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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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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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Living with Radical Honesty

Living With Radical Honesty by Brad Blanton
Re-posted from Charity Focus

I learned that the primary cause of most human stress, the primary cause of most conflict between couples and the primary cause of most both psychological and physical illness is being trapped in your mind and removed from your experience. What keeps you trapped in your mind and removed from your experience is lying and we all lie […] all the time. We’re taught systematically to lie, to pretend, to maintain a pretense because we’re taught that who we are is our performance. Our schools teach us to lie, our parents teach us to lie. We’re all suffering from mistaken identity.

We think that who we are is our reputation, what the teacher thinks of us, what kind of grades we make, what kind of job we have. We’re constantly spinning our presentation of self, which is a constant process of lying and being trapped in the anticipation of imagining about what other people might think. Our actual identity is as a present tense noticing being. I’m someone sitting here talking on the telephone right now and you’re sitting there talking on the telephone and writing or doing whatever you’re doing. That’s your current identity and this is my current identity and when you start identifying with your current present-tense identity you discover all kinds of things about life that you can’t even see or notice when you’re trapped in the spin doctoring machine of your mind. So radical honesty is about delivering yourself from that constant worrisome preoccupation of, “Oh my god. How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing? How am I doing?” Then you can pay attention to what’s going on in your body and in the world and even pay attention to what’s going on in your mind. […]

Just look at what you notice in front of you right now, your environment, wherever you are in an office or wherever it is. Noticing is an entirely different function than thinking and what we do all the time is that we confuse thinking with noticing. When we think something we act as though it has the same validity as something that we see. I’ve got a bumper sticker on my truck that says, “Don’t believe everything you think.” It’s like your thinking just goes on and on and on and on.

–Brad Blanton, Center For Radical Honesty

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Shadows and Swords

Synchronicities
Alignment
Clarity
Uncertainty
Being with
Experiencing
Exploring

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

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

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

From my journal:

There is a part of me that interacts Powerfully with others by holding space for What-is to truly be present. There is another part of me that is naïve to the power that way of being holds… and thus doesn’t always skillfully use timing or discernment. How do I come to better know these parts? Can you name them?

One part emerged immediately. I know her well. She appears readily at the surface of my expression, a light and free, playful self. The other part of my self was not as ready to be named. I allowed myself to rest in being, journeying on the land and in my soul.. and in the beauty and power of the ocean, I was able to name this other part of myself. Let me introduce you to them (again from my journal):

The innocent beginner – I’ll try anything. Why not. The best way to be an innocent beginner is to just put yourself out there. Just go for it and see what happens. I’m great at getting experiments started or inviting you into new experiences. I take the edge off of things because I give you permission to just be a beginner… be open and see what happens. I’m innocent because I really don’t know better. I’m just beginning to step my foot into this pool.

The woman who wields a sword – I notice how I have this sword. There is some body-knowing and memory of how I move, center and balance myself when holding a sword. This sword cuts through experience. The edge is fierce. Piercing the surface with awareness. It can be harsh and crisp. Awareness is often not gentle. Sometimes it’s seems so nice, helping to shave away the excess fluff that is in the way. Inviting clarity. Inviting precision. And other times it touches lived life that resists being touched… that wants to continue living as is and not to be poked and prodded, pierced with a sword of awareness.

Now that I know these two selves, I’ve been trying to notice when they emerge, especially the one who wields a sword. There is a quality that I feel in my body, a lightening of form, an expansive sense, a sharpening of presence. I am slowly starting to recognize this as her emerging. When I become aware of this I am making extra effort to listen intently to guidance of how to respond. Recognizing that in my being right now I wield a weapon and I must proceed with caution and clarity. I assume a stature of poise, balance, precision and awareness… when I remember… when I am aware.

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

She says:

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

We need to know how to remain in perfect poise and dignity, never to push our adversary or interlocutor into a place they cannot go unless we are prepared and awake enough to go with them to guard their back.

I have not always respected this. I recognize how dangerous my own passions can be and the shadow sides of longings that emerge from them. And how often have I drawn my sword and then walked away, abandoning the other? Chris wrote about the shadows of greed, failure and dishonesty. How often have I drawn my sword out of greed or fear of failure? Was I ever dishonest with my sword?

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

Photos from Helen and Tom

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Holy Wholes, Including the Holes!

I feel whole.

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


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

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

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Hearing, Seeing and Loving

Anne Stadler recently inquired on an email list:

I am wondering do you feel “heard”, “seen”, and “loved”—even by the people with whom you are conversing? Do you feel you are engaging fully (using all your intelligences!) with each other and the whole in this exploration?

Many inspiring responses have emerged… and here is what I wrote:

I’d like to share some personal stories. My practice keeps turning me again and again inside myself (along a pathway of service beyond myself).

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

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

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

A couple of days later…

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

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Integrating Man’s Control of Order with Nature’s Mastery of Order

If you’re in the Seattle Area, I highly recommend a trip to this year’s Seattle International Children’s Festival to experience contemplative juggler, Thomas Arthur May 17 – 19. For a taste, you can watch some recent television appearances here and here (for the second one, skip ahead to 31:31)

“In a wondrous dance of animate objects and projected image, Luminous Edge tells the story of a Wizard’s apprentice and his struggle to learn new ways of being in a world on the verge of collapse. How do we learn to cooperate with the natural flow instead of trying to control it? The apprentice seeks to integrate the genius and skill of the Wizard with the heart of the Shaman as he explores magical patterns reflected in geometric shapes and natural objects.

Luminous Edge is a playful, hopeful exploration of the environmental and social problems facing our world today, a call to bring the wisdom of science into the heart of soul and community.”

Although this work has been created for the children’s festival, it will definitely appeal to adults as well and I highly recommend purchasing tickets and joining us for the experience.

At this performance you will be swept about by breathtakingly beautiful images of nature, forms of movement, and inquiries of existence.

In the meantime, here is a picture of Angkor Thom, Cambodia brought to us by Day and Night Painter. It’s another sacred place that shows the connection between man’s control and nature’s power… and it also leaves me in awe.

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