Anam Cara: Dance Instruction From the Spirit

Work in the invisible world at least as hard as you do in the visible. ~ Rumi

I worked as a hospice chaplain at a time when people were just starting to purchase and learn about the value of a GPS (global positioning system) in their cars. I understand the need to be guided, especially when time dictates the fulfillment of the “urgent care” service you provide, as is often the case with hospice work; however, I never needed to buy one because I generally worked in easily located nursing facilities.

And, to be honest, I inherently resisted purchasing a GPS. I suppose this was fundamentally due to my deep mistrust of authority and love for finding my own way through the maze. This is not a trait that has always served me well, but I’m at an age where I notice it, shake hands, and agree to reassess and reconsider when appropriate, finally aware that the one who offers guidance is not always intent on suppressing my rights and gifts so much as wisely assisting me in living more freely as well as more fully, and avoiding the road hazards I’ve ignorantly or unconsciously placed in my path.

I’ve always been someone who naturally spirals into the knots life presents and figures her way out; I love employing unique blends of creativity and logic within an ethical framework, and I credit my parents and years (and years) of Catholic education for inviting and encouraging my style of reflective cartwheeling through life. (I have no stories of abusive, scary nuns to share at parties. Mine were highly creative, gentle-but-spirited and well-educated women who were gifted, affirming teachers and wonderful role models. Still are.)

But for me, being a smart creative woman in the Catholic Church—one who did not view the convent as a potential path—eventually meant taking and exploring my spirituality outside the boundaries of the dogma and hierarchy the Big C seemed to perpetuate and rely upon more for its power to dominate and control than nurture. I was/am neither a virgin nor a mother, the two archetypes the males controlling the Catholic spin seem to recognize and promote as valid.

Ironically, the excellent education provided by Catholic schools led me to value my spirit enough to save it by leaving the structure and living with its better teachers, like Francis, Bernard, Teresa, Ignatius, and my lifelong mentors, Pierre Teilhard and Thomas Berry. More recently, I’ve felt embraced by the writing of people like Judy Cannato, and throughout my life, countless and treasured teachers from other paths have fed my spirit and connection with Love.

I am a spiritual pilgrim, and chose peregrinatio consciously and authentically, because it was the only path I could see and name for myself. (Peregrinatio, roughly translated, is choosing expatriation from one’s homeland—in my case, from the Catholic Church—in favor of the broader journey, pilgrimage, and encounter with Love.) I guess I’m a kind of nomad setting up her tent smack dab in the center of Mystery and attempting to let it reveal itself—or not—rather than having it solely defined for me by others.

I have not rejected my teachers or the gifts of my C/catholic (“universal”) upbringing: they are very much evident when I open my spiritual backpack and reach for my tools, filters, and methods of translating insight and experience into perception and—I hope—wisdom. Many experiences and challenging times of reflection have co-created my path and I do not offer it or recommend it for others (we all must find our own) so much as I highly encourage myself and others to be conscious in our choices and the paths we choose, for we are always on them, dancing our own steps of progress/regress with Spirit between the inspiration and expiration we call life.

Sometimes, though, life leads me to feel I’m sitting out the dance and my partner’s abandoned me. Or I feel the need to learn some new steps or try some different music.

Choosing the “little c” over the “Big C” ironically made me more aware of the need for community and spiritual pit stops than when I dutifully attended weekly church services, accepted the need for an ordained man to intercede with Love on my behalf, and limited the number of sacraments to seven. And so I began to schedule regular retreats, embarked upon a wonderful relationship with a spiritual director, and later pursued the three years of education and preparation that would enable me to offer trained spiritual companionship to others.

The practice of soul-tending is vital once we recognize that Spirit is our dance partner in life, for we then organically want to make the dance more graceful, elegant, fun, creative, intimate, honest, deepening and illuminating. I cannot locate and string together words that express the value a spiritual director has added to my life or isolate in imagery what serving as anam cara (“soul friend”) to others has afforded me. But I do highly recommend that you explore this practice with someone trained to provide it. (You can start here: )

A spiritual director doesn’t commandeer your spiritual journey, but holds the mirror so you can see it for yourself and explore its meaning. What is your current image of the Holy and how has it evolved? How do you communicate with and experience the Sacred? Are you being pulled toward or pushed from these encounters? How do you experience the Transcendent and what are your sacred stories?

A spiritual companion asks the right questions, opens and holds the fertile silences, uses tools and shares new practices—for example: walking a labyrinth, prayer, bodywork, breathwork, meditation, creative exercises (free-writing, drawing, mandala creation)—but the point of spiritual direction is to allow you to see and name where you are with the Holy and where you desire to be…if you have a religious connection that’s meaningful to you, it is honored and can be deepened through the discernment offered by spiritual direction.

It’s not mental health therapy or counseling, though a spiritual director often works in tandem with a therapist, and spiritual direction is founded on “meeting the Sacred exactly where you are,” which often includes sharing and exploring the types of issues and experiences you might share in therapy, simply because everything in our lives connects to our spiritual well-being; it’s all interrelated. But there are specific elements, motivations, areas of expertise and modalities that distinguish therapy from spiritual companionship and there are boundaries to each profession that need to be clearly communicated and honored. Therapists are licensed; spiritual directors are not, which emphasizes again that you need to question and feel resonance with someone you choose for a spiritual companion.

The difference between a good friend and a spiritual director is the training and “professional” emphasis on you and your spiritual journey. Spiritual directors ask questions and invite explorations a friend might not (and shouldn’t) to support your discernment.

Some spiritual directors charge a fee; others do not. I studied for three years and completed a recognized program to serve as a spiritual director, for which I was charged tuition. I charge a fee not just to honor my education and time/gifts, but also to encourage a seeker to recognize that his or her commitment to the spiritual journey is worth pursuing and of value. If we think nothing of paying a hair stylist regularly and well, for example, we might also consider devoting as much conscious time and value to our spiritual journey and regularly (usually once a month) meet with a trained spiritual companion.

The website mentioned above lists spiritual companions geographically and offers some background information: you can call and further clarify a person’s orientations, qualifications, etc., by phone, or schedule the initial meeting and see how it feels for you. (You should never be charged for these initial meetings.) Spiritual direction can invite growth and be challenging; an hour-long session can end with questions left unexplored and a sense that “nothing’s changed,” but you must always feel safe, loved, and accompanied. A good spiritual director will also not agree to accompany someone with whom she isn’t comfortable, and the relationship can end at any time, at either person’s wish, but oh how lovely when it continues for years of soul-affirming deepening. In my own times of grief and transition, it’s been my safe harbor.

Some workplaces, especially healthcare institutions, have hired trained spiritual directors for staff members’ support and discernment, and as a service for their patients. ( I’ve always thought it should be integrated with medical school training as well.

Another approach is group spiritual direction. The group functions as a community of discernment, guided by a trained spiritual director and blessed by their own mutual deep listening, commitment, and openness to sharing. As with one-on-one spiritual direction, confidentiality is sacrosanct. The spiritual director may work with one person while the others support with listening and prayer, or one person may share while the spiritual director guides the other members in supporting the person’s discernment as this is requested.

Spiritual direction is not about “fixing,” but it may be deeply healing. In the end, the dance is Spirit-led, and I have left my own spiritual direction sessions immersed in deep peace, welcome affirmation, greater clarity, and a sense of renewal. Living the questions is never easy but, for me, it’s infused with greater gratitude and spaciousness when I journey with my spiritual companion. Whenever I feel I’m sitting out the dance, spiritual direction allows me to see my partner’s embracing me and leading me on, deeper into mystery and always in Love.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Becoming Our Nature

I was watching a program last night when a commercial interrupted the flow, my cue to press “mute” on the remote and fetch a glass of water or read another few paragraphs from a current novel. As always, I glanced up periodically to see if the ad had ended. I rarely pay attention to commercials, but this time my focus was captured by the actress in the ad, who portrayed a woman suffering from an apparent and unfortunate skin disease that kept her indoors while vacationing, until she discovered the featured product and could then join her friends outside, in a gorgeous natural setting. (Mountains, lake: fun times denied, then realized through the miracle of pharmaceuticals.)

What I noticed was that the actress was a “normal-looking” woman in her 50’s. She looked like a person who might be smart and funny and kind: someone you’d want for a friend; ironically, she looked comfortable in her own skin. In one of the closing scenes, she sat contentedly outside at the end of a dock, swinging her legs over the water, and just…well, being. She wore a nondescript sundress, exactly like I would, was average-sized (in itself a jolting visual occurrence on American television); wrinkles and un-toned muscles were evident…and she had clearly danced in gravity’s embrace for quite a few years. When the camera panned around and behind her, we saw her peacefully seated on the dock. (I think the sun was setting now, to signal the happy resolution advertising provides.) It was lovely to see “someone who looks like me” in an ad and it led me to reflect on how little our culture truly values people, objects, places, and relationships that wear a bit of patina.

I imagined how the ad fiction could continue: the woman’s husband or friends would look at her from the cabin and love this person-as-she-is, utterly. They would be happy her skin has healed, of course, but wouldn’t consider rejecting her if it hadn’t been.

I thought about the ways we grow old, with friends and longtime companions, and how we wear away over time and in each other’s eyes, to pure spirit, kind of like the Velveteen Rabbit. I guess “grow” is the operative word and it implies choice; we evolve, picking up interests, loves, beliefs and pursuits, and then we discard bits and pieces and choose others. We revert, convert, progress, fill and empty. We’re clearly not the people we once were, and we’re still becoming. But I think that there’s an essence to us that we can come to name and that those who truly love us can identify with us. Clearly, Phillip can’t look at me and see, physically, the young woman he met and married, but I think he sees, and knows, and loves her spirit, and the physical changes don’t mask that…if we’re blessed in our partnership. To me, he becomes dearer as our lives accrue shared experiences and evolutions; I see them all when I look at him, along with those dimples that were the initial attractant. We affirm each other’s singular journeys and discoveries; we serve as mirrors for the other’s self-reflection, in the truest sense, and I hope we do this for family and friends, too.

You may be familiar with the Japanese philosophical orientation and aesthetic stance called “wabi sabi,” which recognizes beauty in simplicity, honors the authenticity a given subject reveals through its age and use, and notices the interrelationship between the subject and the space it occupies, taking negative space into account. What isn’t there and what remains are both valued. The design, or artwork, or person, or relationship has been worn away to its essence; time is respected as an artistic participant in the creation of the uniqueness that is now revealed.

“Wabi” points to the flaws that make us uniquely “perfect” rather than achieving a false, manufactured perfection that conforms to some promoted or popular ideological standard, and the “sabi” portion of the aesthetic values the distinctive—and earned—patina that only comes with time’s passage.

Wabi sabi honors the beauty that can happen and be sensually perceived when years of crucial connections to honesty, integrity and humility are maintained, as in the furniture and architecture of the Shakers, the handworn elegance of our grandfathers’ tools or grandmothers’ needlework. Or our faces as they age and our relationships as they simplify, and deepen. As we become more fully our true nature, as we live more fully into and from our giftedness, we become more uniquely beautiful.

I think it takes conscious awareness of our journeys, and intentional choices that favor simplicity and honesty for the aesthetic of wabi sabi to animate our lives. How closely are we living to the heart of who we are? How true are we to the gifts we came to share? How genuine is our dance in the world? How well do we love our shadows?

When the world tells us that imitative is better than original so it can sell us a new, improved, and well-trod path and everything we need to travel it…can we still hear the song our life is singing, and set out in the direction our spirit yearns to explore?

Fundamentally, it takes relationship to initiate and sustain an aesthetic of wabi sabi; both artist and aficionado (aficionar: to inspire affection) co-create the beauty: it is a mutual undertaking in choosing to be honest and authentic and then supporting that in others and appreciating the beauty they are and are becoming. Symbiotically, we each become more fully ourselves.

And happily, it’s never too late to come home to ourselves and live from an honest, spare, and beautiful spirit of authenticity. Not perfect, just uniquely real.

We’ve almost finished watching all of the excellent Northern Exposure series, thanks to Netflix. We just enjoyed an episode that connects to these ideas. Dr. Joel’s parents travel from Queens to visit Alaska. His mother, Nadine, reveals herself as a loving, competent woman and an anxious, non-stop talker. The doctor’s secretary, a Tlingit Native named Marilyn Whirlwind, gently tells Nadine, “You have an eagle spirit,” and Nadine beams and confesses that yes; she’s always felt “connected” to eagles.

Then Marilyn tells the eagle’s story, and events unfold that lead Nadine home, to her true self. Her husband and son are confused by the change, but clearly love her and it seems, will in time either adjust to this homecoming or not, a risk we must always take in relationship. Two other subplots featured other characters exploring their natures and true identities as well and indicated the risks involved in claiming our natures and living authentically. All of the characters had to answer their own questions, which required stillness, but each one also required relationship and support to fully bloom.

Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home,” which I initially understood as “back to pure Spirit,” but now perceive as “home to our true selves,” as well.

Use your gifts and be who you are: flawed, unique and beautiful. Recognize the other as a work of art as well.

Shine together.


The eagle wasn’t always the eagle. The eagle, before he became the eagle, was Ukatangi, the talker.

Ukatangi talked and talked. He talked so much, he could only hear himself. Not the river, not the wind, not even the wolf.

The raven came and said, “The wolf is hungry. If you stop talking, you will hear him. The wind, too. And when you hear the wind, you will fly.”

So Ukatangi stopped talking, and soon he heard the wind rushing by. In the quiet, he could hear the directions of its currents, swiftly lifting and falling. The music of the wind changed Ukatangi, and he became the eagle; he became his nature.

The eagle soared, and its flight said all it needed to say.

(This is close to the version I heard in the Northern Exposure episode. I found it here:


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.




Yin Yang and Spirit

I’ve been communing with a virus this week and listening for what it’s come to tell me. Resting, reading, sleeping, watching the birds and snowfalls, lying with the 4-leggeds, going about my life s-l-o-w-l-y and quieting the voices that tell me I’m “not being productive,” because I’m doing exactly what I should be doing: tending my health and balancing my body’s and spirit’s needs.

This afternoon, I feel rested and healed, ready for a walk down our snowy trail, and I am grateful. And I am more aware than ever that many people do not feel rested, and are unable to connect their situations with gratitude.

Almost one in five Americans was diagnosed as suffering from “mental illness” in 2010; most of those were women and young adults. This sad news was published yesterday (, and as is so often the case, it is not really news at all, but its elevation to prominence is reason for hope that discovering and naming our illnesses may lead to their healing.

Imagine the suffering those numbers represent.

Perhaps a starting place is to consider that those so labeled are the truly healthy, responding to a society so deeply diseased that it sees the world through a funhouse mirror and justifies the revealed and rotting distortions by labeling the well sick, and medicating them until they agree. Or until they commit suicide, an alternative 8.7 million adults in this study admitted they had considered.

Let us consider, too, that a society that denies its inherent grounding in Spirit has severed connections that are life-giving, and that must be re-integrated for health to be restored. We are—each of us, in unique combinations—anima and animus/feminine and masculine, left and right-brained, artist and intellect, leader and follower, creator and participant, body and spirit, requiring motion and stillness to be balanced and whole.

Is this reflected in the society and world we have created?

Watch and read the “news” carefully, from any source: how many stories are about men and/or feature men as the “interpreters?” How often are the images, the photos and footage, of men? Scan the editorial page: who are the authors? Who are the CEO’s we read so much about these days? Who are our politicians? What percentage of our taxes are allocated to education and how much to the military? How well do our television programs and books reflect a balanced life or integrate a respect for spirit? Is more energy given to protecting the earth or exploiting her?

I’ve always thought it odd how much of the half-hour devoted to our “local” news is given to sports and to “political” reports, while no attention is routinely (i.e., daily) dedicated to community-building efforts that are surely occurring, or to the arts.

Why sports and not the arts? Why violence and divisiveness rather than cooperation and co-creation? The messages, from childhood on, seem to reinforce that power, competition, domination, and conflict (an exaggeration of our inherent masculine traits) are worthy of our attention; their opposites (our feminine qualities) are not.

Rather than a condemnation of the male sex, this is offered as an invitation to see how dramatically skewed our society is, how grotesquely crippled and half-blinded we are to the fullness of the earth and of ourselves and our potential to co-create lives that are rich and meaningfully balanced. We deny the feminine within and project this denial outward, creating institutions, careers, lifestyles, and options that are barren of creativity, nurturing, hope, justice, and balance…and then we expect sanity? Instead, such imbalance creates mental, physical, and spiritual illness. I would posit, too, that such imbalance gives rise to the “–isms” that plague us: sexism, racism, militarism…

This disparity between the feminine and masculine or the body and spirit, was evidenced at both the hospital and hospice where I worked as a chaplain and provided spiritual care for those struggling with illness and/or end-of-life. Ostensibly, they (management and the allopathically-trained staff) supported the work of spiritual caregivers. Regulatory standards call for the provision of spiritual care, at some level, and many healthcare providers rely solely upon already over-burdened local clergy, who have different training, largely confined to their religious orientation; at least these institutions where I was employed hired trained, professional chaplains to comply with regulations. But although we were clinically trained, and part of the “healthcare team,” there was deep mistrust, disregard, confusion, discomfort, and often contempt towards our contributions to holistic care from the rest of the clinical staff. That this was so often coupled with an unwillingness to learn about our training and discipline and the ways it could integrate with the care provided by medical staff, was continually discouraging, as was the reduction of our potential to “Could you come to Room 908 and say a prayer?”

To put it plainly, they were focused on “fixing” and we were focused on “being with” and “exploring,” which seemed to irritate many of the medical staff further, although both may lead to the healing and peace of the patient. Holistic, “both/and” ways of being with illness and dying are not truly embraced by our healthcare system, which is both a disservice to the patients and their families, and the denial of gift and true health to the healthcare providers as well. (It was fascinating and sad to me how many healthcare workers were overweight, as though the “heaviness” of this body-spirit imbalance became, in time, manifested physically.)

We’re all, always, on paths of healing; pretending otherwise allows the disease of a life lived ungrounded in Spirit to progress. And the cure is right here, within us, and has been, all the time. Simplistically, our healthcare model, like our culture, is ill because it’s far too inured in the masculine orientations of control/fixing/authority, and resists “incorporating” the feminine and healing gifts of listening, feeling, touching, intuiting, and co-creating. Imbalance is created by, and perpetuates, a culture of fear. When shadows are denied, light has no value.

We aren’t educated, at this time in history, to explore meaning, identify archetypes, observe dreams, live with questions, or honor mystery. Little time is allotted for stillness, reflection, or contemplation. From childhood on, we’re asked to do, solve, find answers, deduce, and reduce all of life to the concrete and factual (and, increasingly, to elevate and focus our gifts and energies upon what will financially and materially profit our existence), or dismiss it as irrelevant. Review this article and ponder the connection between the allocation of our precious time and the rise in mental illness.

There is also our lack of engagement with the natural world that contributes to our disconnection from mystery/Spirit. We’re now given digitalized screens of one kind or another to occupy our time, rob us of imagination, leech our independent thought and creativity, and corral our allegiance and loyalties without question. Children are no longer urged to “go outside” and discover the world of trees, insects, rivers, and sky. They’ve never watched the interactions of predator and prey, a colony of bees or ants working together, birds building their nests, or clouds forming and moving across the sky. They are frighteningly, like many of their parents, ignorant of the connections between a food’s source and what they eat; indeed, often what is presented and ingested as edible is unrecognizable in its relationship to any naturally occurring source (i.e., a “fruit roll-up”).

This alienation from our world and its natural processes further crushes the spirit and twists our worldview. It damages our children and devalues the environment they need to know and love in order to protect it.

Neither are children encouraged to “go inside” and be still. Mindfulness meditation can be used effectively in classrooms and teach a life-long, simple form of self-care that can ensure mental health.

When we value only part of ourselves and deny the rest, our be-ing is out of balance; our spirits deflate; our light dims, and our relationships and health suffer.

But, dum spiro, spero: While I live, I hope. If I can link to these articles, they’ve been written, and I know others are also recognizing these deficits and imbalances and using their gifts to address them. I trust that our compassion and our intelligence will respond; our masculine gifts for organization and delegation, and our feminine gifts for empathy and creativity will be welcomed, and we’ll create a healthy family, community, country, and world that celebrates hospitality towards all of our gifts, promotes wholeness, values balance, and is grounded in Spirit.



© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.


A Robin in Winter

There is no one who better challenges my complacent acceptance, denial, and avoidance of reality than Bill Moyers. I love and fear his work equally, because it often, initially, flattens my spirit and leaves me with a feeling of despair: All is lost; civilization, as an experiment, has failed. We’re doomed. Of course, that’s not his intent, but he articulates so forcefully and shines the light of truth upon injustice so brilliantly that there’s no denying we must change, but I’m never exactly certain how…What are the precise steps we must take? When all the money and power are in the hands of so few, what should and can I do?

Moyers’ new program, Moyers and Company. Premiered last week, with this program: If you haven’t seen it, you should. It may confirm what you already know, but it certainly elucidates, clearly and compellingly, the inequities our country tolerates and must not, if it is to survive as a democratic republic.

 I loved it, and felt the old, familiar “Moyerian flattening” as it concluded. The guests, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson, stressed that their indictment of the corporate control of America and the alarming escalation of the transference and concentration of our country’s power and wealth to the hands of a few, over the past 30 years, should not leave us depressed, but hopeful. Knowledge is power and knowing this, we can change it.

But I didn’t feel hopeful; I felt tiny, powerless, and victimized.

 I’ve been reflecting on it ever since; setting it aside, picking it up…the usual Moyerian response.

 This morning I felt in need of a reprieve. The daily round began with an early hike down the trail with my 4-legged companions, and we were rewarded with a surfeit of the rare and charmed meetings that a winter dawn can bring.

 Our fox, as I’ve come to think of him, paraded along the riverbank, his bushy tail high in the air and his aura of solitary self-contentment apparently shielding him from detection by Clancy and Riley. They were so intently monitoring the Canada geese on the other side of the bridge that they didn’t even see Mr. Fox, and for that, I was grateful. Reigning in 120 pounds of canine is a bit much at the best of times; on a slippery winter bridge it presents more complicated physics than I’m prepared to calculate or perform. Happily, we crossed the bridge peacefully and trudged along as Mr. Fox pranced out of sight.

 The snow glittered and mirrored the soft colors of the sunrise, a chickadee chorus countered the crows, and our spirits gradually hushed as we walked deeper into the woods. There are farmers’ paths that cut across the trail in various places, and as we approached one of these, three young deer crossed, paused, looked into our eyes, and then leapt away, unearthly dancers defying gravity. Clancy and Riley were initially too stunned to give chase. The three of us froze in place, statues marking the place where a holy encounter with wildness had occurred. Their instinctive urge to pursue kicked in just as I tightened my grip on their leashes, allowing them to pull and sniff as the deer bounded into the woods as fast as light, and away.

 I distracted Riley and Clancy with a treat—a cheap but effective trick, I admit—and the walk continued. The scent of other forms of wildlife who had preceded us along the trail kept them merrily sniffing and tracking till we reached our turning place and headed back home, and it was then that we had our most surprising encounter of the morning: a huge flock of robins sat in a grove of ash trees on the northwest side of the trail, their red breasts catching and flashing back the morning light.

 I understand that robins frequently remain in my part of Wisconsin during the winter, but in my 15 years of walking the trail I have rarely seen them, let alone such a large flock.

The first robin-sighting in the spring bathes my spirit in hope: Another winter has been endured and new life is rewarding us once again. I felt that same hope rising and settling unexpectedly in my heart today, but with greater contrast, clarity, and depth than when discovering the first robin in spring

 A robin in winter seems to more powerfully incite hope against overwhelming odds.

Last week’s news that enough signatures had been collected to initiate recall elections of our state’s governor and lieutenant governor and my district’s state senator, is both welcome and exciting. Although the recalls may fail, the fact that groups of citizens have challenged the powers-that-be and joined forces to stimulate change is heartening. Long before Occupy Wall Street, Wisconsinites were occupying Madison, and now, a year later, it’s encouraging to see that energy rewarded, although clearly a lot of work remains for those desiring change.

 But I don’t believe replacing a Republican with a Democrat is nearly enough to improve my district, state, country, or the world Bill Moyer’s program has once again defined for me. Civilization seems too near some cataclysmic edge for insubstantial back-and-forth changes to satisfy the authentic needs of our hearts and spirits.

It seems that true evolutionary change is called for when power and wealth are so limited and concentrated, and such little good comes of it. We have to relate differently, expect different outcomes, imagine different futures, and do so with mutual respect, open dialogue, and at tables where all are welcome. I don’t think it can happen without the non-cooperation, peaceful resistance, and non-violence others have employed to create changes once considered impossible.

 An obvious but clear connection to the robin in winter is Martin Luther King, whose legacy is celebrated nationally on this day. His own inspiration was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, who was in turn inspired by such people as Plato, Thoreau, and Tolstoy…and behind and surrounding all of these men were equally inspiring women and other role models, of that I have no doubt.

 There have always been people who have served as voices of hope when darkness is all most of us can see. And the thousands of nameless followers and supporters who worked to effect the changes we associate with “Gandhi,” “King,” and others, have also—always—been necessary agents of social, environmental, spiritual, and institutional evolution, along with their charismatic leaders.

It isn’t enough to write this, though, and then sit around waiting for a Gandhi or King we-who-are-sitting-and-waiting can support. I think the gift and the challenge is to be the robin in winter for ourselves, and in our relationships, dialogues, writing, choices, and actions.

 We have to be hope.

 We have to avoid demonizing those with whom we disagree, because de-humanizing them changes nothing and robs us of our own humanity and capacity for compassion. We have to steer clear of the traps and deeply rutted paths of ego; question everything, but respectfully; keep our eyes on justice and avoid engagement in judgment. We have to risk discomfort because it’s worth it, if our embarrassment or missteps help to create a better way of forming relationship and community. We have to trust that setbacks are temporary, whether we outlive them or not; evolution happens and we can hasten it with our hope.

 Emily Dickinson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune–without the words,

And never stops at all…

 Robins in winter remind us that startling encounters, whether with Bill Moyers’ programs or the wildness within and without, are always gifts, and can lead us to face life and the changes it demands of us, with hope, breathing hope, and being hope.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.


Slow Life and the Spirit

When Phillip and I made a conscious decision to pursue a “slow life” together, we were led by others who have made the same decision to ground their choices and days in deliberate and focused sustainability and community connections.

 For us, a slow life is guided by a philosophical stance which believes that the spirit is deeply and truly fed only by intimate communion. To put it another way: living, relating, and buying locally allows us to be more fully present both to ourselves and to those who contribute to our well-being, as we contribute to theirs. This is not to promote an isolationist orientation or a denial of global connection and need, but to lessen the exhaustion and depletion of finite resources, to become mindful about right relationship with our neighbors, to redefine what constitutes “healthy living,” and to be earnest in clarifying the difference between desire and need.

 Far from feeling rigidly controlled, we’ve learned pursuing a slow life is exciting, creative, spacious, and fun.

 Savoring, noticing, attending, reflecting, listening, and being present are all practices that feed a slow life, and all are nourished by gratitude and balance. We commit to simplify in order to go deeper, and to more authentically value the common ground and the unique distinctions that define our days, relationships, seasons, community, and spirits. We deliberately honor the gifts that all of these create and offer for our enrichment.

Pierre Teilhard famously stated we’re spiritual beings having a physical, human experience. While we’re here on earth, this means our basic necessities of food, home, and clothing must be satisfied if our spirits are to thrive and evolve. It seems, though, that we’ve lost the connection between the pursuit of our basic needs and our spiritual health, as though spirit doesn’t enter into our choices and consciousness until not just our basic needs, but all of our (manufactured) desires, are met. Focused solely on the crazed pursuit of “more,” we have become disconnected from Source and source: we do not know where we, our food, our homes, and our clothing come from, nor at what cost to the earth and our neighbors. We do not relax and breathe unless we’re “on vacation,” when a lot of us routinely become ill from the anxiety, over-work, and imbalanced living we’ve consented to endure, often unconsciously.

 Slow living recognizes that spirit is (always) our essence, that the pursuit of basic necessities can be/is naturally spirit-fueled and intentional, and that the satisfaction of these needs can be creative, communal, and enough. A slow life is a consciously inspirited life.

 Homes can be green, energy use sustainable, clothing recycled, and food joyfully grown, locally procured, and communally shared. Our gifts and art can be recognized, encouraged, and shared in the production of the goods that meet our needs. We can “make a living” that is peace-filled and care-filled, and our businesses and interactions can be collaborative circles of collegiality rather than competitive, top-down hierarchies.

Small steps, in time, create new paths.

Grow a garden; join a CSA; shop at farmers’ markets. Seek and support restaurants like this: and programs like this:

Make use of resale shops. Cull outgrown, unworn, disused, and unneeded possessions; recycle, reuse, and re-purpose creatively. Know where your material possessions are made and by whom; understand the dis-eased world you’re either perpetuating or choosing to change:

Live green:

 Heal whenever, whatever, wherever you can, starting with yourself and your choices.

 A slow life offers continual invitations and opportunities to recall and connect with who we— truly—are: shards of a holy and ongoing Creative Impulse, interdependent and aware that our only home is Love.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Winnowing Books; Treasuring Stories

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~ Thornton Wilder

My home holds hundreds of books; it’s like living in a library, with a kitchen and beds, a couch, tables, and chairs—but mostly, books. They are mine, although there are many that Phillip has read and valued. He is far less tied to the material than I and rarely feels the need to keep a book he has read.

I am an insatiable addict with a jones for story. Garrison Keillor said, “You get older and realize there are no answers, just stories. And how we love them.”  Except, for me, the passion for story started at birth and has only increased. Before we could read, we were read to, frequently. The library outing was a weekly ritual before and after word decoding skills were mastered.

I am congenitally bibliophilic.

Reading, writing, and storytelling were the other Holy Trinity of my childhood, and nothing has altered their prominence in the course of my lengthening history. My mother was a gifted teacher who revered books all of her life. I am convinced she began reading to me when I was in utero. In my memory, Mama is either reading from a pile of novels, biographies, and her beloved English mysteries, or listening to “Chapter a Day” on NPR. She never returned from a trip to the store without stories about the people who stood in line with her and we would marvel at how quickly—and deeply—she elicited these. When we gathered with her sister and brothers, stories about their childhood and hometown community flowed for hours.

My father was a Journalism graduate who had edited his college newspaper and moved into a career that depended upon his facility for organizing, creating, editing, and sharing information. The latter half of his career was spent traveling to hundreds of college campuses as head of his large company’s corporate recruiting department. When he came home, I’d join him at the kitchen table and listen to stories of his travels. My father would describe the flights, hotels, restaurants, placement office professionals, campuses, and then the dozens of job applicants, usually engineers and accountants, whose so-far-biographies were encapsulated in hopeful resumes, piled on the table for review.

He taught me that a list of superlative achievements wasn’t nearly as interesting (or likely to secure employment) as a story of how one young man had to care for his parents, work a part-time job, and complete his studies, or another applicant was “all A’s and no sense,” or how this person was “well-rounded” and why, and that person was “too narrow to succeed on a corporate team,” while another job required a singular-focused “odd duck.”

I guess my father matched their stories with his employer’s needs, and was talented at this, because he listened to and appreciated the unique value of each person’s narrative. I remember my father as also gifted in helping rejected candidates understand that their stories wouldn’t proceed well at the job they’d applied for, and that there were better stories to find in order for their gifts and happiness to be challenged and grow.

Regardless of the titles and disciplines of my own jobs, for me they’ve all been immersions in hearing, creating, sharing, exploring, and collecting story: The meaning, spirit, and adventures of life; the wins and losses, the choices and directions, the lessons, surprises, twists and mysteries, the cliff-hangers, comedies, and tragedies.

Books have been my touchstones, companions, and comfort throughout my life. They are place-markers in the infinite flow of existence. We enter them and co-create worlds with the author and other readers. Books thus become our lifelong friends; their presence alone conjures beloved memories, places, and experiences that rival and often become associated with those lived outside their imagined realities.

But I have made a commitment to a simpler life, and that means I must winnow, again and again, through possessions I no longer need, which includes tackling my many bookcases. A New Year seems an appropriate time for such sorting. I slowly create the “give away” and “keep” piles; Phillip reviews; we negotiate; and out goes another box of books, off to St. Vinnie’s and—oh, how I hope—a good home.

There are authors and books—probably too many—with which I will never part, but there have also been reading passions that went excitingly deep, but in the long run, didn’t last, and I need to reassess, make peace, part company wherever necessary…it’s a way of reorganizing my spiritual geography as well, and always an insightful exercise and practice.

But oh, the hours and decisions it requires! More than once this past weekend, Phillip discovered me surrounded by piles of books (holding one or two as well), immobilized by indecision. But I’ll keep at it. These are my sacred relationships and no one else can do it for me.

When my mother made her last move to our home, her books, furniture, and possessions, except for clothes and a few articles, were put into storage. We thought this would be temporary, until she found a home she liked, but illness made this transition astonishingly and quickly her last.

I learned that sorting through the belongings of someone you love is almost too much to bear, but I retained hope that my love for, and familiarity with, her possessions conferred the sacredness they and the event deserved.

I do not want anyone I love to have that task at all, regarding our possessions, but certainly not to the degree I can take responsibility for making decisions now. And I think it would be even worse, perhaps, to have a stranger, ignorant of all the hallowed memory and meaning, pawing through books and fragments only Phillip and I knew as treasures.

So the Great Sifting continues. It’s time to lighten up, make way for new adventures, remind myself again that the books and the stories are elementally different things: the books, like everything I own, are objects for passing on to others, when I’m ready; the stories will always and forever be mine.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Epiphanies at the Laundromat

 Today, for Christians, is the traditional Feast of the Epiphany, a celebration of the Christ’s manifestation to gentiles; a sign, we’re told, that this child was a realized archetype for all people to access and imitate, because they could— regardless of their color, status, location, or relatives.

When I was growing up, it was a day that held lingering sparks of Christmas magic, treats, and ritual, before the season sputtered out to the annual and predictable blur of black, white, and gray life till Valentine’s Day.

As a word, epiphany has come to signify a graced moment of insight that flashes and floods our awareness, bringing us to a deeper knowing and understanding of connections, as though we’d somehow been lifted by sentient angels and gently flown across the insuperable gap described by Kierkegaard’s leap of faith. We’re here and the next moment we’re there, the big now/here; no leaping required. Zap. Our heart, mind, and spirit possess a new piece of spiritual reality we never even knew existed till…now. We’re changed.

I like the word epiphany: the mystery it touches and honors, the noticing and openness it often rewards, and the event itself, like a great big surprise party for the spirit. It happens instantly, but sometimes only after a journey of a thousand miles, or moments, or years.

The Wise Seekers in the Epiphany story recognized that something elemental about humans and their potential to love and form community had changed. They were willing to trust their intuition and set out to discover the beckoning unknown, an invitation all of us are sent, daily, if we’re open and willing to switch perspectives, which means questioning and sometimes setting down old stories, responses, behaviors, and habits, to clear the way for epiphanies.

Our dryer has been on the blink, on the fritz, and on strike this week; like a marketing pundit, it’s been all spin and no heat.

As a teenager, my husband owned and maintained a laundromat—a way to save money for college—and this made him, in time, a skilled specialist in the surgery and healing of laundering machinery. Whether his diagnostic proficiency and surgical skill have endured all these years are questions we pondered as we awaited the delivery of machine parts his preliminary analysis led him to order from online purveyors. 

As I’ve written before, I’m one who finds solace in schedules. Along with house-cleaning, there is endless laundry punctuating the daily round. The dryer is my appliance deity, because it actually and forcefully removes the hair and dander the washer just good-naturedly washes and rinses. There is such great satisfaction in extracting the dryer screen and removing a small dog-sized mat of hair, knowing that the laundry has been rendered danderless once again.

Such tender moments have not been enacted this week, however. Instead, I’ve been loading wet laundry into baskets and heading to the nearest laundromat for some dryers-on-steroids assistance. (Seriously. I had to stand on a chair to reach a sock in the back of one of these behemoths.) 

This is not a hugely painful ordeal, nor does it truly tempt the engagement of my skill for dramatically over-exaggerating the insignificant, but it seemed another task that I initially labeled one more interruption to my writing, and therefore resented.

I packed my notebook and camera beside the laundry and off I went. I arrived, loaded the dryers, sat for a moment, and began to hear a familiar voice in my head. Friar Lawrence. Whenever I’m in “grumble mode,” he visits. Romeo and Juliet, Act 3, Scene 3: Romeo is desperate about events, having killed Juliet’s cousin and been banished by the Prince, and the older, wiser Lawrence points out all the reasons these things may be perceived as blessings.

…thy Juliet is alive, For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead; There art thou happy: Tybalt would kill thee, But thou slew’st Tybalt; there art thou happy too: The law that threaten’d death becomes thy friend And turns it to exile; there art thou happy: A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back; Happiness courts thee in her best array…

My inner Friar Lawrence always forces me to revisit the colors, perceptions, labels and significance I’ve chosen and assigned events, if they haven’t left me feeling grateful.

Deep breath. Notice. The laundromat was bright and clean. The plants were plastic, but not dusty, and there were chairs, folding tables, baskets on wheels…very welcoming. (There art thou happy!) The Jolly Yellow Dryers made quick work of my laundry and I had time to write, take pictures, and chat with fellow customers. (There art thou happy!) I began to feel grateful I had laundry to clean, a car to take me to the laundromat, and the money to pay for it. (There, there, and there art thou happy!)

I observed an elderly man and gradually noticed he exuded light; his gentleness and age choreographed a peaceful flow of energy as he moved between washers and dryers, folded his clothes, shared polite conversation…I noticed his laundry included women’s clothes as well as his own, and when he sat beside me I learned his story. He softly spoke of his wife, and of her stroke. How life changed suddenly, for both of them. Now, he does the laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, the shopping, the caretaking. No complaint; no resentment; just loving, peaceful adjustment and acceptance…enlightenment.

Chopping wood, carrying water, but enlightened.


The quality of Phillip’s surgical expertise proved excellent; the dryer is again restored to health; and I am changed.

A good week.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Missing Snow

WM of a certain age ISO precipitation in the form of small white ice crystals formed directly from the water vapor of the air at a temperature of less than 32°F (0°C). Have depended upon our seasonal LTR for stillness, creativity, winter pursuits and your VGL appeal. Life dull W/O you. Not yet WTR; please come home; all will be 4/given… 

(For decoding, see:

Though the weather at Full Moon Cottage has been cold for two days, the winter thus far has yielded only ice-covered earth, driveways, sidewalks, and trails, but alas, no snow, except for brief wannabe snowfalls that tease and tempt, and quickly melt. So far.

Bi-pedal navigation has become tricky, especially if two 50-pound 4-leggeds are blithely dancing across a ballroom-sized driveway of glass, pulling Crazy-Legs-Me behind them. That I’ve managed to remain generally upright can only be attributed to grace and Irish luck. Again.

The forecast holds no indication that things will change, except that the ice will melt when the temperatures again begin courting the 40° range, and then mockingly vacillate up and down, but never quite allow for snow. Yet.  

In a day or two, the trail will be the muddy mess we expect in April, and the green grass and gardens will wonder where their cozy blanket is hiding, inhibiting their necessary winter nap. For now.

I have no doubt we’ll have our snow, as I’ve been reviewing logs and calendars and discovered quite a few “snow days” these past few years have occurred in February, but until then, I return to photographs of snow from past winters, let my spirit enter them, breathe, and feel somewhat consoled. One day my love will return. Sigh.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Compassionate Listening

I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant…

 Today, I’ve been reviewing the past year and pondering the paths before me regarding the year to come. The country and, more dramatically, my state—and my friends, in their discussions of these things—have been through such turmoil and discord this past year that I find myself focusing on a desire for the blessing of true, from-the-heart dialogue. More than anything, this requires the ability to listen to oneself and the other with conscious and deep attention.

 Three years of spiritual direction training, a concurrent MA in Servant Leadership and rugged year of CPE, all emphasized my responsibility to the art of listening. For both CPE and spiritual direction, I wrote “Verbatims,” almost 75 of these over the course of those 3 years, and they have since become an illuminating spiritual practice and a way to continue deepening my listening. It turned out that at 75, I was just getting started.

 Verbatims support the reflection necessary to notice what I noticed and missed regarding the other’s responses and my own during our time together, and to hold both of us in the light while doing so. Chiefly, they are tools for self-knowledge.

 Meaning is sifted through many levels of listening: There is the literal dialogue, and then there are all the accompanying intonations, pauses, body language indications, eye movements, triggers, memories, and energetic pulls toward and away from each other. There are projections, denials, biases, transference, manipulations, desires, shadows and more shadows at play in any conversation. Remaining conscious to all of these dimensions so that a conversation can be between our hearts and unearth true feelings respectfully, while allowing Spirit to truly guide and be present within our communication, takes continual practice and tending, and yields continual gifts.

 I encourage you to use verbatim-writing, if it appeals to you, for reflection and for deepening your listening gifts. There are people who loathe writing and for whom this would not be a helpful practice; rest assured, there are a variety of ways to deepen our listening, and I’ll be happy to share others as well.

 I’ve added a template at the end of this post, and encourage to you to try using all, some, or just one part of it, and let me know your reaction.

 It works like this: Light a candle or use meditative music: whatever signifies to your spirit that your time of meditation and sacred work is beginning. (It can help to have a great pot of tea and some wonderful form of chocolate to sustain this meditation!)

 Still yourself through meditation, centering, deep breathing—whatever method you use, and then take time to recount a recent conversation you shared. (For me, it’s best to jot down some memories and dialogue as soon as I can after a conversation has ended, and then to wait through one sleep/dreaming time before continuing.)

 Begin to write, describing the setting and energy with which you and the other seemed to enter the encounter. Then, as best as you can recall, write down the dialogue (like the script of a play). You can start with about 20 exchanges and try to build from there as you grow comfortable with the practice. It may seem daunting, initially, to recall who said what, but I assure you, if you get into the flow, the gist of your time together will also flow fairly unimpeded as you gain experience. Whenever possible, you can add, in parentheses, what body movements, pauses, tones, etc. accompanied the spoken words.

When you’ve finished transcribing the dialogue, the deep work can begin: this is the gift of creating a verbatim, for me. Over the years, the whole process has become a form of prayer and meditation that gives me great peace.

This is not about judging yourself—or the other—but about improving your ability to truly speak and hear from the heart and grant others the space and safety of speaking from theirs.

 Here is the verbatim outline I use when I’m working as a spiritual director/companion, or just praying with a recent conversation. There are many other versions available; mix and match; add and discard as it serves your spirit and deepens your listening. This is always, and only, for your eyes, and meant to enhance your self-awareness and compassionate listening. Some people save their verbatims to review their growth and celebrate lessons learned; others burn them following reflection, or annually, at a time that for them is holy, as a kind of sacred offering to Spirit or to honor their commitment to a level of listening that is awake and compassionate. Always remember: this is a way to listen more compassionately to yourself as much as to the other.

 May the New Year offer us wonderful opportunities and invitations to deepen our listening; and so may we, the other, and the world be healed.

 Verbatim Template

 Introduction (Time/Place/Person/Relationship/Context): (A good place to start.)

Record of Conversation: (Write it down as fully and faithfully as you can. Re-writing and jotting notes—all over the verbatim—is encouraged!)

 Analysis and Evaluation

Movement: (How would you describe the individual, shared, and Spirit’s flow of energy from beginning to the end of this encounter? Sometimes using colors to trace these “energy flows” is helpful.)

 My Feelings: (Note, in as much detail as possible, what you were feeling at each point of the conversation. Where did you feel any significant shifts?)

Other Person’s Needs: (What do you understand about the yearning and desires—for connection, healing, wholeness, relationship, etc.—of your dialogue companion? Or, perhaps the other person just stated goals and implied a need for support and a desire for clarity. Note wherever in the conversation s/he identified a feeling.)

Seed: (What would you isolate as the “important truth” of this encounter? Keep it simple and pure: what was this conversation “really” about? There may be one for you, and one for the other, that you sense and would like to explore.)

 What I’d Do Differently: (As you are present to this conversation, can you identify, within your own responses/movements, anything that you would change? Remember, this is about deepening your listening: Did you interrupt your companion out of anxiety, and so impede her own ability to hear herself or follow a thought along its journey? Did you veer off to another subject? Did you re-direct conversation away from the revelation of feelings and matters of the heart and head back to the good, old reliable brain? Did your attention drift, or did you become focused on your next response and so limit your listening?

 I learned two techniques in my training that I will always treasure: First, avoid asking too many, if any, “Why” questions. These can quickly turn people away from the heart and back towards the brain. Use “why” very sparingly.

 And—I cannot emphasize this enough—perhaps the most integral aspect of deep listening is to learn to be comfortable with pauses, however long. Over and over, this is what has yielded the most remarkable gifts in my listening. “Let silence do the heavy lifting.” Silent and listen contain the same letters; they are close kin and powerful allies on my listening journeys.)

What did this reveal: (About each of you, and reveal about your attitude toward the other person? Did you feel hooked at any point, or resist anything shared during this conversation? This is a very important part of the verbatim regarding your self-awareness and growth) 

Future Involvement and Learning: (What might you learn more about, or seek to master so as to improve the listening you offer this person, yourself, others, and Spirit?)

Spiritual Reflections: (How did this encounter echo, challenge, invite, etc., your spirit to grow? How did it affirm your journey? Are any patterns or practices made clear? If there is a theology that holds meaning and direction for you, how is it integrated into your listening? If you have a connection to an image of the Holy, how was that affected by this encounter? How has your spirit been moved by this, and do you have a sense of how the greater Spirit was—and is—present to you?)

Identity and Style: (What has this revealed to you about yourself and your way of listening, being present, embracing mystery…etc.?)

Take time to be with this verbatim and revisit it for deeper reflection. Honor yourself and the other with a blessing before ending the practice. Listen and heal; listen and be healed.


© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.