I asked an Irish friend why the local fellow had not been arrested. He replied, “Oh, that won’t happen until after the funeral mass. For the dignity of the family, you know.” As a typical American news junkie, and former television producer, this was stunning news to me. Delay a news story for the dignity of the family? True to my friend’s word, the suicidal man was arrested literally thirty minutes after the close of woman’s funeral mass and burial.

It was four months later when I learned that the accused was a married father of two and was held in custody under accusations of murder. Every week I continued to search on-line for updates on the case. I was continually stunned by the lack of news reporting. Stunned and humbled, because in truth why would I want to know sordid details of the case? Where is my sense of dignity?

I have been trained by our media to hunger for details of intriguing news stories. How quickly we learn intimate details of victims and perpetrators! Families, friends and neighbors will be hounded for interviews, sometimes for weeks and months, even years. The Kyron Horman disappearance comes to mind. He’s the little boy who disappeared from an Oregon elementary school in June 2010. What roll has dignity played in that unsolved tragedy? I recall the escapades around the trial of Casey Anthony, accused of murdering her precious toddler. Images and interviews, shown on CNN, sucked me in every time I passed by our television. The shocking acquittal was breaking news. Her lawyers were already shopping around her story to various news outlets. My God, where is the dignity in that? Upon returning from Ireland that spring, I learned about the unexpected death of singer Amy Winehouse. I could already anticipate the cover of People Magazine. Would the story inside be one of respect, honor and dignity? I hope I looked dignified when I purchased my copy of the magazine at the grocery store check-out line.

Meeting John O’Donohue

April 29, 2018

Just a month into my first Anam Cara Journey women’s circle, I had the opportunity to hear John O’Donohue speak at Trinity Episcopal Church in Northwest Portland. It was late October 2007. I felt giddy, like I was going to see a rock star or some other type of celebrity. I chuckled to myself when I heard John advise us not to seek gurus or dabble with self-help books. “Read the mystics,” John declared. “They had no hopes or dreams of being a published author or being on the Oprah Winfrey Show. They wrote because they had to write. They had something to say that originated in their souls.”

The following day I was among 50 or so people attending John’s all-day workshop. Never shy in the presence of greatness, I plopped myself down in the front row. I was about 15 feet away from the lectern that held his notes, and even closer to himself. We explored the various trinities in our own lives. Part of our work was to write a love letter to our heart. We were encouraged to remember the first sound we ever heard, which was the heartbeat of our mother as we formed in her womb. We were encouraged to remember the first time we saw our mother’s faces. It was all about hearts and mothers.

Right before we departed for the writing exercise, I had a moment alone with John. I said to him, “Thanks for the assignment. Today marks ‘ten years and a day’ since the death of my mother, Mary Kathleen Connolly McKern.”  His reply—“Oh Jeeeeeesus!!!”  When we returned from writing, and it was time for group sharing, I was the first to raise my hand. John nodded at me, an invitation to speak.

Trembling, and a little unsure of myself, I said, “The first heartbeat I heard was not my mother’s.” John gave me an inquisitive look, and then another nod suggesting I say more. “The first heartbeat I heard was that of my grandmother’s, as I was an egg forming inside my mother as she was forming inside of my grandmother.”

This definitely captured John’s interest, as he leaned closer to me, inviting me to speak even more. More confident now, I continued, “Today I discovered a Sacred Trinity of feminine heart beats. I am Kathleen Marie, my mother was Mary Kathleen, and her mother was Katherine Mae.” John, eyes rolling and body quivering, exclaimed “Oh Sweet Jeeeeesus!” This time, without John’s permission, I continued. “I did not have children, so I wonder what will become of this Trinity when I pass. I pose that as a question to ponder, not one to be answered, just yet.” John shifted his gaze and then his papers, and suddenly leaned on the lectern as his Irish eyes penetrated my soul.

He asked, “Are you a writer?” I nodded and said, “Yes.” He nodded back in agreement. Then he addressed the whole group saying, “Someday we’ll read her writings and think—we heard Kathleen first today, at Trinity Church in Portland, Oregon!!!”  He then thanked me profusely for my sharing and encouraged me to keep writing.

I sat down and began to weep from a place of tenderness in my heart and a knowing in my soul. It was like coming home to my true self. The next comment came from a woman in the back. She said into the hand microphone, “Kathleen, I was one of your students in a class that changed my life. Your heartbeat continues to touch the hearts of many.” I stood up and recognized her as an older woman from a world religions class I taught the previous year at a local community college.  She continued to speak glowingly about my work in the world. A little bit embarrassed, and with some angst about taking up too much time, all I could do was give her a little Buddhist kind of bow, which she gave back. John then chimed in. “Oh Jeeeesus, when the bowing starts you know something important is happening!!!”

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.”