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?

 

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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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