The Elders

Here is a photograph taken by Alexander Joe/AFP/GETTY IMAGES of "Former South African President Nelson Mandela celebrating his 89th birthday at the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund in Johannesburg."

Another part of his birthday celebration was the launching of a new initiative called The Elders.

"The Elders is the brainchild of the English tycoon Sir Richard Branson – who was himself in the audience with his elderly parents. Back in 2001, he and his friend, the British musician and anti-apartheid campaigner Peter Gabriel, sought out Mr. Mandela and asked if he would try to convene a group of world leaders to take on conflicts such as that in Israel and the Palestinian territories – to use their moral influence where others with political agendas had failed.

'The structures we have to deal with these problems are often tied by political, economic and geographical constraints,' Mr. Mandela said Wednesday. 'As institutions of government grapple with the challenges they face, the efforts of a small, dedicated group of leaders working objectively and without any vested personal interest in the outcome can help to resolve what often seem like intractable problems.'” from the Globe and Mail
"Out of deep concern for the challenges currently facing all of the people of our world, Nelson Mandela, Graça Machel and Desmond Tutu have convened a group of leaders to contribute their wisdom, independent leadership and integrity to tackling some of the world's toughest problems." From TheElders.org
I'd love to hear your thoughts about this initiative.


posted by ashley


My Life Lately

posted by ashley


Working with Clay

I'm sitting out on my balcony (which is actually just the outdoor hallway) in Santa Barbara. The sun's just set, the moon perched above, this day giving way to night, this geeky gal with her laptop and head phones taking in the moment! Life is good. I feel so grateful.

Today in the training we explored with clay. Here is the activity we did. The quote is taken from Violet Oaklander's first book "Windows to our Children" and is pretty close to how our session was guided.

"Close your eyes and go into your space. Feel your clay with both hands for a few seconds. Take a couple of deep breaths. Now I would like you to make something with your clay, keeping your eyes closed. Just let your fingers move. See if the clay seems to want to go its own way. Or perhaps you want it to go your way. Make a form, a shape. If you have something in mind you want to make, do it with your eyes closed and see what happens. Or just move the clay around, let yourself be surprised. You will have only a few minutes to do this. When you're finished, open your eyes and look at what you've made you can add finishing touches, but don't change it. Look at it. Turn it and see it from different sides and angles" (Oaklander).

Many participants told stories of how they had no idea what they were going to make, just found themselves moved to make something known or unknown to them. This was true for me as well. After we made our creations, we got into pairs with one person sharing their work and the other playing the role of therapist. The processing work involves being what you made. I made a shell. So I began to talk as a shell. "I am a shell. I have grooves along the back of me and am smooth on the inside. I used to be a home to someone else and I have had many different homes of my own. I've lived in the ocean. I've lived on the shore. I've been in water and in the hot sun. I am solid and yet I am also fragile. I am able to be broken into many small pieces. etc." After relating to my object in the first person, the therapist then asks if there is anything about being a shell that fits for my own life... and we explore along that thread.

It's a powerful activity because the clay stimulates and is a direct link to many sense -- kinesthetic, temperature, tactile, smell, sight, hearing. It is grounding and comforting while also direct in bringing someone into the body. Clay can be a bridge between sensory experiences (kinesthetic, tactile, etc.) and the deeper sensing and experiencing of feelings, unconsciousness, etc. To me the power of this modality is in how it can bring to the surface unconscious material and circumvent the analytical mind, providing an opportunity for other parts of the self to express themselves.

Tomorrow's topic is aggression. What fun!

I've taken some pictures and will keep adding to this album as I take more.

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posted by ashley


Embracing Love

"I knocked on the door
of the One who embraces Love.
He opened it, saw me there and began to laugh.
He pulled me in....
I melted like sugar cubes...
in the arms of the Lover,
that wizard of the world... "


photo source and poem found at Ineffable Bliss

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posted by ashley


A Gestalt

I've been on quite a fascinating journey lately... and on Sunday I sense that I am opening into a whole new world, an expressive whirl of life emerging through and blossoming as this being who is me, this human instrument I am blessed to be.

I will be participating in a 2-week Gestalt Play Therapy training with Violet Oaklander, a well-known and creative pioneer in the field of child and adolescent psychotherapy, specifically gestalt play therapy. After that I get to travel with family and then spend a few days connecting and co-creating with some GiGis (girl geeks) and Open Space friends. Wooo huuu!

I'm currently rereading Violet's book, Windows to Our Children, and buzzing with the excitement and passion I generally experience when I really sink into gestalt theory and feel how aligned it is with my own ways of seeing and experiencing life, development, relating, relationships,and how we change. I'm guessing that this training will be incredibly significant for my work with children and school communities, all my other work with humans, and my own personal ways of being and relating in the world. Here are some clips from the book that have me sparking.
"As we grow older we often "give our eyes away." We begin to see ourselves and our worlds through other people's eyes, like the populace in the story, "The Emperor's New Clothes." We adults encourage children to give their eyes away. We say, "Don't stare!" or "What will they think of us!" (referring to what others see us doing). We worry about how our children dress and appear to others.

Part of reowning one's eyes involves the awareness and strengthening of self, the ability to find comfort and familiarity with the self, trust one's self." (Oaklander)
Ahhhh.... seeing through our own eyes and our own experiencing. Letting go of being controlled by perceptions of others, perceived perceptions of others, projections, assumptions and expectations. Opening into comfort and familiarity with self, trusting self, listening deeply, being authentically.

Violet continues,
"Many things get in the way of seeing besides imagining what people think and feel. One of these is jumping into the future rather than staying in the present. (Ashley blinks and grins. Guilty.) Often we spoil pleasurable sights and experiences by our worry about what might come next. We may look at a beautiful sunset, straining to catch every glimpse before it sinks into the horizon. That very straining, a sort of holding on, detracts from the pleasure of seeing the beauty of the moment. This kind of hanging on is universal."
Grasping... another proud smile... I know that one!

In my work with groups, I am particularly interested in exploring and utilizing various modalities of expression to harvest and communicate some of the elements that emerge in our time together. Amy and I have been talking about this and dreaming a bit into our visit. Amy writes:
We've been talking about doing some deep work together to access and express some conversational creativity during the time she's here. We've been talking about exploring "ritual art" - putting ourselves into different environments (the mountain, the beach or the bay, on the porch, :-) etc.) listening deeply into the field for what is calling to us, and then responding with our full selves, playing in conversations without words - exploring movement, sound, technology, stones, leaves, whatever is there, as the medium for our conversation with life and our own nature.
I'm sure you can see a plethora of places where this passage inspires me and connects into what is on my mind and in my heart these days. More from Violet:
"Throughout this book I write about giving the child experiences that will bring her back to herself, experiences that will renew and strengthen her awareness of those basic senses that an infant discovers and flourishes in: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell. It is through these modalities that we experience ourselves and make contact with the world. Yet somewhere along the line many of us lose full awareness of our senses; they become hazy and blurred and seem to operate automatically and apart from ourselves. We come to operate in life almost as if our senses, bodies, and emotions don't exist -- as if we are nothing but giant heads, thinking, analyzing, judging, figuring things out, admonishing, remembering, fantasizing, mind-reading, fortune-telling, censoring. Certainly the intellect is an important part of who we are. It is through our intellect that we talk to people, make our needs known, voice our opinions and attitudes, state our choices. But our minds are only one part of our total organism that we own and need to take care of, cultivate and use. Fritz Perls often said, "Lose your mind and come to your senses." We need to respect those other parts of ourselves that have so much power and wisdom for us."
Just like the poem from Henri Nouwen that Mike shared:

"Listen with attention and care to the voices speaking in [your] own center."

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posted by ashley


Looking for Website Support


I'm looking for some help. I need to connect with someone who has capacities in building websites and working on a mac. My PC recently crashed and as I'm quite computer-ignorant in many ways, I don't know how to access the back side of my websites through my mac. Ideally I would love to work with someone who could both help me and teach me some of the simple functions I could do myself. I also appreciate people who care about the aesthetic side to a website. Right now I use Lunar Pages web hosting, a phpbb forum, blogger and I think that's it. I'm open to shifting to other platforms if someone can tell me why I should and help me with the process. I'm especially interested in a new forum as I haven't found a good way to deal with spam and manipulate the aesthetics to my liking. I wouldn't be able to give this project attention for at least another month, but I thought I'd put the call out here and see what happens!

Do you know a person that might be able to help me... are you that person?

On a separate note, a constant dream of mine is that as humans connected to one another in face to face and virtual communities, we are available and able to connect in ways that serve our needs and utilize the resources and gifts we each have to offer.

I once wrote:
What if it were that simple… What if we express our needs, articulating the simplest, most elegant offering that would further our ability to share more fully our gifts with the world, and then as a community we find ways to support one another, encouraging each of us to show up fully, offering our gifts, receiving and flourishing. What if…..

And so I wonder… What do you need? What do you have to offer? ... In my dream world every community has a marketplace where we can share offerings and requests with one another. Are you interested in playing in this way?
If any of this intrigues you and especially if you know my web-person, please feel free to email me or leave a comment.

Thank you~


posted by ashley

Ritual Art

Re Ordering Hugging

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posted by ashley


Beautiful Game

If you've got nothing better to do, go play with this!

Thanks, Andy, for the link.


posted by ashley



I love words. I love simple words and words I have never heard before. I love old words and the original meaning of words. It's like floating back to the roots, always trying to capture the essence which lies beyond.

I love how simple words stringed together can take me on a journey, play on me like an instrument, make me laugh, sad, excited and full of love. It’s a miracle and part of that miracle is You. We. Us. All of us.

Words carry energy and that energy can hurt or heal. A heartfelt: “I love you!” can change any ones day. There are words of power. The old traditions call them prayer or mantra and they connect us with the ever present. With simple words to the ever present in 3 small paragraphs...

I love words!

Painting by Alex Stiefler


Dear Jan,

Welcome back!

Oh how my heart skips feeling your words here... your reverence and reverie emerging forth through this screen... your voice and your perspective opening up into this playfield of expression, taking me on a journey, playing me like an instrument. Luscious!

I recently learned a word I think you would like: quiescent-- Being in a state of repose; at rest; still; inactive.

with love,

GravatarDarling Jan!

How wonderful for you to post. As a fellow lover of words, your own were a great gift to me. As with all your past posts on Integral Naked, the integrity and immediacy of your words resonated with my own experience, facilitating deeper contact, clarification, and inquiry. Biggest hug and deepest bow to you.

I sometimes marvel at language's capacity to clothe the silent and subtle movement of thought-feeling- sensation in manifest form as speech via the concert of breath and body and as writing via the complex codification of abstraction. I'm also taken with the paradox of words/language/conception as simultaneously revealing and concealing the Experiencing that birthed them. Maybe speech can even be understood as a yoga of subtle and gross form -- if nothing else, every utterance is ultimately a creative act, and a testament to God's annunciation as human expression.

Thank you again for opening me further to my own experience.

So much love,

GravatarThank you two so much for your kindness! One love, one mind, three hearts beating in different places. Love ya!

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posted by Jan


Emerging Independence

More personal confessions...

It’s strange to me how much I “need” to have others validate things that I do or experience, how much I can deny my own experiencing, minimizing it, not honoring the fullness of intensity that is my living or the guided action that emerges from my listening. For example, I've noticed lately how I experience a touch of wholeness when someone validates how deeply I feel. It surprises me (and then often moves me to tears) how healing and confirming it is to have someone else simply acknowledge that I experience life intensely, that I feel deeply. How curious that I don’t trust my own experiencing as proof. Intellectually I do, but at a sensing level there is still so much I am learning to trust.

I am grateful for people in my life who reflect these realities back to me. Through the interdependence of our relationships, I am invited into greater independence, a fuller knowing of what it's like to be me. What a blessing.

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.

~ Mary Oliver

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posted by ashley


Courage and Willingness to Die and Be Born

Caitlin Frost doesn’t yet have her own webl, but she is filled with and shares in her daily life a tremendous amount of insight, experience, inquiry and love. This comment she left at the Living With an Open Heart thread is too powerful of a teaching, a potent expression of practice, to leave in the comments… so I’m reposting it here.

I’m particularly drawn to her point that living with an open heart involves “holding the courage and willingness to constantly die and be born”… and when this practice embraces clarity, “the energy stays in the system, feeds it and provides the strength to support the vulnerability.” To live with an open heart, it is essential to stay connected to energy sources that support vulnerability. Vulnerability can become quite destructive if not supported… and is exceptionally powerful when held in its essence.

Take it away, Caitlin:
Hi Ashley, I am exploring similar terrain at the moment. I have been doing a lot of meditation and Byron Katie work this past month and opening up lots of interesting and vulnerable places in myself. Feeling raw and also amazed and full of strength possibility. Like I am dying and being born at the same time - over and over again. I really think that clarity is the key - I can live with an Open Heart much more peacefully and powerfully when I am really clear - it is like a slightly (and crucially) different kind of vulnerability that retains much more life force and curiosity than the combined "amazing moments with leaky, fearful and confused energies mixed in" I have mostly experienced around vulnerability in my life. Open - close - open - close...

Having very closely experienced death and birth in recent years - it struck me very clearly that they share a powerful and connected energy - a sense of power or life force moving. In a way living with an Open Heart feels for me like holding the courage and willingness to constantly die and be born. Without the clarity - it just feels like dying, and the energy feels like it is draining out of the system. With the clarity it feels like the birth is connected, follows quickly, and so the energy stays in the system, feeds it and provides the strength to support the vulnerability.

In my martial arts training I am also playing with these energies of openness and vulnerability in the physical realm. Experimenting with the energy of emotional vulnerability in my responses to physical vulnerability. What it feels like to hold my energy and body solid and open as someone comes flying through the air at me.
Noticing that it is my own sense of groundedness and clarity of thought that makes it possible for me to stay fully present for the experience, and stay open to the experience whether I block or jump out of the way. If I can trust my clarity - I can stay open to it, curious and available to act.
This leads me to wondering, how do you (whoever you are that is interested in looking into this question) recognize clarity? A related question emerged and was explored in the last online meditation which was, How do you recognize deep knowing?

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posted by ashley


Words, Inner Worlds and Longings

It is said that every gift or strength that we have is accompanied with a shadow side. Light casts shadows; attributes that serve us can also inhibit us in other ways.

I like playing with words. I enjoy shaping them together in efforts to express meaning. My goal is for another to easily receive and experience the meaning for him or herself. Words are amazing in this way. They allow us the ability to offer a concrete expression of our internal experience. And then another person’s mind can potentially receive the meaning contained in the expression, understand it, and even verify its accuracy. Of course there are other forms of expression besides words… but for now I’m talking about words!

I just finished a phenomenal fantasy book called The Ordinary by Jim Grimsley (thank you Sheri for the superb recommendation). In the quote below he’s writing about words and their relationship with magic (I’ve changed it to the present tense):
“Words bring events into being. They focus consciousness."

“Any word by its nature allows two disconnected minds to share thoughts with one another… A word is energy and object at the same time, already capable of moving information from one person to another, and… therefore it should not be surprising that a word is capable of much more.”
With a certain degree of certainty (and a lot of room for mystery) words let your mind know what my mind is experiencing… and thus let us have a shared experience. That’s amazing!

More self-disclosure. I have a deep longing for shared experiences. (I know, this is shocking to some of you!) Thomas Hurley writes about our “essential yearning for communion.” I relate to that. I come alive, radiate aliveness, when I am experiencing my inner world, you are experiencing some aspect of my inner world, you are experiencing your inner world, I am experiencing some aspect of your inner world, and we’re here experiencing the outer world and our shared inner world together. Ooohhh, I just love that stuff! I yearn for more and more of it. Mutual relationships like that can be hard to come by in our society. Often, instead of sharing our worlds with each other, we wander around lost in our own world... or even ignoring our own world and getting lost in other worlds.

Perhaps more on that topic later. For now, I’ll return to words.

One thing I’ve been noticing is that I can lean too much on words, especially when I am stressed or in a fear state. I rely too heavily on the fact that words have the capacity (and I trust their capacity) to translate to another my inner experience of being alive or to help me understand another’s experience of being alive. In that state, I can become addicted to the certainty that I think words express. I want so desperately for another to understand my inner world and I want so desperately to understand their inner world. Living from my shadow at this point, I lose trust in my other senses, my other modalities of expressing and listening. I shut down to hearing them… I shut down to expressing with them… I shut down to receiving… and I grasp at and overly-rely upon words.

Shadow and light dancing together… funny how that works.

There’s more I want to write on these topics… holy longings, longing for subtle communication, ways of expressing and communicating non-verbally, a developmental stuck point we might be in socially/relationally, more shadow elements with words, talking about things too much, using words more than I need to, more about The Ordinary… Some topics you might see in the coming time… or not!

I'll leave you with a practice that they use in the land where the story The Ordinary takes place. It's one I'd like to adopt.. I wonder what sign we'll use... I wonder who we is?!
“This is a sign that means we leave you to yourself, to your own peace. We make this to one another to signal that we are willing to talk but feel it would be an intrusion to speak first.”
Photo by Jim Rider/AP found at She Muses

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posted by ashley

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