I Needed to Stop & Recalibrate

eyesOn January 18th in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had one of those somatic moments where my body vibrates and catches my attention. Often when I look back, it’s moments like that one that indicate my life is about to change. A friend and colleague was talking about the sabbatical she is on, her daily routine, the things she’s saying NO to, and the self-care she is prioritizing. My whole body shivered and bellowing within me I heard, “Is this what you need to do? Can you take 3-6 months to pause?

While the doubting parts of me quickly began discouraging such a dramatic and risky move, the questions didn’t surprise me. A couple days prior I had given a talk about “Living on Purpose” where I admitted to the group of 200 university students that my professional success these last four years has been at the expense of my own self-care and work-life balance. Could I really take 3-6 months to intentionally assess and re-balance my priorities? Could I afford such a shift? What about all of my responsibilities and people that were depending on me? Could I really make caring for me a priority?

Success Checklist

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I talked it over with friends and family, prayed on it, and by March 15th I had officially begun my process of Stopping & Recalibrating my priorities. I committed to living with greater health, more creativity and a clarified direction. I was fortunate to be supported by Mycelium in this decision, both financially and energetically.

It is a profound privilege to be able to take this time. I am deeply grateful. I feel that I deserve it. And I have faith that this gift to me will in turn serve others. Here’s more of the story about my process.

There were signs that this change was necessary:

  • I had lost touch with the vibrancy of my life force, life’s colorfulness had dimmed. I felt passionate about my work, but was going through the motions to accomplish what needed to get done. I felt drained even when the content inspired me.
  • I was exhausted and often wanting to sleep.
  • I noticed myself worrying about to-do’s I wasn’t getting to, tasks I hadn’t completed… but I wasn’t worrying about the fact that I hadn’t eaten a healthy meal or gotten up to go for a walk.
  • I hadn’t fully burnt out, but I was on the edge. I would take days to recover, get enough energy to be “back in the game,” but it wasn’t integrated. The renewal was temporary.
  • I was feeling called to a future that I didn’t yet have the spiritual, emotional and physical skills nor the community support to show up for. I needed to spend time focusing on personal practices, creative expression and growing relationships with myself, my spiritual family, and my community in order to show up for the chaos and complexity that I sense will be asked of me.

While I wasn’t certain that I needed to stop working, it was clear I had to stop being a producer for a few months. For me, a producer is someone who can see a big picture vision, articulate a strategy to bring it to life, and oversee the process of it coming to life with integrity. While I am good at this, for big projects it requires a huge amount of energy. Tracking all of the small and deep details of bringing Mycelium the organization to life with integrity while also launching transformative learning programs and tending to the relationships being cultivated required tremendous output. My self-care was frequently falling to the back seat with the wellbeing of the organization and the people we served in the front seat. I was not practicing what I preached. I was not modeling the type of leadership I believe in.

Spending Resources

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I recognized that my goal-oriented, product-focused, analytical and logistical brain space was dominating. It was overshadowing my nurturing, creative, emergent tendencies that are also very important to my authentic expression and well-being. I had to stop being at the center of initiatives, leading them forward. I needed time for an out breath from the 4 years I invested in co-founding Mycelium. I needed to focus on the personal, daily practices that keep ME centered in the work I do and life I live. I needed to strengthen my spiritual and emotional practices that deepen my faith and ability to navigate uncertainty and chaos. I needed to strengthen my physical body for more endurance and healthy living. I needed to rest. I needed to trust that even if this move felt irrational and incredibly privileged, it was essential for the long haul.

slow-down-300x200It’s been 7 weeks now. I am seeing and re-writing patterns in myself, forming new neural pathways, letting go of unserving habits and beliefs, grieving and celebrating. I am slowing down, tuning into my heart, and listening to what is really calling to me at this time. I am taking the time to heal and nourish myself. I am reconnecting with my family and community. I am reflecting on my life experiences. I am weaving new possibilities. I am learning how to be me… unapologetically.

While I still have a lot to learn, I am beyond grateful for this time and what has revealed itself so far. So many lessons about myself, my beliefs, my work in the world, the conditions that help or hinder me thriving, and the challenges and learning experiences from starting a social enterprise. I have slowed down, but I don’t believe I’ve fully stopped. I imagine this will be a lifelong lesson for me.

Future possibilities are just beginning to whisper. A warrior in me is being beckoned. Conditions for how I will operate in this next stage of my life are revealing themselves. The focus of my attention is getting clearer. A daily personal practice that can nourish and sustain me is taking shape. I am recalibrating my presence, my frequency, my focus, my expression, who I am in relation to the many parts of myself, who I am in relation to how I work in the world and the type of work I do, who I am in relation to how I engage relationships and cultivate family. I am healing and recalibrating.

I am reflecting on this process as best I can, and I know there is much more to harvest from this time. Thank you for reading about my journey. Please feel free to ask me questions if they arise for you, as they might help me better integrate what this time has been, what I’m learning and where I am right now.

And stay tuned as I share the seeds that are emerging!

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Image Sources: Eyes, Slow Down, Seed Sprouting

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Protected: A Broken Heart. A Wounded Healer.

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The Woman is Sacred

Pat McCabe

Six months ago I met Pat McCabe, Woman Stands Shining, at a gathering on the Maternal Roots of the Gift Economy (and Giftival) in Rome, Italy. She showed up as  a powerful and wise teacher and mentor for me… inviting me deeper into my own journey of being a woman honoring the sacred cycle of life I am a part of, and modeling standing fiercely and gracefully in one’s own wisdom, listening to guidance for how to authentically invite healing and ceremony in accessible ways with diverse groups of people.

Yesterday she showed up again as an angel in my life by making some facebook posts that spoke deeply to what I needed to hear. I am humbled for the sharing of this wisdom from Pat – a powerful woman, mother, grandmother, artist, activist, and compassionate leader.

I pray that the sacred feminine and the sacred masculine in each of us can heal and stand with honor. We need each other.

Here are some excerpts from her words and at the bottom you can see her full words with a few comments from others which I HIGHLY encourage you to read.

..much of what is taking place against this Mother Earth is because the masculine aspect, which dominates this Earth at this time, does not truly hold the woman as Sacred.

…The way we treat the women is the way we treat the Mother Earth, the way we treat the Mother Earth is the way that we will treat the women. They are inextricably connected.

..to all the young men who would be warriors on behalf of this Holy Mother Earth: You cannot truly protect Her and abuse women at the same time.

…to the young men, and to the young women, I say: Take heed. I pray for … all the young men who are finding their way. I need you, our daughters need you, all the women need you, to uphold the honor of being Human Being, as the masculine, now more than ever. Step up to your Honor- I know that you can.

…And the corollary to this… is: The way women treat other women is the way that the Earth will be treated as well. If we cannot hold or see ourselves as women as Sacred, we contribute to the violation and degradation also. I gotta step up y’all!!

…{an} understanding of the Sacredness of Women is that unless she is fully informed of the truth and is fully informed of her choice, without deception or violence, or alcohol, or mind-altering substance, any physical relationship that is conducted outside of these boundaries ought to be considered “rape.” It would be taking the most holy gift from a woman, and from life itself, without true permission which does constitute rape.

ORIGINAL POSTS ON FACEBOOK AT THIS LINK

Pat McCabe:

Dear friends, yesterday my daughter posted a warning to her sisters about a young man we met recently. I acknowledge her courage and honesty and a true desire to prevent her sisters from harm. I also had considered posting something about her encounter with this young man because it was very disturbing to me. He is a primary leader in a very necessary action to speak on behalf of the Mother Earth and on behalf of his people as well. His deception, his “sweet talk” of my daughter, including using traditional values such as “I will bring your mother some horses”, is very sad to me. Along with injuring young women by saying this and with talk of marriage to each of them, one after another, in order to get what he wants, he does not understand that much of what is taking place against this Mother Earth is because the masculine aspect, which dominates this Earth at this time, does not truly hold the woman as Sacred. The way we treat the women is the way we treat the Mother Earth, the way we treat the Mother Earth is the way that we will treat the women. They are inextricably connected. What I would say to all the young men, who would be warriors on behalf of this Holy Mother Earth is: You cannot truly protect Her and abuse women at the same time. You are fooling yourself if you think that you can. I would love to see our old traditional courting rituals come back to life. But obviously this is not the way that will happen. This is using something beautiful, and powerful, for selfish and violent purposes. My daughter used the word “rape” in her original post. This is because her understanding of the Sacredness of Women is that unless she is fully informed of the truth and is fully informed of her choice, without deception or violence, or alcohol, or mind-altering substance, any physical relationship that is conducted outside of these boundaries ought to be considered “rape.” It would be taking the most holy gift from a woman, and from life itself, without true permission which does constitute rape. So again, to the young men, and to the young women, I say: Take heed. I pray for this young, confused man, and for all the young men who are finding their way. I need you, our daughters need you, all the women need you, to uphold the honor of being Human Being, as the masculine, now more than ever. Step up to your Honor- I know that you can.

Comment by J Michael Combs:

good words, sister. we have truly lost the path of respect for ourselves, our mother, and one another. it didn’t happen in a week; and it won’t be healed in a week nor in a generation perhaps. but we do have the power to consciously choose our words and actions. the level of awareness we bring to them is the level of sacredness. with all of us weaving together we can heal ourselves, our families, our communities, our nation, and our earth mother. thank you.

Pat McCabe:

And the corollary to this, and I am humbled by this truth, is: The way women treat other women is the way that the Earth will be treated as well. Also, if we cannot hold or see ourselves as women as Sacred, we contribute to the violation and degradation also. A new realization for me as of this weekend with my Sisters from around the world. I gotta step up y’all!!

Comment by Liane Gale:

Phyllis Chesler’s 2009 book “Woman’s Inhumanity to Woman” speaks to this. “Women’s aggression may not take the same form as men’s, but girls and women are indeed aggressive, often indirectly and mainly toward one another. They judge harshly, hold grudges, gossip, exclude, and disconnect from other women.

Like men, women are exposed to the messages of misogyny and sexism that permeate cultures worldwide. Like men, women unconsciously buy into negative images that can trigger abuse and mistreatment of other women. But like other social victims, many do not realize stereotyping affects members within the victimized group as well as those outside the group. They do not realize their behavior reflects society’s biases.

How women view and treat other women matters. Are women oppressed? Yes. Do oppressed people internalize their oppressors’ attitudes? Without a doubt. Prejudice must first be acknowledged before it can be resisted or overcome. More than men, women depend upon one another for emotional intimacy and bonding, and exclusionary and sexist behavior enforces female conformity and discourages independence and psychological growth.”

About Pat McCabe:

Woman Stands Shining (Patricia McCabe), of Diné Nation, living in Taos, NM, is a mother, activist, artist, writer, and international speaker who draws upon the deep Indigenous sciences of thriving life to reframe inquiries about sustainability, and is devoted to next generations, “Women’s Nation” and “Men’s Nation” as functional members of the “Hoop of Life,” upholding the honor of being human.  She speaks on the subject of how gender relates to sustainability, and carries a discourse titled: The Feminine Design and Sustainability.

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The Wounds and Scars Are Real

Personally~

I’m being asked to deal with my shadows. To face the wounds and scars of the past that are still festering inside me… that at times seep into my daily interactions and shape my present. I want to be real with myself. These wounds and scars are alive inside me. They are influencing me. I have not healed from them. I do not find their influence valuable.

I have shame. Shame when I act from the place of the wound/scar (fear, mistrust, insecurity). Shame that the past has such influence on my now. Shame that I continue to be hurt and unhealed by these old wounds. Shame that I can’t just forgive and move on. Shame that I am so hard on myself.

I feel guilty. Guilty that when I interact with folks with whom these scars were developed, that I can cause harm to them when I react from the pain of these wounds. My intention is not to hurt or to lash out. Sometimes that is what is felt by others. Guilty that my fears, mistrust, insecurities shape the quality of relationships I have with people in my life…

In the world~

I’m witnessing as the wounds and scars from the past, from the present, are festering inside so many people, communities, cultures, countries. Creating seemingly insurmountable obstacles between people…within people. To face and address these bleeding wounds, these century old scars is painful. Is uncomfortable. Is violently destructive to a worldview that ignores the reality of these lesions. Is harrowing work.

To face these wounds seems to require immense strength, diligence, focused attention, compassion and support. I see people I love and respect giving up on their communities – losing hope that the community as it is will be able to overcome the deeply entangled systemic and structural dysfunction and dehumanization that is the result of these old wounds and scars, current wounds and scars. I see news accounts of humans without safety, shelter, access to basic needs… hundreds of thousands of them, millions of them, around the planet. The wounds… scars… are alive and real and influencing the world that is operating today.

They say~

They say that to heal the wounds and scars inside me will help to heal the wounds and scars in the world. I know this is true at one level. I cannot do the work I am called to do when these raw hemorrhages influence my thinking and acting. I cannot support others in their own healing while unconscious to the areas of my own healing that are necessary. I cannot understand the intricate path to healing, regeneration, restoration, transformation without walking it myself.

And yet for me, I can’t only focus on my own healing and close my eyes to the healing of my community, my country, my planet. (not mine as in I own it, but mine as in I am an interconnected part of it).

So I pray that the personal work I am doing right now with myself and my relationships – may it serve me, my own happiness and well-being, and may it reach beyond the boundaries of myself… in service to a world that truly works for all.

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When I Hear the Calling…

Life continues to be a roller coaster. I feel inclined to write… and tell you about parts of this journey I am living.

I live a life of service. I listen for signs of where I am to show up… how I am to give my gifts in this world. And when I hear a calling, I do my best to show up for what is being asked.

This has resulted in major moves in my life such as leaving beautiful land that I love for graduate school in Denton, Texas. Quitting a great job and leaving Seattle at a peek in my professional career to return to Asheville with no job, no place to live, no clear direction — but a calling. It’s the reason I spearheaded TEDxNextGenerationAsheville and it’s definitely the force behind the last  3 years of intensive dedication to giving life and shape to Mycelium the organization — born out of a love affair with mycelium the organism.

This pattern of listening and acting shows up in small ways too — but this post is about the latest major life calling that is propelling my actions at this time.

Within the last 9 months to a year, there’s been a gentle tap on my shoulder – “You should be working with White people around racial justice.” I’ve listened and taken this tap seriously. The first line of action was to face my own personal lack of confidence and capability. I am not an expert in anti-oppression and anti-racism theory. I do not know the models and frameworks, the right language to use, the depths of the history that has gotten us here, the skillful approaches to engage these conversations. I’m not experienced enough for this work, I felt. So I’ve immersed myself in learning. Reading articles, books, watching videos, listening to podcasts and countless conversations with people already in the work… people who are deeply aware of how their life is effected by racial injustice everyday… people who are courageous and taking bold actions to pave the way for a different way of being.

About 3 months ago, the game changed again. The gentle but consistent tap on my shoulder shifted into a large man’s hand on by back, behind my heart, compassionately but forcefully shoving me forward. I tremble as I write, being honest with the fact that I am still afraid that “I’m not ready. I’m not an expert. What if I don’t have what it takes?” And yet… Here I am. Breathing. And knowing that I have value to give.

A month ago I was expressing to a friend my concerns about not being an expert in this work. She said, “You’re looking at expert from a Euro-centric perspective based in academics and logic. You have a different type of expertise.” This hit me as true. The authenticity I bring, my own experience, the compassion I feel for all involved and my dedication to learning are areas that I have great faith in myself. And so again… Here I am.

While looking at and addressing systems of oppression and creating more equitable and diverse learning environments has been a deep part of my professional path for the last 9 years, the terrain is shifting right now.

And this shift has me living on a roller coaster. Some days filled with hope and inspiration, motivated with courage and passion. And other days curled up in depression, tears streaming and my heart hurting. As I continue to wake up more and more to the realities that we are living in and listen to the call of what is being asked of me, I realize how much I don’t know and how intense and heartbreaking the complex dynamics really are.

At the same time, new role models and inspiration show up, new friends appear along the path. As with all the challenges that face us at this time on the planet, there are incredible leaders paving the way and offering guidance for how to get to the world we want to live in.

Yesterday was a heavy day, while also highlighted with moments of inspiration. I began with a prayer-mediation conference call with Gibran Rivera – Love Black Lives. I watched the livestream of the Movement for Black Lives convening in Cleveland and listened to the strong imperative to love ALL BLACK LIVES, explaining the plight of trans and queer People of Color, illustrating how powerful their voices are and listening to their pleas for us to stand up, speak out and help end the murdering of their people as well. I watched on twitter as the joy, healing, regeneration and gratitude poured in of Black people at the convening who are so thankful to be with one another, with their people, over 1000 of them… rebuilding their life force, receiving love and nourishment, and finding strength to continue leading this movement. I was also feeling as Sandra Bland’s family and friends were gathering to lay her body to rest at her funeral. Her dedication to fight injustice meant that she is now dead… and it is the loss of her life that will be her namesake’s fight. And I watched as the streets of Newark filled and countless people spoke at the Million People’s March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, And Economic Inequality. The movement is alive. I am not alone.

And yet… when I went to a party last night to see friends I love and say goodbye to dear souls that are moving… I didn’t know how to connect beyond a surface level. My body trembles and tears well as I try and put words to this feeling that is pulsing through me. To interact in the everyday White/dominant culture world, I feel like I have to push these realities I am living to the back, not yet clear of how to bring them forward or be real to my lief experience in “not so intense” ways. I don’t know how to just shake it off and have a good time when conversation is involved.

And at the same time, so many of my dear friends of color are in so much pain and grief right now. I can’t even imagine what it is like for them to walk the streets and try and be normal and interact with people as they cope with the intensity that is stirring inside them. I deeply understand their requests for space and their need to turn inward and care for themselves. I witness as they do everything they know how – dance, pray, self-care, fellowship, ceremony, time with friends and family – to breathe life into their tired bodies and passion into their daily actions. I witness the depths of their faith and resilience and am inspired and grateful.

….

I shall bring this writing to a close for now. Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. Thank you for your love and care. Thank you for understanding that there are many of us who need love and support right now. You may be one of these people. So many folks have said to me, “I’m so thankful that there’s people like you doing this work.” I genuinely appreciate this recognition and gratitude. And I would like to have more people join me, to have more caring souls in the work with us. I’m seeking to grow my own support network and discover who are the folks that are available with love and support for me to call on these heavy days, who will call and check in on me, willing to come and give a hug, sit in silence with understanding eyes or be present with rage and anger?

Who is willing to walk with us as we dedicate our lives to bringing more love, justice, healing and freedom to those who walk the Earth at this time and the future generations to come?

 

 

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I Don’t Know How to ‘Carry On’

Warning: Triggering content.

I have work to do. I have a proposal deadline for tomorrow morning. It’s for a good project, one that is large in scope and significantly relevant for these times we are living.

I went to facebook before diving into the work. And now I’m stuck. I can’t move on. I’m writing this post to try and get myself unstuck.

I just learned about Sandra Bland’s death. The story that I am seeing: A young woman from Illinois speaks out on social media about police brutality and racial injustice. She gets her dream job working on outreach at her Alma Mater university. On Friday, she’s driving from Chicago to her new job in Texas and gets pulled over for improper use of a signal. (One article mentioned that she had made a fb status update with the Texas county she was in.) There’s video of her arrest, her pinned to the ground and speaking up about being in pain. 3 days later (the same day her bail was to be posted, 3 days ago), she’s found dead in her cell. Officials indicate a suicide, asphyxiation…

What? I start googling. Looking to learn more. Searching for facts. Seeing what people are saying. And feeling crushed. Here we are again. We don’t know the whole story yet, but fuck.

Meanwhile, there’s also a facebook invitation that I realize I’ve been avoiding giving conscious thought to. The KKK have a permit for a rally on Saturday at the Statehouse in Columbia, South Carolina. There are people organizing to go and rally in response. Should I be going?

I’m bouncing back between the links, learning about both of these situations. I’m looking to understand…

And meanwhile… my spirit is crumbling inside. I’m hit with fits of sobbing. My body heaving. What the fuck is going on here? Two hours and 15 minutes from my house is a city where the state has sanctioned the gathering of known terrorists and simultaneously Black people can be murdered, abused and arrested at will by officials. (My mind starts spinning at this sentence. I can’t even go into naming all of the inhumane actions against Black people that are sanctioned.)

What is this power and governance system that I live in? What do I do? Should I be going to the rally on Saturday? Call the Sheriff’s office? I’ve signed a petition (sarcastic laugh and truthful statement).

My mind (and body) is flooded with images of hangings, lynchings, Klan rallies… mashed up with images from now, the modern day version that is happening.

To refocus my attention and get back to my work, I have to stop feeling all that I’m feeling. I have to pull myself away and redirect my brain to stop sensing into this horror that is going on around me and flooding me in this moment. But the thoughts and emotions keep spinning. And I realize how privileged I am to know that I do have the ability to turn it off, at least at a surface level.

It’s hard to feel paralyzed. To feel heart broken and inadequate, wanting to close my eyes and shut down, while rage fumes inside.

My prayer for this moment: May we open our eyes and see what is happening around us. Wherever we live – our homes, our cities, our countries. May we wake up to the abuse of power that is destroying so much life… at alarming rates and in horrific ways. May we have love and support around us, as we bare witness to this state and turn compassionately towards one another to take care of each other and the living world that is our home.

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Shifting Perspective

In the flow
instead of on the go –
recognizing that my attention is what runs the show

What’s calling to me is for me to see
to open my eyes and allow life to be

Meditate
Recreate
Consolidate
Don’t Hesitate

There’s a passion, a fire, a soul’s knowing glow
Pouring through my cells
encouraging me to grow

Slow down
Tune in
Let the river guide

Trust
Allow
Listen to the silence

Discipline is an art
And in this area I have little practice

Practice is what is calling
The motivation to say yes, knocks at the door

So if you’re reading – please be my friend
If you feel inspired, offer me support
Encourage me on this journey to say YES and jump in
Help me nurture and embrace this emergence growing from within

I have the courage
I’m hearing the call
I trust the messenger
It’s time to stand tall

With deep love and gratitude,
Ashley

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