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


Rest in Peace, Jerry Fuchs

It's been awhile since I was this inspired by reading about another person's life. Death has a way of doing that - inviting people to articulate what is most preciously present in their hearts. I am currently being drawn into the comments and articles being written about Jerry Fuchs. Continuously I am moved to tears by what an incredible human it seems he was and how wonderful that he was alive so fully for as long as he was. I am flooded with emotion by how capable some people are of living in a way that is a genuine gift to those they come in contact with. As individuals we are capable of having such an impact on others and it is clear that Jerry Fuchs lived his life in a profoundly enlivening and inspiring way that added so much to the world. I can only imagine the shock and devastation that his family and friends are feeling right now and I continue to send blessings of love and support to them during this shocking and devastating time. And I am thankful that it feels like he is one of those people who has left everyone still alive with palpable memories of his love and presence that will hopefully remain close and real for them. From one friend of his:
"You were truly one of a kind, and whether you knew it or not, people wanted to be in the same room as you, or near the same room as you, because maybe just maybe, some of that radiant joy and in-the-moment spirit you exuded would rub off on them. You didn’t take it all with you, because there are a lot of people today who are going to feel mighty responsible to carry and spread that joy with them for the rest of the time they have here. And who knows now how long that might be. You were a really good drummer, some might say the best we had, but you were a greater friend. I love you and miss you, Jerry."
I knew Jerry in high school. I didn't know him well at all. He was a couple of years older and greatly looked up to by my group of friends. He was a genuinely sweet and approachable guy with so much beauty and talent. And so we adored him! Clearly that's continued to be the story of his life though I would say more than being adored, he was highly respected and extremely influential and inspiring to many, many people around the world.

He died in a tragic freak accident this weekend. The internet is being flooded with reports of his death as he was a well known drummer. I am learning that his talent was tremendous, stated as one of the best drummers ever by many. And yet all the comments and articles that are written by people that knew him (from acquaintances, journalists, band members, fans and friends all over the world) people are consistently addressing the depth of what a genuinely kind, friendly and considerate human he was. It seems that it doesn't matter if people knew him well or not. I get the feeling that if someone had any contact with him they walked away with the sense of heart connection that comes along with being 'really close' to someone. It sounds like he was a guy that was genuinely available and willing to connect fully with whoever and whatever was in front of him. As I said, I am deeply inspired and moved as I'm sure you will understand when you read the comments below that are filling me up with so much love, admiration, and respect.
"Always considerate. Always polite. Always thinking of others. Always had a good time and ensured a good time. So enthusiastic and passionate. Our lives are different than how they would have been if we had never known him and will be different now that he is gone. THANK YOU JERRY."

"A true friend and exuberant, buoyant spirit."

"It’s hard to believe, there was something so PRESENT about Jerry that it’s almost impossible to believe he’s gone. It’s the passion he brought to his performance, he struck me as wholeheartedly committed to what he was doing, no matter who he was playing with."

"What a talented and totally genuine person he was."

"I was able to catch up with Jerry in Detroit last month when he was on tour with Maserati – that night alone made me realize how much I loved that dude beyond his musically ability, but his love for making people like myself realize that life really isn’t that bad, even if I did suck at bowling."

"I know exactly what you mean about inspiration. Seeing Jerry play always makes you want to find something difficult to do and do it. I didn’t know him but whenever I saw him play drums I wanted to go out and achieve something."

"I'll miss you Jerry, when I hear thunder I will know that is you up in the sky tearing the shit out of the drums."

May you pass peacefully along on your journey, Jerry, and may your love and presence continue to blossom in the hearts of those who have been graced by your life.

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posted by ashley


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


Letting Go, Passing Away and Coming Together

A few nights ago while I was at the coast in LaPush, sinking into a powerful place during a time of deep change, learning from the raging winds, enormous waves, wisdom of the land, and lessons of community, I had a powerful dream. While I was writing the dream the next morning, I felt my friend, Finn Voldtofte, very strongly and very close. Since being together at the gathering on Bowen Island, Finn has been mentoring me and I believe many others in a process of letting go. Prior to being connected to a resperator and being held in sleep, Finn knew that the work he was doing was soul work, having to do with setting himself free at a soul level. He asked that all people assisting him in this difficult time set him completely free. This invitation created a wave of collective intention that very palpably ran through Finn's vaste local and global community. I sense that we have all been on a deep journey as we hold this space with and for Finn and as we ourselves surrender to letting go and setting free. This dream touches many places in my own life and development (such that I'm a little embarrassed to be sharing it here). I think that it also touches on themes emerging at a global and universal level too. I am very grateful to Finn who has been mentoring me and helping me to deepen my sense and understanding of this process in so many ways.
Dec. 20 Last night’s dream:

There is a small child, maybe 2. She keeps coming to me and telling me exactly what she needs. She’s very connected. Very clear about what needs to happen. Very strong willed. Not pushy, not aggressive but very assertive. She is clear as to what must happen and I am her confident and the adult that can help her with her needs. She has been preparing the ground with this one particular woman. The time comes that she is ready to go to the woman and surrender… to be given over to, fully adopted and cared for by this woman. She is ready to be born anew, arriving as a child with a mother… being a part of a unit, connected to a family.

She comes to the woman… more as an infant than a toddler. The woman is aware of the divinity that this child embodies and knows the high task of companioning her through this passage. There are 4 of us surrounded around the small body of this child and yet energetically, there a HUGE expanse of presence between us. The child is in a deep sleep, coma-like. It is clear that she is going through intense struggle. It is unclear as to whether her life will survive. There is some fear within the adults… to see this innocent child in such a state helplessness, tinkering so close to the edge of death. And yet, she is there with a huge amount of presence.

There are two adults on each side, one below at her feet and me above her head. Her arms are crossed upon her chest. My hands rest upon her hands, my legs cradling her head and shoulders. The other women are showing up powerfully. The woman who is the new mother is across from me. She is actually not below at the feet but is holding the child. I feel now that the child is in both of our laps with her head resting in my lap, my hands upon her hands and heart and she is really cradled by her new mother. The other two women are essential in holding the container together… in creating a dense space where time stands still and we hold our full attention, being together. Holding space. Letting go. Supporting. Encouraging. Granting permission. Breathing.

I feel some of the fear of the other women. This child seems so vulnerable and in such ‘bad shape’. I reassure them that the child who had been guiding me up until this point was extremely powerful… filled with a huge amount of determination and understanding. She walked consciously to this point and it is our opportunity to be with her consciously, accepting and surrendering to the letting go that is happening now.
Yesterday I found out that Finn passed away a couple of nights ago. I feel so blessed to have been able to know, connect with, learn from and love such an inspiring human. We met at an Evolutionary Salon where I was touched on a non-personal level by his wisdom and experience. He continually guided and invited deep connection with the presence of the magic in the middle, not through instruction and lecture, but experientially in the ways he engaged with himself and the group. I also had the opportunity to learn from him and with him through facilitating together on the final day. After the salon we connected some online.

It was at the gathering on Bowen and the time since then, however, that it became (and is becoming) clear to me what a profound teacher he is to me. Now isn't the time for putting this part into words, but I want to honor it.

I breathe deeply as tears well in my eyes... A seagull flies above the trees out my window... My heart and soul honor with deep grace and gratitude the life of Finn... A huge grin leaps upon my face... My heart and soul celebrate the life that continues to thrive as the being that was Finn continues to inspire, guide and love.

I give thanks to Finn and to Martin Ehrensvärd and Tina Ranløv, Finn's close friend and wife, who have not only showed up in unimaginably powerful ways but who also continue to share the wisdom and growth with this broader community. I leave you with words from Tina as she shared the news of Finn's passing and invites each of us into a calling:
It has been and it is to me a lifegiving process and I feel in me and the people close around me a call from life to grow, to share, to evolve, to come together, to ask for help.

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posted by ashley


honoring life

this precious reminder/guidance is from chris corrigan's sharing about the celebration of his father-in-law's life.
As Merle Ace. one of Pete's long time academic colleagues said,
the greatest honour is to be remembered in the way in which you wanted to be remembered.
Pete would have loved that celebration.
will you share with us one way in which you want to be remembered? Just think of this as practice ground... as this is precious information that i'm sure your loved ones want to (or already) know.


I want to leave so much love in the hearts of my loved ones that there will be no need to remember me, because I will still be right there with them. I want my life and my after life to be a celebration. A full on, huge spread of food, awesome booty shakin music, lots of laughter goodbye party would be cool too.

GravatarSince doing this thing, I have been thinking about how to be remembered, and I would want some kind of party which invites together all of the disparate parts of my life so they can meet each other: Indians, Irish musicians, Bowen Islanders, facilitators, OST people, the whole works. Then I would love someone to run an Open Space with everyone together, looking at extending these improbably relationships into a world where they might all do some good together.

My death as invitation for collaboration across impossible divides. That would be great. You up for opening that space ash?

Gravatari'll be there, chris (even if my own memorial comes first!)

it's funny, i have two pieces of music that are back-to-back on a cd called "the gentle side of john coltrane," and for some reason when i listen to them, i often think, those two songs are all i need for my memorial. they are about feeling it all, and releasing it all into joy. track 11 is "in a sentimental mood," duke ellington's tune, a rare time when coltrane and ellington recorded together. track 12 is called "dear lord," with mccoy tyner back on the keys, & if my life has a theme song, that's it.

since you're taking notes for the event ash, they're both slow-dances

Gravatarhmm... i would want to be remembered for my laughter (maybe play giggle tracks or something), my love, and that no matter what i did, i tried my best and put my everything into it. i want to be cremated, have no wake (dead bodies are not who we are), and perhaps a celebration equal to my wedding, also on the silver sands beach, where people i loved would gather to watch me (or my ashes) fly into the wind and finally get to travel to all the places i've always wanted to see.

GravatarWow. At my father's funeral we played his favorite music; displayed hundreds of pictures; I wrote a journal of what I learned from him, etc. His friends remebered him the way he would want to be remembered.

I had a friend call and say, "I don't really know how to say this... and I know it sounds weird, but that is the best funeral I have ever attended."

My father must have been smiling from heaven.


GravatarI want to be remembered for encouraging others to live out their full humanity.


GravatarI want to be remembered for being compassionate and for always being honest. Those are things I am constantly working on in my life and I think it would be great if that's what people remembered about me. The older I get, however, the more I realize that we all have different impressions of each other - to some people I have seemed shy and timid, to others loud and bold, yet to others grounded and calm and to some freespirited and spontaneous. I guess I am a little bit of all of these things, like we all are, so I think realistically everyone would have a slightly different way of remembering me. Maybe not mostly my compassion or honesty. oh well. And that is the crazy beautiful thing about life - that reality is not necessarily a shared thing and we all interpret our time here so differently. ( Kinda went off on a tangent there, but thanks for asking my opinion Ashley.

Gravatari want to be remembered only by a select few. opening up my soul is the greatest gift I can offer someone. i want my legacy to be making a genuine effort into investigating the souls of others and finding those that are indeed worthy of an invitation into who i am.

Gravatari want to be remembered in a way that honors the reverence that i have for life. i want for those remembering me to be drenched in joy, appreciation, and gratitude for the opportunity to be alive. i'd love for each person to celebrate their own life in memory of my life, embracing the fullness of their own gifts that they sprinkle throughout the world.

Gravatari love this!

leela, can i borrow from you... leaving such love in the hearts of others that they know we're still right there with them. YES!

corrigan, of course i'd open the space. i got an idea though, let's do one together (with all those people from disparate parts of your life) and then if i'm still around when you pass away we can have at it again. what do you say? it'd be a great model for all of us to follow.

weaver, dancing slowly, feeling it all, releasing it all into joy... i can feel it moving through me now.

beck, do you have some giggle tracks recorded? i'd love one now!

rick, welcome, and keep at the encouragement.. . your blog is most definitely that.

anna, such an annab tangent, thanks for gracing us with your presence. i love feeling all of those different parts of you shining through.

sam, it's great to see you here again... and watch out folks because he is sneaky in his ways of investigating. those eyes just focus right in and......

really, thank you all for sharing here. i love knowing this about you.

with love,

Gravatarthinking of your comment to chris corrigan, what a very interesting notion...to have an open space event in honor of a person (who is still entirely with us!) just to experience what sparks to life when a self-selecting web of that person's relations comes together face-to-face. how would one word the theme..."play-time in the chris corrigan portal"? sounds worth a trip to me....

GravatarI want to come too! An Open Space with an organizing theme of honor (celebration, gratitude, appreciation, love)--what a wonderful attractor. And it's certain that opening space via the "Chris Corrigan portal" would magnetize & draw in an incredible, amazing array of dazzling sparks--I'd love to get to see what would happen!

GravatarAll right...I'll make sure you're all on the invitation list.

But it won't happen for a while

*knock on wood!*

GravatarAshley, I'm so glad you asked this question, it really helped me get in touch with some deeper currents in myself.

Through self-inquiry, I realized that my answer reflected both the masculine (agentic) as well as the feminine (communal) impulses of my being--thanks for giving me the opportunity to so intimately touch my truest intentions.

I want to be remembered as a person who consciously conquered fear in the service of creative emergence and Enlightenment, and who used the fruit of this vision to recognize the Beauty, Truth, and Goodness at the heart of every being with the intent to help them realize their true nature and fullfill their soul's "blueprint" as written in flesh.

I want to be remembered as someone worthy of infinite trust, someone with insight sufficient to reject the seduction of equating the occlusions of ego with the always already Great Perfection of vajra (diamond/indestructible) nature.

I want to be remembered as someone who relished every realm of existence, every dimension of being without being identified with any of them, and whose heart beat to the kosmic rythym of joy, joy, joy.

Thanks for helping me attend to my own funeral. I love you.

GravatarI want to be remembered as someone who enjoyed each moment -- unconditionally staying with what is emerging. Someone who sees the best in others and holds that vibration, and can find the fun anywhere -- bring on the party!! I want to be remembered as a mischevious grin on the faces of those who know me! Judi

GravatarJudi...I ALWAYS picture you with a mischevious grin on your face...!

It'll be sooo good to see you again in Halifax!

Gravatarbrandy, you rock.
hi judi! nice to see you here!

GravatarI would like for anyone to be able to view life through my eyes, just as much as I would want to do the same with others. It would be such a fine parting gift to say, see what I have seen so that you can fully experience who I was! I would like to be wide open for others to discover me. We are universes ready to be explored. There are so many questions that might be answered for us by fully experiencing one another. There is no end to what we can learn. I can see that from all of the responses!! I am not as graceful with words, but I think the main thing for me to leave behind is how much I love people and see how truly special they are. Thanks for the opportunity to speak!

GravatarOk, ok, here it goes Miss Asheley! My first reply with you! Yeah! Sorry it's took so long, but you know me and my luddite ways....

Reading over others comments before writing, I think may have planted many different seeds and influenced my thoughts. On one hand (like the life I live), I have this idealistic view of how I think I should be remembered (sort of like how I think I SHOULD be living my life). But this is not always congruent with how I will be remembered, or how I do live my life. The two are connected my nature though, seen?

So, like several have said in different ways, I want to be remembered as being a creature of love and one who inspired others to live out LOUD! A person who cared, and was cared for by many equally loving and giving people. I think this answer would have been much different 10 years ago, and will be 10 years from now. Hopefully because of growth. And I think that's the main thing I would want to be remembered for, one who helped others grow in loving and appreciating life. Like Rick described in his reply though, I think the greatest thing someone could say about me after my physical death, is "Wow, what a wonderful funeral!", and say it full of joy and love, not sadness or regrets.

Thank you all for being inspiring Souls...

GravatarHi Ashley and all,

Very inspiring!

I would like to be remembered also as one who inspired others to live more fully and authentically. And to be understood as someone who learned how to move from an I to a We.

Thank you all!

Gravatarthis thread began, right about the time that i went to oklahoma for my grandfathers funeral. this experience bought a great inner peace deep inside of me. for the first time i truly felt what it was like to be a part of a family. as i listened to the memories of my grandfather what was common to all of the stories was how loved each grandchild/child felt by my grandad. and how supportive and what a big fan he was of anything that his grandchildren were into to. through this experience something inside of me shifted greatly and i feel like there is this fire of happiness inside of me. when i returned home everyone commented on how shiney or sparkely i was... i want to be remember in the same supportive, nurturing and loving light. and those behind me shining and sparkling.

Gravatarmy funeral would be a ramshackle shuffle of warm bodies milling around some favorite dive of mine, maybe The Sunlight Cafe, or maybe the lobby of The Harvard Exit.... people there would have a chance to compare notes on chris the freak, chris the open heart, and chris the broken soul. somebody would find some half-written script of a movie idea i scribbled down in my journal based on a recent reverie i had while snuggling with my current love and listening to the snow fall. the reverie entails me behind the wheel of some souped-up hot rod waiting out a red light in heavy traffic, antsy to get someplace. a news reporter sticks their mike in my open window to ask me a question about the giant honey pots in the back seat. "their for the bear," I say, not taking my eyes off the light. "bear? what bear?" says the newsperson, incredulous. "if you don't know, i can't tell you," i say, and peel off down the street. final shot: two bumperstickers on my rear bumper: "got suffering?" next to: "honey inside."

ash -- it's been such a gift to know you this past year. you and your many wonderful friends teach me so much about climbing on board this electronic superhighway and setting up nothing more than a lemonade stand....

i'll attend your funeral if you attend mine

GravatarChris Fiset, I so love the way you pull to the surface colors of reality that have never been seen before...

I am pretty fixated on gratefulness these days...I want to be remembered as one of those people who was full of appreciation for every small and large thing.

Speaking of which, dear Ashley, thank you for all the many ways you invite imagination and conversation and connection. You are a living blessing-being!

lots of love,

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posted by ashley

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