I Get It

May 1, 2015

“I don’t get it.” ~ Homer Simpson

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

I Get It

Recently I noticed how often I mutter, “I don’t get it.” It was my first response when I learned about the unnecessary death in Baltimore of Freddie Gray. Then I whispered it when I heard of the violence that erupted that night in the “city that works.” I said it again when a friend shared with me an odd behavior of someone we both know. “I don’t get it,” I said aloud, while shaking my head. I recall frustration while negotiating a congested concourse at Newark airport. A man on a cell phone stopped dead in his tracks, leaving myself and others stumbling in his wake. “I don’t get why people do that,” I whispered to my husband. What is it I’m really saying with those four words?

I…don’t…get…it…

What I get, upon reflection, is the awareness that I’m making a judgment. “I wouldn’t do that, or do it that way.” It’s a thought of separation versus unity. I cringe thinking about a world where everyone lives up to my expectations. How boring would that be? What would I have to complain about? I am reminded that unity doesn’t mean identical. It means that We Are One while honoring our diversity. That’s the world I strive to live in.

I also get that I can mutter “I don’t get it” as a way to step back from a situation. To give myself pause as I re-frame the thought. Maybe that fellow on the phone just got devastating news. My judgmental thought might have contributed to his shock. Instead, I could become a neutral witness, say a silent prayer, or simply wish him well.

I get, too, that we are mirrors to one another. I cannot see in you what doesn’t live in me. So when I mutter “I don’t get it” in response to a situation, it’s an invitation to reflect on what I do get. An opportunity to step out of duality and back into Oneness.

The next time I catch myself thinking or saying “I don’t get it,” I’m going to immediately remove the negative and turn it into a positive, “I get it.” That I’m human. That I’m not perfect, nor is anyone else. And, that we’re all in this together.

Do you get what I’m saying?

Enjoy this short clip from “The Simpsons”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjfkynJ4hbI

"I Don't Know"

April 3, 2015

“People who think they know everything are a great annoyance  to those of us who do.”   ~ Isaac Asimov

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

“I Don’t Know”

When I was in ministry school, 20+ years ago, our group had a lengthy dialogue about what to say when called into people’s lives at critical moments. This could be the loss of a job, a severe injury, death of a pet, or the sudden or lingering dying process of a child, or parent, or partner. What do we say when the one suffering turns to us, asking, “Why is this happening?”

One faction in our group said we must explain that God is a part of this, so therefore we must put our trust in God. The other faction disagreed, saying the best response is, “I don’t know.” Because, in truth, we don’t know why this is happening–if we stay in the mental realms of thinking. Once we soften and move to the heart, the respectful response is, “I don’t know, but I will walk with you as more is revealed.” In other words, assuring the one undergoing great stress, “I’ve got your back.”

The term originated in military combat. The ones who stay behind in the foxhole shoot to distract the enemy while one soldier dashes out of hiding. Through The Anam Cara Journey, it has been revealed to me that the declaration, “I’ve got your back,” is also metaphysical. An affirmation to remind us that we are never alone. Learning to value the heart as much as the head is my life’s journey. And, I’m not talking about just the front of the heart.

The heart chakra radiates through the entire upper chest. That includes the front, solar body, and the back, lunar body. Both are integral for whole-heart thinking. I can tell you to your face that I’m here for you. But, better yet, I can show you that I’m here for you in ways you cannot see. That is, by honoring the back of the heart that is invisible to the one suffering. A gentle touch and soft whisper can help us remember that there are many sources of healing at work, always seeking our good. Just because we can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. So when I whisper to an anam cara, my soul friend, “I’ve got your back,” I’m reminding them that they are never alone. There’s a council of ancestors right behind them. All they have to do is remember, lean back a little, and allow the mantel of Infinite Love to embrace them.

When we embrace this as Truth, then the words “I don’t know” can bring comfort rather than strife. And, a reminder that we’re all in this together.

A Sense of Place

March 20, 2015

“The future ain’t what it used to be.” – Yogi Berra

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

A Sense of Place

My mom used to drive me crazy when she’d identify a place by what it used to be. Not what it is now, but what it was in the past. “You know, where the old Penney’s used to be.” It was helpful information once I no longer lived in Ames, Iowa. But, still, the way she identified places annoyed me. I mentally accused her of living in the past. What was underlying that irritation? A new thought came to me yesterday.

I had to drive from our home in SW Portland to a dentist appointment in NW Portland. Before merging onto I-5, I was struck by the sight of a new gas station. It seemed to have emerged over night. Rather than seeing it for what it is, my thoughts identified it by the various venues it used to be. On the other side of the street, I noticed a gas station that had recently been leveled. What will it become, I wondered?

Soon I was on the freeway, skirting the edge of downtown. I marveled over all the high rises on the water front. Suddenly my mind was flooded with memories of what those areas used to be like. I missed the shorelines of the river, plus the clear views of the downtown high rises and Mt. St. Helens far in the distance. All are now obscured. I wondered, with a wee bit of judgement, who lives in those tall narrow sky scrapers that are interfering with my sense of contentment?

Once off the freeway, I meandered through the bustling streets of NW Portland. That’s where I first lived when I migrated to Oregon forty years ago. Then the thoughts came again. That used to be my pharmacy. That used to be the vacant lot where I sun tanned. That used to be a tacky pub that I would scoot by because of the sketchy clientele.

Suddenly, with a chuckle, I was aware that I was, like my mom, recognizing places from what they used to be rather than what they are now. That’s when the new thought came. It’s the good old Irish sense of “place,” a major tenet of Celtic Spirituality. A strong connection to the land and its history, both recent and ancient. Mix in my human tendency to want a place to stay the same. And that’s not how Life works. It’s always in motion. Fluid, like the ebbing and flowing of the oceans, and the changing seasons. A reminder to be aware of the past and open to the future, while living in the present moment.

The next time my mind wants to identify a place by what it used to be, I plan to take a deep breath, put on a pleasant smile, and say hello to what it is now.

Press Play

March 4, 2015

“You can’t stop the future
You can’t rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
…is to press play.”

― Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Press Play
My mom had a playful spirit. She knew how to press play on the boom box of life. This is because she could find something fun in just about anything. Some of her most playful moments were when she’d launch into song, often when we were on a road trip. Consider that she couldn’t carry a tune. She knew it, Dad knew it, and we four kids knew it. But it didn’t stop her. One of her favorites to sing was “Playmate,” a big hit in 1894 and still loved today. She would half sing and half laugh her way through it.

Hey, hey, oh playmate,
Come out and play with me.
You’ll bring your dollies three,
Climb up my apple tree.
Cry down my rain barrel,
Slide down my cellar door.
And we’ll be jolly friends
Forever more.

It occurred to me recently that I am blessed with many soul friends and noble friends. But who are my jolly friends? They are the ones with whom I want to do silly things. To get into mischief. To play make believe. To laugh until we nearly pee in our pants.

I spent some time yesterday with a jolly friend. She had me howling with laughter as she described some of the crazy fun things she did when her sons were little. Imagine pretend ice skating in pudding, on the kitchen floor. Or making mud pies in the backyard with mom until all were covered in mud. Or covering the Christmas tree with as many candy canes as possible just to surprise one of the brothers.

We both wondered when we stopped pushing the play button for ourselves. Yes, we can be playful and have fun. But when do we really play like little children do?

Thus began a dialogue around what it would be like to have adult play dates. This kind of fun is not reliant on alcohol, food or money. This kind of play is reliant on imagination and action. The body must be engaged. The senses titillated. The mind and heart open. Adult play dates rely on people who long for the rush of endorphins that comes with play. For those who would like to transform constant frowning into an hour or two of smiling.

“Wouldn’t it be fun to…,” said aloud, launched some outrageously fun ideas. Out of my mouth came, “Let’s learn how to twerk!” We hit the cosmic play button and enjoyed moments of outrageous laughter at the very idea. Not sure what twerking is? Check out this short video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpKKmXC5cSQ
Golden Sisters Twerk like Miley (1:48)

These women know how to play! Would you agree?

Research undertaken at The Strong® suggests that there are six basic elements involved when we play—anticipation, surprise, pleasure, understanding, strength, and poise. (The Strong® is a highly interactive, collections-based museum devoted to the history and exploration of play, located in Rochester, New York.)
If we use learning to twerk as an example, here’s how it might play out for me:

Anticipation: The idea of it triggers a naughty grin.
Surprise: It might be easier than I thought.
Pleasure: Laughter will permeate the experience.
Understanding: Learning something that is totally new to me.
Strength: Must be good for core muscles.
Poise: Delicious mixture of adult and child like fun.

All six elements of play become activated if, and only if, I push the play button. That means I open my mind. I engage my imagination. I enroll my body. Why wait for a twerking class? What if, once a day, I push play on the cosmic boom box of life? I wonder how many jolly new friends I will make.

50 Shades

February 18, 2015

“When I learned about the grey existing between the black and white of absolute terms, I began to experience more peace. The more I expanded my gray areas (more than 50 shades), the more peace I experienced in my life.” ― David W. Earle, author & counselor

 

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen McKern Verigin

50 Shades

With Saturday Night Live’s recent 40th anniversary celebration, I wondered what Gilda Radner’s infamous character Emily Litella might say about the recent hoopla around “50 Shades of Grey.” She was the elderly news commentator on who was also hard of hearing. (See video link below.)

Jane:  Weekend Update realizes it’s obligation to present different views of current events. Here to tell us about “50 Shades of Grey” is Emily Litella.

Emily:  “What’s all this fuss about 50 Shades of Grey? I don’t know what the big deal is about. I’m told it’s a love story about a Dr. Grey who happens to be a Christian. He meets a woman named Miss Steele who is just gone under anaesthesia. Before he operates, he has to tie her hands down so she won’t move. What doctor doesn’t do that? Then he has to cover her eyes so she when she wakes up she won’t be scared. What a nice man, that Dr. Grey. Then to make sure there’s no dust around, he takes a great big feather and….

Jane:  Stop!  50 Shades of Grey is about BDSM

Emily: Oh, so she had a BM and not surgery?

Jane:  No, Emily, it’s a book that some people think is pornography.

Emily:  Oh…I hear young people are using old fashioned cameras.

Jane:  No, Emily, that’s not photography, it’s pornography.

Emily:  Oh, that’s different. Never mind.  (Cue applause, slow slide off screen)

Whether you’ve read the books, or have seen the film, “50 Shades of Grey” holds a powerful place in mass consciousness. My interest is not in the details—the fact that it’s poorly written, the plot line ridiculously absurd and the sexual practices shocking—it’s more about the conversations and dialogues it’s launching. Perhaps it’s here not to destroy our youth and rot the minds of millions of women around the world, but to bring into the light aspects of human dynamics and sexuality that have been kept hidden and secret. I believe it’s our collective Light that is bringing forward that which is ready for healing. I wonder, what is it that’s up for healing?

Emily Litella, Violence on Television
https://screen.yahoo.com/weekend-emily-litella-violins-tv-000000080.html

Name It, Claim It

January 2, 2015

“The New Year has taken possession of the clock of time.” –Edward Payson Powell, Welsh Theologian (1478 – 1540)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Name It, Claim It
The month of January is a “unified field” in which we all dwell. When we name something, we claim it. January was named after the Roman god Janus. He was depicted with two identical faces; one on the front of his head looking forward, the other on the back of his head gazing into the past. Janus stood in the precarious place of “time in between time.”  What would it be like if you allowed all of January to be a time of preparation for taking the high road into 2015?

History shows us that New Year Rites of Renewal continued throughout the thirty-one days of January. Rather than distilling the Old and New Year into a one night, one-time event, as we modern humans tend to do, what if we used the entire month of January to do so? To acknowledge the past, release what no longer serves us, experience the stillness in the void, and then set an intention for the New Year ahead? And, what if you could distill that into one succinct Word of Intention?

That has been my practice since 2001, and shared with others every year since. Here’s my list of words:

2001         Aliveness
2002        Visibility
2003        Allowing
2004        Co-arising
2005        Liberation
2006        Vision
2007        Presence
2008        Trust
2009        Connection
2010        Focus
2011        Grace
2012        Confidence
2013        Action
2014        Courage
2015        ?

The Word then becomes a part of my daily spiritual practice. For example, throughout 2014 I have concluded my daily prayers with “I am the Courage of the Living Christ in me.” It’s always enlightening to reflect back on the past year and notice how Courage has shown up—or not—in my life. Trust me, it has!

I have a few Words of Intention for 2015 already bubbling up. As before, I will give myself time and space for the perfect Word to emerge. I’ll try on a few, like I might do when shopping for a new pair of shoes. I’ll remember to reflect on the shadow aspect of the word, because it will surely show up. What I know for sure is that by January 31st, four weeks from now, I will know my next Word of Intention.

What word will you use to Name & Claim your highest good for 2015?

You can learn more about New Year Rites of Renewal when I speak of “Taking the High Road into 2015” this Sunday, January 4, at the 9:00 and 11:00am services at New Thought Center for Spiritual Living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. http://www.newthoughtcsl.org/  Services are always uplifting and life affirming, with spectacular music. Guest musician this Sunday is Laura Berman. http://www.laurabermanmusic.com/

If you’d like help with claiming your Word of Intention for 2015, consider taking my Anam Cara Connections workshop this Sunday afternoon—“Aiming Your Arrow for 2015”—1:30-4:30pm, downstairs at NTCSL. It is open to women, men and teens. Investment is $33. It promises to be experiential, reflective, clarifying, deeply profound and FUN!

Interested in private mentoring for accessing your Word of Intention? Contact me directly and we’ll make it happen:  info@anamcaraconnections.com

HISTORY OF JANUARY

Poor January! It’s presence in the calendar has been toyed with since the beginning of measured time. Thanks to Numa Pompilius, around 700 BCE, January was added to the previous ten-month calendar. The start of the New Year, however, was still in March. Then, in 46 BCE, Julius Caesar introduced the solar-based calendar that was considered a big improvement on the ancient Roman calendar. (It was a lunar system and considered wildly inaccurate over the years.) January took another hit in medieval Europe. The January New Year celebrations were considered pagan and un-Christian. So, in 567 BCE, the Council of Tours abolished January 1st at the beginning of the New Year. But wait! There’s yet another plot twist. January was restored to its place as the first month of the calendar year when today’s Gregorian calendar was established in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII.  But there’s still one more little morsel of info about January. Prior to 1752, the British Empire and American colonies continued to observe the New Year in March.

Stuff I Know 2014

December 5, 2014

“Everything is stored within your soul in the temple of memory.” John O’Donohue

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Temple of Memory
At a recent holiday gathering, I had the opportunity to interact with a woman I did not know, but had been warned about in advance. It seemed she had a reputation of being a bit of a “pill.” My Irish sense of curiosity fueled the desire to meet her and find out for myself.

She was nothing like I pictured her, although I really didn’t know what a “pill” would look like in human form. Eventually we were seated near each other and began conversing. I asked one of my favorite questions: “Are you originally from Oregon?”  With her polite “no” came the raising of her eyebrows and the subtle shaking of her head. “I’m from back East,” she confessed. She went on to say, “I’m nothing like my family. I’m the black sheep. The artist. The confronter. The one who escaped.” It some ways I could relate having left Iowa soon after college. What I could fully relate to is what she said next.

“It’s an odd thing when I go back home to visit. You’d think I wanted to escape my family and spend my time visiting world class museums. No, instead I like to visit places that hold memories of my childhood.”

“Oh,” I chimed in. “You like to go to the Museum of Memory.”

I’m not sure where those words came from, but we both knew they were powerful. We went on to swap rich stories of various places from our youth. For me, I remembered the school yard where my 7 year old tongue got stuck on the frosty jungle gym. The A&W drive-in where we’d get frosty root beers on a hot summer night. The pussy willows at our neighbor’s house, heralding the arrival of spring. The giant maple tree at another neighbor’s yard where we built elaborate hallways out of autumn leaves.

Everything my human eyes have ever seen hold memory. Not the kind of memory we associate with computers. It’s the soulful kind of memory. The kind stored in my heart, not my brain. The kind that gets especially activated this time of year. Remember this when you bring out holiday decorations, or when you visit someone’s home who has taken “Deck the Hall’s quite literally.

Out of curiosity, I googled Museum of Memory and found this:

We cannot completely rely on our memories, and yet, there is no reality other than what we carry with us in memory. Every moment we live, we get the importance of the moment, thanks to the past. Present and future would lose all meaning if the past was erased from our consciousness. Between ourselves, and nothing, is our ability to remember.

http://www.nie-theatre.com/index.php/shows/repertoire/museum-of-memories

This December, I will remember to slow down and allow the inner art pieces of my soul to emerge. I will give equal time to happy and sad memories contained in a Christmas ornament or other holiday decoration. I will savor the taste of candy canes and egg nog. I will smile when I see the menorah in a neighbor’s window, with new lights every night. Most importantly, I will allow my gaze to linger upon my anam caras, my soul friends, even if they sometimes act like a “pill.”

 

line-separater

 

November 21, 2014

“Each age, it is found, must write its own books; or rather, each generation for the next succeeding.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Millennial Thanksgiving
Our Thanksgiving this year will be shared with our adult kids and their partners, plus an assortment of their friends, all in their twenties. That means there could be twelve or more “millennials” in our small condo. This is the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Time Magazine once portrayed millennials as lazy, and ungrateful, and that they don’t grow up fast enough. I’ve also heard it said that if we Baby Boomers are the “Me Generation,” then the Millennials are the “Me, Me, Me Generation.” That’s not what I see in the dozens of millennials with whom we are blessed to be acquainted.

From socializing with 20-somethings in the past, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern of speech. Instead of saying “I think it’s time to eat,” someone will likely say instead, “I feel it’s time to eat.” When I first noticed this, I had the notion to interject, “Deciding to eat isn’t a feeling.” This from a life-long feeler, and yet someone who still sometimes struggles with identifying an authentic feeling. I decided to remain quiet and notice if “I feel” statements continued. They did, and often, always around making a decision about something.

According to the Myers-Briggs Indicator, inspired by the work of Carl G. Jung’s theory of psychological types, people can be characterized by their decision making processes in one of two ways—Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F).

Thinking and feeling are the decision-making (judging) functions. Those who prefer thinking tend to decide things from a more detached standpoint, measuring the decision by what seems reasonable, logical, causal, consistent, and matching a given set of rules. Those who prefer feeling tend to come to decisions by associating or empathizing with the situation, looking at it ‘from the inside’ and weighing the situation to achieve, on balance, the greatest harmony, consensus and fit, considering the needs of the people involved. (Wikipedia)

Even though I’m someone who will say “I think,” I show up as a Feeler on the Myers-Briggs Indicator. I am reminded that Feeler is not about emotions. Everyone has emotions about the decisions they make, and we are not to confuse thinking with intelligence. These are simply two different mental functions for organizing information and for making decisions. Ultimately, it’s about how we make judgments.

Thinking (T) chooses decisions based on principles and logical consequences. Feeling (F) chooses decisions based on values and consequences for people. (The Myers-Briggs Foundation)

Perhaps the millennial generation has something to teach us about values and consequences. Perhaps they value feeling more than thinking. Perhaps they value consensus over conflict.

This Thanksgiving I will get another opportunity to socialize with this wonderful group of young adults. I vow to listen more than talk. To seek to understand before being understood. And, when it’s time to sit down to our Thanksgiving Feast, prepared by everyone, I will say, “I feel it’s time to eat.”

 

line-separater

 

November 6, 2014

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Three Unsafe Words
In the past few days I have heard these three words used to describe a radio personality accused of beating women, and the outcome of Tuesday elections:  Power, Control, and Dominance. That’s a triple spiral I want nothing to do with. Yet it is pervasive in our culture and “up” for our pondering and reflection.

Before being fired last week, Jian Ghomeshi hosted “Q,” the CBC afternoon radio show heard locally on NPR. I was a big fan, even more so when I first saw his photo. “Darned good looking,” I thought, “I bet he’s popular with the ladies.” That proved to be true, in a very negative way. Nine women and one man have come forward to say they had been assaulted and sexually abused by Jian. In a long discourse on Facebook, he admitted to his attraction to BDSM—bondage & discipline, sadism & masochism—saying it was his private life and nobody’s business. He said all sexual partners were agreeable, including the use of a “safe word.” Those making the allegations say it was not agreeable. There were no “safe words.” Instead, they say, his behaviors were violent, brutal and degrading, causing them great shame.

Mr. Ghomeshi, and his accusers, will have their day in court. What interests me today is the dialogue that has emerged around this provocative and controversial topic. Power, control and dominance. (See Mark Dodich’s moon message below as it directly relates!) What happens in the privacy of someone’s bedroom is truly none of my business. But what happens in board rooms, in the military, on college campuses, with kidnapped girls in Nigeria, and in Congress is my business, and yours. In the aftermath of Tuesday’s election I read way too many headlines that used the three “unsafe” words of Power, Control & Dominance.

ENOUGH, I say!!!

We contribute to the problem by only reading about these issues, or shaking our heads in disgust, or trying to ignore them by avoiding the news. We contribute to the solution by launching dialogues, by telling the truth, and by listening to the truth of others.

Will you listen my truth that is fueling the need to write this?

I was date raped in my mid-20s by a man whose name I occasionally see in the newspaper for his work in politics. If he ever ran for office, would I come forward with this deeply personal information? Would I enroll a woman friend who disclosed to me a similar experience with him? I don’t know. But what I do know is that it was his shame, and not mine. No one has power over me. I refuse to be controlled by another. I value partnership over dominance. And, critical to my healing, I have forgiven myself—over and over and over again—for not speaking up.

Will you speak up? Will you share your story with someone? Will you join me in affirming daily that Love & Light prevail, always, and in all ways?

Thank you for listening, my anam cara, “…the truest mirror to reflect my soul.” We’re all in this together!

 

line-separater

 

October 22, 2014

“Fiery colors begin their yearly conquest of the hills, propelled by the autumn winds. Fall is the artist.” ~Animal Crossing: Wild World

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

There may be plenty of people who don’t like the seasonal change from summer to fall, but is there anyone that doesn’t marvel over the magical array of autumn colors? Fiery reds, mellow yellows, glowing oranges, crusty browns and those lucky leaves with color splotches of each?  If you think about it, the colors of autumn leaves are in essence the color of death. Yet who would oooh and aaah about death? “Oh, wow, look at the beauty of mom’s death!” “Oh, wow, take a gaze at the amazing beauty of my cat’s dead body!” “Oh, wow, look at all those beautiful dead people in Syria and Iraq!” Of course we wouldn’t say that. I wonder, then, what message autumn leaves might have for us.

The late Irish mystic and writer, John O’Donohue, said that when we are born, death arrives with us. No one notices though because of the joy of arrival. Death is an invisible companion that walks the road of life with us. We can ignore it, but one day death will look us fully in the face. Will I resist or embrace my own death? That’s easy to say as I am, at the moment, enjoying good health. But death will come one day, to my door and to yours, and those what we hold most dear. How will we greet death? Colored by fear and loathing, or colored by love and compassion?

I don’t have the answer to that question, but what I do know is that the colors of autumn remind me of the ever turning Wheel of the Year. No one season has the license or clout to last through a solar year. Nothing is still. Nothing is inert. Nothing is blocked. It is only in our thinking that we make so. When I flow with the changing seasons, I flow with Life Itself.

What will you think the next time you gaze at the colors of autumn, or hear someone comment on its beauty? Will you skip over the “now” time of autumn, and instead dread the coming of winter? Will you wish for spring, and hope it turns into another summer? Will you think that it’s the end of something, or Nature’s way of reminding us that all of life ebbs and flows? I choose the latter. How about you?

(This message it not intended to take away authentic feelings around loss. It is intended to shed new light on how we respond. It’s all in our hands.)

 

line-separater

 

October 7, 2014

“To be or not to be. That’s not really a question.” – Jean-Luc Godard

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

To Be or To Do
Sometimes when I’m in the car I listen to a Christian radio station. It’s just to the right of 91.5, NPR.  I like to hear what the good old boy pastors are up to. Yesterday I was inspired by this question—Is your To Be list equal to your To Do list? It was a lesson in setting priorities. “If God is not at the top of both lists,” said the pastor, “then your life is out of balance.”

I have a To Do list in my head even before I get out of bed in the morning. Once at the computer, the day’s To Do items are often written on paper. Sometimes I put something on the list that I’ve already completed, just so I can cross it off. I’ll take success anywhere I can get it.

After yesterday’s radio sermon, this morning I made two lists. The To Do list had several tasks to accomplish, each preceded by a bullet point. The To Be list was short and to the point—Kindness. Today I will kindly address each item on the To Do list. Today I will be kind to everyone I meet. Today I will be kind to myself.

What’s at the top of your To Be list today?

 

line-separater

 

September 23, 2014

Psalm 126:6, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Bringing in the Sheaves
My Aunt Ava came to me in a dream last night. The significance is that it was she who inspired me yesterday—the first full day of autumn–to look up the old hymn, “Bringing in the Sheaves.” I remember as a kid going with her to a little country church in southern Iowa. For some reason that is the hymn that stuck in my mind. Partly because we kids were often actively involved in the harvest at their nearby farm, and partly because Aunt Ava used to sing at the top of her lungs. Bringing often sounded like branging, infused with her “down home” accent. I remember thinking that she was singing much too loudly. Truly, you could hear her voice above all others. That woman knew how to rejoice!

Today, while reflecting, I harvest the aliveness of Aunt Ava’s spirit. Her mother, my grandmother, died during The Depression after giving birth to her ninth live child. My grandfather was an alcoholic, sometimes absent for days. Imagine being 18 years old, a new mother herself, with 8 younger siblings. Aunt Ava was the glue that held this family together. Summer reunions were at the farm she shared with Uncle Robert. Christmas dinners always included talent shows featuring us kids. Aunt Ava’s applause was the loudest. Best of all, every summer each of us McKern kids, one at a time, got to spend a week at the farm. Yes, we worked hard doing chores, but the take away is that she made each of us feel special.

There is the literal harvest, and the symbolic harvest. I’m not sure anyone reading this will have come in from clearing a field or loading hay into a barn. Yet we are in a resonate field that reminds us of the sower, the seed and the soil. This autumn, during harvest time, what do you bring to the coffers? What needs to be tossed away? What still needs to ripen? Most importantly, can you rejoice in the process?

Bringing in the Sheaves
1874 by Knowles Shaw,

Sowing in the morning, sowing seeds of kindness,
Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;
Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

Refrain:
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves,
Bringing in the sheaves, bringing in the sheaves,
We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.
Sowing in the sunshine, sowing in the shadows,

 

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August 24, 2014

“If you want to get along, go along.”  Sam Rayburn (1882-1961)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Why Can’t We All Get Along?
A few days before he passed, my grandfather-in-law, Arnold Boettcher, affectionately known in the family as Bomp, said words that have stuck with me for years: Why can’t we all just get along?  He was lying in a hospital bed, his hands connecting above his head, making a frame around his weathered face. His eyes twinkled as he smiled at those gathered by his bedside. To my knowledge there were no dramas or fights going on within the family. Instead, I think Bomp was advising us on how to live a life of love and respect, rather than one of fear and judgment. Make connections, not enemies. This was, perhaps, the rugged farmer’s dying wish for us.

Today I think of Bomp when I view the massive amounts of photos and YouTube videos showing odd pairings of animal. I can watch the same ones over and over. The cat with a bird. The elephant with a puppy. The dog with a deer. I always wonder—if they can get along, why can’t we? I “read” this as a demonstration that our world is working in more ways than we give credit. Yes, there are wars, famines and plagues. Racism and sexism still exist. These are sad facts. But there are happy truths swirling about us as well.

Scientists say that our brains are hard-wired to connect with friends. If we could see everyone as an anam cara, a soul friend, imagine what kind of world we would live in. That is what Anam Cara Connections is about—offering opportunities for soul friends to connect. Rather than asking why can’t we all get along, as Bomp did, your anam cara affirms that we go along with the truth:  We Are One. There is no separation. This allows me to be optimistic in the midst of heartache and strife, in my little world and in the great big world. Let’s join together and allow truth to triumph fact. If animals can do it, so can we.

For a beautiful experience of anam cara critters connecting, click on this link for a delicious 7-minute meditation.


Can’t We All Get Along  6:58

 

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August 24, 2014

“Nature is a labyrinth in which the very haste you move with will make you lose your way.” – Francis Bacon, Sr. (1561-1626)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

You know the saying. What happens when we make plans? God laughs! I’ve heard some people say that that is a mean why to perceive God. I don’t think it’s mean at all. In fact, I think it’s a fun and playful way to stay in my God-center. An invitation to make plans, without attachments to outcomes. Hahaha!

We started our three-week sailing adventure with plans to cruise about the San Juan Islands north of Seattle. That we did, with ease and grace, including three days of fun with friends renting a house at Roche Harbor. God was smiling, I’m pretty sure, in approval of our plans.

The plans for the second leg of our journey found us in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, Canada. All was well until Capt. Doug discovered a leak in the engine our sailboat. Suddenly our plans were disrupted as a mechanic would not be available until two days later. That meant we’d have to stay put for four nights. So much for our plans. I listened closely, but could not hear God laugh. So we made the best of it and hunkered down at a working class marina in Cowichan Bay.

While roaming through the little village, I noticed a postcard size flyer on a light pole advertising a wine tasting tour. It was the perfect on-shore get away for us and a ripe opportunity to see the countryside. Our driver, Vernon, greeted me by saying, “Hello Rev. Kathleen. I know all about you. I looked you up on the internet. “You’re into that woo woo spiritual stuff, aye?”

This gave me pause, as it good be good news or bad news. Turns out it was good news as we had much in common. Vernon had a couple of wineries in mind for us since we were the only ones on the afternoon tour. Each winery was better than the next in terms of landscape, the knowledgeable, friendly and funny vintners, plus tasting wines we’d never heard of in the States.

After three wineries, I was tasted out, and ready to get back to the boat. But I could hear the excitement in Vernon’s voice when he said he made special plans for us to visit Damali Lavender Winery & Farm. Capt. Doug said yes, while I said I’d forgo the tasting and just roam about the lavender patches. With a smile at Doug and a wink at me, he said, “You will both really like this.”

The fragrance of lavender was intoxicating. As I breathed in the powerful yet gentle scents, Vernon walked up behind me and whispered, “ Walk the path below and you’ll find something pretty special.” What could I do but follow his obviously pre-planned plan for me?

I passed by row after row of tiny grapes, with lavender gardens nestled here and there. After a few twists and turns, all downhill, I suddenly came to a stop. There it was. A magnificent labyrinth in a flat field at the bottom of the vineyard. The backdrop was a dense forest. Our sailing plans on hold for a few days, it was Vernon’s plan that triggered a laugh in me, and I think in God as well.

I spent as much time just gazing at the labyrinth as I did walking it. I had the entire area to myself. I know it is often said that we should set an intention when walking a labyrinth. That was too much like a plan for me. So I just walked, roamed, and circled, eventually delivered to the center.

There I stood, in sweet delight. Warm sun on my face, a cool forest breeze at my back, lavender tickling my senses. A chuckle bubbled up in my heart as a smile spread over my face. I pondered the third leg of our sailing journey. What plans would we make, and who would laugh first, God or me?

 

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August 9, 2014

Insight is better than eyesight when it comes to seeing an angel. ~Quoted in “The Angels’ Little Instruction Book” by Eileen Elias Freeman

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Angels in a Bottle
“Do you know about angels?” I asked my soon to be 4 year old grand-nephew while preparing for his baptismal blessing ceremony. I had just given him a sticker to wear with two angel faces, one presenting him, the other his “widdle brudder.”

“I have some angels,” little Dylan announced. “I’m going to go get them.” With that he scurried out of the room, leaving his parents and me intrigued. Dylan returned, holding an old fashioned solid red ketchup bottle. He jumped up on the couch next to me, unwound the lid, and dumped out the contents in his lap. Before us was an array of a pre-school boy’s treasures: coins, tiny trucks, little animals, and a few beads of varying size and shape. Very meticulously, Dylan picked out three beads, two yellow, one blue.
Now held in his small open hand, he said, “Here.”

“Are these angels?” I asked, now fascinated. Dylan answered with a vigorous nod of the head.

I held a yellow bead up to the sunlight. It was clear plastic, multifaceted. “Look how it shines,” Dylan proclaimed. Now seemed to be the right moment to talk about God.

“Do you know about God?” I asked. Dylan lifted both arms up high, waving them side to side. “God is in the sky,” he pronounced. “He watches over us,” him mom chimed in. Her son nodded in agreement.

The moment was now ripe for a bit of teaching. “We call the God above Father Sky. We call what’s below us Mother Earth.” Together Dylan and I reached one arm up and pointed the other below. “Now,” I said in my most heavenly of voices, “Let’s draw down some Sky light and plant it in our heart.” We both placed one hand on our hearts. I continued, “Let’s draw up some light from Earth and bring it into our hearts.” Now we had both hands on our hearts. Our eyes locked as big smiles emerged. “And that’s where love lives,” I said. “Our ceremony today is about love. God’s love, angel’s love, and the love of family.”

Dylan again nodded, then asked, “But what about the moon?” Ah Ha, I thought, he is indeed related to me.

Soon I announced that it was time to go outside and begin the blessing ceremony. “I want to hold the yellow beads,” Dylan advised. “Good idea,” I replied. “How about one bead angel for you, the other for Devin?” I asked. Dylan nodded in agreement. I continued, “How about the blue bead for God?” With another nod, Dylan suddenly ran to my husband, his great-uncle, and handed him the blue bead. “Now we can start,” Dylan proclaimed.
It was a lovely little ceremony, honoring two of God’s precious new children, while affirming their wholeness in body, mind and spirit. Dylan was amazingly focused and attentive throughout, angel sticker on his heart, angel beads in his hands.

Later, while enjoying a post-ceremony buffet, Dylan ran up to his great-uncle, tugged on his shirt and said, “God, can I have the blue bead back?” It was a perfect conclusion to the day’s lessons about God, angels and love–only we adults were not the students. Wee Dylan was the master teacher, assisted by angels in a bottle.

 

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June 27, 2014

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
― William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

When you call someone by name, or call them a name, you come into relationship with that person, creating a connection, whether you are conscious of it or not. That’s what we humans are hard-wired to do. To relate and connect. And that’s why the Irish term anam cara is so important to me. As John O’Donohue said “… your anam cara, your soul friend, is the truest mirror to reflect your soul.”

When I watch, read or listen to the news, I am drawing to me the content of the various stories. If something particularly captures my attention, I know that it is a mirror of some sort. Recently I have been struck by the acronym ISIS in reference to jihadist militant group now prominent in Iraq and Syria. While ISIS in the news stands for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, I know that there is a goddess by the name Isis. According to Wikipedia:

She was worshipped as the ideal mother and wife as well as the patroness of nature and magic. She was the friend of slaves, sinners, artisans and the downtrodden, but she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, maidens, aristocrats and rulers. Isis is often depicted as the mother of Horus, the hawk-headed god of war and protection (although in some traditions Horus’s mother was Hathor). Isis is also known as protector of the dead and goddess of children.

I wonder if the connection between ISIS and Isis is an invitation to call upon the goddess for protection and healing. To honor the generative, life-giving aspect of humanity rather than the non-generative, life-taking paths so prominent right now, especially in the Middle East.

Here is a lovely “Prayer to Isis, Mother of Us All” by Linda Iles posted on this website.
http://mirrorofisis.freeyellow.com/id605.html  I invite you to read it aloud, creating a connection to her name, which means She of the Throne. Will you allow her to become a mirror to you, my anam cara?

Isis, Mother of us all,
Light that is all light,
Form that is all forms,
Beauty of Holiness,
From age to age,
Through countless ages,
You are ever-renewing
And ever-renewed.

We all came from Your Body,
We all came from Your Heart,
We all came from Your Soul.

Restore us to the perception of Truth,
The Truth of Your Love in all that is,
The Truth of Your Spirit in all that is,
The Truth of Your Presence in all that is.

I wonder, what if the emergence of the term ISIS is a call to return to the Mother Goddess in the form of Isis? For the Divine Feminine to be honored as an equal to the Divine Masculine. To stop condemning the actions of ISIS and instead calling upon the life enhancing aspects of Isis. That’s what I’m choosing to do, starting right now. Will you join me?

For those who scoff at prayers to goddesses, here’s my take on it. I pray to a goddess in the way a Catholic might pray to a particular saint. The goddess is an aspect of The One, just as saints are aspects of God.

Remember, we’re all in this together.

 

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June 12, 2014

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

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

For Father’s Day

One of my favorite photos is of my brother Dave, the youngest of us four McKern kids, maybe four years old, sitting on the couch with our dog Bootsie on his lap. A boy and his dog. It was a classic 1960 image, the Lassie and Rin Tin Tin years. We always had a dog, usually mutts dropped off at the fire station. When 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 feisty little dog, just as Dave was a feisty little boy.

One warm night in September 1963, I was at home practicing the saxophone as a dutiful member of the seventh grade band.  My older sister was at dance class. Mom was cleaning up after dinner, while 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 sweet 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, “Duke’s been 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 Dad?”  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.”

We 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, with the other three on-duty firefighters standing 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, and no one dared breathe.

“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, weeping together in recognition of the joys and sorrows that come with life. I saw the other three firefighters crying as well, 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.

When bad things happen in a family, we belong together. I pray that the breaking hearts of the families connected to Tuesday’s shooting at Reynolds High School know that they belong—to each other, to the community, to all—because we are all in this together.

 

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May 27, 2014

“Many drops make a bucket, many buckets make a pond, many ponds make a lake, and many lakes make an ocean.” -Percy Ross  1916-2001  American Businessman

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

On/Off/On Bucket List
A few years ago I decided to start a Bucket List, well before I got any sort of health news that might cut short my anticipated longevity. It was a grand list filled with adventures of the mind, body and spirit.

Those items already receiving successful check marks include:

Sleep in a teepee – Was not pleasant at all. It was a hot night so the flaps were up, which means all sorts of creepy crawly thing could get in. I’m not saying they did get in, but they could have, which is why I didn’t sleep much. I enjoyed both my teepee campouts, my first and my last.

Walk thought a forest at night – It was a full moon walk at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge area with a guide, group of friends, and clear path, under a bright moon. Invisible wildness is still alive in me.

Belly dance in public – Check. Enough said.

My once overflowing Bucket List, however, is in danger of drying up. This is because I have gradually X-ed off wishes and dreams that I know cannot come true, mostly because of my aging body. I’ve said goodbye to Machu Pichu and the Greek islands. I still hope to visit the Grand Canyon and to see the fall foliage in the Northeast. But the saddest thing of all that I removed from my Bucket List was this—to see the night sky from the middle of the ocean. I could not see any sane way that that could happen. Because…

I am not cruise ship material, nor am I a sailor. I am someone who loves the water and likes to be on boats. No smart skipper wants me as crew. I’m not a reliable lookout thanks to tri-focals and cataracts. Never consider me for night watch because I have serious control issues. Don’t ask me to hoist the mainsail as my arthritic joints will likely fail. If I don’t get enough sleep, no one wants to be around me, including a bunch of able bodied sailors. If you are seasick, puke somewhere far away from me. Unless, of course, I am the one puking. Suddenly, the boat will come to a standstill. Someone will hold my hand as they gently dab my forehead with a cool cloth, cooing, “There, there, Kathleen, there, there.”

Last week I had a change of mind and heart. I really do want to see the night sky from the ocean, and an opportunity to do so was at hand, on a boat that I co-own. The stars had aligned in a way that I simply could not overlook.

This Wednesday, under the New Moon, I, along with my husband and his crew of experienced sailors, will cast off our boat, Wilparina, from a dock in St. Helens and begin the journey to Astoria. We will sleep aboard Wednesday night, rising early on Thursday with ears attuned to the best possible time to cross the infamous Columbia River Bar. The mantra is “When in doubt, wait it out.” We will not take chances, yet we believe early afternoon Thursday will find us making a voyage from the Mighty Columbia into the Pacific Ocean. You can bet I’ll be picturing a flowing triple spiral that includes the Columbia, the Pacific, and Wilparina, our incredibly sound ocean-going 37-foot cutter rigged sloop.

Now, about that night sky as viewed from the ocean. I may not see it due to predicted rain and cloud cover. But I will know it’s there, and it will know that I made the effort to see it. It’s just between us. I hold no one else accountable for my Bucket List moment. Manifestation is up to me, knowing that my Bucket is vast and strong. Who knows, I may add back Machu Pichu and Greece. I dwell in possibility!!!

P.S.  Our journey will continue into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, then on up to Orcas Island. I’ll do the ferry/bus/train trek home Monday on my own, knowing that I will return to Wilparina, and her captain, my beloved Doug, throughout the summer months ahead. If you’re going to be in the San Juan Islands, let us know and we might connect. Perhaps we’ll look at the night sky together.

 

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May 13, 2014

“Fact and fear are the two greatest polluters of the modern mind.” Patrick McCormack, farmer/poet, Co. Clare, Ireland

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Fact & Fear
After trekking across fields of grass and rocks, with strong Irish winds at our back, my little band of merry women arrived at St. Colman’s Well. It is an unmarked sacred site that few tourists visit. We were lucky to be guided by a local farmer, Patrick McCormack, also known as the owner of Father Ted’s House and resident poet. This holy place is where St. Colman MacDuagh lived for seven years as a hermit in the early 7th century.

Patrick first invited us to just “be” in the seclusion of the mossy oratory.  We were serenaded by a variety of birds, in tune with the sound of the babbling brook that fed the Well. Above us we heard the “soughing” of the wind, sounding remotely like freeway traffic. If there was ever a Church of God in Nature, this place was it.

We were treated to a poem or two, one in special tribute to a friend of Patrick’s who recently passed away. You could tell this rough and rugged farmer was grieving. He encouraged us to see beyond the obvious, to feel beyond our senses, and to think beyond what we think we know. Out of his mouth, and originating from his heart, Patrick said to us, “Fact and fear are the two greatest polluters of the modern mind.”  He then invited to sit in silence and notice the stirrings of our hearts.

It occurred to me that we live in a world that values fact over truth. In one moment I truthfully feel young at heart, delighted to be in a body that moves, whether walking on plush Irish grass or swimming at the rec center at home. Then a fact creeps in. “Yeh, but, you’re not young any more. You’re 63, the upper edge of middle age, easing into old age, with a body creaking from arthritis.” Which thought do I listen to? The truth or the fact?

And then there’s fear, a known polluter of the modern mind. When did we move from fearing the wooly mammoth into the irrational fears of ego? Years ago a wise friend, much older than I, she probably 63 at the time, said to me, “When you’re in fear mode, ask yourself, what’s the worst that can happen?” To this day I allow my fearful thoughts to remind me that the worst that can happen is that I’ll die or someone I love will die. Then I smile, remembering that death is inevitable, merely a birth into a new dimension filled with Love & Light.

So, I ask you, and myself, what facts and fears are polluting our minds today? Individually and collectively? Can I “go green” and dissolve the pollution of my mind?

Suddenly I am transported back to St. Colman’s Well, his oratory and cave, Patrick waxing poetic, surrounded by forty shades of green, in the company of wise women. And people still ask me, “What is it about Ireland that you find so compelling?”

 

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April 29, 2014

“Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.” Charles Haughey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

The Bus to Ennistymon, Part I & II

Part 1 – April 2013

Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon. I have enjoyed the ride through the rocky Burren before, and was pleased yesterday to do so again. My pleasure morphed into delight when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself and they remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

We made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. I recognized him as Michael O’Toole from previous bus journeys. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” This was followed by an outburst of laughter.

We arrived Ennistymon and all parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at the Falls Hotel Spa. Michael’s only stop was at a pub. Last year I remember him telling me that he had been arrested for “drink driving.” I recall tucking my chin and looking over my glasses as I said, “Oh, so you don’t drink anymore?”  “Oh sweet Jesus no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. That was 14 summers ago, he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for 14 years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. Ann and her family have forgiven him, he said, shaking his head. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. An anam cara made these for my women travelers this year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland. All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show.

“Do you think, Michael, our Loving God would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of God. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that
God can forgive you through you?”

I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”

Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends.” With a grin, he replied, “That’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.”

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!

Part 2 – April 2014

Today, April 29th, I again hopped aboard the little senior’s bus destined for Ennistymon. Maureen was there, greeting me with a grand smile. Mary, she said, was on holiday in England. Then Maureen proceeded to introduce me to the new seniors I had not met. Maisie is a good friend of hers. The three of us enjoyed a good chat while savoring the sites of The Burren. It was a glorious day, spring effortlessly easing into summer.

I wondered if Mr. O’Toole would join us as in previous years. Yes, Maureen said, adding that he was no longer drinking or smoking. Tom, our bus driver, let out a loud guffaw just as he pulled over. There was Mr. O’Toole, leaning against a rock wall with cigarette in hand. Mary whispered to me, “I’ll bet he’s into the drink again, too.”

So on the bus came Mr. O’Toole. He nodded to everyone, including me, as if I was a local. “You’re back, just like you said you’d be,” he said to me. I smiled and continued to enjoy the bus ride.

Later, when everyone had finished their chores in Ennistymon, we again boarded the little bus. This time I said to Mr. O’Toole, “Do you remember what we talked about last year on the way home?”  He nodded, quickly adding, “And I still have the little coin you gave me with that word on it. I see it every day, and some days I pick it up and hold onto like there’s no tomorrow.”

I smiled and said softly, “You’re looking well. I can tell there’s something different about you.” He wanted details, so I continued, “Your eyes are brighter and your smile is softer. I can tell you’re no longer carrying the double burden of guilt and self- hatred.”

The rest of the journey home was filled with idle chatter and gentle laughter. It was like we were all lifted by Mr. O’Toole’s new found freedom. “To be honest with you,” he said before departing, “I did have a Guinness at the pub in Ennistymon, but look at me—I didn’t drive!” With a wink, he was gone.

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. O’Toole is real. Our brief encounters on the little senior’s bus to Ennistymon have been filled with unbelievable mischief and magic. I can’t wait to see what 2015 reveals.

 

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April 14, 2014

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, Mother Night

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Pretending
“They call me the great pretender,” crooned the 1950s band, The Platters. The pretending they sang about was rooted in angst. While in water aerobics class this morning, it occurred to me that I too am a great pretender, in a fun way.

When we were instructed to run in place for sixty seconds, I remembered how much I hate running, even in my younger and thinner days. So today I pretended I was an Olympic runner, on my way to a gold medal. The minute flew by and left me panting and smiling.

The instructor told us to do a series of forward leaps. This time I pretended that I was a prima ballerina gracefully moving across a stage. Baryshnikov beckoned, poised to catch and lift my lithe body. I swear my leaps took me above the heads of my fellow swimmers.

Later we were instructed to move our extended arms together and apart, in front of our bodies. “Make waves,” the instructor shouted. Suddenly, in my pretending game, I was Moses parting the Red Sea. The patterns in the water were amazing. I didn’t want to stop.

At its root, pretend means to “stretch forth.” We did this very naturally as young kids. By pretending, playing make believe, we stretched our minds by using our imagination. Anything was possible! I wonder when that stops. When we start school? At puberty? Or perhaps when the first adult told us that what we imagined wasn’t real.

I think it’s time to drop the shame and reclaim our joyful sense of imagination. To make time to play, to vision, to dream. When I was a documentary writer and producer a boss once startled me when he walked into my cubicle. I had my feet up on the desk while staring out the window at a beautiful spring day. I immediately put my feet down and started moving papers, pretending I was really working. I’ll never forget his wise words. “You do not have to pretend like you’re working. Taking time to do nothing is part of the creative process. Because out of nothing always comes something.”

How can pretending help you today? Can you turn an angst into a positive by pretending everything is okay, even if just for a few moments?  Remember, we are all Great Pretenders!

 

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March 31, 2014

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” -Gilbert K. Chesterton  1874-1936, English writer

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

“Parades & Rainbows”
“Grammy, come quick,” said the 3 and ½ year old granddaughter of a friend. What was the urgency? “The parade is about to begin,” announced the young girl. The little one then dragged into the living room two tiny chairs for them to sit upon. My friend said it was like sitting on a curb, literally waiting for a parade to begin. A front row seat, but not very comfortable for an adult size behind.

After a few minutes of sitting and looking around, the girl’s eyes wild with anticipation, my friend asked “Soooo…when does the parade begin?”

“Soon,” the little girl squealed, “it’s starting soon!”

My friend began to make small talk by pointing out other people watching the invisible parade. Together they picked out colors of clothes, different hats people were wearing, and funny things they were doing. Just hearing about this made me giggle.

Finally, a bit exasperated and with a numb bottom, my friend shouted, “Look, honey, the parade is starting! Let’s stand and welcome them!”

They both jumped to their feet, applauding, laughing and dancing about. Soon the little girl said, “Grammy, let’s play something else.” And the magic continued.

The word parade comes from French, literally meaning “a showing.” In my friend’s story about the mythical parade, I love how both the child and the grandmother showed the other something. The little girl showed Grammy the importance of patience while still feeling excited. Grammy showed the child that it’s okay to fantasize, imagine and daydream.

I do not want to lose the magical thinking I had as a child, especially the sense of anticipation. For as long as I can remember, when the spring skies turn the color of bruises, I announce aloud, “A rainbow is about to begin!” I don’t know exactly when, but I know it’s coming, just like little the little girl’s invisible parade. If I go looking for it, it may never emerge, or my impatience might make me miss it all together. So, like the little girl and her Grammy, I must wait patiently for the parade to begin. Because it will, just like a rainbow in the dark spring skies.

 

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February 13, 2014

“A kind gesture can reach a wound that only compassion can heal.” ― Steve Maraboli, Life, the Truth, and Being Free

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Kindness
Remember the New Age rage that emerged twenty years ago—Practice Random Acts of Kindness? I say we upgrade the message to Practice Intentional Acts of Kindness!

On our recent journey home from vacation, my husband and I were crowded into a tiny shuttle bus on a very cold Dallas morning. Sitting in the back, we had full view of our fellow travelers. (People watching is one of my favorite past times.) Forward and to our right, I saw a husky older man sitting by the window. He looked rather grumpy, but then it was early in the morning. The only seat left was next to him. Suddenly in came another husky older man, this one looking rushed and disheveled. It was freezing outside and he wasn’t wearing a coat. He let out an annoying sigh when he saw the only seat available didn’t afford much room. He plopped down, his generous body spilling over into the narrow aisle. Occasionally he would heave a sigh, shake his head, and then rub his face. My mind wanted to think him rude, but my heart sensed something different.

Breaking the soothing sound of the bus engine, the man on the aisle suddenly broke the silence. His head tilted toward his seat mate as he said, “My daughter just died.” It felt like time stopped. I wondered what would happen next. To my surprise, the grumpy man at the window responded, “Oh, I am very sorry for your loss.” Thus began a quiet dialogue between the two men, sitting side by side, looking forward, presumably into the future. For one man the future was very bleak. I heard little of what they said. I could feel a sense of kindness and compassion between them, soon washing over me, my husband and our fellow travelers.

Later, while standing in the security line at the airport, we found ourselves next to the once grumpy man who was sitting by the shuttle bus window. My husband commented on his display of kindness and compassion to the grieving father. The man sighed, shook his head, and said, “I was just diagnosed with cancer.”

Our Random Act of Intentional Kindness followed. We simply looked into the man’s face, gave him a soft smile and gentle nod of the head. We then watched him walk away, into his bleak future.

Now safely back at home, it’s not the journey to Belize, our souvenirs or our tans that we treasure. It’s the many moments of kindness we witnessed and shared on our journey—the most profound on the shuttle bus and in the airport security line. Grumpy and Rude morphed into Kindness and Compassion, inviting me to look into my future with gratitude and grace.

What will your Random Act of Intentional Kindness be today?

 

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January 15, 2014

“All the world’s a stage and most of us are desperately unrehearsed.” – Sean O’Casey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Anxiety Dreams
Researchers say we all have classic anxiety dreams related to our work, oftentimes more profound under a Full Moon. Post college, I would have dreams about showing up for class only to learn that there was an exam that day. Or I would go to class and realize my arrival was on the last day. Years later I had a dream that the university called to say they discovered that I had never taken chemistry, which was a prerequisite for other classes, and they were going to revoke my degree. I can still feel the punch in my gut from that dream, partly because I really didn’t take chemistry and it was a prerequisite. Please don’t tell.

In my 20’s, while still participating in community theatre, I would occasionally dream that I was on stage and didn’t know the play, the dialogue, the dance steps or the music. Lucidly I would tell myself, “When the moment comes, you will know what to do.”

In my 30’s, while producing a live television talk show, my dreams would sometimes find me in the studio with no lights, no guests, or the hosts would be late and I’d have to fill in for both of them.

In my 40’s, dreams were illusive as I was in ministry school by night, working as a publicist by day, and also a new wife and very active stepmom.

In my 50’s, as a minister, my dreams would find me again on stage only now the audience members were congregants. Sometimes I would excuse myself to go find my sermon notes, only to return to an empty sanctuary. Other times I would arrive late and find someone else taking my place. In one dream everyone in the audience slowly exited, one by one, as I continued my sermon.

Now, in my 60’s, I’m pleased to report that I’m not having as many work related anxiety dreams. Have I matured, or does my psyche no longer cater to the whims of my subconscious? The moon is fully full tonight at 8:52pm. I wonder what the dreamtime will reveal.

Stuff I Know 2013

December 30, 2013

And your cold people are beyond all price, When once you’ve broken their confounded ice. –Lord Byron (1823)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
Breaking the Ice

There are three important December dates in my life. My birthday is December 8th. The winter solstice, December 21st, is our wedding anniversary. And, of course, Christmas is December 25th. It’s taken me a lot of years to truly experience each of the dates without attachment. To live in the present moment. To notice without expectations. This is especially true with a story I had about my birthday.

A few years ago I awoke to the reality as to why my husband couldn’t quite get my birthday right. In a moment’s notice, I had a break through. My mother made my birthday extra special precisely because it was so close to Christmas. As a child my birthday parties were birthday parties. My gifts were birthday gifts and not Christmas gifts, or combined gifts. Christmas wrapping paper was for Christmas, and not my birthday presents. It was her voice I heard upon waking every year for 47 years, all the years prior to her death. I can still hear her voice, in person as a child and fin later years by phone. “Good morning Kathleen Marie McKern. Today is your special day.”

One December 8th, about ten years ago, I realized that I had been projecting onto my husband my need to feel special on my birthday. Don’t get me wrong. Doug and my friends did many wonderful things for me on my birthday. But, try as Doug might, he could not make me feel special in the way that my mom did. I had held him hostage, in a frozen state, awaiting the yearly thaw of feeling special in my mom’s eyes. No one can replace that feeling. And so it remained frozen for many years. Now I feel truly special every year precisely because I am present in the moment, striving to simply notice my feelings that are present that day. I have learned to love and cherish my birthday for what it is, the anniversary of my birth, and to be in gratitude for the many wonderful ways Doug and my friends celebrate with me.

Recently, I wrote at length in my journal about the word notice. I played with the letters:  N O T I C E.  Suddenly, in a moment’s notice, I wrote:  NOT ICE. Moments are meant to be savored in the moment, and not frozen in time. That’s what I had done with the attachment to feeling special at my birthday in a way only my mom could fulfill. She’s been gone 16 years now, and I finally get it. Feeling special is fluid and flowing, and definitely not frozen. The ice around my birthday has been broken, at last.

Where in your life is it time to break the ice?

 

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October 17, 2013

“Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?” Albert Einstein

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

A profound idea came to me this morning, mid shower, with my head covered in shampoo. As I lathered my scalp, I spontaneously said aloud the title of a talk I will give on October 30th. This is often my process when preparing a message. I have a title first, made up of words that I find engaging and inspiring. Eventually the gist of the message will emerge. And so it did this morning! I said the title aloud over and over again, each time with a different accent or emphasis. It was a silly thing to do and even caused me to chuckle out loud. But somewhere in there, between shampoo and cream rinse, the essence of the message came to me. I wonder what the cats thought when I gave a whoop whoop cheer of gratitude and joy?

So why do we have great ideas while doing a super monotonous task like showering? Or have epiphanies while driving or exercising, or, like Einstein, while doing something as boring as shaving? Brain researchers tell us that doing these kinds of mindless, repetitive activities requires very little brain power. “We think what we see is a relaxation of ‘executive functions’ to allow more natural de-focused attention and uncensored processes to occur that might be the hallmark of creativity,” says Allen Braun. In other words, the parts of our brains that we use to ruminate or stew about something, or engage when making decisions, become largely inactive while showering. This allows other areas of the brain to wander. We also generally feel relaxed and at ease while showering, which can release a big dose of that feel-good brain chemical, dopamine. Mix that all together and POOF we are in creative flow.

Obviously we cannot live in the creative flow of the shower 24/7, but we can visit that place throughout our day. We not only can visit, we do! The key is to be ready to notice and remember the creative idea or new thought that emerges. My friend Bryan has taught me to carry a small notebook and pencil in order to remember the little ideas that pop up throughout the day. But what do I do with the ideas that surface in the shower? I just learned of a product that I’m hoping Santa will bring me for Christmas: AquaNotes – Waterproof Notepad. The pad sticks to the shower wall. Any pencil will work. Upon exiting the shower, I can take the paper with the great idea with me. It appears to be dry. I bet the creator of the AquaNotes first had the idea in the shower.

As for the talk I’m preparing to give on October 30th, I can’t wait for tomorrow’s shower. However, I cannot go into it with an expectation, but I can shower with a sense of expectancy. My talk title:  The Magic of Expectancy. If you want to hear the idea that arose in the shower, join us for the 7:00pm Wednesday night service at New Thought Center for Spiritual Living in Lake Oswego.  http://www.newthoughtcsl.org/

 

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October 3, 2013

“…the dead have a way of becoming saints in the eyes of their survivors…” Rachel Vincent, My Soul to Take

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

By the way I talk about my mother, you would think she was a saint. Mary Kathleen Connolly McKern was most definitely not saintly. She had angry outbursts, offered her two cents whether wanted or not, and could triangulate better than anyone I know. Those behaviors irritated me, and, I would venture to guess, other members of our extended family. I remember the day the tables turned.

It was 1986. Upon the advice of a therapist, I was encouraged to say no to my mom the next time she called and berated my dad. He suffered from emphysema for many years prior to his death in 1988. He was not a pleasant patient, nor was she a patient care giver. I hated it when she called at odd hours to complain about him. The fateful day came when, after her first disparaging words, I said, “Mom, it’s my dad you’re talking about. I don’t want to hear it. You need to find a friend to tell. I’m your daughter, not your friend.” Silence followed. Finally she said, “You are right.” That was the last time she complained to me. I said no to my mother and the world did not end.

After that I started seeing my mother as a person, and not as my mommy. Mommies in our culture are supposed to meet all of our needs all of the time. Mothers know that isn’t possible, even in the best of family situations. By viewing my mom as the Archetypal Mother—with Light and Shadow aspects—I was finally able to see her as an aging woman who was sad, lonely and afraid. There was a brief period of time after my dad died when I thought I was supposed to help her with her frustrations in life, past and present. Remembering the advice of the wise therapist, this time I said no to myself.

During the last few years before her death in 1997, I enjoyed my mother without attachment to how I thought a mother should behave, speak and act. I set her free from my expectations, and the by product was that I was set free as well.

With both parents deceased, I have taken this practice into relationships with my three siblings and their families. We had a reunion last Sunday in Iowa. At the end of the day I marveled over how much fun I had. I had new insights into their lives. I revealed more about my life in Portland. There was no anger, no butting in, and no triangulating. We were adults saying yes to life as ordinary people and not the children of saints. Thanks be to God!

 

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August 19, 2013

“In the end it’s not about how many breaths you took. In the end it’s about the moments that took your breath away.” –Volksweisheitheit

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Witnessing last night’s nearly full moon literally took my breath away. My husband and I were enjoying a casual conversation while driving home from dinner with friends. Suddenly I stopped mid-sentence. I drew a quick in-breath as my upper body jerked back into the car seat. My eyebrows were raised and my mouth agape. After a slight holding of the breath, I was finally able to exclaim, “Look at the full moon. She is absolutely stunning!!!”  Poor Doug. He was driving and couldn’t see what I was seeing at that moment. But through my excitement he was able to feel what I was seeing.

The August Moon was hovering over Southeast Portland, a nearly perfect circle in the early evening sky. I can picture it now because “it took my breath away.” I love the feeling in my physical body when I describe an experience in this way. In that moment of awe all of my senses are engaged. I was fully alive. My body tingled, my thinking paused, and my heart popped open. All in the flash of a single moment. It’s like we want to preserve what just happened. This is true whether we are engaged by joy or sorrow.

I recall the incredible joy of flying into Ireland for the first time. We were greeted by a lovely rainbow arcing over massive fields of green. Beauty took my breath away.

I recall my niece’s first words when she called to say that a body found on the freeway was likely her son’s. My grandnephew and godson. Shock took my breath away.

I recall the first night that our Bindi cat joined our family. She was a tiny ball of black and white fuzz. Upon waking she crawled up next to my face, gently touched my cheek with a paw and then leaned in with her tiny face next to mine. Suddenly she came closer. OMG, she was trying to lick my eyelashes. Sweetness took my breath away. (I did not let her continue!)

I recall the morning on September 11, 2001. I was on the phone with my stepson who was 10 at the time. Together we watched the first of the towers fall. He asked me if this was the beginning of World War III. “I don’t know,” I answered. Fear took our breaths away, along with millions of people around the world.

The phrase “it took my breath away” means to overwhelm someone with beauty or grandeur; to surprise or astound. What moment today will take your breath away? What beauty might you witness that causes you to say, “It took my breath away?” Can you witness someone who, after receiving bad news, says, “It took my breath away?”

How alive will you be today?

 

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August 6, 2013

“When things aren’t adding up in your life, start subtracting.” –Anonymous

“If there is a 50-50 chance that something can go wrong, then 9 times out of ten it will.” –Paul Harvey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Fun with Numbers
When I was a little girl I loved number games. “One potato, two potato, three potato, four.”  Remember that counting game? I loved writing numbers on the chalk board in elementary school. Addition and subtraction came to me easily. No one could beat me in multiplication flashcards in fifth grade. After that, everything changed.

Charles Darwin: “A mathematician is a blind man in a dark room looking for a black cat which isn’t there.”

My fun with numbers came to a screeching halt with the arrival of “new math” in sixth grade. Numbers became the enemy. I can still feel the anxiety in algebra class. Why are we moving letters around instead of numbers?

Philippe Schnoebelen: “Algebraic symbols are used when you do not know what you are talking about.”

Tenth grade arrived and so did geometry. I just didn’t get it, even with the help of a paid tutor. I lamented, “I’m never going to use math so why am I forced to study it in school?”

My stepdaughter said the same thing when she entered middle school. By then I had an answer. “Studying numbers opens pathways in your brain. It’s the study of numbers that allows you to think deeper and broader thoughts.” Neither of us were ever good at math, but we are masterful when it comes to soulful dialogues. Numbers never enter the conversation, but now we both get why it was important to study math.

“Do not worry too much about your difficulties in mathematics, I can assure you that mine are still greater.”  Albert Einstein

Fun with numbers returned when I started learning about memory, numerology, and sacred geometry. I envy that numbers have become user friendly in school. I am continually fascinated by sequences and patterns of numbers. The triple spiral in Ireland has become the cornerstone of The Anam Cara Journey.

Recently on Facebook I posted this: 8:11. I noticed my clock said 8:11, which are the house numbers of my childhood home. When I see that sequence, I always pause and smile, and feel the presence of my deceased parents. I also like to post identical numbers in sequence as shown on the clock:  1:11 or 11:11, 3:33, 4:44, etc. Some Facebook friends make similar postings. It always brings me a smile. Recently someone asked why we were doing that. Our collective reply, “Because it’s fun to play with numbers.”

I’d love to hear about your play with numbers:  info@anamcaraconnections.com

 

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July 8, 2013

“Happiness is having a scratch for every itch.” –Ogden Nash

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
For Every Itch a Scratch

Have you ever had an itch that you couldn’t scratch? Maybe while driving a car, or on an unreachable part of your back? Or maybe you’re in public and it wouldn’t be socially acceptable to scratch…in there, under there or down there? Itching is a condition every human has experienced. It’s defined as “…an uncomfortable sensation on the skin that causes a desire to scratch.”

My itching began a week ago while traveling through southern Idaho on a day when the temperature hit 111.  All during our vacation I had wanted to clip some wild sage to take home and make smudge sticks. We pulled the car over next to an endless field of sage. I fetched my scissors and began clipping sprigs that wouldn’t mar the overall look of the bush. The fragrance was intoxicating, infused by the penetrating rays of the mid-day sun. We wrapped the sprigs in newspaper and continued on our journey. That evening I noticed a few small red bumps on the top of my left foot, traveling up my ankle and lower leg. I noticed a similar pattern on the back of my left forearm. Tiny red bumps, but they didn’t itch. I know this because I tried scratching them, just to make sure they didn’t itch. Finally my husband figured out that we had gotten bit or scratched by something related to the sage bushes. That relaxed my monkey mind, but it didn’t take away my obsession with the little red bumps that didn’t itch. The following morning they were more pronounced, likely because they were now joined by obvious mosquito bites. That’s when the itching began, followed by vigorous scratching. It’s true—for every itch, a scratch. And scratch I did!

There’s something unbelievably satisfying about scratching an itch. I am blissfully present as I start by softly patting the little red spots in a “I see you” kind of way. Silently I chant—I won’t scratch, I won’t scratch. I notice that some spots beg for more, and I return to them, over and over. The patting is more intense now. Silently I vow—I will only scratch with the pads of my fingers and not my finger nails. It’s too late. The itch scratching engages all of my senses now, aided and abetted by my fingernails. Endorphins are flying, my body quivering, my eyes fluttering in ecstasy. My mind wonders—How can it get any better than this?  And then I hit that lovely moment of ENOUGH!  Satisfaction has been achieved. The itch no longer itches. The scratch is no longer needed. Together, itch, scratch and I, take a deep, cleansing breath knowing that the cycle will likely resume. But for now we are at peace.

Ever the seeker of deep meaning, it occurs to me that life is a bit like itching and scratching. Each of us has an itch. To create something. To visit somewhere. To right a wrong. To sing or dance. To speak or write. To love and be loved. Every itch comes with some level of discomfort, and so do our strongest desires. I can choose to ignore the itch and in time it might go away. I can also choose attack the itch with whatever weapon is available in the moment, including negative thinking. Or I can be with the itch and ask:  WHAT is this about?

On this New Moon (see Mark’s message below) I intend to use this itching and scratching episode as a time of reflection. In hindsight, I did not approach the field of sage with reverence and respect, something I learned many years ago in a shaman’s training course. I took, but did not give back. Naughty me! I have made my amends through prayer. As for the mosquito bites, next time I’m camping I will be more vigilant about the little critters. If they bite, I will apply a soothing salve immediately and not wait a few days.

That leaves me wondering what the metaphorical itch is in my life. I know what it is. Do you know what your Itch is about?

P.S.  It’s said that if you itch a little, it’s a bother. If you itch a lot, it can be a nightmare. I bless all those dealing with chronic itching!

 

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June 7, 2013

“Seek not for fresher founts afar, just drop your bucket where you are.”
–Sam Walter Foss, American Poet, 1858-1911

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Bucket of Joy
The 2007 film, Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, motivated me to create my own bucket list without having to wait for old age or the arrival of a life threatening illness. Into my bucket I listed the following:

  • Sleep in a tee pee (did it, will never do again)
  • Walk through a forest at night (did it)
  • Travel to Scotland, Peru & Greek Islands (Peru has been replaced by Spain)
  • Visit the Grand Canyon (will do it this summer)
  • Experience autumn in New England
  • Have a McKern kids family reunion
  • Host my grand niece for a solo visit (did it & hope to again)
  • Sing in front of an audience (did it)
  • Belly dance in public (did it)
  • See my book published (in progress)
  • Live in Ireland for a year and a day
  • Have a dog and a cat
  • Pet a tiger

It occurred to me that everything in my bucket is related to my pleasure. While I was pondering this, a friend from Seattle emailed saying she was having odd thoughts of dying soon. Thus began an email dialogue about death and our end of life wishes. When we spoke of regrets, I mentioned the idea of a bucket list. I had several items in my bucket. I was surprised to learn that she didn’t have a list, but she did have a bucket. Her bucket is joy, what’s in it is joy and the outcome is always joy.

She shared with me a variety of little “random acts of kindness” that recently brought her joy. Here’s one:

“I bought a small basketball for an elderly man with mobility issues. He swims at my pool and I noticed he was unable to play basketball as the only ball available was too big to go thru the hoop. I noticed the little children could not play either for the same reason. I bought another small ball and had the aquatic director put the company name on it. Since then I have had so much fun watching families, children and the elderly play with this little ball. I’ve tried for years to get the aquatic director to buy one without success so just did it myself. A great investment in sharing joy with others.”

Motivated by my friend, I no longer have a bucket list. Instead I have Kathleen’s Bucket of Joy. Just naming it brought me smile. I still want to experience the pleasure-giving items on my bucket list, only now I will add frequent “random acts of kindness.” That too brings a smile. A smile of joy. My bucket is now overflowing, in a good way. Is yours?

 

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May 24, 2013

“An intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” -Charles Bukowski, poet

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Doing It the Hard Way
I wonder sometimes why I choose to do things the hard way. Yesterday I found myself again struggling with popping open that day’s pill dispenser. (I take numerous supplements.) The plastic tab hurts my finger. I’ve tried using my thumb. I’ve tried using a towel as a cushion. Finally I tried tipping it upside down.  That’s when I saw the word push just below the tab. Sure enough, I pushed and the tab popped right open, without frustration or pain. You would have thought I discovered fire! The embarrassing part of this is that the pill dispenser is not new. I was opening it the hard way for three years.

I recall a time in college when I was sharing an apartment with two other girls. We shared one bathroom. One day we noticed that the bathtub drain was plugged. We all had long hair so we assumed that was what was blocking the drain. We tried pulling hair out by hand. We tried putting a hanger deep into the drain. We pulled out the big guns and tried Drano. No such luck. Finally we called our landlord. It was another one of the discovering of fire moments. We watched in awe as our landlord turned the faucet that tells the drain to open or close. Yep, it was closed. We were trying to unclog the drain the hard way.

I ponder today, under the influence of the full moon and lunar eclipse, where in my life am I trying to do something the hard way. Is that a natural human trait, or unique to me? I’d love to hear your short story about doing something the hard way and the moment when you watched in awe as the simple way was revealed. My intention is to gather and share the stories, for humor and inspiration, and to remind us that We’re All in This Together!!!

Email me your short story:  info@anamcaraconnections.com

 

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April 29, 2014

“Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.”-Charles Haughey

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

The Bus to Ennistymon, Part I & II
Part 1 – April 2013

Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon. I have enjoyed the ride through the rocky Burren before, and was pleased yesterday to do so again. My pleasure morphed into delight when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself and they remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

We made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. I recognized him as Michael O’Toole from previous bus journeys. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” This was followed by an outburst of laughter.

We arrived Ennistymon and all parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at the Falls Hotel Spa. Michael’s only stop was at a pub. Last year I remember him telling me that he had been arrested for “drink driving.” I recall tucking my chin and looking over my glasses as I said, “Oh, so you don’t drink anymore?”  “Oh sweet Jesus no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. That was 14 summers ago, he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for 14 years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. Ann and her family have forgiven him, he said, shaking his head. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. An anam cara made these for my women travelers this year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland. All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show.

“Do you think, Michael, our Loving God would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of God. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that
God can forgive you through you?”

I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”

Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends.” With a grin, he replied, “That’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.”

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!

Part 2 – April 2014

Today, April 29th, I again hopped aboard the little senior’s bus destined for Ennistymon. Maureen was there, greeting me with a grand smile. Mary, she said, was on holiday in England. Then Maureen proceeded to introduce me to the new seniors I had not met. Maisie is a good friend of hers. The three of us enjoyed a good chat while savoring the sites of The Burren. It was a glorious day, spring effortlessly easing into summer.

I wondered if Mr. O’Toole would join us as in previous years. Yes, Maureen said, adding that he was no longer drinking or smoking. Tom, our bus driver, let out a loud guffaw just as he pulled over. There was Mr. O’Toole, leaning against a rock wall with cigarette in hand. Mary whispered to me, “I’ll bet he’s into the drink again, too.”

So on the bus came Mr. O’Toole. He nodded to everyone, including me, as if I was a local. “You’re back, just like you said you’d be,” he said to me. I smiled and continued to enjoy the bus ride.

Later, when everyone had finished their chores in Ennistymon, we again boarded the little bus. This time I said to Mr. O’Toole, “Do you remember what we talked about last year on the way home?”  He nodded, quickly adding, “And I still have the little coin you gave me with that word on it. I see it every day, and some days I pick it up and hold onto like there’s no tomorrow.”

I smiled and said softly, “You’re looking well. I can tell there’s something different about you.” He wanted details, so I continued, “Your eyes are brighter and your smile is softer. I can tell you’re no longer carrying the double burden of guilt and self- hatred.”

The rest of the journey home was filled with idle chatter and gentle laughter. It was like we were all lifted by Mr. O’Toole’s new found freedom. “To be honest with you,” he said before departing, “I did have a Guinness at the pub in Ennistymon, but look at me—I didn’t drive!” With a wink, he was gone.

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. O’Toole is real. Our brief encounters on the little senior’s bus to Ennistymon have been filled with unbelievable mischief and magic. I can’t wait to see what 2015 reveals.

 

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April 24, 2013

“May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and the road downhill all the way to your door.” -Irish blessing

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon. I have enjoyed the ride through the rocky Burren before, and was pleased yesterday to do so again. My pleasure morphed into delight when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself and they remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

We made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. I recognized him as Michael O’Toole from previous bus journeys. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” This was followed by an outburst of laughter.

We arrived Ennistymon and all parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at the Falls Hotel Spa. Michael’s only stop was at a pub. Last year I remember him telling me that he had been arrested for “drink driving.” I recall tucking my chin and looking over my glasses as I said, “Oh, so you don’t drink any more.”  “Oh sweet Jesus no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. That was 14 summers ago, he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for 14 years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. Ann and her family have forgiven him, he said, shaking his head. “I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. An anam cara made these for my women travelers this year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland. All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show.

“Do you think, Michael, our Loving God would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of God. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that

God can forgive you through you?”

I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”

Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends.” With a grin, he replied, “That’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.”

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!

 

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March 26, 2013

“Sometimes questions are more important than answers.” Nancy Willard

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

“Could We Talk?”
Forty-nine years ago this Easter I stood before the congregation of the First Christian Church in Ames, Iowa and declared my faith. Following my family’s tradition, and months of study, I was baptized by immersion. I loved the ritual of it, especially wearing a white robe. Before the dunking, the minister stood before each of us 13 year olds and asked: “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior?” One by one everyone said yes. I recall feeling antsy because the question didn’t make sense to me. Exactly what did Jesus save me from? My mom used to tell me that I was my own worst enemy. Would Jesus stop me from being me, the bad and good parts of me? Gosh, I thought, wouldn’t that be a neat and tidy way to live. When the minister stood in front of me and asked the question, I couldn’t bring myself to say yes. Instead I nodded in agreement. But what I really wanted to say was “Could we talk?”

Fast forward twenty-five years. After my dad died I started attending the First Christian Church in downtown Portland. It had a beautiful sanctuary with circular seating, symbolizing unity in community. The minister walked among us. The choir was called Joyful Noise. The feeling was wonderful, but still I longed for a meaningful dialogue about my faith. The opportunity arrived when the minister phoned me and suggested a get acquainted meeting. He was a lovely man, truly interested in who I was as a person. For the first time I asked what I wanted to ask way back at my baptism—“If I have God, why do I need Jesus? I mean, isn’t Jesus kind of a middle man?” The minister paused, leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands on the top of his head. “That’s an interesting question. No one has ever asked me that before. Let’s talk about it.”

He explained to me that most people can’t comprehend the enormity and vastness of God. That God is creation itself. All knowing, all seeing, everywhere present. Therefore, we need to bring God into human form in order to relate. This is the role that Jesus played and still plays today.

I continued my line of questioning. “If God is the Almighty, then why would we pray to Jesus and not to God? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to bring our prayers to the source?” He chuckled at that while inviting me the next Sunday to listen closely to the prayers. “We pray in the name of Jesus, not to Jesus.” That statement allowed me to think of Jesus as a human expression of God. Later, in my New Thought studies, I learned an even greater truth. That God needs each one of us in order to express.

This Easter, I once again ask, “Could we talk?” I want to know what Easter means to you. Is Jesus your savior? What does being saved mean? If Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, then what does his resurrection mean? And my favorite question of all, “Why did the authors of the Bible leave in the parts about Mary Magdalene—weeping at the base of the cross, anointing his body with sacred oils, and being the first witness to his resurrection?” I wish I could ask both ministers that question.

 

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January 10, 2013

“When we get too caught up in the busyness of the world, we lose connection
with one another – and ourselves”  -Jack Kornfield

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin

We’re All in This Together
While in deep sorrow over the tragic shootings in recent weeks, I found inspiration in a phrase that was often repeated—We’re all in this together. Oneness, I thought, is at last making its presence known in mass consciousness.

I heard a Connecticut police officer say it. I heard President Obama say it. I heard the first devastated parent to speak out say it. We are all in this together. Making conscious connections, whether through eye contact, a hug or handshake, or a soft smile, will assure that we are moving forward together. That is the ultimate purpose of Anam Cara Connections.

ACC formed long before it became a non-profit in 2008. The form was my desire to bring anam cara, the Irish term for soul friend, into every day vernacular. The structure it took was creating a non-profit ministry whose mission was/is to cultivate connections between soul friends seeking a deeper experience of the Self, the Other, and Community. We do this through our First Friday Forums, plus seasonal ceremonies, workshops and classes, and e-newsletters like this. You are among the 642 people on our email list!

It’s time for ACC to reflect on its future by looking at its past. Given Mark Dodich’s new moon message below, it’s prudent for all of us to ponder. What better time than January! The month is named after Janus, the ancient Roman god of beginnings and transitions. He’s considered the guardian of gates and doorways, often depicted with two faces. One is on the front of his head facing the future, the other on the back of his head gazing at the past. He was neither here nor there. All of January was considered a delicate “time between times.” For us, that means 2012 is barely over and 2013 is in its infancy. What do we want to keep and what do we want to release? What future lies ahead? Will we move ahead together?

It is my greatest hope that 2013 will be the year that we, as one human family, can continue to say in unison—we’re all in this together. This will be the focus of all First Friday Forums throughout 2013. Each Forum will also feature a personal story of oneness, unity and connection. (See my first offering below.) I hope you will consider joining us for inspired dialogues, gentle meditations and beautiful music—and fun—as we make connections with soul friends.

What does “we’re all in this together” mean to you?

ANAM CARA CONNECTION MOMENT shared by Kathleen
One winter morning, while grocery shopping, I found myself trying to maneuver the cart through very narrow aisles congested with other shoppers. It was irritating, to say the least. During one of the traffic jams I happened to notice an older man answer his cell phone. He didn’t say a word, but his body language spoke volumes. He shoulders dropped. His head shook in obvious despair. His previously pleasant expression sank into one of sadness. As he put his phone away I saw other shoppers give a quick stare and hurriedly move on.  Even though I too was in a hurry, something compelled me to approach the man. My cart now next to his, I reached out and gently touched his arm. Our eyes locked, his filled with tears, mine with the gaze of the silent witness. “I see you,” my soul whispered. We shared a soft smile, and, with a nod, I moved on. What lasted seconds will last me a lifetime. It was an anam cara connection moment.

Do you have a brief anam cara connection moment to share? Please email it Rev. Kathleen at info@anamcaraconnections.com

Stuff I Know 2012

November 28, 2012

“No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.” L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

STUFF I KNOW BY ME
Home
© Kathleen Verigin

My first visit back to Iowa after my mom died, over 15 years ago now, I noticed that I said I was going to Iowa. Prior to her death I always referred to my visits as going home. Something changed with the passing of my mom

My first childhood house was razed a few years ago. An apartment building now dwells on the sacred land where I climbed the cherry tree, chased butterflies and fireflies, ran through the sprinklers in the summer, and tried ice skating on frozen patches of rain water in the winter.

The next house was across the street. What a move that was! I remember well traipsing back and forth between houses while having “the mumps,” now a long forgotten childhood rite of passage. That second house was sold after my dad’s death 24 years ago. The family that purchased it has slowly remodeled it over the years, including a completely new kitchen. Oh, how my mom would have loved that!

After moving to Portland in 1975 I lived in a variety of apartments, five to be exact. It was somewhat of a gypsy lifestyle, and it suited me well. It wasn’t until I purchased my own house in 1987 that I finally felt “at home” in Portland. But still, when visiting Iowa, I would say I was going home.

There is one constant amidst all of the many places I have lived. And it is simply this. Home is where the heart is. According to the Free Dictionary on-line the idiom means “…something that you say which means that your true home is with the person or in the place that you love most.”

The person that I’m always with is me. It’s taken me years to truly love myself. Now I lovingly take me wherever I live. When I am conscious of that, in a spirited way as opposed to an ego way, then there truly is no place like home. I am at home. Right here. Right now.

Carl Jung said that the house is a metaphor for the soul. A house becomes a home when we infuse it with love. I draw a relaxing deep breath while remembering the many joys of my childhood homes. My mom was a true homemaker. She too lives in my heart. I hear her whisper, “Welcome home, Kathi McKern, welcome home.”

What does home mean to you?

 

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October 14, 2012

“A witch and a bitch always dress up for each other, because otherwise the witch would upstage the bitch, or the bitch would upstage the witch, and the result would be havoc.” -Tennessee Williams (American playwright. 1911-1983)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME © Kathleen Verigin
“Which Witch?”

One mid-October day, when I was the minister of a church, a jolly older fellow asked me, “Rev. Kathleen, do you dress up like a witch on Halloween?” My reply, “No, I dress up as a minister.” Others in the room burst out in laughter. The older fellow didn’t get the irony.

This Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation, nearly 6 million adults will masquerade as a witch, holding the coveted number one spot. (In second place is vampire with 3.2 million costumes.) I wonder what the fascination is regarding the archetype of witch.

Since embarking on a path of earth based spirituality, in connection with the basic tenets of New Thought, I have repeatedly been asked if I’m a witch. When looking up the dictionary definitions, I find many opposites. For example:

Witch: An ugly or wicked old woman
A fascinating or enchanting woman

Witch: Destroyer
Healer

So which witch is it that captures our fascination and imagination? According to Carolyn Myss the archetype of witch “… uses knowledge of the universal laws of nature, the conscious mind and esoteric powers to manifest their desires. The shadow witch uses their gifts to increase their own power.” I wonder, could Obama and Romney both be witches? Could the Pope be a witch? Could you be a witch?

The cultural definition of witch relates to “wise woman.” They were the healers and midwives in the community, many whom were single and elderly. That alone made them suspect. Through herbal remedies they knew how to take away the pains of childbirth, which was a big no-no to the faithful.

Genesis 3:16 – “To the woman He said, ‘I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, in pain you shall bring forth children; yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'”

All because of Eve’s supposed disobedience to God. Eeegads! This mindset goes back thousands of years and is still echoing through our consciousness today.

During the Great Witch Hunt (1567-1640) over 3 million witches, mostly women and some men, were put to horrific deaths for practicing the healing arts. I wonder if today’s advent of alternative modes of healing (aka “natural medicine”) is the resurrection of those who suffered the brutal killings.

Same with those of us attracted to moon ceremonies and celebrations of the seasons. Many of my mentoring clients struggle with being seen in the world for whom and what they are. It’s particularly difficult if they are breaking free from the confines of the familial box. Could a modern day “witch hunt” ensue? No wonder so many of us hesitate to embrace our natural gifts as healers, midwives, artists, ceremonialists, herbalists, spiritual warriors, etc.

Now, when someone asks me if I’m a witch, my answer goes something like this: “No, I’m not a witch, but I might do something witch-like, just like I’m not a Buddhist but I might incorporate Buddhist prayers in my ministry.” That’s what I say today. Who knows what I’ll say tomorrow.

I greatly welcome your thoughts. Which witch are you?

 

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September 14, 2012

“On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the
dawn of decision, sat down to wait, and waiting died.” –Sam Ewing (former baseball player)

STUFF I KNOW BY ME “Plains of Hesitation”
© Kathleen Verigin

It’s not surprising that I hail from Iowa, right smack in the middle of the Great Plains. It was there that I learned the fine art of hesitation. There’s the fun kind, like pausing before jumping into a cold swimming pool. I know it’s going to feel great, but not at first. The initial splash will be over quickly. After the momentary discomfort, pleasure sets in. Then there’s the not so fun kind of hesitation, when I feel the urge to do something but I don’t know what the outcome will be. Pleasure or pain? Hesitation becomes indecision. Success or failure? The risk morphs into fear. Should I or shouldn’t I? I start roaming the plains of hesitation. It’s a familiar place. Suddenly I sit, waiting, and in the waiting a little part of my soul dies.

Today I choose to live my aliveness. When I find myself roaming the plains of hesitation, I will see it as an opportunity to pause and reflect. WHAT is the hesitation really about? When the right question is asked, the right answer will emerge. I once again thrive.

What role does hesitation play in your life?

 

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August 31, 2012

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t
matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

STUFF I KNOW BY ME: Feelings
© Kathleen Verigin

“Get off the stage, no one is watching.”
“You take things too personally.”
“Your tears manipulate people.”

Okay, I’m guilty. I’m a feeler personality type. A deep, deep feeler. I often express my feelings. I cry easily, whether I’m happy, sad or mad. Sometimes other people don’t know what to do in the presence of my feelings. Sometimes I don’t always know what to do with my feelings. The key word is “do.” A feeling doesn’t require action, but it does require presence.

Call to mind the flaggers stationed at two ends of an intersection that is under construction. They get our attention by their orange vests and hard hats, by holding and sometimes shaking a sign, and occasionally by communicating with a gesture or their voice. We are at their mercy, no longer flowing in traffic. They have our full attention! And that is precisely what a feeling does. It gets our attention. It’s the waving flag that screams—“Warning, warning, do not proceed. Stop, pause, breathe.” It is then, in the present moment, when we can identify the feeling and simply be with it. This is true for joyful feelings as much as anger and sorrow. After being with the feeling, the feeling flag will let us know when it is safe to proceed. In fact, just like the traffic flaggers, it will guide us into right action.

Something that brings me joy is to make eye contact with the traffic flagger. I like to wave or shout “thank you” to them. The smile in return always brings a happy feeling. It reminds me to look my feelings fully in the face. Feelings are there to inform me, to guide me, and to remind me that I’m human. Now, what I do with those feelings is another matter. Stopping, pausing and breathing helps me stay centered, and prevents me from moving into a place of danger, either real or imagined.

When you next approach a stretch of road under construction, I invite you consider the metaphor of the flag and feelings. Stop, pause, breathe. After you’re done being, then do something to mark the moment. Perhaps a look in the rear view mirror, giving yourself a wink, a smile or a nod. And don’t forget to be kind to the flagger. That’s a tough job, on the roadway and the path of my soul.

 

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July 31, 2012

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.” — Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games

STUFF I KNOW BY ME: Winning
© Kathleen Verigin

Last Friday evening found me clued to the television set as I watched the opening ceremonies for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. I can’t say whether or not it was well done, because I was caught up in the ritual connection to its ancient origins. According to legend, the first Games were founded by Heracles, a son of the Greek god Zeus. The first written records date back to 776BCE, stating a naked runner won the event.  The early Olympic Games expanded and continued to be played every four years for nearly 1200 years. In 393CE, the Roman emperor abolished the Games because of their pagan influences. Approximately 1500 years later, a young Frenchmen named Pierre de Coubertin began their revival. (See his quote above.)

I am one of the 40.7million Americans who watched last Friday night with fascination and curiosity. During the parade of nations, I couldn’t help but wonder—What does winning a medal mean to an individual? Gold is obviously the best, but I would think winning any medal would be an amazing thrill and provide an incredible sense accomplishment. A 1995 study revealed an interesting fact about that.

Three social psychologists created a study on the effects of counterfactual thinking on the Olympics. (Wikipedia: Counterfactual thinking is a term of psychology that describes the tendency people have to imagine alternatives to reality. Humans are predisposed to think about how things could have turned out differently if only, and also to imagine what if?) The study showed that athletes who won the bronze medal were significantly happier with their winning than those athletes who won the silver medal. The silver medalists were more frustrated because they had missed the gold medal, while the bronze medalists were simply happy to have received any honors at all. Both the gold and bronze recipients are considered winners, but the silver recipient is a winner and a loser.

In response to Pierre de Coubertin’s words, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part,” what if every athlete won a medal just for showing up? Would athletes want to participate? Would people watch? Would anyone care?

As we transition from what Riane Eisler calls a Dominator Society into a Partnership Society, and while the Olympics are in progress, I ponder what it means to be a winner or a loser. Does winning mean to have power over something, thereby creating a loser? If I want to co-create with a perceived competitor, seeking resolution rather than being best, does that make me a loser? The silver medalist is the one who dwells in the splits, neither a winner nor loser, yet also a winner and a loser. Could we be happy in a world of silver?

 

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July 17, 2012

“The ego is the false self born out of fear and defensiveness.”
― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom

STUFF I KNOW BY ME, KATHLEEN
Ego, Fear & Greed

While on vacation I met a very successful businessman, likely someone we would consider to be among the elite 1%. Since I happily dwell in the 99%, I was fascinated by his approach to business and life in general.

“What motivates your success?” I asked. He shot back, with a grin, “Ego, fear and greed.” I laughed and said, “Seriously, what is the mission statement for your business?” “Same thing,” he said, “ego, fear and greed.” This generated a lively conversation at our dinner table, with most of us rather shocked by his declaration. After several minutes of lofty disclosures about our personal approaches to business—mostly motivated by being of service—the businessman once again chimed in. “Admit it, everyone. You are all driven by ego, fear and greed. It’s the American Way. Yes, you have jobs that provide a service. So do I. What gets us up and out the door each morning is the same thing. It’s ego, fear and greed.” And then he grinned, again.

I didn’t have much to say that night, but I have been thinking about it ever since. As I ponder, I invite you to ponder as well, and then post your comments on our secure On-Line Forum.

EGO. Okay, I’ve got an ego. I admit it. It is my sense of self, my persona, how I perceive that I fit into the world. Leaving a 20+ year career in broadcasting was a huge transition for me. Since age 18 I had only worked for “call letters.” It felt incredibly vulnerable to show up somewhere and not be able to say I worked for a radio or television station. It was my ego that whispered, “See, you really do need me to be in charge.” Thankfully I moved through that fearful time, and am now quite content to be a minister.

FEAR Yes, I can get into fearful thinking, too. It’s usually when I’m stressed because something feels out of my control. Oh, there’s my ego again, wanting to take over. Because I am ever so spiritual now, definitely not run by ego, fear and greed, I try to pause, honor the fear, allow it to move through me, and then forge ahead. Where does that leave my ego? Whining in the back seat. It has a very loud voice.

GREED It’s true, I loved the generous salary I made when I worked in television. There was a time when I was a true yuppy, making a salary figure that was the same as my age. Then I took a leap of faith as I began to “live my bliss.” That translates to an 11% cut in salary when I left one television station for another. I was terrified that I couldn’t live on such a meager salary. Ha! Not only did I live easily on less money, I was able to save a lot that year. The money I accrued would eventually support me after a surprise lay off. Now there’s a story about ego and fear, and maybe greed!

The lay off forced me to shed outdated garments and begin anew. That’s when I surrendered to the call to ministry, and a new dance began with ego, fear and greed. You see, to a degree, I think the businessman was right. Ego, fear and greed are always with us. It’s a part of being human. As for EFG being our prime motivators? That wouldn’t work for me, but it has worked for the businessman. He is wealthy beyond measure, and appears to be generous with his spending. Everything in his life seems to be working well. His last comment over dessert that night was revealing. “I’m going to see a life coach after I return from vacation. I sense a change coming on.” This time I grinned.

What are your thoughts about ego, fear and greed? Are they motivators, companions, saboteurs, or just a part of the human condition?

 

line-separater

 

July 2, 2012

Inspiring Thoughts from Kathleen

And Crown Thy Good…

The first celebrity of my early baby boom generation that I wanted to be wasn’t Ann Margret or Annette Funicello. I wanted to be Haley Mills. I loved her English accent and amazing wide-eyed innocence. I would practice words she spoke in movies, like “nooo, reeeeally,” “pull-pel” instead of purple, “faaaa-tha” instead of father and “muhhh-tha” instead of mother. I would rehearse these words over and over again in the privacy of my early adolescent bedroom in little old white bread Ames, Iowa.

As we approach Independence Day, I am reminded of Haley singing “America” in the film “Pollyanna.” As a child, and even an adult, I disliked singing the “Star Spangled Banner.” It felt too war like to me. I much preferred “America the Beautiful.”

America the Beautiful
Written by: Katherine Lee Bates

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

I highlighted “and crown thy good with brotherhood,” because, as a child, besides Haley Mills, I was intrigued by Robin Hood. His motto was “to rob the rich to pay the poor.” Tantalized by this idea, I heard the song lyrics as “And crown thy good with Robin Hood.” I could imagine Haley Mills sharing the joy in my misinterpretation—robbing from the rich and sharing the wealth with the poor.

I chuckle as I type this as many of us, as children and adults, have misunderstood lyrics. This 4th of July, while sailing in Canadian waters, I intend to contemplate the perceived opposites of rich & poor, the free & the brave, Canada & the US. I will cloak myself in an imagined American flag and sing with the conviction of Haley Mills. Am I a “Pollyanna” if I celebrate Independence Day? Or am I a proud American collectively shouting “Whoo Hoo, we have a long way to go. Let’s go together so that we may all enjoy freedom.”

What are your thoughts about the meaning of this year’s 4th of July?

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