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What Do We Do?

Urgent messages are coming out of Aleppo, horrific violence against civilians (particularly women and children) has intensified. A genocide continues to happen and the world sits silently, including myself. I breathe and offer prayers and light a candle. May their souls escape the suffering… And I wonder… what do we do?

I will me honest, I don’t really understand all of the pieces and connections between Russia and Syria. What I gather is that people on the ground say that Russia is heavily involved in the inhumane mass torture and murder of civilians, while Russia says it is terrorists. What do we as global citizens do to join together to over-power the violence and hate-filled terrorism that is overcoming this world… and also our local communities?

Meanwhile (cause we only care when it threatens our own safety?), Trump has just announced that he has nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of EXXON, as the U.S. Secretary of State. Not only is that horrifying from big corporate OIL money being at one of the most powerful positions in our government, Tillerson was awarded Russia’s prestigious Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013 for his work with the Russian oil giants, further illustrating the potential ties between Tump and Putin moving forward. Is what is happening in Syria a glimpse into what could happen here? There are so many warning signs from points in history and realities in other countries that point to the possible future of the United States. Can we of good hearts find the vigilance to step out of our comfort zones, activate, and unite to truly make our communities safe against violence and terror? Starting now?

And then moving closer to home… yesterday a black man was found on the side of the road here in Asheville, beaten on his morning jog, and left there with a chord wrapped around his neck. This is terrorism. This is unacceptable. How do we stand up against the increase in hate crimes?

Last week Bryan Stevenson spoke about 4 things that are essential for us to do at this time in history. One of them is to STAY HOPEFUL, that we have to protect our hopefulness because when we become hopeless we become part of the problem. And it is our hopefulness that will motivate us to stand up when others say sit down, or speak up when others expect us to be quiet. My hopefulness rests in the power of all of us with good hearts… all of us who believe in human rights, in treating all people with dignity and respect, and in caring for our planet in ways that support its ability to be alive and healthy for our children’s children and their grandchildren.

And… those with good hearts have to be ACTIVE and ORGANIZE ourselves and do all that we can to connect with the good hearts in other people, particularly those who might be vulnerable to following orders of violence. As Renku sen said, “If you have some privilege, then you must risk it.” What sacrifices are we willing to make to protect the dream of freedom for all people?

 

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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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Our Oceans Are Filled With Plastic: They Are Experiencing How Bad It Really Is


Five media artists, led by photographer Chris Jordan, are traveling to Midway to witness the catastrophic effect of our disposable culture on some of the world’s most beautiful and symbolic creatures. But even more, they are embarking on an introspective journey to confront a vitally relevant question: In this time of unprecedented global crisis, how can we move through grief, denial, despair and immobility into new territories of acceptance, possibility, and wise action?
~ The Midway Journey

Chris Jordan‘s wish “is to get out of [his] own way for long enough that the symbolic tragedy that is happening on Midway can speak for itself, on its own terms.”

“This morning I took off early by bike with camera gear on my back, and explored an abandoned World War II runway littered with the decaying carcasses of albatrosses—virtually all of their bellies filled with plastic junk. Talking and reading about it from home was one thing, but seeing it here in person carries a much different feeling. I made my first photograph, and felt myself sink one increment into the profound story that this island has to tell.” ~Chris Jordan

“According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife rangers, albatross bring almost five tons of plastic to Pihemanu/Midway every year. The ocean is permeated with plastic and, like dust floating in the air, it’s mostly invisible to us. Albatross concentrate this plastic junk in their bodies and deposit it on land when they die. A Hawaiian elder counseled us not to view the albatross or the islands as victims of plastic pollution. They have called this problem to them, she said, to deliver us a message. We are hit with this message every day. When can we say we’re receiving it?” ~Victoria Sloan Jordan

The Midway Journey Blog
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Returning Home

I’m back in Seattle now after a little over 2 weeks in Atlanta with family and fate. I sit in one of my favorite coffee shops. Drink coffee, eat a bagel, watch the people around, smell the smells, hear the many sounds, feel the quiet/loud, stillness/activity. It’s sunny outside. I see the light shining through new spring leaves. That makes me smile!

There are so many thoughts, feelings and sensations moving through me. Is it that I don’t know where to start or am I afraid to dip into the well, what might I pull out?

My heart has been deeply touched and changed through life experiences of recent days. I went home to be with my dad and family as my dad had major surgery. I was there before hand, during the 4 hour surgery, at the hospital for the 8 days of healing, at home a couple of days, and back to the hospital just before I left town yesterday. Our family has grown closer and supported each other phenomenally through the stresses of surgery and the surprise of a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Our spirits stay high, the laughter continues to rumble and some of our outer shells slowly soften. We cry also!

One thing I’ve been fascinated by is how disordering it can feel when one is unable to play the accustomed (habitual) roles in a social system. For me it was in my family. For a few of us, we noticed that there are roles that we generally play, that are expected of us. In times of stress and intensity, sometimes it wasn’t appropriate for us to play those roles. And then we felt a loss of identity. If I’m not the helper. If I don’t know how to be supportive and how to express my love in valuable ways. If my presence isn’t a comfort. Then who am i? What is my purpose?

And now I return to ‘my life.’ What is my role here? I’ve been immersed moment to moment in the life of my dad and how each of us around him, who love him so dearly, are responding to the intensities of change, fear and discomfort… to the heart-touchings of life’s fragile importance, of love’s expansive blessings, and of the gentle gifts of grace that emerge from vulnerability and closeness.

Now I’m in a coffee shop with other people on their computers, the espresso machine clicking, the guy walking by and smiling, a child trying to figure out how he pays for and receives his drink all by himself, the humm in my head of what I need to do today to return to this world… Life just keeps going. My body’s here now. My mind and much of my family are still there. And I’m confused. Peaceful… and confused.

It’s hard for me to stay centered in this moment. I drift away… drifting backwards through the stream of experiences that happened in the hospital, at the house, in the car, in the woods, on the phone, by myself, with my loved ones, in the silence. Those were some of my favorite experiences… the pauses between the moments… especially with my dad. Being with him, sweetly and genuinely, in silence. Just there. Together. No boundaries between us.

My mind also drifts to the future. What lies ahead for him? What will he experience? What will we experience? How do I proceed? How can I be so far away? And gently, I remind myself to breathe. I feel my lungs rise and fall. I try to focus on some part of my body. I notice what’s going on around me. And then, settling into here… I feel confused… and wonder, how do I proceed?

The Way You Live Today by Omraam Mikhaël Aïvanhov

Your entire destiny is contained in and determined by the way you live today: the orientation you give to your thoughts and feelings, and the activities on which you choose to spend your energies.(…)

This is something that has to be done every day: be conscious and aware at each instant of how you are using your energies…You can do it while you are walking to work, on the bus, at the dentist’s, or in your own kitchen. Wherever you are, at any moment of the day, you can always glance into yourself and ask yourself: {What is alive right now? Is it helpful to focus my attention here?}*

Let the word ‘harmony’ soak into you at every moment; keep it within you as a kind of tuning fork: if you feel that you are beginning to worry or get upset, pick it up and listen to it, and do nothing until you have tuned your whole being once more. Harmony is the foundation of every successful venture, every divine realization. Before undertaking any activity, whatever it may be, learn to concentrate on harmony and your work will bear fruit for the rest of eternity.

*My own questions, not from the author

I stare at that tree with the light shining through the green, green leaves. I soak in that harmony. There is harmony all around me in the outer world. I invite this harmony to soak into me at every moment. I will carry it around with me in the form of a smooth polished stone, inviting me to be present, surrender and listen to this moment. To trust in this moment. And to tune my whole being, once more, to harmony. I get to learn who I am now… and what does harmony in my life now feel like.

Green Leaves by Cathryn Cooper

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Letting Go, Passing Away and Coming Together

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

Dec. 20 Last night’s dream:

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

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

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

I feel some of the fear of the other women. This child seems so vulnerable and in such ‘bad shape’. I reassure them that the child who had been guiding me up until this point was extremely powerful… filled with a huge amount of determination and understanding. She walked consciously to this point and it is our opportunity to be with her consciously, accepting and surrendering to the letting go that is happening now.

Yesterday I found out that Finn passed away a couple of nights ago. I feel so blessed to have been able to know, connect with, learn from and love such an inspiring human. We met at an Evolutionary Salon where I was touched on a non-personal level by his wisdom and experience. He continually guided and invited deep connection with the presence of the magic in the middle, not through instruction and lecture, but experientially in the ways he engaged with himself and the group. I also had the opportunity to learn from him and with him through facilitating together on the final day. After the salon we connected some online.

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

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

I give thanks to Finn and to Martin Ehrensvärd and Tina Ranløv, Finn’s close friend and wife, who have not only showed up in unimaginably powerful ways but who also continue to share the wisdom and growth with this broader community. I leave you with words from Tina as she shared the news of Finn’s passing and invites each of us into a calling:

It has been and it is to me a lifegiving process and I feel in me and the people close around me a call from life to grow, to share, to evolve, to come together, to ask for help.

c20
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