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


What’s your pocket wisdom?

Do you carry important words, quotes or poems around with you? Simple phrases that inspire you to live authentically and compassionately, taking time to breathe and experience as much of life as possible? If so, what are they?

And for the rest of us, are there a few words or phrases that inspire you, remind you to be vibrantly alive, help you feel joyful, content and accepting, invite you to be present and grateful? If you could carry just a few precious words or phrases around in your pocket, always having them there to reference and learn from, what would those be? What words would you carry?

graphic by wordle

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posted by ashley



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


Categorizing and Illustrating People's Experiences

As I've mentioned before I started a new website and project called Rituals for Healthy Living or Rituals to Invite Balance and Well-being. I'm slowly posting over 40 rituals that people have shared with me.

Posting these rituals has been an interesting practice in and of itself. At the beginning, as I would reread the offering, I would listen for words that I thought best categorize the rituals shared. Those became my labels and now as I read, I figure out which categories to apply to the new ritual. This is my first real introduction to tagging. It's hard! Especially with the rituals, I wonder what other juicy words might be descriptive. I wonder how best to categorize.

Reading through them also is a sort of meditation... I read through the ritual, kind of try on the ritual that is being shared, notice what parts of me are drawn to parts of the ritual, and contemplate the words that come to me to categorize the experience that is being offered.

The other part of this posting practice that has been an adventure is picking a picture to accompany the ritual. If you find yourself reading any of the rituals over there, please feel free to share ideas for other words to categorize the ritual... or let me know if there is a different picture that would capture some of the essence that is being shared. This was my favorite picture so far!

photo source

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posted by ashley


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


Breathing to Wake You Up

Do you ever feel tired, anxious or confused and just wish you could make it go away? Below my God-Friend demonstrates the pure joy that can come when you take a moment to take a few deep breaths. It can be that easy! Breathing will wake you right up!

Video thanks to my new Flip Camera

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posted by ashley


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


Voice Dialoguing and A Personal Story

Journaling yesterday morning, I found myself wondering about how I operate:
Who is it that has all the control? Who is the dominant decision maker?
I decided to explore this inquiry through Voice Dialoguing.

If you’re not familiar with Voice Dialogue, Brandy George explains it here:
Voice Dialogue work allows us to transform the unconscious struggle of opposites that we carry within us into a conscious acceptance of all of our humanness. It makes it possible for us to disengage from old, automatic, reactive patterns and become more fully alive in the present.

Voice dialogue work is based on the theory of the personality as a multiplicity of selves. These selves, which are also called “voices,” “sub-personalities,” “parts,” and “energies” or “energy patterns,” are real live autonomous “people” in their own right. They have their own feelings, desires, memories, opinions, worldviews – they not merely concepts and this is not therapeutic role playing.

Drs. Hal and Sidra Stone, creators of the voice dialogue process, describe an “inner family” of selves that evolves in each person. These selves are family members, friends, teachers, or anyone who has any kind of influence over us. They may also develop as the polar opposite of the models we have had in our lives.

"Learning about this inner family is a very important part of personal growth and absolutely necessary for the understanding of our relationships since the members of this inner family, or “selves,” as we like to call them, are often in control of our behavior. If we do not understand the pressures they exert, then we are really not in charge of our lives." ~ Hal and Sidra Stone
In my process, I engaged with 'the dominant decision maker', Pure Curiosity, and Seeking Harmony and Understanding (the three voices that showed up). It's a personal sharing, but I find the process fascinating and the learning extremely helpful so if you're curious to peer into my psyche, have a peek!!

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posted by ashley


Receiving Compliments and Passing Them On

Tom Davis offered a wonderful practice for interacting with compliments in response to an earlier inquiry into compliments:
When Malcom Forbes was awarded the first ever GQ Manstyle award he said something like, "We most appreciate those awards we least deserve."

So I always try to remind myself of that when someone gives me a compliment. If the compliment is something which seems easy for me to do, then maybe I do deserve it, so I should be thankful and thoughtful that maybe that's an area I can use as a gift to help others for which it does not come easily. And if the compliment pleases me enormously, then be thankful for the compliment but realize that maybe there are others who are more deserving and that I should pass a compliment on to them sometime soon.
I love this extended invitation to pass on a compliment that feels good and yet I still see room for me to grow in that area. I love how that opens my eyes to recognizing my mentors, teachers, inspirations... and whole-heartedly sharing a compliment.

Thank you, Tom

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posted by ashley


Balancing Knowing and Not-Knowing


my cells breathe
a deep knowing clarity

my body resonates
with recognition

my heart is awake
a full knowing awareness


I open, accept, surrender

being with
the mysterious emergence
of this moment

falling, floating, flailing, flying
a flower turning inside out
a void of total stillness

knowing is trusting
the sacred listening
of my human instrument

not-knowing is trusting
the sacred wholeness of wisdom
transcending my personal reach

~ knowing photo by Right Eye in an inspiring series called Essence: What shapes our identity?
~ not-knowing photo by Denis Collette
~ monkey photo by pandiyan
~ poem a Woven Essence collaboration

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posted by ashley


Curious about knowing and unknowing

What does it feel like
to live life
guided by a knowing that

I don’t know
and I don’t need to know

I'd love to learn from your experiences. Got a story to share?


posted by ashley


Do You Like Me? (sigh and smirk!)

I had a great conversation with a friend last night about the energy I spend (people spend) worrying about whether or not people like me (us). I've also been swinging the tree-tops of my monkey mind wondering (worrying) if the heart of my intentions is felt by others. Oh the places I go when following the flow of insecurities!

I've been following a new blog, Dhrumil (thanks to CharityFocus) and this post has me smiling:
"You may be spending a lot of time thinking about what others think about you. But the truth is people are too busy thinking about themselves to be bothered. Even when they make comments or pass judgement, they’re just reacting to their own insecurities. Take comments or energy, that are other than love, as simply the byproduct of conditioning and nothing more. Most people are a pile of past conditions. Which means the real them is deeper waiting to surface. The less you react to their conditioning, the greater the likely hood their true nature will show."
May we continue to support and encourage one another, inviting our true natures to shine. May we also find fun and creative ways to practice random acts of contact in the name of kindness and friendship.

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posted by ashley


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


Courage and Willingness to Die and Be Born

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

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

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

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

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

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posted by ashley


Living With an Open Heart

I’m procrastinating. I’m scared. One more bite of toast. One more reason why I’m not comfortable at this table… one more excuse to keep me from going into what is present in me in this moment.

Today I must write. Trails of life-lived and life-living are insisting to be formed into words, to be woven into some form of expression. This morning I’m driving to a coffee shop to honor this call, experiencing the fullness of feeling inside of me… listening.

I hear an NPR clip on the radio about Iraq… and how it has become such a rarity there and a noted blessing for someone to die of natural causes… for people to have the luxury of saying good bye before a loved one passes. The tears ever-presently close to the surface swell in my eyes. Feeling and thinking tossling under the covers… emotions? grief? fortune? blessings? the world? suffering? why? what to do?

. . . love . . .

I always return to love. My car feels like it’s filled with inhabitants… so much inside this little space… feeling… driving… a truck parked along the road turns on, the tail lights catching my eye… a bumper sticker of the word LOVE on the window. The ‘O’ is a grenade. I shudder… and wonder… feel the silent tossling under the covers, the whirlpool of thinking-feeling-stimulation that has no form but inhabits huge amounts of space.

In this coffee shop now, I hold back the tears while simultaneously sort of forcing them forth. Marveling.

Yesterday I rambled through the arboretum with a dear companion, an old friend and a new friend, the same person. My heart raw and vulnerable, wide open and actively reaching for protection and comfort. The trees provided support, a mothering presence.

When we stopped in an area where the trees were scarce, more scattered, I felt my heart throbbing, yearning, wanting. It was like a fresh wound exposed to the elements, the wind blowing on the tender opening… I moved closer to the trees, closer to the warmth and support, the knowing forces of thriving existence… grounded, rooted, connected. I found a center where I could rest… and be… open to what is happening in this moment…showing up for this opportunity to be alive… as it is… as I am… as we are... right now.

Chris wrote recently about
“a fierce commitment to defending the territory of the open heart and a fierce commitment to training in the practice of wielding love, for communities, people, ideals, possibilities and whatever else.”
I found myself wanting to hear Christy teach from a 5-element perspective about the paricardium, the heart protector… and how it might relate to protecting and defending the heart while also inviting love into heart-space… that essence of heart that is bigger than our individual hearts. This brings to mind past writing on this topic by me and Christy.

It’s hard work living with an open heart! (my heart wells, tears swell writing that) And I rebel against the phrase ‘hard work.’ It is a deep practice, one which requires a huge amount of conscious effort and attention.

As we grow and develop, we experience life. In honor of living, we develop means of surviving. Few of us unfold in an enlightened bubble where the environment we encounter perfectly meets our needs and mirrors our essence. We are brilliant at adapting to what we experience, shaping our being and becoming to accommodate those unmet needs, organizing and re-organizing our interior worlds in creative and life-preserving formations. We are witty in the ways in which we latch onto the images we see in mirrors held up to us, whether they match our essence or not, we can cling fiercely to the labels, perceptions, conceptions… descriptions of who we’re seen to be, who we see ourselves to be… and scripts which we internalize as who we believe we are… stories which help us feel solid and grounded, inhabited by an identity that we can rest in… believe in… survive as.

Tears return again as I rest in feeling, listening for the shape of words to emerge. The theme… vulnerability. Living with an open heart is a practice of returning again and again to a vulnerable state… confronting the edges of survival that have served so reverently… and must now be softened… eased open into a fuller experience of what is happening now.

Listening to and being guided by heart’s resonance, foundations crumble, certainty and knowing break down, new feelings and sensations pierce experiences, change scraping the walls of habit, uncertainty paralyzing open static responses. Revealed, exposed, broken open and vulnerable… shaky? uncertain? scared? worried? calm? aligned? connected? fierce?

So Chris asks: “What is dangerous to the territory of the open heart?”

I notice how dangerously vulnerable an open heart is without awareness and discernment...and perhaps without clarity. Revealed to the elements, unprotected and ignorant to what-is, the defenseless heart is available to connect with anything. This is dangerous.

As I try to articulate this danger, I return to the word LOVE with the O as a grenade. We can connect with an essential experience (love) that contains a grenade, that shares its love through violence and destruction. We also can shape our experiencing to connect with love that contains a circle, a renewing cycle honoring death and rebirth, an evolving returning, an embrace of essence. In this moment my experience is that awareness, clarity, discernment and connection with loving essence empowers the open heart. (These words still feel weak in articulating... but perhaps tickle open the essence around which I'm trying to speak. Please feel free to inquire about or grow this thought further.)

Thomas stands in emotion sharing on this topic,
“I feel such sadness and rage at how fucking hard this all is. And then I feel the beauty of all these radiant souls working in the mystery as agents of change and discover a profound longing to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart.”
I think that taking a stand to live into the honesty and compassion of a wide open heart means accepting the reality that symbolic grenades are always nearby… change is hard… love hurts… and with discernment and clarity, honesty and acceptance, we can align with beauty, we can listen to the wisdom of our hearts, we can follow guidance, resting in and being directed by the fierce power of love... not a violent love, an embracing love.

The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, and gravitation,
we shall harness for God the energies of love. And on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, we shall have discovered fire.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Fire picture and mandala from Thomas Arthur, Trees from Nat Lockwood

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posted by ashley


Shadows and Swords

Being with

A month ago I was invited into a dance of awareness. I was invited to live with greater integrity. I recognized in my interactions with myself and others that there was an inherent boundary I was not respecting. A gate I was ignoring, walking through without honoring its sacred presence. I was acting irresponsibly.

Synchronicities and teachings unfold as Chris and friends share around Going to War at the Art of Hosting on Art of Hosting. Here's my story.

In a spontaneous moment of combined knowing-need for respite and solitude along with a longing-desire for escape, I took a one night trip to the ocean! It was a therapeutic offering of time and space to deepen into my experience of being alive. Some potent new awarenesses emerged. I'll share a story about one of them... a recognition of two precious parts of myself.

From my journal:
There is a part of me that interacts Powerfully with others by holding space for What-is to truly be present. There is another part of me that is naïve to the power that way of being holds… and thus doesn't always skillfully use timing or discernment. How do I come to better know these parts? Can you name them?
One part emerged immediately. I know her well. She appears readily at the surface of my expression, a light and free, playful self. The other part of my self was not as ready to be named. I allowed myself to rest in being, journeying on the land and in my soul.. and in the beauty and power of the ocean, I was able to name this other part of myself. Let me introduce you to them (again from my journal):
The innocent beginner – I’ll try anything. Why not. The best way to be an innocent beginner is to just put yourself out there. Just go for it and see what happens. I’m great at getting experiments started or inviting you into new experiences. I take the edge off of things because I give you permission to just be a beginner… be open and see what happens. I’m innocent because I really don’t know better. I’m just beginning to step my foot into this pool.

The woman who wields a sword - I notice how I have this sword. There is some body-knowing and memory of how I move, center and balance myself when holding a sword. This sword cuts through experience. The edge is fierce. Piercing the surface with awareness. It can be harsh and crisp. Awareness is often not gentle. Sometimes it’s seems so nice, helping to shave away the excess fluff that is in the way. Inviting clarity. Inviting precision. And other times it touches lived life that resists being touched… that wants to continue living as is and not to be poked and prodded, pierced with a sword of awareness.
Now that I know these two selves, I've been trying to notice when they emerge, especially the one who wields a sword. There is a quality that I feel in my body, a lightening of form, an expansive sense, a sharpening of presence. I am slowly starting to recognize this as her emerging. When I become aware of this I am making extra effort to listen intently to guidance of how to respond. Recognizing that in my being right now I wield a weapon and I must proceed with caution and clarity. I assume a stature of poise, balance, precision and awareness... when I remember... when I am aware.

The Synchroncity: At the Art of Hosting, "Anita Paalvast, a very powerful aikidoka, drew her katana and walked the circle, lowering the blade in front of each of us and challenging us to identify our fear and the shadow that is in our midst" (Corrigan). I plan to write more about Chris' post and Thomas' response and how I want to hear Christy say something on the topic! In the meantime, to stay with this story, it was Helen's comment that illuminated more to me about this new responsibility I've been invited to consciously respect.

She says:
Another shadow challenge that can derail our work in the world is our own passion.

We need to know how to remain in perfect poise and dignity, never to push our adversary or interlocutor into a place they cannot go unless we are prepared and awake enough to go with them to guard their back.
I have not always respected this. I recognize how dangerous my own passions can be and the shadow sides of longings that emerge from them. And how often have I drawn my sword and then walked away, abandoning the other? Chris wrote about the shadows of greed, failure and dishonesty. How often have I drawn my sword out of greed or fear of failure? Was I ever dishonest with my sword?

In my heart right now, I feel and offer deep apologies to those whom I have disrespected and possibly even harmed with my unconsciousness and lazy use of the sword. I am sorry for the inappropriate times that I have drawn my sword, cut into awareness and imposed a force upon you that caused harm to your system... your emotional, spiritual, cognitive or physical system. Please forgive me for mistakes from my past... and in my future. I welcome support from my companions to hold me more accountable as I learn to embrace this side of myself and be more responsible with this power. Thank you... and with love...

Photos from Helen and Tom

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posted by ashley


Holy Wholes, Including the Holes!

I feel whole.

Included in that is a void, a hole... missing that which has been lost, that which is changing. Missing not in a longing way, just in a recognizing a groove that is paved and was once vibrantly filled... and now is near empty... the same rushing current no longer fills its chamber. It still pulses with the energy that filled it's strong and delicate walls. It echoes with fragrant vibes of beauty and memory... and in this moment, it feels kind of like a ghost, a lucid dream.

Stepping back, expanding beyond (and still including) that sacred chamber, I feel the whole that is emerging now. I see with my visioning eye how that electric life force energy is diffusing into new places, spaces, chambers of embraces. The energy does not yet have form. There is not yet a new channel for it to rush along. It's in the bardo, dangling in between.

My personal heart breathes a little shallow. My soul opens brightly.

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posted by ashley


Hearing, Seeing and Loving

Anne Stadler recently inquired on an email list:
I am wondering do you feel “heard”, “seen”, and “loved”—even by the people with whom you are conversing? Do you feel you are engaging fully (using all your intelligences!) with each other and the whole in this exploration?
Many inspiring responses have emerged... and here is what I wrote:
I'd like to share some personal stories. My practice keeps turning me again and again inside myself (along a pathway of service beyond myself).

I'm sitting at a coffee shop right now, gazing out the sunny window. A dog turns around and stares in my eyes. In this moment I feel heard, seen and loved by that dog. I recognize myself in him... his alert curiosity, seeming contentment in experiencing life as it is. He stays close to his human companion and sweetly offers loving connections with those who pass by (or sit on the other side of the window!).

Earlier this morning I felt very alive, heard, seen and loved in my fascination with the appearance and movements of snails in the garden. So many unique angles from which to experience them, especially as their bodies morphed with each subtle movement. And each snail was so different from the other.

Lately I've been noticing where I don't feel heard, seen or loved by myself or parts of myself don't feel heard, seen or loved by other parts. I notice when I don't feel this towards myself, I seek that feeling externally from others. When I feel a longing to be heard, seen or loved by another, my practice now is to deepen my connections internally, inviting myself to be heard, seen and loved by myself. When I am connecting with myself in this way, I am more easily able to recognize and receive energy and attention from others.

A couple of days later...

This morning I deeply felt a longing for another to see and love me... in a particular way that I wanted to be seen and loved. I felt myself out of balance and needing attention.... so I set out on a walk. My intention-- to experience the beauty around me and within me. My goal -- to find a centered place within where I felt seen, heard and loved by myself. My hope -- this practice would lessen the contraction and sense of woundedness that I was feeling in my longing for another to fill that need for me. It worked! Turning towards and embracing myself opened up so much more space for me to be present with and accepting of what was before me.

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posted by ashley


A Curious Course

What is this mysterious flow between personal, impersonal, transpersonal? What does my soul long for? What does it feel like for me to answer a call, beckoning my re-turn to Self? Holding my gentle edges... embracing all of my selves... holding with gentleness, embracing what-is.

Each moment guided by deep listening, trust and reverence for love, beauty and togetherness.

Slowing down so that I may hear the rhythm of the current, so that I may feel the caresses of the wind, so that I may rest in the arms of my own sacred breath. Slowing down, feeling the morning haze dissolve, opening to the vibrant life emerging into this fresh day.

Surrendering and walking slowly... ever-so mindfully... being present with it all.

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posted by ashley


Isn't That Interesting

A very helpful reminder for me this morning:
I remembered the other day that part of Zen practice is "taking the step back." Being very human I have negative, unskilful reactions to things that other people do and say. The unskillful way to have such a reaction is to go with it and be caught up in it like a net that drags me along to further negative consequences - anger, jealousy, irritation - you know.

The skillful way is to take a step back and see the reaction for just what it is - my emotions living their life with no regard for my wholeness. Part of the stepping back is to make no judgement of the reaction, not judging it as negative or positive; and not judging me for having it in the first place.

On Monday I was able to do this by seeing my reaction and saying to myself, "Isn't that interesting"; and then seeing what was next.
From By Virtue of Release via Jack/Zen

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posted by ashley


Forms of Personal and Collective Practice

Inquiry is an essential part of my personal life practice. A current inquiry: the relationship between personal practices and collective practices.

One way of describing practice is the process of listening deeply, becoming intimately engaged in a certain way of being. For example, a person who practices piano learns to know the instrument, the notes, and their own personal relationship with the process of playing the piano and creating music. At first practicing may look like reading a sheet of symbols and pressing keys to create sound. As the person becomes more practiced at listening deeper into the experience, an intimate relationship with the process develops as the music begins to move through the instrument and the player in a seemingly effortless flow. The person develops a new way of being that surfaces when they are playing the piano.

In the initial stages of practicing there is often a strong emphasis on what we are Doing. We practice doing... dribbling the soccer ball, holding a yoga position, looking people in the eyes, etc. As we become more practiced, the doing begins to fall away as we are becoming our practice. The ball is coming towards us (we are observing all the cues) and we immediately think to dribble; we are in a yoga pose and by listening to our body, we know that it would benefit us to rest here longer; we see someone approaching us and noticing a desire to connect, we remember to raise our head and look them in the eyes. As we become masters in our practice, there is no thought or effort needed to engage our doing. We are able to rest in a state of Being as the practice naturally arises through us. The ball touches our foot and we are dribbling, breathing into a position we hold it as it moves deeper into our body, engaging with another our eyes are drawn into a place of deep connection. As Thomas says,
In this field time falls away and we are absorbed in an unbounded eternal resonance, suspended at the peak of an effortless leap beyond here to there.
I am interested in our capacity to listen... to sense into an experience, opening ourselves to be revealed to the sensations, the colors, the flavors, the feelings, the quality, the texture of this moment... folding into now, showing up with presence.

We can do this individually as part of our personal practice and we can do this communally as part of our collective practice. My hypothesis is that the more developed we are in our individual practice, the greater capacity we have to engage the collective practice.

Finn Voldtofte writes at Evolutionary Nexus about Inquiring from the middle, a collective process of listening deeply and becoming intimately engaged in a collective way of being. I have only pulled out pieces of his writing, please follow the link for the full expression.
The practice was to sit in silence for a few minutes, centering attention and settling the activity of the mind - and then to hold the intention of directing ones attention from a silent place within towards the middle.
Aligning with the silent place within is a personal practice and intentionally directing towards the middle is the personal practice expanding to include collective practice.
After a period of "attending to the middle" start sharing whatever one senses in the middle, but without making interpretations of what was sensed. "Sense" means see, hear, feel, smell, taste, but also intuit and give it words.

... The shared experience seems to be that something of being comes into existence, or manifests, or emerges, or reveals it self - something that is not a concrete physical form, but is there as opposed to in me and as opposed to the feeling of the group energetics.

...One has to think of oneself as potentially at any time being the one through which the abstract middle can acquire voice. In very practical terms it can simply mean: Speak as you are moved to. A skill to be developed is distinguishing between when an impulse to speak really is from the middle or when it is a personal impulse. The skill is about making one self available and letting go of personal fears and desires. The skill is also about showing up in all of your capacity. Any holding back from the individual side holds back the entire field. Holding back is relative to your highest capacity – so you can not tell from the amount of words said or the brilliance of them whether it comes from fully being on ones own edge or it is really more cleverly hidden holding back.
The interplay and intimate relationship between personal and collective practice is essential when engaging in these fields. I am excited to be diving deeper into the experiential play of this inquiry and recognizing patterns that arise to feed my equally present intellectual curiosity. Please join me if you feel called!!

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posted by ashley



i collect prayers.

it first came as quite a surprise to me to feel a rising attraction to prayers and blessings again. i liked prayers in my childhood but lost contact when i became cool. even until several moons ago the thought of prayers had an embarrassing quality to it - or lets say, it made me feel immature.

the arrival and birth of my son brought many changes, inner and outer. and many questions rose to the surface. one of those questions was how to experience god, the one, the source, together with my son. and that gently set my inner prayer wheel in motion again.

then i saw rabbi zalman schachter-shalomi in a short clip say a little prayer, and this changed my perception of praying once more. it was a short petitionary prayer for malka, a young, sick girl, simply spoken with an open heart. the power of this simple prayer eased the way through my barriers and touched my heart. it made me feel quite sad, really, to realize that i neglected something as accessible and beautiful as the power of praying for so long. but this small, simple prayer also let me experience god in the most immediate of ways and sparked a new interest and longing in the art of praying. genuine prayer always involves a personal dimension, along with the intention to go beyond one's separate self and towards the divine. prayers are thresholds to the ever-present source.

as you know by now i collect prayers and blessings. so, if you have a favorite prayer, one which is close to your heart, one which gives you comfort and lets you connect to the ever-present, please feel free to share!

here is one of my favorites, conceived by an australian cartoonist, poet and writer called michael leunig.

We give thanks for our friends.
We anger each other.
We fail each other.
We share this sad earth, this tender life, this precious time.
Such richness. Such wildness.
Together we are blown about.
Together we are dragged along.
All this delight.
All this suffering.
All this forgiving life.
We hold it together.

WELCOME kojan... what a treat to have you posting here. it is truely a dream come true to have you and maria and patti sharing your hearts and souls here at easily amazed. THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

This line touched me beautifully:
"how to experience god, the one, the source, together with my son."

it is in the word together that i melt every time i read that line. how to experience god together with another... and how to tailor that experience to who the other is... recognizing the differences and the similarities in experiencing with a small child and a grown adult. i'd love to hear more of what you've discovered in this quest and adventure with your son.

and then the image of your inner prayer wheel being gently set in motion... my grinning is as far as i can go in commenting my feeling!

i too was profoundly effected by the prayer for malka clip. for me, however, it was when the rabbi asked to speak to the god in ken... explaining that sometimes it's easier to connect to the god inside of another, that really struck me. he looked into ken's eyes and then spoke the simple prayer. it was such a reminder and invitation for me to speak to the god inside of others.

as for favorite prayers. one i say every night (except for the nights i forget) that i particularly enjoy is:

thank you for the gift of breath,
for another day of loving.

my heart lies open
in your divine embrace.


i too would love to hear some other favorite prayers... from any and every or no tradition.

Gravatarthank you, ashley,
for your light and for your open heart. and thanks for sharing your night prayer, it's lovely (and finn will like it...)

Gravatarwhat a lovely thing to collect!

one of my favorite prayers lately is the traditional Jewish morning prayer, but i am finding that it is just right for any time i remember to pray, plus the melodies that go along with it are all beautiful:

Modah (women say "modah" men say "modeh") ani l'fanechah,
melech chai v'kayam
shehechezarta bi nishmati b'chemlah,
raba emunatechah
(loose translation:
I am so thankful to be in Your Presence
Source of life and eternity
You mercifully restored my soul to me
great is Your faith (in me)

Gravatarthanks a lot, christy, another beautiful gem to keep the prayer wheel turning!

Gravatarkojan, one of my favorite prayers is:
I will arise
and lift my eyes
to see your holyness,
my hope is in your name Lord
my trust is in your name Lord
you are faithfull.
i too thank you for your wonderful post, im with ashley when you speak of including your son in your relationship with God! what a blessing you are!
thank you again,Maria

GravatarMaria, your so kind, thank you!

May God grant you always...

A sunbeam to warm you,

A moonbeam to charm you,

A sheltering angel, so nothing can harm you.

GravatarOh Kojan, how sweet of you!
you lifted up my day!
God bless you,maria

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posted by kojan



What do we do, how do we respond when someone projects their "undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, feelings, and so forth onto" us? (wikipedia) And how about when someone projects desirable thoughts, feelings, and motivations onto us?

How do we protect ourselves from taking projections personally? How do we cleanse ourselves of other's projections? How do we discern a projection from a genuine observation of a place in need of growth and attention?

In pondering these questions, I feel myself holding thoughts and words of another inside my heart. I let these imagined forms sit there and I notice how I feel... what I feel. When I turn deeply inward, I notice whether the thought connects to my heart or whether it simply hovers around, never finding solid, inviting ground.

I try it with a variety of different things that people have said to me recently... as a way to notice the various internal responses that I have. Some of these others' words are flattering, and some are flattening. Again, I notice which ones stick and which ones I do not own.

I think that the key to this process is being open to any perception of another being true to my reality. When I start in an open place, it's clear when a connection is made, when a projection or observation fits with the reality of who and what I am.

What do I mean by being open? My defenses are relaxed. Attachment to my identity -- who I perceive myself to be -- is weak. I'm open to seeing a "dark" place in my being, a place where I am not whole, a place where there's room for me to grow, a place where I may be acting unconsciously. When I'm open, and another person's words stick to one of those places in me, then I know that their words are an observation that is valuable to me, pointing out truth and areas in need of my awareness and attention.

And when I stay open, open, open... And the words never land -- a connection is not made -- a deeper part of myself knows that it is a projection. That the other person is consciously or unconsciously projecting a part of themselves onto me. This can be a bright and shining beautiful projection or the more typically noted dark and shadowy, needing attention type.

My current challenge: When my heart, my inner core, recognizes someone else's words as a projection but my mind and my ego hold onto it, trying to believe that it is "real", that the words describe "me". My challenge is washing the words out of my brain, letting them go, trusting and accepting that I don't have a lesson to learn from them, that I've already learned the lesson and can move on, walk away. I have a tendency to scrutinize from every angle seeking out the lessons to make me a wholer person. I need to just accept that sometimes the lessons are not for me -- they're for another.

I can just stay open and listen and Be...

Let us be fully aware of our projections, examining their angles and reflections, desires and demands without being caught in the literal interpretations of the craving self. Let us touch one another at depths of soul unrehearsed and unafraid, each moment of contact nesting only those waves aligned with the authenticity and passion of our deepest individual selves. ~Thomas Arthur


thank you for the joy of this ride ashley - ever illuminating the piercing, strange, beautiful truth of humanity. happy christmas sweet girl. love, penny

GravatarWow! Bravo, I tip my hat to how wonderfully you can swirl and bend me through our human maze. Exhale and empty for only then can you inhale and fill with freshness and silent peace.
Love, Maria

Gravatarwow ashley. reading these words, i feel like we are one and the same. thank God for you.


posted by ashley

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