Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Poised on the edge of something new

Everywhere I look these days, someone is celebrating the good news that humanity is about to break through the old patterns into a new paradigm of collaboration, compassion and creative abundance. We are almost there! Any day now! Maybe we've already crossed over but we just haven't adjusted yet to the new energy!

At the same time, in my personal communications with friends and loved ones, many have been acknowledging that they've never felt so adrift. They have been using words like 'stuck', 'depressed', 'raw', 'unispired' ... sometimes even 'hopeless'. One friend says she is "buried in the hole that is my emerging self...a bit tender and raw as I wait for the wings to dry and the skin to toughen up a bit". Another describes she is hoping time will speed up till she gets "over the hump."

Maybe both are true at the same time. Maybe transformation does not happen as some lightening flash, some miraculous lottery win bringing instant ease and abundance. Maybe transformation happens one person at time, one moment at a time as we allow ourselves feel all of our feelings and to love ourselves just as we are.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Peaceful Solstice to You

Once again I have gotten caught up in the whirl of the holiday season. Lots of parties and gatherings, lots of laughing and talking, lots of eating and drinking, lots of connecting with people I see only at this festive time of year.

My family will leave on Friday to travel back to Wisconsin to celebrate two early Christmases with both of our families-of-origin. The weather forecast in the heartland has been reading like something out of campy holiday comedy: "a high of zero degrees with a wind chill of minus 18". It takes our breath away. We are scurrying about trying to find our long underwear and wool socks.

And when I can be still in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, I do hear a quiet pulse of something new taking form within me. Something mysterious and exciting is gestating. I am pregnant with something new and different. I will find some moments during this solstice season to be alone and quiet with this feeling of being pregnant and I will surrender to not knowing where this process will take me.

I send you heartfelt wishes for a peaceful solstice, a happy holiday, an abundant new year and a joyous inauguration day!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Honoring the 'No'

I had a conversation today with a typical modern woman, juggling multiple roles and responsiblities. There was an edge of exhaustion and overwhelm in her voice, mingled with determination and the remnants of her stamina.

She works full time and is scrambling to reposition her business in this sagging economy. She has been hosting events and doing presentations and developing new brochures and redesigning her website ... in addition to servicing her clients. Some days she is still in the office at 8 p.m. She is the mother of three children under the age of 9, all of whom are typical modern children who play several sports after school, take various lessons (dance, music) and sometimes need special tutoring in school subjects. She drives them endlessly to these activities most days and every weekend. Like many modern women, she lives far removed from her extended family; she has no day-to-day support from her mother or sisters or aunts. Instead, she has the additional responsibility to travel long distances by airplane or to host family members for long visits frequently in order to keep her family connected.

And now it is the holidays. She somehow has to find the time to shop and wrap and ship all these gifts. There are trees and decorations and lights that must all come together in familiar ways. She must plan holiday parties at work and birthday parties at home (all three kids and her husband were born in December). She has to work extra hours in order to pay for these extra expenses.

Today she was telling me that she needs to also find the time to make from scratch the whole array of holiday cookies that her grandmother used to make - "because it's tradition." I felt a great big 'NO' rise up into my my throat. I actually did find the courage to speak it aloud to her, but I don't think it went over so well. Tradition won the day ... and I wonder if this modern woman is losing her Self.

Just a quick reality check here: My Grandma did not work full time outside the home. She did not leave a day of work to drive her children to soccer games and piano lessons and math tutoring. In fact she never drove her children anywhere - they needed to find their own way after they had helped with the chores. She lived her life in a large extended family with sisters and aunts and cousins living in the same rural community. Her life was still demanding and challenging on every level ... but her decision to make nine different kinds of holiday cookies was anchored in a whole different set of realities.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving

What a profound opportunity -- to set aside a day to reflect on all the grace and beauty in our lives, to feel our gratitude for the love and abundance of our lives, to laugh and celebrate with family and friends, to express our thanks to our Divine Source for the multitude of gifts we receive each moment.

I can't help but smile at the spiraling and evolving dimensions of this day.

Long ago, harvest festivals brought ancient peoples together to honor the Earth for her sustenance and bounty. Life in these gatherer-hunter cultures could be harsh and the only way to survive was to live interdependently with the Earth, respecting the seasons and living in rhythm with larger natural patterns. Mutuality, interdependence and balance were core values during this phase of the human journey; men and women worked together to survive as human families and humans worked together with the powerful forces of nature. Divine Source was understood to embody both male and female energies. The Earth, with its capacity to generate life, was honored and respected as the Great Mother.

And then there was a shift, an early tipping point. An agrarian culture was born and it became important to own land so that crops could be planted. Sons were essential to bring physical strength to the tasks of farming. Ownership of land introduced the possibility to store surplus harvest, to accumulate wealth -- and ironically also amplified fears of scarcity. One could never have enough - land, surplus, wealth, sons, power. Power together became power over ... and women became another form of property to be controlled. A man who was busy acquiring property and power needed a God who reflected and reinforced these values and systematically all traces of the feminine were erased from Divine Source. God was Father and Son, Lord Almighty. Religion became entangled with politics as men sought more power and more land .... and the Earth was valued only as a resource to be exploited. Thanksgiving celebrations were institutionalized within the patriarchal church and its politics, often celebrated on the same days as ancient 'pagan' holidays.

And so it has been for many generations.

I pause on this Thanksgiving Day to reflect on how the planet is shifting again --remembering balance, returning the feminine to the equation and valuing our battered Earth. I am delighted to be traveling in the company of some wonderful women who make my heart sing and my family who are the threads that make up that heart. I am excited and grateful to be on this planet for the shift back to a God who transcends gender and embodies wholeness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

An Opportunity for Authentic Conversation

I was welcomed last night into an rich conversation on The Light Show, a blog radio show which is hosted by Jeanie DeRousseau, Teresa Ruelas and Bonnie Kelley on Tuesday and Thursday each week. They invited me to come and share some of my experiences from the midst of the recent Constellations of Hope gathering.

You can hear that interview at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/The-Light-Show. The show is called Across Boundaries and was recorded November 13.

Our conversation danced across some vast fields of energy and potential: women rediscovering their natural spiritual authority, creating and holding spiritual intention, working with the tension at the edge of the new, how is women's leadership woven together with their ever expanding spiritual heartbeat.

I was blessed by the opportunity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I was there! Constellations of Hope

Some day I will tell my grandchildren:


I was there!

I was at the first Constellations of Hope gathering, when remarkable women representing more than 40 women's organizations came together for an intense conversation in search of unity. They came bringing all the diverse colors of humanity - red, yellow, black and white. They spoke from their hearts about their yearnings and passions. They came face to face with their own assumptions about one another, about feminine leadership and about collaboration. They stepped into the fire with honest dialogue at the same time that they held the rim of our circle, committed to respecting and honoring all voices equally. They gathered around a self-organizing altar which held symbols of their hopes and inspirations and which quietly generated the heartbeat for their gathering.

It will take time for me to integrate all my learnings and to process all my feelings. For now, it is enough to know that something big happened this weekend that has already begun to ripple out across the universe. And I was there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What am I 'feeling into' at this time?

Lynda Terry, founder of Vessels of Peace, wrote today inviting people to share what they were 'feeling into' about the energy of the heart and soul of our country in this amazing moment. This is what I sent to her:

I can feel the falling apart of old patterns and paradigms keenly. I can actually hear the sound of the cracking and shifting structures and the exclamations of fear as they occur. The experience is like a series of eathquakes where everything moves violently for a time and then we pause, sometimes breathless, waiting to see if all is going to be OK.

My bones know all is eventually going to be far beyond OK - a whole new paradigm of peaceful, cooperative, sustainable and compassionate humanity - and they also know that for this time between, it is going to be complex and challenging.

My service is to continually invite women to bring forward both their deepest remembering that all is exactly as it should be and their profound wisdom about how to show up in useful ways during the challenging parts.

I trust the women to bring their highest wisdom on behalf of the greatest good.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Message from White Buffalo Calf Woman

It feels important today to share this message, which came to Beth Blevins of Sonoma County, California on March 7, 2006. You can see Beth's blog at http://sacredweb.blogspot.com/. Beth was advised to share this message with all her sisters -- the women all over the world.

I am the one of the one of the One. You are the daughter of the daughter of the One. You are the one to bring forth the light. Tell this to all your sisters, for you are the ones to bring it forth.

My energy is returning to this world. Together we will return the Sacred Feminine energy to its fullness. This fullness will be joy, compassion, love, gentleness, wise use of power, and at times, severity (the moons pass quickly now, and you must journey with the fearlessness of mother bear). Be in your power. Be not afraid to be who you are. Speak with others with knowing.

I am as the buffalo—once strong and covering the plains of the Mother Earth, then weakened and taken, dying away. But now it is time to return to fullness. As the buffalo multiply, so shall my power. As awareness returns to the people, so shall the Sacred Feminine cover the Earth, the Great Mother Earth!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Saving the World with a Bunch of Other Women

I have been reminded in the past few days about the immense joy of working with open-hearted and passionate women. At the Gather the Women Southern California Regional Congress yesterday ... on conference calls co-creating November's Constellations of Hope collaborative conversation (http://www.constellationsofhope.com/) ... and in many other wonderful synergies large and small. This is why I am so optomistic and excited about what women have to contribute to our world at this time of rapid change and increasingly complex global problems.

Women all over the planet are already busy saving the world and I would like to invite many of you to tell your stories in a new book I am nurturing entitled Saving the World with a Bunch of Other Women. (Published in 2009)

It is a story that needs to be told...

...the story of how the women show up to help birth the children, feed the hungry, tend the sick, hospice the dying, nurture community and educate the children all over the world.

...a glimpse at how the global economy relies upon vast amounts of unpaid work being done by women all around the world.

...the good news about the creativity, resourcefullness and stamina of women in every region of the globe.

...how one woman become connected in service with another woman from the other end of the world or from the other side of the village.

Proceeds from sale of the book will be contributed back to the women and organizations featured in the publication.

Do you have a story to tell about your work in the world? Do you know a woman whose story must be told?

I would be honored to hear about it at katheschaaf@cox.net.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

This is what a feminist looks like

I live in southern California and it has been a busy week of e-mails with passionate reactions to the endorsement of Sarah Palin by Shelly Mandel, President of the L.A. chapter of NOW. Introducing Palin at a rally on October 4, Mandel says, "America, this is what a feminist looks like." Some of the e-mails are from women thrilled about this support of their Republican VP candidate and her ticket (even though they are a bit worried about Palin being linked to a 'liberal' organization like NOW); others were shocked and confused by what they experience as a blatant betrayal of everything NOW stands for, including the national organization's endorsement of Obama.

To me it seems another perfect opportunity for American women to continue to dig deep into their own knowing during this amazing exploration of feminine leadership called the 2008 presidential election. Instead of getting frozen in the polarization, let's breath into our own personal learning and expand.

Newsweek magazine featured on its cover several weeks ago large red lipstick-drawn words "What Women Want" and predicted that it will be women who will decide this election -- even though they acknowledged that historically, no one has been able to predict how women will actually vote. Apparently we are fluid and dynamic (and a bit mysterious) with our decision-making processes.

As I reflect upon this moment of opportunity for women, I have had to make room for the possibility that Shelley Mandel is correct in her assessment: Sarah Palin may be what a feminist looks like. And this may be why I have met so many thoughtful global activist women who insist that they are NOT feminists and the work they do is NOT part of any women's movement.

Over the past six years, I have met many women both in the U.S. and internationally who are passionate about feminine leadership. Many are honest that they are still learning what a new model for feminine leadership might look like. They are fumbling around a bit and feeling awkward ... and keeping their eyes and hearts open for information.

They know what feminine leadership does not look like. It does not mean women being equally successful in the old dominator paradigm, whether that is in the boardroom or the halls of government. It does not mean merely equal rights and equal pay for women in a patriarchal system. It means that somehow the collective wisdom and compassion of women are going to rise up as a mighty force to bring about a new paradigm of sustainable interdependence on this planet.

For many women, the word 'feminist' is stuck somehow back in another time. It is a word that embodies the 'fight' for equal rights, a sometimes angry reaction 'against' the male establishment. With all that angry fighting against stuff, it may have became hard to tell the feminists from the ones they were fighting against. Women did not transform the old paradigm but eventually earned the right to thrive in it.

May we find ourselves in the presence of feminine leaders who embody the qualities they wish to manifest in the world. That is what a feminine leader looks like.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Wait is Not Long

I spent the weekend in the California desert at a painting workshop, creating an image of the divine feminine. As the U.S. economy continued to fall apart ... as the political polarity of this election grew more intense and parked itself in the middle of so many life-long relationships .... as weird hurricanes battered Canada and weird heat baked southern California reminding all of us that climate change is real ... I chose to spend my time with other women in meditation and creation and spiritual retreat.

This was not a choice to bury my head in the sand and avoid the complex realities of our rapidly changing world. In fact, it was exactly the opposite. It was a way for me to reconnect with my own natural spiritual authority and to build inner strength for the times ahead. It was a time to remember who I am and why I committed to be here at this amazing time. It was a space in which inspiration and hope were magnified, absorbed and integrated. It was a reminder that the new paradigm begins with my own daily practice of compassion, forgiveness and love -- and that this gentle practice is indeed one of the most demanding and challenging things I will ever do.

Our group gathered on Sunday afternoon to study each painting and to speak into the circle what She was speaking. I fell in love with my painting, feeling both calmed and stimulated by her message "The wait is not long." She sang to me the words of an old country rock song, "Don't be thinking that I don't want you, cuz baby I do."

Nothing feels more important than my faith that all is unfolding exactly as it should be and that a new world is emerging as each of us steps empty-handed into the void. I have work to do and you have work to do and we all fit perfectly together as part of one intricate and sacred plan.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Open Letter to the Women of the World - Revisited

I recently rediscovered 'Open Letter to the Women of the World' which I had written exactly four years ago in autumn of 2004. A portion of it seems the perfect wisdom for this Autumn Equinox:
~~~~~~~~~

To the women of my world,

I want to say that you are incredible. You are compassionate, intuitive, wise, creative, hard working and strong.

Now more than ever, the world needs these gifts from you. Now more than ever, you need to rely upon those qualities to guide you each day in every interaction. Now more than ever, you need to believe in your own power.

Do not be frozen in the face of these challenging times.

Now more than ever, you need to tap into the energy of hope. You need to use that energy to fuel your action. You need to ground yourself in the deepest faith that we are together in our love for this Earth and her family.

~~~
The times are as challenging as ever ... it is a vast blessing to the Earth that we are as compassionate, wise, creative, hard-working and strong as ever.

Love,
Kathe

Monday, September 15, 2008

Leading Us Away From Fear

These days, I keep thinking of the Zen wisdom:
Be careful what you ask for because you might get it.

Like many, I am passionate about manifesting more women in positions of viable and visible leadership. The past days of our presidential campaign have made me realize I apparently forgot to specify the most important part of my intention: I really need my world leaders (whatever their gender) to carry the feminine qualities of nurturing, compassion, balance, intuition, integration and wholeness.

I need my leaders to function as global citizens who understand and value the intricate and delicate interdependence of all humanity. I need them to lead from a place of highest service to planetary well-being. I need them to fly high above the noisy conflicts and use the hawk's persective to see the biggest possible picture of this moment in human history. I need them to feel the fierce love of a mother for this whole fragile planet and not just our little corner of it. I need them to risk walking away from the old political playbook to show up with authenticity and creativity. And I really, really need them to lead us away from fear.

Every time I hear a political candidate caution that we need to be vigilant and isolating because this is a 'dangerous world', I turn off my television. The world where I live is only dangerous because of people who want to label, judge, devalue and attack the 'other'. I refuse to give any of my energy to a political candidate who advocates more separation and who contributes to a deepening climate of fear.

My prayer for our nation is that we each of us rise up to our highest selves and that we collectively choose to move beyond fear. My prayer is for each of us to actively participate in creating the peacefully productive world we want. And my prayer for this 2008 presidential election is a candidate who boldy and visibly begins TODAY to lead us away from fear and judgement and separation. I maintain a deep faith that such a leader will be celebrated and joined by millions and millions of wise and powerful souls who have been waiting to exhale.

Friday, August 29, 2008

A New Season is Coming


I notice that the days are getting shorter and the sun is setting further south along the western horizon. Even though the weather will still be hot for much of September here in southern California, the subtle signs of fall are everywhere. The spiral is turning once again and a new season is coming.

Autumn is a season of activity after the dog-days of late summer. No more naps in the afternoon or floating in the pool watching the butterflies. It is time to put one foot in front of the other and begin creating my dreams. There is a new moon this weekend, which is always a great time to launch new projects.

What are you being called to birth in the energy of autumn?

The following message was posted August 28 on http://www.whatsuponplanetearth.com/ :

'So now is the time to examine what it is that you really and truly want to offer to the world. I can assure you, when you connect to your soul’s plan, you will be miraculously poised to offer it to the world. You need not know how, you need not plan in great detail, you only need connect to your heart’s desire, begin it, and the rest will fall into place all on its own. '

I am going to take time this weekend to meditate and reflect on this question of what I really and truly want to offer the world. You are invited to join me in that space of possibility.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Gathering locally and connecting globally

Last night, 25 women gathered in my backyard to hear the personal story of Maggie Gonsalves, visiting from India. As we sat in a large circle around a fire pit, Maggie mesmerized us with stories of being one of twelve children born outside of Bombay and of her father's passionate commitment to educating his nine daughters and three sons. Though he was very poor and this education required a huge financial commitment, he told his daughters, "Your education is your dowry." Maggie was by nature inquisitive and fierce, and her education reinforced in her the importance of questioning assumptions and injustice.

Maggie followed the thread of questions in her life. She chose to enter the religious life as a Carmelite nun when she completed her post-graduate degree. Within her spiritual community, she has been a powerful catalyst for change; she believes that the patriarchal structures of the church must be challenged so that the wisdom and experience of the women can be valued equally. She has been tenacious in pursuing opportunties for more education, including a graduate degree in feminist theology in the U.S. And now she is here again seeking guidance and support for her dream to create feminist ashrams in both the U.S. and India, providing a creative and nurturing space and pace where women can bring their courage to dream. Maggie's project is called ANNNI, which means Alliance of Woman, Man, Nature and God and is the Sanskrit word meaning 'and'. You can find out more about ANNNI at http://www.annni.org/.

As the sun set last night and the big moon rose over the tree tops, the women sat in small circles to reflect on what Maggie had shared with them and to talk about their dreams. Many of them spoke about their knowing that this is the time for the feminine to rise and how they are finding their place in that lovely pattern. They experienced synchronicities which will help them manifest their dreams, and they discovered the joy of connecting with one of their global sisters.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

An Invitation to Organizational Collaboration

This is a call to women from the United States, Canada and Mexico who represent organizations committed to women's leadership and empowerment ~
come and join your sister organizations for a deep conversation about collaboration.
We will gather November 7-10, 2008 at the IONS Retreat Center in Petaluma, California.
To learn more and to register, visit http://www.constellationsofhope.com/.

Why is this conversation important to me?

For these past six years, I have been working with women globally and with many different women's organizations. I have witnessed the creativity, commitment and resourcefulness being poured into these many hundreds of organizations. Each one is a reflection of a unique divine assignment; each one is an crucial piece of a larger pattern of women arising to bring balance and healing to our planet.

It is now time for these many organizations to explore together the magnificence of that larger pattern. It is now time for each of them to discover new abundance and greater effectiveness by working together with other organizations. It is now time to join our voices so that we might be heard loudly and clearly. It is now time for all of us to discover what we might be able to create together that we cannot dream of creating alone.

If you share this knowing and feel your cells vibrating in answer to this call, come join us!

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Collective Energy is Rising

I recently had the privilege to sit in circle for several days with a group of 23 remarkable people at the Lifebridge Sanctuary in the Hudson Valley of New York. This group has been convened to explore 'Serving Humanity in the 21st Century: The Cooperative Spirit and the Call to Group Cooperation'. As we sat together, sometimes in meditation and silence, in a magnificent room looking out upon the deep green of the woods and the layers of violet hills drifting across the horizon, we explored the territory at the intersection of the individual and the collective ... service and spirituality ... boundaries and collaboration ... identity and interdependence. Nancy Roof, one of the co-conveners of this gathering and editor/ publisher of Kosmos Journal (http://www.kosmosjournal.org/) describes this territory as 'resonance at the collective edge'.

Cleary, this energy of the collective is rising up strongly right now. Almost daily, I get an e-mail describing a new initiative to promote collaboration, cooperation, unity, collective wisdom, collective intelligence, synergy - all different language to describe a shared intention. I can't help but notice the paradox that there are so many diverse and separate calls to collaboration. Perhaps it is important for us to begin to explore and experience the collective in multiple smaller clusters, practicing new behaviors and learning new skills. Perhaps this is what the new paradigm of unity looks like: numerous overlapping and intersecting hubs of connection drawn together by shared passions. Or perhaps the thing that most unites us as humans is how hard it is for us to surrender our identity or our idea or our project to a larger organism.

I ponder all of this as I myself have been participating in an impulse to gather a group in service of collaboration. I am one of a core of women representing diverse women's organizations who have been meeting and talking since December 2007 about bringing representatives of 50 women's organizations together for a 'collaborative conversation' to explore what we might be able to create together that we cannot create separately. We have been guided by an instinct that this is the right time for such a dialogue and have been affirmed through many deep conversations over these past seven months. Our own collaborative process has brought us to the point where we will shortly announce a gathering to be convened November 7-10, 2008 at the IONS Retreat Center north of San Fransisco. Stay tuned for more details.

On our own journey to this particular collaborative conversation, I met Elizabeth Palmer who at age 95 can reflect with clarity upon her years of service as the president of the World YWCA. Elizabeth reminded us "If we are not together, we are not effective." I think many of us who are passionate about bringing forth new paradigms of balanced, sustainable and compassionate leadership on this planet share Elizabeth's understanding and are being pulled together into larger communities so that we can become much more effective.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Don't See Your Feet Moving

When my son Cody was about 20 months old and playing with a toy train on the family room floor, he called repeatedly to invite his dad to come play with him. Dad said yes with his voice .... but stayed in his chair focused on finishing a newspaper article. Cody walked over to look into his dad's eyes and said with genuine confusion "But I don't see your feet moving." No one present at the time will ever forget the power of this simple observation spoken from a place of innocence and truth.

In a week, Cody will celebrate his 15th birthday. While he has grown to be over six feet tall and busy with passions that range from his rock band to bodyboarding to photography, he has maintained his capacity for clear insight packaged in simple questions. Yesterday we were listening together to some music from the late sixties and talking about the activism stirred up by the Vietnam war. He got very quiet for a while and then asked "Why don't people care about this war?"

Why indeed?

Of course, the answer to that question is long and complicated. I know many people who care passionately about the state of our world and who are working creatively to bring about change. I know some people who do stand on a street corner one day every week, holding a sign inviting people to honk if they believe the war is wrong. I know some people who have come to believe that the old paradigm of protest and revolution is no longer the answer and who are exploring new energies of 'subtle activism', self-organizing action, circle dialogue and global resonance. I also know many people who feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the enormity of the challenges facing us on the planet. I know many people who have grown cynical about governments that are too corrupt and leaders who are too uninspired and problems that are too complex.

There are no easy answers in these transformational times.... except maybe to have faith that we can find our way back to cooperation, mutuality and unity. And to move your feet in the general direction of that vision in some way every day.

Faith with feet may just get us there.

Love,
Kathe

Saturday, May 10, 2008

A Reflection on Mother's Day

Tomorrow is Mother's Day.

I want to thank my mom for all that she has been for me in all the different phases of my life, for staying close when I needed her and for allowing me to fly when I needed to spread my wings. She is and has always been beautiful, soft and loving and I love her very much.

One of my recent poems is entitled 'Me and You and Mom' and it is a reflection upon the complex relationships between mother and child ... and between our earthly 'mother' and our divine Mother. That poem says:

To be a woman
and a mother
and a daughter
covers a vast territory
of love and longing,
of self and other,
of my skin and your skin,
and a fragile, fragile space
where the boundaries blend.

It requires vast courage
to live in the ambivalence
of that borderless land.
The dragons do know this
and they smile in their sleep
as they dream of smoke and fire.

On this Mother's Day, I will be taking a moment to stand in silence at 1 p.m. with other women around the world as part of Standing Women, yet another of the millions of brilliant impulses born in a small circle of women which sends out ripples of transformation that we will never be able to fully measure. I hope you will be standing in your community. http://www.standingwomen.org

And I cannot sign off without acknowledging the brilliant words of Julia Ward Howe who called us all to the celebration of Mother's Day with these words in 1870. Julia, I hope you know that this pebble you tossed into the pond over 125 years ago is still sending out ripples ... and that the women of the world are still bringing their creativity and passion to co-create a peaceful, sustainable and loving world.

Mother's Day Proclamation
Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing her own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God---
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Love,
Kathe

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Freedom to Choose

I was rather startled to notice today that I haven't written anything new on my blog for almost a month. I remember having the intention many times ... and then there was always an abundance of other rich and creative things to do. I realize that I am truly blessed with sovereignty: the freedom to choose.

During April, there have been several juicy meetings with wonderful women including a trip to the East Coast. New friends and co-creators from the Jaipur summit have been tuning in to explore ideas and possible projects; several visits are on the horizon. My friend Charlotte Backman invited a circle of us to join her for a new 'goddess' painting class and I discovered that I am called to create many different divine feminine images -- so many that I finally bought paints and set up a studio in my home (a much simpler solution than moving in with Charlotte so that I could have access to her paints 24/7). It is a hot spring in my gardens and there is much work to be done to keep up with the abundance of nature. I have enjoyed many sunsets, watching the hummingbirds dart from flower to flower and I have made a commitment to put bluebird boxes in my trees so that we can help contribute to the continuation of this beautiful species. And I enjoyed a nap now and then on a quiet afternoon.

I was sharing a wonderful lunch recently with Vivian and Audrey Heredia, the mother- daughter team that has nurtured the McCharles House in Old Towne Tustin for the past 25 years. We are all three enjoying a new phase of our lives, having gently set down some old responsiblities and allowing nature to inform us with more space and freedom. When I remarked that I have fewer commitments on my calendar than I have had for years and yet there is so much creativity flowing out of me that my time is full, Audrey replied: "Just like taking off a girdle ... you can relax and expand."

Saturday I will facilitate a workshop on feminine leadership called At the Intersection of Sovereign and Sacred. An intimate circle of women will gather in a lovely garden to explore the abundance of our gifts and the mysteries of our unique cosmic blueprints. When I first birthed the idea for this workshop, I thought that because of my own experiences with leadership I had something important to teach. Now I realize something more about the real power of living at the intersection of sovereign and sacred ... and I am excited to show up on Saturday to listen, to relax and to allow myself to expand.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Good News from Jaipur: 'God is not a patriarch."

Global Peace Initiative of Women invited 450 global citizens to gather for a summit in Jaipur, India from March 6-10, 2008. They carefully selected leaders from more than 50 countries representing business, education, politics and civil society. More importantly, they invited spiritual leaders – both men and women - from almost all of the world’s faith traditions. For four days under the gold and white roof of a large open sided tent, we were all together in our commitment to ‘Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community.” I had the privilege to be in that tent and I am still integrating all that I learned and experienced in that faith-full community.

One of my new friends from Jaipur recently wrote “There is still such a powerful fragrance from the conference. Are you finding this too?” There is indeed a lingering fragrance from Jaipur and like any good perfumes, it is complex blend of scents with base notes, top notes and excellent binding agents.

The base note for this Summit was provided by our host country. India is herself a complex blend of ancient spiritual traditions and modern economic challenges, of beautiful landscapes and brutally difficult living conditions. Everywhere I traveled I saw breathtaking paradox and juxtaposition: women dressed in delicate, brilliant saris and bangles carrying baskets of wet cement on their heads as part of a road work crew; children begging in the street in front of state-of-the-art medical centers; lumbering up the steep hill to the Amber Fort on the back of an elephant while the ‘driver’ chatted on his cell phone; large Tata trucks making way for a single cow or a herd of goats on rural roads. I needed to be able to hold an internal space for the contradictions of India in order to be present for the people and the evolving human story of this land. Our host India required all of us to remain flexible, patient and alert – an interesting combination of qualities as the foundation for our gathering.

The complex middle range of the summit’s fragrance is made up of the many diverse voices of the participants. There are some that stand out for me:

~Yangjin Lamu is a beautiful young woman from Tibet who sings prayers in a voice that rings with the clarity and mystery of her land. The first time I heard her sing was at an informal gathering in one of the hotel rooms several nights before the summit convened. She stood with her back against the wall and closed her eyes and began to create the most powerful sounds I have ever heard. I could literally feel my DNA vibrating into a new pattern.

~Sister Joan Chittister is a fearless truth-teller and I hung on every word as she invited us all to step into responsibility: “Half the world is invisible and mute and the other half doesn’t even notice ….The greatest burden is to have no burden to bear at all…. No seed ever sees the flower… If you are wondering is your life work is over and you are still alive – it is not!” In fact, every nun I met in Jaipur embodied clarity and honesty, whether they came from Australia, India or North America.

~Dr. Tho Ha Vinh who is the head of global training for the International Red Cross described how the human story to date has been about men shedding blood and women shedding tears to wash that blood away. “The women are constantly redeeming our violence.”

~From a panel of African women: “Women are capable of doing very foolish things in the name of love.”

~From a discussion of material and spiritual development in India: “There is enough for everyone’s need but not enough for one man’s greed.”

~From a circle on spiritual economics: “A natural leader simply walks through any door that opens.”

~From a circle on visionary leadership: “Leadership is an alignment of strengths that makes weakness irrelevant.”

~Truth and wisdom was brought by a team of youth leaders from all parts of the world. These young people have been mentored and nurtured by GPIW over the past several years and stand ready to lead in a new way. One of them had the courage to observe that this conference on the feminine was actually organized in a masculine way, with very little open space and few opportunities to be in dialogue. He pointed out that the real feminine energy at the event unfolded during the breaks, when people were drawn together organically for spontaneous connection.

And indeed the top note of our lovely fragrance was definitely provided by love. People were falling in love with each other all over the place -- at breakfast, lunch and dinner, during tea breaks and during inspired conversations on the sofas in the lobby. It was food for my soul to be able to hug a laughing, relaxing Joyce Oneko and to share stories with my roommate Janet Pinto like teenage girls at a pajama party. I am excited about the new relationships I developed and hints of new creative collaborations on the horizon. It was a miracle to spend so much time in a frequency of love.

Binding all of this together was a God called by many different names, an incredible master weaver who brought us all together in this one place and who held us in a loving embrace so that we could relax into one another and into a vision of another kind of world. There was a feminine and fluid aspect to the God who brought about the real miracles of the summit in mysterious and unexpected ways; there was a soft and warm divine lap into which we could all snuggle. We had a lived experience of the words of one of the summit speakers: “God is not a patriarch.”

I am brought back to one of Joan Chittister's questions from the first day: "Everyone is speaking truth -- then what?" The real impact of the summit will be brought into form by each of who attended and will manifest in a nesting holographic pattern of deeply personal transformation, individual action, organizational collaborations and global connections. I am responsible for bringing my own threads into that complex pattern.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Report from the GPIW Summit: Half the World

It seems appropriate that my intention to write more often from the midst of the Global Peace Initiative of Women summit in India was subverted for multiple reasons. The internet service at the hotel was disabled for days in a row; the schedule of the summit was packed with sessions; and it was just too much fun to linger in those long and glorious conversations with remarkable women, both cherished long-time friends and delightful new ones.

I am home now, after a long journey with many parts. I am experiencing that wave of gratitude for the familiar comforts of home at the same time that parts of me are lingering in the energy of the gathering I have so recently left.

A few glimpses at some of the memories etched into my heart:
  • The experience of breathing in the prayers from so many faith traditions that went on for more than five hours the first evening. I will never forget the image and voice of Yangjin Lamu, a beautiful young woman from Tibet who sings haunting and powerful prayers in her language that resonated with remembrance in my bones.
  • Sister Joan Chittister speaking in her strong and clear voice during the opening session about how half the world is invisible and mute ... and the other half doesn't even notice. Her metaphor, that life is a two-winged bird which cannot fly until both wings are equally developed, became the through-line for the entire gathering.
  • Joyce Oneko speaking so eloquently in a session called "Listening to Africa" and describing how the women of Kenya are responsing to the current crisis in her country: "They are doing what women do best -- trying to bring back sanity."
  • The impressive spiritual women leaders who shared their insights included Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, H.H. Sri Mata Amiritanandamayi Devi (Amah), Anandmurti Gurumaa, H.H. Dadi Janki, Rabbi Namaah Kelman, Venrable Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, and Maa Chee Sansanee.

I cannot begin to describe with words the priviledge of learning at the feet of so many spiritual leaders, the incredible synchronicity that graced my personal conversations, and the loving heart space we all created together. It is best to to simply say that God surely showed up at this gathering and held us all in a nurturing and loving embrace ... a lived experience of a divine Mother.

Love,

Kathe

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

India: The Grace in the Space Between

I have been traveling now in India for two weeks and have just settled in the hotel in Jaipur where the Global Peace Initiative of Women will convene it's global summit of women tomorrow.
I have not looked at a computer in that time, but just stayed focused on the experiences as they came to me.

It has been a magical journey so far with so many incredible moments of connection; I have not begun to integrate all of the brilliant pieces yet but in the next week will try to sit down here and share some of those moments.

For now, all that seems important to say is that I have been awed by the power of the grace in the spaces between the many flowing elements of life in this country. There is a constant movement of camels and cows, of big trucks lovingly decorated with bright colors and shiney streamers, of millions of scooters and motorbikes and rickshaws and tiny taxis, of women floating past in their bright saris, of herds of goats and sheep, of tractors pulling huge loads of grain or grasses wrapped in enormous pouches of canvas. There are moments when it does not seem possible that all of those elements could possibly coexist, and yet they do with an ease and a flowing grace that reminds me that there is indeed a strong divine force of love and protection here.

More to come about the people who have been a blessing along the way and the women who gather here for the Summit.

Love,
Kathe

Monday, February 18, 2008

Journey to India

In just a few day I will depart for a three week journey to India. I have never been to India before, except in my dreams.

My trip unfolds in two distinct parts. First I will travel for twelve days with my husband, celebrating our 20th anniversary by touring the incredible historical sights of the Rajasthan region: the Taj Mahal; Ranthambhore National Park; the Amber Fort and City Palace in Jaipur; Mehrangarh Fort and Umaid Bhawan Palace in the "Blue City" of Jodhpur; and Devigath Palace, Eklingji Temple and Nathswara Temples in Udaipur. These names feel so rich and exotic on my tongue and it feels like a dream that I will actually walk on their ancient pathways.

Then I will travel back to Jaipur to participate in the 'Making Way for the Feminine for the Benefit of the World Community'. This global summit of 400 women, men and young people from around the world will bring together leaders from a variety of diverse communities - spiritual, governmental, academic, policy makers, development professionals, human rights experts and young community leaders - to reflect upon what women have to offer that is different that can help steer the world community onto a new course. It is being organized by Global Peace Initiative of Women (http://www.gpiw.org/) as a celebration of their five year anniversary.

Joyce Oneko of Kenya is traveling to Jaipur so she can speak about the intense situation in her country; women in the U.S. donated the funds to make her trip possible. Janet Pinto from Mubai will be my roommate and Indira Ghale is coming from Nepal to represent Dalit women. Elinore Dettiger and I plan to share a pot of tea and have a long chat.

I realize I have entered that interesting phase on the cusp of a grand journey that my friend Clare Peterson describes as the 'antechamber' -- the space between two radically diverse points in time and space. I feel I am not quite here and I am not yet there. The only option is to float along with the current and enjoy the ride.

Last night I gathered in sacred circle with a group of friends who each contributed a small treasure to a 'traveling altar' for my trip. Ginny, who tuned in by speaker phone from her new home on Vancouver Island, sent a small copy of a painting she did recently with haunting images of hands reaching out to make connection. Barbara was able to join us from Juneau, Alaska and brought a card describing the goddess quality of "Strength". Andrea's gift was a brilliant blue heart within a heart and images of three powerful Hindu goddesses. Joy shared an amulet that I can wear around my neck reminding me that I am protected by angels. Charlotte made a tiny folding paper altar with the words of Confucius: 'Wherever you go, there you are.'

I know that somewhere in India at some time in the coming weeks, I will set up my traveling altar and invite magical women there to light a candle and link their hearts with the hearts of these wonderful women from home. We will have a lived experience of the wise words spoken by Fred Molle, our driver in Tanzania in December 2006:


All women
Whole world
Same, Same.
I am so blessed.
Love,
Kathe

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The courage and wisdom of the world's women

In the past few days, I have been deeply touched by the courage and wisdom of two remarkable women I know in different parts of the world. Their stories are as different as the challenges they face, yet both are showing up fully to do what needs to be done.

My friend Joyce Oneko is a remarkable woman leader who is at this moment waking up every morning to the daunting realities of life in Kenya. She is working to try to bring food and basic supplies to the 'displaced persons' living at Mathare Camp near the slums of Nairobi; she is helping to plan a complex effort to transport 1,200 women and children out of camps and back to their ancestral homes; and she is personally sheltering women from ethnic violence in her home.

In a long report she just broadcast to her friends in the U.S. and Europe, she describes "Everyday of the week, I keep thinking we will wake up and find all this has disappeared and we are back to normal again. There are such horrific stories that sometimes it is like we are in a movie theatre, watching horror movies. ... How do I stay sane, and how do I stay the course? "

I know Joyce and I know that she WILL stay the course. It is what Joyce has always done day in and day out in the face of incredible challenges long before this particular nightmare began in Kenya. She stays the course and she does it with a lovely smile, with keen intelligence and with a deep understanding of the heart of the people and the land of her beloved country.

On another continent, my good friend Janet Pinto in Mumbai, India is living out another kind of feminine story of 'staying the course'. She is providing full time care to her elderly mother who has experienced a series of serious health problem over the past year. Janet has stepped away from her work in the world as an organizational development consultant; she has declined numerous invitations to travel internationally and to participate in global leadership opportunities; and she has focused her attention on providing consistant and loving care for her mum 24 hours a day.

Janet and I talk every Friday, and she tells me about the challenges and joys of this kind of commitment. "Sometimes, I feel like I am disappearing," she says. "Yet, this is the kind of sacrifice my mum made for me when I was little and this is what I will do for her."

I don't think that Janet thinks of herself as courageous or bold at this moment. I know from my conversations with her that she has begun to feel quite 'invisible' to the rest of the world, just as millions of women on every continent feel invisible as they commit themselves day in and day out to the details of caring for dependent loved ones. Our diverse cultures seem to share in failing to acknowledge this powerful form of leadership which requires great stamina, patience, self-sacrifice and compassion.

To Joyce and Janet: I am honored and blessed to know both of you. You and your loved ones are in my prayers.

To all the women of the world: Your unique leadership contributions are seen and valued. You are NOT invisible as you 'stay the course'.

Love,
Kathe

Friday, February 1, 2008

At the Intersection of Sovereign and Sacred

Now is the time and we are the women who have come to lead our Earth back to Herself.
Now is the time to fully surrender to your own leadership.


Join Kathe Schaaf

At the Intersection of Sovereign and Sacred
A Journey of Surrender to Your Most Authentic Leadership

This is a unique opportunity, limited to 25 brave women…
to gather in sacred space and explore
your own edges of creative impulse and persistent resistance.

Saturday ~ May 3, 2008
9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.
$85 includes lunch

The McCharles House ~ A Center for Living
335 South C Street
Tustin, CA 92780

Come together
in the energy of the new moon at the heart of Old Towne Tustin
surrounded by the peaceful beauty of the McCharles House and its gardens
in the company of deeply wise women
to explore your emerging identity
and celebrate your commitment to your divine assignment.

Register online at http://www.katheschaaf.com/workshop050308.html
For inquiries or information, call 949- 300-7060

This is the first workshop of a three part leadership series being offered by Kathe Schaaf in multiple locations across the U.S. in 2008. Kathe is a co-founder of Gather the Women, a global community of grassroots women leaders who have both inspired and informed her understanding of authentic leadership for the past six years.
For a peek at the remarkable venue where we will gather, visit http://www.mccharleshouse.com/

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What can one woman do to help the women of Kenya?

In December 2006, I was blessed to be one of thirty- six U.S. women who had the remarkable experience of attending the first Grassroots African Women's Conference in Bondo, Kenya. This gathering brought together 513 rural African women leaders to share information, idea and resources. During our two weeks in Africa, we were able to witness firsthand the courage, commitment and competence of the women of Kenya.

As all of you know, Kenya is caught in the grip of conflict and violence at this moment. In the words of my friend Joyce Oneko who anchored that women's conference "We have taken our 40+ years of peace for granted...we realize that the election violence was just a symptom of something that has gone terribly wrong." Joyce has been doing what Kenyan women do every day: she has been showing up to do whatever needs to be done in the slums of Nairobi and the the Mathare Camp where many displaced people have settled.
This is a remarkable moment in time... and a perfect opportunity for women everywhere to communicate their support for the women of Kenya as they face the challenge of restoring peace and sustainability to their communities and to their beloved country.

You are invited to step into this opportunity for global sisterhood in any of the following ways:

FINANCIAL SUPPORT TO RESTORE KENYA

You can contribute directly to the Kenya Restoration Fund, a special fund that has been established by Global Partners for Development. This fund will allow money to flow through Kenyan partners of GPFD directly to women's projects for the purpose of restoring their communities.

http://www.gpfd.org/global_pages/global_conference.html

ENABLE THE VOICES OF KENYA WOMEN TO BE HEARD ON A GLOBAL STAGE

Joyce Oneko has been invited to participate in a global women's summit being convened in Jaipur, India in March 2008. This event, 'Making Way for the Feminine For the Benefit if the World Community", is being anchored by Global Peace Initiative of Women (http://www.gpiw.org/) and will bring together 400 world leaders from religion, government and civil society.

A special fund has been created to allow Joyce and two rural Kenya women leaders to travel to Jaipur so that their leadership may be acknowledged and their voices be heard in this global forum. This opportunity to go to India is not a frivolous thing in this time of crisis in Kenya; it is a powerful way to gain visibility and generate the global support that African women need to continue toward self-sufficiency and caring for their extended families.

You can send a check made out to Gather the Women
(with the notation JOYCE in the memo line)

Gather the Women
P.O. Box 80026
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

SEND A 'LOVE NOTE'

At the Grassroots African Women's Conference in Kenya, we were able to give each African woman a personal handwritten 'love note' from an American women ... and to experience how treasured these personal messages were to women who received them. It was a deeply personal and uniquely feminine connection which was received with tears of gratitude by many of the African women that evening.

We will again be collecting hand-written notes of support and encouragement to be delivered directly to the women of Kenya.

You can send your note to:

Gather the Women
P.O. Box 80026
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688

ANCHOR A PRAYER CIRCLE

In one of Joyce's e-mails sent from the midst of the conflict, she asked "Please pray for our beloved country Kenya." One way you can support the women of Kenya is to anchor a prayer circle on their behalf.

We are so blessed to be living at this time
when we can act locally and connect globally.
I trust the women of Kenya to show up and do what needs to be done in this moment,
and I trust each of you to do the same.

Love,
Kathe

P.S You can read a collection of recent letters from our Kenya friends at a special Gather the Women Africa website

Friday, January 11, 2008

Invitation to a remarkable dialogue

On Saturday January 26 from 1-5 pm,
women of southern California will have the opportunity to participate in
Women, Politics and Leadership:
A Trans-Partisan Dialogue for the Women of Southern California.
Women from all perspectives are invited to join in a unique dialogue to explore the common ground beyond our political differences.
The event will be held at the UC-Irvine Student Center.

This is not a typical 'political' event to promote any candidate or issue. It is a rare opportunity to be part of a conversation about the many facets of the relationship between women and politics.

We need great women like you who can contribute valuable insight and unique life learning to this important conversation.
Students from area colleges and universities may register at no cost by contacting harrietadams@cox.net.

You are encouraged to register early.
The $30 registration fee can be paid online or by check.

You can register online with a credit card at:
http://www.gtwsocal.org/

or by sending your e-mail address and a check to:

Gather the Women So Cal
P.O. Box 80026
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688.

Women, Politics and Leadership is co-sponsored by:
UCI - School of Social Studies
UCI - Center for Citizen Peace Building
UCI - Department of Women's Studies
UCI - International Studies Program
and hosted by Gather the Women- Southern California.

We sincerely hope that you will join us on January 26 and help spread the word to your network of women.

The Trans-Partisan Planning Team
Joy Adams
Deborah Avant
Lynn Daucher
Lina Kriedie
Joan Lars
Rima Nashashibi
Kathe Schaaf
Suzie Swartz

Monday, January 7, 2008

On the occassion of the first new moon of the new year

New moons are the perfect time for new beginnings, for launching new creations into the world. And so it seems perfect to launch my blog in the energy of this first new moon of 2008.

My first post is not going to be a long one. I just want to say thanks for signing on to be on this wild ride with me. Things are falling apart faster than I had expected ... and things are also falling together faster than I had expected. Sometimes I have to listen carefully and look closely to see the 'falling together' part ... but when I do, I see grace and miracles manifesting in surprising ways all over the place.

This lovely message came to my inbox in the first week of 2008 and it seems to say what needs to be said~

From the Hopi Elders:

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that THIS IS THE HOUR.

And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.

It is the time to speak your Truth,
Create your community,
Be good to each other,
AND DO NO LOOK OUTSIDE YOURSELF FOR THE LEADER.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart,
And they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.
The elders say:
We must let go of the shore,
Push off into the middle of the river,
Keep our eyes open and our heads above the water.

SEE WHO IS IN THERE WITH YOU AND CELEBRATE!

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Gather yourselves!

Banish the word “struggle” from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.

The Elders of the Hopi Nation
Oraibi, Arizona