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

12.21.2009

Solstice Lessons on Life and Death

Walking along the beach, I'm drawn into the bramble of a small grove.
Explorer's eyes wide-open. Shells and sea creatures washed ashore catching my attention. A scanning gaze joltingly stops at a large dead bird. A pelican's body, twisted and strewn out. Recently deceased as is evident from the perfections of life still intact.

I'm drawn in by its beauty. The elegant lines of its head, its feathers, fur, colors, shape. And yet... I'm scared to approach it. I circle the perimeter, maintaining a wide distance.

Why? Why must I stand so far away? Why am I afraid to approach this dead bird?

I stand with reverence. A moment of prayer. May you pass peacefully along on your journey.

The beauty beckons me forward. I've never been able to be so close to an animal such as this one. To gaze at its lines and shapes, to drink in the size of its life and presence. And yet I'm resistant. With fear. Why this fear?

I realize that I am afraid that it might not be totally dead yet. If I get close, I may see it move, last grasps at life. Its shape hints at an unexpected death. I project suffering. I recoil from fear of that suffering. If I get close, I might personally feel it. It will make me suffer too. And perhaps even the irrational fear that death will jump up and take me too.

I don't want to see it suffering because I don't want to suffer.
I don't want to die.
I don't want to feel that pain.
So I stay away. I stand back. I create distance.
Somewhere inside me I have been programed that I am doing this for my own protection.

I disagree. Not right now. This moment of beauty and death is calling to me.

I breathe with the realization that in this moment I am afraid to get close and genuinely feel what-is if there is a chance that I will feel suffering.

I must walk in. Walk closer. Push beyond this internally polarized force, repelling and invoking.

I flash to bigger picture, parallel patterns. In order to invite growth, change and transformation I believe that we have to start by accepting what-is, and then discovering what we can love about what-is. Often situations that are in need of transformation and change have a coating of suffering that surrounds the core. To face what-is means to be with that pain and suffering, to feel through that contraction and seemingly awfulness... for only in that acceptance is there room to travel beyond into the opening and fruits of possibility.

And so on this solstice day I dance with the balance of beauty and death, suffering and possibility, my own personal fears and universal patterns. May the light grow increasingly more abundant and may I discover new acceptance in the caverns of the darkness.

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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

9.15.2009

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

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

1.25.2009

Together We Can Make a Difference: Opening Space with Children



I feel blessed and thankful to live a life that includes so many opportunities to be inspired. On January 20th, 2009 after President Obama’s Inauguration Ceremony I had the opportunity to spend my day hosting 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders in Open Space.

The idea was birthed in a planning committee with 3 third grade students. They decided the questions that would guide the our time together:


and

What is something that you think is important
in our school or in our world that you would like to discuss?

The planning committee opened the space with a poem and a story.
The opening poem by Mila Kopp:


And another student told a story:
Once you get older it’s harder for people to change your mind so you’re not as much of a help to the community when they’re trying to think of something to do or when something’s wrong and they need help and are deciding what to do. For instance, with my grandfather, it’s really hard for people to change his mind because he just thinks one thing is right and if something else is right and someone tells him, because he’s older, it’s a lot harder to change his mind and it might not even happen.
You can read more about the topics they discussed, their notes, and their closing remarks at Educating For Wholeness.

Here are a few of my favorite comments:
  • STOP Globle Warming (happy voice) in ten years (Deep Voice)
  • make a complante to the president
  • Invent vical that runs on trash or sun, rain
  • Nicely tell others to be nice
  • Help stop war by traiding reciorses
  • If you are shy talk
  • If you are a chatterbox let others have a chance to speak
  • I agree with (another student) that you don’t need that many people, you only need like 5, you don’t need like 15 or 20 or 50. You don’t need huge numbers like that.
  • I learned that when everyone pitches in just a little bit, it can make a giant difference.
  • I discovered how pollution can make the air dirty and hurt people and animals
  • I discovered a lot of people have ideas too.
  • I discovered that once you think about it, there is a lot more waste
  • I learned it can actually be pretty fun to work with other people
  • Teacher: I learned that you all can have important conversations by yourselves and that you don’t need the adults there. I also learned that you can self-organize what you want to talk about.
  • I discovered there is a lot of things to change and like President Obama, we should start.

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posted by ashley

1.01.2009

The Possibility of Transparency, Authenticity, Inspiration

A comment I left at Change.gov this morning... and now I'll share it with you:

Last night, December 31st, 2008, I was out walking the dog with my friend. The new year turning point was approaching. My friend said to me, wouldn't it be wonderful if Obama released a short, inspiring expression encouraging people about what is possible in this new year. We dreamed together for a bit about how inspiring it would be for Obama to evoke such optimism and potential at this transition time that is celebrated by so many Americans.

I replied, "Maybe he could say, "I know there are many things that you would like to hear me talk about right now (Gaza being one on my mind), and yet at this moment I would like to invite... (and then inspire us with words for 2009)."

My friend and I then marveled at what a new reality it is that we genuinely believe it is possible that our president would publicly say something that is transparent, authentic and inspiring. How different it is to be excited that my president might speak and to believe that he has the power to influence and inspire people's attitudes towards creating a more just and sustaining world that works for all.

There is a long way to go and I believe it will require great effort on the parts of many to actualize the change we believe in... and I am so incredibly encouraged by the amount of potential and possibility that is ready to be activated by the inauguration of our new president... and the social responsibility that us citizens can begin actualizing under his leadership.


photo by GNIKRJ

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posted by ashley

12.02.2008

A Long List of Links

Here's a peek at my internet life over the last few weeks. These are all the tabs open in my browser right now. Some are pages I want to go back to, others I have yet to explore, some are open as references for current projects I am engaged in, and a few I just wanted to share with you! Enjoy and please do tell me if something catches your attention.

Happiness, Well-being, Inspiration
  • 10 Things Science Says will Make You Happy:
    #1 Savor Everyday Moments
    - Pause now and then to smell a rose or watch children at play. Study participants who took time to “savor” ordinary events that they normally hurried through, or to think back on pleasant moments from their day, “showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression,” says psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky.
  • Happiness Can Spread Among People Like a Contagion, Study Indicates:
    The study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. The power of happiness, moreover, can span another degree of separation, elevating the mood of that person's husband, wife, brother, sister, friend or next-door neighbor.

    Experts praised the study as a landmark in the growing body of evidence documenting the influence of personal connections and the importance of positive emotions.... The implications are you can't look at individuals as little entities devoid of their social context."

    "For a long time, we measured the health of a country by looking at its gross domestic product," said Fowler, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego who co-authored the study. "But our work shows that whether a friend's friend is happy has more influence than a $5,000 raise. So at a time when we're facing such economic difficulties, the message could be, 'Hang in there. You still have your friends and family, and these are the people to rely on to be happy.' "

    "Laughter and singing and smiling tune the group emotionally," Seligman said. "They get them on the same wavelength so they can work together more effectively as group."



  • Benefits of Busy Parents Practicing Self-Care:
    What is involved in self-care? It is useful to look at four dimensions of people's lives in thinking about our range of needs, as well as some activities or techniques that may be readily available for replenishing ourselves. The group was asked to think about people's intellectual, spiritual, emotional/social, and physical needs and to generate ways people might care for themselves with respect to those needs.

    The intellectual dimension is defined as the need to expand one's mind. Spirituality includes uplifting or inspirational aspects of one's life including those that relate to the core value system. The emotional/social aspect involves learning about oneself, especially through relating to others. The physical dimension is concerned with taking care of one's body. According to Ms. Reeves, it is essential to renew ourselves in these four realms, and each person is responsible for self-renewal.
  • Would You Guys Just Knock It Off? 10 Steps to Peace in Your Household from the magazine Half Full: Science for Raising Happy Kids:
    Positive conflict resolution is pretty simple, but unless you are a lot smarter than me (entirely possible) you might need to reference this list a few times to get the hang of it.

    Each time we take kids through those 10 steps, they learn that they can solve problems in ways that make them feel competent and effective. They’ve increased their ability to cooperate, to empathize, and to build strong relationships. So conflict really is a good thing. And so are fights between friends. Why? Conflict provides the fuel for growth we all need to become healthy, happy, and resilient adults.

  • Imogen Heap kept a video blog, i-Blog, while working on her most recent album. I'm slowly making my way through her videos. I've fallen in love with her (I was a fan of her music... but now it's grown to her person!). Her creativity and bubbling enthusiasm are highly contagious and inspirational for me!
  • 10-Minute Practices to Reconnect with Spirit.
    Roger Walsh, the author of Essential Spirituality, was a guest teacher at Integral Institute's Integral Leadership seminars, where he presented the seven essential practices of the world's great Wisdom Traditions. Here is a selection of the experiential exercises led by Roger at those seminars. Each clip is 10-15 minutes long, and is a quick and easy way to recontact the sacred dimensions of this and every moment. Just sit back, relax, and let the next eight minutes be devoted to your higher Self....Experiential exercises led by Roger Walsh
  • Danah Boyd shares a tip for how to deal with your email inbox while on vacation Warning: Email Sabbatical is Imminent:

    No email will be received by danah's ornery INBOX between December 11 and January 19!

    For those who are unaware of my approach to vacation... I believe that email eradicates any benefits gained from taking a vacation by collecting mold and spitting it back out at you the moment you return. As such, I've trained my beloved INBOX to reject all email during vacation. I give it a little help in the form of a .procmail file that sends everything directly to /dev/null. The effect is very simple. You cannot put anything in my queue while I'm away (however lovingly you intend it) and I come home to a clean INBOX. Don't worry... if you forget, you'll get a nice note from my INBOX telling you to shove off, respect danah's deeply needed vacation time, and try again after January 19.
Youth and Education Related

  • Mighty Writers 2008-2009. Students blog their thoughts about why their school, Arbor Heights, should be kept open (and not closed as has been proposed by Seattle Schools).
  • The Guiding Lights Weekend: A playful, experiential conference on the art of mentoring where you will learn concrete ways to motivate, mentor and inspire. The Guiding Lights Weekend is a place to reflect, clarify values, try new things and imagine possibilities. You might just find (or become) the mentor you've been waiting for. Join me January 30th and 31st.

    Experiential workshops. Participatory panels. Talking Circles. Big-Idea Presentations. Community conversations. Awards. Performances. A few surprises and a lot of fun!
Social Change, Taking Action, Leadership
  • The Girl Effect:The powerful social and economic change brought about when girls have the opportunity to participate in their society.
  • Playing for Change: Playing for Change is a multi-media movement created to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music.
  • Best Buy @15 Challenge: 15 teams will wil $10,000 to change their communities. Every week, a voter between the ages of 13 and 20 has the chance to win $500 for a school or organization of their choice and an IPod shuffle for themself!

    I learned about this from the team Richards Rwanda: helping girls in Rwanda get an education. Richards Rwanda was created by Jessica Markowitz when she was in the 6th grade, shes now in eight grade. My family hosted a man named Richard who told me about the genocide hat occurred in 1994. Many children lost their parents and could no longer afford school. Richards Rwanda is an all girl group supporting girls in Rwanda to go to school. We hope to build a school or learning center for the girls we are supporting and the next generations.
  • Charter for Compassion: By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you'd like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.
  • Is compassion catching on? Tracing the impact of a historic event: An article in ParentMap Magazine and a little self promotion! “I think it’s a slow process,” says Roots instructor Ashley Cooper. “We have to touch people’s willingness to put compassion into action. In my school community, people are talking more spontaneously about empathy and compassion. To me, that’s a great outcome.

    “But I think it’s really important that we move beyond the Dalai Lama. It was fabulous that he was here, but I really feel like it’s up to us as ‘normal people.’ What are we going to do to make something different happen?

    “I feel hopeful, and I feel like Seattle has that capacity,” Cooper says. “It’s a matter of: How much do people want to do these things that are important — and what are we each willing to do to start making a difference?”
  • Let's Say Thanks In Support of Our Troops: This website gives you an opportunity to send a free printed postcard to U.S. military personnel stationed overseas showing your support and appreciation for their service to our country.
  • Light Up the Night for Equality: On December 20th, we ask that you join us again for a nation-wide demonstration that will make an impact on the private sector. Candlelight vigils will be held at commercial centers in cities across the country in remembrance of the rights that once were for 18,000 marriages, and in honor of the rights that one day will be again - for EVERYONE.
  • Diversitywork.org on A Framework for Transformation and Change: As simple as it may sound, the goal of social justice education is social justice and liberation. Liberation is defined in many ways: freedom, equality, fairness, equal access to resources, respectful treatment, living without the struggles, to name a few. Liberation means human kind will be closer to the achievement of unity. Our society must embark on a transformational process if we our to achieve this goal. Transformation means change, and this change will not come about from well-intentioned people simply wishing it so. Action has to be taken.
  • Project Implicit:
    It is well known that people don't always 'speak their minds', and it is suspected that people don't always 'know their minds'. Understanding such divergences is important to scientific psychology.

    This web site presents a method that demonstrates the conscious-unconscious divergences much more convincingly than has been possible with previous methods. This new method is called the Implicit Association Test, or IAT for short.

    We will ask you (optionally) to report your attitudes toward or beliefs about these topics, and provide some general information about yourself.
  • The Moment of Leadership by Michael Herman: Harrison Owens says, "If you are going to talk about Leadership you have to talk a lot about caring, responsibility, and the point where they cross — which I call Nexus of Caring." Michael's response: "I think what Harrison is calling Nexus of Caring, I would call the Moment of Leadership. The crossing of caring and responsibility that is the cause for motion. And it’s just that small, a moment. Like an invitation...The practice of doing something about the thing you care about. Beginning. The nexus of caring and responsibility. The moment of leadership."
  • Change.gov: Building the community: A guide to comments:
    These online conversations are truly groundbreaking -- no other transition team has ever opened these types of channels of communication with the American people. We're proud of what we've accomplished so far, and look forward to building this dialogue.


    We've read through the thousands of comments posted on Change.gov, and are excited by the volume of participation.

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posted by ashley

11.17.2008

Signs of Change


Please take a moment to watch this video I helped Thomas Arthur make after Saturday's march protesting the passage of Proposition 8 in California.

In cities across America people took to the streets in national demonstrations to promote love and marriage equality rights for every American. Saturday's marches showed the importance of each of us speaking out for change we believe in. There is a strong current of belief in this country right now that if we work together for a shared purpose, we can make a difference, we can have an impact on the policies in our country. Please take a moment to watch the video and feel the positive spirit of change that marched through the streets of Seattle. Stand up for change and equality.

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posted by ashley

11.07.2008

Here We Go


"The story of the campaign and this historic moment has been your story. It is about the great things we can do when we come together around a common purpose. The story of bringing this country together as a healed and united nation will be led by President-Elect Obama, but written by you. The millions of you who built this campaign from the ground up, and echoed your call for the change you wanted to see implemented by the Obama Administration - this process of setting up that new government is about you.

This transition is about selecting a new staff and agenda that will help reclaim the American dream and bring about positive lasting change to this country. In order to do that, we want to hear from you.

Tell us your story and the issues that matter most to you. Share with us your concerns and hopes. – the policies you want to see carried out in the next four years."

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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

7.27.2008

Healing as an ongoing, instinctive process


My dad has been blogging at The P Train. Here is an excerpt from what I found to be an inspiring recent post illustrating how life continuously provides us with opportunities to recognize the gift of being alive.
Cat and I listened to a CD of various speeches from cancer survivors and this particular one was from a woman who expressed her wisdom regarding the difference between treatment and healing. Treatment is what the medical community provides us when we are ill. It is logical (at least in attempt) and "fix-it" oriented. It usually will involve pills, maybe surgery (or multiple surgeries), multiple office visits and treatment to cure or improve what ails us. Healing is the moral obligation we have to research, discover and implement those practices that dramatically supplement the medical treatment in positive ways. It involves attitudes, alternative and/or holistic paths, involvement with other members of our community, discovering what is new on the horizons for one's particular illness and the list can go on and on. It is an obligation we have unless one prefers to give in to the affliction. I am sorry that the importance of the healing process has become so prominent to me as a result of my diagnosis. I say this because there is nothing that I am doing now that I should not have started doing a long time ago other than the specifics regarding my cancer. Healing should be an ongoing instinctive process that is encouraged in us all at a very early age. It would not turn us all into "buddhas on the mountain". It would just make us healthier and happier people on the planet. To me healing can be defined as anything that will add positive meaning and greater health to your life. Happy healing to all of you.
Lately I've felt really proud of both of my parents as they seem to be finding a new source of meaning in life, experimenting with new ways of connecting with themselves and trying out different ways of being and perceiving in the world. It is such a gift to have parents who can model for me life's continuous journey of opportunities for growth and new learning. Thank you, mom and dad.

photo source

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posted by ashley

7.26.2008

Carrotmob


Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.
Carrotmob Website


What power do we have to create change with our everyday habits of spending money? What's possible when we organize together that isn't when we act on our own?

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posted by ashley

7.05.2008

Loving Your Path

An E-card for you from Paulo Coelho ... make sure to turn the page (and play with the way the pages move!)

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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

5.19.2008

Developing New Habits

Can You Become a Creature of New Habits?
By JANET RAE-DUPREE

Rather than dismissing ourselves as unchangeable creatures of habit, we can instead direct our own change by consciously developing new habits. In fact, the more new things we try — the more we step outside our comfort zone — the more inherently creative we become, both in the workplace and in our personal lives.

Brain researchers have discovered that when we consciously develop new habits, we create parallel synaptic paths, and even entirely new brain cells, that can jump our trains of thought onto new, innovative tracks.

But don’t bother trying to kill off old habits; once those ruts of procedure are worn into the hippocampus, they’re there to stay. Instead, the new habits we deliberately ingrain into ourselves create parallel pathways that can bypass those old roads.

“The first thing needed for innovation is a fascination with wonder,” says Dawna Markova, author of “The Open Mind” and an executive change consultant for Professional Thinking Partners. “But we are taught instead to ‘decide,’ just as our president calls himself ‘the Decider.’ ” She adds, however, that “to decide is to kill off all possibilities but one. A good innovational thinker is always exploring the many other possibilities.”

Researchers in the late 1960s discovered that humans are born with the capacity to approach challenges in four primary ways: analytically, procedurally, relationally (or collaboratively) and innovatively. At puberty, however, the brain shuts down half of that capacity, preserving only those modes of thought that have seemed most valuable during the first decade or so of life.

This is where developing new habits comes in. If you’re an analytical or procedural thinker, you learn in different ways than someone who is inherently innovative or collaborative. Figure out what has worked for you when you’ve learned in the past, and you can draw your own map for developing additional skills and behaviors for the future.

“I apprentice myself to someone when I want to learn something new or develop a new habit,” Ms. Ryan says. “Other people read a book about it or take a course. If you have a pathway to learning, use it because that’s going to be easier than creating an entirely new pathway in your brain.”

“Whenever we initiate change, even a positive one, we activate fear in our emotional brain,” Ms. Ryan notes in her book. “If the fear is big enough, the fight-or-flight response will go off and we’ll run from what we’re trying to do. The small steps in kaizen don’t set off fight or flight, but rather keep us in the thinking brain, where we have access to our creativity and playfulness.”

“Try lacing your hands together,” Ms. Markova says. “You habitually do it one way. Now try doing it with the other thumb on top. Feels awkward, doesn’t it? That’s the valuable moment we call confusion, when we fuse the old with the new.”

AFTER the churn of confusion, she says, the brain begins organizing the new input, ultimately creating new synaptic connections if the process is repeated enough.

But if, during creation of that new habit, the “Great Decider” steps in to protest against taking the unfamiliar path, “you get convergence and we keep doing the same thing over and over again,” she says.

“You cannot have innovation,” she adds, “unless you are willing and able to move through the unknown and go from curiosity to wonder.”


All of the text and image is from the New York Times article, Can You Become a Creature of New Habits? Image by Christophe Vorlet

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posted by ashley

5.09.2008

A Song Can Lessen the Fear

Sderot, Israel is near the boarder with Gaza and is a city that experienced (experiences?) a constant threat of Qassam rockets being fired into the city. When a rocket is spotted, there is a "Red Color" alert that is sounded warning people to take cover.
Residents of Sderot have about less than a minute to get to a place of safety when they hear the warning "Red Color" announcing an incoming rocket (spotted by those who watch for them). Hearing a Red Color causes panic in many, especially children. ~ Source
“Children experienced real developmental regressions, some began bedwetting,” she said. “They were getting hysterical when the alarm sounded – some freezing in place, unable to seek cover. One day I felt like ‘now is the time’ and I took this song I'd made up to a kindergarten class.” ~ Source
It is not hard to believe that repetitively experiencing alarming threats to one's life from 'out of the sky' would cause trauma for children. The following video is an example of how one woman helped create change for many children. She could not change the threat of the rockets, but she found ways to shape the experience so that the children were not stripped of all of their power and understanding but could, instead, become active participants in the event. The song she created for the children to sing integrates EMDR therapy, somatic exercises and relaxation techniques to help the fear and tension of the warnings move through the children's bodies, and hopefully freeing them from some of the terror.



I am very inspired by this video. I wonder, what simple ways can we each use in our lives and with those whose lives we touch to gently reshape the ways we experience something, decreasing the impact of fear and unknowing?

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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

10.27.2007

We're Alive, Here Now

"Let there be no more holding back on
our commitment to our life on earth."



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posted by ashley

10.22.2007

Inspiration and Practice

A couple of inspiring posts in my feeds today:
"Change is not easy. It requires drive and commitment. It requires an unshakeable determination to overcome any obstacle."
These truthful words of inspiration come from Scott Rigsby. Last week he was the first double amputee to complete an Ironman Triathlon. That means he swam 2.4 miles without legs, then biked 112 miles and ran a 26.2-mile marathon with prosthetics.
"I started talking to myself: You have three miles to go; if you can just do three miles, you have an opportunity to really change the world. You can have an impact."
In an earlier interview, before having set this world record, Rigsby said,
"Since my last surgery, I have always had exceptional balance and an amazing ability to balance and run on prosthetic legs. In 2005, I started thinking of how I could use this talent to help pave the way and inspire other physically challenged athletes to reach their goals as well."
This inspires me to keep asking the questions:
Am I using my talents to help pave the way and inspire?
Am I reaching for my goals?


And then I read these practices offered by Jack/Zen, inspired by Thich Nhat Hahn’s breathing affirmation practices.

When feeling unhappy, disappointed, frustrated …

(breathing out) Everything in life happens
(breathing in) the moment it becomes fully possible

When feeling critical, crabby, annoyed, resentful, angry, regretful …

(breathing out) Whatever story I tell myself about reality
(breathing in) is only one possible story

When feeling stuck, anxious, distracted, bored …

(breathing out) Whatever I’m doing right now
(breathing in) is only one possible thing to do

When feeling procrastination, passive, stuck, uncertain, confused …

(breathing out) I don’t need a different reality
(breathing in) to do what else is possible right now

Do 8 rounds of breath then check to see what’s shifted. Be creative about which Truth to use with which situation.

I wonder what this would look like with some of the students I work with.


Thank you Cool Cat Teacher for the story about Scott Rigsby

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posted by ashley

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