Monday, September 2, 2013

Moving Sideways

When I look back to when I began this blog, I remember how daunted I was by the prospect of sharing my thoughts and feelings in such a public way. I remember the trepidation that accompanied every time I would click “Publish” on my latest post. I remember how committed I was to writing every week when I started, and then how life came in and made alterations to my plans. Mostly, I remember how good it felt to have something external to show for all the internal work I was doing where no one else could see it. 

Photo by Kathleen Minogue Keagy
“What We Carry” I remember the day I settled on that name for my blog. It was exactly where I was at the time--just beginning to understand how much the past was defining me and committing to the process of letting it go. Sometimes I went so far inside that I lost track of the day to day. I think about all the time that I was not fully present in the moment because I was being pulled backwards into old pictures or projecting forward into a future tied to those old pictures. I am so grateful for all the healers and friends who stood by and listened to my stories with compassion, knowing that at times I must have sounded like a broken record. And to my family who didn’t press when I figuratively left the room even while I was standing right next to them. 

Something has shifted sideways in the last few months. It has gotten quiet in my internal world. The script I have been running in my head for many years is now a faint whisper.  So many false pictures of dependency and co-dependency have been cleared out of my space. I now feel free to create out in the world without fear of being side-swiped by some emotional storm from the past, and my confidence that I can handle whatever comes my way without losing my center is surging.

These have been years of immense growth. While some people go on a journey to connect with the spiritual over the course of their lives, I have never had difficulty accessing the world of spirit. My journey is learning to be more of the world. Now that I am not hampered by so many of those emotional suitcases I carried into this life, I am manifesting with greater and greater speed. I listen to family stories with compassion, not responsibility. And as difficult as it is for me not to help every injured bird that walks into my view, I am doing it differently. I am more emotionally detached in my help, knowing that love means letting people do their own healing.

I thank everyone who took the time to read my words over the last few years. I may from time to time decide to publish here, but it feels like this chapter has ended. I am no longer looking back at "What We Carry." I am looking forward. I invite you to come visit my new blog on the website for PrimeImpulse, my business focused on empowering artists and creatives to make their ideas happen. It’s still just as much me as this blog, but with a focus on grounding everything I know about the worlds of emotion and spirit into the flesh and blood of this lifetime. 

I’ll see you over there!

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Into the Knot

“There are two ways out of a knot: you can untie it or you can keep going in and come out the other side.” When my teacher at the Laban/Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies spoke these words, she was speaking about a movement phrase we were working on, but we all knew that she meant something much more profound. Nothing about studying at the Laban Institute was just about dance. The work I did there was life-changing, which is the reason I chose to spend a year there. 

Photo by Kathleen Minogue Keagy
I was one year out of college and had just been offered what, to many in my position, would have been a dream job. After completing a year teaching theater as an intern at a high school, I was offered the opportunity to head the theater program at another high school. I was barely 24-years-old. Looking back, I probably could have spent my entire career at that school teaching and directing, but I didn’t take it. I headed back to New York City to study dance. This was not the kind of post-graduate work that led to better pay or stunning job opportunities. But I wanted it. I wanted to go deeper. After 18 plus years of educating my mind, my body wanted its chance. 

I was by far the least capable dancer in my class. I had put myself in the deep end of the pool and tread water as best I could among the other students who flowed easily through the movement exercises with a facility I lacked. The days I remember most vividly were the ones when I would enter into a simple movement phrase and end up a weeping mass on the floor, not able to go on. Most of my teachers didn’t get it. They thought I was just giving up when the phrase got difficult, but my advisor knew. She knew that when this happened I had ripped open some emotional material that I had buried in my body. Because muscle has more than physical memory; it has emotional memory. The whole body has emotional memory. Without knowing it, we ask different places in our body to hold feelings for us. And the body holds the vibration of that situation, that emotional memory, until it gets triggered again. 

Photo by Kathleen Minogue Keagy
“Go into the knot,” she would encourage me at these moments. “Don’t try to untie the knot. Keep going in the direction of the pain. Follow it, experience it. Don’t let it frighten you into retreat.” I can attest that it was not easy to stay with the hurt until I emerged, but I can also attest that once I did, I felt free. I felt stronger. I felt that I was better able to handle the intense emotions that would emerge the next time. And I’ve never looked back. This training of going into the knot has helped me to find the stillpoint in the chaotic emotional territory of my life and the lives of those around me. And it has led me to healing experiences that have launched me forward. Because these moments are opportunities to release the past, opportunities to release what is no longer serving us.

So when I ended up in tears on the kitchen floor at 2 am the other night overwhelmed with anger and loss, I knew I was almost there. I was almost through the dark knot of fear triggered by the changes I have initiated in my life in the last year. Sitting on the kitchen floor I wanted so badly to untie the knotbut I stayed in. Because I know what waits for me for in the darkness of the knot: the potential for freedom. And I want to be free.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sand Beneath My Feet

The churning of the waves here and there tosses up tiny pieces of green and brown sea glass. I was collecting the pieces in my pocket. I was looking for a message, a whisper, some piece of wisdom from the sand beneath my feet. Just before I reached the jetty, I was stopped in my tracks by a silver-dollar-sized piece of aquamarine colored glass just at the edge of the surf line. Besides its unusual color, its size caught me completely off-guard. However did it make it here right next to the rocks of the jetty and not be smashed to bits? 

My gift from the sea. It sits here on the table as I writea testament to how beautiful things can remain even in the most treacherous environments. And it makes me think of my grandmother, herself someone who remained beautiful in the treacherous environment of her life. For most of her adult life she played a role, a part, in the play of being a surgeon’s wife. Subject to my grandfather’s easily ignited Italian temper and his suppressed anger for what he could not control and who he could not save. Most would never know the abuse she endured. But I did. 

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
My earliest memory is the day my twin sisters got their tonsils out. I always thought the memory stayed with me because it was my first night alone without my parents. But something else made it stick in my mind. I remember kneeling on the seat of a dark leather chair with metal tacks like rivets securing the leather to the wood. In the shadowy hospital waiting room I kept my back to everyone thinking that if I did not attract attention to myself I would not have to go, go with my grandparents back to their house. I had already spent a night at their house, and after that night, I did not want to go back alone. 

I used to run and lock myself in the bathroom when my grandfather, the doctor, would come to our house with his black doctor's bag. When he had his bag he was not Grandpa anymore, but Dr. Mike, everybody's hero, but not mine. He was not my hero. I saw too much at two-years-old. I saw my grandfather take out his pain on my grandmother because he had no place else to put it. All his helplessness when he was unable to help a patient get better. All his helplessness when a patient died. All his helplessness to express those broken parts of himself and be received with compassion. 

My grandmother looked like she had it all from the outside: surgeon's wife, beautiful house, beautiful clothes, closet full of shoes, extravagant jewelry. But I see it all now as a bribe, as a payoff, for what she endured to save face for the family. When I look at the necklace she made for each of her ten granddaughters from the diamonds in her wedding band, I see her pain transformed. And I understand why she was so profoundly connected with her granddaughters. We filled her life with love. I think in her mind, she did what she did for us. And I did what she asked of me for her safetyfor in her day, in the conventions of her time, I wonder if she would have survived telling the truth. I wonder what agreements her soul had made with my grandfather’s soul. Maybe this was their agreement.

“Be a good girl and don’t tell.” I didn’t tell. I locked that memory away. I fixed the truth so no one would get hurt.

Grandma Adele,  July 1978
After my grandfather died, I watched my grandmother’s personality come into bloom. I caught a glimpse of the woman waiting for her turn to shine all those years. She did most of that blooming confined to a bed, battling ovarian cancer. But still she seemed more free. There was a twinkle in her eye that I had not seen before, a boldness of action and a willingness to take whatever came along with it. She was no longer limited by what she “should” do. She quieted all the ghosts of the women who came before herthe ones who held the space for the pain of the men in their lives at the expense of themselves. In those last years, she opened the window for generations of women after her to breathe freely for the first time. She opened the window for me. 

When my grandmother died at 67, she still had blond hair. She never went grey. I think of her now, as I hold this piece of sea glass in my hands. Of all my ancestors, hers is the opinion that matters most to me. Am I daring enough, Grandma? Is this the right path, Grandma? And unlike other ancestors in my tribe, she doesn’t voice an opinion. She has no agenda for me. Nothing she wants accomplished for her. She just watches over my left shoulder. Stands behind me in support and watches to see what I’ll do. Because she knows what it’s like to be told who to be and she loves me enough not to say a word. And more than that, she trusts me. Trusts that I will choose the paths that stretch me, that challenge me, that make me feel alive. She trusts me to live my truth. 

Happy Birthday, Grandma Adele. You would have turned 91 this March.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


I really like the navigation software on my phone. When I make a wrong turn, without any judgement it finds me the next best route from my current position. If only I could be so neutral when I make a wrong turn in life. But there is one thing the navigation software keeps me from doing that I have come to treasure: getting lost. This may seem obvious, but getting lost for a bit has yielded some of my most treasured experiences. 

During one of these “lost” periods of my life, I struck up a friendship with a man who introduced me to the art of orienteering. I say “art” because once you understand its significance on a philosophical level, well, it’s life-changing. Traditional orienteering is a footrace where the participants use a map and compass to go point to point to reach a final destination. According to Merriam-Webster, these footraces became popular in Sweden in the early 20th century, but I had not heard of them when my friend handed me a torn piece of paper with walking instructions and compass readings. 

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
I found the whole process unbelievably frustrating because I had no idea what the destination was. I had to go point to point or I would get lost. Well, not too lost. We were standing in an open grassy area surrounded by rolling hills to the east and sandy bluffs that led to the Pacific Ocean to the west. At times, I felt like I was walking in circles and retracing my steps. Eventually, I found my destination. Although I can’t remember at all what the destination was, the experience stayed with me.

As a clairvoyant, I see a lot of pictures for what is possible. The challenging part is getting there. To get to that picture way out in the future, you have to travel point to point on the earth. As my teacher Kris Cahill says, you can work the energy of the picture out there, but you can't live there. You have to stay grounded in your body doing the day-to-day work to make that picture real. It’s not the work I mind; it’s the speed. I’ve had to make peace with the fact that having a body means I need to sleep at nighta tall order for someone who loves working in the wee small hours of the morning. But the other frustrating thing about getting to my picture is that it does not progress along a straight line. It’s more like orienteering, where at times I look around and wonder if I have completely lost my way because the picture I set out to create is nowhere in sight. Or I feel like I’m going around in circles and making no progress at all. 

But when I think of the great stories of discovery, they are filled with such moments of being completely lost. Sometimes we do need to double back. Sometimes we feel like we are going around in circles. Sometimes we press on and find something we could not have imagined when we set out for the journey. And sometimes we are led to exactly the place we imagined (but not without employing an enormous quantity of faith along the way).

For the moment, the shortest distance between me and my hoped for destination is putting one foot in front of the other, and recalibrating along the way. I’ll see you at the dive restaurant I find on my next wrong turn.

Monday, December 31, 2012


Winter at the beach appears quiet, but as you walk toward the shoreline, the beach teems with lifethe skies and sand full of birds: pelicans, cormorants, grebes, terns, willets, sanderlings, egrets, gulls. You see them poking their long beaks into the sand for crabs at the surf line, or bobbing and diving in the water just before the waves begin to roll to their crest. Somedays when I look out, there are hundreds of birds floating in the water.

During the fertile season of the summer and early fall, I spent most of my waking hours away from the beach meeting new people, building new professional relationships, creating new art. The last couple months have pulled me back to the beach to reviewto scan over all I’ve done and determine what truly speaks to me as a creative, as an artist. The pendulum of outward focus having swung so far that it must self-correctpull back its pioneering to store up for the winter. I find myself putting away the winter squashes of ideasthe ones that will keep for a timeand gathering up the crop of apples and pears to preserve them for later when the crisp burst of their sweetness will pierce the salted meats of winter.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
I knew it was coming. The astrological calendar for November said Mercury retrograde and with that communication, travel and the “go” of the fleet-footed messenger slows, giving us time to look reflect, reimagine, revise, renegotiate, all areas review. 

So I have been back walking the shoreline at the beach, writing in my journal, meditating, cooking, cleaning. But this, too, feels unnatural having ventured out so far. I feel a bit like the genie who has been let out of the lamp and then after granting the three wishes is commanded to wait in the lamp for that unknown day when someone’s curiosity and desire will release the magician once more. What it difficult about this image is the reliance on the external catalyst. But we are not alone on our journeys. Sometimes it does require patience, allowing others their right rhythm and path.

Like the winter beach my days may look a bit quiet, but I am hard at work sorting the crop of experiences I have collected and deciding where I will focus my energy when it is time to press on again. This time with more focus and more claritymy nets not cast so far wide, but rather falling deep into waters teeming with life, with stories to be told.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fault Lines

The other night I got home from picking my daughter up from school and the headache that had been in the background swelled to a debilitating fever pitch at the same time my stomach was seized by what felt like a vice grip. I dragged myself to the kitchen to make dinner for my family and then sat down at the table and watched them eat. 

And then earthquake. Just a little 3.3, but the epicenter was only nine miles out to sea from where I sat. As the tension began to release its grip on my stomach, it started to make sense. I had been reading the tension building up along the fault line before the earthquake. This happens from time to time with me and earthquakes. Looking back, I think I knew something was up because I found myself intently watching the neighborhood dogs being walked below my patio the hour before. I had been watching to see if they were alarmed in any way.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
It is like this in life for me. I feel the tension building around a situation along the fault line of a relationship, work, health, and so it is not exactly a surprise when something blows up. Sometimes the tension resolves in holy release, where the outcome exceeds my expectations. Sometimes it’s a disaster where I end up having to call in emergency relief to retrieve me from the wreckage. Mostly, it falls somewhere in the middle.

I have a habit of blaming myself for these situations, placing fault on myselfthat there was something I should or should not have done. And lately I’ve been noticing that I do something that makes these fault lines even more painful for me: I don’t say what I really want. I color my feelings in response to the energy I am reading from other people. I look for the peaceful middle ground, often at the expense of my own hidden desires. Yes, there is something good in my mediation methodology, but there is also something insidiousa lack of courage, a fear that if I speak my desires that I will be left...alone. It’s been a poignant lesson over the last few months as I have begun to speak what I desire out loud, even when I know that it will (at least for the moment) place a rift in the smooth flow of my relationship with another. 

After an insanely busy summer, I needed to get away from my responsibilities for a moment and play. So I made arrangements for my daughter, booked plane tickets to New York City and announced to my husband that I was going. It was a bold gesture. The look on his face was a mix of surprise and questioning, but I stood my ground. I knew that discussing it would have led me down the slippery road of compromise as I tried to ease his comfort with my decision. Over the next few weeks he peppered me with comments about the trip, making it clear that he did not appreciate me making the decision to go without consulting him. It was not easy for me to sit in the discomfort of that space and not defer to his opinions, but it changed me to do it. Even though he didn’t like it, it was not a make or break situation. He was still there when I got home, and I came back from New York with more energy than I had had in months.

Sometimes I am nostalgic for the person I was just a few months ago. For much of my life I have stood behind and supported others while they found success in the worldgrounding romantic partners, business partners, family and friends to the detriment of my stepping out into the world. That status quo persona was comfortable, but it was not representative of the person deep inside. I want to be out front, leading the charge. Now it’s been long enough in this new path that I can’t go back. 

What I am beginning to notice is that there are many who have been waiting for this to happen, waiting for me to step out from behind the shadow of the peacemaker to blaze a trail, cause a stir, incite change. And that it is not my responsibility to take care of those who do not understand where I have gone. This leg of the journey is about walking the fault lines between who I used to be and who I am becoming, and learning to stand confidently in my desires whatever that tension brings. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Higher Ground

A white pigeon has taken to roosting on our patio. Every night before I go to bed I look to see if she is there, and she is. I saw her flying about here and there for weeks before she showed up on my patio a month ago. And I always noticed her because she is different, a loner. This shockingly white bird has become my angel, my protector, my friend.

I could say that it is just chance that she chose our patio, but then I would not be owning what I know. We're safe. This little bird was probably someone's pet and so she has no flock of her own. And when you fly alone, having a safe place to come home to at night is precious. And our patio is safe. We consider her a very special guest and try not to disturb her peace.

Photo by Kathleen Keagy
It is no small thing to find people who love you for who you are and who continue to believe in you no matter how the journey takes you off-course. Or as the case is with me, no matter how the journey makes you hide yourself away because you're just not ready--you just haven't gathered all the tools you need to be safe as yourself in the world. Because knowing who you are and being who you are in a public way are two entirely different things.

Deep down I have had this horrible fear that I will lose my home, lose my safety and find myself utterly alone if I become who I am in a public way. It's a crisis of faith that I have to own so that I can cross the threshold of my cage door and never go back. For you see, the door to my cage has been open for some time. I venture out on a regular basis, but I keep coming home to roost inside the cage at the end of the day just to make sure it doesn't go away.

The next step of the journey is about redefining safety. To do that I will have to fly to higher ground. The only way to leave the familiarity of the cage behind is to fly high enough to see all the other birds like me and gather with them in a flock. Won't a flock impinge on my independence? No, not if it is a flock of birds who can support each other in authenticity, even when that authenticity requires choices that go against logic, that are painful and that set them apart.

So, little bird, you may stay as long as you like. I have decided to create a business, a flock, for people like me. It's called PrimeImpulse and it's a home for bold creatives and brave healers. And I think you would fit right in.