The Dark Path to Enlightenment

Posted Friday, April 18th, 2014 @ 7:25 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Meditation, Quotes, Spirit

“We seldom go freely into the belly of the beast. Unless we face a major disaster like the death of a friend or spouse or loss of a marriage or job, we usually will not go there. As a culture, we have to be taught the language of descent. That is the great language of religion. It teaches us to enter willingly, trustingly into the dark periods of life. These dark periods are good teachers. Religious energy is in the dark questions, seldom in the answers. Answers are the way out, but that is not what we are here for. But when we look at the questions, we look for the opening to transformation. Fixing something doesn’t usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. We must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the path, the perilous dark path of true prayer.”

—Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer

Open Wide to Love

Posted Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 @ 1:47 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Spirit

My OA sponsor wrote and asked me how I’m doing, and am I tracking my food intake as I’d intended. I wrote her back, but I’m putting it “out there” as well.
I began tracking my food after we met using an app on my phone. Then I stopped when I realized it required entering meals right away — there’s no way to go back and do it later. I understand why — to induce awareness. So in short, no.

And then, on Monday, I went to Target in the evening to get toothpaste and hair ties. When I set foot in the store, I KNEW I was going to buy some Easter candy. I was keenly aware of this part of myself, and the aware part of myself was saying, “Really? Come on! Let’s not.” But the primal part carried out the acquisition. I sat in the car, eating two Reeses’ eggs and a 5 oz. chocolate bunny. And none of it even TASTED good. There was no enjoyment. There was just the impulse to finish. I didn’t reach out to you or Hub. I didn’t tell Hub. I threw away the trash. Note to self: maybe it would be good to avoid Target at night, though it didn’t used to be a problem. Then again, there’s more to this — it’s not just about Target.

So I was meeting with my friend Sofia (who is a spiritual facilitator) Tuesday and explored this. Here’s what I noticed: I go through life unconsciously with tight stomach muscles, as if I’m holding myself together. When I realize this and relax, I feel the expansion and pressure on my clothing. It feels a little bit freeing, and also out of control. So I’ve just practiced noticing and relaxing, being curious over how it feels to be “all out there.” Because the deeper wisdom in me sees that being obese is a form of protection. I am afraid of my power. I have the power, and it takes about 50 extra pounds to quell it.

Right now I’m not prodding myself with “why?” Why? What am I afraid of? Hell, as if knowing in my mind I could transform and fix it. Instead, I’m meeting that part of myself. Instead of power struggle, it feels like an invitation. “I see that you’re afraid. May I just keep you company?” And if Primal Me wants to eat something that Wisdom realizes my body doesn’t need, then Wisdom is connecting with Primal Me where she’s at. Wisdom isn’t completely silent. She says, “I see you’re pouring a bowl of Raisin Bran and adding walnuts. Are you hungry?” Primal Me says, “I just WANT it. And I WILL HAVE IT.” Wisdom says, “Okay, you take care of yourself. I’m here if you want or need me.”

On one hand this looks like a recipe (hah!) for condoning destructive behavior. But it FEELS different. There’s a very young part of me — Primal Me — that has urges, needs, wants, and doesn’t know how to get them met except by consuming. I’ve judged her, deprived her of love and attention, for decades. Gaining her trust and helping her heal will probably take more time than my ego would like. But Wisdom knows that’s how true healing occurs. And in fact, I have been healing for the past couple of years. It started with Honesty Salons, and Ecstatic Dance. In the past year I’ve lived increasingly through intuition, working with Sofia. Then I took the SoulCollage® facilitator training, and committed to a spiritual community at the Los Gatos UU Fellowship. I’m in therapy (since December), and have met you.

So it’s happening. And yes, I would like to weigh less and move more, with power and strength. My body hurts. I worry how the weight compromises my abilities and health; I worry about the message I’m giving my daughter. But apparently Ego can’t force this. It’s a process beyond “me” and yet I’m part of it. Does this make sense?

Committee Suit: Tender Protection

SoulCollage® Committee Suit: Tender Protection

I am one who is small and frightened, who needs protection. I am one who wanted protection. I am one who wants an all-present Mother, who wants tenderness.

Baby Steps

Posted Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 @ 9:54 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Motherhood

You’d think that having support from my minister, my therapist, my Zen teacher, my OA sponsor, and my personal coach, I’d be pretty damn enlightened, but no. Spiritual awakening is a process of realizing how unconscious I am much of the time. Each of these people accompany me through different facets of evolution.

This morning Claire got angry at herself and a toy she was playing with, a teeny dish cupboard with even teenier dishes and utensils that wouldn’t stay put. It happened yesterday too. Her anger feels intense and out of proportion to the problem (and it’s been this way for a number of days). In my very sleepy morning state I said to her, “Why don’t you choose something else to play with?” She replied plaintively and angrily, “Why do you always want me to QUIT?”

Yikes! I took a breath, and then another. And then I replied, “I don’t want you to quit but I can see how it sounds like that. I was feeling triggered by your response to the situation and it made me feel anxious. Lately you’ve had a lot of anger. My self-talk is that I must be doing something wrong with you and I get uncomfortable. I try to take away that discomfort by redirecting you.”

She was quiet awhile and played. Then she said, “I figured out a different way to use the dishes.” Then I announced breakfast, and she came willingly and cheerfully. The energy within and between us had shifted, and then we had peace.

As a result of this interaction, I’m a smidge more aware of my story about how Claire shouldn’t be angry, how ungrateful she is to be angry (because she has such a wonderful life), about how her intense angry responses suggest something wrong with her or me, and how I’m leaving both of us when I live in that story. And THAT is enlightenment.


The Definition of My Life

Posted Monday, April 7th, 2014 @ 2:43 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes

Oh, best of intentions! You know where they lead. I’d planned to focus more on the blog this year and it’s languished.

I’ve got many irons in the fire. And I’ll explore them here later. Meanwhile, of late this quote has been my email signature. It resonates.

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

–Douglas Adams

Original Sin

Posted Thursday, March 13th, 2014 @ 1:06 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Spirit

Morning musing: “Original sin” is simply a phrase that speaks to our forgetting, when we are born, that we are part of the Mystery. The only “punishment” is the suffering we create for ourselves and others, because our egos have us believe we are separate and that “other” equals enemy. Redemption comes in the repeated practice of remembering our Origin, reconnecting with its presence in ourselves, and meeting the spark of that presence, the Mystery, that exists in everyone and everything.


Posted Sunday, February 23rd, 2014 @ 6:29 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Community, Journal, Motherhood, Nature, Recreation, Spirit

I’ve been working on uploading my SoulCollage® cards to share. You can find the link to them here.

She Is

Posted Thursday, February 20th, 2014 @ 8:21 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Aenigmas (My Poems), Motherhood, Spirit

Glimpses of My Daughter at Age Six

She is a sunflower-yellow
hourglass with a
center of nipple pink intensity
bouncing, twirling, burbling, squawking
like a Steller’s Jay.
She is Inside with Peter, Paul, and Mary,
multiplying three times infinity
in her rocking chair.
She is an apple, crisp and fresh,
the guitar singing melodies
sometimes jarring and jangling ears.
She’s a meandering stream of galaxies,
an ancient Redwood soul, not
fearing abandonment –
a kaleidoscope of wonder.

Be Mighty, Be Daring

Posted Wednesday, February 19th, 2014 @ 9:30 am by Kathryn
Categories: Arts, Community, Domestic Arts, Education, Journal, Motherhood, Nature, Recreation, Regional, Spirit

I enjoy creating in so many ways. My friend L (mom of one of Claire’s friends) and I are developing an informal girl group. After spending many years driving to see friends (which we’ll continue doing) we want to create friendships and develop deeper connections in the neighborhood.

After careful consideration, we decided to forgo Girl Scouts for a number of reasons:

  • They require parents having contact with girls to take training (online and in-person) and get fingerprinted. Our intention is to create an informal group of people we know and trust and make it easier for mothers to be involved.
  • Secondly, GS is divided by age, and we believe there are benefits to girls interacting across multiple age and grade levels. We hope the girls will be involved as they grow up and develop good friendships.
  • Lastly, we want to avoid the pressure of selling things to raise funds. We prefer to focus on developing activities and sharing the cost rather than have our activities defined by how much money the girls earn.

We plan to meet monthly. We have ideas of home-based activities to do; we also want to incorporate outings. For outings, each parent pays for her children and herself (if there are fees). To cover supplies for at-home activities, we suggest a nominal annual amount per child. We are researching the supplies and calculating costs.

While we want to have fun, we’re reaching beyond play dates. Our goal is to help our daughters become vibrant, confident, and engaged with the world. We want to nurture the development of their minds, souls, and bodies (and mother earth), and foster qualities such as integrity, curiosity, resiliency, and creativity. We are using several resources for ideas (adjusting for age with some activities):

A Mighty Girl
The Daring Book for Girls & The Double-Daring Book for Girls
What Do You Stand For? A Kids Guide to Building Character

So the girls and moms have a unifying element and develop a sense of belonging, we’re looking for inexpensive yellow t-shirts (a color that is sunny and gender-neutral). The quote we’re using is from Shakespeare: “Though she be but little, she is fierce.” That will be on the front, and on the back will be our group name: Mighty Daring Girls.

Our first meeting is March 2, and we have 8-9 girls interested!


Exploring Outdoors – One of our Planned Activities

Remembering Stella

Posted Monday, February 10th, 2014 @ 12:48 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Motherhood, Spirit

Two weeks ago today I was spending the last precious hours with Stella before she died. Today I cleaned up the cat box and litter genie, which I’d been putting off — and not just because it’s an odious task. Bit by bit I’m packing up and storing cat toys, bowls, and so on. Evidence of her existence is disappearing. It may be strange, but I haven’t vacuumed yet; there are little dust balls of fur on floor corners. These tasks reinforce the permanence and irreversibility of the situation.

But rather than dwell on sadness, I want to take time to remember traits we loved about Stella.

In 1999 I decided to adopt two cats, so they’d keep each other company. I wanted an all-black cat. I went to the home of a couple who fostered 30 cats in their home. In one room were 10 cats, and as I sat on the floor the only black cat came right up to me and meowed. I reached out to touch her and she shoved her head into my hand, rubbing and purring. Then she climbed onto me. That was it. I also selected another cat, a beautiful gray and white cat since they were familiar to each other. This other cat, Zoe, was a special needs cat; she’d been psychologically traumatized as a teeny kitten and was skittish. But she was gorgeous, and I knew no one else would want her. So they came home with me. Five months later I also adopted an 8-week old cat whom I named Sophie. (A friend rescued a pregnant cat and Sophie was the prettiest of the bunch.) Here they are in Austin in a pile of cuddle.

three kitties

When I brought Sophie home, Stella adopted her. I assume Stella had given birth (she wasn’t spayed when I got her), because she carried Sophie around in her mouth. Sophie kneaded Stella’s belly and would suckle her for many minutes, and Stella — to my surprise — allowed it. She’d groom Sophie too. Sophie was petite — never weighed more than seven pounds — so this went on for a couple of years. At some point Stella got tired of her belly being occupied and started batting Sophie away.

Once Stella was spayed, she gained a lot of weight. At one point she weighed 21 pounds, and we dubbed her as Large and In Charge. She had a personality the size of Texas and the friendliness to match. We tried to regulate her food intake and give her diet cat food, but she stayed big until about two years ago. Her size never stopped her from enjoying life.

stella and slippers

When we moved to California, we found a new home for Zoe. Poor Zoe was fragile; a sneeze would send her racing off the couch and out of the room. She spent the majority of her life hiding in the box spring of the bed in the guest room. We knew she would not survive the transition across country. So we took Stella and Sophie with us. We got them harnesses in order to use leashes when they weren’t in the carriers. They loathed them. Here’s a photo of them during a trial run before the move. You can tell how thrilled they aren’t.

cats before the big move

We all survived. Sure, we had to figure out a way to bathe Stella in El Paso after she peed on herself in the carrier. And we had to dig Sophie out from under a seat because we made the mistake of letting them out of their carriers while we stopped for a bite to eat. I wanted them to have some stretching room, which was a mistake. And Stella bitched at us the entire trip. Seriously, all 1,700 miles. The thing about Stella is that she was highly opinionated and expressive. I swore there was some Siamese in her. I wish I’d taken videos of our conversations. And if she was asleep or just sitting quietly with her cat thoughts and you said her name from across the room, she’d burst into purrs. I would meow and make other cat-talk noises, and she’d respond. We had many long conversations, although I haven’t a clue what they were about.

Stella had the special distinction of being at our wedding. We had an intimate wedding at home, and she took her place by the altar. You can’t see her face since she was looking to the side, but that distinctive black furry lump is her. Sophie, however, hid. Stella was always up for action.

wedding altar with furry witness

Stella loved her toys. She would take Beanie Babies (especially Claire’s) and carry them around the house like kittens and cuddle them. Other times they were prey, and she’d deliver them to my feet. One neighbor who did cat sitting bought Stella a mouse toy that she loved for years. She would walk around the house carrying it by the pompom in her mouth, all the while yowling and chirruping in her throat. And sometimes she walked around the house talking urgently, and Hub and I would joke, “What’s wrong, Stella? What’s that? Little Timmy fell down the well?”

stella shares
stella took over

Stella adored being brushed and would even let me love her belly. She had complete trust and confidence in me. In turn, she would clean us. If permitted, Stella would lick your hand, arm, or neck until your next layer of epidermis was exposed. She took care of me just as she did Sophie. But I have a photo of her with Sophie.

next to godliness

She also had a taste for chlorine. If I had used Chlorox, she’d lick me for hours, and sometimes nibble. It had an effect similar to catnip.

Stella was adaptable. She tolerated trips to the vet with only vocal protests. The vet techs would often comment on how patient and accepting she was during exams, blood draws, shots, and so on. Stella also barfed a lot. She’d eat too much too fast. And as she got older, her hyperthyroidism would make her sick. She had a habit of meowing in a particular way — pitch and volume — that we knew would be followed by puking. So we’d be able to scoop her off furniture and carpets if we moved fast enough. That made clean up much easier.

If there was a sunspot, you’d find her in it.

stella sunning herself
napping in the sun

But she and Sophie also made use of artificial light in the colder months. Getting work done at my home desk was a challenge.

warm kitties

She had a penchant for Wheat Thins. She also loved soft cat treats. If I called the word “treats” in a high pitch in a way that sounded like a question, she’d come lumbering from where she was, talking excitedly. She also loved the outdoors and attempted to sneak out at every chance.

During my pregnancy, Sophie died of heart failure. It was sudden and tragic. She and Stella were quite a pair, and I was devastated. I have always relished this photo I took of them:

what are YOU lookin' at?

Stella was a high-contact cat, at least with me. She’d come up and rub her head against mine and try to lick my hair. When I was pregnant we napped together on the sofa every day. When we brought Claire home and Stella was displaced from her doted-upon status, she accepted it with grace.

becoming friends

She was never aggressive to Claire. In fact, she attempted to groom Claire as she did everyone else. As you can tell from Claire’s expression, it was a weird sensation.

stella gives claire a cat shampoo

She also enjoyed her kitty television.

stella introduces claire to kitty television

Stella, oh Stella, you were quite a cat.

i'm too sexy for my fur

We love you.

Look Inside

Posted Sunday, February 9th, 2014 @ 8:11 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Education, Journal, Motherhood, Quotes, Social Science

One of my daughter’s favorite performers are Peter, Paul, & Mary, and one of her favorite songs by them is called Inside.

Tonight I was scanning Facebook and came across a link from A Mighty Girl. A Mighty Girl is an excellent resource of zillions of ideas, toys, book titles, articles and more to help girls to grow up confidently. They shared a link from the Huffington Post of a letter from a father to his daughter about society’s hyper-focus on physical appearance.

In the article, Words From a Father to a Daughter (In the Makeup Aisle), Flanagan wrote:

When you have a daughter, you start to realize she’s just as strong as everyone else in the house — a force to be reckoned with, a soul on fire with the same life and gifts and passions as any man. But sitting in this store aisle, you also begin to realize most people won’t see her that way. They’ll see her as a pretty face and a body to enjoy. And they’ll tell her she has to look a certain way to have any worth or influence.

But words do have power and maybe, just maybe, the words of a father can begin to compete with the words of the world. Maybe a father’s words can deliver his daughter through this gauntlet of institutionalized shame and into a deep, unshakeable sense of her own worthiness and beauty.

He concludes by asking, “Where are you the most beautiful? On the inside.” The article is worth reading, bookmarking, printing to share. A Mighty Girl also posted links to resources on their Facebook page; I’m sharing them here:

To help girls understand more about the impact of the media messages they encounter related to beauty and body image, check out “All Made Up: A Girl’s Guide to Seeing Through Celebrity Hype to Celebrate Real Beauty” for ages 10 to 14 and “Body Drama” for ages 15 and up.

For a diverse selection of body image-related books for Mighty Girls of all ages focused on fostering a positive self-image, visit our “Body Image” section.

For books for parents that address body image issues, including the helpful guide “101 Ways to Help Your Daughter Love Her Body,” visit our “Body Image / Self-Esteem” parenting section.

And, to learn about a few of our favorite books that celebrate the special father-daughter bond, visit our post “A Father’s Love: A Mighty Girl Celebrates Fathers”.

And to reinforce the message (and because it’s a fun song), I’m sharing Inside here.

The link to the video is here.