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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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Gifted and Creative Individuals

I would love to hear your thoughts on this perspective of gifted and creative individuals.

The article is The Application of Dabrowski’s Theory to the Gifted by Kevin J. O’Connor and was published in the book Social and Emotional Development of Gifted Children: What Do We Know?.

Here are a few quotes from the article to give you a taste of its content:

Dabrowski observed that gifted and creative individuals are often in conflict with the demands and expectations of their environment…

Many in the gifted community believe Dabrowski’s overexcitabilites, as they contribute to developmental potential, are a measure and indicator of giftedness.

Overexcitabilities are enhanced modes of being in the world. The word ‘over’ used in connection with ‘excitability’ connotes responses to stimuli that are beyond normal and often different in quality. Dabrowski identified “psychic overexcitability” in five forms: psychomotor, sensual, intellectual, imaginational and emotional.

While the concept of developmental potential emphasizes the positive aspects of experiencing life with greater intensity and sensitivity, these same characteristics may also be experienced in negative ways. Individuals with elevated overexcitabilities are more susceptible to being misunderstood and alienated by those who don’t share or understand their unique personality traits.

Parents of gifted children and gifted individuals themselves may find that Dabrowski’s ideas provide a useful “framework for understanding and explaining the developmental patterns and challenges that occur for those of high ability.”

Photo source

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At Home in the World

First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First train home, I’ve got to get on it
First Train home
(soundtrack for this post)

So what? What matters to you?
What are your strongest feelings? What is your central wish? What stirs your inmost being?

Are you home yet?
Lying awake, enchanted by the natural world, caressed by the powers that envelope you, genuinely relating to the beings and things in your life, aligned with a divine presence that permeates everything? everything? It’s there… is it here? Can you see it? Can you touch and taste and smell and hear that divine immanence resonating in the world around you? through you? connecting you… to you… to me… to a tree… to much, much more than we can see? Can you feel it? Is it here?

A lover is trying to seduce us into her wonder and mystery, into the heart of her beauty, home. Day by day, moment by moment, the waters of life are pouring forth into our soul, fed by the little encounters of being that happen without effort… simply because we are alive. We are alive! Can you feel it?

This week three men and the lineages, teachings, and life experiences they embody are helping me travel home. Their messages and essence swirl in my being, chemical reactions activating holy sparks and snapping authentic living into the cells of my waking body.

ahhhhhh
{{{ insert your favorite sound for the divine here }}}
{{{along with one deep breath }}}

You can read my full notes from an evening hearing Brian Swimme, the next night listening to Bill Plotkin, and all the while reading Martin Buber‘s book, The Way of Man. And below (as well as above) are some of the pieces that are cooking me… igniting me… wanting to be shared!

Brian Swimme’s central point was that we humans have forgotten the sacred dimension of nature. We need to renew our capacities to recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world. He believes that people have a deep hunger to:

  • Know how we fit in
  • Make sense of the world
  • Live in alignment with the powers that envelope us, with the divine presence that permeates everything

Buber says that here is a fulfillment of existence that a quiet devoted relationship to nearby life can give us. Developing genuine relationships with the beings and things in whose lives we get to be in, a mutual gift, creates true, fulfilled existence.

By hallowing our relationship with the things and beings that we meet on our way and that attract our hearts, we get in touch “with what manifests itself in them as beauty, pleasure, enjoyment. Hasidism teaches that rejoicing in the world, if we hallow it with our whole being, leads to rejoicing in God.” (Buber)

Bill Plotkin defines soul as “our place in the world.” He sees a true adult as someone who knows how they belong to more than the human world. They understand their place in nature, not just their place in culture.

He talks about how we humans long for our own unique and vibrant participation (membership) in a world that works for all beings. At a soul level we want to be contributing, being of service, and we want to feel at home in the world. We can both contribute and thus feel at home in the world by embodying our deepest passion. Plotkin believes that each individual has gifts, ways of being of service, they were born to embody. Finding our service is both deeply fulfilling and incredibly challenging. Embodying those gifts that are unique to each of us is the biggest contribution to social change that we can make.

And Buber supports this belief,

Every person born into this world represents something new, something that never existed before, something original and unique. ‘It is the duty of every person… to know and consider that he is unique in the world in his particular character and that there has never been anyone like him in the world, for if there had been someone like him, there would have been no need for him to be in the world…

Every man’s foremost task is the actualization of his unique, unprecedented and never-recurring potentialities…‘Everyone has in him something precious that is in no one else.’ But this precious something in a man is revealed to him only if he truly perceives his strongest feeling, his central wish, that in him which stirs his inmost being…

He must find his own self, not the trivial ego of the egotistic individual, but the deeper self of the person living in a relationship to the world…. A man [must see] himself … as a genuine person, whose transformation helps towards the transformation of the world… The task of man, of every man, according to Hasidic teaching, is to affirm for God’s sake the world and himself and by this very means to transform both.

And in order to “belong to the world in the ways nature birthed us,” Plotklin acknowledges the challenge for many of feeling at home in the world. Most people have never learned to feel themselves as a natural element in the world and so cannot feel a part of it and at home in it. Not feeling at home in the world creates a core restlessness and anxiety. Humans have the ability to experience the enchantment of the natural world, they can learn how to be at home in the world and wonder about the world. Feeling at home in the world leads to treating the world as our home. And as these men point out, in order to do so, we must recognize the presence of the divine throughout the natural world.

Swimme uses the story of the cosmos to paint visions of and personify some of the wonderment and divine essence of the universe. For instance, he explains that the atoms of our skin and the air that we breathe are from an exploding star.

Carbon and oxygen exist in the core of a star. When a star explodes it releases these and many other elements into the universe. Our own solar system and planet with its minerals and life forms were created out of these supernova explosions. Every single atom of carbon and oxygen (of which humans are made of) is foraged in stars. The atoms of our skin are from an exploding star. In order for these atoms to exist, stars had to blow up. “I am a cosmological event!” (source)

And when I breathe, I breathe the creations of stars. All the life I will live is possible because of the gifts of those stars. These facts/stories help to illustrate for me the immensity of each moment and they invite me into a direct experience of the divine presence that exists in the natural world.

And then Swimme teaches about the sun. Every second our sun is transforming 4 million tons of itself into light. The sun doesn’t get back that energy. Once it transforms itself into light, the light disperses in all directions. The sun gives it away. Everything that’s happened in the life of this planet is directly dependent upon that light. We’re moving here and talking and thinking only because coursing through our bodies is the energy from the sun. All of human activity is powered by the generosity of the sun. Our existence directly depends upon the giveaway of the sun; this is a real sacrificial, ongoing event. (source)

All of these men are extending deep invitations to directly experience the divine presence permeating the world. The Baal-Shem (founder of Hasidism) teaches that no encounter with a being or a thing in the course of our life lacks a hidden significance. ‘God dwells wherever man lets him in.’

To go, to go, to go
Get, get, get, get
Out, out, out, out
Now, now, now, now
soundtrack by Imogen Heap!

                    
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What Aisle Did You Find Your Serenity In

I went for a walk with a beautiful 4 year old yesterday. She had amazing skills for approaching strangers and inviting engagement. She quickly got to where her heart wanted to be… holding a woman’s hand crossing the street, petting a dog, offering a flower.

The poem below invites me to step up my efforts and attention, becoming more skilled at getting to the heart of what my being wants to communicate to another… to go right there with stranger, friend, family or self? The poem inspires me to get creative and be real. Just like this little boy who asked Obama if he could touch his hair to see if it felt like his own. What a genuine way to relate with the world. Do you want to join me in this challenge?

I Confess
by Alison Luterman

I stalked her

in the grocery store: her crown

of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,

her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
watching

the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,

beaming peace like the North Star.

I wanted to ask, “What aisle did you find

your serenity in, do you know

how to be married for fifty years or how to live alone,

excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess

some knowledge that makes the earth turn and burn on its axis—“

But we don’t request such things from strangers

nowadays. So I said, “I love your hair.”

Thank you 37days for the poem and The Official WhiteHouse Photostream for the photo.

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Blessing Others: A Practice for Opening the Heart

by Janice Lynne Lundy

“Blessings” is the sign-off I use in my e-mail correspondence. It was a conscious choice to do so. I was at a stage in my life when “Sincerely” was just too cold; “Love” a bit too warm for a general farewell, especially to business associates. I had to find the one that fit me the best. “Blessings” felt just right.

E-mail is but one of the many opportunities we have to bless others. Throughout the day, we have many opportunities to offer them well wishes, both verbally and non-verbally.

It’s easy to bless the people we love, harder to confer a blessing of peace and happiness upon a prickly other. More challenging yet, if someone has hurt or betrayed us. I’ve often viewed the presence of difficult others in my life as an opportunity for me to love more; to move from hardheartedness to openheartedness, from expectation-holding to letting go, from grudge-holding to forgiveness. Blessing, in fact, may be one of the most powerful practices we can use to keep our hearts open to one another.

Go Undercover

Without them even being aware of it, we can bestow our goodwill on another. Consider the people we encounter in the course of our day, people who may appear to be “invisible.” The woman who scans our groceries at the checkout counter, the groundskeeper at our condo, the janitor at our children’s school, countless others, too many to name. What if we sent a silent, “Bless You,” as we passed them by? “Bless you for your hard work.” “Bless you for doing your job so I can live more comfortably.” “Bless you for caring for my children.” And so on.

Send a “Body Blessing”

With folks to whom we are more intimately connected, we might employ another form of blessing—a “Body Blessing.” Some of us are reluctant huggers. We give quick hugs, embracing someone out of formality or expectation with no real warmth to be found in it. What if we took this body-to-body opportunity to hug a blessing into them? As we press our cheek or shoulder to theirs, we can silently offer them a blessing of health, inner peace, or joy.

Just Say It

Sometimes the direct path of blessing is best. We need to speak our blessing aloud, face-to-face. This is difficult if we have been raised in stoic families who frown upon such outward expressions. Or, perhaps we are shy about speaking our blessings to another for fear of their response. In any case, a verbal expression of well-being or gratitude may be precisely what is needed to deepen our relationship. A whisper in the ear works wonders; an eye-to-eye confession is even better. Engaging in this way brings boundless rewards, to both the giver and the receiver.

The practice of blessing is good for what ails us. It invites us to express gratitude for the presence of others in our lives. It reminds us to see and affirm their basic goodness. Blessing is so very simple. Two little words, sincerely spoken, can change how we perceive our world. “Bless you” is all it takes …

©Janice Lynne Lundy, 2009

Janice Lynne Lundy is participating in the WOW! Women on Writing Blog Tour, promoting her book, Your Truest Self.

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Solstice to Inauguration

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

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

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

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

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

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