1.18.2010

Supporting Change Through Friendship and Compassion


Glyness Hernandez

Today I honor present and past teachers, visionaries, activists and leaders who have dedicated their brilliance and gifts to creating a world that works for all, opening opportunities in subtle and bold ways for freedom, equality, justice and healing.

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

At last year's Martin Luther King, Jr. Rally I was walking with a first grader I worked with. Suddenly he looked up at me and said, “Oh, I know why you’re here today, Ashley.” “Why?” I asked, curious to discover the connection he had just made. “Because this is all about friendship… and you’re the friendship teacher.”

He taught me such a simple lesson in that moment - friendship is at the heart of the work we do and efforts we make towards creating a world where all people may flourish. Every child has the right to reach their full potential and feel loved. Friendship and friendliness are powerful forces that we use to support one another in living our full potentials. We can extend care and compassion, invite intimacy and connect with one another in nourishing ways that leave us feeling loved, respected, appreciated and capable of being the beautiful and potent forces we are.

Today I also want to thank the extraordinary people in my life who care for me, encourage me and have given me so much practical help in my pursuit to become a leader in transforming the United States' Education System. I applied to Harvard's new program in Education Leadership last week and have been astonishingly humbled by the generosity, encouragement, feedback, belief and care that has been bestowed upon me and this journey I am on. Thank you to each of you who gave of yourselves to support me. Words fail to carry the weight of my gratitude.

All the conversations I've had since stepping into the application process have fiercely enlivened my belief that we can do this. We can make a difference and organize ourselves into action, facilitating the change that is necessary so the dreams of Dr. King and so many other compassionately active forces may come to fruition. Through our friendships, our willingness to drop barriers and open vulnerably to genuine connections with one another, we can create transformative change. I am awed by the people that I know, the work that you are doing, the lives that you are living and the hearts that you continuously touch. I am awed by the human power, the power of love that swells forth upon this Earth and the impact it has in so many subtle and complex ways. And I am eager to meet, connect with and learn from those I have not yet met. I see this beautiful tapstery of connections. We are weaving together the social fabric that supports the well-being and actualization of children on this Earth.

Every child (every person) has the right to feel loved and respected and valued for their contributions. We can create opportunities for children to feel safe and stay connected to their intelligence, creativity and inspiration, as well as their neurological impulse to learn and love. We can affect the future of our world by investing in the livelihood and well-being of our children and the social systems that impact their lives.

"With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood."
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is the work I am called to do in service and in love. And I extend the deepest swells of gratitude to the dear friends who support me on this journey and to the many teachers and leaders who have paved the way for me and others who are on this path of living, learning and loving.

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posted by ashley

11.22.2009

Woa ~ Pure Excitement



A little boy's pure excitement, a dash of astonishment with a tinge of fear... ahhh, the emotional smorgasbord that accompanies making contact with something new and unknown.

Thanks Thomas for this link and for the contagious awe that it's left me with... and hopefully you too!

~ ~ ~ ~

And after posting this I saw that this is my 600th post here at Easily Amazed... and today also happens to be the 6th birthday of Easily Amazed. Woa! Wow!

All I can feel is that little boy saying, "Can I touch it?" with excitement and desire and then feeling his fear of what is it? and answering his own question with "no!"

That's very similar to my journey of writing here. So often I feel the strong impulse to share something deep from my heart or right at the edges of my thinking. I bubble with excitement at the challenge to put words to these sensations and thoughts and at the opportunity to share my experiences or perceptions with others. And then when the publishing time comes I will often feel a hesitation and What am I doing? Can I really share this? Does this make any sense? Unlike the little boy, I do touch it. I press publish and a little part of me grows just a wee bit more as a result of putting myself out there!

Thank you, Easily Amazed, for giving me the opportunity to open into this world of writing. Thank you soooo much to everyone out there who reads this. Your presence has been significant and influential in my development... I sincerely mean that. The comments I've received over the years, the conversations with people who read this webl, the inspiration that provokes many of the postings, and all my curiosity about those that are here reading but have never let me know that you are... it's a fascinating and wonderful experience to feel the life that circulates around this website!!

And special thank you to Thomas who has been an emotional, intellectual and super-special editorial support these last few years. Seriously, I ask him to read over so much of what I write and he's so gracious about giving me helpful feedback. Thank you!

Happy Birthday Easily Amazed... Woa... Wow!!

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posted by ashley

11.06.2009

All Swirled Into One


To be honest, I am often fascinated by my experience of being alive. As in, easily amazed! So I guess this time right now of living in the process of so many major life transitions is no exception. And yet, it's definitely new for me. I wish I could easily put words to the nuances and extreme spectrum of feelings and experiences I'm having. I can't do it easily, but I will give it a try!

As a whole, I feel like I'm living many different lives all swirled into one. They blur in and out of each other, overlapping, building upon, disappearing and re-emerging. It's an exhilarating party of experiences. The old joining with the new, familiar and unfamiliar, light and dark... it's very exciting.

And then at other times all the parts don't feel like one life at all. They become compartmentalized. For a moment I'll only be able to feel one thread. Intellectually I know that the others are still there, but a feeling of anxiety will narrow my perception.

It feels like a dance between harmony and chaos. In the frames of chaos, while they feel aggravating and invasive, I get to see the specifics of that particular thread that is holding me down or confining me. Like a mirror that has shattered into many fragments. I get to rest in one shard and notice the details of what it looks and feels like. What is being reflected back to me? I learn its uniqueness. And during the melodic phases it all spins together, the colors blending, creating a new beauty that is birthed from all the connections.

In my heart and body, this all plays out through a huge spectrum of emotions that I feel, that catch me, control me, tickle me and invite me to pay attention. Sometimes the pace at which I swing from one end of the feeling spectrum to the other is fascinating. I'll fly in open-ended freedom sparkling with possibility, promise and potential. Confidence glowing through me. Excitement adding pep to my step. Joy twinkling out the corner of my eye and life wrapping me in an inner smile.

And then suddenly that openness is abruptly punctuated with a barreling thud of doubt and anxiety. Mischievously those contracting emotions creep into my skin and bones, throbbing through my heart and thoughts in unexpected moments. They burrow into my eye brows, yank at my heart, tug me down, spin me into confusion, agitation, uhggg, huh?, and not quite right. A shot of insecurity is injected into my blood stream. Without knowing it, I begin to take myself, my life, my experiences oh-so SERIOUSLY!! (and fortunately, even when all of this is going on, there is a steady constant of content. Of trust. Of knowing that it's all just right.) And yet... I'm feeling the effects of taking myself so-very seriously!!

and then...
ack-a-lacka- splack
spiff, pooof, a wac wac

{shake, shake, shake, shake}

My love for life comes funneling back

The journey feels a bit like an amusement park. Riding the rides, roller coasters flying up and down, tumbling this way and that. Pure joy and passion is the ground where I stand and yet underneath there is an intermittent thrum of fear that surfaces, mumbling rhythms of 'you're not doing it right'... Continuously inviting me to slow down. Notice what's happening. Accept. Love what-is. Rest in stillness. And before I know it, I've moved onto the next ride!

I was on a walk one morning after a particularly emotionally/energetically active and aggressive day. I had this feeling that I was disintegrating. I could feel the spaciousness in my body and cells. An airiness. Pieces breaking apart and disappearing, a field of emptiness present within me... as me. A peaceful calm. I felt how clearly the only thing that mattered was the step that I was taking. And the next step. And the next breath. Exactly what I was supposed to do was to take in, really savor, each moment and the environment around me and inside of me.

I then had the realization that I had no typical identity handles to hold onto. I don't have the habits of being that generally help to shape my identity. In that moment I had no job or profession. No significant other. No home that was my own (I'm 'boarding' in another family's house). No active community that I was tightly woven into. None of those typical outwardly obvious things that one might generally define themself by. I had me. I had life. And this step. And the next, and the next.

This recognition helped me open deeper into a breath of rest. Here it is. I'm living in the unknown. There is little habit or familiarity hinting at what might come in the next moment for me. There aren't the usuals to predict or inform. And yet... there really still are. And here I am. Living what-is. Learning to love what-is in new ways. Continuously being reminded to be gentle with myself and to be patient.

That's a sliver of my inner world.


Many photos are from my Flavors of Life album
Swinging in the Sky by McMorr
Roller Coaster Thrill by Carlos Lorenzo
Path - Should I follow? by Azzazello

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posted by ashley

10.10.2009

Celebrating Life

My soul is glowing with recognition, opening wide in awe and wonder and resting in familiarity as I experience Autumn emerging in the mountains of Appalachia. The leaves are changing with their bright life bursting forth, one last powerful hurrah before they let loose, releasing into the heart of winter. It's such an honor to be here for this process. It invites in me to celebrate the exuberance of life and the beauty of change!

(ooh, the photos seem to lose their punchy color in these images. They are a bit better when you click on them... and if I played with them, they'd be even better... another time!)





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posted by ashley

9.28.2009

Writing, Writing She's Everywhere!!

Hello Easily Amazed Friends,

I've been doing a lot of writing lately in this intricate inter-net, inner-net world. Here's a run down of where you can find more pieces of me, in case you're interested!!

I've started an email newsletter. It is predominantly about social and emotional well-being for children, adults and groups. However, it's Ashley-style so hopefully a balanced mix of practical information and practices along with opportunities to sink into the concepts and creatively imagine what might be possible. The newsletter began last month. You can read the first issue here. And the second issue that went out today here. If you like what you read, sign yourself up so that future editions are delivered to your very own email inbox!

This is a new website where I have agreed to be a guest writer. Here are some inspiring words from it's founder, Yaffa Maritz, that will make it perfectly clear to you why I've agreed to participate.

"Imagine a world where people treat each other with compassion and differences are embraced. Curiosity, kindness, and creativity guide us and a fine balance is achieved between a healthy sense of individual self and thriving communities. This is not a utopia. Research already shows us that it can be achieved one kid at a time.

However, it requires what we are building here together; a thoughtful and intentional community of parents who will support each other through learning and growing and by engaging in mindful discussion, sharing relevant resources, and having discussions with professionals. Together it will create a momentum for a kinder and gentler presence in this precious world!"


I've been slowly updating my website, hopefully making it more expressive of both the heart and soul of who I am and the specific details of what I do. I probably should wait until I'm happy with all of the pages to point your eyes to it, but I'm not going to. Here it is! I've updated my bio. If you read it and have some feedback, please send it my way. Still to come is a more comprehensive explanation of Social Emotional Consulting. I also hope to update the Life Coaching and Family Coaching pages because with each client I work with, I learn more about the potency and potential that comes alive when we are in these kinds of relationships, working together to learn and grow. You can peek back at those in a couple of months!

Thomas is constantly playing with words and discovering all kinds of treasures that exist in words we look at all of the time. One of his favorites is repeating the word earth or heart over and over again. earthearthearthearthearthearth
Earth, heart, hearth, hear the art, ear all show up. I wanted a bumper sticker with this sentiment to put on my car as I journey through life. (I get that driving my car across country doesn't exactly support this sentiment) We created a sticker and you too can buy one if you'd like at our Cafe Press store. Perhaps you can adhere yours without leaving little bubbles as I did (as seen in the picture!).

I think that's it for new adventures. In case you weren't aware, I also have a couple of other blogs that I don't update nearly as frequently.

This one is completely geared towards relating with children, parents and educators.



This site is a compilation of different people sharing rituals they do to support healthy living. They've written about activities or behaviors they do regularly for the purpose of bringing value to their well-being. It only gets updated when someone shares a new ritual. Do you have one to add to the site? It could be anything.

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posted by ashley

9.19.2009

A Bright Welcome to This New Year


"Release painful patterns through embrace and not through struggle. We open our hearts to ourselves, each other and to the Universal Presence in which we are sustained. On the brink of this new year, we awaken to renewed choice. We seek the thoughts, images, feelings and actions that will more clearly reflect the Loving and Peaceful Heart always at the center of our being."
~ Bet Alef High Holy Day Prayer Book

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This marks the beginning of a new year and according to the Jewish calendar it is the year 5770. Rabbi Ted Falcon pointed out that this is a one-year (add the numbers up until you get to a single digit). A one-year symbolizes the beginning. We are at the beginning of a new cycle right now. What kind of a cycle do we want to create in our lives, in our communities, on this planet? What impact might we have if we actively take responsibility for how we grow into this New Year? Wouldn't it be amazing if as Rabbi Ted said, this could be the "big one year" in which we realize our oneness?

And so I ask myself: What thoughts, images, feelings and actions do I want to live this year? How will I more clearly reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of my being? How will I more clearly see and reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of your being? Of our collective being? What does it feel like for me to open my heart more fully to myself, others and the source that sustains me and us? This year, I will discover new ways to wake up, recognize and live the fullness of who I am, the depth of my yearnings, the bright vision and sense of possibility that I see.

"This is a year that needs you to be you."
~ Rabbi Ted Falcon

These are the questions I will be resting in today and for the next 9 days until Yom Kippur - meditating, listening, setting intentions, singing, dancing and dreaming what's possible into being. I will follow Rabbi Ted's instructions that it is my job right now to dream the biggest dreams and see visions as large as I can. I will do this for the sake of being an active servant to life, nourishing love, peace, healing, and wholeness in the world. This year the universe needs me to be me. Rabbi Ted invites us to ask ourselves,

"What am I being called to bring to this time?"


I think about Chris Corrigan's recent post about intention... Now is a time to cultivate action that is rooted in intention and to keep asking, "What is my life dedicated to?”


If any of these questions spark something in your heart, please listen and follow that spark!! And if you'd like to share what emerges, I'd love to hear.

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posted by ashley

9.15.2009

Playing in the Waves


My life feels very interesting right now!! Some personal story telling.

In the Fall of 2004, as I was finishing up graduate school, I was in communication with a non-profit that worked with teenagers in foster care. This program was located in North Carolina and they were expanding to include a camp for youth and families. Among other things, part of their aim was to provide these children a consistent place and community where they could return each season, reuniting in their village, held by the wilderness, joining with a community of peers and self-discovery mentors while uncovering even more of the wonders of their being and the gifts they behold. The hope was that they would receive support, find strength in their sense of self and feel like they belonged, providing ground for them as they prepared for the often abandoning process of aging out of the system. And most importantly, that they would know a genuine sense of home.

I was deeply engaged in the creative process of this new camp being born and had the great fortune of writing my own job description that was enthusiastically embraced. I was astonished by the blessings unfolding. About to receive a Masters of Education in counseling, here I was creating my dream job and being invited to live it. Wow! Amazing!

And... life is always filled with surprises! In November of 2004 I traveled to North Carolina to help facilitate staff training and to meet the team. And then in early December there was a sudden shift. Things had changed and this perfect unfolding of what was to be next in my life had another course in mind. I would not be working at the camp after all. Time to recalibrate.

So in January of 2005 instead of returning to North Carolina (where I had been living before attending graduate school in Texas), I set off on an adventure into the unknown. I stuffed my three new letters (M.Ed.) into my glove box and set out to experience the Pacific Northwest. I had many friends and colleagues between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada. At two other points in my history I had almost moved out to the northwest. It felt like now was the time to explore this region and see if it wanted to invite me to stay.

My plan was simple, give what I have to give whenever I can, wherever I am. Offer my skills and talents. Be open to what's possible. Notice what emerges. Follow my heart when I hear something calling. I gave myself 6 months to try out living in this way and to see if I wanted to live in that part of the country. I figured if I was genuinely giving whenever I could something in the form of a job would open up. What else could the universe want of me? And if no job or practical plan emerged, well then I would hit the classifieds and take the traditional route at the end of that 6 months. Travels and visits unfolded... and in May I was offered a phenomenal job at a school in Seattle with a beautiful mixture of creative freedom in program development, a variety of ways to use my skills and talents, the joy of working with children and adults, and being in a thriving community of learners. And so began the next chapter of my life... the chapter which wrapped up this June.

I'm reliving the a fore mentioned pattern of surfing in the unknown, giving what I have to give, dreaming, listening, noticing, learning and following "the spark of yes." This morning a big belly laugh of surprise caught me when I ran across the job description for the camp that I wrote in October of 2004. It actually splashed me in the face with an awe-inspiring, cosmic-laugh that barked: of course! The job description is posted below and the humor is in how clearly it expresses the path I am on right now, articulating the kind of work I would like to do more of wherever I end up landing next. You can compare it to the document that I wrote in June of this year (along with other information at my current website) talking about some of my current interests, passions and offerings. You might also notice that somehow in these last 4 years I got a lot more wordy! (grin)

I'll be leaving the Seattle area on September 29th coming full circle as I head to North Carolina. Please feel free to help me dream forward a lively future and stay tuned as I continue swimming in the unknown, riding the waves of excitement and anxiety while holding sacred my dedication to follow my heart, practice deep listening and keep on learning!

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posted by ashley

9.14.2009

Job Description

A job description that I wrote in October of 2004, outlining the role I would like to play in a newly developing organization. Still holds true for today.

Job Description

  • Attending to the mental, social, emotional, and spiritual health of the system. This involves supporting and nourishing the well-being of individuals, sub-systems (youth, staff, social workers, parents, etc.), and the system as a whole.
  • Advocate for staff and youth
    • Staff-- A link person that aims to be aware of needs, wishes, desires, stresses, strengths, support systems, etc. of staff members and attempts to keep communication open and flowing throughout the system. A facilitator of clear communication. Each member comes with their specialties and areas of interest to which they are committed and invested. My role is to be guided by the big picture while attending to relational needs of the system.
      • Dreaming Groups-- Facilitating staff groups which align individual’s health, gifts, visions, and dreams with the group and larger organization’s visions, intentions, mission, and purpose.
    • Youth involvement— visible presence when camp is in session. A known resource to the children as an unbiased, completely accepting person available for individual or group counseling or mediation on an as-needed basis.
  • Therapist Support— Work cooperatively with licensed therapist, ensuring that therapeutic components of philosophy and programs are complementary and sound throughout all aspects of the program. Available to provide therapeutic services as needed and desired by licensed therapist.
  • Philosophy and program planning – Using education and therapeutic knowledge to assist in philosophy and program planning. Providing support by recognizing areas in need of greater attention and detail and keeping the momentum forward-moving, activating.
  • Parenting groups – Time would be needed to research specific needs of foster and adoptive parents, incorporating them into the Filial Therapy structure and creating a new course. An ideal situation would be to be trained as a trainer for mandated parenting courses within the foster system and infuse his course with the therapeutic components of filial therapy.
  • Staff Training—involved in planning and facilitating staff training. Providing continual staff development based on the needs, concerns, and weaknesses of the staff.
  • Workshops and Retreats – Organizing workshops and retreats for parents, social workers, and staff.
What would you call this position?

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posted by ashley

7.08.2009

A Life of Many Streams...

Glaciers in the Alaska Range seen from an airplane flying near Denali

A life of many streams...

Pouring through,
igniting different flavors,
waking up my being to the spirit of my soul,
dazzling my senses
with wonders to behold
and desires I want to know!

Which sparks capture my attention? Can I get quiet enough to hear the inner wind whispers? How glorious the sun feels soaking its warmth unto my skin, held as I float, the water carrying me upon its flow, to where, I don't yet know...

A few details of my life:
  • I've just finished 4 amazing years as a school counselor for children in preschool through third grade and with the parents, teachers and staff of that learning community. It was an enriching, inspiring and highly creative time for diving into many of my passions and being a part of a vibrant and rich with potential community. My learning has been immense and much of which I am still to discover. The time to leave arrived somewhat unexpectedly in February, I turned in my notice, and in June walked the path of closure and transition.
  • The day after my last day at the school, I left for a 12 day excursion into Alaska with my family... part of the journey on land and the other part on a cruise ship. The profoundness of that part of the earth enchanted my soul awake to a grandeur that frequently took my breath away and stretched my roots deep into a source. And the heart-strings of love and family connections played their melodies in a variety of harmonious and dissonant tones that sew me deeper into the fabric of my being!
  • Upon return I moved out of the house I was living in, transferred my few remaining belongings into a storage unit, and embarked upon another floating adventure into this mystery of what is next. For three weeks I am blessed with an amazing haven as I house-sit on a gorgeous houseboat on the water of Portage Bay in the heart of the city of Seattle.

And right now... I ponder a life of many streams. In Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve I witnessed as the deep sea waters of the bay made contact with a new stream of "glacial flour."
As gravity pulls glaciers down out of their mountain birthplaces, the ice grinds away at the mountains, ripping off large chunks of rock and abrading smaller chunks down into rock powder, called "glacial flour." When [streams that contain glacial flour] meet the sea the glacial flour colors the seawater, an iridescent green [meets] a muddy brown or sometimes a gray or milky white. source
. . . . .

I feel like my life right now is that expansive iridescent sea with tributaries filling into my bowl. Some of these clear, freshwater streams invisibly blend into the whole. At times I recognize a cool new flow pulsing through my system and at other times this new life circulates through my being unbeknown to me. And then there are these streams bringing a new and different color and composition, carrying artifacts and remnants, invitations and offerings from other times and places, like glacial flour mixing with the salt water.

One question I hold is how do I write about this? How do I both stay in contact with the changing and present currents of my life, including the mystery, and also find ways to reflect and share, give voice, words and images to these experiences unfolding. Obviously this is my first attempt and hopefully there will be more to follow.

Rainbow, mountains and glacier from airplane

P.S. I'm really wanting to write about my experience of "cruising."

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posted by ashley

5.09.2009

This Little Seed of Mine, I'm Gonna Let it Shine

Tick tock, fingers locked.
What to write?
How to talk?

a rhythm, a voice, a harmonizing force
fluency, disruption and curiosity, of course!

Ever since some point in my young life, I’ve identified with trees. Mom, dad, do you know when that started? They are my teachers when I need wisdom, friends when I long to experience belonging, mirrors when in a search for validation and reflection, support to rest upon and give my weight, and elders willing to make contact with me, hold me close, and shelter me from the rest of the world. The trees, they help me let go, they allow me to release from the habits and contractions, the mind looping and obsessing, the wondering and searching. They hold me still and steady and provide space for me to open -- expanding, releasing into the essential beauty and oneness of this sacred moment, feeling connection with all of life, and grounding in the solid wonderment of me, of life. Thank you dear beings of wood, earth, soil, sun, water, rain, breath, fun.

A brief pause for an update on my life:
Change, change, everywhere

asking questions
listening to what’s here
recognizing aliveness
centeredness that’s clear…
and crumble, crumble, crashing it goes
breaking up perceptions
of clarity and form
scattering ideas and concepts
building a foundation for a future that’s near

following my heart
pause, pause, pause

listening for guidance
pause, pause, pause

thinking, scanning, action planning
pause
pause
pause

repeat

In March of 2002 this image peeked out of my subconscious and invited me home. While the drawing didn’t quite capture the beauty of the tree and the alive posturing of the young girl, I heard its song and my bodybeing felt the familiarity of that existence. At home and at peace I feel when tucked away in the base of a big solid tree. Protected. Free. Spirited. A pulsing life force emerging through grounded essence, connected to a web of existence, alive, as is, of service, here.

Right now there are many elements about what is next in my life that I don’t know. Where will I live? What will I do? As I listen and look for these answers, I continuously invite myself into deeper inquiry and discovery around the aspects of my being that I do know… or think I know!!

I am called to become rooted in purpose and place.

Which means… much inquiry (writing, drawing, visioning, thinking, dancing, talking, looping, dreaming) about what is the purpose I feel called to, what kind of place (what all is included in my idea of place) do I want to root and roost in?

And so this illustration by Terry Widener captured my attention with a bit of longing. Instead of actually rooting, could I just hang out in the roots? I know that I am being called from the place of hanging out inside the trees for respite and security, into the realm of being a tree… big, bold, beautifully being, breathing, bending in the breeze, beckoning others to believe. . . (believe in ourselves, believe in what's possible, be with what-is)

There are two guiding questions that arrived for me a couple of nights ago… that are steering my listening right now and igniting much energy and excitement:
  1. What invitations would I love to receive? What could someone or someones invite me into that would be so evocative and affirming that my being would readily leap and say YES!, recognizing a soul’s calling, a place to step, a direction that might root what’s next?
  2. If I am a seed right now, what is in my seed? (am I a seed to become a strawberry plant, oak tree, lilac blossom, dandelion?) What is in my seed?

seeding at Rialto beach last month

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posted by ashley

3.13.2009

Your Story Grows My Story


There are times when someone shares a story with me and it pops me open, spurting me out of the narrowness of my lived world and bursting me into an ah-ha that there are ways to experience the world that I’ve never imagined. I expect these experiences when I travel to new places or immerse myself into new cultural experiences. I love it when this happens and I’m not expecting it… which it did twice the other day. I'm so grateful to these beautiful souls who showed me something new and insightful.
One woman shared an experience of when she was in college and was in a class where part of their grade was based on class participation. She and another woman in the class were very shy and never chose to spontaneously participate. Every couple of weeks or so they would get together and intensely study the material for that class and plan for their ‘spontaneous class participation.’ She said it was always surprising to the professor that the two quiet women in this relatively small class would have something to add on the same day!

Another woman told me about her experience of being in a room filled with people that were passionately involved and invested in the work they were doing in the world. She had never experienced being surrounded by so many people that were passionate about their work. It was an eye-opening and seemingly body igniting experience for her.
There are so many different ways to live in and engage with the world. There are so many different types of people with whom to surround ourselves. In every moment we’re making a choice about how to engage, how to contribute, how to receive, what to offer, what to follow, what to be… so many choices and so many beautiful kaleidoscopic combinations of ways to live.

It humbles me to hear experiences like these, to have other people’s stories shake me awake to realities I didn’t know existed. It makes me stop and take a moment to reflect upon who I am, feel grateful for some of my ways of being and opportunities I’ve had, and recognize areas where I can grow.

I have largely taken granted my ability to jump in, ask a question and engage something or someone that interests me. This is a way of being that has come naturally to me… but doesn’t come naturally to everyone. In my narrow world, I hadn’t thought about the idea of actively planning ahead to participate in a conversation. It makes total sense and I feel such respect for this woman who recognized what she needed and wanted to do and took actions to help herself get there. In our conversation she taught me a lot about planned spontaneity and has opened my world to that pathway for growing spontaneity.

The woman in a large hall surrounded by people passionately living their calling told me, “I’ve been surrounding myself with the wrong people!” I took a moment and imagined myself in a world where people around me were going through the motions, doing what they do because it’s what they do. I felt the sparky pulse of passion and purpose ooze out of the living beings, that reflection and light around me growing dimmer. And, as you might imagine, a gushing wave of gratitude swept in and swallowed me. I was gifted the opportunity, from a new perspective, to stop and really feel my deep gratitude for all the people that I know who live their life’s passion and choose to share that with the people around them. If you’re blessed enough to be one of those people, thank you for letting others know how deeply you care about, believe in and are willing to take action to do what your body, mind, heart and soul asks of you. And if you’re one of the many people who continue to listen to yourself, trying to discover what that sparky pulse of passion and purpose is for you, please don’t give up… it’s in you and you’ll find it. And whoever you are, please share your stories with others.

I am immensely grateful to people like these two women who share little snippets of their life story with me… and thus help me live more consciously my own life story.


photo by //amy//

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posted by ashley

1.15.2009


I'd like to introduce you to my girl! Hold steady because she is checkin you out! With a keen eye noticing what-is and receptive antennas directly connected to divine frequencies and hidden delights, she's listening deeply, watching closely and loving fully. Alive, awake and ready to play, her superstar vision is activated and hot, following inspiration and passion, bringing magic into being! And, of course, you can't resist her beauty, an open-hearted invitation inviting you to release into what's possible and live life fully... so jump in, let's go!

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posted by ashley

1.09.2009

Illustrating this next chapter



collages on my current multi-purpose notebook

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posted by ashley

12.22.2008

Beautiful and Vibrant


I am beautiful and vibrant
I wonder how to live my beauty simply
I hear god speaking
I see the earth teaching
I want to feel the sand between my toes
I am beautiful and vibrant

I pretend to not feel as deeply as I do
I feel pathways of navigation
I touch into source intelligence
I worry I'm making it all up
I cry for hearts not loved
I am beautiful and vibrant

I understand life is a gift
I say take a pause and experience this moment
I dream of other ways
I try to give, offer, invite and share
I hope to live in community where we all share our gifts
I am beautiful and vibrant


photo by mswebersd

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posted by ashley

12.21.2008

Solstice to Inauguration

I'm participating in a Woven Essence ritual. Honoring the potency that this time seems to hold, I am committed to doing a specific ritual every day between Winter Solstice (today) and the United State's Presidential Inauguration (January 20).

Right now I'm up in the North Carolina mountains. Shifting from the freezing cold and brilliant white snow of Seattle, last night I was cradled in the misty bright cloud-haze of Lake Toxaway. Today's shortest day of the year shines glowing sunrays upon my eyes. Slightly bundled up and deeply embraced by creativity, life's force, family and this heart's land, I open space for what me, this time, and life have to share with each other.

At the core of this learning journey, I am dedicated to listening to, embracing and sharing wisdom. In order to do this, I invite myself to release more fully into who I am... to become more intimate with my inner world, listening to the wisdom that emerges from that deep place within. I also invite my inner world to come into deeper alignment with the outer world. May I discover ways of loving, knowing and acting from wisdom, listening, seeing, feeling, receiving, tasting, smelling, experiencing, expressing and embodying.

One practice that I am doing every day is to write at least two poems. One "I am" poem and one "We are" poem. The first poems this morning were a free-flowing expression. There is so much I don't know and have to discover about who is this "I" that I am. And I don't know who I'm referring to when I write about "we"... I look forward to seeing what growth, learning and transformation emerge from this practice.

I will share poems as I feel called and any new practices that emerge as well. Should you want to join me in this poetry practice, I have found a couple of websites that offer a variety of different forms for writing "I Am" poems: a template and 8 different types. And if you are doing your own Solstice to Inauguration ritual, please come join us at the Facebook event or leave a comment!

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posted by ashley

10.24.2008

I Love Autumn


I love North Carolina this time of year.

And, in general, I love autumn.

Thanks, Zevotron, for the photo.

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posted by ashley

9.11.2008

Celebrating Mr. Clean, Celebrating Life's Force


In case you've been following the story of my dad's health, here's the exciting update. He was photographed on Tuesday (cat scan). Technology peered into his body to articulate the progress of his recovery. The image that came back invites deep celebration as he is clean with no signs of cancer in the picture!! Yippee!!! Sweeth breaths of relief!!! For more details, hop on The P Train. For my own learnings and reflections, keep reading!

Leading up to yesterday, I felt the intense anticipation, fear and anxiety so many people were holding about yesterday's doctor's appointment... How much significance it had... The messenger delivering the verdict of my dad's state of health... A defining moment when a specialist would read the results and share his prediction of the state of a man's life. Each time I would feel into this scenario, I was struck with confusion. That just doesn't make sense to me. Regardless of some person's expertise, how can another human being have so much power and control to define how alive a person experiences themselves to be? How did we as humans get to a place where we allow other people to discern for us the quality of our life, the amount of hope that we should or shouldn't have based on the data?

I have no idea what it's like to be in such an incredibly vulnerable place where there is some unknown aggressor attacking my body and I am forced to join a fight that I wasn't even aware was going on inside my very own skin. I can't begin to imagine what it's like to be a person who is told that I have cancer or some other life-threatening idea*. Should a day like that ever visit my life, I don't know how I'll respond.

Yesterday, however, being in this process with my dad, my family, people I love deeply and my own reactions, I learned some important lessons. I felt my dad's life force. I felt the strength and power of the human life force. The current of creation, vibrancy, beauty, yes!, generative movement forward, LIFE. As I try to articulate that now, I feel the pulsing vibrancy in my own being. Wow, that's magical... that we each have that, we each have access to something so sacred, so powerful, so uniquely our own and so universal to each of us.

I called my dad yesterday and extended an invitation to him that was something like this:
I invite you to take a moment before you get to the doctor's office to connect with your life force. There is a force inside of you that is so alive. I can hear it in your voice. I can feel it in your writing. I imagine I'd see it in your eyes if I were there with you. You have a life force that is vibrant inside of you and will be there when you walk into the doctor's office and will be there when you leave. I invite you to connect with that and stay connected with that, including whatever it is that the doctor shares with you. And no matter what anyone tells you, you are the only one that really knows what that life force feels like, how strong it is, how alive it is, how vibrantly it is moving through your body. No one can tell you about that... only you can connect with and know its presence and strength.
I thank the universe for the arrival of that message through me. For me, it is powerful and inspires me greatly. An invitation that I hope to really integrate into my own being and believing, further allowing me to share that vibrant radiance with myself, others and the world. What a gift that we each have!!

And then, after the doctor's appointment, when my dad shared the news with me.... sweet tears of relief, bubbling with excitement. His life force gets to shine on with the medical world's blessing of a clean cat scan. THANK YOU!!!


*As I was proofreading, I was shocked to read the word idea there as I didn't consciously use it. I meant to use some thing like a life-threatening disease or condition. But I'm struck. Are these life-threatening diagnosis ideas? There is concrete fact and data that there is something going on inside the body... but the notion that it is life-threatening... is that an idea? Our life is always threatened just by the nature of being alive... hmmmm....

photo source

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posted by ashley

8.14.2008

Self-Acceptance

A strong part of my journey lately (always?) has to do with self-acceptance. I relate to what Dan Oestreich writes:
There is so much hubbub around us about self-help and improvement that the key precondition of personal change — self-acceptance — often gets completely lost.

With all the books and tapes and learning groups out there, it is very easy to fall into the pit of constantly attending to the gap between the ideal and the real — what I should be rather than what I am.

I can easily “over-focus” on my own ideals, losing sight of the fact that human change is mostly not a linear journey, but an organic one that paradoxically begins with awareness and acceptance of the parts that are not changing.

With acceptance comes grace, comes healing, comes change into our lives, and they come from someplace beyond ourselves and yet in a way that is completely intrinsic to who we are.

“The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am,
then I can change.”

–Carl Rogers
I came up with a new practice recently to help curb this tendency of mine. When I notice that I'm being particularly hard on myself or focusing strongly on the what-I-should-be rather than the who-I-am, I make myself stop every hour and write down one thing that I've done well in the last hour. Sometimes it's easy and other times it's hard to find something that I feel proud of, something that I recognize as being good enough... or especially great! The things I've written down vary in scale from making a healthy lunch, stopping to breath or notice a bird, or doing something kind for another person.... or even doing something kind for myself!

I love to grow... and sometimes I over-focus on all of the parts of me that provide me with opportunities to grow! This practice helps me notice what I'm doing well just as often as I notice where I could improve. At times I recognize that the hour is approaching and think, "Oh, quick... I've got to do something that I value!" And then I get to celebrate what I've done!

Here are a couple of other posts on change from Paul Cooper and Chris Corrigan that have caught my attention recently.

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posted by ashley

7.07.2008

Rituals for Healthy Living

Over the last couple of years, off and on, I have been experimenting with healthy living rituals. I tend to be a pretty spontaneous person, following what is most alive for me in a moment. I try to listen to what I need (my mind, my heart, my body, my soul, my relationships, the whole) and take action from what I hear. However, I recognize that I lack discipline in my life and that often I favor what my heart wants over what my body needs. Imbalance has a way of creeping into my sense of order, causing a lack of order. If I listen carefully I notice the sounds of disharmony inviting me to pay attention to some aspect of my being. I belive that rituals, activities that I do regularly and purposefully with the intention of adding value to my well-being, can help support me in maintaining balance... and so I experiment!

Some of my experiments have included meditation, dancing, toning, singing, yoga, journaling, walking, prayers, breathing practices, and practices to help me tune deeper into experiencing the moment. In this mode of exploration and inquiry, I realized one June day that I have an incredible network of people and I bet some of them do rituals to help keep their life in balance. I decided to inquire and find out. So far 40 different people have shared with me the activities they do to help nourish their life. What a gift! I couldn't keep these treasures to myself so I have started a new webl where I will be posting all of the rituals I recieve. Come have a peek...

Rituals for Healthy Living is the new site and it'd be great if you came and joined the inquiry that we're in over there! And if you have rituals of your own to share, please do.

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posted by ashley

5.31.2008

Fear, Nourishment and Beauty


Last week my heart was nourished as I spent 5 days in Atlanta with family and friends. A place of intimate relationship and comfort with a dear friend of mine was restored. I am beyond words with gratitude. I am touched with love’s grace.

Fear
I also went to the oncologist with my dad and his wife to learn about his chemotherapy treatments that begin on June 5. It's time for me to make friends with cancer. I figure it’s here so we might as well get to know each other.

For me, being directly connected to cancer generates a lot of fear while also illuminating much beauty. I’m witnessing and am an integral part of this story where a cancer diagnosis of someone I love initiates transformation and growth to many in his circle… touching hearts wide open and inviting expressions of life and love to travel closer to the surface. For this I feel thankful. At the same time, I feel guilty for feeling thankful. (My judgment towards myself can be quite harsh.)

And still, there is the big fear of Cancer.

Being back in Seattle, I noticed last night that it feels good to step away from that fear for a bit. I also feel guilty that I am able to take a break.

Cancer is scary. Cancer is powerful. Cancer is unpredictable. Cancer is unknown.

What am I afraid of?

I’m afraid that my dad will fall into the sickness… that he’ll be taken over by being sick and fall away from being alive.

I’m afraid that I won’t have my dad in my life for a long time to come… that I won’t always be able to depend on him to answer my questions, to gather family together, to dazzle people with his charm, to be my little girl’s daddy. That’s a big one. The little girl inside of me won’t always have her daddy around.

I’m afraid of seeing him suffering… of being held hostage to the helpless feeling that there is nothing I can do to relieve his suffering… that he is in pain… that is the reality… and I must just accept and be with him in the pain. I’m afraid that I will be overwhelmed with my own pain… that I will be flooded.

Nourishment
My friend was recently at a workshop for compassion fatigue and she reminded me again of how we can’t take away another person’s pain. No matter how much we would like to, we can’t change what is for them.

Yet we can support them by making the space around them as nurturing as possible. We can be aware of where we focus our own attention and how we tend to their physical space, psychological space, relationships, etc.

I think about creating sacred healing space around someone who is ill (physically, emotionally, spiritually). To me sacred healing space does not mean that it’s somber and serious with New Age music playing and people in deep meditation. Sacred healing space varies for each person. What is sacred to you, what is healing for you? For my dad, I believe that having music playing is healing… it creates a sacred space. Sometimes that music is southern rock, sometimes folk, sometimes world, but music seems to churn his soul to a place of familiarity when it might otherwise be spinning in a realm of fear or anxiety about the unknown.

Sacred healing space has some element of comfort and familiarity. I believe it’s not just comfort for the obvious person in need of healing, but comfort for the whole. Who are the stable figures in the scene and what elements in the environment are a source of comfort for them? For me a prime space of comfort is in the psychological realm. I feel a nourishing deep breath of peace when I have some knowing of what is going on inside of others… when they communicate how they are experiencing our shared moment. This is healing to me, it invites me to surrender to this moment more fully, it expands my perspective to embrace not just my sense of the whole but also a validated knowing of how others are experiencing the whole. What makes an environment feel comfortable for you?

Beauty
If I could make a wish for my dad right now… it would be that his heart would keep opening and surrendering to life’s beauty and this moment’s preciousness. For me beauty is not an idea, it’s not even a perspective (“I find this beautiful, you find that beautiful”). For me, beauty is a profound and embodied resonance of YES!, WOW!, AHHHHH… Life’s Beauty is a sense of completion, perfection, harmony. I feel something is beautiful when my soul knows it. When I relate with something and as a result feel more alive, I know it is beautiful (or our relationship is beautiful).

Beauty is everywhere, everything is of the essence of life and existence. Regardless of how nasty and gnarly or evil and deceitful it is, it is of the fundamental patterns and origins of life. There is always a way to look into something and see the wholeness of what is currently in a not-so-whole state. To see the beauty in the pattern of a pile of shit… or the beauty of an innocent child and the brilliance of human defenses that have given way to a hateful adult. This is my optimist speaking, this perspective is the force behind my shaman. If I slow down and settle into the moment, life is cloaked in beauty and alignment with beauty and grace is effortless.

And so, of course, how can I have this wish for an opening, surrendering heart for my dad without it being a wish for me? At the core of my purpose, it is also a wish for you and all those that walk this earth now and in generations to come. How can we cultivate a sacred healing space for ourselves so that, in turn, we may help shape sacred healing spaces for others?

These are a few of the many questions and conversations keeping me company these days!

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posted by ashley

5.01.2008

Returning Home

I'm back in Seattle now after a little over 2 weeks in Atlanta with family and fate. I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops. Drink coffee, eat a bagel, watch the people around, smell the smells, hear the many sounds, feel the quiet/loud, stillness/activity. It's sunny outside. I see the light shining through new spring leaves. That makes me smile!

There are so many thoughts, feelings and sensations moving through me. Is it that I don't know where to start or am I afraid to dip into the well, what might I pull out?

My heart has been deeply touched and changed through life experiences of recent days. I went home to be with my dad and family as my dad had major surgery. I was there before hand, during the 4 hour surgery, at the hospital for the 8 days of healing, at home a couple of days, and back to the hospital just before I left town yesterday. Our family has grown closer and supported each other phenomenally through the stresses of surgery and the surprise of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Our spirits stay high, the laughter continues to rumble and some of our outer shells slowly soften. We cry also!

One thing I've been fascinated by is how disordering it can feel when one is unable to play the accustomed (habitual) roles in a social system. For me it was in my family. For a few of us, we noticed that there are roles that we generally play, that are expected of us. In times of stress and intensity, sometimes it wasn't appropriate for us to play those roles. And then we felt a loss of identity. If I'm not the helper. If I don't know how to be supportive and how to express my love in valuable ways. If my presence isn't a comfort. Then who am i? What is my purpose?

And now I return to 'my life.' What is my role here? I've been immersed moment to moment in the life of my dad and how each of us around him, who love him so dearly, are responding to the intensities of change, fear and discomfort... to the heart-touchings of life's fragile importance, of love's expansive blessings, and of the gentle gifts of grace that emerge from vulnerability and closeness.

Now I'm in a coffee shop with other people on their computers, the espresso machine clicking, the guy walking by and smiling, a child trying to figure out how he pays for and receives his drink all by himself, the humm in my head of what I need to do today to return to this world... Life just keeps going. My body's here now. My mind and much of my family are still there. And I'm confused. Peaceful... and confused.

It's hard for me to stay centered in this moment. I drift away... drifting backwards through the stream of experiences that happened in the hospital, at the house, in the car, in the woods, on the phone, by myself, with my loved ones, in the silence. Those were some of my favorite experiences... the pauses between the moments... especially with my dad. Being with him, sweetly and genuinely, in silence. Just there. Together. No boundaries between us.

My mind also drifts to the future. What lies ahead for him? What will he experience? What will we experience? How do I proceed? How can I be so far away? And gently, I remind myself to breathe. I feel my lungs rise and fall. I try to focus on some part of my body. I notice what's going on around me. And then, settling into here... I feel confused... and wonder, how do I proceed?
The Way You Live Today by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

Your entire destiny is contained in and determined by the way you live today: the orientation you give to your thoughts and feelings, and the activities on which you choose to spend your energies.(…)

This is something that has to be done every day: be conscious and aware at each instant of how you are using your energies...You can do it while you are walking to work, on the bus, at the dentist’s, or in your own kitchen. Wherever you are, at any moment of the day, you can always glance into yourself and ask yourself: {What is alive right now? Is it helpful to focus my attention here?}*

Let the word ‘harmony’ soak into you at every moment; keep it within you as a kind of tuning fork: if you feel that you are beginning to worry or get upset, pick it up and listen to it, and do nothing until you have tuned your whole being once more. Harmony is the foundation of every successful venture, every divine realization. Before undertaking any activity, whatever it may be, learn to concentrate on harmony and your work will bear fruit for the rest of eternity.

*My own questions, not from the author
I stare at that tree with the light shining through the green, green leaves. I soak in that harmony. There is harmony all around me in the outer world. I invite this harmony to soak into me at every moment. I will carry it around with me in the form of a smooth polished stone, inviting me to be present, surrender and listen to this moment. To trust in this moment. And to tune my whole being, once more, to harmony. I get to learn who I am now... and what does harmony in my life now feel like.

Green Leaves by Cathryn Cooper

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posted by ashley

4.10.2008

A Learning Journey

The journey continues. For me, that's one of the beauties of being alive... the journey always continues! My dad got the best possible news yesterday (huge sigh of relief). So I step out of one type of unknowing, a complete unknowing that has a verdict to be delivered... and continue walking along a path that is adorned with an infinite array of other unknowings (a bit more seductive of a path). That would be life, of course!

If you're curious about the details of my dad, hop on The P Train. He's been sharing about this adventure in heart-full, honest and humorous ways. And what a community of love and support he's got around him/us.

On a different journey note, Chris Corrigan talks about the treasures of asking questions and being curious about the answers. He has invited others to join him in a 30 day learning journey. Chris shares how it works:
"I run these little research projects. I get curious about things and start noticing them in my life and work and I usually use a combination of this blog and a moleskine journal to record my results. It keeps me moving forward.

So, I’d like to invite you to try this approach out and see if there is something that gathers your attention and piques your curiosity enough that you’d be willing to engage in a a somewhat public 30 day research project.

Choose a question and engage in a research project as well. See what we can learn."
My questions: What helps me to stay centered, connected and breathing... especially in challenging times? How does it feel when I show up as Ashley, being just enough as I am, accepting and surrendering to that? How does it effect the environments I'm in?

Nature helps me tremendously. Returning my attention to the natural world, listening with, learning from and connecting to nature's patterns and rhythms grounds in me, brings a visceral and emotional feeling to me of what it feels like to feel connected and centered.

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posted by ashley

4.07.2008

Ever-changing States of Being

Life is a wild trip. A little over a week ago I was very busy, holding many different threads. I was working on many projects, bringing delicious things into being, maintaining my usual jobs and trying my best to stay balanced and keep up with it all. I was on the edge, close to being totally overwhelmed by all my involvements, but I hadn't tipped. I felt delicately balanced. For the most part, I was feeling content with how I was showing up.

Then I got some big news. My dad updated me about what-is in his life right now, a major health scare. His big news brought forth a whole lot of new information -- a full spectrum of emotions and thoughts, a stream of possibilities for what could-be in the short term and long term for me and people I love. My experience of being alive shifted.

One thing that I notice now is that my relationship with attention has changed over the last week. I need to focus on different things and in different ways. I don't have the energy or the interest to pay attention in the same ways and to the same things as I did last week. I find this fascinating. I've given over a lot of responsibility to others. I think this has been an important thing to do. I also feel guilty that I'm walking away from my commitments. And I know this is necessary (can you hear my uncertainty, mixed with certainty!!).

It is clear to me that I must slow down. Center. Breathe. It is essential that I connect with greater stillness and silence... living more intimately with what is happening right now. Sometimes it is hard for me to be in this way, to simply be. My mind races. Go, go, go. Do, do, do. I feel confused. What am I supposed to do? How am I supposed to be feeling? Slow down. Breathe. Center. Connect with the essence of this moment. Listen carefully to what is present now.

Planning for the future is very challenging at the moment. Holding together details for how to make things happen requires a lot of effort. I don't have nearly as much energy to give to others or patience for the little details. The fire of my passion and curiosity continues to rage.

Beauty, stillness, connection and curiosity are medicines right now. I am grateful that timing has been on my side and in a time of waiting-to-see-what's next, I've been on spring break from my job at the school and in a most sacred place to find stillness and reconnection. In general, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. May we all find peace along this journey.

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posted by ashley

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