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Writing What’s On My Heart… & Why

write

I am feeling called to write more. I don’t yet know the path and pattern that will help me carry though with this… but I have faith I will find a way that feels in alignment with all else calling to me. Your encouragement, suggestions of things you’d like to read from me, and gentle witnessing are welcomed. Accountability is probably a good thing too!! Below are some recent facebook posts that share core expressions of what’s up for me.

June 24, 2016

My desire~

  1. To bring down these harmful and oppressive systems and institutions that are violent, unjust, and destroying lives and cultures.
  2. To cultivate a world rooted in love, vibrating with healthy connections of care, respect, and shared responsibility for nourishing life, all life.
  3. To do the above in community, with family. Working, organizing, acting, praying, grieving, celebrating with people I love… being creative, witty, and wise as we find ways to do the above without using the master’s tools… to be spiritually guided by forces bigger than ourselves, helping each other to stay grounded and healthy, to stay joyful and loving, to take care of ourselves as we take care of each other, as we stay committed to change and freedom.

I believe we must be able to be with both— the intensity of the facts of what is happening on our globe right now and the ability to embody the world we want to live in. To the extent that we are able, we must sit with the discomfort and the angst, the rage and grief, of the news, verdicts, and faces of state-sanctioned and hate-fueled violence and the impacts of systems built upon an order of superiority, oppression, discrimination, and abuse of power. And we must experience and celebrate love, joy, connection and well-being. We must bathe in nature and loving relationships and the pleasures of beauty, art, touch, dance, laughter and celebration. This is all a learning curve for me… I am speaking to myself just as much as I am sharing with anyone who is still reading. I want to join in this challenge with all of you. I believe in your good hearts and I believe that as a collective we could actually make a difference.

From Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson

Let’s be about this work today. What will you do to get us closer to freedom, good people? ?#?letsdothis?
If you aren’t aware, a lot has happened this week.

July 4, 2016

Such a mixture of realities in my heart today… and lately. I haven’t had the words to shape into posts in response to all that is happening, all that I am feeling and experiencing. My relationship with social media causes me to feel a sense of responsibility to write when I am feeling intense feelings or am aware of significant events happening. As a big ‘feeler’ in the world, I am often called to share my experience… perhaps it will be an invitation for others to see a different perspective or tune into current events. Perhaps if I share how I am coping or not, strategies I am using or needing, it will be valuable for others who experience so much intensity in life. Sharing is also healing for me as it helps me not feel isolated in the intensity I experience. Lately, however, the feeling side has over-powered the public writing side as I sit with one mass tragedy or trauma or circumstance that baffles or invokes tremendous grief in me, one after another, while also attempting to live balance in my life and with those I love.

So without much commentary, here is what I am seeing on my facebook stream and in the news right now that impacts me. First hand accounts about what this holiday, the 4th of July, feels like for a slave, some Black people, some Native Americans. Warnings about how the fireworks impact people with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, those who have lived amongst gun fire and explosions and are triggered by the sounds. Pictures of fireworks, family picnics, fun times on the water. Insight about today’s new moon. Continued grieving for these mass killings happening every other day it feels like… in Istanbul, Dhaka, Baghdad, Syria. Hundreds of innocent people dying. Teachers protesting and being targeted for their protests in Mexico. Indigenous peoples of the global South organizing for the protection of the Earth, their people, and their cultures. Queer, LGBTQ+ People of Color making their voices heard about the inequities they face from all directions, the violence and lack of protection and security. Black folks standing up for their people, their right to live the promoted values of this country. And here locally, the grieving, anger and organizing for the young man killed by a police officer in Asheville 2 days ago and another young man killed on Sunday.

{…. taking a deep breath….}

May as many of us as possible truly ACT in ways that bring about Freedom and Liberation for all.

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I Needed to Stop & Recalibrate

eyesOn January 18th in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I had one of those somatic moments where my body vibrates and catches my attention. Often when I look back, it’s moments like that one that indicate my life is about to change. A friend and colleague was talking about the sabbatical she is on, her daily routine, the things she’s saying NO to, and the self-care she is prioritizing. My whole body shivered and bellowing within me I heard, “Is this what you need to do? Can you take 3-6 months to pause?

While the doubting parts of me quickly began discouraging such a dramatic and risky move, the questions didn’t surprise me. A couple days prior I had given a talk about “Living on Purpose” where I admitted to the group of 200 university students that my professional success these last four years has been at the expense of my own self-care and work-life balance. Could I really take 3-6 months to intentionally assess and re-balance my priorities? Could I afford such a shift? What about all of my responsibilities and people that were depending on me? Could I really make caring for me a priority?

Success Checklist

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I talked it over with friends and family, prayed on it, and by March 15th I had officially begun my process of Stopping & Recalibrating my priorities. I committed to living with greater health, more creativity and a clarified direction. I was fortunate to be supported by Mycelium in this decision, both financially and energetically.

It is a profound privilege to be able to take this time. I am deeply grateful. I feel that I deserve it. And I have faith that this gift to me will in turn serve others. Here’s more of the story about my process.

There were signs that this change was necessary:

  • I had lost touch with the vibrancy of my life force, life’s colorfulness had dimmed. I felt passionate about my work, but was going through the motions to accomplish what needed to get done. I felt drained even when the content inspired me.
  • I was exhausted and often wanting to sleep.
  • I noticed myself worrying about to-do’s I wasn’t getting to, tasks I hadn’t completed… but I wasn’t worrying about the fact that I hadn’t eaten a healthy meal or gotten up to go for a walk.
  • I hadn’t fully burnt out, but I was on the edge. I would take days to recover, get enough energy to be “back in the game,” but it wasn’t integrated. The renewal was temporary.
  • I was feeling called to a future that I didn’t yet have the spiritual, emotional and physical skills nor the community support to show up for. I needed to spend time focusing on personal practices, creative expression and growing relationships with myself, my spiritual family, and my community in order to show up for the chaos and complexity that I sense will be asked of me.

While I wasn’t certain that I needed to stop working, it was clear I had to stop being a producer for a few months. For me, a producer is someone who can see a big picture vision, articulate a strategy to bring it to life, and oversee the process of it coming to life with integrity. While I am good at this, for big projects it requires a huge amount of energy. Tracking all of the small and deep details of bringing Mycelium the organization to life with integrity while also launching transformative learning programs and tending to the relationships being cultivated required tremendous output. My self-care was frequently falling to the back seat with the wellbeing of the organization and the people we served in the front seat. I was not practicing what I preached. I was not modeling the type of leadership I believe in.

Spending Resources

Slide from lecture at Dalhousie University

 

I recognized that my goal-oriented, product-focused, analytical and logistical brain space was dominating. It was overshadowing my nurturing, creative, emergent tendencies that are also very important to my authentic expression and well-being. I had to stop being at the center of initiatives, leading them forward. I needed time for an out breath from the 4 years I invested in co-founding Mycelium. I needed to focus on the personal, daily practices that keep ME centered in the work I do and life I live. I needed to strengthen my spiritual and emotional practices that deepen my faith and ability to navigate uncertainty and chaos. I needed to strengthen my physical body for more endurance and healthy living. I needed to rest. I needed to trust that even if this move felt irrational and incredibly privileged, it was essential for the long haul.

slow-down-300x200It’s been 7 weeks now. I am seeing and re-writing patterns in myself, forming new neural pathways, letting go of unserving habits and beliefs, grieving and celebrating. I am slowing down, tuning into my heart, and listening to what is really calling to me at this time. I am taking the time to heal and nourish myself. I am reconnecting with my family and community. I am reflecting on my life experiences. I am weaving new possibilities. I am learning how to be me… unapologetically.

While I still have a lot to learn, I am beyond grateful for this time and what has revealed itself so far. So many lessons about myself, my beliefs, my work in the world, the conditions that help or hinder me thriving, and the challenges and learning experiences from starting a social enterprise. I have slowed down, but I don’t believe I’ve fully stopped. I imagine this will be a lifelong lesson for me.

Future possibilities are just beginning to whisper. A warrior in me is being beckoned. Conditions for how I will operate in this next stage of my life are revealing themselves. The focus of my attention is getting clearer. A daily personal practice that can nourish and sustain me is taking shape. I am recalibrating my presence, my frequency, my focus, my expression, who I am in relation to the many parts of myself, who I am in relation to how I work in the world and the type of work I do, who I am in relation to how I engage relationships and cultivate family. I am healing and recalibrating.

I am reflecting on this process as best I can, and I know there is much more to harvest from this time. Thank you for reading about my journey. Please feel free to ask me questions if they arise for you, as they might help me better integrate what this time has been, what I’m learning and where I am right now.

And stay tuned as I share the seeds that are emerging!

sprouting-seed-micro-photography-hd-wallpaper-spring-nature-stock-photo

Image Sources: Eyes, Slow Down, Seed Sprouting

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The Wounds and Scars Are Real

Personally~

I’m being asked to deal with my shadows. To face the wounds and scars of the past that are still festering inside me… that at times seep into my daily interactions and shape my present. I want to be real with myself. These wounds and scars are alive inside me. They are influencing me. I have not healed from them. I do not find their influence valuable.

I have shame. Shame when I act from the place of the wound/scar (fear, mistrust, insecurity). Shame that the past has such influence on my now. Shame that I continue to be hurt and unhealed by these old wounds. Shame that I can’t just forgive and move on. Shame that I am so hard on myself.

I feel guilty. Guilty that when I interact with folks with whom these scars were developed, that I can cause harm to them when I react from the pain of these wounds. My intention is not to hurt or to lash out. Sometimes that is what is felt by others. Guilty that my fears, mistrust, insecurities shape the quality of relationships I have with people in my life…

In the world~

I’m witnessing as the wounds and scars from the past, from the present, are festering inside so many people, communities, cultures, countries. Creating seemingly insurmountable obstacles between people…within people. To face and address these bleeding wounds, these century old scars is painful. Is uncomfortable. Is violently destructive to a worldview that ignores the reality of these lesions. Is harrowing work.

To face these wounds seems to require immense strength, diligence, focused attention, compassion and support. I see people I love and respect giving up on their communities – losing hope that the community as it is will be able to overcome the deeply entangled systemic and structural dysfunction and dehumanization that is the result of these old wounds and scars, current wounds and scars. I see news accounts of humans without safety, shelter, access to basic needs… hundreds of thousands of them, millions of them, around the planet. The wounds… scars… are alive and real and influencing the world that is operating today.

They say~

They say that to heal the wounds and scars inside me will help to heal the wounds and scars in the world. I know this is true at one level. I cannot do the work I am called to do when these raw hemorrhages influence my thinking and acting. I cannot support others in their own healing while unconscious to the areas of my own healing that are necessary. I cannot understand the intricate path to healing, regeneration, restoration, transformation without walking it myself.

And yet for me, I can’t only focus on my own healing and close my eyes to the healing of my community, my country, my planet. (not mine as in I own it, but mine as in I am an interconnected part of it).

So I pray that the personal work I am doing right now with myself and my relationships – may it serve me, my own happiness and well-being, and may it reach beyond the boundaries of myself… in service to a world that truly works for all.

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When I Hear the Calling…

Life continues to be a roller coaster. I feel inclined to write… and tell you about parts of this journey I am living.

I live a life of service. I listen for signs of where I am to show up… how I am to give my gifts in this world. And when I hear a calling, I do my best to show up for what is being asked.

This has resulted in major moves in my life such as leaving beautiful land that I love for graduate school in Denton, Texas. Quitting a great job and leaving Seattle at a peek in my professional career to return to Asheville with no job, no place to live, no clear direction — but a calling. It’s the reason I spearheaded TEDxNextGenerationAsheville and it’s definitely the force behind the last  3 years of intensive dedication to giving life and shape to Mycelium the organization — born out of a love affair with mycelium the organism.

This pattern of listening and acting shows up in small ways too — but this post is about the latest major life calling that is propelling my actions at this time.

Within the last 9 months to a year, there’s been a gentle tap on my shoulder – “You should be working with White people around racial justice.” I’ve listened and taken this tap seriously. The first line of action was to face my own personal lack of confidence and capability. I am not an expert in anti-oppression and anti-racism theory. I do not know the models and frameworks, the right language to use, the depths of the history that has gotten us here, the skillful approaches to engage these conversations. I’m not experienced enough for this work, I felt. So I’ve immersed myself in learning. Reading articles, books, watching videos, listening to podcasts and countless conversations with people already in the work… people who are deeply aware of how their life is effected by racial injustice everyday… people who are courageous and taking bold actions to pave the way for a different way of being.

About 3 months ago, the game changed again. The gentle but consistent tap on my shoulder shifted into a large man’s hand on by back, behind my heart, compassionately but forcefully shoving me forward. I tremble as I write, being honest with the fact that I am still afraid that “I’m not ready. I’m not an expert. What if I don’t have what it takes?” And yet… Here I am. Breathing. And knowing that I have value to give.

A month ago I was expressing to a friend my concerns about not being an expert in this work. She said, “You’re looking at expert from a Euro-centric perspective based in academics and logic. You have a different type of expertise.” This hit me as true. The authenticity I bring, my own experience, the compassion I feel for all involved and my dedication to learning are areas that I have great faith in myself. And so again… Here I am.

While looking at and addressing systems of oppression and creating more equitable and diverse learning environments has been a deep part of my professional path for the last 9 years, the terrain is shifting right now.

And this shift has me living on a roller coaster. Some days filled with hope and inspiration, motivated with courage and passion. And other days curled up in depression, tears streaming and my heart hurting. As I continue to wake up more and more to the realities that we are living in and listen to the call of what is being asked of me, I realize how much I don’t know and how intense and heartbreaking the complex dynamics really are.

At the same time, new role models and inspiration show up, new friends appear along the path. As with all the challenges that face us at this time on the planet, there are incredible leaders paving the way and offering guidance for how to get to the world we want to live in.

Yesterday was a heavy day, while also highlighted with moments of inspiration. I began with a prayer-mediation conference call with Gibran Rivera – Love Black Lives. I watched the livestream of the Movement for Black Lives convening in Cleveland and listened to the strong imperative to love ALL BLACK LIVES, explaining the plight of trans and queer People of Color, illustrating how powerful their voices are and listening to their pleas for us to stand up, speak out and help end the murdering of their people as well. I watched on twitter as the joy, healing, regeneration and gratitude poured in of Black people at the convening who are so thankful to be with one another, with their people, over 1000 of them… rebuilding their life force, receiving love and nourishment, and finding strength to continue leading this movement. I was also feeling as Sandra Bland’s family and friends were gathering to lay her body to rest at her funeral. Her dedication to fight injustice meant that she is now dead… and it is the loss of her life that will be her namesake’s fight. And I watched as the streets of Newark filled and countless people spoke at the Million People’s March Against Police Brutality, Racial Injustice, And Economic Inequality. The movement is alive. I am not alone.

And yet… when I went to a party last night to see friends I love and say goodbye to dear souls that are moving… I didn’t know how to connect beyond a surface level. My body trembles and tears well as I try and put words to this feeling that is pulsing through me. To interact in the everyday White/dominant culture world, I feel like I have to push these realities I am living to the back, not yet clear of how to bring them forward or be real to my lief experience in “not so intense” ways. I don’t know how to just shake it off and have a good time when conversation is involved.

And at the same time, so many of my dear friends of color are in so much pain and grief right now. I can’t even imagine what it is like for them to walk the streets and try and be normal and interact with people as they cope with the intensity that is stirring inside them. I deeply understand their requests for space and their need to turn inward and care for themselves. I witness as they do everything they know how – dance, pray, self-care, fellowship, ceremony, time with friends and family – to breathe life into their tired bodies and passion into their daily actions. I witness the depths of their faith and resilience and am inspired and grateful.

….

I shall bring this writing to a close for now. Thank you for reading if you’ve made it this far. Thank you for your love and care. Thank you for understanding that there are many of us who need love and support right now. You may be one of these people. So many folks have said to me, “I’m so thankful that there’s people like you doing this work.” I genuinely appreciate this recognition and gratitude. And I would like to have more people join me, to have more caring souls in the work with us. I’m seeking to grow my own support network and discover who are the folks that are available with love and support for me to call on these heavy days, who will call and check in on me, willing to come and give a hug, sit in silence with understanding eyes or be present with rage and anger?

Who is willing to walk with us as we dedicate our lives to bringing more love, justice, healing and freedom to those who walk the Earth at this time and the future generations to come?

 

 

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The Old Trans-forming into the New

I write this post as a prayer… an invocation… one deep breath after another… allowing the prayer to fill my cells, creating spaciousness and love within me.

I stand at the edge of my own personal universe.

The rhythms and contours of being a human – the unique constellation of being me, Ashley Cooper, coursing through my cells.

Solid… I feel my feet on the ground -
my commitment to be here and be my path.

Shaky… I feel eruptions of unknown, doubt and fear - a chained fence guising as my companion, a crutch I lean upon.

Vulnerable… I feel raw and revealed -
standing at the edge of faith and uncertainty.

Inspired… I feel called by a mission that brings me to tears and fills my soul with inspiration and motivation

It’s time to JUMP


This is the dance of transformation. I am not yet this new version that I feel emerging through me and I am no longer the old conditioned puppet of habits and historical contortions. I am both of these still.

Glimpses of bold action guided by empowered thoughts and reverent listening. Feeling a centered, radiant soul: breathing the fire of her battle cry, powered by divine life force, vital energy of love, friendship, joy and togetherness. Breathing deep in sacred unity and feeling moved by our collective wisdom. Out of the way. In service. Listening. Guided. Surrendering. Trusting, trusting, trusting.

And the little voice says: “I’m there. I did it. Hard work pays off. I’m here. I’m home.”

Just as quickly as she speaks, the earth shakes, territory unknown. Looking around, I find my butt thumped on the ground, bruised from the fall and feeling afraid, doubting. Trust slid out beneath me. Old thoughts of not good enough, confusion, fear, loneliness take over. I’m here. Again. I’m familiar with this place.

This is the dance of TRANSFORMATION

Being conscious of this process, I don’t experience it as a magical step into a new world. I’m not suddenly taking flight as a new butterfly. It’s a gradual growth. Feeling new life emerge as me while old habits weaken. Awakening to new ways of being.

52482Tomasz Alen Kopera tearsTears pouring forth as I grieve and mourn. There is sadness in my body. There is wounding that needs to heal. There is a little girl who wants to be seen, heard and loved. There is love that has been trapped. Healing is necessary and essential. Facing these realities are scary, humiliating, illuminating and ultimately freeing.

AC b&w

And… I’m opening, returning to the beauty of myself, embracing the light and the shadows, loving my own face, owning the radiance of love that I am. 

I am walking the edge between these worlds, feeling my cells reconfigure as new form sprouts within me, around me and as me. I am stepping beyond the walls of me and growing as the Soul I’m here to be.

 

Thank you for witnessing me on this journey. With love and gratitude…

Photo credits – Click on the images to go to their original source. Transformation and tears art is by Tomasz Alen Kopera photo of me is by Erica Mueller

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Wiser Together: Partnering Across Generations

This article originally appeared in Fieldnotes

BY JUANITA BROWN & ASHLEY COOPER

Tucked away in the small Appalachian community of Burnsville, North Carolina, is a family farm and a place of meeting that has recently become the new home base for Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, Co-Founders of the World Café. Together with Ashley Cooper, a young educator, community organizer, and Executive Director of TEDxNextGenerationAsheville, they are collaborating with Juanita’s 90-year-old mother and younger members from the nearby community to deepen the legacy of the farm for future generations.

In these “notes from the field,” Ashley and Juanita tell a story that will also be featured in the Innovation Marketplace at the upcoming Summer Institute.

Together for Life from Juanita Brown on Vimeo.

FIELDNOTES: It looks like you’ve made quite a radical change in your life, Juanita. How did you come to be living in the Appalachian mountains?

Juanita: In the early 1970s my parents, Millie and Harold Cowan, civil liberties pioneers from Florida, bought a broken-down 90-acre farm in one of the poorest counties of North Carolina, near Asheville. For the next four decades they worked with others in the community to create a special and welcoming environment for people from all walks of life. After my dad passed away, David and I brought my mom back to the farm and spent the summer here. Late one night, I had an “illumination” in which I felt completely embraced by the love and care that my mom and dad had invested here. In that moment, I realized that we could never sell this farm in our lifetimes—and that David and I had a unique opportunity to discover what wanted to unfold here.

In a purely intuitive leap, we left our home of 35 years in California to “listen the future into being,” and to embody here the principles of multi-generational collaboration that we’d been exploring in our global work with the World Café community. As you know, we’ve co-hosted many multi-generational dialogues since helping to organize the first multi-gen learning program at the Shambhala Institute in 2004. Our farm project is providing a place based learning field for us to deepen into the principles and practices of intergenerational hosting and partnerships. We see this field as having implications for community resilience and for organizations across sectors that are seeking to engage the wisdom and expertise of all of their members in addressing critical challenges.

FN: And what is the path that brought you into this collaboration, Ashley?

Ashley: Growing up in Georgia, the Appalachian mountains have always been my “heart home.” The West Coast swept me away for many years, but my return was inevitable. The timing fortuitously aligned with Juanita and David’s decision to move to the region. They have been colleagues, friends, mentors, and co-inspiritors over the years. I embraced the opportunity to learn and co-create with them while at the same time being adopted by a new “grandmother,” Millie!

The nature of this project and this place drew me in—the intergenerational partnerships and the shared dedication to processes of engagement grounded in principles that nourish life, justice, learning and the common good. It is a unique opportunity to be part of a group of passionate people, as we move between our roles as learners, teachers, friends, mentors, and family. At the core, we are living the practice of mutual partnerships where appreciation and respect for each other’s contributions is based on recognizing that each of us has unique gifts to offer, whatever our age or stage of life.

FN: Why is multi-generational collaboration and partnership so important to you both?

Juanita: I have always been fascinated by large-scale systems change and what might enable whole societies to shift into more life-affirming patterns. Over the years I had the great good fortune to have older corporate and community leaders take me under their professional and personal wings as I engaged with this work.

I began to think abut the challenges we face at every level of system today. I realized that there is a huge untapped large-scale social change potential in the wisdom, experience, and perspective of younger leaders as well as children. I began to ask myself: How can we honor and use the unique contributions and gifts that reside in all of us, as a single generation, alive and awake together—whatever our age or stage of life?

Ashley: Young children are my key teachers. I learn from their honest perception of the world, bright curiosity, and playful ways of engaging life. They keep me attuned —reminding me to be in the present moment and inviting me to enthusiastically engage my whole self in the process of living.

At the same time, I’ve been greatly influenced by many older leaders and colleagues in the fields of education, process arts, conversational leadership and therapy. Relationships that bridge the lifespan have provided a strong foundation for my life and work. Youngers shake up my field of vision and invite me to see things from a totally different angle. Elders have acknowledged the value of my contributions and enabled me to stretch into the unknown edges of my capacities with greater confidence as I learn from their experiences, stories and insights.

At this time of global challenge to our common future it seems irresponsible to believe that we can make wise decisions without listening to contributions from all members of the circle of life. The wisdom of multiple generations is desperately needed. I also find life more personally exciting and fun when I am partnering across generations!

If intergenerational collaborations provide such potential for large-scale social change, why don’t we see more of it?

Juanita: Collaboration between generations has traditionally looked like grandparents reading to small children, a one-way power dynamic between professional mentors and their younger colleagues, and awkward attempts to manage a next-generation workforce. There are also strong beliefs, held by many, that “youngers are to be seen not heard,” or even that the final decision should always be made by the oldest person in the room. These cultural and societal norms and habits seem to shape so much of our thinking.

Ashley: I can relate to this personally. A colleague once said to me, “I’m older than you, I’m supposed to be wiser than you.” Not everyone will say something that direct, but I often feel that tone of a response, and sometimes it even has more of a dismissive edge. The challenge seems to be our willingness to be humble and genuinely recognize when we are learning. If new understanding is igniting inside of me because of something another person is doing or saying, I am learning from them. They are contributing to my knowing and influencing my actions and decisions. This is a precious gift and we have the opportunity to step beyond traditional boundaries and be open to learn from whoever has the wisdom of the moment to share, regardless of their age or background.

FN: Can you describe how you see your vision for the farm unfolding?

Juanita: We aren’t approaching the visioning process in the traditional manner of creating our preferred picture of the future and driving towards it. More, we are together “listening the future into being.” We are experiencing each of the four seasons and asking ourselves questions such as: What is the story of this farm and its role in the local community?  How are we relating to the land and how is the land relating to us?  How can we honor and deepen the legacy of my parents and of those who came before? Assuming the farm has its own voice, what is it saying to us?  Sensing into the whole, what are the minimum, elegant, next steps?

Ashley: In addition to our own listening and imagining, we are inviting people who visit the farm to share their images of possibility and creative inspirations for this place. We are committed to collective intelligence informing our actions and we trust that this intuitive and collaborative approach will yield paths forward that none of us could have imagined on our own. For example, the local members of our team whose families have lived for generations in this mountain culture have helped us “see” different aspects of this place and its possibilities.

FN: What does this look like right now? How are you spending your days on the farm, Juanita?

Juanita: I´m experiencing the skills and wisdom emanating from the younger members of our team.  For example, Justin, age 22, has a unique capacity to find unexpected and innovative solutions to dilemmas related to renovating our 100-year-old barn while keeping its unique character. Not only am I thrilled to learn from him, but the other young carpenter he is working with will often turn to him and ask for his insight. At the same time, when I, as the elder, ask directly for his opinion, I notice that he will sometimes hesitate as I am breaking one of the unspoken cultural rules about relationships between the generations.

Ashley, as a ¨GiGi¨(girl geek!) has become my technical mentor, I am mentoring her in the next stages of her community organizing work, and we are partnering together on this farm project. Another of our team, Thomas Arthur, contributed the short video and photos about the project which accompanies this article, which I could never have imagined! For me, what is unique about these collaborations is that we are each ¨giving it all we´ve got¨ within the context of the cultural and historical factors that have shaped each of our lives.

FN: What have you been learning so far that may have broader organizational, community and societal, implications?

Ashley: We’re discovering that co-mentoring is a more useful construct than traditional mentoring, eldering, or teaching. By being open to fresh perspectives and actively learning from one another’s life experiences and skills, we are accessing leverage points that far exceed our individual capacities.

Juanita: Organizations of all types are facing critical issues as Baby Boomers, now in their 50s and 60s, enter their older years in a world that is dramatically different than the one they have been operating in. Doing it the way we’ve always done it is no longer an option. Younger employees deserve to be considered equal contributors to innovative solutions rather than needing to “wait their turn.” If organizations are to thrive in these uncertain and turbulent times, these new perspectives and redefined partnerships between generations in the workplace are sorely needed.

Elders can enter the legacy stage of their lives by forming alliances with younger leaders around the crucial challenges that not only organizations but also communities are facing today. This will require a new paradigm for all generations and we want to be part of the movement that is responding to this opportunity!

We’d love to hear your reflections and experiences with intergenerational collaboration and learning—in your organizations and in your communities.
Feel free to be in touch with us at:
Ashley: Ashley@easilyamazed.com
Juanita: Juanita@conversationalleadership.com


Juanita BrownAshley Cooper and Samantha Tan will be presenting a Skills and Lenses for Innovation session on Multi-Generational Leadership: Shaping Tomorrow Together at the Innovation Marketplace during the ALIA Summer Institute in Columbus in June.

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Weaving into the Tapestry

What do we hear when we listen to the center? What do we speak when we start from a place of stillness, listen to the stirrings of source, and speak to the center?

Last week I was blessed to be a part of a unique gathering hosted by the Heart of the Healer Foundation, Speaking to the Center: The Great Remembering.

As a facilitator/moderator, during the morning session I listened to the words of these loving souls who wanted to share pieces of their hearts and minds. Little nuggets of language, wisdom and invitation moved through my ears, mind, heart and into the pen perched upon my pad. After they each spoke and a brief stretch break, I offered a Woven Poem, a collective storytelling in the prose of words as a weaving of the wisdom they shared. And now I share this poem with you.

The following is a Collective Poem from the words of Grandmother Red Leaf, Peter Kingsley, Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Michael Johnson, Howard Hanger, Jeff Schmitt & Mz Imani. Woven by Ashley Cooper.

Weaving into the tapestry

Simple humans

We are whole

We are grateful

Things that remember themselves

are not forgotten

When channeled or directed…

She works miracles

Everything has to have water to live

Help us to touch the spirit of the Earth again

The Earth is a spider web

Connections are a very important part

of how we live every single day

Things are as they should be –

even when it’s a hard realization

We have manufactured a spiritual light

It’s ungrounded – it’s unrooted

The darkness outside

The coldness

The empty space

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

It’s not enough any more

There is a sacred root of western civilization

Alethia – truth – unforgetting

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream.

How many of us came here to remember

We have so many fantasies, my friends

We have our own original instructions -

We need to look for them

Go back to our roots

What is the result of our forgetfulness?

The current degradation of our environment

The dislocation of our society

A sleep walking culture

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

Catch a glimmering awakening,

in the spark of an eye, in the presence

It’s a void, it’s empty, it’s scary

I bow to the living waters

Find peace within

I am not different from the other

Self and other are one and the same

I choose to be in the world

To share my rituals, my ceremonies, my love

Recognizing the beauty and grace

of the courageous who decided to remember

Re-member – as a global human family

Unification. Wholeness. Non-dual consciousness

Allow Spirit and the great originating mystery

to unfold with its entire expression

Deep gratitude

Deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart

Without the kindness of all these living beings and ancestors

we would not have the kindness of life and the gift of all these problems

We need to continue awakening

We need to act

We need to act now

to solve or out grow these problems

Each of us here can play a role

and we have to

We are all a part of this experience

of life

And it might be possible that we can have a good time, too

Take a few longer, deeper breathes

Bring awareness into your body

Feel your heart

It’s all about perspective

Look at the world from your dogs eyes

I have a slightly different view

… And then there’s integration

Oh my gosh – even though I used to think I had total knowledge, I don’t

I only have one pebble

Awaken to your own happiness

You can lift other people up to be happy too

Hey good looking, you’re looking good

It would behoove us to not take ourselves so seriously

Return to the child

The pre-socialized little being

Please, pant with me

Wag your tail

Show that gratitude

This world needs our medicine

This world needs our science now

Visual Impressions were created live by Kara Brown at the event.

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