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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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Rest in Peace, Jerry Fuchs


It’s been awhile since I was this inspired by reading about another person’s life. Death has a way of doing that – inviting people to articulate what is most preciously present in their hearts. I am currently being drawn into the comments and articles being written about Jerry Fuchs. Continuously I am moved to tears by what an incredible human it seems he was and how wonderful that he was alive so fully for as long as he was. I am flooded with emotion by how capable some people are of living in a way that is a genuine gift to those they come in contact with. As individuals we are capable of having such an impact on others and it is clear that Jerry Fuchs lived his life in a profoundly enlivening and inspiring way that added so much to the world. I can only imagine the shock and devastation that his family and friends are feeling right now and I continue to send blessings of love and support to them during this shocking and devastating time. And I am thankful that it feels like he is one of those people who has left everyone still alive with palpable memories of his love and presence that will hopefully remain close and real for them. From one friend of his:

“You were truly one of a kind, and whether you knew it or not, people wanted to be in the same room as you, or near the same room as you, because maybe just maybe, some of that radiant joy and in-the-moment spirit you exuded would rub off on them. You didn’t take it all with you, because there are a lot of people today who are going to feel mighty responsible to carry and spread that joy with them for the rest of the time they have here. And who knows now how long that might be. You were a really good drummer, some might say the best we had, but you were a greater friend. I love you and miss you, Jerry.”

I knew Jerry in high school. I didn’t know him well at all. He was a couple of years older and greatly looked up to by my group of friends. He was a genuinely sweet and approachable guy with so much beauty and talent. And so we adored him! Clearly that’s continued to be the story of his life though I would say more than being adored, he was highly respected and extremely influential and inspiring to many, many people around the world.

He died in a tragic freak accident this weekend. The internet is being flooded with reports of his death as he was a well known drummer. I am learning that his talent was tremendous, stated as one of the best drummers ever by many. And yet all the comments and articles that are written by people that knew him (from acquaintances, journalists, band members, fans and friends all over the world) people are consistently addressing the depth of what a genuinely kind, friendly and considerate human he was. It seems that it doesn’t matter if people knew him well or not. I get the feeling that if someone had any contact with him they walked away with the sense of heart connection that comes along with being ‘really close’ to someone. It sounds like he was a guy that was genuinely available and willing to connect fully with whoever and whatever was in front of him. As I said, I am deeply inspired and moved as I’m sure you will understand when you read the comments below that are filling me up with so much love, admiration, and respect.

“Always considerate. Always polite. Always thinking of others. Always had a good time and ensured a good time. So enthusiastic and passionate. Our lives are different than how they would have been if we had never known him and will be different now that he is gone. THANK YOU JERRY.”

“A true friend and exuberant, buoyant spirit.”

“It’s hard to believe, there was something so PRESENT about Jerry that it’s almost impossible to believe he’s gone. It’s the passion he brought to his performance, he struck me as wholeheartedly committed to what he was doing, no matter who he was playing with.”

“What a talented and totally genuine person he was.”

“I was able to catch up with Jerry in Detroit last month when he was on tour with Maserati – that night alone made me realize how much I loved that dude beyond his musically ability, but his love for making people like myself realize that life really isn’t that bad, even if I did suck at bowling.”

“I know exactly what you mean about inspiration. Seeing Jerry play always makes you want to find something difficult to do and do it. I didn’t know him but whenever I saw him play drums I wanted to go out and achieve something.”

“I’ll miss you Jerry, when I hear thunder I will know that is you up in the sky tearing the shit out of the drums.”

May you pass peacefully along on your journey, Jerry, and may your love and presence continue to blossom in the hearts of those who have been graced by your life.
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All Swirled Into One


To be honest, I am often fascinated by my experience of being alive. As in, easily amazed! So I guess this time right now of living in the process of so many major life transitions is no exception. And yet, it’s definitely new for me. I wish I could easily put words to the nuances and extreme spectrum of feelings and experiences I’m having. I can’t do it easily, but I will give it a try!

As a whole, I feel like I’m living many different lives all swirled into one. They blur in and out of each other, overlapping, building upon, disappearing and re-emerging. It’s an exhilarating party of experiences. The old joining with the new, familiar and unfamiliar, light and dark… it’s very exciting.

And then at other times all the parts don’t feel like one life at all. They become compartmentalized. For a moment I’ll only be able to feel one thread. Intellectually I know that the others are still there, but a feeling of anxiety will narrow my perception.

It feels like a dance between harmony and chaos. In the frames of chaos, while they feel aggravating and invasive, I get to see the specifics of that particular thread that is holding me down or confining me. Like a mirror that has shattered into many fragments. I get to rest in one shard and notice the details of what it looks and feels like. What is being reflected back to me? I learn its uniqueness. And during the melodic phases it all spins together, the colors blending, creating a new beauty that is birthed from all the connections.

In my heart and body, this all plays out through a huge spectrum of emotions that I feel, that catch me, control me, tickle me and invite me to pay attention. Sometimes the pace at which I swing from one end of the feeling spectrum to the other is fascinating. I’ll fly in open-ended freedom sparkling with possibility, promise and potential. Confidence glowing through me. Excitement adding pep to my step. Joy twinkling out the corner of my eye and life wrapping me in an inner smile.

And then suddenly that openness is abruptly punctuated with a barreling thud of doubt and anxiety. Mischievously those contracting emotions creep into my skin and bones, throbbing through my heart and thoughts in unexpected moments. They burrow into my eye brows, yank at my heart, tug me down, spin me into confusion, agitation, uhggg, huh?, and not quite right. A shot of insecurity is injected into my blood stream. Without knowing it, I begin to take myself, my life, my experiences oh-so SERIOUSLY!! (and fortunately, even when all of this is going on, there is a steady constant of content. Of trust. Of knowing that it’s all just right.) And yet… I’m feeling the effects of taking myself so-very seriously!!

and then…
ack-a-lacka- splack
spiff, pooof, a wac wac

{shake, shake, shake, shake}

My love for life comes funneling back

The journey feels a bit like an amusement park. Riding the rides, roller coasters flying up and down, tumbling this way and that. Pure joy and passion is the ground where I stand and yet underneath there is an intermittent thrum of fear that surfaces, mumbling rhythms of ‘you’re not doing it right’… Continuously inviting me to slow down. Notice what’s happening. Accept. Love what-is. Rest in stillness. And before I know it, I’ve moved onto the next ride!

I was on a walk one morning after a particularly emotionally/energetically active and aggressive day. I had this feeling that I was disintegrating. I could feel the spaciousness in my body and cells. An airiness. Pieces breaking apart and disappearing, a field of emptiness present within me… as me. A peaceful calm. I felt how clearly the only thing that mattered was the step that I was taking. And the next step. And the next breath. Exactly what I was supposed to do was to take in, really savor, each moment and the environment around me and inside of me.

I then had the realization that I had no typical identity handles to hold onto. I don’t have the habits of being that generally help to shape my identity. In that moment I had no job or profession. No significant other. No home that was my own (I’m ‘boarding’ in another family’s house). No active community that I was tightly woven into. None of those typical outwardly obvious things that one might generally define themself by. I had me. I had life. And this step. And the next, and the next.

This recognition helped me open deeper into a breath of rest. Here it is. I’m living in the unknown. There is little habit or familiarity hinting at what might come in the next moment for me. There aren’t the usuals to predict or inform. And yet… there really still are. And here I am. Living what-is. Learning to love what-is in new ways. Continuously being reminded to be gentle with myself and to be patient.

That’s a sliver of my inner world.

Many photos are from my Flavors of Life album
Swinging in the Sky by McMorr
Roller Coaster Thrill by Carlos Lorenzo
Path – Should I follow? by Azzazello

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Celebrating Life

My soul is glowing with recognition, opening wide in awe and wonder and resting in familiarity as I experience Autumn emerging in the mountains of Appalachia. The leaves are changing with their bright life bursting forth, one last powerful hurrah before they let loose, releasing into the heart of winter. It’s such an honor to be here for this process. It invites in me to celebrate the exuberance of life and the beauty of change!

(ooh, the photos seem to lose their punchy color in these images. They are a bit better when you click on them… and if I played with them, they’d be even better… another time!)




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A Bright Welcome to This New Year

“Release painful patterns through embrace and not through struggle. We open our hearts to ourselves, each other and to the Universal Presence in which we are sustained. On the brink of this new year, we awaken to renewed choice. We seek the thoughts, images, feelings and actions that will more clearly reflect the Loving and Peaceful Heart always at the center of our being.”
~ Bet Alef High Holy Day Prayer Book

Last night began the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This marks the beginning of a new year and according to the Jewish calendar it is the year 5770. Rabbi Ted Falcon pointed out that this is a one-year (add the numbers up until you get to a single digit). A one-year symbolizes the beginning. We are at the beginning of a new cycle right now. What kind of a cycle do we want to create in our lives, in our communities, on this planet? What impact might we have if we actively take responsibility for how we grow into this New Year? Wouldn’t it be amazing if as Rabbi Ted said, this could be the “big one year” in which we realize our oneness?

And so I ask myself: What thoughts, images, feelings and actions do I want to live this year? How will I more clearly reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of my being? How will I more clearly see and reflect the loving and peaceful heart always at the center of your being? Of our collective being? What does it feel like for me to open my heart more fully to myself, others and the source that sustains me and us? This year, I will discover new ways to wake up, recognize and live the fullness of who I am, the depth of my yearnings, the bright vision and sense of possibility that I see.

“This is a year that needs you to be you.”
~ Rabbi Ted Falcon

These are the questions I will be resting in today and for the next 9 days until Yom Kippur – meditating, listening, setting intentions, singing, dancing and dreaming what’s possible into being. I will follow Rabbi Ted’s instructions that it is my job right now to dream the biggest dreams and see visions as large as I can. I will do this for the sake of being an active servant to life, nourishing love, peace, healing, and wholeness in the world. This year the universe needs me to be me. Rabbi Ted invites us to ask ourselves,

“What am I being called to bring to this time?”

I think about Chris Corrigan’s recent post about intention… Now is a time to cultivate action that is rooted in intention and to keep asking, “What is my life dedicated to?”

If any of these questions spark something in your heart, please listen and follow that spark!! And if you’d like to share what emerges, I’d love to hear.

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Playing in the Waves


My life feels very interesting right now!! Some personal story telling.

In the Fall of 2004, as I was finishing up graduate school, I was in communication with a non-profit that worked with teenagers in foster care. This program was located in North Carolina and they were expanding to include a camp for youth and families. Among other things, part of their aim was to provide these children a consistent place and community where they could return each season, reuniting in their village, held by the wilderness, joining with a community of peers and self-discovery mentors while uncovering even more of the wonders of their being and the gifts they behold. The hope was that they would receive support, find strength in their sense of self and feel like they belonged, providing ground for them as they prepared for the often abandoning process of aging out of the system. And most importantly, that they would know a genuine sense of home.

I was deeply engaged in the creative process of this new camp being born and had the great fortune of writing my own job description that was enthusiastically embraced. I was astonished by the blessings unfolding. About to receive a Masters of Education in counseling, here I was creating my dream job and being invited to live it. Wow! Amazing!

And… life is always filled with surprises! In November of 2004 I traveled to North Carolina to help facilitate staff training and to meet the team. And then in early December there was a sudden shift. Things had changed and this perfect unfolding of what was to be next in my life had another course in mind. I would not be working at the camp after all. Time to recalibrate.

So in January of 2005 instead of returning to North Carolina (where I had been living before attending graduate school in Texas), I set off on an adventure into the unknown. I stuffed my three new letters (M.Ed.) into my glove box and set out to experience the Pacific Northwest. I had many friends and colleagues between Seattle, Washington and Vancouver, Canada. At two other points in my history I had almost moved out to the northwest. It felt like now was the time to explore this region and see if it wanted to invite me to stay.

My plan was simple, give what I have to give whenever I can, wherever I am. Offer my skills and talents. Be open to what’s possible. Notice what emerges. Follow my heart when I hear something calling. I gave myself 6 months to try out living in this way and to see if I wanted to live in that part of the country. I figured if I was genuinely giving whenever I could something in the form of a job would open up. What else could the universe want of me? And if no job or practical plan emerged, well then I would hit the classifieds and take the traditional route at the end of that 6 months. Travels and visits unfolded… and in May I was offered a phenomenal job at a school in Seattle with a beautiful mixture of creative freedom in program development, a variety of ways to use my skills and talents, the joy of working with children and adults, and being in a thriving community of learners. And so began the next chapter of my life… the chapter which wrapped up this June.

I’m reliving the a fore mentioned pattern of surfing in the unknown, giving what I have to give, dreaming, listening, noticing, learning and following “the spark of yes.” This morning a big belly laugh of surprise caught me when I ran across the job description for the camp that I wrote in October of 2004. It actually splashed me in the face with an awe-inspiring, cosmic-laugh that barked: of course! The job description is posted below and the humor is in how clearly it expresses the path I am on right now, articulating the kind of work I would like to do more of wherever I end up landing next. You can compare it to the document that I wrote in June of this year (along with other information at my current website) talking about some of my current interests, passions and offerings. You might also notice that somehow in these last 4 years I got a lot more wordy! (grin)

I’ll be leaving the Seattle area on September 29th coming full circle as I head to North Carolina. Please feel free to help me dream forward a lively future and stay tuned as I continue swimming in the unknown, riding the waves of excitement and anxiety while holding sacred my dedication to follow my heart, practice deep listening and keep on learning!

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This Little Seed of Mine, I’m Gonna Let it Shine

Tick tock, fingers locked.
What to write?
How to talk?

a rhythm, a voice, a harmonizing force
fluency, disruption and curiosity, of course!

Ever since some point in my young life, I’ve identified with trees. Mom, dad, do you know when that started? They are my teachers when I need wisdom, friends when I long to experience belonging, mirrors when in a search for validation and reflection, support to rest upon and give my weight, and elders willing to make contact with me, hold me close, and shelter me from the rest of the world. The trees, they help me let go, they allow me to release from the habits and contractions, the mind looping and obsessing, the wondering and searching. They hold me still and steady and provide space for me to open — expanding, releasing into the essential beauty and oneness of this sacred moment, feeling connection with all of life, and grounding in the solid wonderment of me, of life. Thank you dear beings of wood, earth, soil, sun, water, rain, breath, fun.

A brief pause for an update on my life:

Change, change, everywhere

asking questions
listening to what’s here
recognizing aliveness
centeredness that’s clear…
and crumble, crumble, crashing it goes
breaking up perceptions
of clarity and form
scattering ideas and concepts
building a foundation for a future that’s near

following my heart
pause, pause, pause

listening for guidance
pause, pause, pause

thinking, scanning, action planning
pause
pause
pause

repeat

In March of 2002 this image peeked out of my subconscious and invited me home. While the drawing didn’t quite capture the beauty of the tree and the alive posturing of the young girl, I heard its song and my bodybeing felt the familiarity of that existence. At home and at peace I feel when tucked away in the base of a big solid tree. Protected. Free. Spirited. A pulsing life force emerging through grounded essence, connected to a web of existence, alive, as is, of service, here.

Right now there are many elements about what is next in my life that I don’t know. Where will I live? What will I do? As I listen and look for these answers, I continuously invite myself into deeper inquiry and discovery around the aspects of my being that I do know… or think I know!!

I am called to become rooted in purpose and place.

Which means… much inquiry (writing, drawing, visioning, thinking, dancing, talking, looping, dreaming) about what is the purpose I feel called to, what kind of place (what all is included in my idea of place) do I want to root and roost in?

And so this illustration by Terry Widener captured my attention with a bit of longing. Instead of actually rooting, could I just hang out in the roots? I know that I am being called from the place of hanging out inside the trees for respite and security, into the realm of being a tree… big, bold, beautifully being, breathing, bending in the breeze, beckoning others to believe. . . (believe in ourselves, believe in what’s possible, be with what-is)

There are two guiding questions that arrived for me a couple of nights ago… that are steering my listening right now and igniting much energy and excitement:

  1. What invitations would I love to receive? What could someone or someones invite me into that would be so evocative and affirming that my being would readily leap and say YES!, recognizing a soul’s calling, a place to step, a direction that might root what’s next?
  2. If I am a seed right now, what is in my seed? (am I a seed to become a strawberry plant, oak tree, lilac blossom, dandelion?) What is in my seed?

seeding at Rialto beach last month

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