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May They STOP and Find Healing

Today is hard. Gentleness and love to all the women and all the souls who are also feeling that. I’m at the laundromat and there is a man that has a t-shirt on that says “Only YES means YES”. It’s striking to me how much it affects my nervous system to see a man walking around with a statement about consent and against sexual violence.

May we be evolving as a human race, may compassion and justice seep deeper into our practice of being human, may those that are wounded in such ways that they cause harm and use acts of violence and abuse of power STOP and find healing. May we grow in our abilities to be in loving, intimate and respectful relationships.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Heroic

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May we Dismantle Oppressive Behaviors and Embrace Mutuality

A prayer for every person who is devoted to social change that leads to a more just and humane world… May each one of us strengthen or develop our capacities to address tensions and conflict, receive and give feedback, and learn and grow from our encounters… may we stay focused on the goals of change for the greatest good and those most vulnerable, as we dismantle patterns of oppression and embrace healthy patterns of mutual relationships.

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Under the Veil With My Tender Heart

There is a tendency inside of me to feel responsible for the world, responsible for the well-being of others. If I can see someone suffering, if I can feel the presence of sorrow, if I can recognize that injustice or unfairness or cruelty is happening, I feel a sense of responsibility to “do something” — I am able to respond, response-able, and thus a feeling arises in me that it is my obligation to act. Easily I can deny my own feelings or needs, ignore internal voices that are looking out for my own well-being, and invest all of my energy into this perceived need that I see “out there” in another person or situation. Or… if I choose not to act, I can get caught in a spiral of guilt, fear, worry and concern that my actions or lack of actions are causing further harm to another. I can completely exhaust and deplete myself with these tendencies, with this inclination to jump out of my own skin and over-prioritize my perception of the needs of others. I used to think this pattern in me was compassion. I am growing in my ability to see that it is actually an unhealthy habit that is self-centered, toxic, and codependent behavior.

This year I have invested a great deal of energy and attention into my own healing. I am growing in my ability to stay rooted in myself, listening to my own body and my own needs while also sensing what is going on around me and with others. I’m making choices about how to act that keep my well-being in the equation and aren’t reactions to some self-imposed mandate. I am learning how to not give more than I have and how to not act from a place of pity, guilt, or that unhealthy flavor of “you have to…”. Often I am still confused when discerning between healthy human family obligations and unhealthy codependent perceived obligations. This is one of my learning journeys. And I feel my boundaries and discernment ripening.

My Mid-Life Labyrinth

This has been a huge focus of the 40th year of my life. I was initiated into my 40’s with a powerful and sacred full solar eclipse that moved me to my core, returned me to my core, spun magic and awe and love all around me, and tossed me into life like a shooting star, aware of my trail of light and clear that I was on this journey with many other light beings. I was hopeful for the alignment that would unfold in me in the coming year. I had dreams of me glowing in my body, strong in my big-hearted, bright-eyed, wise sense of self, and vibrant with the flow of connections weaving between me, the people I love, the places I live, and the work in the world I am doing. I was committed to this journey… as I often am at the beginning of a cycle.

As I near completing another spin around the sun, reflecting on where I am now and where my soul and psyche have traveled this past year, it seems like I’ve been walking my mid-life labyrinth. I’ve had stretches of joy and celebration where I feel aligned and focused, and I’ve had stretches of depression and darkness where the sparkle in life has faded and the depths of personal and societal work has drained me. It’s been both an orienting and disorienting year.

Today I find myself in a familiar and yet possibly an unfamiliar place. There is a dark and shadowy pit of insecurity, self-doubt, stories of inadequacy and lack, and beliefs of scarcity that I know all too well that is close by. A magnet that pulls at me, whispers tales of failure and self-deprecation, and fills me with dark, negative images of myself. So much energy is required to counterbalance this force. As I said, it’s familiar. Yet today I find myself thinking that perhaps it’s a situation of “two steps forward, one step back.” I imagine the terrain I travel is a spiral, spinning towards wholeness, evolving and devolving on a windy road that ultimately takes me home to myself and my purpose. I know that I am aligned with my North Star and the universe gives me signs, though I don’t always understand them. This latest return to the shadows has arrived after an incredibly intense gift from the most holy.

Divinely Protected

Two weeks ago I felt the most divinely protected that I have in a long time. Driving 70 miles on the highway, in a state of bliss and celebration as I traveled to experience a birthday gift I’d bought myself, tickets to see Janelle Monae in Charlotte. I lost control of my car, skid for 384 feet (longer than a football field), spun around, hit the guardrail, skid backwards another 61 feet, and stopped on the right hand side of the road, snug against the guardrail, facing oncoming traffic. Once the car was stopped, the clearest memory for me is the perception of, “Holy shit. I think I’m okay. I know I’m in shock, so don’t believe my thoughts. But I really think I’m okay. I am protected. Gratitude.” I recall the moment of heading straight for the guardrail, recognizing that “this could be it,” feeling a sense that I may die or be seriously damaged by the impact about to take place. Then the next thing I remember is the car stopping and my recognition that I think I’m okay.

The highest priority for me this last year has been my spiritual practice: Deepening my sense of faith and trust, strengthening my partnership with forces unseen, settling into myself, breath, acceptance and finding new connections and life-threads. I always pray before leaving for trips, but that day my prayers lasted longer than expected. I imagined it was because of the goodness of the gift of my pleasure and joy I was giving myself for my birthday. I did not realize it was genuinely connected to the gift of life that was being given to me.

The Drive to Keep Going

Thanks to my dearest friend and family who drove out to meet me, check-in that I was really okay, and swapped cars with me, I still went and danced and glowed with Janelle Monae and another dear friend and family. With only mild pain in my neck and head and a couple of commitments that I felt I needed to keep, I “pushed through” for another week… mildly listening to my body. One week after the incident, I had time to pause and stop, to recognize that I actually needed a lot more of that, likely had a mild concussion, needed rest and restoration, and so slowed way down.

And then… the shadow cloud moved in. I had been feeling that I was taking steps forward in many areas of my life, but that I was just on the edge. It was requiring a lot of effort to keep the hustle moving forward. With this mandate to slow down and listen to an aching body that also needed to rest and go slow, doubts and uncertainties and stories of “see what you’re NOT doing, see how you’re NOT living the world you dream of, see how you haven’t brought to life what you’ve been working towards” came flooding in.

I Am a Work in Progress

So I’m in a familiar place, and I’m not. Tears return with a smile right now. I still have so much to learn in regards to how to genuinely listen to myself, listen to and nourish my body, trust in the patterns and cycles of the universe, and show up for my purpose here on this Earth in ways that are enlivening for the world around me and the world within me. Once again, my body is speaking to me and it feels like a foreign language… clearly a language meant to reach me, but one I’m not sure how to understand. Once again, she says, “I get that this is hard for you, and you must give it your attention.

And while the dark shadow threatens to cloud my view, I recognize it for what it is. I see it’s familiar neural pathways in my existence, and I also have the strength and insight to not indulge it (or catch myself when I am). A taste of its presence comes accompanied with the reminder that this is a habit, pattern, it’s familiar and not the full truth. I am so much more than the stories it whispers to me. I can recognize its presence and yet not indulge its desire to settle into me. I can feel that it is close while also staying connected to life-giving sources that nourish and inspire me, that allow me to dance with the sparkle in life, I do not have to be shaded by life-draining habits of my psychology.

So, here I am, walking vulnerably on this path of life. Marveling at the labyrinth of the year I was 40 and curious about where I am going on this journey, which souls I will partner with as I continue to live forward my purpose, and what we will bring to life. I am so grateful for those who are on the journey with me now, living and weaving love to the fullest of our capacities. Thank you for reading my tender storytelling and heart sharing. And if it feels right for you, please join me in offering a prayer for me and for you — May we shine with the light of our souls, radiant in and devoted to our purpose here on Earth, loved, supported, protected, and divinely guided. Thank you.

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It’s Time to Genuinely Protect ALL Children

On this Father’s Day, I am thinking about the societal role of father’s as protectors. I’m profoundly grateful for all the men who show up to protect, love and nurture young people and I’m grateful to all the mothers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, and aunties who fill that role when the fathers aren’t able. I’m also feeling how self-centered and self-absorbed many white families are, how often the parenting of children is mostly just one’s own children and how easy it has been, across history in this country, to protect one’s own children and be silent and inactive as other people’s children are given no protection from hatred, violence, and injustice.

Today… like so many other days… my heart is with all the children who are being harmed, violated, tortured, and traumatized, those who have no real protection. Feeling this is hard.

When I saw the video of inside the Walmart detention center and they spoke about how the children are being taught lessons about America, underneath the large mural of Trump, I kept thinking about the many indigenous youth that were stripped from their families and abusively forced to assimilate to white society. Here we are in 2018. Doing the EXACT SAME THING. When I hear about the tent cities being constructed to warehouse these children without their families, I feel the Japanese internment camps. Here we are again, 2018. This is America.

As I hear that 2000 children have been forcibly removed from their families in 6 weeks, I also feel the 10,000 children that are in ADULT prisons in the United States RIGHT NOW and the 3000 youth that have LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE sentences. We have 13 states that have no minimum age for trying a child as an adult. This is America. All children are not valued. They never have been.

On this day, June 17th, 47 years ago in 1971, President Nixon declared the “war on drugs” which increased the prison population by 700%. The millions of children that have been and continue to be terrorized and traumatized by the incarceration of people of color, the incarceration of their family members, is inhumane. This is America. These children’s lives were never valued.

So I continue to wonder and strategize, to feel so many feelings and stay in the pain and motivation — What will it take for us as Americans, and particularly us white women, to finally see the horrors that are imposed upon children of color, families of color, white children living in poverty, and say “no more”? We have opted for hundreds of years to perhaps feel in our hearts that something isn’t right, but to choose to “keep things safe for our own children and families” which means — pretending that lynching is okay, pretending that we don’t see the diffrent quality of education being offered to children of color than to white children, convincing ourselves that there is nothing that we can do or believing that we are too busy and too tired trying to raise our own families to do anything, pretending that the juvinal justice system and the criminal justice system is actually serving justice and protecting people of color, pretending or avoiding the fact that immigrant children have been abducted from their parents, or their parents forcefully removed from them, for years. Pretending or avoiding the realities that Native young girls are being raped and violated. And not being concerned that many white boys are suffering from a fierce complex that causes them to brutalize and terrorize other people, feeling superior to other people.

I know that I have not personally done anything harmful to these millions of children that are being tortured and abused around the world, actions inspired by Capitalistic, White Supremacy, Patriarchical motives that are often justified by Christian beliefs. However, I do feel that the blood is on my hands. I wake up with this feeling daily. If I am not actively working to face the cruelty that has been present since the beginning of my country and doing what I can to change the reality here, my conscience does not rest.

It will take us coming together and acting in many different ways to address once and for all the horror of who we are as a country. All of us are required, those of humane conscience, the hearts of gold, the people who are genuinely all about freedom, equality, and LOVE. No one can opt out if we genuinely want to create a more humane world. And there are as many ways to participate as there are people, there is no one right strategy. If you’re still reading this, PLEASE don’t hear my words as saying — “you have to act in the ways I act.” That’s not it. But you do have to act — and find the ways that are right for you, for your family, for your abilities, for your current emotional state.

This is not an easy journey. May as many people as possible find the courage to step in, for real. May we be supported by one another as we do so. May we be motivated by, accountable to, and guided by love. May we truly feel our interconnectedness.

And if you feel inspired to do something and you don’t know what to do — one key step is to educate yourself about history. Use google. Understand the patterns that are repeating themselves right now.

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Do you feel this obligation calling to you?

What is needed to consciously host and work through tensions of race, power and privilege while honoring unity and diversity?

Last week I gathered with 40 practitioners of participatory hosting and facilitation around the above question. Some were like me, stepping into this space with aspects of this inquiry alive in our every day, every breath, burning scars and lighting up paths as we follow our devotion and respond to the world that is, and call to life worlds that could be. Others arrived holding the value of the question, but not necessarily feeling it burning as their own. Open to learning. Willing to support. Seeing the importance. Participating from the edges. But not necessarily their call.

And so it was asked — “What needs to shift in you for you to recognize that this IS your call?” ~ Maurice Stevens

Let me be clear, it was only white people who were on the edges.

For five days we wandered around this question, dove into it, felt the fire and discomfort at its hearth, retreated to the edges, asked and acted on “what can we do?”, shared stories, and sat with the inquiry with a spectrum of responses — awe, curiosity, timidness, courage, fear, pain, shame, anger, exhaustion, righteousness, warriorship, and so much more.

My reflections and learning will continue to reveal themselves. However, a question that is fiercely alive in me as I return home, emboldened from witnessing people in its struggle is — What needs to shift in you for you to recognize that fair and just treatment of other human beings is an obligation, a response-ability, that is calling to you?

My own learning edge is to hold with grace my own judgement about the fact that so many of us still need to be invited into this call, convinced of its importance, handled carefully as we wrestle with our ignorance and shame, pushed and nudged to pay attention to the impact on people’s lives and the history that laid the foundation for this moment we are currently living. I have been this person.

I am learning to accept the facts… make statements… name what I see… don’t try and teach… acknowledge where people are at or coming from… and do so with a clear grounding in myself — grounded in my prayers for wholeness, equality and justice, grounded in the reverence I have for the life and goodness in each human being, grounded in connection with the other, grounded in love, and grounded in my core, so as to not take reactions personally.

White Supremacy culture and white privilege are real. I will continue to see it and name it in myself and in others. This might feel painful and uncomfortable if you are not yet able to see what is being named. That’s okay. Please know that my intentions, the intentions of others who feel the burning of this call, is usually towards our collective liberation. The personal pains are because we want you on this journey with us. We feel the strength in our collective commitment.

We are stronger together. We are wiser together. We are in this together. Whether we like it or not.

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What Is This Moment Calling For?

Ashley041417-219As 2018 walks into my life, making herself at home like she’s been here all along, I’m reaching out to you, most of the people that I know, because now feels like the time.

As I see it, we are facing an opportunity of our lifetime: Can we learn or remember how to take better care of one another and guide ourselves towards a future that is more humane than this moment we are living now?

Most days, I have hope that it’s possible. In my 40 years of life, I’ve been blessed to meet thousands of incredible people all around the world. I’m in awe of how many folks from different backgrounds and life experiences are actively investing their energy and resources towards creating a more compassionate future. I hypothesize that perhaps the majority of people on this planet have good in our hearts and are capable of acting in ways that bring out the positive side of humanity.

So in 2018 – that’s a question that I’m exploring and where I will continue to focus my attention. Here are a few things that I believe which guide me:

  • People are amazing and capable of so much goodness
  • We are wiser together — the challenges that we face at this time are solvable when lead by the collective wisdom of diverse groups
  • If we face the truth of the past and present, then we are capable of imagining a future and working together to create the world we dream of
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Spiritual First Responders

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This season I offer my deepest and most heart-felt gratitude to all of the spiritual first responders who are listening to what is being called of them and showing up with so much courage, compassion and fierce commitment towards addressing the root causes of human suffering and tending to the acute needs of those who feel the impact of the world’s (and our communities’) issues.

These words from Stephen Lewis and the rest of his letter in the Forum for Theological Exploration’s annual report brought tears to my face. I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with an organization like FTE who embodies their values and uses their privilege to create opportunities for others. Here’s to another year of ‘bold and diverse voices and imaginations sparking the change the world needs.’

Read their annual report here.

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