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Turning Inward


Right now I’m under my brown earth blanket with 3 journals open, reflecting on life, what I’m learning, this year, these last 3 years… synthesizing, drawing pictures, conjuring… cozy and incredibly grateful for this season of slowing down and turning inward.

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Restorative Justice with Juvenile Cases


“Our system has proven woefully inadequate, so we can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Said Jimmy Hung Chief Prosecutor for Juvenile courts in King County (Seattle, Washington). He doesn’t see evidence that jailing them changes anything. He’s most concerned about a system that funnels teenagers through detention and sees most leave no better than when they arrived — sometimes far worse.”

Last week I got to catch up with an old friend and someone whom I deeply respect and am honored to learn from and with, Saroeum Phoung. Honestly, he blew my mind as he shared about the incredible work they are doing in King county… on a systemic level and impacting the lives of thousands of people. Below is more from the articles:

Prosecutor Hung and his colleagues in King County took a risk and began implementing Peacemaking Circles, a form of restorative justice, for both misdemeanor and felony juvenile cases, working with lead consultant (and phenomenal human being) Saroeum Phoung from Pointonenorth Consulting LLC.

“The peacemaking process promises a clean start in return for hard conversations, intensive self-reflection, empathy-building and public amends.

“What people don’t realize is that this restorative justice work is harder than going to jail!” – Saroeum Phoung.

Getting the teen to connect his victim’s experience with his own feelings for family had been an essential goal for peace-circle leader Saroeum Phoung.

“There’s a solid amount of kids that this won’t work for — kids who think ‘I’m a gangbanger, and that’s all,’ ” said Vincente, now 18, who was a senior at Ingraham High School when he threatened another student, over social media, with a semi-automatic weapon.

Vincente met with the mother of his victim.

“I saw a lot of my mom in her, and I really began to understand what my actions had done to their whole family,” he said. “I thought it was just going to be why I’m a bad kid, but it turned out to be about fixing my family, too, getting at the root of why I was struggling. That’s really what it’s about.”

“If we can see kids enter the system and actually come out better on the other end,” Hung said. “That’s what we should be striving for.”

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Grief, Trauma, Exhaustion

Awake in the darkness of the night… I’m feeling… my heart traveling the terrain of trauma and love erupting fiercely on this globe, erupting fiercely in the hearts of so many dear souls.

SimLev“In Hebrew, “pay attention” is literally translated as, “place your heart”. Placing our hearts requires effort. It requires us to focus beyond the chaotic white noise that fills so much of our lives… Placing our hearts means imagining a world where we see people for who they really are, where we seek to understand the lived experience of those around us, from their perspective. Not with judgement, but with compassion.” ~ Rabbi Will Berkovitz

Under the gaze of this new moon, I feel the grief and warrior-ship of my trans and non-binary community after the loss of Scout Schultz this week and Derricka Banner last week. May we place our hearts with you. May we see you as you are, whole and beautiful. May we love you as you are, courageous truth tellers.

I feel the dark and confusing places that the human mind can travel to, those moments when purpose and peace and connection feel stripped away, when we are struggling with our mental and emotional and physical health. May we place our hearts with those of you who are in this struggle. May love seep into the cracks, overshadowing the pain, and illuminating the light of your own precious soul, igniting the places where you can feel the divine breathing through you, where you can feel lightness and see how incredibly valuable your presence here on this earth is.

?I feel the fear and trauma as storm meets earthquake meets fire meets flood. As people?’s lives are uprooted, loved ones lost, homes demolished. May we place our hearts with you. May we continue to turn to one another and extend a helping hand. May we build home together. May we see beyond our differences and awaken to our abilities to help make this world safer for one another… in times of crisis and also in the ordinary moments.

I feel the weight of exhaustion, the personal toll taxed upon those who daily are impacted by forces of oppression — systems that are trying to hold you down, trying to keep you from fully expressing the profound aliveness of who you really are, dampening the opportunities for your genius and gifts to be contributed to this world. May we place our hearts with you and tell the truth about these systems of destruction. May the fierceness of our gaze cause these systems to incinerate. May the power of our imagination and our commitment to one another grow brilliant webs of relations grounded in love, justice and equality. May we all know freedom and liberation. May we cultivate a more loving and compassionate world for our children to grow up in.

Thank you for traveling with me into these feelings and prayers. Thank you for being willing to sit with the dark and the light. Thank you for placing your heart and gifting your attention. Thank you for dreaming into the power of our togetherness… May it be so. <3

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Please Share Your Visions of an Inspiring Future

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I believe that another world is possible.
I believe that humans have the capacity to be more humane.
We are living in a time of profound injustice,
where human lives are constantly violated, and hate and violence is being amplified.
And yet, I still believe in the goodness in people’s hearts.

How do we tap into more of that goodness?
What are the anchors that help us stay centered in these times of chaos and destruction?

We’re all in this together.
Perhaps our radical imagination is an essential tool
to help us keep moving forward towards a more loving, humane and just world.

What do you see when you imagine a future that is inspiring and worth working towards?

Tomorrow I turn 40. To celebrate my birthday, I would love to receive some inspiration. Please leave a comment, send me a private message, a text, an email, or a phone call that offers a glimpse of a vision of the future that inspires you? Or share an image of how you and your community are already living a future now that inspires you? It could be one sentence or a few. It doesn’t have to be wise words, any image will be so appreciated… and perhaps will provide some inspiration for others. We must maintain the ability to dream beyond fear and divisiveness.

adrienne maree brown in her book Emergent Strategy is an inspiration to me in this realm and here are some of her words on this topic (with some slight edits/additions from me):

“How do we cultivate the muscle of radical imagination needed to dream together beyond fear?

In order to create a world that works for more people, for more life, we have to collaborate on the process of dreaming and visioning and implementing that world. We must imagine new worlds, a world beyond enemies, finding ways to coexist, celebrating our polycultural world, transforming the conditions that make injustice possible, growing an economy of relationships, a society of care and respect. The more people who cocreate the future, the more people whose concerns will be addressed from the foundational level in this world.

I suspect that is what many of you are up to, practicing futures together, practicing justice together, living into new stories. It is our right and responsibility to create a new world.”

What visions and images of a compassionate and just world do you see? What does liberation for all of us look like to you? How do we take care of one another? What does it look like when we see, learn from and appreciate one another? What are your images of how we share resources, how we make decisions together, how we care for children, the elderly, and other folks who are vulnerable? How do you see justice being centered? What art do you imagine that gives us visions for new life and new ways of being together? What are you already experiencing that is an expression of a future you’d like to see more of?

Thank you so much for sharing any of your images or visions. Together we are capable of magic.

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Asheville Youth Voices & Leadership

Screen Shot 2017-02-05 at 2.39.15 PMOur youth deserve dignity and respect as they ARE our leaders. The premier issue of the Word on The Street/ La Voz de Los Jovenes teen magazine just came out. I’ve met some of these youth and they are AMAZING. These are the voices of leadership we need to be listening to NOW. Read. Learn. Share what touches your mind or heart.

This is Asheville.

Our youth deserve dignity and respect and one way we can show that to them is by being real with the conditions they are facing right now, recognizing that some youth do not have access to some opportunities as fairly as others do. We must face how opportunities do or don’t prepare youth to navigate the world. We can shift that narrative that is playing out and create a new reality… This is Asheville.


Footage for the film, Beneath the Veneer, a documentary currently in production about opportunity, success and inequity in America?

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May I Be a Worthy Servant

This past year I have written more online. I have used social media to ask the questions my heart ponders or frets over, share the news that crosses my path, and to articulate the ways I make meaning of the world around me. The responses from people reading my words have helped me see more clearly some of the ways I embody elements that Chani Nicholas speaks to in the Virgo call to service below. I am honored to be alive in this way and to show up and serve. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I always welcome feedback about ways I do below that are helpful/effective or not. May we amaze ourselves in the days to come as we recreate ourselves…

“You are our beloved nerd. Our expert. Our sincere seeker of the facts. The one who will ask the right questions. The one who can separate the truth from the rest of the information. You are discerning, unfazed by pomp and circumstance. You seek to understand the systems of nature we live within, looking for the beautiful, naturally occurring alchemy that uses every aspect of creation to recreate itself. You know nature’s efficiency. You know how to value the clean machine that is our earth. You know how to value the wisdom of the body. You teach us all manner of natural remedies. You know how to locate and remove what is unnecessary, toxic or ill-fitting. You know what is wrong with a thing because you know how to think critically about it and everything else.

This year we will need your compassionate critique. We will need your analysis. We will need your natural talent to deconstruct the ill-formed theories that have no place in a fair and just world. You are no fool and this year will have no shortage of foolish ideas. Bless us with your ability to cut them down to size with nothing but logic.

We need you to remind us that success isn’t about the applause we receive but about the quality of work we are able to produce in service of something greater than ourselves. You work for the sake of the work. You know what it is to be humble. To be wrong. To be worried about getting it done well. Help us to be thoughtful, concerned, hard-working citizens. Help us to remember that we will make mistakes so we might as well become dedicated students to the wisdom we most wish to embody.

In exchange, we will calm you when you feel like you need to fix everything. This situation is beyond broken. It is not your responsibility alone to figure out the whole mess. The future needs us all.”


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Weaving into the Tapestry

What do we hear when we listen to the center? What do we speak when we start from a place of stillness, listen to the stirrings of source, and speak to the center?

Last week I was blessed to be a part of a unique gathering hosted by the Heart of the Healer Foundation, Speaking to the Center: The Great Remembering.

As a facilitator/moderator, during the morning session I listened to the words of these loving souls who wanted to share pieces of their hearts and minds. Little nuggets of language, wisdom and invitation moved through my ears, mind, heart and into the pen perched upon my pad. After they each spoke and a brief stretch break, I offered a Woven Poem, a collective storytelling in the prose of words as a weaving of the wisdom they shared. And now I share this poem with you.

The following is a Collective Poem from the words of Grandmother Red Leaf, Peter Kingsley, Don Oscar Miro-Quesada, Michael Johnson, Howard Hanger, Jeff Schmitt & Mz Imani. Woven by Ashley Cooper.

Weaving into the tapestry

Simple humans

We are whole

We are grateful

Things that remember themselves

are not forgotten

When channeled or directed…

She works miracles

Everything has to have water to live

Help us to touch the spirit of the Earth again

The Earth is a spider web

Connections are a very important part

of how we live every single day

Things are as they should be –

even when it’s a hard realization

We have manufactured a spiritual light

It’s ungrounded – it’s unrooted

The darkness outside

The coldness

The empty space

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

It’s not enough any more

There is a sacred root of western civilization

Alethia – truth – unforgetting

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream.

How many of us came here to remember

We have so many fantasies, my friends

We have our own original instructions -

We need to look for them

Go back to our roots

What is the result of our forgetfulness?

The current degradation of our environment

The dislocation of our society

A sleep walking culture

We are living in a dream, a dream, a dream

Catch a glimmering awakening,

in the spark of an eye, in the presence

It’s a void, it’s empty, it’s scary

I bow to the living waters

Find peace within

I am not different from the other

Self and other are one and the same

I choose to be in the world

To share my rituals, my ceremonies, my love

Recognizing the beauty and grace

of the courageous who decided to remember

Re-member – as a global human family

Unification. Wholeness. Non-dual consciousness

Allow Spirit and the great originating mystery

to unfold with its entire expression

Deep gratitude

Deep gratitude from the bottom of my heart

Without the kindness of all these living beings and ancestors

we would not have the kindness of life and the gift of all these problems

We need to continue awakening

We need to act

We need to act now

to solve or out grow these problems

Each of us here can play a role

and we have to

We are all a part of this experience

of life

And it might be possible that we can have a good time, too

Take a few longer, deeper breathes

Bring awareness into your body

Feel your heart

It’s all about perspective

Look at the world from your dogs eyes

I have a slightly different view

… And then there’s integration

Oh my gosh – even though I used to think I had total knowledge, I don’t

I only have one pebble

Awaken to your own happiness

You can lift other people up to be happy too

Hey good looking, you’re looking good

It would behoove us to not take ourselves so seriously

Return to the child

The pre-socialized little being

Please, pant with me

Wag your tail

Show that gratitude

This world needs our medicine

This world needs our science now

Visual Impressions were created live by Kara Brown at the event.

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