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Writing What’s On My Heart… & Why

write

I am feeling called to write more. I don’t yet know the path and pattern that will help me carry though with this… but I have faith I will find a way that feels in alignment with all else calling to me. Your encouragement, suggestions of things you’d like to read from me, and gentle witnessing are welcomed. Accountability is probably a good thing too!! Below are some recent facebook posts that share core expressions of what’s up for me.

June 24, 2016

My desire~

  1. To bring down these harmful and oppressive systems and institutions that are violent, unjust, and destroying lives and cultures.
  2. To cultivate a world rooted in love, vibrating with healthy connections of care, respect, and shared responsibility for nourishing life, all life.
  3. To do the above in community, with family. Working, organizing, acting, praying, grieving, celebrating with people I love… being creative, witty, and wise as we find ways to do the above without using the master’s tools… to be spiritually guided by forces bigger than ourselves, helping each other to stay grounded and healthy, to stay joyful and loving, to take care of ourselves as we take care of each other, as we stay committed to change and freedom.

I believe we must be able to be with both— the intensity of the facts of what is happening on our globe right now and the ability to embody the world we want to live in. To the extent that we are able, we must sit with the discomfort and the angst, the rage and grief, of the news, verdicts, and faces of state-sanctioned and hate-fueled violence and the impacts of systems built upon an order of superiority, oppression, discrimination, and abuse of power. And we must experience and celebrate love, joy, connection and well-being. We must bathe in nature and loving relationships and the pleasures of beauty, art, touch, dance, laughter and celebration. This is all a learning curve for me… I am speaking to myself just as much as I am sharing with anyone who is still reading. I want to join in this challenge with all of you. I believe in your good hearts and I believe that as a collective we could actually make a difference.

From Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Let’s be about this work today. What will you do to get us closer to freedom, good people? ?#?letsdothis?
If you aren’t aware, a lot has happened this week.

July 4, 2016

Such a mixture of realities in my heart today… and lately. I haven’t had the words to shape into posts in response to all that is happening, all that I am feeling and experiencing. My relationship with social media causes me to feel a sense of responsibility to write when I am feeling intense feelings or am aware of significant events happening. As a big ‘feeler’ in the world, I am often called to share my experience… perhaps it will be an invitation for others to see a different perspective or tune into current events. Perhaps if I share how I am coping or not, strategies I am using or needing, it will be valuable for others who experience so much intensity in life. Sharing is also healing for me as it helps me not feel isolated in the intensity I experience. Lately, however, the feeling side has over-powered the public writing side as I sit with one mass tragedy or trauma or circumstance that baffles or invokes tremendous grief in me, one after another, while also attempting to live balance in my life and with those I love.

So without much commentary, here is what I am seeing on my facebook stream and in the news right now that impacts me. First hand accounts about what this holiday, the 4th of July, feels like for a slave, some Black people, some Native Americans. Warnings about how the fireworks impact people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, those who have lived amongst gun fire and explosions and are triggered by the sounds. Pictures of fireworks, family picnics, fun times on the water. Insight about today’s new moon. Continued grieving for these mass killings happening every other day it feels like… in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Syria. Hundreds of innocent people dying. Teachers protesting and being targeted for their protests in Mexico. Indigenous peoples of the global South organizing for the protection of the Earth, their people, and their cultures. Queer, LGBTQ+ People of Color making their voices heard about the inequities they face from all directions, the violence and lack of protection and security. Black folks standing up for their people, their right to live the promoted values of this country. And here locally, the grieving, anger and organizing for the young man killed by a police officer in Asheville 2 days ago and another young man killed on Sunday.

{…. taking a deep breath….}

May as many of us as possible truly ACT in ways that bring about Freedom and Liberation for all.

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Stories from Stonewall

Yesterday the US got a new National Monument, The Stonewall National Monument, to honor the LGBT/Gay Liberation movement… the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots is coming up. I’ve been educating myself on the role that transgender people of color and homeless youth played in activating this liberation movement… History repeats itself for better and for worse. Let’s pay attention so that we can amplify the elements of history that can guide us (i.e. Seek out and listen to the queer folks of color in your life, they have wisdom that we as a collective need) and, for once and for all, let’s stop repeating these patterns of hate and violence against people that are different. We’re all brothers and sisters here on this earth.
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We Are All In This Together

BoatSinking

This image flashed across my sea of Facebook, labeled as OUR SOCIETY. One of those images that says so much and continues to speak to me long after it has left my field of vision.

 

Other possible captions that I see in my society and feel in myself:
  • “That’s horrible. I don’t know what to do.”
  • “Those poor people. I wish there was some way I could help.”
  • “I feel compassion for their suffering and pain. I will pray for them.”

…and continue living life as if the water is over there.

The structures that are made to hold our society together and take care of our people have gaping holes in them. Healthcare and quality education are not accessible to all. Protection under the law and justice is not accessible to all. The ability to make a living wage, eat a healthy meal or have a place to sleep is not accessible to all. Safety walking down the street or using a public restroom is not accessible to all.

And the planet that we live amongst, that provides us water, oxygen and food to sustain us, shelter from the elements, is being destroyed. The species that live along side us are becoming extinct… “That’s horrible. I wish there was something I could do…”

There are many of us for whom society’s systems do function, the systems adequately serve us.

Privilege1 (1)

We can work hard, get a job, afford healthcare, and walk down the street and enjoy almost any city we visit. We can trust that if we are in trouble and call the police, they will likely act to protect us. If we find ourselves challenged in a court of law, the system will judge us fairly in the ways it holds us accountable for our actions or sees our innocence. We are equipped with good educations that help us to think critically, feel empowered to follow our dreams, and even use our degrees to work our way into or out of situations. We have access to healthy food and even time for leisure that keeps our bodies and minds in good shape to face the challenges inherent in being human. We can kiss the person we love in a public setting and only feel love. We can leave our house when we want to, not hindered by physical or mental challenges. We can take a day off for vacation or self-care and not worry about how our bills will be paid.

These are privileges that should be human rights… but currently are not. There are racial, gender, sexual orientation, religious and ability identifications that make these rights accessible to some and not to others. There are ideologies that support these inequalities — values and mindsets that prop up a system of oppression and superiority, strengthening a system of haves and have-nots, and creating a system that works for some and doesn’t work for others.

I believe there are enough of us with enough privilege that we could stand up to these destructive and violent inequalities.

We have the ability to work together to make being human a more thrivable experience for more people living on the planet… to make life for our grandchildren more bearable. But it requires that we recognize and act on the fact that even when life is working for me, I am still intrinsically connected to those whose boats are sinking. My boat is sinking too.

So many people are stressed and exhausted, pouring all of their life force energy into trying to empty the water out of the boat – trying to survive in systems that are rigged against their success. So many others are trying to save the boat because they know we are all in it together, they are working tirelessly to transform the current systems or create entirely new systems. And there are still many who sit back and continue on with ‘business as usual’, perhaps well-intentioned with compassionate thoughts and genuine uncertainty as to how to contribute, but still without action to stop the sinking boat. In a place of survival, priorities become simple and straight forward. In a place of privilege, options are abundant and priorities have to be intentional.

How are you positioned on the boat? What are your priorities?

Mlk

I am reminded of this quote from Martin Niemöller:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If you’re not in the process of bailing out water right now,
please make sure you are actively supporting folks that are.

#TakeCareOfEachOther #WakeUp #WeAreAllSinking  #ThisHasToStop  #SelfCare&CommunityCare

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Changes… and more of the same!

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On this day 7 years ago I posted about the Social Synapse — a new way of visualizing the amazingly complex, intricate, and often hidden world of connections, the spaces between us that link us together. 7 years ago, I didn’t know what mycelium was, but the calling to embody it, to investigate and live our interconnectedness was strong.

Last week I announced that I am stepping away from the leadership of Mycelium. I will continue to serve as a consultant with this precious organization, a free agent who is dedicated to the work of learning how to be like mycelium on the social scale. The mission continues to live through me and it is time for my wings to spread in other directions.

Here is the letter that I wrote to the Mycelium Network and I offer it here as it speaks to the sentiment in my heart.

AC

Dear Mycelium Network,

After taking a few months to stop and recalibrate, it has become clear that it is time for me to step away from formal leadership with this organization. These 4 years together have touched me in profound ways. What a gift to partner with others and bring something so inspiring to life — to grow a community, launch programs, nurture a culture, challenge business as usual and experiment with how we live this metaphor of being an interconnected, underground learning network. It has been an amazing experience and I am filled with deep gratitude.

Thank you Matthew, Co-Facilitators, Journeyers, Council Members, Learning Partners, Funders, and all others who are part of this system. We have held a vision so tenderly and beautifully that life-changing experiences have happened, magical moments ignited, life-long relationships grown and we’ve had countless opportunities to learn from one another. We’ve stretched, groaned and giggled and, I believe, made the world a better place as a result of us connecting. Thank you for this dance!

My next moves are still revealing themselves, though I will continue to facilitate learning environments and engage communities as we work together creating a more equitable and just world. I will also be a consultant/free agent with Mycelium. Please stay in touch.

And as for What’s Next with Mycelium… Matthew and the leadership will be taking some time to pause and reflect about this next chapter of the organization. He will be in touch in the next month or so to update you.

With so much love and respect,
Ashley

P.s. The image is a photo collage from a couple of graphic recordings from Learning Journey Retreats. Special thanks to Kate Morales for the visuals they’ve brought to life in our gatherings.

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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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